Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Biology, forms, and natural law

I've been reading up on Aristotelian forms, and I think I now understand them much better than before. In brief, forms are the processes that a thing undergoes as a part of being what that thing is. This has some interesting consequences for Aristotelian metaphysics, from what I can tell. For one thing, it pretty much ends the notion of natural law, because there is no sort of being to which a natural law could apply, and even if there were, there is no overall good to which natural law can appeal. More details below the fold.

The first point, that there is no being to which natural law could apply, is based in this notion:
No thing can be a mereological sum of other things. A heap of sand, then, is not a thing, for it is nothing but the mereological sum of the grains of sand. Whether the grains of sand are things or not is a more difficult question.
It’s actually not a difficult question. The grains themselves are composed of molecules, and the molecules are composed of physically separated items like electrons and protons, each acting according to its own form. However, there is no question of an electron behaving morally. Under Aristotelianism, every electron behaves according to its own form perfectly. There are no imperfect electrons. Since any larger object is the mereological sum of the various subatomic particles, with the apparent unity being the sum of the behaviors of the individual particles, every larger object will act according to the sum of the respective forms. Thus every action is in concord with the mereological sum of the forms, and there is no non-good action. That means all actions are in accord with natural law, rendering it moot.

As for the second point, let's say for the moment biological organisms actually were things, because we allowed certain sums of subatomic things to be things in their own right, and these included biological organisms. Then, it turns out every biological organism is a thing with its own unique form. For example, my form is certainly different than my mother's, since my natural processes have made me male and she was female. My form is also different from my father's since his natural processes made his hair red, and then (opaque) white, while mine has been brown, and is slowly going translucent. So, when people talk about the form of a dog in the general, it turns out there is no such thing. Every dog has its own form, and every person has their own form. Rather, we can talk about common characteristics of dogs, or humans, but no some or subset of these characteristics is the form of a dog, or a human. Natural law claims depend upon the use of something being consistent with its purpose, which purpose is deduced from its form, but since every form is different, there is no barrier for the proper use of the penis on one man being different from the proper use of the penis in another man. Hence, the use of the penis in a homosexual relationship by homosexuals is in fact moral. Actually, since the form changes from person to person, and every person acts according to the processes that make up that person, even child molesters are following the dictates of their forms. Natural law is reduced to acknowledging every action as moral.

26 comments:

BeingItself said...

I think your analysis is correct.

As soon as you bring physics to bear, natural law theory is rendered useless. Unfortunately, most apostles of natural law theory, such as Edward Feser, operate with a naive folk understanding of physics. Of course he would claim that no scientific finding could possibly undermine his arguments. At which point he should be ignored.

One Brow said...

BeingItself,

Thank you for your kind words.

Well, I agree with Feser in a sense. No scientiic finding can undermine a determination made in a formal system like metaphysics or mathematics. The standards of evidence and the processes used to arrive at truths are completely different.

That said, I can construct a formal system which says every person on earth needs to duch their head at noon every day or be consumed by dragonfire from the moon, and that system will also not be underminable by scientific findings. What's more important is whether the results of that system make a useful model of reality. I don't think anyone will be ducking their heads at noon to avoid dragonfire. Similarly, basing decisions on Scholastic metaphysics is not useful.

J said...

Interesting and rather..unique account of the scholastic Form, OB--though I sort of doubt catholics would agree.

The universal-particular discussion still interests me, slightly. Individual cats may be all different --but there is a cat form..Felines, including both house cats and mtn. lions. . Thus the bio. taxonomy itself expresses a universal of sorts--however obvious. And given cat DNA ...any offspring will be... an instantiation of a cat (tho' with occasional mutations--a cow with two heads!! and the pagan would freak, sacrifice slaves, etc). To the ancients even that low-level of organic Order seemed...religious--Design, if you will, above the mere mechanical or atomistic. I don't defend the likes of Feser but ....there are subtleties to the Aristotelian tradition which many reductionists don't quite get (tho IMHE it's hindu-like--polydeistic-- in a sense rather than ordinary ..judeo-christianity).

One Brow said...

J said...
The universal-particular discussion still interests me, slightly. Individual cats may be all different --but there is a cat form.

