Wednesday, February 9, 2022

McDowell’s Aristotelian near miss

John McDowell’s paper “Singular Thought and the Extent of Inner Space” made a big impression on me in graduate school, around the same time his influential book Mind and World was published.  Like a lot of philosophers, I thought there was something deep going on in McDowell’s work, though (also like a lot of philosophers, I think) I was not quite sure what to make of it.  Part of this has to do with the difficulty of McDowell’s style, but that difficulty reflects, at least in part, the difficulty of the subject matter.  The nature of thought and of experience is so close to us – like the tip of one’s nose, always in one’s field of vision, and thus rarely noticed – that it can be, precisely for that reason, harder to get hold of than the extra-mental world is. 

Hence, other than briefly alluding to his work in my doctoral dissertation, I moved on to other matters in the years immediately after first encountering it.  It wasn’t until years later, after getting hip deep into Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy, that I realized that what was going on in McDowell was a partial rediscovery of an essentially Aristotelian-Thomistic theory of knowledge.  That is not how McDowell himself presents it, though.

The Cartesian prison

One of McDowell’s major themes is an attack on the Cartesian conception of the mind.  I’m not talking about Descartes’s substance dualism, though McDowell does reject that.  What is in view is rather what McDowell describes as follows:

In a fully Cartesian picture, the inner life takes place in an autonomous realm, transparent to the introspective awareness of its subject; the access of subjectivity to the rest of the world becomes correspondingly problematic, in a way that has familiar manifestations in the mainstream of post-Cartesian epistemology…

[It is] the idea of the inner realm as self-standing, with everything within it arranged as it is independently of external circumstances. (“Singular Thought,” pp. 146 and 152)

On this Cartesian picture, our conscious experiences could be exactly as they are, without there actually being any external world corresponding to them (as in Descartes’s scenario where these experiences are hallucinations caused by an evil spirit).  You might think that the worry here is the familiar one that this picture of the mind makes the external world unknowable.  But though that is closer to the point, McDowell is primarily concerned with an even deeper problem, which is that the Cartesian conception makes external reality unthinkable.  It’s not merely that we’re locked in a Cartesian theater, having direct access only to mental representations of the external world, and cannot be certain that there really is anything outside the theater, anything which corresponds to the representations.  It’s also that the Cartesian picture threatens to make it unintelligible how our experiences could count as true representations in the first place – how they could have the intentionality they do, how they could so much as stand for or be about external objects (whether or not those objects exist).

The problem is the contingency of the connection between mind and world posited by the Cartesian picture.  Here’s an analogy (mine, not McDowell’s).  Words like “dog” and “cat” have no inherent or necessary connection to dogs and cats.  They are, of themselves, just meaningless strings of shapes or noises (depending on whether they are written or spoken).  The connection of these symbols to the dogs and cats they represent is a matter of convention.  Now, the convention gets set up because our thoughts about dogs and cats do have some kind of necessary connection to the things they are about, and the linguistic symbols inherit this connection by standing in for the thoughts – or so it seems.  But on the Cartesian model of the mind, mental states too have only a contingent connection to external reality.  For, again, the model holds that the mental realm could be exactly as it is even if there were no external world corresponding to it.  So, how do mental states have, in that case, any more power to represent external reality than meaningless strings of shapes or sounds do?  How can they have what philosophers call any “intentional content” at all?

McDowell concludes that “it [is] quite unclear that the fully Cartesian picture is entitled to characterize its inner facts in content-involving terms – in terms of its seeming to one that things are thus and so – at all,” so that the mental realm it posits is “blank or blind” rather than having any genuine intentionality or aboutness (“Singular Thought,” p. 152).  If the Cartesian conception were correct, our own experience would have the character of what William James called, in another context, “one great blooming, buzzing confusion.”  It would not even seem to be an experience of a world of tables, chairs, dogs, cats, trees, clouds, and people. 

Note that this has nothing essentially to do with Descartes’s view that the mind is immaterial.  As McDowell emphasizes, modern materialism has inherited this broadly Cartesian conception of the mind and just relocates the mind so conceived in the brain rather than in Descartes’s res cogitans.  It typically retains the idea that there is no inherent connection between mental states and the external objects mental states are said to represent.  It posits a causal correlation between mental representations and external objects (just as Cartesian dualism does) while allowing that the representations might in principle fail to represent the world as it really is – in which case, again, it is hard to see what makes them true representations at all.  Material states no less than states of a res cogitans should, given the Cartesian picture, be “blank or blind” rather presenting the world to us in the way consciousness actually does.

Opening up the mind

Hence McDowell concludes that the Cartesian picture is not correct.  He argues that we ought “to picture the inner and outer realms as interpenetrating, not separated from one another by the characteristically Cartesian divide” (“Singular Thought,” p. 150).  What does that amount to?  McDowell proposes several ways of spelling the idea out.  One of them involves the notion of a singular proposition (also sometimes called a Russellian proposition after Bertrand Russell, who developed the idea).  A singular proposition is a proposition about some particular individual thing, where the thing itself is a constituent of the proposition.  For example, the proposition that the Wilshire Grand Center is the tallest building in Los Angeles will be a singular proposition in this sense if the Wilshire Grand Center itself really is a constituent of that proposition.  (Whether a particular individual thing really can be a constituent of a proposition, and thus whether there really are singular propositions, is a matter of controversy.)

A singular thought (using “thought” here to refer to a psychological episode of the familiar sort) would be a thought whose content is a singular proposition – and thus a thought which has, as a constituent, some particular individual thing.  For example, if I am thinking that the Wilshire Grand Center is the tallest building in Los Angeles, then the Wilshire Grand Center itself would be a constituent of my thought.  On this conception, suggests McDowell, we could take the “inner space” of the mind to extend outward to include such external objects themselves.   And in that case, “there is now no question of a gulf… between the realm of subjectivity and the world of ordinary objects” insofar as “objects themselves can figure in thoughts which are among the contents of the mind” (“Singular Thought,” p. 146).

Another way of spelling out the “interpenetration” of mind and world is developed in Mind and World, where McDowell rejects the idea that there is a sharp divide between the content of a thought, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the facts in the world that the thought is about.  He writes:

[T]here is no ontological gap between the sort of thing one can mean, or generally the sort of thing one can think, and the sort of thing that can be the case.  When one thinks truly, what one thinks is what is the case[T]here is no gap between thought, as such, and the world. (Mind and World, p. 27)

Commenting on passages like these, Tim Thornton attributes to McDowell an “identity theory of thoughts and facts.”  And if thoughts and facts are identical, that would (so the argument goes) rule out a conception of the mind that makes it “blank or blind,” devoid of intentionality.  We cannot say that the contents of the mind would be just as they are, independently of whether there was an external world, if those contents just are the same things as the facts comprising the external world.

Developing the argument of Donald Davidson’s classic paper “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme,” McDowell rejects the conception of experience as devoid of structure or intelligibility apart from some conceptual scheme we impose upon it from outside, as if the former could exist apart from the latter.  Only what is already conceptualized could ever serve as a rational justification for anything, so that if experience was, considered by itself, devoid of conceptual structure, it could never play any justificatory role in anything we believe.  What McDowell calls “the space of reasons” (a phrase he picks up from Wilfrid Sellars) – the order of logically interrelated concepts, beliefs, and inferences – would thus float free of empirical reality.

The right way to think about human experience, then, is as already, of its nature, saturated with conceptual content, and the right way to think about the external world that experience reveals to us is as itself having a structure that corresponds to this conceptual content.  McDowell contrasts this with the “disenchanted” view of nature we’ve inherited from early modern science, and from empiricists like Hume.  He writes:

[W]e cannot suppose that intelligible order has completely emigrated from the world we take to be mirrored by intellectual states… We have to suppose that the world has an intelligible structure, matching the structure in the space of logos possessed by accurate representations of it.  The disenchantment Hume applauds can seem to point to a conception of nature as an ineffable lump, devoid of structure or order.  But we cannot entertain such a conception.  If we did, we would lose our right to the idea that the world of nature is a world at all (something that breaks up into things that are the case), let alone the world (everything that is the case).  (“Two Sorts of Naturalism,” in Virtues and Reasons, edited by Hursthouse, Lawrence, and Quinn, at p. 160)

But it isn’t really science itself that presents us with such a picture of nature.  It is the interpretation of science put forward by scientism and reductionistic brands of naturalism that does so.  “This kind of naturalism tends to represent itself as educated common sense, but it is really only primitive metaphysics” (Mind and World, p. 82).

Kant or Aristotle?

Even those sympathetic to McDowell’s position might have at least two concerns about it.  The first is that it seems to rely too much on metaphorical ways of characterizing the position McDowell wants to put in place of Cartesianism and reductionistic naturalism.  How exactly should we cash out talk about the mind and world “interpenetrating”?  What is the nature of the “inner space” of the mind, given that it is not like the literal space that material objects outside the mind occupy?  What exactly does the Wilshire Grand Center being a constituent of my thought about it amount to?  Obviously it is not a constituent of my thought in the same sense in which it is, say, a constituent of a certain city block in Los Angeles. 

A second concern is that attributing to the world something like the conceptual structure of thought, and making external things constituents of the mind, might seem to entail a kind of idealism that collapses the world into the mind.  This worry is only exacerbated by the fact that McDowell finds inspiration in Kant and post-Kantian idealism, albeit he does not characterize his own position as idealist.

Now, as I said at the beginning, it seems to me that there are, in McDowell’s work, clear gestures in the direction of what amounts to an Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of the mind’s relation to the world.  And resources from that conception would, I suggest, rescue McDowell from the two difficulties I’ve referred to.  To be sure, McDowell does cite Aristotle prominently in his exposition of his preferred conception of nature.  But his focus is on Aristotle’s ethics as a model of how to conceive of human beings in a way that is broadly naturalistic without being reductionist.  He does not make use of the relevant Aristotelian epistemological and metaphysical ideas.

