Monday, June 12, 2017

Stroud on Hume


David Hume, as I often argue, is overrated.  But that’s not his fault.  It’s the fault of those who do the overrating.  So, rather than beat up on him (as I have done recently), let’s beat up on them for a change.  Or rather, let’s watch Barry Stroud do it, in a way that is far more genteel than I’m inclined to.

The problem, as I’ve often pointed out, is this.  Hume’s most famous conclusions – his skepticism about induction, his treatment of causality, his subjectivism about value, and so forth – are widely celebrated by contemporary philosophers.  Even those philosophers who don’t agree with these conclusions tend to regard them as formidable.  Yet few if any of these philosophers would accept the basic philosophical presuppositions on which Hume’s conclusions all rest.  For example (and as I often complain), Hume conflates concepts with mental imagery.  That is a very crude philosophical error, it has been known to be a crude error since at least Plato and Aristotle, and it has been known to contemporary philosophers to be a crude error since at least Wittgenstein.  There is very little if any “punch” left to Hume’s philosophy once this error is exposed.  Yet his conclusions continue to be taken seriously long after such underpinnings have collapsed.  They are like a ghost that continues to walk the earth long after the death of the body. 

In his book Engagement and Metaphysical Dissatisfaction: Modality and Value, Stroud raises a similar complaint.  Contemporary philosophers take Hume’s doubts about causality as a feature of mind-independent reality very seriously.  Yet they do not accept either the account of perception that these doubts rest on, or some of the other conclusions Hume draws from that account.  And it is not clear how they can consistently take the one without the others.  Stroud writes:

Many philosophers of more recent times remain in a broad sense followers of Hume on the status of causation without accepting such a severely restricted conception of the scope of perception.  They appear to hold that we can perceive and thereby have a conception of physical objects and other enduring things and states of affairs even though the idea of causal dependence between such things in the independent world remains problematic or metaphysically dubious.  The source of their doubts is not easy to determine.  One possible source is the assumption that we never perceive instances of causal connection or dependence.  A different but related possibility is that causal dependence is thought to be unperceivable because of the doubtful intelligibility of the idea of such a connection.  In any case, it certainly is still widely believed that we never perceive causal connections between things.  By now the view is hardly ever argued for.  The most that is usually offered in its support is a reverential bow in the direction of Hume, but with no acknowledgment of the restrictive theory of perception that Hume's own denial rests on. (p. 23)

Hume thinks of perception as the passive reception of “impressions” such as a sensation of color, a sharp pain, or a twinge of fear.  “Ideas” in turn, as he uses the term, are faint copies of such impressions – essentially mental imagery of a visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory sort, along with memories of emotions and the like.  Few philosophers today would endorse such a crude model of perceptual experience or concept formation.  Yet that model underlies Hume’s doubts about causation as an objective feature of reality.  We have a set of impressions (a succession of visual experiences of a round whitish patch, say) that we take to be the motion of a cue ball, followed by another set of impressions (a “knocking” sound followed by a succession of visual experiences of a round black patch) that we take to be the motion of an 8 ball.  But we have no impression of a causal power or force by which the first generates the second.  Hence we have no idea of such a force or causal power.  We just find that impressions of the former sort are constantly conjoined in our experience with impressions of the latter sort.  This leads us to expect the latter on the occasion of the former, and we project this subjective expectation onto the world.  But we have, Hume claims, no reason to think it really corresponds to any objective feature of the world.

(On the “skeptical realist” reading of Hume, he does not intend to undermine our commonsense belief that there really are such causal features in external reality, but merely denies that we can have any cognitive grasp of them.  But it’s hard to see how one could consistently push the latter point without ending up in essentially the more radical skeptical position traditionally attributed to Hume.  I cannot myself help wondering whether the recent heavy going about “skeptical realism” among Hume interpreters might be much ado about not a whole helluva lot.  But that’s neither here nor there for present purposes.) 

Since contemporary philosophers wouldn’t buy this story about our perceptual and cognitive faculties, it’s hard to see why they remain impressed by the conclusions about causation Hume draws from them.  That’s part of Stroud’s point.  The other part of his point is that Hume draws other lessons from the same account of perception and cognition, lessons that contemporary philosophers are not so impressed by.  In particular, Hume concludes that we have no idea of mind-independent physical objects either, because he thinks we have no impression of such things.  We have, for example, only this fleeting impression of a round whitish patch, that other fleeting impression of a round whitish patch, a fleeting impression of a “knocking” sound, etc., but no impression of any substance that underlies and ties together these different impressions.  Here again we are in his view really just projecting onto the world something that is merely subjective, namely the brief relative stability of some of our impressions (where an impression is something essentially mental rather than mind-independent).  This is the origin of our belief in mind-independent objects, and it has no more sound a basis than our belief in objective causal connections.

Now, contrary to what non-philosophers sometimes think, few contemporary philosophers really take seriously the idea that there are no mind-independent physical objects.  They may regard it as an interesting puzzle, but not as a live option.  The idea that objective causal power and necessity might not really exist is taken to be a live option, though.  And what Stroud is puzzled by is why that should be the case given that the other Humean skeptical conclusion is not taken seriously.

Nor in Stroud’s view is it just the common Humean foundation of these two kinds of skepticism that makes this combination of attitudes problematic.  That is to say, the problem is not just that Hume himself based his skepticism about causation and his skepticism about physical objects on the same flawed account of perception and cognition.  It’s also that, even apart from that, it is hard to see how one could consistently believe in mind-independent physical objects without also attributing to them real causal powers.  Stroud writes:

This raises a general question about how or whether a person could think about and understand the objects this view admits that we do see.  Could we have a conception of a world of visible, enduring objects at all if we could never see what any of those objects do, or see them doing it?  Hume's actual view does not face this difficulty.  He thinks not only that we never see a stone break a window, but that we never see a stone or a window either.  Hume acknowledges the need to explain how we get even so much as the idea of an enduring object from the fleeting perceptions we receive, and how we come to think of such things as perceivable.  But for those who think we can see an object and know what it is and where it is and what will happen if certain other things happen, but that we never see the object doing or undergoing any of the things it does, there is a special problem. (p. 24)

What Stroud is appealing to here is the thesis – common to (though spelled out in very different ways by) both Kant-inspired writers like P. F. Strawson and contemporary neo-Aristotelians and Thomists – that we cannot make sense of the notion of a world of independently existing substances except as causally related in various ways.  (Think of the Scholastic thesis agere sequitur esse or “action follows being” – that is to say, that how a thing acts reflects what it is.  If a thing does nothing, then it cannot be said to have being at all; and if it does have being, then it must be capable of doing something, which entails causal power.)

If that’s correct – and obviously it’s a claim requiring elaboration and defense – then skepticism about mind-independent objects and skepticism about causation stand or fall together.  As Stroud notes, Hume is at least consistent on this score, since he opts for skepticism in both cases.  It’s the selective skepticism (and selective Humeanism) of some contemporary philosophers that Stroud thinks dubiously coherent.

But it’s not a universal tendency.  Where causation is concerned, the Humean ghost is at long last being exorcised in some quarters, as evidenced by books like Mumford and Anjum’s Getting Causes from Powers and the neo-Aristotelian literature.  (Naturally, I’ve tried to do my part as well.)

81 comments:

  1. Hume concludes that we have no idea of mind-independent physical objects either, because he thinks we have no impression of such things. We have, for example, only this fleeting impression of a round whitish patch, that other fleeting impression of a round whitish patch, a fleeting impression of a “knocking” sound, etc., but no impression of any substance that underlies and ties together these different impressions.

    I think Berkeley would agree with this text. Consider: If an existent (not just an object and not just a physical object) is truly mind-independent then whether it exists or not would make absolutely no difference to our experience of life. But then how would we possible know about it; on what grounds might we possibly argue about its existence? The claim here is epistemic not metaphysical: It makes no sense to think about mind-independent existents.

    On the other hand, physical causality, if it exists, is not mind-independent. It is what makes our impressions about physical objects (or “physical phenomena” in short) have the order they have. Or, more precisely, physical causality *is* part of the order present in physical phenomena. When we speak about “physical causality” that’s what we mean. Therefore when we speak about physical causality we mean an existent which is not mind-independent.

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    1. Dianelos,

      You say: "If an existent (not just an object and not just a physical object) is truly mind-independent then whether it exists or not would make absolutely no difference to our experience of life." This is a non-sequitur.
      It would also seem to undermine the basis of your personal understanding of ethics which attempts to eschew metaphysics entirely in favor of deriving all ethical principles from experiencing Christ. Is Christ mind-independent or not? If Christ is mind-independent, then, according to your latest post, Christ makes "absolutely no difference to our experience of life." But if Christ is mind-dependent, he is not the ultimate source of ethics but he depends on something greater.

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    2. Lurking predatorJune 13, 2017 at 7:42 PM

      Tim, you forget: Dianelos is mind-independent. He exists without a mind.

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    3. Tim,

      I think you use the concept of “mind-independency” as a property of propositions, whereas I used it as a property of existents.

      Let us take my sense of the word and discuss Christ. Christ is the creator of my mind, the creator of its cognitive abilities, the creator of the world it experiences both quantitively and qualitatively, and the creator of the order of the interaction with that world. Moreover Christ personally interacts with the world and thus potentially with me. Thus I would say that Christ is the existent that is as far as it gets from being mind-independent :-)

      Now let us take the sense of “mind-independency” as a property of propositions. That sense is often used, in the context of ethics. Take for example a claim William Lane Craig often makes “The holocaust is evil independently of peoples’ opinion; it is objectively evil”. I find this sense of the concept to be useless and therefore do not myself use it. Please observe that *all* meaningful propositions are mind-independent. Including propositions that are about personal opinion. So, for example, propositions such “Dianelos believes that punishing people is evil” or “Dianelos likes chocolate ice cream better than vanilla” are objectively true or false. The opinions they refer to are mind-dependent, but the propositions themselves are not, since they make a claim about an existent, namely the state of mind of Dianelos.

      Now if moral values don’t exist then it’s not like ethical propositions are mind-dependent; rather they are meaningless. If good and evil do not exist then the proposition “Punishing people is evil” is simply meaningless. As is a proposition about the DNA of unicorns. Some atheists resort to changing the meaning of words and argue that “when we say that some deed is evil what we really mean is that we experience that deed as very distasteful – when we speak about evil we mean feelings that our brain produces as the result of sociobiological causes”. But as a matter of fact this is not at all what we mean by “evil”. And I say it would be best not follow atheists in their confusing word-games.

      Finally, come to think of it, it’s not only useless but misleading to make a distinction where none exists. In the context of our discussion, there are meaningful propositions that have a unique truth value independently of any minds. And there are meaningless propositions that have no truth value whatsoever - again independently of any minds. So it is misleading to distinguish between mind-independent and mind-dependent propositions.

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    4. it is annoying when secular people say " what you really mean is this." because no, that is definitely not what I mean. Why would we ever refer to something external if we are actually talking about ourselves? Alfred North Whitehead made fun of this by saying "The poets were mistaken. They should have addressed their odes to themselves."

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    5. Dianelos,
      I, like you, was talking about existents, not propositions. From your last comment, it seems that we agree that Christ is both mind-independent and an existent. If so, then the statement from your initial post (that if an existent were truly mind-independent, its existence would make no difference to our experience of life) can be applied to Christ, leading to the conclusion that Christ makes no difference to our experience of life. I know that you and I agree that Christ makes a great deal of difference to our experience of life. That is why I point out the problematic nature of the claim you make concerning mind-independent existents.
      I am presently basking in the beauty of a morning in Budapest in a hotel room with a magnificent view of the Danube.
      Beauty is truth; truth beauty.
      Shalom to you, Dianelos.

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    6. @ Tim,

      it seems that we agree that Christ is both mind-independent and an existent.

      No, not at all. In the sense I use the concept, an existent is mind-independent if and only if whether it exists or not would make no difference to that mind. I was arguing that given our relationship to Christ, Christ is anything but mind-indepedent. Rather Christ massively influences our mind, indeed is its creator.

