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Exorcising Epistemology

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Two fantastic articles at Strange Notions in recent weeks have turned from the question of God to the question of the human self. In “Atheism and the Personal Pronoun,” Patrick Schultz explores what he calls a “doorstop” argument for the soul: under materialist atheism, we are mindless machines, but given that every one of us is inescapably a subjective “I,” materialist atheism looks false. In “Exorcizing the Ghost from the Machine,” Matthew Newland counters this argument by looking at brain-mind causality, naturalistic “emergence,” and split-brain research, concluding that the conscious mind may very well be a kind of “city” of proto-minds operating in unison. I find points of agreement in both pieces, but would like to reframe the question from a third perspective. (If nothing else, I hope this whole discussion is a reminder that there is room in the Catholic Church for vastly different conclusions on some very fundamental questions.)

There’s an old Irish joke that Richard Dawkins recounts as well as anyone in The God Delusion:

“A journalist, researching for an article on the complex political situation in Northern Ireland, was in a pub in a war-torn area of Belfast. One of his potential informants leaned over his pint of Guinness and suspiciously cross-examined the journalist: “Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?” the Irishman asked. "Neither," replied the journalist; “I'm an atheist.” The Irishman, not content with this answer, put a further question: “Ah, but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?”

The absurdity of the joke is that the Irishman is so entrenched in the local standoff that he can’t help but see a hapless outsider as belonging to one side or the other. As far as he’s concerned, there is no third option.

This is a perfect analogy for what has happened with modern philosophy of mind. Instead of Catholics and Protestants, we have rationalists and empiricists; instead of Jesus, our common reference point is Descartes. And instead of unbelievers, we have those who doubt the wisdom of the epistemological turn inaugurated with Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.”

That turn, like it or not, wields enormous influence on all of Western thought and culture, especially modern philosophy. On the continent, Descartes’ fellow rationalists were all hugely influenced by his epistemology, and though they came to different conclusions, all continued the angelic quest for the foundations of reason. Across the English Channel, the empiricists also put on the mantle of epistemology, but were skeptical about “innate ideas”, seeing in man only a bundle of sense perceptions. Kant, awoken from his “dogmatic slumber” by Hume’s skepticism, attempted to rectify these two traditions with his Critique of Pure Reason, catapulting us further into rarefied spiritual air with the German and British idealists – which, in turn, capitulated us into the logical positivism that has dominated the Anglo-American universities until just recently. Even today, most maneuvers and counter-maneuvers, from Chalmers’ p-zombies to Dennett’s Cartesian theater, are situated in the same contextual snare. Like quicksand, the more we wrestle with Cartesian notions of the self, the deeper he sinks us into the epistemological tradition—and round and round we go.

Schultz and Newland, too, both reference Descartes in their articles. Schultz, echoing Aquinas, notes that the soul is “an animating principle” of the body, but the analogy of emptied suits and the language of a brain “belonging” to a soul both conjure, however slightly, the shadow of Cartesian rationalism.

In reaction to this, Newland proposes to “exorcise” the “ghost from the machine” by exploring Whitehead’s empiricism, positing a bundle of “little minds” that emerges from its “environment, structure, and chemical reactions.” Newland mirrors the arc of empiricism in one other crucial way: the invocation of an Aristotelian “soul” feels redundant. What is this “soul” if not an unnecessary metaphysical tier tacked on to what’s already been broken down and explained? This seems to be the arc of naturalism from Locke to Dennett where our spiritual side is concerned: the effervescent “soul” becomes as wispy and feckless an appendage as a phantom limb. It seems cleaner and more efficient to just cut it off and move on.

These two systems, often in very subtle ways, tend to push us to one side or the other whenever we approach the self, dragging us into an endless tug-of-war over one and the same epistemological rope. Henri Bergson, in his Introduction to Metaphysics, sought a way out through the concept of intuition, arguing that the two traditions were “dupes of the same illusion,” both “equally powerless to reach the inner self.” Jacques Maritain, a young student at the Sorbonne, had been in suicidal despair over the positivist view of life until he sat in on Bergson’s lectures. Eventually, he and Étienne Gilson, another student of Bergson’s, initiated a twentieth century revival in Scholastic metaphysics, abandoning their master’s philosophy but continuing his attack on the Cartesian-Kantian bloodline.

This revolt was not some isolated French fashion. As Charles Taylor shows in his essay "Overcoming Epistemology", recent philosophy has seen a succession of attempts from both analytic and continental thinkers to get out from under the crushing weight of the epistemological tradition. There is the phenomenology of Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty (carried forward today by Jean-Luc Marion) and the existentialism which sprouted from it; there is the late turn in Wittgenstein’s thought away from logical analysis toward ordinary language; there is neopragmatist Richard Rorty’s hugely influential Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature published in 1979; and there is Taylor’s own book, Sources of the Self, which looks to the “moral sources”—cultural, historical, and religious as well as philosophical—that inform our modern notions of the self.

What that self finally is for each of these thinkers obviously varies greatly. But Taylor argues that what’s more important is what they have in common:

"We argue the inadequacy of the epistemological construal, and the necessity of a new conception, from what we show to be the indispensable conditions of there being anything like experience or awareness of the world in the first place. Just how to characterize this reality, whose conditions we are defining, can itself be a problem, of course…For all this extremely important shift in the center of gravity of what we take as the starting point, there is a continuity between Kant and Heidegger, Wittgenstein, or Merleau-Ponty. They all start from the intuition that this central phenomenon of experience, or the clearing, is not made intelligible on the epistemological construal, in either its empiricist or rationalist variants."

In other words, we need to step out of the stream of consciousness and out into the broader valley surrounding it. We need to, like the atheist in the Irish joke, proclaim our freedom from the provincial dilemma which creeps up in increasingly subtle ways. It’s not the Cartesian ghost we need to exorcise, but the epistemological séance that conjured it in the first place.