The key theme here is the Aristotelian-Thomistic idea that when the intellect understands something, it takes on the thing’s form – the same form that, when informing a bit of matter, makes of that matter a particular instance of the kind of thing the form defines.  For example, when the intellect understands what it is to be a triangle, it takes on the form of a closed plane figure with three straight sides, which is the same form that, when taken on by a bit of ink, makes of that ink a triangle. 

The reason the intellect does not itself become a triangle by virtue of taking on this form is that it takes on the form without matter, and a triangle is a kind of material thing.  Hylemorphism – the thesis that physical substances are composites of form and matter – is thus a crucial metaphysical component of this epistemological story.  It makes it possible to say that the intellect is identical to the objects of thought formally, but not materially.  Why is this important?

Not too long ago I reviewed Raymond Tallis’s book Logos: The Mystery of How We Make Sense of the World.  Tallis notes how modern attempts to close the divide between mind and world opened up by Descartes tend either to collapse the mind into the world (as reductionistic naturalism does) or to collapse the world into the mind (as idealism does).  The trick to avoiding both extremes, he rightly argues, is to preserve the distinction between mind and world without opening up the unbridgeable gap between them that the Cartesian picture entails.  We need, as Tallis says, to preserve “connection-across-separation.”  As I noted in the review, the Aristotelian-Thomistic position does precisely this.  Because a thought and the thing thought about are formally identical, the mind has such an intimate connection with the world that there is no epistemic and semantic gap of the kind deplored by thinkers like McDowell.  But because they are nevertheless not materially identical, there is no collapse of mind and world.

McDowell is by no means unfamiliar with this account.  In his collection Having the World in View: Essays on Kant, Hegel, and Sellars, he discusses it in an essay with the intriguing and playful title “Sellars’s Thomism.”  I say “playful” because Sellars was, of course, hardly a Thomist.  But like McDowell, he was keen on making dialogue partners of great thinkers of the past, including those with very different philosophical commitments than his own, and Aquinas was no exception.  McDowell discusses the use Sellars made in his essay “Being and Being Known” of the Aristotelian-Thomistic account of knowledge I just sketched. 

Sellars’s concern was the relationship between the intentionality of thought and the meaningfulness of language, and he thinks there is an interesting connection between his own views about these matters and Aquinas’s notion of the “mental word.”  McDowell tells us that his main concern in his own essay is with understanding Sellars’s use of Aquinas rather than with Aquinas himself, but he does suggest that Sellars’s naturalistic presuppositions lead him to misread Aquinas.  And he closes the essay with the following paragraph:

Now Aquinas, writing before the rise of modern science, is immune to the attractions of that norm-free conception of nature.  And we should not be too quick to regard this as wholly a deficiency in his thinking.  (Of course in all kinds of ways it is a deficiency.)  There is a live possibility that, at least in one respect, Thomistic philosophy of mind is superior to Sellarsian philosophy of mind, just because Aquinas lacks the distinctively modern conception of nature that underlies Sellars's thinking.  Sellars allows his philosophy to be shaped by a conception that is characteristic of his own time, and so misses an opportunity to learn something from the past.  (p. 255)

All the same, McDowell himself mostly just describes the Aristotelian-Thomistic position in the course of discussing Sellars’s treatment of it, rather than either endorsing or rejecting it.  Nor (as far as I know) does he discuss the matter elsewhere.  So, McDowell’s salutary critique of Cartesianism seems, for all its strengths, insufficiently attentive to an important approach to the matter – a pre-Cartesian perspective, which is importantly different from the post-Cartesian perspective represented by the thinkers who have most influenced McDowell (Kant, Wittgenstein, Sellars, Davidson, et al.).

Related posts:

Truth as a transcendental

Fodor and Aquinas on the Extended Mind Thesis

Putnam on causation, intentionality, and Aristotle

Putnam and analytical Thomism, Part I

86 comments:

  1. The only place that comes to mind where McDowell gives any sustained attention to Aristotelian-brand naturalism is in his paper "Two Sorts of Naturalism".

    He wrote that for a Festschrift to Philippa Foot not long after M&W.

    I found the variety of Aristotelian naturalism there unsatisfying, for reasons similar to what you lay out here. Far too Kantian for my liking, despite McDowell's gesture toward re-enchanting nature and Aristotle's concept of "second nature".

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  2. I've been wishing for some time that you would write a piece explicating McDowell. This was very interesting. Thank you.

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  3. "For, again, the model holds that the mental realm could be exactly as it is even if there were no external world corresponding to it."

    This is true of God: his mental state is exactly the same whether or not things exist.

    All this supports my contention Descartes thought of himself (and man in general) as God. Everyone that buys into this model will conclude there is no God.

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    1. I think, therefore I AM (God).

      -Descartes

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    2. Or at least this creates a metaphysical picture where human subjectivity is central, rather than God or the external world.Thus an exaggerated preoccupation with the self and the inner life.

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    3. Here's an interesting paper by Mark Spencer on how God's intentional states could differ without this implying that God's nature differs or undergoes change - in other words, possessing certain things intentionally doesn't entail undergoing any change. This means God's mental state could be different as long as God as a whole doesn't undergo change: https://www.academia.edu/26922293/The_Flexibility_of_Divine_Simplicity_Aquinas_Scotus_Palamas_International_Philosophical_Quarterly_57_2_July_2017_123_139

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  4. While the conception as the mind being the form of the body is comparatively easy for me to understand first because it is de fidei and second because it is in concord with experience; Hylemorphism in general is difficult for me. Here are two reasons: first the inter-relationship between hylemorphic forms especially when it comes to containing one-another the fact that two forms exist containing one another suggests that what is really going on is not the matter that underlies the containment. For how could prime matter contain itself? It is one or at least it is continuous and without absolute value. However the fact that forms contain one-another seems at least to me to prove that forms can exists as parts independently of matter, outside of angelic bodies. Which is at least an idea that is not fully played out in Aristotelian metaphysics.

    The other reason is that substance as such is too biased towards the material view under hylemorphism. Several important concepts such as complexity are elided when the ground of existence is material. Take a watch. the form of the watch is far too intricately intertwined with the matter of a watch for it to be a watch form "rubber stamped" onto prime matter. To account for this complexity would require either a new state of matter or a new ontological category or something I haven't thought of yet. That being said because of argument from the authority of Aquinas I find myself half believing that hylemorphism has no flaws

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    1. I believe that the "new category" you are looking for was actually supplied by Aquinas: "virtual" forms.

      Take the watch (not as an EXAMPLE (since it doesn't have a nature, not being natural), but as an illustration): in addition to having "prime matter", it has parts that have "virtual forms", i.e. the parts have partial purposes (purposes of just one part in order to serve the whole), cogs, springs, ratchets, batteries, hands, etc) that have the virtue of so-called "forms" that - if they were stand-alone things - would express the nature of them separately. If you pulled the cog out of the watch, it would have a form that is expressed in terms of gear-teeth, etc. INSIDE the watch, this is partial to the whole watch's "nature" and the "form" of the whole watch is expressed, in that specific part, by way of a virtual form of "cog" but in another sense its form is just the form "watch".

      This sits with a model of "layers" of form that "inform" the matter in layers of complexity. In the watch, the prime matter has a low-level layer of, say, "iron" plus "carbon" plus "nickel" forms to constitute a higher-layer form "steel", which then has a higher-layer form "steel cog". All lower layers formal referents are VIRTUAL to the highest form.

      In the body, the prime matter has a lower layer form of the various elements we have, carbon etc, and compounds like water. The next layer informs those elements to constitute cell structures, which in turn form cells, which then are formed by higher virtual forms into tissues, and again into organs. The whole complex structures of organs are formed into "the body" of the human, by the substantial form of "human". The water in a cell has the "virtue" of water simply, in that the water in the cell ACTS LIKE water simply when it does the chemical operations the cell needs from that watery part. But it is really "human", not "water" simply speaking.

      The crux is that the lower-layer forms don't "exist" simply speaking, they exist VIRTUALLY in the partial-being aspect of the parts that are, in their own way, "the body" as made into one being by the substantial form.

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    2. Interesting post, Bill:

      "the inter-relationship between hylemorphic forms especially when it comes to containing one-another the fact that two forms exist containing one another suggests that what is really going on is not the matter that underlies the containment."

      What would be a example of that? Would a rational being capacity to have his intellect contain other forms(like when we think about dogness) be a example?

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    3. The watch is an artifact.

      The stamp is in the mind of the builder.

      "This is the timekeeping device I imagined. I think I'll call it a watch!"

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    4. @talmid think of the form of a tree. It contains wood. These are substances but it seems their forms do the definitional work of the wood being contained in the tree. It does not seem that prime matter unstructured as it is can explain the substance's behavior. Now suppose you say the substance does all of the explanatory work in question; However, it (the substance) is one in number and therefore cannot account for complexity which has a discrete and divided numerical nature.

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    5. @tim "The stamp is in the mind of the builder.": I have all sorts of questions. Is the watch an extension of the builder's mind. Does it change as his mind does? Is the watch subject to his intellectual will (as distinct from his body). Is the mind of your average watch inventor exponentially more complex than the watch? and more. The point is you can't just say its his mind without examining the contents of his mind and addressing the problems (perhaps insignificant) for Thomism that this raises.

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    6. @tim to be clear I think I agree with you but only insofar as that sentence you wrote works to produce a more robust Thomism, rather than eliding its problems.

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    7. @Bill

      Right, now i get it better. Not that much,of course, so excuse me if what i say miss the point.

