Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus complications

For reasons most of which have to do directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 coronavirus situation, none of the remaining public lectures for the first half or so of the year that I had announced a couple of months ago will occur.  (There are still events planned for the latter half of the year, which I will announce closer to the time.)

Also, in light of the situation, my college, like many others, has abruptly transitioned to online teaching.  The resulting new workload promises to be as heavy as it was sudden and unexpected. 

I fully intend to keep this blog going to doomsday and beyond, but if things temporarily get a little slower here in the next couple of weeks as I adjust to this new reality, that is why!


  1. I declare this to be a new open thread.

  2. Out of curiosity is the increased workload basically down online teaching?

    1. I'm also an instructor at a university, and we're having to switch to online teaching as well. In my experience, yes, making the transition from in-person to online classes is a massive amount of work. I'm lucky, in that I already had a lot of online components already built into my course, but many of my colleagues did not. The university actually extended our spring break by a week in order to give instructors more time to prepare for the transition.

  3. I'm having a bit of a crisis concerning the validity of Dr. Feser's Aristotelian Proof so I'll present here the same question that I did in the last thread, to which El Gerente and Atno kindly tried to answer, but even Atno's answer wasn't able to convince me of the validity of the proof.

    In the Aristotelian Proof, it is concluded that:

    1. There must be an unactualized actualizer which actualizes the potentialities of other things to exist without its own existence having to be actualized.
    2. This unactualized actualizer cannot have any kind of potencies.

    How is the inference made from 1 to 2? Why can't this unactualized actualizer have potencies not pertaining to its existence? Why must it be altogether immutable?

    Here are the replies from the previous thread:

    1. What do you challenge in my replies?

      1.1 if a being is Purely Actual, it must exist of necessity, its nature just is to be purely actual 1.2 if a being has passive potency, then it can change and become other than what it is 1.3 but a being whose nature just is pure actuality, necessarily being actual as what it is, cannot change 1.4 so a being whose existence is purely actual cannot change.

      2.1 if a being has potencies, something must be able to actualize those potencies, otherwise they're not really potencies 2.2 there is only one first cause (assumption; can give different arguments for that) 2.3 by PPC, the first cause must have all actualities of all possible things, since everything other than the first cause would be caused by it (follows from it being a first cause and there being only one first cause) 2.4 so if the first cause had some potencies, nothing could actualize them at all, since everything other than the first cause derives all its actualities from it, 2.5 so there is no real potency in the first cause after all.

      What premise do you reject, and why?

      And if you don't like the Aristotelian proof, go for another one. I think it works, but it's not my favorite argument; personally I much prefer a Leibnizian argument. It's not like you have to accept the Aristotelian proof.

    2. Everything that has a cause is limited (has potency) because its cause has limited its existence to whatever being that entity is (like my mother and father limiting me to be a human being, and so I am not a tiger, car, chair, and more specific I am not immortal, incorporeal, I exist at this specific time and not in the past or future etc.). Now God is necessary being, he has no cause, and if he has no cause he does not have anything that limited or limits him (because causes limit their effects, as we saw above) and so he is pure actuality and all his attributes are infinite (infinite wisdom, power, justice, holiness, goodness, and truth). In essence he is pure actuality, no potency.

    3. Atno,

      Probably the most important approach to consider when challenging these kinds of metaphysical principles is something in the neighborhood of Kantianism, e.g. that non-trivial metaphysical principles such as the principle of causality can only be warranted insofar as they are conditions of the possibility of experience, and therefore only have warranted application within the realm of possible experience, but for like reason cannot be pushed beyond it to the purely noumenal realm of God.

      Of course, Kantian-style views like this might be objectionable for any number of reasons, but they do provide a principled means of rejecting causation in the metaphysical realist sense without undermining science or human rationality.


    4. John,

      I don't really take Kantian objections seriously. For one, too much of it is entangled with Kant's very controversial "system" as a whole. And also because I know the principle of causality applies not just to the realm of possible experience, but to any reality whatsoever. Just as I know that the principle of non-contradiction applies in any case whatsoever. I also believe some recent developments in logic have obliterated other specific Kantian criticisms.

      Perhaps I could put it differently, and in a Moorean fashion: I know Kant's conclusions are wrong, and I am far more confident in principles such as PSR etc. than I could ever be in the cogency of Kant's objections. I don't really bother with Kant anymore.

    5. I would say the same as Atno - Kant's theories are pretty unserious at this point. There is no more worry about answering them point by point than there is about answering Flat-Earthers point by point. Now, if someone wanted me to answer pint by pint, that I might take up.

    6. Atno,

      That's interesting that you're so confident, considering how many philosophers still take Kant's project extremely seriously. Can you point me in the direction of some of these-- I presume-- devastating criticisms of Kant so I may read them? The hints you drop here are unfortunately not to the point; neither the analogy with the PNC (because merely analytic) nor the appeal to Moorean common sense (because Kant is an empirical realist not idealist) seem apt.


    7. @John

      I agree with Atno and Tony. Also, as noted by Schulze in his book Aenesidemus, Kant itself applied the principle of casuality to the noumenal world.

      If you don't do that, you have no reason to even believe in a noumenal world. If you do that, your skepticism crumbles.

    8. Talmid,

      What would you say in response to two-aspect readings of Kant, on which things in themselves are not taken to be ontologically distinct causes of appearances? On that view, the supposition that things in themselves exist is not an inference to a cause from an effect, but rather follows (almost trivially) from K's arguments that there are certain a priori epistemic conditions of representing objective states of affairs. Things in themselves are just whatever exists considered independently of this epistemic relation.

      Re: skepticism, I'm not sure what the point is. Kant is an empirical realist, who thinks we're in some sense directly acquainted with mind-independent entities, and is indeed highly critical of external world skepticism that we'd tend to associate with e.g. Descartes, who K labels a 'problematic' empirical idealist (see the 'Refutation of Idealism' in the CPR).

    9. Hi “Please help”,

      I am in the midst of drafting an answer which I think would satisfy you (in between my other tasks so I cannot do it at one go). It is an answer that is probably different from the answers you received so far. Don’t give up on us. :p

      Hang on patiently.

      johannes hui

    10. Hi “Please help”,

      Hope the explanations below is helpful to you.

      To address your question, there is a broad way, and there is a narrow/difficult way.

      The broad way:
      If the unactualised actualiser has any potentiality at all, it would be a composite entity. Every composite entity’s existence would be conditional upon its parts and would therefore depend on some more fundamental cause. The unactualised actualiser being the most fundamental cause in the hierarchical series therefore cannot be a composite, and hence it cannot be composed of actuality and potentiality.

      But let us walk by the narrow way instead, though it is more difficult to understand the narrow pathway. Below is the narrow way.

      Anything that needs to be actualised/instantiated IN ORDER TO exist concretely (ie not merely as an abstraction) would always have limitations/imperfections which in turn means it would have potentiality (eg the potential to be more perfect). (will elaborate below)

      Anything that does not need to be actualised/instantiated IN ORDER TO exist concretely would exist without any limitation/imperfection which in turn means it would not have any potentiality (ie it exists perfectly, nothing to improve upon). (will elaborate below)

      Let me elaborate below using whiteness as an example.

      Whiteness cannot exist on its own in a non-abstract way; in order for whiteness to exist concretely, it needs to be actualised in this white table, or in that white car, or in those white elephants etc.

      Whiteness that is actualised in an entity is imperfect whiteness. For example, the whiteness of this white table may not be as white as the whiteness of that white car. That means the whiteness of this white table has the POTENTIAL to be whiter than the way it has been actualised in this specific white table.