That reorientation of man back toward our being-in-the-world—one that simultaneously resists the perennial impulse toward reductionism—is well underway. We see, to use Bergson’s phrasing, an empiricism “worthy of the name” on the horizon, one which is “obliged to make an absolutely new effort for each object it studies.” Gilson’s formulation—with its eye squarely on the wisdom of classical philosophy—rings true for all of us, and is as good a place as any to start:

“Man is not a mind that thinks, but a being who knows other beings as true, who loves them as good, and who enjoys them as beautiful.”

(Image credit: Culture CPG)

Matthew Becklo

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Matthew Becklo is a husband and father-to-be, amateur philosopher, and cultural commentator at Aleteia and Word on Fire. His writing has been featured in First Things, The Dish, and Real Clear Religion.

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  • Phil

    Great essay, Matthew, proposing that their is a middle ground between materialism and dualism--which is best investigated by starting with metaphysics, not with epistemology. (This is exactly where I find myself when I place myself in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition.)

    • Or maybe by starting with a realist phenomenology?

      • Phil

        Hey Matthew--I think that's a great place to start! Obviously, the "realist" part has metaphysical assumptions preceding it, and I do think that phenomenology is definitely a better turn rather than focusing inwards; in regards to epistemology.

  • I think this all boils down to, yes, it feels like mind and body are separate. I would say we have no empirical evidence for a separate mind, much less a third division or soul. Other than, I suppose subjective reports that people will say it feels separate.

    • William Davis

      Any modern understanding of the "self" has to take clinical neurology into consideration. One of the best courses I've ever taken was "Your Deceptive Mind: a scientific Guide to Critical thinking Skills" by Steven Novella, a professor of Clinical Neurology at Yale school of Medicine.


      It's a bit pricey and the audio is all you need (there are likely alternative ways of getting in in the darker side of the net), but it drastically changed the way I looked at my "self" and I've grown tremendously in my "meta-cognitive" abilities ever since. Mindfulness is also incredibly useful for meta-cognition, or at least observing thoughts as something separate from the stream of consciousness itself. We can actually alter thinking through transcranial magnetic stimulation now, and the result can be very interesting. Here is a link on artificial induced out of body experiences, and another on how disease can change the "self". Clinical neurology is the study of how disease alters the mind. I practice a specific diet and exercise (including mindfulness) specifically designed to improve cognitive function and stave off potential diseases of the mind. The old adage "God helps those who helps themselves" comes to mind, of course this was from Ben Franklin, a deist.
      On I side note, myself and most scientifically minded people operate on a hybrid basis between empiricism and rationalism, but have important roles in understanding the world



      • Sure, I did an audiobook of Shermer's the believing brain which was pretty good.

        Personally, I am an empiricist in terms if epistemology.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        The mind can't be entirely deceived, otherwise Novella could not have written anything sensible about our deceptive minds. ;)

        • William Davis

          The mind can be entirely deceived, but we're talking schizophrenia and other severe disorders. The point of the lectures is to use methodoligical thinking as opposed to trusting your intuition. The primary focus is on scientific misinformation, pseudoscience, and how marketing techniques intentionally exploit cognitive flaws in the human brain. Confirmation bias is a big topic that comes up a lot for anyone, but again the focus is on scientists and doctors, people who need to find the truth as a part of their job (applies to me too, I'm an engineer). Mass delusions and magical thinking come up, these things have been repeatedly demonstrated as "biases" in experiments. It's very informative, you should check it. He leaves room for faith, but critiques attempt to call intelligent design and other fundamentalist non-sense science. These things inherently fall outside the bounds of methodological naturalism. I think you would agree with most of what he has to say.


    • William Davis

      I just realized the author of the course I mentioned has a blog, I'll have to check it out


      • Oh yes, the novella bros. and skeptics guide are excellent. Though Steven rarely engages in this kind of philosophical whatnot

        • William Davis

          True, the focus seems to be on scientists who stray from the methods of critical thinking. I think that mission is more important than worrying about religious believers. Science has is own forms of "heresy" though they are more about improper methods than improper ideas. Science as hypothesis testing seems to work very well, empiricism helps us "discover" new ideas we can test. The fact is we can't take the human brain out of the situation, we have to compensate for its inherent weaknesses when it comes to finding truth. The brain didn't exactly evolve to be a truth finding tool, no surprise there. The brain did evolve to want to be with your loved one's forever, I think this, combined with the need for establishing authority (i.e. God) explain religion pretty well. Religion itself has evolved, natural selection works on ideas and genes.

          • Papalinton

            "Religion itself has evolved, natural selection works on memes and genes." :o)

    • I hope that's not what it boils down to!

      • I don't see you articulating anything else in this piece.

        • Look at your original comment: "I think this all boils down to, yes, it feels like mind and body are separate. I would say we have no empirical evidence for a separate mind, much less a third division or soul." Or: "Ah, but you are a Catholic atheist, and from the Protestant side I find no evidence to support your superstitious nonbelief." It's actually solid evidence of just the kind of habitual (I'd even say addictive) bifurcation I'm talking about. You were so anxious to sharpshoot the Cartesian soul from the empirical side of the divide that you missed the entire article, which traced their common source and interdependence.

          • I'm sorry, I don't understand your comment. What am I bifurcating? What is the Cartesian soul? I don't see this explained anywhere in your piece.

  • Matthew Newland

    Oh, it looks like a major discussion is brewing. I will weigh in as soon as I have time ...

    • Please do, Matthew. Perhaps you'd like to say more about your emergentist stance.

      Some presume that emergence necessarily entails concepts like physicalism (whether reductive or nonreductive) and supervenience. It seems to me, however, that distinctions like strong supervenience (weak emergence) and weak supervenience (strong emergence) remain, in the former case, trivial, and, in the latter, question begging.

      Plain vanilla emergence, however, speaks of unpredictable novelty, or that mereological "something more from nothing but." It not only brackets our ontologies of the emergent realities but also brackets our ontologies regarding reality's primitives. This is to say that one brings one own metaphysic or root metaphor to the emergentist heuristic.

      I bring this up because some seem to have gathered that you employ a nonreductive physicalist stance. I remain metaphysically realist but agnostic; my sneaking suspicions incline me toward a nonreductive physicalism. Of course, others place consciousness as a primitive alongside space, time, mass and energy, so may employ an emergent panpsychicism. Still others employ a root metaphor like experience or some social-relational account or even a panexperientialism.