      Well, i think that Tony said what i would say but better: when there is a tree there is not really wood being contained in it because the wood is part of a whole and not a complete substance in its own right*, so there is no real form being contained on another. It is part of the form of a tree that it is made of wood, so the wood itself and its possible behaviours are caused by the form. Of course, the form alone can't account for who from these possible behaviours, that is were matter comes in.

      Now while prime matter by itself is truly too unstructured to account for the certain behaviour of a particular tree, remember that prime matter does not really exist except as a being of reason, every material thing that is has a certain form. This is important here because the tree starts to be after a bunch of matter(a seed, i guess) get its potential to be a tree actualized. Since the creature that actualized this potential on the matter depends on the matter to generate the tree and has a limited power, the particular condition, organization etc that the matter had before being a tree and the confition of the actualizer will both define how the tree will be like.

      For instance, the state of the seed before being a tree and of the soil and the climate were it is will determine how the tree will be. You are right that prime matter can't explain much, but the matter that has the potential to get another form actualized aways has a form before the change, so in the end matter does plays a part.

      And i think that Tim point is that a watch does not has what we can call intrinsic teleology. The watch parts have their particular forms and there is no substance that unites and sustain they as a part of a whole, like it is with the parts of a body,for instance. The watch "form" is but a mental creation of the watch-maker. Dr. Feser discussion of the diference between artifact and nature is helpful.

      *which obviously change when the tree dies or loses a piece

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    8. Thanks y'all this discussion has been very helpful. It has definitely helped me make sense of the angelic doctor's paradigm. I am now going to translate all my thoughts of self subsistent form to: imagine a virtual form but call to mind its definition within the object while still conceiving of it's state of being as being external to the object. :In short: a hypothetically definitionally stable virtual form.

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  5. Very interesting but truly kinda hard subject. Two things that came on my mind:

    1. I have from some time the feeling that Descartes had taken some inspiration from St. Augustine own introspective method, even the famous *cogito*, but St. Augustine would clearly not agree with a lot of what his predecessor argued for. When i started this post it made me thibk of that

    Can we say that the diferences between the two thinkers is that St. Augustine neoplatonic metaphysics prevented him from seeing reality as lacking content? Sure, his anti-empiricism made him put the contact between intellect and reality as caused by God, but he does not see our conceptual schemes as coming from us.


    2. It seems to me that the cartesian view have the worry that if the relation between mind and world is too close them there is no way that we can explain error well enought and this is a worry that i also have.

    Like, i accept aristotelian epistemology but i can easily see a scenario like The Matrix being true were the person only really sees a bunch of meaningless sense-data* but still end up knowing forms and beings while never knowing she is not really seeing objects. How is that possible in the classical epistemology?


    *since computers can't WANT to represent x or y, only execute certain orders

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  6. Hey all,
    Can someone point me to good books or essays on the philosophy of language? I’ve got several thoughts on it that also tie into theology, but I would like to begin finding works that discuss it from a philosophical point of view. It seems as though I need to read Sellars and McDowell certainly, although perhaps not to start.

    I’d like to share a couple of thoughts, and y’all can let me know if I’m on a good track or not. First, the common notion that words are “meaningless strings of shapes or noises,” while mostly accurate, I don’t think tells the whole story. Granted, it’s impossible to learn a word simply by observing an object. This conception of words, I would argue, falls into the same Cartesian trap noted by Dr. Feser in the article, “It typically retains the idea that there is no inherent connection between mental states and the external objects mental states are said to represent. It posits a causal correlation between mental representations and external objects (just as Cartesian dualism does) while allowing that the representations might in principle fail to represent the world as it really is – in which case, again, it is hard to see what makes them true representations at all.” Just replace “mental states” with words.
    However, the history of etymology tells us that words were indeed chosen for reasons, thereby rendering them meaningful, at least so far back as we can trace. For example, the word “bonfire” was originally rendered as “bonefire,” which was created to describe the massive fires that were built to cremate bodies after battles, leaving nothing but the bones. Modern day usage dropped the "e" in the word, and now it just describes a large fire. But the original meaning is still impactful to why it is used. Additionally, one can further take the two words that made up "bonefire," "bone" and "fire," and trace those back as well. Unfortunately, this only goes so far, but it stands to reason that there are further words and languages that go back, all the way to the very creation of language. That’s about where I have to stop before getting into theological grounds.

    Secondly, as I was reading this article, the part about the interpenetration of mind and reality struck me, because it was something that was discussed in my rhetorical theory class quite some time ago. It’s a question that rhetoricians have been trying to figure out about words and reality, and I can’t help but think that the two questions are related. Might it be that language is the frontier between the mind and the external world? I’m not sure, but it seems plausible. When one conceives of a concept, for example a triangle, how would you even explain that concept? Maybe drawing a picture, but that seems pretty close to the drawing of a symbol, that is, a word. Chesterton spoke in The Everlasting Man about how some of the hieroglyphs in ancient Egypt were essentially puns, like the word for "pig" sounding a lot like the word for "tax." None of this is even mentioning that language written down or spoken is *in reality*. It literally goes from the mind to the external world. But I’m getting ahead of myself and am probably making unsubstantiated claims. My final question is this: What relation do words have to forms? Thanks.

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    1. Might it be that language is the frontier between the mind and the external world?

      True or not, that is an eminently cool-sounding question.

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    2. And speaking of etymology, I remember reading articles in Stellarium (a free software ap that lets you look at the stars from anywhere on earth at anywhere in time - highly recommended) talking about the Latin words for some stars (under the "star lore" option).

      Some of the Latin words for stars were so old that even ancient Latin scholars stood almost in awful mystery at where they came from: they were Latin but clearly from a time immemorial.

      A Jewish rabbi who was a Hebrew expert once talked similarly about the Hebrew words found in the book of Job: the only thing certain was that they were extremely ancient. In connection to the above, it is the only text of the Old Testament that mentions the Hebrew version of the Greek word for Zodiac.

      Finally - and to bring things to some context - the English words priest and bishop are direct translations of words found from the Bible into English - but from a long time ago.

      For example, there is an early Anglo-Saxon cleric whose last name was Biscop. How is that pronounced? Not bis-cop or bisc-op but - you guessed it - bishop*. It actually comes from the Greek word episkopos. But for whatever reason, ancient Anglo-Saxons rendered it as "bishop."

      Again. The English word priest is found in the bible. The not-English word (or any word for that matter, it means nothing) "presbyter" is found in modern "English" translations. But priest is the English word, a direct translation of the Greek "presbuteros." Even more obnoxious is the translation of the meaning of the Greek word "presbuteros" into English as meaning "elder." Especially in modern English, elder means someone of any sex who is aged. That is a false, absolutely anti-literal translation and definition. It means father, as in the fact all city councilors or leaders of nations in the ancient world were called fathers; for example, Roman Senators were called conscript father(s). Or the American founding fathers. It's a lie written into modern "literal translations" (HA!) of the bible (but "presbyter" is not a word in any language!).

      Now imagine some random person reading for the first time the bible and seeing the words "bishop, priest, father..." all over the place. Want to take a wild guess which Church (the only one) the bible was talking about?

      *https://www.wordsense.eu/biscop/

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    3. Very cool info, Timo, thank you.

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    4. Thanks for the info Timocrates! I'll check the app out. I'm interesting in doing some more research on the names of stars that you mentioned, and the details you've shared on the origins of priest and bishop are fascinating.

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  7. I'm glad we're diving deep into purely philosophical matters again! Great read.

    For me, it is becoming increasingly clear that science and scientists need to honestly and authentically solve fundamental demonstrable errors in modern science before pretending to use science to attack God or religion, including in talks about origins. You cannot possibly say science is true if science effectively denies man and the possibility of man's objectively knowing truth, which modern science is hopelessly bound to do - mere semantic attempts to conceal this reality notwithstanding. Science denies humanity essentially in two ways: via determinism (destroys or denies man's ability to choose) and materialism (destroys and denies man's objective ability to know [the mind-body problem] and sense experience; that is, the qualia problem). If man's totality of actual experience (the mental and sensual) is just a fiction, then science itself is just a fiction.

    The third and final problem of modern science, which is demonstrably self-refuting, is dogmatic Naturalism (the belief that throughout all time only naturalistic and known processes could ever have taken place, which is just to assume atheism by denying in effect even the possibility of Supernatural intervention), which results in Morgan Freeman speaking with the voice of God in documentaries about what supposedly happened billions and millions of years ago. Naturalism itself is a philosophical presupposition that cannot be proven or demonstrated scientifically as well as being beyond its own claimed subject matter to even comment upon. This makes science dogmatically opposed to religious data in principle in spite the false belief of scientists and those who idolize science that it is actually the result of the scientific method, studies, research and experiments: yet modern science already labours under an obviously fatal short-coming; namely it's in principle inability to really account for and acknowledge us and our experiences, which is self-evident to all and the only meaningful basis for the self-evident, upon which all logic, reason and science must be built-up from and finally conform to. To then preposterously imagine science has an infallible capacity to see backward in time, beyond any human experience or witness - like a prophet of the future (which to be fair, modern science and scientists are rightly much, much more cautious and humble about along with religious believers just in virtue of religion) - is almost unforgivably pretentious and obnoxious.

    I am increasingly convinced that it is really false philosophy and bad science that started the almost war between science and religion and not religion that ever attacked science. It is science so-called that is the belligerent and is the one behaving irrationally and without right or warrant.
    1/2

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  8. 2/2
    It is further demonstrably absurd to idolize science and expect it to be a guiding light and principle of modern life and politics when again it is demonstrably incapable of stopping even immunizing people from patently hyper anti-scientific worldviews that we see widely manifested on the far left, despite a supposedly secular and utterly scientific education and indoctrination (take, for example, the denials of gender or the imaginations of multiple genders beyond male and female and a litany of other beliefs that not only have no scientific basis for being forced onto the population as dogmas but are demonstrably false beliefs even by the standards of modern science).