      Using ontological expressions, we say “the actuality of whiteness is limited by the potentiality” in the way whiteness has been actualised in this specific white table.

      So whiteness is existing (or is instantiated) in this particular white table as a composite of actuality and potentiality. In this white table, whiteness is not existing as a pure actuality without potentiality.

      Once whiteness is actualised to exist in a table or an elephant, the whiteness in a table or an elephant is always not pure/perfect whiteness but an imperfect whiteness. Imperfect whiteness means a whiteness having a potentiality to be more perfect or more pure.

      Imperfect whiteness also means the actuality of whiteness is impure (when it exists in white elephants or white tables). Call it “IMPURE ACTUALITY”.

      Whiteness is impossible to exist concretely (non-abstractly) as a pure actuality. For it to have any concrete/non-abstract actuality/existence, it must always exists as a composite of actuality and potentiality (refer back to the above example of imperfect whiteness in the white table).

      If whiteness could exist concretely (ie not as an abstraction) without having to be actualised in white elephants or white tables, then whiteness would exist as a Pure Actuality. *******In such a hypothetical situation, then whiteness would exist without any potentiality.*******

      Any entity that can self-exist concretely (ie non-abstractly), or that can exist without the need to be actualised, would exist as a Pure Actuality without any potentiality.

      (to continue below)

      johannes hui

    11. Hi “Please help”,

      (continues from above)

      If we think about various entities such as whiteness, triangularity, catness, humanness, we find that they cannot exist concretely on their own. In the whole of concrete existence, there is no concrete unactualised actual whiteness, unactualised actual triangularity, unactualised actual cat and so on. They all need to be actualised into particular white entities, particular triangles, specific cats, specific humans. That means their concrete existence would always come as a composite of actuality and potentiality (refer back to my elaboration of the imperfection of whiteness in the white table).

      So is there anything at all that can SELF-EXIST concretely (ie not merely as an abstraction) on its own? Is there anything that can exist without being actualised?

      In other words, in the whole of existence, is there any unactualised entity that has concrete existence?

      From Feser’s Aristotelian Proof, there is one entity: the unactualised actualiser.
      (or the self-existing actualiser, the actualiser with unconditional existence)

      Since this entity does not need to be actualised in order to have concrete actual existence (ie in order to have actuality), then unlike whiteness, this entity would not have any potentiality. It would have all the perfections that are in accordance with its own nature, just as if whiteness per se could exist as a concrete entity, it would exist as perfect whiteness.

      This unactualised entity exists concretely as a pure actuality of itself, just as whiteness would exist concretely as a pure actuality of whiteness if whiteness per se could exist as a non-abstract entity (but whiteness cannot do so).

      Hence the unactualised actualiser exists as a pure actuality of itself.

      Since, if we think about other entities, it seems that no other entity could exist as a pure actuality of itself, then the unactualised actualiser is the one and only pure actuality in the whole of existence.
      (This can be better proven via the other pathway Feser used in his Aristotelian Proof)

      Perhaps you may like to slowly reflect/meditate over (and digest) these words of Thomas Aquinas:

      “...every act inhering in another is terminated by that in which it inheres, since what is in another is in it according to the mode of the receiver. Hence, an act that exists in nothing is terminated by nothing. Thus, if whiteness were self-existing, the perfection of whiteness in it would not be terminated so as not to have whatever can be had of the perfection of whiteness [my own words: that means if whiteness were able to be self-existing, then that self-existing entity called “whiteness” would be perfect whiteness] ... let “whiteness” be understood as something subsisting apart from every subject and it will not be possible to posit many whitenesses, since we see that “this whiteness” does not differ from “that whiteness” save through the fact that it is in this or in that subject. ” - Thomas Aquinas

      johannes hui

    12. John,

      I didn't say I don't take Kant seriously; I said I don't take his particular criticisms of cosmological arguments seriously. Most philosophers of religion don't nowadays, since his objections are typically entangled with his own very controversial views on human knowledge, etc.

      The analogy with PNC does hold, since the point is that, regardless of whether PSR is analytic or not, I know it is true and applies to all of reality; I am not even one bit moved by Kant's idea that PSR might not hold for things in themselves in the "noumenon". Maybe you are, because you don't see PSR as true the way I see it, but I cannot speak for your own epistemic seemings. And me mentioning Moore has nothing to do with whether Kant was an idealist or not; the point is that we can perform a Moorean shift on every single one of Kant's arguments (unless you are more convinced by them than by the positions they're criticizing). So, for instance, just like how I know I have two hands and am more sure in this than I could be for the premises of any skeptical argument, likewise I know the principle of causality is true, and am more sure of that than I could ever be about Kant's objections. Over millennia, skeptics came up with some philosophically very interesting objections to ordinary knowledge, but I am not worried in the least that I might not know I have two hands. I know I have two hands, and I know PC is true.

      About some of his objections being obliterated due to some recent developments in logic, I mean things like his "existence is not a predicate" and "cosmological requires ontological" etc; nowadays we can make cosmological arguments that do not at all require dealing with such notions of existence, see for instance Pruss and Rasmussen's 2018 book Necessary Existence (they discuss Kant's objection there).

    13. IMPURE ACTUALITIES & The Pure Actuality

      All the non-abstract entities we encounter around us are IMPURE ACTUALITIES such as:

      • The Impure Actuality of whiteness in the white elephant.

      • The Impure Actuality of catness in this cat.

      • The Impure Actuality of triangularity in that triangle Feser drew on the chalk board during one of his talks on the Immateriality of the Mind. LOL :D

      Hence the white elephant, this cat, and that triangle each exists as a composite of actuality and potentiality.

      Or we may call it a composite of Impure Actuality and potentiality.

      Through the proofs, we know there is only one entity that can be Pure Actuality (without any potentiality).

      And this everyone (ok, not everyone, but every classical theist) calls God.

      johannes hui

    14. The Kantian objections to PSR/claims in limits in human knowledge most clearly suffer from the chaos argument and arbitrary limits argument. Chaos as in if we do not have sufficient reason for things, even those beyond human experience, there’s nothing stopping things from popping in and out of existence at any moment. If it were even the slightest bit possible, infinitely many simples (or pink elephants) should be popping in and out of existence. With arbitrary limits, the question is who gets to set the limit for when we can and cannot have sufficient explanations for things? Who is the arbiter for when we say this is too far beyond human experience?

      And as Atno mentioned there are also modal logic answers to Kantian criticisms. I would definitely recommend Necessary Existence as well. It’s not as easy of a read as Feser’s work because it requires some philosophical background fyi, but it’s so worth it.

    15. Atno,

      I guess the issue is that from a Kantian perspective, it seems this is just to dogmatically reaffirm our abilities to extend metaphysical concepts beyond the bounds of possible experience, rather than to demonstrate such claims are actually warranted (as K put it in his challenge to the rationalists, what is the 'third thing' here that could possibly legitimize such an application?). You're of course correct that K's perspective is controversial, but then again, so is the PSR; and in the absence of uncontroversial epistemological assumptions that would easily warrant the metaphysical PSR, it seems to me this isn't a compelling objection.

      Re: his 'obliterated' objections, as far as I can tell you're mostly pointing to the potential problems K raises for transcendentally realistic accounts of knowledge in the Dialectic. Most K scholars take the Dialectic to be a secondary 'indirect' proof of K's system, which supplements his positive account of knowledge in the Aesthetic and Analytic; even if the former fails (and for what it's worth I don't find all the arguments there to be especially persuasive) that would leave the latter largely intact.

      I guess for the sake of refocusing our discussion, I'll put it this way: which of the key arguments in K's positive account of the limits and conditions of human knowledge do you take to be failures?