      So what existent might be mind-independent? Well, we have experiences (impressions) of the world and we know these experiences include order (which we discover through our intelligence). So here we have two types of existent which are not mind-independent, namely direct experience and the intelligible order present in it. Now whatever it is in reality that produces that experience and its order, and which is in principle beyond and above all our experience and thus capacity for understanding, is by definition mind-independent. Take for example an apple. If there is something in the apple that produces our experience of it and the intelligible order present in it (an example of such an order is the apple’s biology) but is above and beyond all our experience – then that existent is mind-indepedent. Dualists pretty much assume that there must be something in the apple that is mind-independent in that sense, and call it “the apple-in-itself”; the apple independently of us. The apple-in-itself is in principle and by definition unreachable or incomprehensible to our intelligence. Here we have pretty much arrived at Kant’s concept of the unknowable “noumenon”. On that view most of creation is thus rendered unintelligible and unknowable to us.

      Is there a way out of that basically skeptical conclusion?

      Theistic dualists believe that God has designed and upholds in existence all of of creation including the things-in-themselves. And further that beyond our physical senses we have cognitive abilities that can give us direct knowledge of the mind of God. Thus by knowing God perhaps we do have some indirect means of understanding things-in-themselves.

      Theistic idealists have a much simpler and in my judgment much more powerful view: Our experiences and their order are directly produced by God and thus there are no things-in-themselves between God and us. And since we can directly know God, there is nothing in creation which is in principle unknowable to us.

      In any case what epistemologically speaking remains perfectly clear is that if some existent is truly mind-independent then it is absurd to think about it. Therefore propositions about mind-independent existents are meaningless.

      I am presently basking in the beauty of a morning in Budapest in a hotel room with a magnificent view of the Danube.

      God has given me the privilege to spend most of my days basking in the beauty of the golf of Pagasitikos in Greece. I say you are close, so if you have a chance come visit me!

      I was thinking that there is something to the phrase “The spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters”. I have no idea what the original writer actually meant by it, but it seems to me there are multiple deep meanings in it. The experience of nature is pregnant with God.

      Beauty is truth; truth beauty.

      Right, and theism explains exactly why: Both beauty and truth are grounded in the same being.

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  2. Since contemporary philosophers wouldn’t buy this story about our perceptual and cognitive faculties, it’s hard to see why they remain impressed by the conclusions about causation Hume draws from them.

    I think simple answers to this is that most philosophers do not believe that such a thing as "change" exists in any robust sense, all change is merely is difference in properties of spatio-temporally located object so this removes any pretense of some "generative" sort of causality, only some regularity view or some counterfactual dependence relation seems to be a feasible analysis
    of causation, any thing other than this seems too spooky.
    And secondly the fact that science admits of both causal and non-causal explanations makes those folks confident that a fundamental physics have no use of causation and causal eliminativist project can succeed..

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    1. I think simple answers to this is that most philosophers do not believe that such a thing as "change" exists in any robust sense, all change is merely a difference in properties of spatio-temporally located object

      So the properties of a spatio-temporally located object became different, and this is change?

      How is this not change in a robust sense?

      How does this description of change remove the concept of causality?

      Also, what science are you talking about that admits to causal and non-causal explanations?

      Cheers,
      Daniel

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    2. all change is merely is difference in properties of spatio-temporally located object

      Red, why would a difference of spatio-temporal objects - at different times - not constitute "change"? Are you implying that virtually all modern philosophers are B-theory supporters?

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    3. So the properties of a spatio-temporally located object became different, and this is change?

      How is this not change in a robust sense?


      Well because is not change in the sense that things come into existence and go out of existence.

      How does this description of change remove the concept of causality?

      it doesn't but it seems to create a need to reduce it...and thats what Humean or Semi-Humean theories seems to do..

      Also, what science are you talking about that admits to causal and non-causal explanations?

      I mean like some explanations in science are law-like or purely statistical those seems to be non-causal explanations...(under certain theories of laws of course)

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    4. Well because is not change in the sense that things come into existence and go out of existence

      That's not what Aristotelians mean by change. They are referring to objects enduring or being wholly present.

      it doesn't but it seems to create a need to reduce it...and thats what Humean or Semi-Humean theories seems to do

      It's far more likely that Humean philosophy is driving this view of change than the other way around.

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    5. That's not what Aristotelians mean by change. They are referring to objects enduring or being wholly present.

      Isn't that related to how things persist or survive change rather than what change is,

      It's far more likely that Humean philosophy is driving this view of change than the other way around.

      No, its generally preferred because its just more natural or neutral way of characterising change and also because Special Relativity entails that there is no one special time.
      It could be that convictions about causation is driven from Humean Philosophy but it seems to me thats because taking causation as some sort of primitive glue that binds the world together sound very odd to some philosophers, thats why they stick with this aspect of Humean Philosophy even though they reject the most problematic aspects of it..

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    6. Isn't that related to how things persist or survive change rather than what change is

      The issue you raised is whether whole objects persist through time or parts of objects are extended through time (alterational change), which you somehow mixed up with things going in and out of existence (substantial change). I pointed out that Aristotleans are concerned with the former (and the latter, but that doesn't matter here). The Humean view of change you described denies the former.

      No, its generally preferred because its just more natural or neutral way of characterising change

      It's not. Endurantism is seen as the common-sense view. Perdurantism is the revisionist one, it’s not a neutral view and it's not a consensus view either. Popular in some quarters, yes, maybe more popular than endurantism, but not a consensus or even a large majority.

      and also because Special Relativity entails that there is no one special time.

      Special relativity doesn't entail b-theory. A lot of people would say it supports b-theory over a-theory to some degree or another, but that's not entailment. You have to use additional philosophical arguments to get there. Even after you get to b-theory, you have to continue to argue for perdurantism. It's true that a lot of people see endurantism fitting better with a-theory and perdurantism fitting better with b-theory, but you can't use that as an argument. Besides, it’s widely acknowledged that SR gives minimal support to perdurantism at best.

      It could be that convictions about causation is driven from Humean Philosophy but it seems to me thats because taking causation as some sort of primitive glue that binds the world together sound very odd to some philosophers, thats why they stick with this aspect of Humean Philosophy even though they reject the most problematic aspects of it

      It’s well known that Hume was a big influence on David Lewis, which is where you are getting your ideas of change and causation from. So no, I think my idea is more probable. And if you are going to make claims like Aristotelians or Thomists view causation like “some sort of primitive view glue that binds the world together this”, then you had better provide quotes from actual Aristotelians and Thomists. And on that note…

      only some regularity view or some counterfactual dependence relation seems to be a feasible analysis of causation, any thing other than this seems too spooky

      But regularity views and counterfactual views of causation don’t explain causation at all.

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    7. The issue you raised is whether whole objects persist through time or parts of objects are extended through time (alterational change), which you somehow mixed up with things going in and out of existence (substantial change). I pointed out that Aristotleans are concerned with the former (and the latter, but that doesn't matter here).

      Well I wasn't talking about how things persist, or what types of change there are, I was instead talking about what change is or what does it mean to change.. what I am talking about is related to Presentism/Eternalism debate regarding ontology of time, debate about persistence is related to it but that comes after it, what I was talking about is that under presentism things come into existence and go out of existence simpliciter(they objectively begin to exist, or come into being,so change is something more than mere difference) .but under Eternalism all time are on ontological par so all change is simply difference in properties of objects at different times the issue regarding alterational change and substantial change is related to issue of persistence which is related to it but not similar and similarly the A/B-theory debate is related to language which is used to describe time...

      It's not. Endurantism is seen as the common-sense view. Perdurantism is the revisionist one, it’s not a neutral view
      I was talking about that Eternalism is more natural and neutral( thought maybe not common-sensical) in the sense that its easier to formulate and theorize about..its notoriously difficult to formulate presentism so that it doesn't come out as trivially true(compatible with Eternalism) or obviously false...whether or not this is correct assessment, what I am pointing out is that this is one reason why some prefer it ...

      Special relativity doesn't entail b-theory. A lot of people would say it supports b-theory over a-theory to some degree or another, but that's not entailment. You have to use additional philosophical arguments to get there. Even after you get to b-theory, you have to continue to argue for perdurantism. It's true that a lot of people see endurantism fitting better with a-theory and perdurantism fitting better with b-theory, but you can't use that as an argument. Besides, it’s widely acknowledged that SR gives minimal support to perdurantism at best.

      Yes, but it does supports and even entails Eternalism, this is indeed recognized by most of them , presentists like W.L Craig or Ned Markosian simply reject SR because of this..

      And if you are going to make claims like Aristotelians or Thomists view causation like “some sort of primitive view glue that binds the world together this”, then you had better provide quotes from actual Aristotelians and Thomists. And on that note…

      But regularity views and counterfactual views of causation don’t explain causation at all.


      Well You are correct but I mean like, they are not even interested in explaining causation at all instead they are interested in reducing our concept of causation, regularity and counterfactual dependence are means to do that...

      Anyway regardless of which ever view is correct I was pointing out that it seems the reason why many philosophers support this sort of view of causation seems to me to be that they have different conception of change from Aristotelians...

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    8. ...what I was talking about is that under presentism things come into existence and go out of existence simpliciter(they objectively begin to exist, or come into being,so change is something more than mere difference).

      ...but under Eternalism all time are on ontological par so all change is simply difference in properties of objects at different times



      If I understand Thomas correctly, God's first act of creation is existence itself. That esse from which all essences take their being from. So there is a distinction between the divine esse and the "esse" common to us all. So when Thomas talks about creation out of nothing, it is that primary act of creating the common esse that he is talking about. All other acts of coming in and out of existence presuposes that common esse from which all essences are conjoined. Incliding space and time, the big bang, multiple universes, etc.. I can find quotes that support my understanding from Thomas if you'd care to read them.

      I found this idea of a common esse as opposed to the divine esse interesting in that Thomas doesn't talk about it too often. He brought it up against those who had a more pantheistic bent. The idea of a common esse reminds me a lot the work that prime matter does in his system.

      Anyway, I only bring this up in relation to the idea of coming in and out of existence simpliciter. As far as I understand it, common existence is the only thing that God creates out of nothing. It is the conjoining of essences with this common existence that brings things in and our of "being".

      Going back to your discussion on Eternalism - if time and space are real things, then they are part of this common esse (seems like prime matter). I suppose if we can claim that time and space can come in or out of existence, then that existence must be somethign that grounds them both, right? Common esse.

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    9. if time and space are real things, then they are part of this common esse (seems like prime matter). I suppose if we can claim that time and space can come in or out of existence, then that existence must be somethign that grounds them both, right? Common esse.

      Or maybe we could claim that Hadn't God so willed then time and space would not have existed(common esse would not have been conjoined with essence),this story avoids talk of coming into existence(which sounds implausible because it seems to imply some sort of dynamic time outside time)

      if above line of reasoning is correct then it seems that this existential proof as it is called could be untouched by issues regarding time but Aquinas's First Way seems to be affected by it..
      or check Articles section on Feser's main website it has an article coming up dealing with this very issue,

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    10. Did you read Feser's article Medieval Principle of Motion and the Modern Principle of Inertia? He has this comment I thought might be interesting to you:

      A second point is that unlike Parmenides’ own block universe, the block universe of Minkowski is supposed to be governed by laws that are contingent . And if they are contingent, then, the Aristotelian will argue, they are merely potential until actualized. That means that even if there were no real change or actualization of potency within an Einsteinian four-dimensional block universe, the sheer existence of that universe as a whole would involve the actualization of potency and thus (given the principle of motion) an actualizer or “mover” distinct from the world itself.

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    11. Well Yes, I had read that article before but problem is that the passage is too brief and cryptic to be of any help it seems to just create more confusion, consider first what could the notion of "merely potential until actualized" mean here. it again seems as if there could be some sort of time outside time. another confusion here has to do with the notion of Potency here,if it is to be contrasted with actuality here then the problem is that the block world is never not actual so talk of actualizer or mover seems very confusing here.
      And If explaining contingency of the world is issue then it seems that we should just prefer some variant of contemporary cosmological argument which utilises the familiar notions of of cause or explanations(causal or non-causal)..talk of mover or potential seems very obscure.