Naturally, if form is defined differently, you can get this result. However, if the form of a cat is truly the combination of the various processes of that cat and their interactions, then there is no proper form of all cats, just a collection of similar forms that we identify by the description "cat".

Now, I don't expect Aristotelians to be consistent with this, and even if they were, perhaps there is still more to form than I currently understand. Either way, I am not arguing that your depiction of the form of Cat matches Feser's depection and that of many other Aristotelians. However, it does not match the metaphysics.

...there are subtleties to the Aristotelian tradition which many reductionists don't quite get (tho IMHE it's hindu-like--polydeistic-- in a sense rather than ordinary ..judeo-christianity).

I find the JWs beliefs on the soul are an interesting fit to Aristotelianism.

I agree reductionism should be a tool, not a philosophy.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Note Pruss's emphasis on "lawgiver", as like residing (somehow) in the Form itself--the flower example Callias. That's sort of what I mean ..by hindu-ish. Pagan idolatry! The Aristotelians thought that ..Mind itself was present in substantia: the universal is embodied in the particular (rather than the platonic abstractions--ie classes, sets, Forms, apart from it) . Pruss's natural lawgivers are..like the DNA-code itself

One can understand that somewhat--the Stagirite was trying to account for cause, motion, and the Order that the material world presents (organic matter especially IMHE--acorns to oaks, eggs to hens etc) rther than just accept the Humean observation..well eggs seem to do this most of the time .

However , early on scholars noted the..mish mash of Ari's Categories and metaphysics--Ockham had already cut out the final causes, and other muck . Kant thought the system a grand dream of sorts, but rather arbitrary...ad hoc. AS a speculation, it's interesting--as dogma, rather cluttered and unnecessary.. Besides assuming lawgivers reside in a iris or rose bush ...then lawgivers reside in a great white shark? Wouldn't there be a Lawgiver who..negotiates between the various forms..ie humans and..locusts, or wheat?? The Stagirite can't really escape resorting to abstraction, ie universals/classes (even if mind made). So In that sense I oppose Feiser or Pruss's scholastic nostalgia trip

James said...

To be honest I am insufficiently acquainted with the relevant literature to respond to your points. But I nevertheless feel it appropriate to point out that a key premise — that “any object” larger than an electron just is “the mere[o]logical sum of the various subatomic particles” — will confront disagreement incommensurate with the attention given to it in your post.

Regardless, no dog in this fight for me, so take from that what you will. I understand Koslicki’s The Structure of Objects to be of some relevance here with respect to Aristotelian mereology.

One Brow said...

James,

Thank you for the spelling correction, I have edited the post.

Personally, since every grain in a heap of sand interacts with every other (gravitationally, if in no other way), I also tend to disagree with the idea the construct where objects are just mereological sums is a useful way to look at the world most of the time. I'm still learning, this is part of the process.

J said...

As Pruss suggests, Aristotelians wanted to say something like ...Form is unique. It was an ...organic conception (as Hegel knew), not strictly atomic (ie, the early atomists were suspect)

A thing like a cat or human is not just carbon-based molecules--it's more than the sum of the parts. With a heap of sand, or a pile of say flathead screws-- that does seem to be just a sum: mereology is really sort of set theory. So take away from a set of screws, grains of sand,integers--no big deal. Take away ... a cats head, though--no more cat. Remove a person's heart, no more person. A heart, or head are part of a mammal's essence. So I wd say most of the objects (ie bio-chemical) that the classic Aristotelians examined were not mereological,but ..organic (whether Pruss would agree or not).

One Brow said...

J,

The difference is degree more than clear distinction. You can climb a pile of sand, or use a pile of screws as a counter-weight, both of which require that the pile have a property not availableto any individual grain/screw.

People really like having the bright-line differences between mereological sums and a single united form, but those are constructs of our descriptions, not inherent pasts fo the natures of the objects themselves.

J said...