    16. Hi “Please help”,

      I add this analogous illustration to supplement what I have said in my earlier three sets of explanatory comments:

      If Whiteness could self-exist, then that Whiteness scores a 100% point.

      But the fact is that Whiteness cannot self-exist but needs to be actualised and instantiated in particular entities such as a white elephant and a white table.

      Say, in a white table, whiteness is imperfect and so it scores only 69%. So it has an imperfection (ie potentiality) of 31%. This means the whiteness in that white table exists as a composite of 69% actuality and 31% potentiality.

      And say, the whiteness in a white elephant is relatively more perfect than the above table’s whiteness, and scores a 77% for its whiteness. So the whiteness in this white elephant has an imperfection (ie potentiality) of 23%. This means the whiteness in that white elephant exists as a composite of 77% actuality and 23% potentiality.

      The only unactualised entity that can exist and is existing concretely is the unactualised actualiser. By virtue of it being able to exist and is existing without the need to be actualised, its actuality score for existing as an actualiser is 100%. That means its actuality has 0% imperfection (ie potentiality). Its existence comprises no potentiality at all. This unactualised actualiser exists as a non-composite (ie simple) entity of 100% actuality. Hence it exists as pure actuality.

      johannes hui

    17. Thank you for your replies Atno, Paul and Johannes.


      The nature of an unactualized actualizer would only seem to necessitate that it is, not what it is. So it undergoing change and thus having a change in what it is doesn't seem impossible.


      Things are indeed limited by their causes, but does this mean that they are only limited by their causes?


      Thank you for your extensive replies. Concerning universals and particulars, an universal, like triangularity, considered in itself is of course perfect triangularity. However, can there not be a perfect particular instantiation of a universal? Can there be no perfect particular triangle, which exemplifies triangularity perfectly? In that case it would have no potency to be any more triangular.

    18. John. I listed the biggest ones above. If you take what he said regarding human knowledge to be true, then you face those two fatal errors which Pruss/Rasmussen discuss in Necessary Existence.

      I do agree that Feser doesn’t sufficiently address Kantian criticisms in his book. But that may be because those criticisms are so far by the wayside now he didn’t see a need to.

    19. Is that a probability argument concerning chaos, El Geronte (in response to Kant). I'm not sure I follow you, and Necessary Existence is 60 bucks on Amazon.

      I do find the arbitrary limits response to Kant convincing. It's fair to ask who determines where we are past "human reason" or "human experience". Also fair to ask is what happens if we find more scientific capability and surpass where those "arbiters" said human reason ends at.

    20. Yes, essentially the idea would be that if things can occur for no reason and without any explanation whatsoever, the probability of us having that occur in I our experience is not 0. Even if it’s very small, it’s still possible, and such would be infinite, not any finite arbitrary restriction on how many unexplained things would pop into existence. If there were a finite arbitrary restriction, and such a thing had no explanation, it also could pop in or out of existence. They also make a good point that scientists are allowed to do this with dark matter, multiverses, and other things that are completely beyond human experience and are just purely theoretical, and yet in philosophy we are told you can’t reason about it if it’s not something you can’t experience directly, which is pure stupidity.

      Atno mentioned the modal response to this as well, but I’m not a modal logic expert so you’d need to buy the book for that. You could try emailing Alex or josh and they might send that part to you, they’re good guys and engage via email.

    21. "Please help",

      You gotta reflect a bit more in the implications of something being necessary, or having purely actual existence.

      If a being is necessary, his nature is to exist. That's the whole point. There is no such clear distinction between what it is and that it is here; the entire point is that its nature is such that it MUST be what it is, its nature as it is must always be what it is, as it is, necessarily. Its nature is pure actuality. You're missing that crucial step.

      If NB is necessary, his nature is to exist, or necessary existence/pure actuality as such. Then how could it go through any passive change? It cannot change into anything other than what it is since it is a necessary fact that what it is (its nature) always exist. Hence a necessary being is changeless. A being whose existence is purely actual cannot have passive potencies.

      There's also the second argument I mentioned.

    22. John,

      I speak for myself. I said *I* don't take Kant's objections seriously, because I know PSR. I perform a Moorean shift against Kant's "metaphysical skepticism" as I might call it, given how confident I am in, say, the truth of PSR. K's points can be interesting to think about sometimes, just like how skeptics and their arguments have always been interesting, but at the end of the day I am convinced that PSR-skepticism is retarded. So what Kant says here doesn't move me in the least. But that's me. You might (in my view, because of some defect of understanding) not see PSR or PC the way I do, so maybe K's objections have more purchase for you. But not for me; I cannot take it seriously.

      And again, most philosophers of religion aren't impressed by Kant's objections either, especially given his controversial "system". Sure, PSR is also controversial, but I'm just pointing this out.

      And an example of how I think some of K's arguments have been obliterated by certain recent developments in logic would be his "existence is not a property" quip. Whatever one thinks it this, contemporary modal logic allows us to run cosmological arguments without presupposing any property of existence, necessary existence, etc. Same for free logic. See for instance Pruss and Rasmussen's book and what they say wrt Kant's objection.

    23. Hi “Please help”,

      You asked me:
      “[C]an there not be a perfect particular instantiation of a universal? Can there be no perfect particular triangle, which exemplifies triangularity perfectly? In that case it would have no potency to be any more triangular.”

      There cannot be any perfect instantiation of a universal.

      Take your example of triangularity as an example. When triangularity is instantiated, it must necessarily be instantiated as either an equilateral triangle, an isosceles triangle, or a scalene triangle. But neither of these three types of triangles is triangularity per se.

      An equilateral triangle is constrained by the attribute that each of its sides must be of the same length as one another. In contrast, triangularity itself does not have such a constraint.

      An equilateral triangle is also constrained by being unable to be inclusive of a scalene triangle because of their mutually contradicting attributes, while triangularity is inclusive of a scalene triangle.

      An equilateral triangle has also other intrinsic constraints not mentioned here (eg size, material, space, time, and so on) which triangularity does not suffer from.

      So an equilateral triangle is only an imperfect version of triangularity because an equilateral triangle has constraints which triangularity does not suffer from. An equilateral triangle is at least a subset of a subset of triangularity.

      Similarly, isosceles triangles and scalene triangles have their respective constraints which triangularity does not suffer from and hence they too are imperfect expressions of triangularity.

      Hence intrinsically, or as a principle, it is impossible for the universal “triangularity” to be actualised or instantiated perfectly. No particular triangle can be a perfect, full or complete actualisation of triangularity. Every actualised triangle would be an IMPURE ACTUALITY of triangularity; every actualised triangle would be a composite of impure actuality and potentiality (imperfections).

      Same problem even if you use the example of Circularity. Every instantiated or actualised circularity in a particular circle is constrained at least by size (eg a small circle with a radius of 1 mm), spatial location (eg drawn on the top left corner of a chalk-board) and temporal location (eg existed between 4BC And AD33). Circularity has no such constraints. Hence every actual circle is an imperfect expression of circularity.

      Same problem for the universal Whiteness. Whiteness per se has no shape and is not constrained to exist in this or that spatial or temporal region. But for whiteness to be actualised, it is necessary to be actualised in this white elephant or that white table, and hence any actualised or instantiated kind of Whiteness is constrained at least by shape, space or/and time (this is non-exhaustive as there other constraints).

      So there is no way for abstract universals such as triangularity, circularity and whiteness to be actualised or instantiated in a way that expresses perfectly the nature of those universals.