      But I hope the newer article would help resolve these tensions..

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    12. Well I wasn't talking about how things persist, or what types of change there are, I was instead talking about what change is or what does it mean to change

      No, you specifically linked a change in properties with b-theory and regularity or counterfactual views of causation. This sounds like perdurantism/four-dimensionalism to me.

      what I am talking about is related to Presentism/Eternalism debate regarding ontology of time, debate about persistence is related to it but that comes after it

      You’re wrong. Debates about persistence are directly related to what change is. For Aristotelians, something has to persist through t1, t2, t3. This can occur in either a-theory or b-theory.

      what I was talking about is that under presentism things come into existence and go out of existence simpliciter(they objectively begin to exist, or come into being,so change is something more than mere difference)

      Per Jeffrey Brower, look at change as coming to obtain and ceasing to obtain in a state of affairs. Change is from something and into something. This works as a good Aristotelian definition under a-theory or b-theory. Change as mere properties only comes in under perdurantism/four-dimensionalism.

      but under Eternalism all time are on ontological par so all change is simply difference in properties of objects at different times the issue

      If Bob is alive at t1 and disintegrated at t2 in an eternalist universe there is more than a simple change in properties for Bob. Bob can’t be located as either an enduring object or temporal parts after t2.

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    13. Red,

      There is nothing "cryptic" in my use of "until" in that passage, any more than there is something "cryptic" in talk about the number 3 coming "before" the number 4. Nobody pulls his chin and feigns puzzlement at the latter as if it somehow implied a temporal sequence in the series of numbers, and nothing in what I said implies any temporality either.

      Centuries before Einstein and Minkowski, Thomists had extended the application of the distinction between actuality and potentiality beyond the domain of change and to the relationship between essence and existence in contingent things. It applies to the existence of a temporal, material contingent thing at any particular moment (and not merely over time); and it applies as well to the existence of an atemporal, immaterial thing (viz. an angel).

      And it applies too to a Minkowskian four-dimensional block universe. What I say in that passage cited above is just a very obvious and straightforward application of an old and independently motivated idea to a modern example. Hence, considered as an objection to Thomistic arguments for the existence of God, the appeal to the block universe is just a non-starter and not very interesting. You might as well say that angels as Aquinas understands them pose a problem for act/potency, on the grounds that they are not in time.

      That is not to concede anything at all vis-a-vis common claims about what relativity purportedly "shows" philosophically (most of which are question-begging at best and philosophically naive). I certainly don't concede for a moment that change and temporal passage really are illusory. The only reason people take that idea seriously is that they've confused mathematical models with reality. (Nor do you need to be a Thomist to see that -- e.g. Lee Smolin makes the same point.)

      Nor is it to deny that relativity raises more complicated questions about other aspects of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of nature.

      (I get into all this in detail in the forthcoming article, and in much more detail still in the forthcoming philosophy of nature book).

      The point is just that on the specific issue of Thomistic arguments for God's existence, and in particular on whether relativity casts doubt on the theory of act and potency as such, the answer is that it casts no doubt on it at all. All it does at most is raise questions about how the act/potency distinction gets applied, but in no way does it show that it has no application at all.

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    14. Hello Dr.Feser

      There is nothing "cryptic" in my use of "until" in that passage, any more than there is something "cryptic" in talk about the number 3 coming "before" the number 4. Nobody pulls his chin and feigns puzzlement at the latter as if it somehow implied a temporal sequence

      Thanks for that, but I am still confused clearly it sounds absurd to suggest that existence of number 3 or 4 is merely Potential..

      and nothing in what I said implies any temporality either.
      well but it seem to me that being potential until makes it sound as if the world come into existence at some time..

      Centuries before Einstein and Minkowski, Thomists had extended the application of the distinction between actuality and potentiality beyond the domain of change and to the relationship between essence and existence in contingent things. It applies to the existence of a temporal, material contingent thing at any particular moment (and not merely over time); and it applies as well to the existence of an atemporal, immaterial thing (viz. an angel).

      And it applies too to a Minkowskian four-dimensional block universe. What I say in that passage cited above is just a very obvious and straightforward application of an old and independently motivated idea to a modern example. Hence, considered as an objection to Thomistic arguments for the existence of God, the appeal to the block universe is just a non-starter and not very interesting. You might as well say that angels as Aquinas understands them pose a problem for act/potency, on the grounds that they are not in time.


      Ok, but again isn't it the case that things like act/potency distinction is motivated in the first place by the fact that individual material things do come into existence and go out of existence, so wouldn't it be trouble for the argument if it turned out that change(except in the weak sense) is a mistake? I mean its like like there is a realm of changing things and unchanging things,all things are unchanging in block world anyway(except some change in a weak sense)

      That is not to concede anything at all vis-a-vis common claims about what relativity purportedly "shows" philosophically (most of which are question-begging at best and philosophically naive).

      well this is certainly not a location to have a debate on this topic but this seems mistaken, there is an extensive sophisticated literature on this topic about what it shows or what it doesn't...

      I certainly don't concede for a moment that change and temporal passage really are illusory.
      I don't think anyone really believes that change is illusory.

      The only reason people take that idea seriously is that they've confused mathematical models with reality.

      I don't know what this is supposed to mean there are principled arguments for what it shows and what it doesn't ..

      (I get into all this in detail in the forthcoming article, and in much more detail still in the forthcoming philosophy of nature book)

      Thanks, looking forward

      All it does at most is raise questions about how the act/potency distinction gets applied, but in no way does it show that it has no application at all.

      Yes, that seems true to me but it also seems that the language of arguments is a little confusing so that creates issues ..

      in any case I am saying that this refutes Thomism but only that there is a lot of confusion about what they mean by things like change or act/potency...
      and it would be pleasing in any case if they don't rest there conclusions on some esoteric metaphysics of time..

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    15. oops I meant I am not* saying..

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    16. anon,

      No, you specifically linked a change in properties with b-theory and regularity or counterfactual views of causation. This sounds like perdurantism/four-dimensionalism to me.

      but isn't it the case that even under endurantist eternalism all change is property change but there are several ways to make sense of it like relativizing properties to times and so on..?

      maybe its close to perdurantism but that would only follow after accepting eternalism ...

      You’re wrong. Debates about persistence are directly related to what change is. For Aristotelians, something has to persist through t1, t2, t3. This can occur in either a-theory or b-theory.

      Yes, but only after you have taken a position on what sort of things exist in time can you talk about how things persist..

      Per Jeffrey Brower, look at change as coming to obtain and ceasing to obtain in a state of affairs. Change is from something and into something. This works as a good Aristotelian definition under a-theory or b-theory. Change as mere properties only comes in under perdurantism/four-dimensionalism.

      well but change in abstract state of affairs itself seem like property change to me..

      and how is change is from something into something a definition of what change is

      If Bob is alive at t1 and disintegrated at t2 in an eternalist universe there is more than a simple change in properties for Bob. Bob can’t be located as either an enduring object or temporal parts after t2.

      oh Ok, but isn't not occupying a location after t2 a property change?

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    17. Dr.Feser

      Maybe what you're trying to get at is something like Pruss's theory of metaphysical possibility? in which what is possible is grounded in something that has causal power to ground it, is that what world being potential implies here?

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    18. One of the arguments against Aquinas' five ways is that God is so radically different from the universe he created that you can't move up a causal chain to God as does Aquinas.

      Aquinas responds to this by bringing in the concept of analogy. Although you can't get a definitive picture of the painter from his painting, or more generally, of an artist from his art, you can get some kind of picture.

      Part of me wonders if our immediate picture of God that we get through our senses and our world of common experience gives us a true, but partial picture of God as intrinsically active in the existence of every being. Such that our true experience of change and the movement from act to potency gives us a partial but true principle that can lead us back to a creator?

      But in the same way, the picture we get of God from some models of physics paints a true but partial picture of God, as more infinitely remote and different from our world of every day experience such that his act of creation is the all at once creation of a block universe where time and space are created all at once and immediately?

      And what if both perspectives are true, to a certain extent, such that truth cannot contradict truth. The first truth shows that God is intrinsically part of the universe in a very real and causal way that aligns with our experience, while the second drives home the point that God is infinitely other than his creation, and that his act of creation only analogous to our experience of working with things. That God is outside of time, and in fact the creator of all time and space, all at once. And yet that block universe he created all at once, create a true impression of his creative action in the individual causal chains that his creatures experience within that block universe.

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    19. Red writes:

      I am still confused clearly it sounds absurd to suggest that existence of number 3 or 4 is merely Potential.

      That would indeed be absurd, but that’s not what I said. The number example was meant to illustrate how language that might seem temporal on a superficial reading is not. I was not addressing the actuality/potentiality distinction there, but only the temporality issue.

      But since you’re still hung up on the word “until,” you can substitute a phrase like “apart from.” In other words, instead of saying “the block universe is merely potential until something actualizes it,” one could say “the block universe is merely potential apart from something which actualizes it.”

      isn't it the case that things like act/potency distinction is motivated in the first place by the fact that individual material things do come into existence and go out of existence,

      Sure, but that’s merely a point about the historical origins of the theory. It was first developed as a way of explaining change over time. And because we are ourselves corporeal and the primary object of our knowledge is the corporeal world, the easiest way for us to break into the idea of act and potency is by way of the analysis of change and time. But it doesn’t follow that it has no application outside that context. All sorts of ideas in philosophy and science end up being applied in ways their originators did not have in mind. No one thinker ever foresees all the implications or applications of his ideas.

      Certainly it would simply beg the question against the Thomist to insist that the distinction must have application only within the world of material and temporal things. Aquinas would say, for example, that even if God had not created any such world, there would still be the actualization of potency if he created angels.

      Hence, as I say, the application of act/potency to non-temporal contexts is already “on the shelf” as it were (and has been for centuries) for application to the block universe. There is nothing ad hoc about such an application. Nor does it rest on any controversial theory of time, because the whole point is that the distinction has an atemporal application. For that reason, the block universe idea and other issues in the philosophy of time just aren’t that important for evaluating Thomist arguments for God’s existence. (Remember, the whole idea of such arguments is that temporal causal series don’t ultimately matter when arguing for God, because what is at issue is what sustains the world in being at any particular moment.)

      Again, that’s not to deny that such issues are important for other issues in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy. They are. They just aren’t important in the particular context of arguments for theism.

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    20. Thanks a lot for that comment Dr, its really helpful.

      one could say “the block universe is merely potential apart from something which actualizes it.”

      oh I see, so here you are talking about dispositionalist theory of metaphysical possibility?

      that’s not to deny that such issues are important for other issues in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy. They are. They just aren’t important in the particular context of arguments for theism.

      OK, and I'll be very interested in exploration of such issues sometimes..

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    21. Daniel Carriere,

      well the distinction between primary and secondary causality might be helpful here, clearly it seems plausible that God creates the world all at once in the sense that his act explains why anything contingent exists at all..

      and search for a paper titled "Aquinas on Eternity, Tense, and Temporal Becoming"
      by Andrew Brenner you can find it online in it the author surveys some texts of Aquinas and argue that reading him as a B-theorist is most plausible interpretation of relevant texts where God's relation to time is at issue...

      Now I don't myself know much about Aquinas' original texts and how they are to be interpreted, the author's discussion seems a little brief,I don't think that most thomists would agree and author takes A/B-theory=Presentim/Eternalism, but its an interesting read nonetheless.

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    22. Feser really is the bomb

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    23. Hi Red,

      I'm only an amateur when it comes to Thomas as well - and physics to for that matter.

      Good article. Pretty interesting stuff coming from an undergrad paper. I tend to agree with him that Aquinas seems to be more of a B-Theorist .... at least from the perspective of his divine simplicity. But I would still maintain that our human A-theory perspective is also valid.