    Personally I am just getting tired of this. It seems to me that more and more we are being demanded in various ways to offer up grains of incense to emperors everyone knows are not divine. I fear for the future of the strength and robustness of Western civilization if we can't stop this madness. But if it's any consolation, at least professor Feser proves almost to have been prophetic in his early work and book, The Last Superstition. For indeed it is becoming increasingly demonstrable that at least Western civilization is becoming positively superstitious once again in its worldview and practices.

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  9. Can we just rename the post to McDowell's Aristotelianism nearly actualized? By the way, amazing post, as always, Ed!

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  10. Mr Feser, a (non-completely) unrelated questions: do you think that Scholastic Philosophy can become applicable in contemporary social sciences? I understand that this is related with the philosophy of the mind but also with the problems of analogy and universalism/nominalism, and with the nature of discourse and language in general (Wittgenstein attacked this problem from an anti-traditional stance). And are you planning to study this problem in the future?

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  11. Another wonderful article. Thank you Profesor Feser.

    Regarding the "representationalist" approach, it has always struck me as utter non-sense, since to speak of a "representation", you need:

    1. The actual thing (the "world" in this case)
    2. An agent with access to that thing (the human individual/ scientist in this case)
    3. And finally, the "map" or representation per se (in this case, the one delivered by the neuronal processes)

    Since materialism precludes access to the external world to the self (because all we have contact with are the workings of our neurons, which deliver their information independently of our volition and are an inescapable biological fact), materialists have 0 rights to speak of any kind of representation, "accurate" or not, since no materialist can escape their skull and gain access to the exterior world (point 1.) for the purposes of "comparison".

    Therefore, the "representational" act becomes IMPOSSIBLE. The "representation" has become now the WHOLE WORLD OF THE INDIVIDUAL and is no "representation" at all.

    In fact, materialists have 0 rights to speak of anything that resembles logic/ intelligent discourse.

    If materialism were true, WE WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO ACCESS THE EXTRA-MENTAL WORLD. Since we have access to it and science has been so successful mapping it, materialism is patently false.

    Materialism collapses into subjective idealism, negating its initial premise (that there is an external, physical, objective universe accesible to us that can be studied by science).

    The "representation" approach is one last-ditch effort to escape materialism's internal contradictions. It doesn't work.

    The Big Problems with Naturalism
    https://strangenotions.com/the-big-problems-with-naturalism/

    (Thanks Prof. Bonnette, author of the above article. He's an excellent Thomist).

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    1. The representation point is quite interesting. Since the materialist has to believe in a world made of, well, matter, beyond our representations he can't do like Nietzsche* and reject talk of a world beyond our experiences as nonsense. It seems that the materialist has to be a representationist or a direct realist. A direct realist he can't be, for his view of reality as just having quantitative qualities is very, very diferent of our world of experience, such that what we see can't be reality. It seems that only representationism can do the trick.

      Now, i think that your point shows that representationism can't be true if understood literally, our minds can't produces representations, signs of the external world because these need a mind to connect sign and reality. But what if we understand the materialist as saying that thanks to natural selection our minds tend to produce experiences that have enough in common with the external world that we can survive in it, so our experiences are like a representation of the external world in the sense that they look like it enough?

      Just playing devil advocate here, though. I do agree with you and people like Berkeley that the mainstream empiricist materialism collapses in a sort of subjective idealism but i would go from another route.

      *see his criticism of Kant noumena/phenomena distinction, the guy liked to bite bullets

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    2. @Talmid:

      But what if we understand the materialist as saying that thanks to natural selection our minds tend to produce experiences that have enough in common with the external world that we can survive in it, so our experiences are like a representation of the external world in the sense that they look like it enough?

      That would be an illegitimate move for the materialist, one he is not allowed to  make if he wants to remain logically consistent.

      Why?

      Remember the prisoner from Plato's cave who reached the exit, was able to escape to see the light and tried to share that new information with the other prisoners?

      As Prof. Bonnette aptly shows in his fantastic article The Big Problems with Naturalism, the materialist/ naturalist HAS to rely on the findings of natural science, that describe the process of vision as follows: light impacts external objects an is reflected, enters our eyes, impresses the retina, is modified, travels the optical nerve and finally reaches the occipital lobe *where vision takes place.

      * is the result that the materialist obtains when he couples the findings of natural science with his illegitimate and false metaphysical assumption that the the process of vision is wholly material.

      And there is where his "epistemological nightmare" begins :)

      Because if the process of vision takes place in the occipital lobe, the only visual contact we have with reality is the information that our neurons feed us in said occipital lobe, solely and exclusively.

      And that puts ALL materialists in the place of all those prisoners in Plato's cave that were looking at the shadows and NEVER HAD ANY REASON to think that there was anything "more". They were fed shadows and that was their world. Those shapes were their reality. Period.

      Now the materialist who has accepted that he is forever locked inside a skull and whose reality is only what happens inside that skull and AT THE SAME TIME he pretends to know and speak about "another reality outside the skull" faces, as anyone can see, serious trouble. He is severely contradicting himself.

      He started saying taht there is an external world to which he has access/ that he can contact and from which he has gathered the (scientific) information that there are objects, that there is light, that he has eyes and retinas and an optical nerve and a brain and... that all that information has finally led him to conclude that in fact he can only access what happens inside his skull!

      Answering your question: Now that he has forfeited himself from accessing the external world, the materialist has 0 rights to speak of any "natural selection" of any kind, because the theory of evolution is a piece of information that could only be acquired by accessing said external world; the world that he has now relocated to the interior of his skull.

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    3. I see, that is a very good point. And it truly does look like Nietzsche reasoning to criticize the noumena/phenomena distinction as meaningless, a move that also kicks materialism butt. Yea, once we postulate that we only see our own internal reality them the move to a external one does not seems legitimate.

      I thinked that perhaps the materialist could argue that the rejection of a distinction between external/internal reality leaves our experience with absolutely no explanation at all so a external world has to be pressuposed. But it seems that this argument pressuposes that there is a external world and that casuality is a part of it. Since both assumptions can't be made by the materialist, it seems that at most a kinda of transcendental idealism were one is agnostic on the existence of the external world can be defended, which no materialist can agree with because he is commited to a material reality existing.

      I'am curious, though, on why only the materialist faces the problem. It seems that any representationist that is also a metaphysical realist suffers this problem. How would a substance dualist that is a representationist escape the problem?

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    4. @Talmid:

      I thinked that perhaps the materialist could argue that the rejection of a distinction between external/internal reality leaves our experience with absolutely no explanation at all so a external world has to be pressuposed.

      Well, as Profesor. Bonnette states, we all start with the same experience of the world, materialists and Aristotelians alike.

      The naturalist is right in taking as given (presupposing) an external physical world that he knows directly through sensation.

      But, he is wrong in trying to meld this experience with his philosophical position of materialism.

      It's when when he illegitimately converts ALL of reality to "just matter" when he makes his fatal move.

      Because the modern materialist is a creature who feeds and parasites on the back of the findings and success of (empirical) science.

      And that reliance on science to back up his philosophical materialism is, paradoxically, the one that deals him the fatal blow.

      If he accepts the findings of science (chain of events from objects in the external world+light --> till the occipital lobe), he ends up concluding that he can only access the inner workings of his brain!

      A brain that according to his own premises he can not know he has, because he FIRST had to access the external world to practice his science... the science from which he gathered the information that he has a brain... that he has concluded feeds him information inside a skull... which means that he has not access to the external world at all!

      The materialist can NOT be rescued from this nightmare unless:

      1. He renounces to his empiricism, denying the accepted findings of science regarding how the process of vision works. Highly unlikely.

      2. He acccepts the findings of science and then renounces to his materialism. Concluding that there's more to reality than just "material" entities. AND THEREFORE ACCEPTING DEFEAT.

      So, as conclusion: yes, the materialist has a right to make the divide internal/external reality
      as long as he leaves science out of the picture.


      But...

      Will he?

      The Big Problems with Naturalism

      Naturalism's Epistemological Nightmare

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    5. @Talmid:

      I'am curious, though, on why only the materialist faces the problem. It seems that any representationist that is also a metaphysical realist suffers this problem. How would a substance dualist that is a representationalist escape the problem?

      You're right. The substance dualist faces the same problem.

      Any representationalist that is also a metaphysical realist suffers this problem.

      What happens here is that my pet peeve is materialism, since they have parasited science and orchestrated a fraudulent (but very successful) marketing campaign to advance their metaphysics. 

      It's the materialist who mocks and derides the theist/dualist for "not being in touch with reality" while he has to acknowledge that he is trapped inside a skull, having a brain that in fact he is not allowed to know is real after all and failing into the deadly trap of trying to square a physicalist ontology with an idealist epistemology.

      Oh the irony :)

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    6. "The naturalist is right in taking as given (presupposing) an external physical world that he knows directly through sensation.

      But, he is wrong in trying to meld this experience with his philosophical position of materialism."

      I love this point, it is aways good to remember. As you noticed, materialists like to equate science with their metaphysics, so showing how not only both are diferent but can't work together is truly important to, at minimum, showing that there is a alternative besides the straw-man made by popular materialists of non-materialist positions.

      Anyway, the argument on representationism leaving one a kinda of subjective idealist is truly interesting. No wonder that Kant pretty much created a idealist tradition on Germany when he decided to push the modern epistemologies to their limits. Ironically, him trying to protect science crushed materialism for more that a century.