      At any rate, the practical upshot of the emergentist stance remains a metaphysical bracketing, an epistemic humility, a "who the heck knows?" --- over against "decisions" that imagine they've somehow trumped ontological undecidability.

  • Loreen Lee

    I was up all night. Initially reflecting on the discussion I was invited to attend last evening, and then caught up in an explication of the work of Derrida that 'turned everything upside down'. (Even though I could, as usual, only relate to against what perhaps to others is a more solid understanding).
    Yes. I was involved in the project of understanding Post Modernism, when I made the decision to return to my roots as an alternative. It was 'nice' to meet up with Charles Taylor again. Enjoyed his work on Kant. Didn't read Rorty's 'Mirror' - thought I could make up my own mind as to which was the better course in life: i.e. whether or not to ignore God and concentrate primarily on not 'being cruel' to others. Was the 'higher purpose' indeed necessary.
    So I've been practicing my writing in these comment boxes, possibly primarily talking to myself. But that's OK.
    And a few weeks back I 'experimented' with the reductionist hypothesize, comparing the neurons in my brain to their Freudian psychological equivalents- the gods of the underworld, in an exercise that I now understand to be Structural Psychology, complete with all of the associative Humean nonsense of 'unintentional thought' - or is it?
    So where am I now - after reading this article. Well once, long ago now, I was most aware of a division in my self- something that I found in John Locke's philosophy, merely because of the subjectivity identified with my own awareness. But on reading this post I reflect on the fact which I cannot explain that I no longer 'feel' a division within my self. Although I can't explain how or what this could mean.
    In reading about Derrida, as far as I could understand there seemed to be a conception of God that reminded me of a memory of scripture - to loose one's 'self'. Is it possible that all of a person's attention could be directed towards the phenomenal world, without intentional thought, simply attuned to an awareness of each moment as it came?
    The piece ended with the counsel to seek truth, beauty, and goodness 'outside of oneself' as I understood it. Had such advice been considered in my youth, it is possible that it could have, or perhaps did lead to some self-compromising, if I can use that word, consequences. Just a flashback here.
    I want before I end this comment, to thank the people at EN, for directing me to seriously consider the possibility that my mind/brain is 'nothing but my neurons'. Especially, as now,l I no longer fear even the possibility of such a reality. I could question a lot of what was said in the article, i.e. that Heidegger for instance wanted to be an ontological philosopher rather than an epistemic one. But at the moment I feel that these are all words. Maybe ('ll got out for coffee. At the moment I feel I have come 'full circle'. Thanks for your patience.

    • I appreciate your philosophic "tensions" and find your added touches of personal sharing generous and disarming. None of us need to come into a discussion forum "loaded for bear" against others' philosophical and theological stances, as if there's a competition between ideas that necessarily could get thus adjudicated in some non-question-begging way (hat tip to Wittgenstein, n'est pas? and your ongoing plaintive plea that others give him a read?). Rather, we come as fellow sojourners, trading strategies to realize truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom. Thanks, Loreen.

      • Loreen Lee

        I have decided, since this post is online again, to delete my comment above. Hopefully, not many people find that I have encouraged them in any way to adopt any thesis or philosophy. I certainly do not consider myself, rightly so, as competent enough to be an academic. I have merely read philosophy for my own personal reasons. Again, I want to thank you for your comments, above. Keep up the good work!

  • Kevin Aldrich

    “Man is not a mind that thinks, but a being who knows other beings as true, who loves them as good, and who enjoys them as beautiful.”

    Those are awesome words which convey the greatness of hylemorphism.

    • David Nickol

      Those are awesome words which convey the greatness of hylemorphism.

      We used to sing the following hymn in Catholic grade school. Some may recognize the tune as very similar to Bring Flowers of the Rarest, Bring Flowers of the Fairest, the lyricist for which "borrowed" the tune.

      Oh, hylemorphism!
      Like light through a prism,
      Thy beauty surrounds us.
      We bask in thy glow!

      Let atheists tremble
      And madly dissemble.
      They cannot deny thee,
      Thus loudly we crow:

      Oh, hylemorphism, we crown thee today!
      To dualism all homage we pay!
      Oh, hylemorphism, we crown thee today!
      To dualism all homage we pay!

      Aquinas has told us
      That God has ensouled us.
      We cannot deny it
      Or doubt what it means.

      Despite contradiction
      We cling to the fiction
      That souls are not actually
      Ghosts in machines!

      Oh, hylemorphism, we crown thee today!
      To dualism all homage we pay!
      Oh, hylemorphism, we crown thee today!
      To dualism all homage we pay!

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Man is not a duality but, as the quote conveys, a being.

        It seems to me that a ghost in a machine who knows he is a ghost in a machine cannot possible be a ghost in a machine.

        • David Nickol

          It seems to me that a ghost in a machine who knows he is a ghost in a machine cannot possible be a ghost in a machine.

          It seems to me that a ghost in a machine who knows he is a ghost in a machine can't possibly be anything other than a ghost in a machine. Or is there some definition of knows that I am not aware of?

          Answer me this: Where is St. Francis of Assisi at the moment?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He is incomplete in heaven.

          • David Nickol

            He is incomplete in heaven.

            I know. He's missing his machine. But he seems to function very well without it. He can hear and answer prayers, or at least intercede with God to have the prayers answered.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I misunderstood what you meant by "ghost in a machine," thinking it referred to us having the illusion that we are persons, whereas there is nothing up there but neural firings.

            I still find your concept repugnant. The body is integral. The body expresses the mind and the mind is formed by the body. Whatever St. Francis is like now, a good deal of it is because of what he did with that body of his.

          • David Nickol

            I still find your concept repugnant.

            It is not my concept. It is the Catholic concept as it exists in everyday Catholic piety. Now, if you want to argue (like Johnboy Sylvest) that everyday Catholic piety is not really the official teaching of the Catholic Church, I guess that's okay with me. But what, exactly, do we make of something like the following?