      ***A particular is always a particular because of certain constraints which an abstract universal does not suffer from. Otherwise it would not be called a particular.***

      Hence every particular has imperfections and therefore potentiality. Every actualised version of an abstract universal will manifest as an impure actuality of the universal, and hence is a composite of impure actuality and potentiality.


      1. Every universal entity that requires actualisation in order to have non-abstract existence would always exist as a composite of actuality and potentiality.

      2. Only an entity that does not require any actualisation in order to exist concretely can have pure actuality (100% actuality; no potentiality at all).

      Have my various comments, taken together, managed to adequately address your original question(s)?

      johannes hui

    24. Hi “Please help”,

      In addition to the previous comments’ two “IMPT POINTS”, there is this third point:

      3. The unactualised actualiser exists concretely without the need to be actualised, and hence point 2 applies. Therefore the unactualised actualiser is the pure actuality of itself as ACTUALITY and ACTUALISER (ie it does not have any potentiality or imperfection).

      johannes hui

    25. @John

      "What would you say in response to two-aspect readings of Kant, on which things in themselves are not taken to be ontologically distinct causes of appearances? On that view, the supposition that things in themselves exist is not an inference to a cause from an effect, but rather follows (almost trivially) from K's arguments that there are certain a priori epistemic conditions of representing objective states of affairs. Things in themselves are just whatever exists considered independently of this epistemic relation."

      I would say that in this reading Kant is just being trivial. If this is what the prussian really said, them he said nothing interesting and all the idealism and the skepticism he created was for nothing.

      The idea that the way we see the world is determined by what we are is a normal scholastic principle, the old "whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver."

      On this reading there is a real world and the phenomenal one is just how we see it, right? The phenomenal and the noumenal are one.

      Well, if casuality, time, space etc are not real outside our minds them the world we see is completely diferent from the noumenal one(as Schopenhauer saw). As Kant agrees that there is a real world and we interpret it, them we know that casuality, time, space etc exist outside our minds.

      In fact, i insist that the existence of a noumenal world depends on the principle of casuality, for if casuality only exist in our perceptions them we don't need anything to behind they and a noumenal world is not necessary.

      But maybe i don't get Kant view, so you can correct me if necessary. I just never understood why we should think the categories are a creation of our minds and not the way things really are, it seems he just assumed it and that it is a incoherent idea.

    26. Johannes,

      "Have my various comments, taken together, managed to adequately address your original question(s)?"

      Yes they have, thank you. It does seem clear to me that the proof must end in pure act, though I can't yet articulate point by point why that is. I need to reflect on these matters more. Thank you for the help.

      Thank you to you as well, Atno.

    27. @Atno "And also because I know the principle of causality applies not just to the realm of possible experience, but to any reality whatsoever."

      Do you think it applies only to contingent realities, or to necessary realities as well? For example, there are logical relations between various truths about some mathematical system like arithmetic, but we don't normally consider these to be "causal" relations. And in terms of the divine conceptualism of Dr. Feser's previous post, should we say that mathematics as a whole is "caused" by God or simply is a set of necessary truths about the mind of God, who is uncaused? If something more like the latter, how can you rule out with certainty a view like Spinoza's, in which every aspect of what we perceive to be physical reality (and mental reality) is a necessary aspect of God, and there are no true contingent facts? (this could also be argued to follow from a particularly 'strong' version of the PSR)

    28. The appearance of having “explained” C and B is completely illusory if A is a brute fact, because if there is neither anything about A itself that can explain A’s own operation nor anything beyond A that can explain it, then A has nothing to impart to B or C that could possibly explain their operation.

      Can someone explain Feser here? Why is it that the final "brute" member of such an explanatory series is not sufficient? If you explain A, B, C, D, but reach E and E is brute, why is that a bad thing? Can't you say E's bruteness explains A, B, C, D?

    29. Because if you’re deriving explanations from each successive member in the series (the vase doesn’t fall because it’s held by a shelf) then each member is dependent on the next member for explanatory power and explanation. If you reach the terminus and the terminus has no explanation and is simply brute, then the entire series and thus each member has no explanation. If the answer above to why the shelf is able to hold the vase is because the shelf is a brute unexplained fact, then you haven’t explained the vase not falling at all. It’s no better than saying that the vase is not falling is a brute fact - all you’re doing with a brute fact at the “bottom level” is essentially relocating the bruteness of the explanation to the end. Feser’s point there is that if the end is just a brute fact, so is each member.

      The problem with this argument is it’s not intuitive without thinking it through a few times. People don’t quite understand what a brute fact entails. With brute facts you’re not saying that something is a necessarily existing being and couldn’t not exist - you’re saying that it’s literally without explanation or any reason at all.

    30. I was thinking and it seems the idea of a brute fact is logically impossible. Remember that a brute fact is, like said above, something with no explanation at all.

      We usually divide things in necessary(is explained by his nature) and contingent(is explained by a extrinsic cause) things.

      A brute facts can't be necessary, since them it would have a explanation on its own nature and it would have and not have a explanation at the same time, a self-contradiction. So a brute fact is a contingent thing who has no cause.

      But since a contingent thing can only exist if it is explained by something else and a brute fact can't be explained by something else it follows that a brute fact is something that can only exist if it has a cause but still exist with no cause at all, a self-contradiction like a round-square or liquid ice, it is just impossible.

      I'am right here? If yes, them the idea of a brute fact is impossible and the Principle of Sufficient Reason can't be rationally denied.

    31. Talmid,

      No, you're begging the question: "But since a contingent thing can only exist if it is explained by something else..." you're presupposing PSR when you write that.


      I tend to favor a PSR that applies to necessary truths as well as contingent ones, but I'm not as sure of it as I am of standard PSR. I haven't reflected as much about it as I have on a PSR for contingent facts, existents, etc.
      Re: modal collapse, I agree with Alexander Pruss's responses. Check out his Leibnizian cosmological arguments paper, it can be found online.

    32. @Atno

      Yea, i realized that today. At least it seems Leibniz made the same mistake, so i have good company here, hehe.

      A problem i remember having with the denial of the PSR is that it seems to permit something that happens for no reason not only on the world but also in the mind.

      Like, you can believe a thing can exist with no explanation, but you can't believe some thought or idea could exist with no explanation or justification for them you can't really trust your mind, maybe some important idea in your argument just popped in on your mind and you think there is a explanation for it when there is none.

      I mean, is clear that a thing has no brute facts: my mind. I can't see how you could believe the order of your thoughts could be a illusion and still trust them. If the mind has order, just do the same question you should do to Kant: on what basis do you insist your mind and the world are so different? It seems to me the idea that your mind has order and the world has not is arbitrary.

    33. This was a problem i had earlier. If you tries to do like Descartes and doubt everything, pushing your rational justifications to the bottom, it seems obvious that the mind(if you are sane and all that) follows the PSR. Denying that seems like denying you exist: it can't rationally be done.

    34. Regarding a per se chain with a brute fact at the bottom - I don't see how the bruteness impacts other members of the chain such that the stability of the vase is itself brute because the stability of the table is brute.The vase is still in contact with the table which is solid and in the air. The brute fact isn't that the table has stability, but that the potency of a table being stable in the air is actualised but for no reason. The bruteness is not in the elements such as "stable" or "air" but in the lack of explanation that the potency is actualised.

    35. I don't immediately see how the bruteness of the most basic element would remove all intelligibility from the other explanations. At the same time, however, I do feel like there is something wrong with the idea that we can explain C through B if B is completely unexplained.

      Here's something to consider, however: whether or not we accept PSR, there is a sense in which we tend to assume that if B caused or explained C, then C wouldn't have happened if B hadn't caused it to happen. C therefore B because "no B, no C". Alexander Pruss has shown that this entails PSR.