Mereological sums might have various properties but they are not things as humans or horses are.
The medical or biology dept. is not the math./compsci. department. As Ive said, I agree with you the Aristotelian schema is antiquated and has been greatly overthrown by modern bio-chemistry, but there remains a holistic conception which some reductionists don't quite grasp. Breeding racehorses, you want a certain type--fast, for one. Not merely for pulling plows. So there are.."laws of nature" in a sense, as much as Mendelian genetics suggests there are: you choose arabians, or...a Secretariat or Sea Biscuit for a daddy. Probability still an issue -at times you don't get a prize racehorse. Maybe you even get a nag,or...deformity. But you don't get...a hummingbird, or a rosebush. Pretty obvious. But in a sense, Mendel does seem...rather Aristotelian--the final cause of the mating will be a foal,and then a horse (or rather Ari.and his school had a conceptual grasp of inheritance, but with little or no empirical support). So in that sense, it's not merely a construct,but like..Real, part of "nature". Fairly obvious, again--is it sufficient to show... Design?? well..... great white sharks are breeding, as are ..plagues, predators,insects. As a ...philosophical speculation Design may not be totally evil--and why do horses exist anyway>>__ but should not replace the usual bio.curriculum.

Humeans might say well, it just seems orderly but it's happenstance, arbitrary, etc. The classic Aristotelian view however was that horsebreeding was....natural law, not random--the Form is not merely what humans say (language issues aside), but ..part of what Nature says. Which is to say, the Humeans and constructivists seem weirder, in a sense.

Josh said...

I don't know where to put this, so I'll just set it here:

One Brow,

I enjoy civil philosophical inquiry as much as any man, so thanks to you as well. Now, in order:

there are no absolutely true propositions regarding the reality of universals that I can have seen.

If you mean by "absolutely true" "self-evident," then perhaps I would agree. If you mean "necessarily true," then perhaps you could pick out one of the arguments in TLS pp.42-44 (Hardcover) and show what premise doesn't follow necessarily. Or pick out a particular premise that you think is false. Discussion is a lot more fruitful with concrete examples.

Logics are like hammers, and classical logic is like a specific hammer (say a steel-shafted, steel-head with a claw).

Here's the distinction; what I'm referring to is Logic with a capital L, which governs all rational thought, and is the most general, which makes it the proper object of study for Philosophy. It is the Logic/Metaphysics that is presupposed in the making of the little logics that you refer to (hammers). All of them presuppose the truth of the "laws of Being" even though their forms can become varied afterwards. And to say that there is no such Logic, is to deny the ability to Reason, and I would have to follow the Scholastic principle that "with someone denying the first principles, don't dispute," because argument would be futile.

In what way is "what it is to be a triangle" not dictated by the definition of a triangle? Is the definition of a triangle an independently existing concept? Because if it is dictated by the definition, and definitions are provided by men, how does our choice of the definition not play a part in what qualifies in the concept of triangle? I don't see where the separation occurs, for you.

The important distinguishing mark between us here is that I believe we discover what a triangle is, as opposed to us giving existence to it merely by naming it and describing it. It's simply the difference between the conceptualist/realist view: does reality dictate to us, or do we dictate to reality?

He's got some 300 posts. Do yo have a specific post (or set of posts) in mind?

I was thinking of the most recent TOF posts, "The Product of Conception," and "Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice," where he discusses human/animal distinctions.

He said the universal is the same even though the image is different. If the universal is more than just a categorization, I missed what the "more" was in his response.

Right, a universal is a categorization of the many into the one, and we are inquiring as to the ontology of the "one," and where the "one" exists: in the object, in our minds, nowhere, or some combination. It is "more" because we think, as realists, that the universal is real, that's all.

Concepts as defined aren't simply our mental images because we would say mental images are particulars, and call them percepts (when we are in the presence of an object, directly perceiving it) and phantasms (old term; when one is remembering an object). Those belong to subjective experience, as in your red/crimson fire truck example. The concept is formed when the intellect abstracts from the percept by "stripping away" particulars to get at forms or essences, which enables us to speak meaningfully about classes.

So, in making that distinction, one can see why the fire truck example was attacking the wrong notion of concept/universal.

September 10, 2011 1:30 PM

Josh said...

One Brow, Cont.

For Feser, as far as I can tell, the Pythagorean theorm is an unshakable truth in reality (he certainly seemed to use it as such in his book). For me, it's an approximation, and there is no situation where is actually true.