            What does a Plenary Indulgence do for a soul in purgatory?
            Once the prayers and actions have been completed, the soul for whom the plenary indulgence was done for, gets instantly out of purgatory.

            Also on November 2nd. a plenary indulgence can be gained for a soul in purgatory by those who visit a church or chapel on All Soul’s Day with the prayers of 1 Our Father and the Creed. Only on this day you can repeat this as often as you want to gain more plenary indulgences for more souls. All other days only one plenary indulgence can be gained.

            Purgatory, whether conceived of as a place or a state, makes no sense if the soul in purgatory cannot fully serve as a stand-in for the human person whose soul it is.

            1030 All who die in God's grace and
            friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

            1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. . . .

            This "purification" takes place after death, but before the resurrection of the body. If Abraham's soul is not, strictly speaking, Abraham, nevertheless Abraham's soul undergoes a purification in purgatory which must be fully applicable to Abraham the human person, since Abraham's soul proceeds to heaven and awaits the resurrection of the dead as one of the "elect." Consequently, even if Abraham's soul is not, strictly speaking, Abraham, the purification it goes through must be a purification fully attributable to Abraham the human person.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We must be speaking at cross purposes since I have no problem with the doctrine of purgatory. My problem is in seeing the body as a mere instrument or mechanism not integral to a human being. St. John Paul II said something like "I don't have a body. I am a body." I think he meant we are a body and a soul joined together, hence the goodness and beauty of hylemorphism.

          • I haven't suggested Catholic piety vis a vis eschatological realities is not the official teaching, only that fundamentalistic, literalistic interpretations of it are ignorant of the official teaching.

            These teachings are not grounded in natural theology, philosophical theology or metaphysics, as are the preambles to the faith, which begin in philosophy and reason toward the faith.

            These teachings are grounded, rather, from within the faith, after one has leapt in faith, in special revelation and tradition.

            They require only an assent to THAT this or that theological proposition is true, not a metaphysical demonstration of HOW. They employ metaphysical categories in a theology of nature as a lingua franca to foster an inchoate understanding but don't otherwise proceed using positivist and philosophic argumentation like, for example, the so-called god-proofs.

            The trans-physical reality of the self or person as a soul embodied by God's love does not beg for some Whiteheadian or Aristotelian interpretation, some philosophy of mind explication, or any robust physical, much less metaphysical description.

            Whatever philosophy of mind (dualist or physicalist) or theological anthropology (embodied or disembodied) one subscribes to, it neither entails nor is entailed by Catholic eschatology. The facile conflation of such concepts is awash in category errors.

          • Correct, in that last paragraph. Embodied soul, for one who integrally conceives personhood, is a redundancy, while disembodied soul would be an oxymoron. The distinction the Pope was driving at had to do with the nature (trans-physical or physical) of any embodiment, not the fact of whether or not body & soul were intrinsically not accidentally related, as their intrinsic relationship is presupposed.

      • William Davis

        You need to add a verse about Occam's razor slicing away the soul with glee ;)

    • That quotation comes from Gilson's "The Unity of Philosophical Experience" which I'm really enjoying. I also really recommend his book "Thomist Realism" which pits a realist ontology against the idealism and skepticism of the Cartesian turn and various attempt to pacify it.

  • David Nickol

    If nothing else, I hope this whole discussion is a reminder that there is room in the Catholic Church for vastly different conclusions on some very fundamental questions.

    Let me make it clear before saying anything else that I understood perhaps 5% of the OP and do not claim to have read Bergson, Maritain, Gilson, Taylor, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Marion, Rorty, Kant, or Wittgenstein. So take the following for what it's worth.

    It seems to me that, as with the doctrine of Original Sin putting some very serious restrictions on Catholics who want to account for human origins without having two "first parents," there are a host of firmly held Catholic beliefs that have to be accommodated in any notion of the self and the "soul." I am currently reading Physicalism, or Something Near Enough by Jaegwon Kim which I think Matthew Newland might be sympathetic with, but it seems to me that Patrick Schultz and "orthodox" Catholics are pretty much stuck with "the ghost in the machine, or something near enough." I don't see any other way to have a concept of the soul or the self in which the Catholic ideas about death ("when the soul leaves the body"), purgatory, prayers for the dead, prayers to the saints (and in fact the very idea of saints), the intercession of saints on behalf of the living, and so on. It seems to me all of these require some kind of "ghost" to leave the machine at the moment of death and operate as a person (or something very much like a person) until the resurrection of the dead.

    • William Davis

      Why not just be dead until the resurrection? You wouldn't know the difference, you're dead, lol. For all we ever really know, we're always alive.

      Besides, why can't God just create a new copy of you in heaven, it would be easy enough for an omnipotent being. I think we stray into magical thinking that is pretty common in humans. Take a child with a favorite toy, they won't take an exact copy as a replacement (though they will with other toys). The child believes there is some essence, like a soul, associated with that particular copy of the toy. In this case, we know it's all in their head, so why aren't souls an adult version of the same thing?

    • David, the Catholic piety you mentioned above doesn't rely on a "ghost" conception, although one might consider the distinctions, below, to meet your criteria of "near enough."

      The mind-body distinction (re: nature of consciousness) belongs to philosophy of mind.

      The body-soul distinction (re: human pesonhood) belongs to theological anthropology. It doesn't entail a particular philosophy of mind.

      The "intermediate state" distinction (re: afterlife realities) belongs to eschatological doctrine (re: "last" things). It entails neither a particular philosophy of mind nor a particular theological anthropology. It's distinct from the soul, gifted by God's love and mercy and not reliant on a particular metaphysical conception of the soul or it's intrinsic nature.

      Even those Catholic theologians, who affirm an intermediate state (some propose immediate resurrection), would reject body-soul dualism, because Catholic anthropology takes an integralist, holistic view of the person: anima unica forma corpus (i.e., the soul is the unifying principle of the body).

    • Phil

      David, you'll be happy to hear that Patrick Schultz is working on an essay to answer your main concern. Unfortunately, many took his first essay as promoting a type of dualism. In the end, he is definitely not a dualist, and he will be explaining why in his next feature!