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    7. @Talmid:

      As you noticed, materialists like to equate science with their metaphysics, so showing how not only both are diferent but can't work together is truly important to, at minimum, showing that there is a alternative besides the straw-man made by popular materialists of non-materialist positions.

      Indeed, science can not come to the rescue of the materialist, no matter how much he would like to.

      Once he has acknowledged (and it's an inescapable conclusion) that he is forever trapped inside a skull, behind a "neuronal curtain" so to speak, the materialist realizes he is in for big trouble.

      He now needs (at all costs) to gain access to the external world, the only place where legitimate science can be practiced, to keep supporting his position.

      And the only move he has left to achieve this consists in trying the "representationalist" approach, suggesting that "such and such scientific findings have shown that our brains and natural selection force representations upon us and blah, blah, blah..."

      What is happening here is that, in his desperation, the materialist is trying to put himself in the position of a prisoner in Plato's Cave who is AT THE SAME TIME chained on the inside while being fed shadows and also enjoying the warmth of the sun on the outside.

      The materialist is caught in another contradiction, an ambivalent epistemology where he can not decide whether he has access to external reality ("world") or just to the internal ("neuronal") one.

      Therefore: if the materialist is in fact forever trapped inside his skull, he would not have any reason at all to suspect that there's more to his "reality"/experience.

      The moment he opens his mouth and starts to speak of a "representation", the most surprising conclusion you could ever dream of, emerges:

      The materialist is positing, as the creator of his cognitive faculties, a mechanism ("natural selection") that has "tried" to enclose him inside a skull and to feed him a spoiled version of reality, but showing that (and he is the living proof), in the end, that mechanism ("natural selection") has failed!

      "Natural selection", which according to the materialist is an unescapable fact that all biological organisms have to undergo, is, after all, fallible!

      We have been "selected" to stay clueless about the real nature of existence (*) and yet we have broke free of our chains and got to know what our "master" deemed unreachable! We have departed from the cave!

      How incredibly self-contradictory and lame is that?

      (*) Which only reinforces Alvin Plantinga's EAAN.
      The Self-Defeat of Naturalism

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    8. Interesting discussion. I'm a naturalist but reject the idea that thoughts are representations. If I am currently thinking about the Eiffel Tower then that is what I am thinking about. I am not thinking of a representation of the Eiffel Tower. Although I could later think of a representation of the Eiffel Tower such as the painting of it hanging on the wall above my desk.

      We do distinguish one thought from another by what the thought is about. So if two or more people were thinking about the capital of Texas it could be said that they have the same thought. While another person thinking of their house could be said to have a different thought. Of course we typically refer to what a thought is about as the contents of that thought. But that can be misleading if we also think that a thought is like a box or a trunk that contains its contents. Thoughts are not like containers that are separate from their contents.

      Another reason for rejecting the idea that thoughts are representations is that a representation has to have representational and non-representational properties. For example, the non-representational properties of paintings are properties of the paper and the colors of the paints used for the painting. The representational properties of paintings are the colors, locations and shapes of the objects in the paint. A thought is not a thing so obviously it cannot have any non-representational properties. Thoughts are all message and no medium.

      Most of my philosophical views have been influenced by Wittgenstein and by those working in that tradition such as P.M.S. Hacker, Hans-Johann Glock, Bede Rundle and G.H. von Wright.

      Wittgenstein is usually thought of in terms of his private language arguments or of his conception regarding language games. But a great part of his work deals with the issue of intentionality.

      Also, though I agree there is much to fault with materialism, I do not believe there are such things as immaterial or mental substances. Of course that does not imply that the only things that exist are material things.

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    9. @UncommonDescent

      Exactly, there is no way to agree with the representationist view and them claim than you know that there is a real world that is such and such. The continental rationalists since Descartes did drop the empirical data to try to bridge the gap by using reason alone but that also failed. The sequel is Kant and the sequel to him is german idealism.

      It is not sad that a lot of these materialists are stuck on the naive materialistic empiricism that was correctly rejected centuries ago?

      @Hal

      By "materialists" and "naturalists" we are talking of a particular type of thinker: mostly the defender of the reductive materialism you see associated with persons like the New Atheists. If "naturalism" is defined as just "there are no supernatural beings*" them there is more freedom and the criticism do not necessarily apply.


      And i agree with you that a thought clearly points at his objects. Perhaps the famous aristotelian idea that the mind "turns into" the thing it thinks about is not for all, but our thoughts are clearly refering to things beyond themselves.


      *of course, what a supernatural being even is is another question but we are here to attack representationists, so lets talk about this other theme on another day.

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    10. @Hal:

      I'm a naturalist but reject the idea that thoughts are representations. If I am currently thinking about the Eiffel Tower then that is what I am thinking about.

      But to speak of the "Eiffel Tower" as a real entity, pertaining to the "Exterior World" (from now on, "EW"), you have to prove that there is a way for you to contact said EW. We all agree that is our senses that mediate contact with EW? Then, the findings of science, the physiology /chain of events from: (Starting point =) the Eiffel Tower + light bouncing and striking our retinas + travelling of the signal via the optical nerve + finally reaching the occipital lobe:

      INVARIABLY ends in the brain and traps you inside a skull. All the visual information you receive is mediated by hundreds of thousands of neuronal events that present you the final image. Which contradicts the premise that you are capable at all of having direct knowledge of "an Eiffel Tower in an EW".

      Your physicalist ontology traps you forever and forbids you from accessing  EW. And since contact with the EW is now impossible for you, you can not appeal to/ speak of any science whatsoever, since said science can only be practiced in EW, which has become inaccesible to you. Meaning that you could not even know that you have a brain, because that is a finding of  science. And no talk about any evolution or natural selection of any kind either, since that is also a finding of science.

      Only by de-localizing sensation and allowing an immaterial entity in your ontology can you avod this deadly trap. And to avoid the Cartesian troubles of substance dualism that Profesor Feser highlights in the post, the only viable alternative is hylemorphic dualism.

      A materialist worldview and science can not coexist.

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    12. @Talmid:

      By "materialists" and "naturalists" we are talking of a particular type of thinker: mostly the defender of the reductive materialism you see associated with persons like the New Atheists. If "naturalism" is defined as just "there are no supernatural beings*" them there is more freedom and the criticism do not necessarily apply.

      The argument covers any position that accepts the findings of science (that we have material bodies and the chain of events that ends in the occipital lobe inside the brain) and that locates the knower (the "self") in the brain. Because that permanently locks the "self" inside the skull, behind a "neuronal curtain" that mediates communication with the EW. And that includes the "emergentist" and "property dualist" approaches, which are bizarre and incoherent to the extreme.

      To avoid it, the naturalist would have, to:

      1). Renounce to the findings of science regarding the description of events of how vision takes place. That would make him a laughing stock, falling to the level of a "flat earther" or a "gender theorist". He would have to offer a new, revolutionary scientific description of how vision takes place. Not likely. No such accout currently.

      2). Or accept substance dualism (with his many problems) (Hal says he does not believe in immaterial mental substances, so this option is locked).

      3). Or to be an idealist (which subdues matter to mind, mind being primary and "matter" a product of it).

      4). Or to accept hylemorphic dualism (which invariably points towards an Unmoved Mover per Aristotle and to God per Aquinas) and try to explain how the Unmoved Mover/ God is not "supernatural".

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    13. @UncommonDescent

      As a reader of Wittgeinstein i suppose that Hal view is very diferent than something like property dualism, a view that still preserves the primary/secundary qualities distinction. So i assumed that his view could end up closer to our own or have a third view of the self.

      Who knows, i admit that i need to know Witt better.

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    14. @ Talmid,

      Glad to see that you recognize that my view is very different from the typical internet naturalist who embraces reductive materialism. Thanks.

      Although I am an atheist, there is nothing in Wittgenstein's philosophy that entails atheism (or Naturalism for that matter). There are some very good philosophers working in the Wittgensteinian tradition who are theists: James C. Klagge comes to mind.


      @UncommonDescent,

      I reject the view that the "self" is located in the brain. Nor do I identify the mind with the brain as many materialists do.

      Also, I reject the view that science is unitary and that all scientific explanations ultimately can be reduced to physics.

      I'm not interested in proving that Naturalism is the only correct position, but I do think there are more reasonable options available to the naturalist than you listed in your last post.

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    15. @Hal:

      Re-reading your posts, I find this part a bit confusing:

      Also, though I agree there is much to fault with materialism, I do not believe there are such things as immaterial or mental substances. Of course that does not imply that the only things that exist are material things.

      According to your worldview, the mind is:
      a) material?
      b) immaterial?

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    16. @UncommonDescent,

      You asked:
      "According to your worldview, the mind is:
      a) material?
      b) immaterial? "

      My answer would be neither. The mind is not a thing at all. Of course you and I both really do have minds but all that means is that we have various powers of intellect and will.

      Here is a summary of an Aristotelian conception of the mind:
      Not a substance
      Neither identical with the human body, nor distinct from the human body; i.e. the questions of sameness and difference makes no sense
      Not a part of a human being
      Informs the living organism, but is not ‘embodied’ in it
      To possess a mind is to have an array of powers of intellect and will.
      The distinctive powers of the mind are all linked to responsiveness to reasons.
      Excludes sensation, perception, fantasia and appetite
      Not an agent
      Does not stand in a causal relationship to the body
      Not a subject of psychological attributes, acts or activities
      Not essentially private
      Not essentially transparent
      The intellect and the will, and their actualization in thought and action, are not essentially indubitable to the subject.