      Let q be the proposition that an event E has occurred, and suppose that E can have a cause but doesn't actually have one. And let p be the proposition that E does not have a cause. By the Brouwer axiom, if any proposition is actually true, it is necessarily possible. The entailment follows quite straightforwardly; consider a possible world w in which E has a cause and therefore p is false - then, given the idea that if not for a cause then E would not have been actual, that means that if p is true then q is necessarily false. So any actual state of affairs that can have a cause must in fact have a cause. And it seems all contingent events and things are causable, so all contingent events have causes.

      Does the idea that "if C causes E, then E would not have occurred without C" presuppose PSR? We can use an even weaker version - "if C caused E then if nothing had caused E, E would not have occurred" (compatible with overdetermination). Does it presuppose PSR? Not in any way that is invalid for argumentation. Someone can accept the proposition without first assuming PSR. So there is an argument there. If someone finds the idea plausible, she must also accept PSR (or that every actual causable thing must have a cause).

      And this idea seems present in our explanatory practices. If B causes C, there is a sense in which we assume that, were it not for B (or were it not for B and anything else) then C would not have occurred.

    36. Atno,

      Aside from the silliness of calling PSR skepticism 'retarded', your post is a near perfect illustration of the metaphysical dogmatism Kant was criticizing, i.e. you continue to dig your feet in the ground and dogmatically insist our cognitive faculties are capable of making substantive metaphysical judgments beyond the bounds of possible experience. (There is, of course, also the issue that in a sense K isn't a PSR skeptic at all, as he holds that PSR is true for all possible human experience.)

      I understand why you're appealing to epistemic 'seemings' but to me it's entirely beside the point. Seemings can provide prima facie justification, but that doesn't hold up in the face of potential defeaters; those defeaters have to be answered. I take it this is why Huemer takes up a considerable portion of his book in actually refuting skeptical arguments, rather than just appealing ad nauseam to the fact that it seems those scenarios are unlikely. But that's precisely the opposite of what you've done here, and as such, you're just guilty of continuing to miss the point or beg the question against K's arguments.


      I would say you are indeed misunderstanding K's position. If you're actually interested in learning about it, there are some good introductions to the CPR accessible to anyone with some basic familiarity with philosophy. Sebastian Gardner's Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason is a good one.

    37. @John

      I already read about him, a book entirely about the man and all.

      Still, the prussian is called a genius by everyone even when he seems larguely uninteresting to me, so i accept that i probably never got entirely what he was saying. I still insist that something like the two-worlds interpretation was probably the normal way to read him back them.

      I will read more about Kant when i can, but can you answer a question to me? Why exactly he defended the Categories where part of the structure of the mind? His Tanscendental Arguments never get me the impression we had to accept that.

    38. As i understand Kant, his point would be:

      1. The experiences we have has necessarily the structure we see because the mind organizes the raw data It gets from the senses with her own internal structure(the categories).

      So we can't know the structure of reality with our experience alone, since we do not know if the categories are more that the structure of our minds.

      2. Reason alone can't get very far alone when there is no empirical knowledgment together with it, so we will just produce antinomys if we try to know what lies above possible experience, so metaphysics can't do much.

      This is what i believe the prussian was saying. Is this very far from him?

    39. John,

      I was just being honest. It seems like you're just mad that I don't take K's criticism seriously, but that's it, I don't. I think PSR skepticism is retarded. I am certain that PSR is true and I know it to be true, so what do you expect from me? What do you think Leibniz would say about skepticism of PSR? You mean it's dogmatic to insist that I know things cannot come from absolutely nothing? Okay. I still know PSR is true however, and I think PSR skepticism is retarded.

      It's no use complaining that I'm "dogmatic", it's like you missed the point entirely when I mentioned Moore. Comparisons with Huemer are also uncalled for here - sure he spends time refuting skepticism about the external world, but the point is I don't think this is required on Moorean grounds, pretty much. I am far more confident in my knowledge of PSR than I could ever be in K's arguments. So (joining ranks with most philosophers of religion today) I don't worry about Kant's objections. You seem to think that because in general our seemings give us only prima facie justification, we should take every potential defeater seriously. That doesn't follow from broad phenomenal conservatism. And it sure doesn't follow for Moorean common sense. You could come up with a fancy argument for solipsism and I would be perfectly within my epistemic rights to ignore such an argument and still believe solipsism to be false, because my knowledge that solipsism is false is way more solid than any potential idea of defeater you bring to me (especially K's arguments!).

      It is the same with PSR for me. I can't take seriously any argument or proposal to the effect that maybe I don't know that something cannot come from nothing; that a contingent thing cannot inexplicably exist without any cause. It's retarded to me, and I've made it explicit to you on how I would reject that skepticism: I would perform a Moorean shift on whatever K argues, since I know PSR is true. I'm "dogmatic" about it just like how I am "dogmatic" about solipsism being false. I know solipsism is false, and I know PSR is true, and I'm not gonna pretend that I don't know these truths or that I could seriously be wrong about them.

      "Retarded" was not meant as an offense or an insult. Great minds can believe and say retarded things; Kant is a good example. Descartes another great example (brilliant guy, but his idea of God's omnipotence? Retarded).

    40. By the way: of course I am begging the question against Kant's arguments. My whole point was that Kant's arguments can all be rationally, consistently rejected by appeal to a Moorean shift (if the person knows the truth of that which Kant is attacking - in this case, our real knowledge of PSR as an absolute, unlimited metaphysical principle). I know that contingent things cannot inexplicably exist without any cause; I know nothing comes from nothing; and I am far surer of this than I could ever be about the plausibility and/or validity of any of K's arguments against it. So it is supposed to be a question-begging response; it's perfectly fine for the rational justification of my beliefs.

      If you're looking for a more careful response to Kant on this topic, I suppose you could look at Gave Kerr's book "Aquinas's way to God". He answers Kant's psr objection there, and goes more in depth than Feser.

    41. Talmid,

      Few quick points:

      i - I wouldn't get too hung up on the differences between two-world and two-aspect interpretations, as long as it's kept in mind that K isn't a Berkeleyan idealist nor a phenomenalist.

      ii - Your question is a good one, but difficult to answer succinctly. First, K thinks there are conceptual conditions of the representation of objective states of affairs, and that this involves a priori or 'pure' concepts of the understanding. But K notes a potential problem: the mere fact that we possess certain concepts independently of experience doesn't necessarily give us license to apply said concepts to experience, i.e. spatiotemporal appearances may not 'fit' with the pure concepts of the understanding.

      iii - K attempts to solve this problem by arguing that the representation of the spatiotemporal manifold itself presupposes the categories (which are essentially the pure concepts of the understanding in their real, rather than merely logical, use). But if the Transcendental Aesthetic has demonstrated that human sensibility is necessarily spatiotemporal, it follows that anything that appears to us will be structured by the categories.

      iv - Unfortunately, we cannot pull off a similar maneuver in appealing to conditions of the possibility of experience to demonstrate the categories have a real as opposed to merely logical use beyond all possible experience, viz. though we can think of things in themselves through the categories (indeed, in some sense we must do so), we cannot have genuine cognition of things in themselves.

      I realize that's very brief but hopefully it gives you a general idea of the overall structure of K's argument.

    42. @John

      Thanks for trying to explain it, it will help. But my doubt ia still here, maybe because i do not get the prussian, i don't know.

      "First, K thinks there are conceptual conditions of the representation of objective states of affairs, and that this involves a priori or 'pure' concepts of the understanding"

      That is the thing: i'am a thomist, so i don't believe that our minds do much more that receive the data of the senses. Sure, you got the aristotelian common sense and the passive and the active intelect, but that is it.