      Just my gut feel though.

      I wonder how an aviternal being, like an angel, would fit into a B-Theory universe? :)

      God bless,
      Daniel

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    24. but isn't it the case that even under endurantist eternalism all change is property change but there are several ways to make sense of it like relativizing properties to times and so on..?

      maybe its close to perdurantism but that would only follow after accepting eternalism ...


      There are a few ways to make sense of endurantism under b-theory, but what separates them from perdurantism is that something endures throughout the change. Something in the subject is changed like forms or properties. Accidental or alteration changes don’t affect the substance of an object. Substantial or existential changes do.

      Yes, but only after you have taken a position on what sort of things exist in time can you talk about how things persist.

      No, you could just as easily come to decision on what occurs during change and then pick out a theory of time.

      well but change in abstract state of affairs itself seem like property change to me..

      and how is change is from something into something a definition of what change is


      Because Thomists are concerned with explaining why something goes from one state to another state. This can be expressed as going in and out of existence, but it doesn’t have to. You’d still have an Thomist account of change in an eternalist universe, because there has to be some account of why Bob goes from one state at t1 to another state at t2.

      oh Ok, but isn't not occupying a location after t2 a property change?

      But after t2 there is no Bob that can have properties.

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    25. Something in the subject is changed like forms or properties. Accidental or alteration changes don’t affect the substance of an object. Substantial or existential changes do.

      OK, but that account seems compatible with perdurantism don't they say that something remains same throughout accidental change too, namely the underlying object whose parts posses intrinsic temporary properties?

      No, you could just as easily come to decision on what occurs during change and then pick out a theory of time.,

      I've always thought its the other way around..

      Because Thomists are concerned with explaining why something goes from one state to another state. This can be expressed as going in and out of existence, but it doesn’t have to. You’d still have an Thomist account of change in an eternalist universe, because there has to be some account of why Bob goes from one state at t1 to another state at t2.

      Whats the difference between saying an object have different states at different times and that it has different properties at different time?

      in particular the way I've seen the Problem of change or temporary intrinsic its called, formulated is that how an object can have incompatible, intrinsic temporal properties Endurantism or Perdurantism are supposed to be solutions to that..

      But after t2 there is no Bob that can have properties.

      But Bob is permanently located before t2, one could say when he goes under existential change he loses his property of spatio-temporal locatedness,so he permanently also has property of not being located after t2 just like I have property of not being located at Scotland right now.
      Maybe something here has to do with whether Space-time is a substance or merely a relational entity ...

      Reading this I think maybe Thomists don't say anything one way or another about Parts or wholes of Objects, they merely talk about substrates of accidental and substantial change..

      http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2017/02/a-thomist-analysis-of-change.html

      Do you think something like this can be compatible with both endurantism and perdurantism?

      Daniel Carriere,

      Yea, it seems that Aquinas' view is that Time is dynamic for us but its unchanging for God.

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    26. @ Daniel Carriere,

      Part of me wonders if our immediate picture of God that we get through our senses and our world of common experience gives us a true, but partial picture of God as intrinsically active in the existence of every being.

      For some time now I've been thinking about the visibility of God. Since this matter is too far from the subject matter of this thread I invite you to read this piece I've just posted.

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    27. Interesting post Dianelos. I hesitate to agree with your identification of the three persons of the trinity with those aspects of the created order that you do. Seems a little too pantheistic for my more orthodox tastes. I would prefer the language of Bonaventure who talks about vestiges or imprints of God in the created universe that points us to him. Or also Aquinas' talk of analogy and the vast gulf between the creator and the created.

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    28. Daniel Carriere,

      I think my view is clearly not pantheistic. Panentheistic perhaps.

      I agree that there are vestiges or imprints of God in the created universe that point to God. For example the deep mathematical nature of physical order. There is much about God that can be abstracted from God’s creation around us, and indeed from the way we are made. But I find that the person of God is knowable by acquaintance in a much more direct, general and powerful sense than is usually assumed. In a significant sense God is visible. And is visible in a way which I find strongly resonates with the dogma of the Trinity.

      Now in theology proper one doesn’t use arguments for the simple reason that the end of theology is precisely to get acquainted with God and arguments are no substitute to experience. So the theologian points into the right direction in the hope that one will look and see what she sees. But I can at least offer some backing from authority. So that God is love (and not just loves) is a fundamental tenet of Christianity. That God is being represents half of the thought of the Scholastics, does it not? As for God being beauty I’ve just discovered there is a book with the following suggestive title “The God Who Is Beauty: Beauty as a Divine Name in Thomas Aquinas and Dionysius the Areopagite”. So I disagree that beauty, love, and being are mere “aspects of the created order”. At the very least they seem to go much deeper.

      As for my identifying them with the hypostases of the Trinity, I can only point at what I called “coincidences”, namely how well they map with some very authoritarian statements of Christianity including “The Spirit proceeds from the Father” and “The Son is begotten by the Father”, statements, which introduce an asymmetry in the Trinity. Incidentally does anybody know the thinking, or perhaps the story, behind these statements? That would be very helpful to me.

      Incidentally I find the use of the concept of “person” in the context of the Trinity to be misleading. Is there the teaching that there are three distinct conscious beings in God? That there is a divine person thinking “I am the Son but not the Spirit” and another thinking “I am the Spirit but not the Father” and so on? That the three hypostases are distinct persons in the usual philosophical sense of the term?

      Finally that there is a vast gulf between the creator and the created is as obvious as it is trivial. And in any case no matter how vast something is it’s not like one cannot experience it. After all we do experience the night sky with its zillions of bodies dispersed throughout a vast distance of space and time.

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  3. "Contemporary philosophers take Hume’s doubts about causality as a feature of mind-independent reality very seriously. Yet they do not accept either the account of perception that these doubts rest on, or some of the other conclusions Hume draws from that account. And it is not clear how they can consistently take the one without the others."


    Strange how that works, isn't it?

    "Kant's premisses Kant's conclusions" Copleston famously said to Bryan Magee.


    Apparently you don't need the premisses to entail the conclusion, it just is, or is implied by anything. The magic of material implication, or something.

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  4. "Since contemporary philosophers wouldn’t buy this story about our perceptual and cognitive faculties, it’s hard to see why they remain impressed by the conclusions about causation Hume draws from them. That’s part of Stroud’s point. The other part of his point is that Hume draws other lessons from the same account of perception and cognition, lessons that contemporary philosophers are not so impressed by."

    Reflecting on this, I seem to have somewhat misunderstood Hume as a proto logical positivist, figuring that the real thrust of his argument was logical: having more to do with logical categories and the drawing of sound or valid inferences, than with epistemology and empiricism - despite the theory of knowledge talk.

    Now I suppose the construction of what one takes to be valid categories depends on a theory of what can be known, but I have - oddly - not seen it made quite so emphatic.

    I need to get back into reading regularly.

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  5. Hi Ed,

    I'm no fan of Hume, but as Ed himself points out in his work, Scholastic Metaphysics, Hume inherited his bad ideas about causality from Scholastic philosophers such as William of Ockham and Nicholas of Autrecourt, mediated by early modern Catholic occasionalists such as Nicholas Malebranche. (I might also add that Hume actually studied with the Jesuits in France for a while, and may have been influenced by a Jesuit priest who had traveled widely in Asia and was intimately acquainted with the philosophy of Buddhism, which denies the reality of substances. See the following account, which makes for interesting reading: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/how-david-hume-helped-me-solve-my-midlife-crisis/403195/ .)

    It seems to me that Hume's epistemic distinction between impressions and ideas is not what motivates his skepticism. Rather, he seems to have taken the old Peripatetic axiom (found in Aquinas's De veritate, q. 2 a. 3 arg. 19) that "there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses" very literally, and combined it with the Aristotelian tenet that the object of each of the senses is some accident of a thing (e.g. in the case of sight, color), rather than the thing itself, to reach the skeptical conclusion that we never really perceive things themselves, but only empirical properties, or phenomena. Theological arguments that God could produce any effect (including our perceptions) without the need for an intermediate secondary cause probably didn't help matters, either. Nor did popular expositions of the doctrine of transubstantiation, which claim that we only perceive accidents, and never substances. (See for instances this excerpt from Frank Sheed's Theology for Beginners: https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/eucha4.htm .) Putting all this together, it seems to follow that we can never actually perceive substances and causal connections with our senses, and thus, these concepts do not belong in our intellects, either, since whatever is in the intellect must also be in the senses.

    Aquinas' own solution to this difficulty was to invoke the active intellect, and to claim that it abstracts substantial forms from the objects we perceive. Such an intellect could abstract causal connections as well. But the nature of this abstraction process remains puzzling, and it seems more honest to say that notions such as "substance" and "cause" are constructed rather than abstracted by the intellect, as concepts without which we would be utterly unable to make sense of the world around us. You could say that's a more Kantian approach, if you like.

    At any rate, Hume still deserves credit for recognizing an epistemic void in the philosophies prevalent in his day, even if his own attempt to fill this void is rather unconvincing.

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    Replies
    1. Such an intellect could abstract causal connections as well. But the nature of this abstraction process remains puzzling, and it seems more honest to say that notions such as "substance" and "cause" are constructed rather than abstracted by the intellect, as concepts without which we would be utterly unable to make sense of the world around us. You could say that's a more Kantian approach, if you like.

      Vincent, I sympathize with the problem of making sense of the "active intellect" approach of Aristotle and St. Thomas. However, as a slight corrective of what you said above, one might well propose that we 'construct' the concept of "substance", but that doesn't imply that we construct the concept "tree" or "water" or "cat". There is little reason to suppose that we construct those concepts if by 'construct' we mean something like cobbling together from pre-existing parts, where the parts are something in the same kind but imperfect or incomplete.

      Actually, I distinctly remember an occasion of visiting the home of my philosophy professor my sophomore year, and for a minute or so he stepped out of the room leaving only his 2-year old daughter. She was playing with an object, or more probably a part of some more complete object, but I didn't recognize it, so I asked her: what is that? She puzzled over it for a few seconds, decided she didn't have a more specific category for it, and proceeded to inform me most seriously and confidently that "It's a thing!" Thus rather supporting the professor's account of cognition being somewhat similar to approaching in the mist: first you recognize that there's something there, then that it is a human, then that it is a man, then that it is Papa. One doubts that the professor had primed the 2-year old on Aristotelian philosophy> :-)

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    2. Tony, your 2nd paragraph seems in conflict with your first (not counting the initial quotation). At least, it does unless you believe that "constructing", e.g, the concept of substance is equivalent to discovering it. I find that a stretch, and frankly would side with discovery.

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    3. Vincent, two of your points certainly resonate with me. First, that Hume really sounds like occasionalism for atheists. (Yes, I know he never quite avowed it, but no one seems to have been fooled.)

      The 2nd is something which I believed long ago. Perhaps I shouldn't mention it, as it was so long ago my memory isn't the greatest. But it struck me then that Hume and Berkeley were really just trying to bring order to the theory of perception they found in Locke, and to make it as coherent as possible. But then, I always was one to think Locke liked to skim over difficulties where they arose.

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    4. VJ,

      You say that the notions of "substance" and "cause" are constructed. But things that are constructed are formed from a certain material. What is the material from which these notions are constructed? What kind of material would be suitable to construct an immaterial notion? Also, things that are constructed are generated according to a specific idea. So, what are the ideas according to which "substance" and "cause" are constructed? And what ideas could they be constructed according to other than the ideas of "cause" and "substance" themselves? Therefore, in order to construct the idea of "cause", you would need the idea of "cause" as a guide, which would rather defeat the purpose of constructing the idea in the first place.

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    5. George, I admit my second paragraph was in tension with the first. Sorry, I did not mean to convey that I think "substance" IS actually a construct, I meant that even if one supposes that it is, that still isn't enough of an account for more straightforward things where the concept refers to what is more immediately apprehended. But I was backtracking even from that when I recalled the event I described. Not my best comment.