      (Pat was looking to show that materialism throws out all subjectivity, which some took as him promoting a type of dualism. But dualism is not the only option to saving the subjectivity of the human person.)

      • David Nickol

        But dualism is not the only option to saving the subjectivity of the human person.

        But dualism, "or something near enough," appears to be necessary for those who accept Catholic teaching. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

        366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God—it is not "produced" by the parents—and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

        How can that be expressed in non-dualist terms?

        • Phil

          The middle ground is if we can't accept materialism and we can't accept dualism, this must mean that the immaterial and material actually exist as a single unified substance. This is what is called hylomorphism and was most famously proposed by Aristotle over 2300 years ago.

          In fact, from a hylomorphic view, all matter has an "immaterial" part to it. This is what is called "form". Obviously the "form" of a human is very different from the form of a rock.

          How can that be expressed in non-dualist terms?

          Great questions on the Catechism! Obviously God is creator and sustainer of all material creation. So at every moment God is underlying, and present to, everything that happens in the cosmos (it just so happens that he has given the human person's free will, and God's loves us so much as to respect it). So though the parents do the act that could lead to conception, they can't "infuse" soul into any living being (be it human or non-human life). So God is ultimately responsible for the unique soul that is connected to each individual person.

          In regards to death--we have reason to believe that there is part of the human that could outlive bodily death. But we must note that this existence is not "human" in the proper sense, as humans are spiritual material beings. This is why the resurrection of the bodies is so key. And the resurrection of Jesus is the archetype. God the Father wishes to raise us all up in the manner that he did with his only Son, Jesus. So the end, the goal, of the human person is to be raised in ones Resurrected body, in union with God for all eternity!

          Aquinas then said that if there was any "time" between death and the Resurrection of the Body, that the human person would exist, but only in a manner that is slightly less than human--since s/he didn't have a body yet.

          • Well put, Phil. Here are some citations that are consistent with your account:

            27. This truth has not always received the attention it deserves. Present-day theology is striving to overcome the influence of dualistic anthropologies that locate the imago Dei exclusively with reference to the spiritual aspect of human nature. Partly under the influence first of Platonic and later of Cartesian dualistic anthropologies, Christian theology itself tended to identify the imago Dei in human beings with what is the most specific characteristic of human nature, viz., mind or spirit. The recovery both of elements of biblical anthropology and of aspects of the Thomistic synthesis has contributed to the effort in important ways.

            28. The view that bodiliness is essential to personal identity is fundamental, even if not explicitly thematized, in the witness of Christian revelation. Biblical anthropology excludes mind-body dualism. It speaks of man as a whole. Among the basic Hebrew terms for man used in the Old Testament, nèfèš means the life of a concrete person who is alive (Gen 9:4; Lev 24:17-18; Proverbs 8:35). But man does not have a nèfèš; he is a nèfèš (Gen 2:7; Lev 17:10). Basar refers to the flesh of animals and of men, and sometimes the body as a whole (Lev 4:11; 26:29). Again, one does not have a basar, but is a basar. The New Testament term sarx (flesh) can denote the material corporality of man (2 Cor 12:7), but on the other hand also the whole person (Rom 8:6). Another Greek term, soma (body) refers to the whole man with emphasis on his outward manifestation. Here too man does not have his body, but is his body. Biblical anthropology clearly presupposes the unity of man, and understands bodiliness to be essential to personal identity.


            From Pope Benedict:

            >>> Ratzinger reviews the teaching of the Church on human immortality. There was no clear guidance from patristic sources on what human immortality — especially in the intermediate state, but also in a resurrected body — actually meant. There was a strain of thought in the patristic period strongly influenced by Platonism in which the soul was treated almost like a “ghost in a machine” with a strong sense of the body/soul dichotomy. This Hellenistic attitude based immortality of the soul on something innate to the human person and separate from the “mortal” body. Ratzinger points out several theological problems with this and shows how they could be circumvented by St. Thomas Aqui­nas’s brilliant solution to the question based on Ar­istot­le’s notion of eternal forms as being preserved within real objects and not as members of an unchanging alternate realm. St. Thomas’s new anthropology could be summed up as anima unica forma corpus (i.e., the soul is the unifying principle of the body), and did justice to the original Hebrew understanding of man as an irreducible and integral whole.

            The intermediate state is no longer seen as the immortal soul returning to spiritual fellowship with God. Rather, it is God knowing each of us and remembering everything about us in preparation for returning each human being to full bodily life at the general resurrection. It is God’s individual love for us that grants each of us temporary life with Him apart from our bodies. <<<


          • David Nickol

            The intermediate state is no longer seen as the immortal soul returning to spiritual fellowship with God. Rather, it is God knowing each of us and remembering everything about us in preparation for returning each human being to full bodily life at the general resurrection.

            So St. Francis of Assisi is not in heaven as a disembodied soul, but rather he exists in God's memory and will be reconstituted as an embodied soul at the end of time (the resurrection of the dead).

            How do we reconceptualize something like the following?

            956 The intercession of the saints. "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."

            If the saints are currently memories in the mind of God, does it make any sense to pray to them? Can they intercede with God on our behalf? I am more than willing to give up the idea that when people die they go to purgatory, then heaven, listen to our prayers, intercede with God on our behalf, and sing along with the heavenly choirs enjoying the beautific vision as they await the resurrection of the dead. But it seems to me it is asking a lot of "orthodox," Strange Notion Catholics to give all of that up as not "official" Church teaching.

          • Because the soul relates to the body --- not accidentally, but --- intrinsically, one might better conceive it as an act or a verb rather than a structure or noun. As a personal force, it dynamically informs a body gifting personal identity.

            What Pope Benedict was saying is that it's nothing indestructible in this personal force, in and of itself, that realizes immortality but the being drawn, dialogically, into God that gifts its life. This seems to me to be very like the notion of creatio continua, which some take to mean that any or all of us, anything or everything, would cease to exist, even now, should God quit "thinking" about us. 