      This summary is in "Human Nature: The Categorial Framework"

      A preview of the book can be found here:
      https://books.google.com/books/about/Human_Nature.html?id=gCT1eMxuNXQC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

      And another quote from the book may also help you understand where I am coming from (or my 'worlview' as you put it:

      "Human beings are animals with a distinctive range of abilities. Though they have a mind, they are not identical with the mind they
      have. Though they have a body, they are not identical with the body they have. Nor is a human being a conjunction of a mind and a body
      that causally interact with each other. Like other animals, human beings have a brain on the normal functioning of which their powers depend. But a human person is not a brain enclosed in a skull. A mature human
      being is a self-conscious agent, with the ability to act, and to react in thought, feeling and deed, for reasons."

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    17. @UncommonDescent
      You wrote:
      "Which contradicts the premise that you are capable at all of having direct knowledge of "an Eiffel Tower in an EW"."

      What do you mean by 'direct knowledge'?

      I made no such claim in my original post.

      I did claim that thoughts are not representations. And I gave a few reasons why I think that.

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    18. @Hal:

      You did not mention that you are an hylemorphic dualist (and so I am. I believe it's the correct approach to understand nature). The argument only covers those positions that need to put forward the "representationalist" non-sense to (try to) salvage their metaphysics. (Especially the massive failure that is mainstream materialism).

      Same happens with my comments about "thinking about the Eiffel Tower". To coherently say you are thinking about a REAL entity in the external world, you have to first offer a coherent account of how you apprehended said entity (or you would be talking about something existing only in your mind). Since the aristotelian position covers this, I have no issues with it.

      My "beef" with "naturalism" is that I have always thought it is an ill-defined position. For example, since you believe in the existence of souls, how did they come about? Do you believe in some sort of "God"/ creative entity? Did they come about via (darwinian) evolutionary processes?

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    19. @UncommonDescent
      "You did not mention that you are an hylemorphic dualist ..."


      I'm not. I'm a monist. I've already mentioned that I do not believe in mental or spiritual substances. And I certainly do no believe in any kind of soul that survives after death.

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    20. @Hal:

      Let's no quibble about the term hylemorphic "dualism".

      Are you an hylemorphist?. Since you have mentioned an Aristotelian conception of the human person, the conclusion follows.

      Am I right? Do you feel more comfortable with that label?

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    21. @UncommonDescent,
      You wrote:
      "As Prof. Bonnette aptly shows in his fantastic article The Big Problems with Naturalism, the materialist/ naturalist HAS to rely on the findings of natural science, that describe the process of vision as follows: light impacts external objects an is reflected, enters our eyes, impresses the retina, is modified, travels the optical nerve and finally reaches the occipital lobe *where vision takes place."

      Thanks for linking to Prof. Bonnette's article. Just had a chance to take a look at it. I was surprised to see him relying on the Homunculus argument to attack naturalism.
      I'm sure there are naturalists who accept that informal fallacy, but I don't. Nor is it necessary to accept it in order to be a naturalist. And unless Prof. Bonnette can substantiate such a necessity, his argument colapses. All it amounts to is that some naturalists commit this fallacy.
      Human beings do not see things in their brains. They see things in the world around them. It is with the aid of their eyes and their brains that such perception can take place.

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    22. @UncommonDescent,
      Agree with your sentiment not to quibble over labels. In an earlier post I provided a list of the elements that are in accordance with my conception of the mind. Here is the list again:
      Not a substance
      Neither identical with the human body, nor distinct from the human body; i.e. the questions of sameness and difference makes no sense
      Not a part of a human being
      Informs the living organism, but is not ‘embodied’ in it
      To possess a mind is to have an array of powers of intellect and will.
      The distinctive powers of the mind are all linked to responsiveness to reasons.
      Excludes sensation, perception, fantasia and appetite
      Not an agent
      Does not stand in a causal relationship to the body
      Not a subject of psychological attributes, acts or activities
      Not essentially private
      Not essentially transparent
      The intellect and the will, and their actualization in thought and action, are not essentially indubitable to the subject.

      If you think that is in accordance with hylomorphism then I'm fine with you referring to me as a hylomorphist.
      I'm aware that Aquinas relied a great deal on Aristotle's hylomorphism, but the writings of Aristotle don't provide a completely consistent view of Aristotle's conception of the mind. Aristotle also wrote:
      "to say that the soul is angry is as if one were to say that the soul weaves or builds. For it is surely better not to say that the soul pities, learns or thinks, but that the man does these with his soul".
      This is the aspect of Aristotle's conception that I think is crucial to a proper conception of the mind. The mind is not an agent. It is the human being that acts as an agent in this world. So psychological attributes are logically predicated of the human being and not of the mind (or brain, as materialists do).

      Also, am not interested in trying to persuade you that your belief in God is wrong or that you should embrace atheism or naturalism.
      I'm really interested in discussing intentionality and whether or not thoughts are representations, etc. I think it is possible for theists and atheists to reach agreement on these particular areas.

      As I mentioned earlier, I don't believe thoughts are representations. Do you share that belief?

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    23. @Hal:

      (Part I)

      I was surprised to see him relying on the Homunculus argument to attack naturalism.
      I'm sure there are naturalists who accept that informal fallacy, but I don't. 


      Well, hylemorphism is not mainstream, and I think we can agree that the vast majority of "naturalists" are materialists. The other routes for the naturalist are, as I have mentioned in a previous post: idealism and dualism. For the dualist, he has to explain how two different substances can interact and, either way, he falls prey of the "representationalist" trap, which severs contact with reality and makes science/knowledge about the external world impossible.

      The idealist has to explain why do we have the "idea of a brain" and what is the relation of said brain with our perception (something incoherent, since it's not the brain who creates or informs the individual, but it's the "self" the one that perceives it "has a brain" and therefore "makes it real" so to speak).

      A very tiny amount of naturalists like you, who hold an hylemorphist conception of the mind, are not affected by the argument. But the naturalist who holds an hylemorphist view of reality has some important questions to answer: where did the soul come from? Via evolutionary processes? There is no explanation? And how can something that is not dependent on matter for some of its operations "die"? Being not dependent on matter it's therefore not subject to "corruption".

      Delete
    24. @Hal:

      (Part II)

      Also, I am not interested in trying to persuade you that your belief in God is wrong or that you should embrace atheism or naturalism.

      I am interested in knowig the truth about this reality into which we did not ask to be brought, to understand what its nature is and our role as human beings in it. Worldviews that suffer from incoherencies must be discarded in my opinion, since incoherency is a mark of falsity. And especially when there are options available that do not fall prey of said problems.

      As I mentioned earlier, I don't believe thoughts are representations. Do you share that belief?

      I do share it. As Profesor Feser says, a thought and the thing thought about are formally identical. It's an isomorphic, intimate connection. There are no "representations" of any kind going on here. No "theatres" and no non-sense.

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    25. @Uncommondescent,
      " But the naturalist who holds an hylemorphist view of reality has some important questions to answer: where did the soul come from? "

      Why are you asking about the soul? I've already stated that I don't think human beings have souls.

      I posted this nice little summary of what a human being is above:

      Human beings are animals with a distinctive range of abilities. Though they have a mind, they are not identical with the mind they have. Though they have a body, they are not identical with the body they have. Nor is a human being a conjunction of a mind and a body that causally interact with each other. Like other animals, human beings have a brain on the normal functioning of which their powers depend. But a human person is not a brain enclosed in a skull. A mature human being is a self-conscious agent, with the ability to act, and to react in thought, feeling and deed, for reasons.


      Just want to add, that I'm pleased to see that we are in agreement regarding mental representations.

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    26. @Hal:

      Why are you asking about the soul? I've already stated that I don't think human beings have souls.

      Well, if you say you are an Aristotelian, Aristotle developed an hylemorphist metaphysics that included the soul. He even wrote this book titled De Anima and advanced that some of its operations were fully immaterial.

      If you are saying that humans have not souls, then you are a materialist and you have to enclose the human ("brain") inside a skull.

      Saying that the mind is "neither material, nor immaterial" explains nothing and does not make sense.

      Are you sure you understand your own position?

      Delete
    27. @UncommonDescent,
      "Saying that the mind is "neither material, nor immaterial" explains nothing and does not make sense."

      Here is a quote from the review I linked to. It hopefully gives you a better understanding of a Wittgensteinian conception of the mind.


      "Understanding human beings as organisms with certain powers is key to addressing the problem set up by philosophers such as Descartes and Locke about the relation between mind and body, or mind and world. For Aristotle, the psuche or ‘psyche’ was not a separate part of the organism with a relationship of some sort to its body; a creature’s psuche can be seen as the capabilities of the organism, the things it is characteristically able to do. Hacker suggests that, in a similar way, the concept of ‘mind’ can be understood as the set of mental capacities typically possessed by human beings. Most important among these uniquely human capacities is the use of language. Our intellectual ability and facility for language enables humans to be aware of general truths, to ‘reason and deliberate’ (P 239), to reflect on their own actions, thoughts and feelings, to be aware of the past and the future, to have a sense of right and wrong, to imagine things, to cooperate in a whole variety of demanding endeavours and to have complex emotions such as hope and regret.

      Hacker also shows how the way that we use the term ‘mind’ in colloquial speech reflects various sorts of intellectual activities. To have a thought ‘cross one’s mind’, for example is ‘for something to have occurred to one’ (P 249). To call something to mind is to remember it. To ‘know one’s mind’ is to have formed an opinion. Thus Hacker concludes that in ordinary speech ‘talk of the mind..is merely a convenient façon de parler, an oblique way of speaking about human faculties and their exercise’ (P 250).

      Therefore the ‘mind’ is not something inside us. Indeed, it is important to appreciate that it is not a ‘thing’ at all. It is the various capacities the human organism possesses to respond in a particularly sophisticated way to the world around it. These capacities are not separable from the human organism as a whole, including its physical body. The mind-body problem is, to use Hacker’s example, like trying to relate the colour of a five pound note to its value: ‘A £5 note is green and has a value of £5 but the colour green does not stand in any relationship to the value of £5’ (P 283)."