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    6. Substance and causality are per accidens sensibles, according to Aristotle and St. Thomas.

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    7. @ Tony,

      But the nature of this abstraction process remains puzzling

      Why?

      Suppose I see “two apples an a bowl”. One could say that what I am really seeing – the impressions – are an apple, an apple, and a bowl - and that I am abstracting the order about there being *two* apples and moreover them being *in* a bowl. One could even say that the impressions are just point-like qualia and that I abstract all the rest. In any case why is that not a puzzling abstraction, and my seeing “a ball hitting another and causing it to move” is a puzzling abstraction? The only difference I see is that the latter order includes a time-factor whereas the former orders are static. So what? The human condition includes the experience of both space and of time.

      I think the better way to think about the human condition is as follows: There are many orders in the physical phenomena we experience. Our discovering any such order is called “abstraction”. There are abstractions we learn as toddlers which we call mid-sized objects, whole numbers, and spatial relations. And there are much deeper abstractions such as the order in gravitational phenomena discovered by Newton, and the even deeper order discovered by Einstein. The deeper the abstraction the more difficult it gets to discover it, but there is nothing puzzling about it. To put it plainly, demonstrably an intelligent automaton can also do it.

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    8. Travis says:

      Substance and causality are per accidens sensibles, according to Aristotle and St. Thomas.

      Here is a more fulsome statement of the idea, hopefully to prevent confusion.

      A third reservation about the Aristotelian conception of substance is epistemological in nature: If substances 'underlie' their sensible accidents, are they not in principle unobservable? An Aristotelian might be tempted to reply glibly that substances are in principle unobservable only if oak trees and aardvarks are. Yet flippant though it be, this response reflects an attitude that has become almost commonplace in current analytic epistemology. Rejecting the concession phenomenalists had made to skepticism regarding external objects, most contemporary epistemologists hold that it is perfectly proper for us to repose without further argument in our basic pre-analytic conviction that we have sensory cognition of substances themselves as well as of their sensible characteristics. To be sure, epistemological realists of this sort must draw a distinction between the way in which substances are available to the senses and the way in which sensible characteristics like colors, shapes, sounds, and smells are. According to Aquinas, for example, sensible accidents are the per se objects of sensation, whereas substances (along with easily identifiable efficient causes) are per accidens or incidental objects of sensation; the idea is that material substances (and causes) are sensed 'in and through' the sensing of their accidents (and effects).[33] Still, the observability of substances is not thereby called into question.

      By Alfred Freddoso, Notre Dame:

      http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/effcause.htm

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    9. Hi everyone,

      I would like to thank Tony for his quote from Freddoso and for his amusing tale about the two-year-old girl. It's a thing!" I had a chuckle over that one.

      It appears that Aristotle and St. Thomas hold that substance and causality are per accidens sensibles. I'm afraid I don't find that position satisfactory. If a substance is sensible, it should be directly sensible. The notion that substances are sensed 'in and through' the sensing of their accidents implies that they are not sensed directly.

      The real problem here, I think, is that Aquinas gives away too much by conceding that substances 'underlie' their sensible accidents. No, they don't. This misleading picture rests on the assumption that accidents are superficial, and that substance is an inner, or deeper, reality.

      Instead of thinking of a substance as a thing and an accident as one of its properties, we should think of a substance as an agent and an accident as one of its many actions. That includes the accidents relating to quality. Suppose you are being hit by a cricket ball. In that case, you would say: "The ball is hitting me." But if you see a red cricket ball, that's an action, too. The ball is reflecting red light at you. You could say it's "redding" you. The same goes for sounds, tastes and smells. As for passions: they're just the actions of other agents. Quantity refers to the scale of an agent or its action.

      When we sense something, what we sense is an agent. Only indirectly do we sense its action. When a boxer hits you in the face, what you sense directly is the boxer himself (and in particular, his fist), rather than his punching action. The action is that whereby you sense, but it's not what you sense, directly. Substances, then, are not deeply hidden; they're in-your-face. Substances are about as superficial as you can get. If you've ever felt the impact of a fist, you'll know what I mean.

      Hume's mistake was to look at cases where one object interacts with another object, instead of cases where an object interacts with the person perceiving it. It is in these cases that we form the notion of substance, as well as the accompanying notion of cause - for if a substance is an agent, then it is a cause. If we were totally invulnerable to objects (as angels are) then we'd never have a satisfactory warrant for forming either concept. [This implies, presumably, that angels' concepts are hard-wired.]

      In answer to George R.'s comment, when I spoke of the intellect as "constructing" the notions of substance and cause, what I meant was that they were posits, not that they were composed of a certain material. Tony also wondered whether I meant "cobbling together from pre-existing parts"; that was not my intent. Perhaps I expressed myself badly.

      In other words, "substance" and "cause" are categories which we impose on reality to make sense of it, and without which it would be unintelligible. (Sentient animals may be hard-wired with a primitive notion of substance, so they don't need to deliberate about what they perceive: the conclusions they draw are involuntary.)

      That's about as far as I've got, so far, in my speculations. If my picture is right, then it has interesting implications for transubstantiation: after the consecration the accidents of bread and wine remain, but the substances [agents] do not. Since actions cannot occur without an agent, it follows that Christ Himself must be doing what the bread and wine did before the consecration: reflecting light, and so on.

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    10. @ Vincent,

      we should think of a substance as an agent and an accident as one of its many actions. That includes the accidents relating to quality. Suppose you are being hit by a cricket ball. In that case, you would say: "The ball is hitting me." But if you see a red cricket ball, that's an action, too. The ball is reflecting red light at you. You could say it's "redding" you.

      I don’t know if you are using your terms in a technical Thomistic sense, but in usual language a red ball is not an agent. Agents are supposed to be willful beings.

      When we sense something, what we sense is an agent. Only indirectly do we sense its action. When a boxer hits you in the face, what you sense directly is the boxer himself (and in particular, his fist), rather than his punching action.

      Again, in the usual way we speak about our condition, this is not so. What we directly sense is the punching action, and we deduce that the boxer hit us. Or perhaps we might be surprised to discover that what hit us was a bird that came flying into the room, or even a heavy tome that fell from the bookshelf.

      I am not agreeing or disagreeing with anything you want to say here; I am just pointing out how a reader might get confused.

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    11. Aquinas gives away too much by conceding that substances 'underlie' their sensible accidents. No, they don't. This misleading picture rests on the assumption that accidents are superficial, and that substance is an inner, or deeper, reality.

      Vincent, I think that or Aristotle and Thomas, substance is not dependent on accident for its subsisting, but accident is dependent on substance for its being: it exists in a subsistent being that subsists independently of the accident. That's rather the whole point of the notion of subsistence. You might not agree with them, but don't drain their program of what they are claiming.

      Instead of thinking of a substance as a thing and an accident as one of its properties, we should think of a substance as an agent and an accident as one of its many actions.

      A subsistent being can have an accident without an activity. Though, in Aristotelian terms, to have an accident is to have a certain sort of actuality. But in this sense, "to have" the actuality is a sort of rest, not of action. For example, a math student knows the Pythagorean Theorem, and holds it by habit, so that he knows it even when he is not thinking of it. The habit is an actuality in him at rest. Well, the same goes for his color, his shape, etc. He does not have his shape in virtue of that shape being seen or touched by someone who can sense it, he has it even when he is asleep and it is sensed by nobody. Aristotle's whole thesis about motion, act and potency requires that actuality refer to a having that is at rest.

      It may be that underlying the STATE of having a shape is a series of ongoing actions: the skin is at the same time holding in a certain inner pressure from blood etc, and holding out air that is pushing in at 14.7 lbs. per square inch. The bones are sustaining a structure against a force of gravity of 32 lbs. / sec^2. But even if you posit that the body has its shape due to these actions, I don't think you can be using 'accident' in the Aristotelian sense in saying that it is an action.

      Besides, 'action' is one of the 10 categories, opposed to 'passion'. But all 9 of the categories other than substance are categories of accidents, not just that of action. How is relation, quantity, or time an action? 'Action' is an accident that resides in an agent, and 'passion' is an accident that resides in a recipient.

      When we sense something, what we sense is an agent. Only indirectly do we sense its action.

      I am not buying it yet. When we see a ball, the primary thing that the sense of sight is reporting is color. Everything else that we see, we see in virtue of the sensing of color. The shape is sensed because the colors are arranged in shapes. The motion is sensed in virtue of the colors changing relative place. The number is sensed in virtue of the a sensed color having separation and thus multiplicity via other colors which separate (intervene locally).

      When you watch a very young baby reaching out for objects, you realize that the baby is unable to distinguish this object from that object merely by looking: he has not yet learned that the separate colors denote separate things. He has to LEARN that, by integrating the input from sight with the input from touch (and smell, and taste, which is why it puts so many things in his mouth). I do not say that they 'deduce' it, that's not necessary. We learn to sense things that are not the first, immediate object of the sense: gradually, as we hear more, we learn to hear objects coming from one direction or another, but we don't sense that in hearing at first.

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    12. Since actions cannot occur without an agent, it follows that Christ Himself must be doing what the bread and wine did before the consecration: reflecting light, and so on.

      Is it not Catholic dogma that the accidents of bread and win that remain do not inhere in Christ? If "to be an accident of" is really "to be an agent acting as", then what you are saying is that Christ really has the accidents of the bread and wine, but this is rejected. Rather, the doctrine is that God miraculously sustains the accidents without a subject, in order that Christ whole and entire could be present but not present in such a way that consuming the host would be cannibalism. Christ's own accidents are with him in the Eucharist, but hidden from us, except not always (in the Eucharistic miracles like that at Lanciano). It is true that in terms of natural causes, no accident could be without inhering in a subject, but for God it is possible.

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    13. Hi Tony,

      You ask: "Is it not Catholic dogma that the accidents of bread and win that remain do not inhere in Christ?"

      Allow me to quote from a popular Catholic book of apologetics, titled, The celebrated answer to the Rev. C. Lesley’s “Case stated, between the Church of Rome and the Church of England”: printed word for word, and refuted sentence after sentence by Fr. Robert Manning. The book was composed in 1721, and dedicated to the bishops of Ireland by the publisher, Richard Coyne, (4 Capel St., Dublin, 1839).

      In the following passage, which is taken from pages 435-436, the Catholic Lord and the Protestant Gentleman are discussing the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. In response to a query by the Protestant Gentleman, the Catholic Lord explains that the Scholastic distinction between substance and accident is not something Catholics are required to believe, and he dismisses theological controversies about how the appearances of bread and wine can still remain even though the bread and wine are no longer present, as “mere school questions.” He adds that he "would not hazard the value of a farthing" [one-quarter of a penny – VJT] "upon the logical question of substance and accidents." The passage can be read here:
      https://archive.org/stream/celebratedanswer00mann#page/434/mode/2up

      At the bottom of page 435, the Protestant Gentleman asks the Catholic Lord:

      "Is it not a point of faith with you, that the accidents of bread and wine remain after the consecration?"

      The Catholic Lord replies:

      "It is, Sir, if by accidents, you mean the signs and appearances of bread and wine. But whether these signs or appearances be true physical accidents, or only modifications of the object, or such impressions made upon our outward senses by the body and blood of Christ, as bread and wine, if they had been present, would have made; are mere school questions, upon which I shall never be disposed to hazard either my honour or estate, much less pawn my soul upon the truth or certainty of them; the faith of the church being not in the least concerned with them."

      I believe that the appearances of bread and wine remain after the consecration, but I do not believe that the actions of bread and wine can exist without the bread and wine themselves. Sine the wine used in the Mass is red, it is continually acting, as it reflects red wavelengths of light. If the Church tells me that the substance of wine no longer exists, then the thing which reflected those wavelengths of light is now gone. But something must still be reflecting them, since actions cannot occur in the absence of an agent. Therefore, it must be Christ.

      You write: "It is true that in terms of natural causes, no accident could be without inhering in a subject, but for God it is possible."

      Not even God can make an action exist without an agent.