      Kant seems to pressupose some sort of rationalist epistemology where our concepts are all a priori but i don't see any reason to believe that. All our sensorial experience pressuposes the categories because everything that is material pressuposes they. Is not that the mind has these things a priori, but she is mostly blank at birth and receives they from the senses.

    43. Essencially, thomistic epistemology do not accept a priori concepts. It is a bit close to empirism, except that Aquinas would deny that the empirist is right in thinking that the intellect and the imagination are the same thing.

      Edward did write a recent post about the diferences and similarities between Thomism and modern epystemology:

    44. Talmid,

      Right, so similarly to Aquinas, Kant sharply distinguishes between our faculties of sensibility and understanding (which is roughly analogous with what Aquinas would call the senses and intellect respectively), but in contrast to Aquinas, he holds that some concepts are a priori and cannot be derived from experience. There are a couple of reasons for this.

      For one thing, K's analysis of the conceptual conditions of empirical cognition is located in the broader context of his critical project. If the conceptual conditions of objects are to be explained critically, then those conditions must be a priori; objects cannot supply the conditions of their own possibility in experience, as it were. And, further, if the understanding is just irreducibly distinct from sensibility, then some of those conditions must relate to a priori concepts.

      But that kind of argument likely won't have much force against someone who doesn't already accept K's motivations for 'making trial' with his Copernican revolution. Even if that's the case, though, K has a simple but powerful argument for the necessity of a priori concepts in section 15 of the B Deduction. To state it very briefly: in any experience which is to have cognitive significance for us, there must be something that is taken as a unity. Most importantly, K thinks the apprehension of this unity is something over and above the mere occurrence of unity in the data of sensation, such that even if the data of the senses were already 'combined' in some way, there would still be the matter of the subject's recognition of unity, which would render the former redundant.

      But since our faculties of sensibility are merely receptive, the act of recognizing this unity must be a contribution of the understanding, which, as a faculty that deals in concepts, entails we must at least have the concept of unity independently of experience; to put it differently, since the concept of unity is presupposed as a condition of cognizing objects given in experience, it cannot coherently be said to be derived from the latter.

      Again, I realize this brief treatment will likely not be completely compelling, but hopefully it'll at least let you see where K is coming from.

    45. @John

      Again, thanks man, you are sure being pretty clear to a noob like me. Even if i disagree with Kant in most things, he was a very smart guy and his philosophy was a pretty good analysis(or critique) of the philosophies he saw in his life.

      But i believe he, like most mordern philosophies, saw the rationalists and empirists as way more influential that Aquinas, so never studied the saint much and missed a lot. For instance, this argument you briefly gave is a pretty good blow to British Empirism, but i believe aristotelian epistemology or even a platonic one can take that blow.

      To get back to the point, this conversation started because you asked how we that use metaphysical arguments for the existence of God would deal with something like Kantianism: I would just question why should we see things like Kant did. Maybe Kant was right, but most people, like me, do not agree with him about metaphysics or philosophy of religion, so i think just a appeal to the prussian would not be enough.

      Speaking of it: do you think is possible to agree with Kant Transcendental Idealism and still do metaphysics? He believed that no, that pure reason would just find antinomies that could not be resolved, but i don't find this idea or his defense persuasive at all and this view seems to be reject today by a lot of philosophers even when his epistemology is not. I got curious mostly because of a hopperian i found who is pretty much a kantian and still do metaphysics, unfortunaly he never seemed to have talked directly about the problem.

    46. Talmid,

      Thanks, I'm glad I've clarified some of K's positions, and I hope I've indicated some ways in which K's project still holds considerable philosophical interest and, at the very least, isn't blatantly incoherent.

      To your question, the way Kantians usually put it is that if K is right he successfully establishes a 'metaphysics of experience'. Likewise (again, if he's right) his positive account of human cognition undercuts any grounds we can have for doing metaphysics of the suprasensible (pertaining to God, the soul, etc).

      Re: appealing to Kant not being enough to defeat the cosmological argument (or other theistic metaphysical arguments), this is true, but I think this misses my point. Let me give an analogy: if an atheist insists that there are no good arguments for God's existence, you might understandably ask them what they think of Aquinas's or Leibniz's arguments. If in their response it becomes clear that they haven't made any serious effort to read and understand those arguments, I think it's safe to say that they just haven't fulfilled their epistemic duties regarding their own atheism. Likewise, if a Kantian asks a proponent of the cosmological argument what they think about K's epistemological criticisms, and if in response it becomes clear the latter hasn't made any effort to understand those criticisms, then I think it's fair to say they haven't done their epistemic duties as well. In both cases we've got arguments that are widely regarded in the philosophical literature as relevant to the question at hand and of great importance in the history of philosophy.

    47. @John

      You sure did help me get him better. I agree that we should know Kant if we are going to discuss the existence of God(or even philosophy in general), the man was very important on the field and his arguments still get used when is time to discuss.

      This 'metaphysics of experience' does sounds to me like something we could use to reason if we reject Kant ideas about reason acting alone(and producing antinomies). Take for instance naturalism who reject intentionality, if naturalism is true, i can't even defend that or anything else(as Alex Rosenberg defends), so naturalism just is self-refuting and therefore false.

      Do you believe that would work for a kantian? The hopperian i mentioned before usually argues like that: if the act of defending some view is self-refuting or contradicts a view who can be rationally demonstrated, this view is false.

  4. Somewhere you can ask without being off-topic:

  5. From Patrick at

    Prof Feser, are you planning on writing a more detailed rejoinder to Oppy? IMO your older paper on existential inertia (and other issues) doesn’t adequately engage the point(s) that Oppy has raised in his own paper? I realize your paper was written before his, but your blog posts so far hasn’t really dealt with the meat of Oppy’s arguments.

    PS. I'm sorry if this is a duplicate. I've been trying to ask about this for weeks but my comments aren't showing up? I rarely comment on here and have never trolled. Could be my crappy phone. I'm using my laptop in this attempt.

    -- Pat

  6. Yes Prof. Feser I understand your situation, my school is experiencing the same transition to online learning and we are extending spring break in order to complete this transition. Covid-19 has cause many problems, no worries and thanks for the attention.


    P.S. Your blog is Awesome!

  7. My Sharona Virus

    This music video (ending song) from Naruto reminds me of how lonely Naruto is. Dr. Feser, you should watch Naruto it's for free on Netflix and

    This scene from the new Castlevania anime reminds me whether God is so pleased with the Catholic priests and Protestant "priests" these days, especially with a plague on the land.

  8. My university has also just gone to all online classes. I conduct my first zoom session tomorrow night. Good luck transitioning, Ed.

  9. I just realized telling Ed to watch Naruto on a blog post explaining how he's crunched for time wasn't the best idea lol

    BUT... once Corona gets its ~~lime~~ vaccine and things return to normal...

    ...if you're enough of a manchild to reference comic book heroes/villains on every one of your posts then you are enough of a manchild to write a blogpost on Naruto. You could explain how chakra is a kind of hylomorphic dualism or how rasengan best reflects or how Sexy no Jutsu defines what it means to be transgender. The possibilities are endless!

    1. feser of the sharingan’s gonna kamui this out of existence lmao

    2. That wasn't a joke. I really want to see him write a blogpost on Naruto.

    3. unironically now that i think about it this may not be a bad idea for him to analyze kishimoto’s work, id really like him writing about things like edo tensei or rinne tensei

    4. Uuuuuh, when's he going to analyze Undertale and its message of mercy? How does it portray violence and self-defense? More importantly, when is Pope Francis going to post his Undertale Let's Play? ;D

    5. Uuuuuh, when's he going to analyze Undertale and its message of mercy? How does it portray violence and self-defense? More importantly, when is Pope Francis going to post his Undertale Let's Play? ;D

      Underfail is a game about how monsters should be saved even though they find children's souls tasty (Asgore ate six). Good games are supposed to teach children how to eat monsters. What kind of sick bastard teaches children monsters are your friends?!