Feser would of course agree that the particular instantiation of a universal is an "approximation" of sorts:

"...Every particular physical or material triangle--the sort of triangle we know through the senses, and indeed the only sort we can know through the senses--is always going to have features that are simply not part of the essence or nature of triangularity per se, and is always going to lack features that are part of the essence or nature of triangularity. --TLS, p.33

In applied mathematics, the application of the Pythagorean theorem will always yield approximations, as you note with the carpenters example. But take note of what you said next:

the Pythagorean Theorm requires a curvature of 0

This statement presupposes that we actually do have the same concept of the Pythagorean Theorem, because you are appealing to the exact universal nature of it in its definition, which I understand exactly the same way you do. Even though there is no instantiation of a right triangle in Nature, there is in our minds, in a concept; a form. And the PT holds true in describing the relationship between those forms.

September 10, 2011 1:31 PM

J said...

thats the platonic conception (more or less)---It may seem like universals--math. identities, a perfect circle, Justice,etc--float in some abstract space, apart from the individual mind..but that's how our brains work--there are visual/imaging aspects to thinking (as Wm James knew). The naive platonist often forgets that...mathematics was used for centuries before it was systematized--. I don't think we must accept that Euclid or the pythagorean theorem--or multivariable calculus for that matter--proves transcendent Mind, at least not prima facie. s (though it may reveal...conceptual power of a sort ...anyway, after a tough day of drone-tech, engineers and techies ..go out for lunch . stomachs are part of the human Form along with brains). The Aristotelian school was more or less empiricist and, however anachronistic, reacted against the platonic ghosts,really.

Josh said...

One Brow,

I see the formatting tags got removed from my copypasta on accident, but I trust you'll remember where I was quoting you and where my responses start. And just to clarify I'm not pushing Platonic Realism; I believe that the universal exists potentially in individual things and actually in the mind as a concept.

One Brow said...

Josh,

No worries, I remeber which words were mine.

I may have a response tomorrow.

One Brow said...

Josh said...
If you mean by "absolutely true" "self-evident," then perhaps I would agree. If you mean "necessarily true," then perhaps you could pick out one of the arguments in TLS pp.42-44 (Hardcover) and show what premise doesn't follow necessarily. Or pick out a particular premise that you think is false. Discussion is a lot more fruitful with concrete examples.

As I mentioned in another thread, I'll have to get Feser's book from the library again, unless you are referring to something I've covered in my review.

It is the Logic/Metaphysics that is presupposed in the making of the little logics that you refer to (hammers).

So, when you said: "And I understand that you seem to think logic, like mathematics, is simply a tool that can change its nature to fit whatever task we put it to. That's fine too, though I disagree.", you thought I was referring to the general use of logic to make arguments, and not the indivduals logics that can be employed? Then you will likely be happy to hear my correction. I fully endorse the use of generally logical principals (aka Logic) in the creation of a metaphysical system. Of course, the system will look different when different logics are used, which is the point I was reaching for.

All of them presuppose the truth of the "laws of Being" even though their forms can become varied afterwards.

Technically, I separate a logic from any laws of being put forth in a metaphysical system. A logic is a calculus. It is the method we use to derive true statements from other true statements. It contains no laws of being in itself. there are probably some laws of being that are difficult to formulate in some logics, but overall, the selection of logic and the selection of laws of being will be independent.

The important distinguishing mark between us here is that I believe we discover what a triangle is, as opposed to us giving existence to it merely by naming it and describing it. It's simply the difference between the conceptualist/realist view: does reality dictate to us, or do we dictate to reality?

Which of those is supposed to be conceptualism, and which realism? Is reality supposed to change concepts, or concepts supposed to make a change external to the mind/brain? As I understand realism and conceptualism (and for that matter nominalism), none of them posit the mind altering reality.

Thank you for the rcommendations from TheOFloin's blog.

One Brow said...

Right, a universal is a categorization of the many into the one, and we are inquiring as to the ontology of the "one," and where the "one" exists: in the object, in our minds, nowhere, or some combination. It is "more" because we think, as realists, that the universal is real, that's all.