            In Greek, "soma" not only means "sarx" or corporeal physicality but also can refer to "self" or spirit or "breath."

            Using these distinctions, one might reconcile Karl Rahner's thinking with Pope Benedict's. An intermediate state would necessarily entail an embodied soul, whereby a person would enjoy a trans-physical selfhood with a spiritual but not physical body. The final resurrection would entail what Rahner called a pancosmic reality, wherein persons would again enjoy a physical body.

            A rough analogy might be that, upon losing our phone, we're loaned an old rotary phone by the Vendor, which still allows crude communications, until we can be reunited with our wireless, smart phones, with their rich interactivity.

          • David Nickol

            Rather, it is God knowing each of us and remembering everything about us
            in preparation for returning each human being to full bodily life at
            the general resurrection.

            I don't think it makes sense to speak of God "remembering."

          • Yes, it doesn't convey a metaphysical HOW, only a theological "THAT."

          • David Nickol

            This is what is called hylomorphism and was most famously proposed by Aristotle over 2300 years ago.

            Aristotle said that the soul was to the living body what form was to matter. Taking Michaelangelo's David as an example of matter and form, the matter is the stone from which the statue is carved, and the form is the size, shape, and so on of David the person (as imagined by Michaelangelo). But if you take a sledgehammer to Michaelangelo's David and pound it to rubble, you no longer have the form of David. It doesn't go anywhere. It ceases to exist. And according to Aristotle, if you kill a human being, the soul ceases to exist. Aristotle had no concept of form existing apart from matter or soul existing apart from body. So what you call hylomorphism of body and soul is not Aristotle's concept.

            Aquinas then said that if there was any "time" between death and the Resurrection of the Body, that the human person would exist, but only in a manner that is slightly less than human--since s/he didn't have a body yet.

            This is clearly an explanation in terms of dualism. I know that Aquinas said, "Abraham's soul is not, strictly speaking, Abraham." But you cannot escape dualism by saying, "Abraham's body without a soul is not Abraham, and Abraham's soul without a body is not Abraham; it's only really Abraham when it's body and soul together." That is, you can't escape dualism when you also contend that Abraham's soul is in heaven, "functions" in the name of Abraham, and awaits the resurrection of the dead to get a body back.

          • And according to Aristotle, if you kill a human being, the soul ceases to exist. Aristotle had no concept of form existing apart from matter or soul existing apart from body. So what you call hylomorphism of body and soul is not Aristotle's concept.

            Hi David,

            In looking at "De Anima" the above interpretation of Aristotle seems false. See Book 3, Parts 4 and 5, where he discusses the active intellect as being "separable from" the body and "immortal and eternal": http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/soul.3.iii.html

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The active intellect is not the same thing as the soul.

            There is no inner/outer contrast. The soul is not an inner spectator, in direct contact only with its own perceptions and other psychic states, having to infer the existence of a body and an “external” world.
            There is thus no notion of the privacy of experience, the incorrigibility of the mental, etc., in Aristotle’s picture.

            b. The soul is not an independently existing substance. It is linked to the body more directly: it is the form of the body, not a separate substance inside another substance (a body) of a different kind. It is a capacity, not the thing that has the capacity.
            It is thus not a separable soul. (It is, at most, pure thought, devoid of personality, that is separable from the body on Aristotle’s account.)

            c. Soul has little to do with personal identity and individuality. There is no reason to think that one (human) soul is in any important respect different from any other (human) soul. The form of one human being is the same as the form of any other.
            There is, in this sense, only soul, and not souls. You and I have different souls because we are different people. But we are different human beings because we are different compounds of form and matter. That is, different bodies both animated by the same set of capacities, by the same (kind of) soul.


          • Scotus introduced the notion of haecceity, which, beyond any conception of WHAT a reality may be, or THAT a reality may be, refers to the designation of THIS individual reality. Beyond the affirmations that Ignatius belongs to the genus, Homo, and species, sapiens, there's the distinction that one's referring --- not to the Confederacy of Dunces, character, but --- THIS cyberfriend I met online at Strange Notions. I believe this maps fairly well with the idea of specially created souls, each person unique, invaluable, irreplaceable.

          • Ignatius,

            Thanks for taking a break from the Big Chief tablets to join us! Sorry, just getting to this now. That's right, soul and the active intellect are the same thing. But the active intellect is a faculty of the soul, which contradicts David's implication that Aristotle had no concept of separable existence of any kind.

          • David Nickol

            Far be it from me to set myself up as an interpreter of Aristotle, but here is what the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy has to say on the issue:

            Aristotle did not take up the Platonic project of proving the soul’s immortality or of providing eternal rewards for virtuous conduct. Indeed, by defining the soul as the ‘first actuality of an organic living body’ (On the Soul II 1), he seems to have precluded the possibility that any soul can survive the dissolution of the body whose actuality it is. Two lines of thought complicate this story and seem to make room for some immortal element in the soul. The first is the caveat, stated twice (On the Soul I 1, II 1), that the continued existence of any part of the soul in separation from the body is impossible, unless there is some activity of the soul that is not a complex activity of the soul and body: thinking is explicitly offered as a possible example of this, in contrast to such activities as feeling fear or anger, which clearly involve psycho-physical cooperation. The second and related complication is that in his analysis of intellect and intellectual thought (On the Soul III 4–5), Aristotle refers to a mind that is ‘immortal and eternal’ and is somehow involved in human thought. If we connect these two strands together, we may conclude that we have found something like the rational part of an individual human being’s soul and that we are being assured of its immortality. However, another line of interpretation will make this immortal and eternal mind (what later tradition calls the ‘active intellect’) a force external to the individual, whether a divinity that may be personal in its own right or a reservoir of impersonal thinking power. On views of this sort, what Aristotle is offering us falls far short of anything that might be considered personal survival (see Aristotle §§16, 19).

            It seems to me that even the concept of an immortal "active intellect" is quite different from the Catholic concept of the human soul after death and prior to the resurrection of the body. Presumably the "active intellect" is incapable of emotion. Recall the Chesterton quote about a madman not being a person who has lost his reason, but a person who has lost everything but his reason.