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    14. Hi Tony,

      Just one more thing I wanted to add: although Christ is performing countless actions after the consecration that were previously performed by the bread and wine, these actions do not "inhere" in Christ, in the sense that His own body is not red and liquid like wine, or white and crusty like bread. They are extra actions which He performs, supernaturally.

      I'd now like to address your metaphysical objections.

      You write: "A subsistent being can have an accident without an activity."

      That's a powerful argument. Things have dispositions: for instance, salt has a disposition to dissolve in water. Salt has this disposition even when it's not in contact with water. Aquinas and Aristotle would have classified this dispositional property of salt as one of its "proper accidents" (or what we'd call its essential properties), which flows from (or are caused by) its nature.

      I'm not sure, however, that the proper accidents of a thing are really distinct from its essence. As far as I can tell from reading Ed's Scholastic Metaphysics, the arguments for their being distinct boil down to these:

      1. One and the same substance S may have many proper accidents which are really distinct from one another. But if they are only logically distinct from S, then how can they be really distinct from one another?

      Reply: distinctions always need to be defined with reference to a domain. A thing's proper accidents could still be really distinct as dispositions, even though they are only logically distinct from the substance they belong to.

      2. Often we mistake a proper accident for the essence of a thing: in the old days, people defined gold in terms of its yellowness, malleability and ductility. Now we know that gold is whatever is made up of atoms with 79 protons.

      Reply: all this shows is that not all dispositions are equally fundamental: some are more basic than others. It does not show that dispositions are really distinct from the substances they belong to.

      3. Sometimes a substance S may lack what we regard as one of its defining properties: not all cats are four-legged.

      Reply: all this proves is that only dispositional properties can be proper accidents. Actually having four legs is not a dispositional property. The question we still need to answer is whether proper accidents are really distinct from their substances, or merely logically distinct. I'm inclined to think that the distinction is merely a logical one.

      You also ask: "How is relation, quantity, or time an action?"

      I can't see how the time or place at which I exist can be called a property of me, since it doesn't belong to me. Time and place are defined with reference to external objects. Perhaps they're properties of the ensemble.

      Shape and quantity are tougher nuts to crack. However, I think they can be successfully analyzed in terms of actions. Here's a quick sketch of how it might be done. Let's say that Jones is rotund to the point of being practically spherical, and that he stands 1.7 meters tall and weighs 350 kilograms. One could re-describe these properties in terms of Jones' body pushing out equally in all directions (which accounts for his spherical shape), as pushing up against the pull of gravity (enabling him to stand 1.7 meters tall) and as pushing down on a set of scales (thereby causing the needle to move to 350 - and probably breaking the scales!)

      I hope that answers your questions.

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    15. But whether these signs or appearances be true physical accidents, or only modifications of the object, or such impressions made upon our outward senses by the body and blood of Christ, as bread and wine, if they had been present, would have made; are mere school questions, upon which I shall never be disposed to hazard either my honour or estate, much less pawn my soul upon the truth or certainty of them; the faith of the church being not in the least concerned with them."

      Vincent, I must say that I reject this approach to Catholic teaching as being highly problematic for any Catholic to adhere to - if not equivalent to the modernist heresy condemned by Pius X. It amounts to a position that all a Catholic must assent to is the "core" or "central" point of a doctrine, not any of the peripherals. But this makes hash most of the activity of the early Church and the early Councils in which points of dogma were worked out precisely through very careful wording of the doctrines, and in which those very careful wordings are wholly protected. The Church does not, then, represent that these careful and precise dogmatically defined phrases are the sole and perfect manner of expressing the truths, but she does insist that they are valid and suitable to the truth thus pointed at. Without this, the Church would be left in a position of being forced to agree with propositions like "well, we know Jesus is man - in some sense or other - and that he is divine - in some sense or other - and just how it is that both are true is just a matter of fiddly bits of personal preference because the Church cannot go beyond the vague, obscure, and wishy-washy hope that everyone will get along without saying how they are true." That's not what the decrees of the early Councils and the creed Nicea and the dogmatic canons of various councils intend. Moreover, Paul VI had this to say about the phrasing of these teachings:

      These formulas — like the others that the Church used to propose the dogmas of faith — express concepts that are not tied to a certain specific form of human culture, or to a certain level of scientific progress, or to one or another theological school. Instead they set forth what the human mind grasps of reality through necessary and universal experience and what it expresses in apt and exact words, whether it be in ordinary or more refined language. For this reason, these formulas are adapted to all men of all times and all places. (§24)

      "Catholic Lord" failed to grasp the Catholic sense of how we understand the ways in which Church teaching is formulated.

      I take it as dogmatic that AT LEAST the use of the expression "substance" is definitively affirmed, as in Trent:

      The body and blood together with the soul and the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ are truly, really, and substantially in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, and the conversion of the whole substance of bread into the body, and of the whole substance of wine into the blood, takes place, which conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation.

      Which expressed with more precision what had already been asserted at 4th Lateran:

      Jesus Christ, whose Body and Blood are in the sacrament of the altar truly contained under the appearances of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into His Body, and the wine into His Blood.

      Since it is inadmissible to assert of a dogmatic teaching that it's phrasing was free from error but its meaning was uncertain, we must accept that the phrasing was free from error in the sense that the Council held it and intended it.

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    16. Then, in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, we find:

      however repugnant it may appear to the dictate of the senses, no substance of the elements remains in the Sacrament; and. . .the accidents which present themselves to the eyes, or other senses, exist in a wonderful and ineffable manner without a subject. The accidents of bread and wine we see; but they inhere in no substance, and exist independently of any. The substance of the bread and wine is so changed into the body and blood of our Lord that they, altogether, cease to be the substance of bread and wine.

      Now, as it is the text of a catechism and not a decree or canon of the Council, I do not take that sourcing as of itself dogmatic. Not every phrase in the Catechism is dogmatic. Nevertheless, it was issued by the same Pope St. Pius V as was present at and confirmed the decrees of Trent, and moreover he issued it at the direction of the Council:

      “But the Fathers deemed it of the first im­portance that a work should ap­pear, sanctioned by the authority of the Council, from which pastors and all others on whom the duty of imparting instruction devolves, may be able to seek and find reliable matter for the edification of the faithful; that, as there is one Lord, one Faith, there may also be one standard and prescribed form of propounding the dogmas of faith, and instruc­ting Christians in all of the duties of piety.”

      Hence, I would treat the phrasing on this point in the Catechism as being what the Council itself intended and thought of the matter, unless proven otherwise in a more definitive way.

      The reason I ASKED whether the teaching that "the accidents of the bread do not inhere in the substance of Christ" is a dogmatic teaching is that in a quick search I could not find a dogmatic source that actually said it. So I was really not sure it is dogmatic. I still haven't located one. If it's out there, I would like to see it.

      But because the teaching on the transformation of the substance of the bread into the substance of Christ IS truly dogmatic, and because we must admit in this teaching the meaning intended by the Council fathers in using the term "substance", and at the time of the Council the teaching of Thomas on substance and accident was held extremely commonly, and the Pope followed up the Council with an explicit teaching including the Thomistic notion on the accidents of the bread that was intended to carry out the purposes of the Council, there is extraordinarily little room for there to be divergence between what the Council dogmatically intended to teach on the appearances of bread what the Council understood implicitly about the appearances as under the extant Thomistic phrasing of "accidents". And what St. Thomas had said about the subject of the accidents.

      Therefore it follows that the accidents continue in this sacrament without a subject. This can be done by Divine power: for since an effect depends more upon the first cause than on the second, God Who is the first cause both of substance and accident, can by His unlimited power preserve an accident in existence when the substance is withdrawn whereby it was preserved in existence as by its proper cause, just as without natural causes He can produce other effects of natural causes, even as He formed a human body in the Virgin's womb, "without the seed of man. Third Part, Q 77, A 1

      That is to say, the burden of proof rests on the "Catholic Lord" to prove that the Council did not intend to teach what St. Thomas said about the matter of the accidents. And he singularly failed to meet that burden of proof. All that can be asserted, so far as I have seen, is that the Council did not use the expression "accident" in its dogmatic formulation, and that does leave a teensy, tiny, miniscule bit of space for the theoretical possibility that the Council fathers did not intend to conform Church teaching what St. Thomas said about accidents.

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    17. But it remains true that Pope St. Pius V did intend to teach it, explicitly and unequivocally, at least as far as the accidents of the bread and wine. And he had the authority to do so without the explicit affirmation of the Council. So, even if there is room for holding the remote possibility that the Council did not intend to affirm the Thomistic teaching about the accidents not inhering in a subject, that does not convert into actually believing that the CHURCH did not intend to teach that, in the person of the Pope at the time, and affirmed by later popes.

      I will address the philosophical points later.

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    18. Not even God can make an action exist without an agent.

      St. Thomas addresses the problem (as "accidents"):

      Thirdly, because accidents do not pass from subject to subject, so that the same identical accident which was first in one subject be afterwards in another; because an accident is individuated by the subject; hence it cannot come to pass for an accident remaining identically the same to be at one time in one subject, and at another time in another.

      Also:

      Therefore it follows that the accidents continue in this sacrament without a subject. This can be done by Divine power: for since an effect depends more upon the first cause than on the second, God Who is the first cause both of substance and accident, can by His unlimited power preserve an accident in existence when the substance is withdrawn whereby it was preserved in existence as by its proper cause, just as without natural causes He can produce other effects of natural causes, even as He formed a human body in the Virgin's womb,

      I would recall that being a human body seems to mean to be in a definite place, one place, contiguous. Yet God, through a miracle, first illustrated his power over such natural limits when he multiplied the loaves and fishes, making a few loaves to be many. It was at that very time that he promised the miracle of the Eucharist, in which he makes the body of Christ (the whole of it) be in a great many separate places all over the world, not contiguous at all. Thus he seems to overcome even what we too easily assume to be an absolute necessity of nature about body.

      I would use as a better example for this purpose, that God enables a human soul to persist after death. A human being consists in a composition of body and soul, and the soul is the form of the body, that gives it its kind, its nature; while the matter makes the soul individuated. Yet after death the soul persists in being (and individual) without being actually united to the body - without being the form that is making the body be alive. Even though it could only receive existence in the context of being the form of the body, once it IS the form of the body, it can persist in being without the body through the power of God sustaining it. So, even though a human being is defined in terms of union of body and soul, a human person can remain separate from the body - though the soul remains the soul OF that person, and therefore remains in relation to the body as the form intended for it. In a not-completely-dissimilar way, the color, texture, weight, and size of the bread that are the accidents of the bread are individuated in terms of being in THAT bread as in a subject, so also God enables them to persist independently of the substance of bread, though they remain individual precisely in virtue of having been the accidents of that bread before it was changed. They cannot become the accidents of Christ, because an accident cannot change subjects and remain unitary: it's individuation is from the subject, a change of subject implies a change in number and thus a change in the accident itself. So Christ's body, even if it could take on whiteness, it would be Christ's whiteness, not that of the bread, which rather obviates the whole point of insisting that the bread's accidents inhere in a Christ as subject.

      I do not address the "action" theory more than to say it seems to defy not only the act / potency notion but also substance / accident. So many of the Church's doctrines are bound up in these that it would be strange indeed - beyond all plausibility - if they all could be re-stated in terms of agent and action. I admit that it sounds interesting for the appearances of the Eucharist problem, but I don't find a need to re-invent the whole body of the Church's philosophical language for such a slim gain as that.