Part of my issue is the foundation in this idea is something as ephemeral as a categorization. Categories are dependent on a mind doing the categorization, they are what we use to simplify, predict, and explain. We can categorize books as being red or blue, but we can also use broader categories (such as warm-colored and cool-colored) to divide them up the exact same way. Are "warm-colored" and "cool-colored" universals? Do universals then have heirarchies of belonging?

The concept is formed when the intellect abstracts from the percept by "stripping away" particulars to get at forms or essences, which enables us to speak meaningfully about classes.

Is there any non-arbitrary manner in which the stripping is done? or, does the choice of universal being stripped to depend entirely on the wishes of the person doing the stripping?

Feser would of course agree that the particular instantiation of a universal is an "approximation" of sorts:

True. Is the Phythagorean Theorem a universal? Or, are you saying it is a theorm about universals only?

This statement presupposes that we actually do have the same concept of the Pythagorean Theorem, because you are appealing to the exact universal nature of it in its definition, which I understand exactly the same way you do.

Actually, it only requires that the universal to which I refer and the universal to which you refer overlap or are sufficiently similar that we can talk about it productively.

Even though there is no instantiation of a right triangle in Nature, there is in our minds, in a concept; a form. And the PT holds true in describing the relationship between those forms.

I agree there is a concept. Does every concept rise to the level of a form? Something I asked Mr. Green: does objects participate in multiple forms? I am a human, therefore an ape, therefore a mammal? Are those three distict forms that I participate in? If so, do I not participate in a number of forms forms without limit?

As for saying the PT holds true for the concept, the concept has already been defined in such a way this must be true. I agree. that's the nature of formal systems. Their deductions are always true within the system.

Josh said...

One post 1:

I believe we agree then on Logic and the laws of Being being external to Logic, as they are the first principles of Metaphysics. I'm fine there.

Which of those is supposed to be conceptualism, and which realism? Is reality supposed to change concepts, or concepts supposed to make a change external to the mind/brain? As I understand realism and conceptualism (and for that matter nominalism), none of them posit the mind altering reality.

What I meant by my comments was simply that in Realism we discover the universal, and thereby let our minds meet reality, with a mutual exchange. With Conceptualism (admittedly, crude forms), the mind is cut off from reality, because we only know the contents of our minds. And if we only know the contents of our minds, then our mind dictates reality. But I don't want to get off track, as that's a whole other ball of wax.

Josh said...

On post 2:

Your first questions are good. Perhaps this from Kreeft will clarify:

"A concept exists only privately, in an individual mind; a term is in the public domain. A term expresses objectively what is known subjectively in a concept; a concept is a person's subjective knowledge of the meaning of a term."

So, if you were to point to a red book and say, "that's a warm colored book," I would understand you to be using an ambiguous term to express a subjective concept. I would then ask, "what do you mean by 'warm-colored'?" (because it is an ambiguous term). If you are interested in meaningful communication, then you will seek to define the term,providing other universal concepts/terms, making it unambiguous. The better defined, the more intelligible the concept, which in turn makes the universal 'warm-colored' a meaningful object of thought. So, yes, they are universals.

Is there any non-arbitrary manner in which the stripping is done? or, does the choice of universal being stripped to depend entirely on the wishes of the person doing the stripping?

One can only abstract what is there to be abstracted; one can't squeeze blood from a stone. It's not arbitrary in that way.

Is the Phythagorean Theorem a universal? Or, are you saying it is a theorm about universals only?

The PT is a proposition which contains concepts in a logical relation to each other, but it also can be a concept in itself (as in 'PT' in my sentence here).

Actually, it only requires that the universal to which I refer and the universal to which you refer overlap or are sufficiently similar that we can talk about it productively.

You are correct; I should not have said exact. Our concepts need not be the exact same, but the terms do for there to be meaningful communication. (Kreeft above)

I agree there is a concept. Does every concept rise to the level of a form? Something I asked Mr. Green: does objects participate in multiple forms? I am a human, therefore an ape, therefore a mammal? Are those three distict forms that I participate in? If so, do I not participate in a number of forms forms without limit?

I'm not sure if one can use concept and form univocally; that would be a question for a pro Thomist. As to participating in forms without limit, I would simply ask, "Are there some things which you are not?"