  10. Suppose a modern materialist accepts the argument that qualia are a real property of matter, because it is simply about how it interacts with the matter in our body, which is a real information much like how which lock a key opens is real information about the key.

    The question is, what is the next step? What follows from this?

    1. Which lock a key opens can be read off from the physical (quantifiable, mechanical) properties of the key and the lock. Qualia are a different kind of breed.

      I don't think qualia can really fit into any materialistic worldview. If someone accepts qualia as property of matter, in any case, they are opening themselves up to a non-naturalist worldview in which material things have forms which are irreducible to mechanistic properties. And this of course also invites questions about the origin of such forms.

    2. But Feser did claim that qualia are a property of matter in the A-T view (If I understood it right), but I am confused by that as they should be a property of form, because our sense organs take the form, not the matter.

  11. Where are you guys getting your best info on the coronavirus from?
    Joe Rogan had some guy with quite a few credentials... but you couldn't get any more gloom and doom than him. And now maybe he's right, but it just seems that out of the range of things that could happen he's solely operating from one 1 pole.

    But then there's so many sites where it's hard to even trust a word they're saying.

  12. why doesn't Dr. Feser make responses to his critics? there are people who post lengthy critiques of his works, i really wish he would make a response to them. one of them can be found here:

    1. Think pretty highly of your criticism, Doug?

      Well, for what it's worth Dr. Feser regularly addresses those who offer substantive criticisms. If you cared to scroll even a little you'd see that pretty quickly.

    2. i'm not Doug, i'm a fan of Dr. Feser actually, I just stumbled upon that and was just wondering why Dr. Feser never made a response. if someone attacks your work you should respond right? at least that's what i'd do.

    3. "IF someone attacks your work you should respond right?"...

      You don't really expect Feser to be able to respond to everyone who criticizes him. You're almost worst than boxing fans (Eh, he ain't that good.... he never beat fighter X).

    4. OK, i see your point, yeah he can't respond to EVERYONE. but then comes the question of how do you determine who's worth responding to and who isn't worth responding to? given the fact that Feser has responded to morons like Richard Carrier, clearly he doesn't have like have set rules about who he does respond to and who he doesn't.. so i dont really see how i'm worse than "boxing fans" in this case.

    5. I wouldn't call his comments on Carrier's criticisms to be a legit response.

    6. Referring to this idea: “there are people who post lengthy critiques of his works, i really wish he would make a response to them.”

      A lengthy critique does not mean it is a good critique.

      Nor does it mean Feser ought to respond to a lengthy critique just because
      (1) it is lengthy and
      (2) it exists somewhere on the internet.
      (this assumed obligation to respond seems to be somewhat implied - regardless of authorial intention - in the question being asked: “Why doesn’t Dr Feser respond to his critics?”)

      A scholarly sort-of-courtesy to respond arises if a critique is published in a reputable academic journal, and we know Feser has generally been responding to those scholarly critiques.


    7. Actually, if anything, a 71 page critique is precisely the kind of thing Feser probably wouldn't respond to given his extreme level of business.
      Make it brief. Make it clear. Make sure he hasn't responded to it elsewhere (piecemeal or otherwise).

    8. Yeah, why doesn't someone fix all the people on the interent that are wrong?

  13. Just wanted to let everyone know that we have a Classical Theism Forum that could use a little more activity. Feel free to to stop by and engage in some interesting discussions with us.

    1. Thanks for the reminder. This might be a good time to discuss the problem of natural evil.

  14. Ed,

    I remember you had negative comments about Millikan before, which surprised me because although Millikan is a materialist, she is really not like the average materialist. Anyway, what do you think of this (from Clear And Confused Ideas):

    In historical kinds “there is a causal/historical link between between the members of the kind that causes the members to be like one another… The two most obvious sorts of historical reasons why members of a kind might be caused to be like one another are, first, that something akin to reproduction or copying has been going on… and/or, second, that the various members have been produced by, or in response to, the very same ongoing historical environment.”

    “If it is not like other members of the kind for the very same reason they are like one another, then no matter how many properties it has in common with them, it is not a member of the same real kind.”

    I.e. that kinds (essences) of living things and artificial things come from their final causes, and the kinds of natural unliving things come from their effective causes like mountains are similar to each other due to similar forces of erosion working on them, thus if something looks like a mountain but its look was not caused by erosion, it is not a mountain.

    1. Taking the last first: I would say that the first cause of mountains (either the volcanic or earthquake action) that brings them into being is far more important than the secondary cause (erosion) that wears at them: a brand new mountain is not less a member of the class because erosion hasn't had time to work on it.

      Next, I would suggest that many of the "kinds" that might be suggested here, like mountains, are more "kinds" than they are kinds. That is to say: outside of the realms of living things (in which TRUE reproduction tends to happen), many things which we call "kinds" are less true kinds than merely convenient titles. That may sound more than a bit nominalist, but I am most certainly NOT proposing nominalism. Rather, it is clearer in the case of living things that have natures that are an interior principle of being, unity, and ACTION that they are kinds, and it is then (for that very reason) going to be harder to be as clear, or as certain, of "kinds" in things that don't have any interior principle of being or unity - such as a hill or mountain. And an illustration of that is the difficulty of deciding when a mound of dirt ceases to be a mound and is a hill, or when it ceases to be merely a hill and is a mountain. Or whether mountains are hills but have something distinct in addition, or are "something else", and no longer hills. Probably, among non-living things, it will be easier (as examples) to stick with blocks of the same element or compound, (and even within a block of the same element, it may be better to stick with a single isotope) to be sure of having a single "kind". But within the context of two blocks of a given isotope of lead, I don't think it matters if one was formed by the radioactive decay of some other substance, and the other as a result of a supernova explosion (two very different sources), they DO have a strong claim to be of like "kind". And in their case, it is more true (than of hills) that they share an interior principle of being that causes them to have like properties.

  15. Laudator Temporis ActiMarch 17, 2020 at 3:32 AM

    Also, in light of the situation, my college, like many others, has abruptly transitioned to online teaching.

    Please, Dr Feser! Why use the ugly polysyllable "transition" when "move" or "shift" is better? Waugh, Newman and Chesterton wouldn't have done it.

    1. nouns aren't supposed to be verbs anyway. You hear people say "we can leverage that" or "how will this impact us"

    2. I don't know about that. It seems you can verb anything.

  16. Webex
    Hangouts by Google
    Youtube live stream

    Dr. Feser,
    You could actually reach a much wider audience with such techniques.

    I realize that you have participated in online debates hosted by others, and that you have posted some youtube videos.

    Since your college is undoubtedly going to expand such methods this might be an opportunity for you to expand in the cyber video streaming and teleconferencing direction.

  17. Can we discuss Covid-19 from a philosophical perspective? I think an interesting discussion could happen considering God and Natural Evil during this time. Is God to blame for such a pandemic?

    1. Why would God allow such a pandemic?

      We can only speculate, but maybe in his omniscience God knew that this would give people important opportunities to develop virtues, grow in solidarity, promote global cooperation, shift their focus away from money and value health and life more, who knows. I can see lots of virtues and good things that such an occurrence might bring, it doesn't seem particularly hard for me to imagine that an omniscient God could have seen more important reasons to tolerate this pandemic from His position.