          • The latter reading seems like a major reach to me. There doesn't seem to be anything about a "force external to the individual" in the text. And after all the entire work is "on the soul". You're absolutely right, though, that Aquinas doesn't recapitulate Aristotelian thought full stop, and goes beyond him to posit a subsistent soul. (Also, in your original comment you say that for Aristotle form is "size, shape, and so on" - I think this is also not correct. The form is that by virtue of which a thing is actualized as itself.)

          • Mike

            This seems to be the relevant section:

            "After strong stimulation of a sense we are less able to exercise it than before, as e.g. in the case of a loud sound we cannot hear easily immediately after, or in the case of a bright colour or a powerful odour we cannot see or smell, but in the case of mind thought about an object that is highly intelligible renders it more and not less able afterwards to think objects that are less intelligible: the reason is that while the faculty of sensation is dependent upon the body, mind is separable from it."

          • Phil

            I'll definitely agree with you that there are hints of "dualism" in the wording that has been used, and that I used above. Though it is definitely not dualism in the full sense of the term. It could very well be the case that there is no "time", even right after bodily death, where the human soul has no connection to any type of materiality.

            Though most of this would come down to theological and philosophical speculation, unless God chose to reveal more about death and the resurrection (obviously this wouldn't be a "new" revelation, but would rather be a fuller understanding of the single full revelation of God, through Jesus, present in Scripture and Tradition).

            Matthew already hinted at this also, but I think the understanding you propose of Aristotle is a little off (at least that is not how I understand it, was taught it, or how Aquinas understands him).

            The size, shape, and such as still accidental properties. The "form" is the whatness of the material entity. Part of this is the universal embodied by the matter. So all rocks have the same form, the same universal nature, of "rock". This is something that is a distinction from the pure matter that the form is made manifest in and through (though of course it is the matter that is informed).

          • Right. I think Pope Benedict affirms a duality but denies a dualism. It reminds me of what Scotus referred to as "formally" distinct.

          • Phil

            Yeah--the phrase that came to mind was that there is a distinction, but distinction does not necessitate a complete dualism.

            (I guess this is exactly what Aristotle proposes with his form/matter distinction, where they are just "two sides" of the same one coin.)

          • Maritain's mantra: "We distinguish in order to unite."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Aristotelian souls have no need of infusion into the human being. It is simply the form. It would seem to me that when Aristotle talks about souls and the Catholic Church talks about souls they are using the word to mean two related, but different things.

          • Phil

            Hey Ignatius--There could definitely be some truth to what you say, but I don't think there is any reason why the two can't be brought into harmony. (Aquinas has done this, and in my own philosophical/theological musings have worked with this harmony.)

        • Loreen Lee

          My understanding is that Catholicism, (like the appeal of both Descartes and Berkeley) find the unity between the dualism of matter and mind, within 'God'.

    • The distance between the Cartesian "ghost" and the Thomistic spiritual soul (or countless other non-materialist metaphysical frameworks for that matter) is vast indeed, even though both are on one "side" as compared with physicalism. If, from the other side, you're calling any survival of the soul in death a Cartesian move, you're begging the question and assuming Cartesian dualism to be really the only option with regard to the soul - which I don't find strange at all given the thesis above. I think we absolutely have to read both thinkers in their own words to understand and appreciate just how different they really are. Until we do Aquinas will always look to a modern like a not-yet-Cartesian.

      • David Nickol

        What I am saying, and perhaps I am just too dense or uninformed to see what's wrong with it, is that any scheme in which the physical body and a spiritual soul of Person X are separated, and after this separation takes place the spiritual soul carries on the identity of Person X to the extent that what it does for all practical purposes are the actions of Person X, and what happens to it for all practical purposes happen to Person X, then what we have is some kind of dualism (not necessarily Cartesian dualism).

        Why this should be a controversial statement when it is believed that "before" the creation of the world, nothing physical existed, and that most of the world is purely physical, except for human beings who have spiritual souls, is a mystery to me.

        Now, I am quite sure there are theologians who have come up with reinterpretations of what, in everyday Catholic piety, is said to take place after death. But then, practically anything can be reinterpreted in such a way as to make it acceptable to skeptics. For example, the Resurrection of Jesus can be interpreted as Jesus living on in the memory and faith of his followers. Perhaps the idea of souls departing from bodies, being purified in purgatory, occupying themselves in heaven by listening to our prayers and interceding with God on our behalf, and awaiting the resurrection of the dead is to reality what the planetary model of the atom is to the atom as understood by contemporary physics. But in reinterpreting old ideas, the new interpretation must have at least as much explanatory power as the interpretation it replaces. And it has to be intelligible!

        • The intermediate state is not a reinterpretation of an old idea. It is a VERY old idea, not just in Catholicism or Christianity, not just in other Abrahamic traditions, but even in Eastern thought, although variously nuanced.

          It might seem like a novel idea to those who wrongly equated popular eschatological piety with philosophy of mind positions. I can understand the confusion, but it only indicates that a lot of folks may be confused and not that theologians are engaged in ad-hoc-kery to overcome modern skeptical objections.

          The question of intelligibility remains. That's an epistemic reality that presents in degrees. Eschatology, unavoidably, traffics in concepts regarding putative dimensions of reality that remain wholly incomprehensible, only partly intelligible. Dogmatic theology is somewhat constrained by logical consistency and evidential plausibility but doesn't otherwise have access to robustly probabilistic methods (measurement, verification, falsifiability, predictability) or philosophic demonstrability.

          After a leap of faith, for some (not most) after coming to grips with its philosophic preambles, such dogmatic beliefs are otherwise grounded in robustly interpersonal-relational ways, like love, trust, fidelity, loyalty, devotion, hope, inspiration, as understanding yields to faith, memory to hope, will to love --- in response to invitations like "taste and see" and "come and meet" and "follow me" and with responses like "you, alone, Lord."

          THAT we may enjoy eternal life is grounded in faith, ancient dogma and testimony. HOW this could possibly come about? I haven't a clue other than to repeat that God's love will accomplish it. That's intelligible enough for most.