As for saying the PT holds true for the concept, the concept has already been defined in such a way this must be true. I agree. that's the nature of formal systems. Their deductions are always true within the system.

I assume this is primarily where you and Feser would butt heads on universals; propositions such as the PT are not contingently true, according to him. (I'm sure you've done the 'X causes Y' is not 'X equals Y' do-si-do enough, and I purposefully did not entangle myself in the Great Mathematics Debate of Feserblog 2011)

J said...

It's the implications of logical-mathematical universals, or so-called universals that's at stake, metaphysically speaking. The pythagorean theorem (and many other math./logical entities) seems like a universal. But...is that to say it wasn't..mind made,formulated by humans?--floating in some space, independent of humans?? Not necessarily. Read Quine on this issue (in FALPOV, for one).

"...Every particular physical or material triangle--the sort of triangle we know through the senses, and indeed the only sort we can know through the senses--is always going to have features that are simply not part of the essence or nature of triangularity per se, and is always going to lack features that are part of the essence or nature of triangularity. --TLS, p.

Feser's usual...superficial discussion. Triangles were used centuries before Euclid (or philosophers came around)--and are directly related to vision. Blind men would not likely do geometry--you wouldn't hire them to build your house. Mathematics is a powerful tool--it's only later that philosophers turn it into a metaphysical reflection. Yet...the bridge--or rocket,etc-- is dependent as much on the steel as on the integrals. Both if you will..but the math has to work.

One Brow said...

What I meant by my comments was simply that in Realism we discover the universal, and thereby let our minds meet reality, with a mutual exchange. With Conceptualism (admittedly, crude forms), the mind is cut off from reality, because we only know the contents of our minds. And if we only know the contents of our minds, then our mind dictates reality. But I don't want to get off track, as that's a whole other ball of wax.

Are there versions of conceptualism where it is assumed we are dealing with reality, but specifically the parts accessible to our senses, and universal are combinations of real phenomena as transmitted through the sense filter and then shaped by the simplificaiton process in the brain? Because I'd have trouble buying into any system that didn't accout for all three in some fashion.

If you are interested in meaningful communication, then you will seek to define the term,providing other universal concepts/terms, making it unambiguous.

I was just reading an article (I assume you don't boycott Pharyngula) about differences in color perception based our language. Do they have different universals, based on their language? Do our universals become the ambiguous terms in the Himba culture?

One can only abstract what is there to be abstracted; one can't squeeze blood from a stone. It's not arbitrary in that way.

Very true. But while you cant squeeze blood from a stone, you can make small pieces of it, or build with it, in many different ways.

The PT is a proposition which contains concepts in a logical relation to each other, but it also can be a concept in itself (as in 'PT' in my sentence here).

I understand you see concepts like "line" and even "trinagle" as universals. How about the PT?

Our concepts need not be the exact same, but the terms do for there to be meaningful communication. (Kreeft above)

I agree.

I'm not sure if one can use concept and form univocally; that would be a question for a pro Thomist.

Do you self-categorize? If so, what would that category be, and how would it be different from "pro Thomist"?

As to participating in forms without limit, I would simply ask, "Are there some things which you are not?"

My apologies for the clumsy writing. The "without limit" referred to "number", not "forms". You could participant in an infinite number of forms while there could still be a larger infinity of forms you do not participate in.

I assume this is primarily where you and Feser would butt heads on universals;

One place, anyhow.

Josh said...

Are there versions of conceptualism where it is assumed we are dealing with reality, but specifically the parts accessible to our senses, and universal are combinations of real phenomena as transmitted through the sense filter and then shaped by the simplificaiton process in the brain?

Sounds like orthodox modern conceptualism to me, yet everything is material in that system, and one still must ask what the direct objects of consciousness are. Usually you still get people hopelessly trapped in their heads.

I was just reading an article (I assume you don't boycott Pharyngula) about differences in color perception based our language. Do they have different universals, based on their language? Do our universals become the ambiguous terms in the Himba culture?