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    19. Hi Tony,

      Regarding the orthodoxy of the interpretation I have proposed, I'd like to quote from The Catholic Encyclopedia's article on St. Cyril of Jerusalem at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04595b.htm
      :

      "St. Cyril's teaching about the Blessed Sacrament is of the first importance, for he was speaking freely, untrammelled by the 'discipline of the secret'. On the Real Presence he is unambiguous: 'Since He Himself has declared and said of the bread: This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any more? And when He asserts and says: This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate and say it is not His Blood?' Of the Transformation, he argues, if Christ could change water into wine, can He not change wine into His own Blood? The bread and wine are symbols: 'In the type of bread is given thee the Body, in the type of wine the Blood is given thee'; but they do not remain in their original condition, they have been changed, though the senses cannot tell us this: 'Do not think it mere bread and wine, for it is the Body and Blood of Christ, according to the Lord's declaration'. 'Having learned this and being assured of it, that appears to be bread is not bread, though perceived by the taste, but the Body of Christ, and what appears to be wine is not wine, though the taste says so, but the Blood of Christ . . . strengthen thy heart, partaking of it as spiritual (food), and rejoice the face of thy soul'. It is difficult not to see the whole doctrine of Transubstantiation in these explicit words."

      I am happy to affirm, with St. Cyril of Jerusalem, that what "appears to be bread is not bread, though perceived by the taste, but the Body of Christ, and what appears to be wine is not wine, though the taste says so, but the Blood of Christ." If this is "the whole doctrine of Transubstantiation," then I affirm it too.

      Re Fr. Robert Manning's book, let me remind you that it was a Catholic best-seller, and went through several reprints. The publisher of the 1839 edition (over 100 years after Fr. Manning's death publicly commended it to the bishops of Ireland:
      https://archive.org/stream/celebratedanswer00mann#page/n9/mode/2up ). I can only assume that it is free from doctrinal error.

      Let me add that Aquinas' theory of transubstantiation is not the only game in town. For example, it is permissible for Catholics to hold (as I do) that the substance of the bread and wine is annihilated at the consecration. (For my part, I would regard it as a violation of ordinary language to say that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, as nothing can become something pre-existing. Better to say that what was bread and wine is now the body and blood of Jesus Christ.)

      Leading Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin uses the same language here: http://www.jimmyakin.org/2011/04/the-last-supper-good-friday-transubstantiation.html . He writes: "In transubstantiation, two things happen: (1) The substances (i.e., the ultimate, underlying realities) of bread and wine cease to exist, leaving only the properties detectable by our senses and (2) the substance of Christ's body, blood, soul, and divinity become present."

      I should add that Blessed Duns Scotus "explains the Real Presence by the annihilation of the substance of the bread and the adduction of the substance of Christ's body" (Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought, by Reverend Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., Aeterna Press, 2016, Chapter 39).

      To be continued...

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    20. (Continued)

      I have already endeavored to explain how the accidents [or as I would say, actions] of bread and wine after the consecration, although upheld [or performed] by Christ, do not inhere in Christ, as they are not properties of His body.

      Concerning the possibility of actions taking place without an agent, you write that the Church's doctrines cannot be re-stated in terms of agent and action. But I put it to you that the distinction is a fundamental one. If actions can exist without an agent, then we have no grounds for believing in substances at all. For the oddity of properties existing without a subject is merely grammatical, but the notion of actions taking place without an agent is flat-out unintelligible. Something reflects red light after the consecration. What is it?

      Re the separated soul: the puzzle you raise is a real one. If by form you mean the F-ness of an F (where F is some natural kind), then of course, form cannot exist without matter, any more than the Cheshire cat's grin can exist without the cat, or goldness without gold. But if by form you mean that which controls or causes or grounds the properties of an F, then one can envisage a form acting (and existing) in its own right.

      Finally, just as Galileo (quoting Cardinal Baronius) wrote that "The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go," I would add that the Church teaches us what God has done for the sake of our salvation, but not how He has done it. My two cents.

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    21. I should add that Blessed Duns Scotus "explains the Real Presence by the annihilation of the substance of the bread and the adduction of the substance of Christ's body"

      Since Scotus wrote before Trent, he can be excused for not agreeing with the dogma decreed by Trent. We are not free to make of Trent's affirmation of "transubstantiation" whatever we will. The Council fathers make it clear that annihilation is not their intent:

      CANON II.- If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.

      According to some modern Catholic scientists, Galileo was done in by presuming to say what the Bible meant, not by saying what the science meant.

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    22. Hi Tony,

      I've just been reading the article in The Catholic Encyclopedia, titled, "The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist," at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05573a.htm . Here's the money quote:

      "The idea of conversion is amply realized if the following condition is fulfilled, viz., that a thing which already existed in substance, acquires an altogether new and previously non-existing mode of being. Thus in the resurrection of the dead, the dust of the human bodies will be truly converted into the bodies of the risen by their previously existing souls, just as at death they had been truly converted into corpses by the departure of the souls."

      If conversion is defined in this way, then I'd be happy to affirm it. The body of Christ, which is spatially present in Heaven, acquires a new and non-spatial mode of being when it becomes present in the Eucharist.

      By the way, the Scotist theory of adduction was not condemned by Trent, for it was adopted by a multitude of theologians after Scotus, as Rev. Jospeh Pohle acknowledges:

      "These and other difficulties to which the Thomistic view is subject have led the Scotists to devise their famous theory of "adduction," which, with various modifications, was adopted by Bellarmine, Vasquez, De Lugo, Becanus, Pesch, and other prominent theologians." (Rev. Joseph Pohle Collection [9 Books])

      See https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=p3YkDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT1833&lpg=PT1833&dq=Bellarmine+transubstantiation+adduction&source=bl&ots=irHHY1zc_m&sig=dnKcgv9YhgamuwIydBb8VV1U8ak&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjghvT8xcfUAhUCgbwKHQJbB4MQ6AEIKzAC#v=onepage&q=Bellarmine%20transubstantiation%20adduction&f=false

      See also here: "Transubstantiation." New Catholic Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia.com. 18 June 2017, at http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/transubstantiation :

      "Nature of Transubstantiation. Although the Church has defined the doctrine of transubstantiation, theologians disagree about its precise nature. Two general tendencies have emerged. According to the first, the substance of the bread and wine is destroyed, and the body and blood of Christ are either reproduced or adduced. According to the second tendency, the substance of the bread and wine does indeed cease, but is not simply annihilated, for it passes into the pre-existent body and blood of the Savior.

      "Annihilation. In the period following the Council of Trent, some theologians thought that the substance of the bread, as an obstacle to the presence of Christ's body, must be removed by a sort of annihilation. This annihilation is required to make room for Christ's body, or else results from the fact that Christ's body expels the substance of the bread, which thereupon lapses into nothingness..."

      The article goes on to describe two versions of the adduction theory, before siding with Aquinas' conversion theory. My point is simply that the Church has not condemned Scotus.

      Hope that helps.

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    23. "The idea of conversion is amply realized if the following condition is fulfilled, viz., that a thing which already existed in substance, acquires an altogether new and previously non-existing mode of being. ...
      If conversion is defined in this way, then I'd be happy to affirm it. The body of Christ, which is spatially present in Heaven, acquires a new and non-spatial mode of being when it becomes present in the Eucharist.


      Vincent, thank you for the additional information.

      I can see how you can argue that under such a definition, the body of Christ undergoes a "conversion". What I don't see, however, is any sense in which the SUBSTANCE OF THE BREAD undergoes a "conversion", if we say that the substance of the bread is annihilated. Yet Trend explicitly lays the word "conversion" on the bread.

      and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood -

      It seems to me that the entire purpose of the term "annihilation" is to completely exclude that there is any sense in which what was remaining and having a new previously non-existing mode of being. As, for example, what would happen if God chose to stop willing that rock to exist in any sense: it would simply not exist. That would not be a "conversion". Maybe I misunderstood the sense of annihilation being intended.

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    24. Hi Tony,

      Let me just ask you a quick question. What do you mean by saying that the substance of the bread and wine is not annihilated, but converted into the body and blood of Christ?

      When I eat bread, it is converted into my body, after being broken down. Are you saying that the bread and wine used in the Mass are converted into Christ's body and blood, in a similar fashion? If not, what kind of conversion do you have in mind? It makes no sense to say that A changes into B if no part of A remains in B, and if B itself does not undergo any change. (Or do you think the body of Christ undergoes change whenever a priest says Mass?)

      St. Thomas writes that the bread "is changed into the body of Christ; just as if the air, from which fire is generated, be not there or elsewhere, it does not follow that it is annihilated." I have to say that this illustration, which makes use of the four-element theory, is not exactly helpful. In any case, the two cases are not parallel, as prime matter underlies the transmutation of one element into another, but this is not the case with transubstantiation. Aquinas also says that "no way can be assigned whereby Christ's true body can begin to be in this sacrament, except by the change of the substance of bread into it," but his only justification for this statement is that "a thing cannot be in any place, where it was not previously, except by change of place, or by the conversion of another thing into itself; just as fire begins anew to be in some house, either because it is carried thither, or because it is generated there." But the body of Christ could surely begin to be where it was before, if its power is exercised in that location, for the first time. After the consecration, the body of Christ maintains the accidents (or as I would say, actions) of bread and wine. That's surely an exercise of power.

      Another point to bear in mind is that although Trent refers to "the substance" of the bread and wine, neither of these is actually a natural substance. Instead, they're a mixture of substances. Bread, for instance, contains polysaccharide starches, protein (gluten) and water. To me, that suggests that we shouldn't treat every dot and comma of Trent as if it were Holy Writ. The Council meant to rule out consubstantiation and Zwinglianism; there is no evidence, on the other hand, that anyone was ever condemned as a heretic for upholding the theory of adduction.

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    25. St. Thomas writes that the bread "is changed into the body of Christ; just as if the air, from which fire is generated, be not there or elsewhere, it does not follow that it is annihilated." I have to say that this illustration, which makes use of the four-element theory, is not exactly helpful. In any case, the two cases are not parallel, as prime matter underlies the transmutation of one element into another, but this is not the case with transubstantiation.

      Vincent, that's a fine question.

      As far as I can tell (and I really am reaching here), what Thomas intends here is to signify that Christ does something comparable in what we do when we consume food and change it into our body, though Christ does not need to do it through the process of digestion, he does it instantaneously and via a higher power / through higher causality. Thus Christ takes over the substance of the bread as if he had digested it, but without the process. I don't know any reason why we should object to the prime matter of the bread coming to be Christ's: after the Resurrection, he ate fish with the Apostles, and we must suppose that by "eating," the food was really consumed, for otherwise the proof that he was making (for a spirit does not consume) would have been false and deceitful. St. Thomas says that Christ's body is impassible, not the bread.

      But the body of Christ could surely begin to be where it was before, if its power is exercised in that location, for the first time. After the consecration, the body of Christ maintains the accidents (or as I would say, actions) of bread and wine. That's surely an exercise of power.

      This would be to equivocate on the "place" of His body. An angel, because it is not a body, cannot "be in" a place except by acting on a body there. It can cause an appearance of a body, but the body is not really the angel's because they are pure spirit. Thus we equivocate on "in a place" when we say it of an angel. But for Christ, a man, with a body, to "be in a place" without equivocating must mean for the body to be there, not for him to act and operate there. For Christ as God acts and operates in ALL places, but we do not ascribe Christ's body to all places. Nor does Thomas accept Christ's body being the source and cause of the accidents of the bread, because then Christ's body would indeed be causing a deceit, having his body produce an appearance that is all wrong for his body, but right for the bread.

      It is also necessary for the dimensive quantity (the "first accident") of the bread to remain, for if the Eucharist were to take on the dimensive quantity of Christ's body, (a) the priest would have to hold up a huge weight, and (b) we would have to become cannibals to eat it, and (c) we would be UNABLE to eat it because Christ's body is impassible. But in breaking the 'bread' we are not breaking Christ in two, (for Christ is impassible) but breaking the dimensive quantity - which is an accident of the bread - in two, while Christ's body whole and entire is in both parts, which does not happen when you break a body apart in its own dimensive quantity. So what is present is not under Christ's dimensive quantity, but the bread's, which is REALLY present so it can be broken, not just an impression on our senses.

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    26. Another point to bear in mind is that although Trent refers to "the substance" of the bread and wine, neither of these is actually a natural substance. Instead, they're a mixture of substances. Bread, for instance, contains polysaccharide starches, protein (gluten) and water.