      Delete
    28. as you and @Talmid were saying, reductive materialists are closed inside their head akin to subjective idealists,solipsists and so on. Talk of "receiving the world" through representation, signification, information, interpretation and other "physicalized" notions of mentality inside the brain completely encloses them in their heads. Was lurking around researchgate and saw this badly written paper made by some dubious lone wolf defending some form of eliminativism that sounds close to what hear from young internet "debaters" https://www.researchgate.net/publication/345461511_From_Consciousness_to_Brain-Sign_a_Neurobiological_Reconstruction
      note that in the "missing link" part where this dude states his "theory", he indorses some very muddled form representationalism mixed with the "signification and interpretation" the brain supposedly makes to account the mind as epiphenomenal (after that he says "mind"is unscientific without giving any argument for his claims, attacks real scientists for believing in the mental and finishes with the claim that there's no knowledge). Its cringeworthy but kinda funny

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  12. Dr. Feser,

    If the form of a triangle or a dog (say) resides in the intellect (albeit in an immaterial mode), how is it possible to make erroneous judgements about such things? Clearly the form of dog that exists in my mind is not wholly identical to the form of dog that exists in an actual dog, even on the purely formal level. Otherwise, I would know the molecular and genetic structure of a dog as well as the way doggy consciousness appears to dogs whenever I think of a dog. But of course my conception of dogs is very superficial, so the form must likewise be incomplete.

    Where do Aristotle and Aquinas address this issue? It is a pretty obvious objection, so I imagine they have a good answer.

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    1. The intellect does not gain the entire essence of the thing you’re looking at immediately. You learn through experience and further experience means further knowledge. If you see a dog from a mile away and it appears as a dark object and you can’t make out more than that, well the only form that’s existing in your intellect is that of a dark object. Then you gain experience through seeing the dog more, seeing other dogs, owning a dog, and more form is added to your knowledge of the essence of a dog

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  13. So professor Feser, would I be correct from your post in thinking that McDowell was concerned about a kind of epistemological infinite regress occurring unless it was modified? That is, that our ideas would essentially because inherently meaningless and vacuous and literally and figuratively out of touch with all reality given a fundamentally Cartesian understanding of it? And that he thought an ultimately Cartesian metaphysics and worldview was still inherent in the modern, scientific worldview?

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  14. As I’m not a philosopher, I find Aquinas a bit like a genius has tried to tie things down that are just past our ability to grasp in such w tight ‘analytical’ framing. Perhaps the rediscovery of Aristotle with his apparently missing essences had a newness and robustness that emphasised the differences from christian neoplatonism more than was necessary.

    I find it easier to think of natural things in a more Augustinian sense, as unfolding from the divine idea(l)s of things. It’s a flow from idea, to seeds of essence that are equally beyond our conception, and these branch out over time towards the particulars fulfilling the original conception. So you can think of the universe as a great tree, with the roots as the ideas, the trunk as the idea spoken, the logos that contains the potential of all, and then the branches contain a complete microcosm of all the seeds of essence from the trunk. Finally the leaves and fruits are the individual particulars, their surfaces being the whole physical body (not just the surface of the body). The sap that flows through it all is spirit.

    It’s not a great analogy, for a start each branch has different types of leaves! However it helps to describe some things, such as the way we perceive the world as being the other leaf surfaces, and we create names for the different types of leaves despite not perceiving directly the branch which caused them to be what they are. And of course the materialist thinks that the world is entirely leaf (/fruit) surface, with the surfaces creating something that appears as sap, but is really just an illusion.

    One of the mysteries and miracles of life is the way that the sap within the leaf becomes the leaf, retains it’s unique leafiness, and in the case of humans, becomes a microcosm of the trunk itself.

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  15. Whitehead had batter way of accessing this problem. What we call 'representations' are not 'signs' that point, but symbols that 'evoke'. Objects in the world have a causal power to effect/affect symbolic representations in the subject. The mind and nature are two side of the same coin.

    As a result, all actual objects in the world must also in some sense be subjects, sensitive in some way to their environment (i.e. impressionable). What we call 'representations' in the human mind are a simply a higher level organisation of a property an intrinsic to all matter.

    His account was superior to that of Aristotle and Aquinas because firstly, he did not need to posit mind and matter as distinct, and secondly, he could incorporate change into his fundamental conception of the world. 'Forms' are not static, and thus 'eternal' or 'essential', but evolve in response to their environment - which is also changing.

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    Replies
    1. Objects in the world have a causal power to effect/affect symbolic representations in the subject.

      These "symbols" that are "evoked" have to, somehow or other, be different from the "thing itself", (i.e. to be in my senses or in my mind but not "in" there simply by having a dog sitting in my brain), and yet be the SAME as the thing in some sense, in order for the symbolic referential operation to be about the thing itself. It does no good to merely declare that the object in the world has some kind of property as a causal power to evoke a symbolic representation in the subject, without cashing that out in some meaningful way. WHAT power? By what pathway, mechanism, means, or model? Otherwise it hasn't any better position against Hume and the other empiricists' complaint against forms.

      As a result, all actual objects in the world must also in some sense be subjects, sensitive in some way to their environment (i.e. impressionable). What we call 'representations' in the human mind are a simply a higher level organisation of a property an intrinsic to all matter.

      Well, according to Newton all objects have the property of being able to affect other objects by efficient causality, by striking them, and imparting a motion in that way. If that's all Whitehead is saying, then he hasn't accounted for sensation and knowledge at all, and is merely engaging in obfuscation to gussy it up as "symbolic representation". So, again, without explaining the "higher level organization" as relevant to the reality of sensation and thinking in a way DISTINCT from ordinary material efficient causality as understood by the materialists, his account isn't actually doing any work.

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  16. Materialists have not renounced to the concept of soul. But, instead of "soul", they have renamed it as "complexity".

    "Complexity" does this or that to matter, when matter reaches certain level of "complexity", it can acquire new properties like "life", and "intelligence" and get to know itself and become self-aware.

    But in a strange move, when intelligence is involved, "complexity" only affects and gives new/higher capacities to the neurons/brain, while the rest of the body remains unaffected. That's why they believe they will someday be capable of replicating the human brain in silice, as if by "complexifying" silice enough, it will acquire the capacities of the human brain/intellect.

    What "complexity" does remains a mystery though, since "complexity" is (according to the materialist tale) a result of selective processes, and has no causal powers per se. As with the "laws of nature", it just constitutes a mere description, a placeholder for an attempt of an explanation as to why the world is like it is.

    And that is how they butcher the marvelous concept of soul put forward by Aristotle and refined/perfected by St. Thomas Aquinas.

    And it's no surprise, since their metaphysical system is an abomination.

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  17. I would like to see an interaction between Prof Feser and Bernado Kastrup on the subject of Idealism

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    1. Me too. Although I am not an idealist, I really admire Bernardo Kastrup and his battle against (stupid) materialism.

      And you gotta love how he refers to J. Coyne as the "dim-witted biologist". :)

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    2. It would be interesting to see how Bernardo would react to a hylemorphist. What i saw from him gave me the impression that he is mostly unaware of classical ways of understanding matter. Seeing Ed comment more on idealism would also be cool.

      Delete
  18. @UncommonDescent,
    "Are you sure you understand your own position?"

    Yes. But it appears that you don't understand it.

    To begin with, you might want to look at what Talmid wrote on Feb. 15, 2022:
    "As a reader of Wittgeinstein i suppose that Hal view is very diferent than something like property dualism, a view that still preserves the primary/secundary qualities distinction. So i assumed that his view could end up closer to our own or have a third view of the self."

    His assumption is correct. My views of the mind don't align with the ones you are presenting. That is why I objected to being referred to as a hylemorphist.
    I can understand why you might have trouble understanding it because it doesn't fall within the usual conceptions of the mind.

    Here is a link to a google preview of P.M.S. Hacker's book "Human Nature- The Categorial Nature:
    https://books.google.com/books/about/Human_Nature.html?id=gCT1eMxuNXQC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    An informative review of that book can be found here:
    Human Nature The Categorial Framework

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  19. @Hal;

    I have read all your posts, Talmid's remarks and the review of HNTCFramework.

    Do you accept the chain of vision described by science that starts in objects in the external world, where light is reflected, enters our eyes, impresses the retina, is modified, travels via the optical nerve and ends in the occipital lobe?

    If you do: after reaching the occipital lobe, what happens?

    Because this is the crucial point to disentangle our misunderstanding.

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  20. @UncommonDescent,
    "Do you accept the chain of vision described by science that starts in objects in the external world, where light is reflected, enters our eyes, impresses the retina, is modified, travels via the optical nerve and ends in the occipital lobe?

    If you do: after reaching the occipital lobe, what happens?"

    I see the objects in the world that I am looking at.

    I don't see those objects in the brain. That is the Homunculus argument I linked to above in an earlier post. It is an informal fallacy.

    It is also a mistake to say that it is the brain that sees. It is the human being who sees. Materialist reductionists reduce all human powers to the brain and treat it as the self. I reject that view.

    Of course the brain needs to be functioning normally along with the optic nerves and the eyes in order for a human to perceive things. My eyes are defective. Without glasses I am legally blind. Some people have unfortunate accidents resulting in brain injures that affect their powers of vision.

    Don't you also accept that?

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  21. @Hal:

    I see the objects in the world that I am looking at.

    'What' is that 'you' and where does it reside if it's not in the brain?

    ReplyDelete
  22. @UncommonDescent,
    "'What' is that 'you' and where does it reside if it's not in the brain?"