I don't know what Pharyngula is, so I suppose not. Nothing in that story contradicts what I said, though, as if you'll go back to Kreeft one can see that the concepts one group of people has (especially the ones directly related to perception, like colors) can be formulated and divided in different cultures. And Kreeft's correct definitions are ironically evidenced by the very article you post: we are able to understand the differences between us and the Himbas, only because we understand the concepts and are able to relate each to common terms.

Very true. But while you cant squeeze blood from a stone, you can make small pieces of it, or build with it, in many different ways.

Certainly!

I understand you see concepts like "line" and even "trinagle" as universals. How about the PT?

I can see the PT being used as a concept, and as an abstraction, so I'm not really sure it can be used as anything but universal. What is a concrete, particular PT?

Do you self-categorize? If so, what would that category be, and how would it be different from "pro Thomist"?

I should have been clearer; I meant "professional" not "for" as in supporting. The scholastic subtleties are a bit beyond my ken as of yet, and I wouldn't want to consciously spread misinformation.

You could participant in an infinite number of forms while there could still be a larger infinity of forms you do not participate in.

Does this go hand in hand with the standard objection that the act and potency distinction is illusory, as one could potentially be an infinite number of things?

One Brow said...

Josh said...
Sounds like orthodox modern conceptualism to me,

Darn it! I much prefer being heterodox! :)

yet everything is material in that system, and one still must ask what the direct objects of consciousness are. Usually you still get people hopelessly trapped in their heads.

Would "direct objects of consciousness" mean objects toward which intentionality is directed? If so, is it a requirement to choose between the object, the sense perceptions of is, and the brain's assemblage of those perceptions for any individual act of intention, or for all acts?

I don't know what Pharyngula is,

PZ Myers blog. Some regulars at Feser's blog seem less than fond of it.

Nothing in that story contradicts what I said, though, as if you'll go back to Kreeft one can see that the concepts one group of people has (especially the ones directly related to perception, like colors) can be formulated and divided in different cultures. And Kreeft's correct definitions are ironically evidenced by the very article you post: we are able to understand the differences between us and the Himbas, only because we understand the concepts and are able to relate each to common terms.

So, we and the Himba extract different universals from the same color palette?

I can see the PT being used as a concept, and as an abstraction, so I'm not really sure it can be used as anything but universal. What is a concrete, particular PT?

Every concept that is not concrete/particular is a universal?

Does this go hand in hand with the standard objection that the act and potency distinction is illusory, as one could potentially be an infinite number of things?

I don't think so. 1) I've never heard that objection. 2) I was seeking a clarification, not formulating an objection (at least, not yet :) ).

It seems to me that if one possessed an infinite number of forms, act and potency would still be operative as long as there was no dispute in the acts that would be incurred from some particular potency, and probably that it would impossible to instantiate two such contradictory forms in the first place. So, I think we can dispense with that particular standard objection.

Unless you want to convince me it has merit. Arguing against your own position is always an interesting exercise.

J said...

Right, a universal is a categorization of the many into the one, and we are inquiring as to the ontology of the "one," and where the "one" exists: in the object, in our minds, nowhere, or some combination. It is "more" because we think, as realists, that the universal is real, that's all

That's the platonist-realist view (not exactly the ancient metaphysician but say Frege,or early Russell, and others--). Feser's not a platonist. He's a thomist of sorts (well, lately--until 2002-03 he was a Lockean libertarian..or was it Randian). Thomists are not exactly the classical Aristotelians: for one, Thomists believe the universal exists in Gods mind (supposedly), as well as in the particular (nature), and human minds as well! (Someone mentioned this in Feser once--wasn't really addressed--)for if they don't agree the universal exists in God's mind (not saying I do) then they are....pagans, more or less. Wouldnt God have override rights on the causes?? (isnt that one of points of contingency?) So in a sense the thomist has a more bizarre system than it seems--where Ari. in the Metaphysics was AFAICT a more honest pagan, tho the whole system is rather murky--as Ockham & Co has realized early on .

OTOH I understand the platonist-realist impulse when like Frege discusses it(ie, avoiding psychologizing which conceptualism/nominalism does seem to lead to). Yet.... I don't think it holds, as in substance dualist sense

Josh said...

I'll have to table this discussion until I come back from Austin City Limits this weekend, so you'll have to take on the theists at another front!