      I have often wondered about that point. In researching because of this discussion, I came across the following comments: although bread "has" starches, proteins, etc, that is no more reason to reject it's being a substance than to say if of me or you: I have fats and proteins and minerals "making up" my body, but when they are part of my body they ARE me, and thus they are not "proteins" except as " 'protein' parts of a human being". More importantly: while bread is made by mixing flour and sugar and salt and oil and so on, it doesn't "become bread" except by baking it, and like digestion, applying heat is the sort of thing that often causes a substantial change - just look at how you get vulcanized rubber. Or ash, for that matter. Once it is baked, you can no longer find the "flour" as small particles of flour, all you can find are bits of bread. (It is even more so when you have yeast which eats the sugar and changes the dough, but in the Latin Church we use unleavened bread so I won't insist on that point.) It isn't "dough" if you don't mix the flour with water, and when it is thoroughly mixed you don't really have flour and water anymore, you have something quite different from either one.

      As for the wine, see the point above about the yeast. The changes wrought by the fermentation make it really different from grape juice. And (I would argue) the natural die-off of the yeast when the alcohol content gets high enough also argues for it being something distinct enough to call a substance, though I grant that the matter is not crystal clear. It would be sufficient, I think, for the wine to be a distinct mixture of 2 or maybe 3 substances - like brass is a distinct-ish alloy of copper and zinc (like a mixture, brass retains features of each of the components, but as an alloy, it is rather distinctive in its own right and is thought of as a 'substance' in common terms) - if we were to allow that transubstantiation deals with the substances that make the wine in whatever sense we want to ascribe to the bread and the wine.

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    27. Hi Tony,

      Thank you for your reply. I was interested to read your suggestion that the prime matter of the bread might be converted into the body of Christ. That's a fascinating idea, but it would entail that the body of Christ is continually gaining (and losing) prime matter, as Masses are said around the world (and as communicants receive the Eucharist).

      You write: "But for Christ, a man, with a body, to 'be in a place' without equivocating must mean for the body to be there, not for him to act and operate there." I'm a little confused here, because I was under the impression that Aquinas denies that Jesus Christ is spatially present in the Eucharist. For instance, he writes (S.T. III. 75, art. 1, reply to obj. 3): "Christ’s body is not in this sacrament in the same way as a body is in a place, its dimensions equal to the dimensions of the place it occupies."

      You also appear to suggest that the dimensive quantity is the accident of the bread which underlies all the other accidents, and you write that "in breaking the 'bread' we are not breaking Christ in two, (for Christ is impassible) but breaking the dimensive quantity - which is an accident of the bread." I have a couple of problems with this suggestion. First, it makes no sense to speak of a quantity reflecting light (which continues to occur after the consecration). That's like saying: "5 centimeters reflects visible light." It's a category mistake. Things reflect light, not quantities. Second, I can't get my head around the idea of breaking a quantity.

      I was thinking about annihilationism today, and a new difficulty occurred to me for the conversion theory. Supposedly, on the latter theory, one and the same act of Christ's is supposed to make His body present, and the substance of the bread no longer present. But necessarily, these are two separate acts. God's willing the former does not entail the latter, and vice versa. You suggest that "Christ takes over the substance of the bread as if he had digested it, but without the process." But "taking over" a substance does not entail that it is no longer present; God the Son, for instance, took over the human nature of Christ from the moment of His conception, but without destroying it.

      Aquinas' own solution, as far as I can tell, is that God wills that the bread change into Christ's body, and in so doing, wills both that Christ be present, and that the substance of the bread should no longer remain. But I still can't get my head around the idea of bread simply changing into Christ's body, tout court, with nothing carrying over from the bread. That way of talking sounds like magic to me.

      I'll let this be my final post on this thread, so you can have the last word.

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    28. Wow, that's uncommonly generous. Thank you.

      I won't add a lot. I don't claim to understand fully what Thomas means by saying Christ is present but not "in the same way as a body is in a place", but he himself clarifies some of it: "which by its dimensions is commensurate with the place", and yet "but that Christ's body is here after a fashion proper to this sacrament". So, I take it that he is saying that Christ is not bodily present in the SAME way that a body ordinarily is, that is in the way that its quantity is "commensurate with" the place, but is still present in some sense AS BODY, just not in the ordinary way commensurate with place. The "fashion proper to this sacrament" does little positively to enlighten, but tells us to subtract out from the manner of his presence anything that is metaphysically offensive to the sacrament of his presence, body and blood. So: his body is THERE, but via a supernatural causality that disregards the usual concomitant of body, dimensive extension.

      I grant you none of this is, as such, a counter-proof for your thesis of "action". It's just answering objections.

      But "taking over" a substance does not entail that it is no longer present; God the Son, for instance, took over the human nature of Christ from the moment of His conception, but without destroying it.

      Well, I didn't mean "take over" in just any sense, but in the sense in which our body bodily takes over the substance of bread or meat, so that the matter becomes OUR matter. Which also answers the objection of the 2 actions: when we digest food, we do not formmally speaking expel the former substance as one action and then as a separate action absorb it into us as our substance, the one action of making the food our own body is what eradicates the former substantial form of the food.

      I have a couple of problems with this suggestion. First, it makes no sense to speak of a quantity reflecting light... That's like saying: "5 centimeters reflects visible light." It's a category mistake.

      It does seem like that, at first. I would simply refer you to Aristotle and Thomas's account of quantity as being a prior accident to the qualities of color etc. They posit that color as an accident is dependent on dimensive quantity though that too is an accident. One can see the point: a thing cannot have the color green without its greenness be extended over some positive dimension. One way to say that is to say that the color rests on the dimensive quantity as inhering in itt.
      Normally, of course, both of the accidents rest in a subject that is a substance; given that Thomas rejects this for the bread's accidents, all he is pointing out is that the bread's color can STILL reside with respect to its dimensive quantity, since we all agree that the bread's APPEARANCE remains the same size after the event. The point isn't fundamental, it is more of a filler for added details that "work" once you accept the basic point.

      I admit that I only partially grasp all that Thomas says, and so I am not the ideal defender of his thesis. Given the topic, we can all be cautious about asserting too much too definitely. I do not posit Thomas's position as if I were claiming that every bit of it were certain and definitive.

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  6. Ha, this is a clear instance of a "picture holding philosophers captive" and I believe that Wittgenstein correctly diagnosed the problem in his Philosophical Investigations. Philosophers still think, even if implicitly, that language acquisition works roughly by ostension: we point to an object and give it a name; if there's no "object" to point at, there's nothing to be named.

    According to Hume, we can only directly "point at" our impressions, so that's what we're sure about. But can we really "point at" our impressions without having a "whole battery of concepts" (to borrow a term from Sellars)? As Wittgenstein notes, the ostensive picture of language learning only works for those who already know language (in the case of learning a second language, for example). It doesn't explain the *origin* of our concepts.

    For some reason, the same "picture" pops out in many areas of philosophy. For instance, in philosophy of language Russell defends that demonstratives ("this", "that") are the only referential terms (and they refer to sense data). In metaphysics, some philosophers defend a suprasensible realm of objects in order to make sense of our ordinary concepts (Meinong is a clear example and, according to some interpretations, Frege and Plato). I have no idea why is this picture so prevalent though.

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    1. No one needs language to talk about things we can point to. We can always just point to them. "It is raining. I am wet." Well, dude, we already know that. We need language to talk about relationships among things. "If we build a lean-to, we could be dry even when it is raining -- tomorrow and any other days when it might rain." We need words like if, could, when, tomorrow, might, and a lean-to that does not yet exist.

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    2. TOF, I don't think that account is enough. You can point to the rain, but the presence of the rain, or even pointing to it, is not enough to indicate whether you mean the stuff itself, its wetness, or its transparency, or its movement, or its shininess, etc. As Prof. Feser has pointed out many times, things like pointing to it are not anywhere near determinate enough to convey the fullness of the thought. (Even aside from the additional aspects captured with if, could, when, tomorrow, etc.)

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  7. Once our host finishes his books on philosophy of nature and sexual morality(?), it might be nice to have a book specifically on Hume and the problems with his philsophy. A clear concise summary, perhaps something like his book on Locke.

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  8. I think Hume is liked because he was rejecting christianity and even God. This, in the old days, right away discredited you intellectually. So they see Hume as making disbelief as just a other belief..

    The thing wrong in all these things, as I see it, is that WE(as a soul) truly are seeing the real world as it really is.
    God really did give us this ability. its not a invention.
    What we(souyls) observe is our memory. All senses got straight into the memory and we WATCH the memory.
    that simple. So indeed we never see anything in the universe but we see a recording which is accurate.
    Evidence for this is optical illusions. They prove we don't see anything, like looking out of a window, but only watch a recording. the optical illusion being a special case of editing out trivial details. The editing domne by the memory.

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  9. newbie here, this is maybe a dumb question, but what does mind-independent objects mean?

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    1. ^forget that i asked, i just figured it out.

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    2. Anonymous, for everyone except someone whose name begins with a D and ends with an S, it means "not mind-dependent", where "mind dependent" means "exists only to the extent some other natural mind thinks of it. Or, to put it more philosophically, something exists mind-independently if it exists not solely as an object or act of thinking of a natural thinking mind.

      Since no object exists in any sense but that God knows of it, no theist could claim that there were any objects that existed without being the object of God's mind. The meaning of the terms mind-dependent and mind-independent, therefore, exclude consideration of God's mind in the concept. Generically it is used in reference to human minds.

      The point of the distinction is to note a difference like the distinction between real relations and rational relations. A real relation is a relation that holds whether a natural mind considers it or not: my son is really 'son' to me even if every human person is asleep or unconscious or even dead. However, a 'rational relation', or 'relation of reason' or 'logical relation' is a mental construct, having no actual existence other that in the natural mind thinking it (even though it is based on what exists without reference to the natural mind that is thinking it). St. Thomas:

      Nevertheless it is necessary to know that since relation has two extremes, it happens in three ways that a relation is real or logical. Sometimes from both extremes it is an idea only, as when mutual order or habitude can only go between things in the apprehension of reason; as when we say a thing "the same as itself." For reason apprehending one thing twice regards it as two; thus it apprehends a certain habitude of a thing to itself. And the same applies to relations between "being" and "non-being" formed by reason, apprehending "non-being" as an extreme. The same is true of relations that follow upon an act of reason, as genus and species, and the like.

      A thing is not in reality related to itself, but the mind can posit a kind of relation of "sameness" in virtue of conceiving the same thing in two mental acts, such as conceiving a single square as "the rectangle that has equal sides 4 feet long" and also as "the regular 4-sided figure figure that covers 16 square feet."

      The 'sameness' is in the reason in virtue of the multiplicity of the mental acts. There are mentally (or logically) distinct terms, because the thought "rectangle with equal sides of 4 feet" is a distinct thought from regular figure which covers 16 square feet" - these thoughts are distinct terms of mental acts. There is no relation "sameness" that inhabits the actual square, for real relation requires really distinct terms

      There is no saying what relations might be in the mind of the person excluded in the first sentence, for it is like Nomad's definition of one half of humanity: a mass of conflicting impulses. From self-contradictory statements anything might 'follow'.

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    3. Tony, didn't Duns Scotus believe objects were mind-indepentant?

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    4. !!! Way to go on looking for loopholes and counterexamples, George! Very impressive. Almost, anyway.

      Actually, the first sentence was not intended as a universal. The last paragraph further qualifies and contextualizes the first sentence. The use of the definite article narrowed the reference to one individual.

      The definite article is the word the. It limits the meaning of a noun to one particular thing. For example, your friend might ask, “Are you going to the party this weekend?” The definite article tells you that your friend is referring to a specific party that both of you know about.

      https://www.grammarly.com/blog/articles/

      At least, that's my story. :-)

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    5. @Tony
      thank you for that post, it was really helpful.

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  10. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.in/2017/05/catholic-herald-on-capital-punishment.html?showComment=1497867485537#c4096905771300511938

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