    I am a human being. *
    I do have a brain, but it makes no sense to say that I am my brain or that I am in in my brain.

    * Human beings are animals with a distinctive range of abilities. Though they have a mind, they are not identical with the mind they have. Though they have a body, they are not identical with the body they have. Nor is a human being a conjunction of a mind and a body that causally interact with each other. Like other animals, human beings have a brain on the normal functioning of which their powers depend. But a human person is not a brain enclosed in a skull. A mature human being is a self-conscious agent, with the ability to act, and to react in thought, feeling and deed, for reasons."


    I'm glad to try and answer your questions in order that we can come to a better understanding of our philosophical positions. But I would appreciate you answering my questions also.

    I asked this in my previous post:
    Do you agree that we all need a normally functioning brain, eyes and optical nerves in order to have the power of vision?

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    Replies
    1. @Hal:

      My apologies.

      Do you agree that we all need a normally functioning brain, eyes and optical nerves in order to have the power of vision?

      Yes. I do agree with it. We need all of the above to have the power of vision. But that's a necessary condition, not a sufficient one. There is more to the story.

      When I asked you "what" is that "you" and where does it reside, I meant the following:

      After the visual signal procedent from an exterior object has reached the occipital lobe... Where is the knower that is the final destinatary of that information? In said occipital lobe? (you say no, because that would amount to the homunculus error).

      So, where is the "you" (the self that perceives the object and that now knows that he is perceiving it?)

      If it's separated from the occipital lobe: how does the visual information, that has stopped there, reach "him" ("you")?

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    2. @UncommonDescent,

      "Yes. I do agree with it. We need all of the above to have the power of vision. But that's a necessary condition, not a sufficient one. There is more to the story."

      Well , sure. We need to be conscious. We need to be where there is light so that we can see the objects around us. We need to turn our head and eyes so that we can see those objects.
      In that case, all the conditions for perceiving our environment have been met.



      When I asked you "what" is that "you" and where does it reside, I meant the following:
      After the visual signal procedent from an exterior object has reached the occipital lobe... Where is the knower that is the final destinatary of that information? In said occipital lobe? (you say no, because that would amount to the homunculus error)."
      So, where is the "you" (the self that perceives the object and that now knows that he is perceiving it?)"

      Wherever that person happens to be when he is perceiving the objects around him. I can see the computer screen as I type my reply. I happen to be sitting in my computer room.
      There is no "self" inside of myself. That makes no sense it all!!


      "If it's separated from the occipital lobe: how does the visual information, that has stopped there, reach "him" ("you")?"

      The occipital lobe is a part of my brain. My brain is a part of myself. I myself am the only "self" in this situation.

      It is the same for thinking. Where I am when thinking of my reply to you is in my computer room. I am not thinking in my head or in my brain.

      When you see something, do you believe you are seeing it in your head? I would hope your answer to that would be 'no'.

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    3. @UncommonDescent,
      "After the visual signal procedent from an exterior object has reached the occipital lobe... Where is the knower that is the final destinatary of that information? In said occipital lobe? (you say no, because that would amount to the homunculus error).

      So, where is the "you" (the self that perceives the object and that now knows that he is perceiving it?)

      If it's separated from the occipital lobe: how does the visual information, that has stopped there, reach "him" ("you")?

      After reading this again, I now realize that you think the actual seeing of the object takes place at the end of this causal chain. Many neuroscientists and materialists believe the same thing. But that is a mistake.


      This quote is from the book Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience 2nd Edition :

      "It is a further confusion to suppose that seeing the red geranium is the last link in a causal chain that commences with low-energy light of around 700 nm being reflected off the surface of the flower and terminates with a sensation of a red geranium in the brain, the occurrence of which is the seeing. This misconception stems, among other things, from a miscegenous crossing of the scientist’ s causal explanation of the neurophysiology of perception with the normal description of a creature’ s perceiving an object. Neuroscientists explain the event of A’ s seeing the red geranium in terms of a causal transaction between the surface of the red petals and the retina of the observer, and then between the retina of the observer and his optic nerve, and so on to the events in the ‘visual’ striate cortex. It is tempting, but mistaken, to conceive of the final link in this causal chain to be the perceiving. But such an explanation of A’ s perceiving G in terms of micromechanisms does not link explanandum and explanans as items in a microphysical causal chain; and the explanandum – that is, A’ s perceiving G – is not the final link in the chain. Rather, the explanans is the whole chain of microphysical events, which is materially constitutive of A’ s perceiving G."

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    4. @Hal:

      I am an A-Thomist, therefore and under no cirumstance am I a materialist (a philosophy that I despise). I am using the conclusions that materialists have to reach due to their defective worldview. I don't believe the occipital lobe "sees" anything.

      Rather, the explanans is the whole chain of microphysical events, which is materially constitutive of A’ s perceiving G.

      And "who" "sees" this chain? Does the chain perceive itself?

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    5. @UncommonDescent,
      "I am using the conclusions that materialists have to reach due to their defective worldview."'

      I am not a materialist. So please quite trying to equate my position with materialism.


      "And "who" "sees" this chain? Does the chain perceive itself?"

      Your question makes no sense. It is like asking 'Do you perceive your perceiving?"

      I don't perceive my perceiving of the red geranium. I perceive the red geranium.





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    6. @Hal;

      I am not a materialist. So please quite trying to equate my position with materialism.

      You said you are a monist and that you do not believe in immaterial substances. Therefore, you think what exists is only material. Therefore, a materialist.

      Is there any other option?

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    7. @Hal:

      I perceive the red geranium.

      1. The one that is in the external world?
      2. Or the image presented by your neurons?

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    8. @UncommonDescent,
      There is no image of the red geranium in the brain.
      I am perceiving the red geranium that exists in the world.

      I've previously stated this or something like it several times already. And tried to explain why I don't see the red geranium in my brain. So I don't understand why you keep asking me to repeat the same answer.

      I've enjoyed this conversation so far. But it is beginning to seem like we are going around in circles. I have no interest in trying to convince you that my position is correct. I had hoped I could help you to understand it, but it appears I've failed at that.

      If you wish to understand more about what I believe then I would suggest you read some of the books I've linked to above.

      I'm going to bow out of this conversation now. Take care.

      Delete
    9. @Hal:

      You have been caught in a  contradiction. You say you are a monist that does not believe in immaterial substances. That logically implies that you believe that reality is comprised solely of one substance (therefore monism) which is characterized as matter (therefore materialism). Therefore monistic materialism.

      And yet you keep insisting that:
      * Human beings are animals with a distinctive range of abilities. Though they have a mind, they are not identical with the mind they have. Though they have a body, they are not identical with the body they have.

      Those "distinctive" abilities, for a monistic materialist that denies immaterial substances, can only be carried out by a physical substratum (our bodies made of cells). Therefore for a monistic materialist we *are* our bodies. And since it's only when the brain is damaged that "we" disappear, we "are" our brains/the result of its workings.

      So, per your monistic materialism, "you" have now been reduced to the brain. Therefore "you" are enclosed in a skull, falling prey of the same representationalist theather you want to avoid, no matter how much you affirm the contrary. That's why we keep going in circles, because there is no way out for you.

      Your position is wholly incoherent. You want to "have" the powers of the soul without allowing an immaterial entity. It can not be done.

      Thank you for this interesting exchange and also take care.

      Delete
  23. @UncommonDescent,

    I just realized that I only answered the first half of your question.

    I reside in the state of California. I am currently sitting in front of my home computer typing this reply.

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  24. @UncommonDescent

    It seems that my instinct about Hal view is correct: dude view is very close to our own. Contra the cartesianist idea of the individual being his ego, his thinking, Hal correctly sees, if he allows me to use aristotelian language, that our thinking, feelings, sense of self etc are not what we are but are atributes we have, we are the substance that unites this. Hal, if i'am wrong you can correct me, bro.

    Of course, i do think that there are good arguments to the conclusion that some of our atributes, namely the ones of the intellect and of the will, transcend the capacity of material bodies and so are not bodily, being them immaterial and eternal, but that is off-topic. From the standpoint of the representationism debate, Hal seems orthodox to me and that seems what he seems to say when he negates that his view is like the pos-cartesian materialist we criticized before.

    Again, Hal can correct me, but it seems that you guys do agree about the subject of Ed post.

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  25. @Talmid,

    Nice post. I see nothing that needs correction.

    I do find it very interesting that through conceptual analysis Wittgenstein was able to show the faults in representationalism and develop a conception of the mind that is similar to Aristotle's. Especially since that analysis was a result of his criticism of his own earlier work: the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

    As far as I am aware Wittgenstein did not study Aristotle though he did some of Augustine's writings.

    P.M.S. Hacker did rely heavily on Aristotle's views in his analysis of substances that can be found in his book that I linked to above.




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    1. I remember reading before that Wittgenstein did admit never reading Aristotle, so seeing how close his view is to our own suprised me. Great minds think alike, i guess!

      That was quite a interesting exchange we three had and i'am happy that i could correctly summarize your view. Along with Uncommon cool finding against representationism, the information about Witt view were awesome. Gotta study the guy.

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  26. @Talmid:

    I understand that Hal's position is very close to ours, but the problem is that there is a fatal flaw with his approach, because his conception of the "self" coupled with a monism (materialism?) IS incongruent. That's why I am not letting him off the hook easily :)

    I am also enjoying a lot our exchange.

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  27. @UncommonDescent,
    "his conception of the "self" "

    What is this conception of the "self" that you think I have?

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    1. One that concludes by logical inference that we are only material bodies/cells/brains, while at the same time affirms that "there's something more" to it, resulting in a contradiction.

      You want Aristotelianism without
      the soul
      and materialism with a "something more" that has the properties of the immaterial while at the same time you deny the reality of immaterial substances.

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