      Or perhaps it is related to some matters of free will that God had good reason not to interfere with. We don't know to what extent humans may be to blame for the origin and spread of this disease. Going a bit wild, even demons might be involved? Who knows.

      I think the evidential problem of evil is a good argument for atheism, but theodicy and skeptical theism are a decent enough defense, or at least they point us to the possibility that there might be plausible morally sufficient reasons for God allowing evil. And given the positive case for God, I think the problem of evil is overturned; theism still comes out on top as being very probable when you put everything on the balance.

    2. Why is there a standard to appeal to that tells you suffering/evil is "bad"? How do you know it's "bad"? Why would God owe us an abscense of suffering?

  18. An objection to Catholicism:

    a. Scripture is inerrant.
    b. Scripture states that the first human's son (Cain) founded a city.
    c. Cities did not exist until c. 8 000 years ago (generously).

    Therefore, if scripture is inerrant, the first human must have come into existence less than c. 8 000 years ago, and somehow there was also enough population for a city within one generation. And let's not even start about scriptural inerrancy and the Flood / massive genetic bottleneck.

    Therefore, either:

    a. Some kind of YEC is true, and our observations about the world are vastly wrong (making God a deceiver, which would invalidate theism and by extension Catholicism).


    b. Catholicism is false.

    1. Inerrantism does not require one to accept literal interpretations like that.

      Also, even if someone adopts a literal understanding of "founded a city", city comparable to cities archaeologists study, a and B are not the only options. One could believe in an old earth, evolution, everything, the only exception being the age of cities. Perhaps Cain's city just left no traces whatsoever. Etc

    2. "Inerrantism does not require one to accept literal interpretations like that."

      In some ways no, but also in some ways, yes. You'd need to do a huge amount of mental gymnastics to square the general time period / description of Adam and his descendants (farming, cities, bronze-age trappings in general) in the Bible with the actual age of rational humans, Homo sapiens or otherwise.

      It gets even worse with the Flood, given that even with a very generous reading of a local Black Sea flood, there simply wasn't a genetic bottleneck to a single family, not in the Bronze Age, not ever. You could go the route of modernist de-mythologizing, but that simply wasn't the view of the Church historically. It would be an admission that the Church was massively wrong on something for thousands of years. Either way, it doesn't look good.

      For the record, I am (at minimum) a classical theist, and I generally agree with the A-T worldview.

    3. I don't think it requires too much mena gymnastics. Dr. Swamidass's book on how all of us can indeed be genealogical descendants of a single pair of humans discusses a lot of these issues. As far as founding a city goes, it is, as I said, subject to interpretation and at best would just require us to believe that no traces were left of the city today.

      I don't think the flood implies a genetic bottleneck like that. I do accept a local flood, but not the bottleneck view.

      I also don't think it would be an admission that the Church was "massively" wrong on something. Churchmen have been wrong about many things. Being wrong about the flood seems to me quite small, in fact; the most important fact for the Catholic is, and should be, God's revelation and Incarnation in Jesus Christ and the founding of His church. That the historical opinion of most members of the Church on Noah's flood was wrong, is really quite small and insignificant to me.

      Not that I don't think it doesn't have any weight. I think these things make Catholicism less probable. But not by much. I think the positive case for it is still much better.

    4. Oh, I don't know. I think the allegory "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is inerrent--it really is true that you shouldn't cry wolf.

    5. It was common in the Middle Ages that lots of things in the Bible are allegorical. Maybe they did not use that for the flood but it was used. You have to say it is lots of cases. King David wrote in Psalms, "I am a worm, and not a man." That surely has to be an allegory I think.

    6. I just find it odd that the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia claims it has always been a matter of "faith and morals" that an anthropologically universal die-off happened in the Bronze Age.

      The issue with Catholicism is not that there aren't many positive cases for it (there are), but that if Catholic dogma is wrong on one *single* instance it is invalidated entirely.

    7. It is actually quite difficult and complicated to draw out what exactly is a matter of "faith and morals" that has been infallibly known by the Church. I certainly don't think a universal die-off would count, though, since it seems it makes almost zero difference to the core ideas of our faith. Intuitively, we can point out such a difference, like if Jesus wasn't God Incarnate, and if He hadn't founded the Church, then that would make a huge essential difference to my faith and would basically falsify it. By comparison, even as a conservative Catholic, I don't really care at all whether there were people other than Noah who survived a flood, for instance. Put it differently, Catholic saints and mystics weren't typically meditating on the literal aspects of Noah's flood - but the Passion of Christ, the continuity of the Church, the Eucharist and Sacraments, etc.

      If one dogma is wrong, then Catholicism is invalidated, true. But what dogma? Literal details of the flood are not dogma, not even if most in the church have faithfully believed in it for most of history.

    8. @Lous XIV

      Ok, I'm interested. Could you please provide the specific citation?

      In order to do the work needed to disprove the claims of the Catholic Church to inerrantly teach faith an morals, it needs to be shown that something errant is/was taught (implicitly or explicitly) by the teaching authority of the Church. An entry in an encyclopedia doesn't itself do that, but it could point to it elsewhere so please provide the citation and specific details.

      One problem is what does it mean to say "an anthropologically universal die-off happened in the Bronze Age." Are you claiming that the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia claims that the Catholic Church claims that humanity completely disappeared and a new and seperate humanity was created in its place? That's what the words appear to say. So what do you mean?

    9. With the exception of Noah and his family, yes, that's what it means.

    10. @James

      Do you have a source? Like Atno, I'm just going to defer to scientific evidence (if any exists) and say that the flood was local and not global (which just seems obvious on the face of it anyway). So to make this into a fatal blow to the Catholic Church, we need some evidence that the Catholic Church intended, as a matter of faith or morals, to obligate the faithful to a strictly literal interpretation of the relevent passages in the Bible. I doubt this arguemnt can get any traction, but I invite anyone to produce evidence illustrating otherwise.

      Do you or anyone else have this information?

    11. After reading the thread i gave Genesis relevant chapters a quick reading and the idea of a global flood seems quite strange, the humans where not very scattered before Noah. Even after it seems(by the names in places and territories) that they never got too far from Mesopotamia, so a local flood could kill everyone.

      One could argue that their language with Noah saving all the especies and the thing about death of all men could be explained as the narrative being concentred on the important places, just like the time the Devil puts Christ on a mountain that alows him to see "all kingdoms of the world".

      The normal view is that the flood was a global one, but it seems something we can argue about actually. How a catholic should read the text is also something that is not simple to answer.

    12. The story is an allegory. In the ancient world history was a moral narrative, it was not literal like it is for us.

    13. I've searched my Ott on the matter, and he doesn't even mention the Deluge. If it really were a matter of faith and morals, he would give an account that it is a "de fide" teaching of the Church, binding all Catholics to believe in it.

      - John

  19. Lots of the links to different philosophers on the side of this blog are not operational.


    Hello everyone out there, i am here to give my testimony about a herbalist called dr imoloa. i was infected with herpes simplex virus 2 in  2013, i went to many hospitals for cure but there was no solution, so i was thinking on how  i can get a solution out so that my body can be okay. one day i was in the pool side browsing and thinking of where i can get a solution. i go through many website were i saw so many testimonies about dr imoloa on how he cured them. i did not believe but i decided to give him a try, i contacted him and he prepared the herpes for me which i received through DHL courier service. i took it for two weeks after then he instructed me to go for check up, after the test i was confirmed herpes negative. am so free and happy. so, if you have problem or you are infected with any disease kindly contact him on email                   or  / whatssapp --+2347081986098.
    This testimony serve as an expression of my gratitude. he also have