        • Papalinton

          David, good point: "But in reinterpreting old ideas, the new interpretation must have at least as much explanatory power as the interpretation it replaces. And it has to be intelligible!"

          I think there is a very good explanation why it is we seem to always be treading water when it comes to discourse with regard to religions/theologies/faith-based philosophies:

          Internationally renowned anthropologist, Dr David Eller, notes: "....[R]eligions do not and cannot progress the way that, say, science can progress. When science progresses, it abandons old and false ideas. Once we discovered oxygen and the principles of combustion, we stopped thinking that there was a substance called phlogiston. Once we discovered that the earth was round we stopped thinking that it was flat [Albeit I should point out a flat earth society still perversely exists. :o)] Science and reason are substitutive or eliminative: new ideas replace old ideas. Religion is additive and/or schismatic: new ideas proliferate alongside old ideas. For instance, the development of Protestantism did not put an end to Catholicism, and the development of Christianity did not put an end to Judaism. With science, we get better. With religion, we get more".

          Prof Eller's remarkable and erudite observation provides an insightful glimpse into why religionists are able to effortlessly segue Aristotle, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Yahweh etc etc right down to Pope Benedict, as if they were contemporaries. It seems, not for one moment do religionists either appreciate or perhaps inadvertently remain oblivious to the fact, that these thinkers were, all of them, products of their times, spread over 2,500 years of space-time. When reading these venerable intellectuals what is lost in today's apologetical translation and interpretative exegesis is that they necessarily must be read in the context of their times, in the context of their prevailing knowledge-base and their concomitant level of understanding. Without this intelligible understanding and acknowledgement, philosophical discourse becomes little more than repetitive, re-interpretive, closed-loop chit-chat. Religion is additive; old ideas indiscriminately and unsystematically swirl along with new ideas, unrestrained by any properly basic epistemological grounding. [It seems to me that perhaps that is the reason for Becklo's call to exorcise epistemology, because it is simply too constraining, too restrictive for the free-for-all that we know as theology/religion today]. The schismatic nature of religion is best illustrated and explained by, and would unquestionably account for, the 41,000 or so christian denominations and sects extant, each with their own particular and peculiar 'truths', unsharable with those outside the denomination or sect. Notwithstanding, we have as yet not even considered the multiplicity of other disparate, contrasting, conflicting and competing alternative religions evidentially known to us that have existed throughout history, both dead [Egyptian, Mithraism, the Greek panoply, Zoroastrianism, etc] and alive (Shinto, tribal religions, ju-ju, Scientology etc etc].

          On a somewhat lighter side HERE is a comparison map that illustrates the definitive difference between religion and science as 'alternative' universal explanatory tools.

          I think people today are are voting with their feet, acknowledging the distinction. And that may well be the causal driver of the increasing numbers of people turning away from religion, with its highly problematical and dubious heritage, as a comprehensive explanatory tool about us, about our relationship with the environment, about the world and about the universe.

          • David Nickol

            Religion is additive; old ideas indiscriminately and unsystematically swirl along with new ideas, unrestrained by any properly basic epistemological grounding.

            Of course, in Catholicism, there is the concept of development of doctrine. It might be argued that this makes Catholicism more "scientific" than philosophy (or other religions) in that while new ideas don't exactly replace old ones, new and fuller understandings supersede and eclipse old ones. Skeptics of course look on "developments of doctrine" as rationalizations that permit the changing of a position without disavowing the old one.

          • Papalinton

            So too is there the 'development of a story line' as gifted authors continue to hone a superlative science fiction novel and bring it to publishable maturity.That development in and of itself does not make for scientific validation of the storyline, nor does it take the fiction out of the novel.

          • Some "development of doctrine," less so regarding dogmatic theology regarding primary creedal elements, much more so regarding moral teachings, truly are rationalizations that boggle the mind, transparent attempts to preserve a thin veneer of a so-called "constant tradition." I think some imagine the faithful would be positively scandalized to discover that the magisterial teaching office was ever in error, fallible. Of course, the strategy backfires, diminishing not enhancing the credibility of authorities.

          • re: "Science and reason are substitutive or eliminative: new ideas replace old ideas. Religion is additive and/or schismatic: new ideas proliferate alongside old ideas."

            What's really going on is that --- descriptive explanations (of a system's components) are substitutive or eliminative, while interpretive accounts (of a system's axioms) are additive and/or schismatic.

            A plurality of interpretive accounts will persist and expand unless and until one or more of those interpretations become accessible to descriptive methodologies.

            That's why there are dozens of interpretations of quantum mechanics.

            We don't gather this from an erudite study of the sociology of science. Such are the implications of meta-mathematics and common sense epistemology.

            Descriptive sciences and interpretive religions are complementary not competitive methods, the former probing contingent realities, the latter probing axiomatic realities. A system's axioms cannot be proved within the system, itself.

            Eller's right about one thing. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens have been wrong to attack religion on pragmatic grounds. However, he's wrong about the alternative he proposes, which is to attempt, rather, to falsify religion. It's not that I'm suggesting it cannot be done, in principle (although that could be argued using godel-like implications for theories of everything), only that, for all practical purposes, at this stage of humankind's journey, since we cannot even falsify the dozens of quantum interpretations, why should we expect we could falsify interpretive accounts that axiomatically transcend them?


          • Papalinton

            "A plurality of interpretive accounts will persist and expand unless and until one or more of those interpretations become accessible to descriptive methodologies.That's why there are dozens of interpretations of quantum mechanics."

            Sure. In the case of quantum mechanics the plurality of interpretive accounts is a product of and a result from having only been seriously engaged with, research and investigation wise, for less than a century. As we speak research into quantum mechanics is inching slowly, progressively, towards becoming accessible to descriptive methodologies.

            In the case of religion, not so much. Indeed, for religion, the plurality of interpretive accounts has intractably persisted for well over 2,000 years without even coming closer to, let alone becoming accessible to descriptive methodologies.

            Religion has a clear and demonstrable historical track record that the route or mechanism by which it attains some semblance of a commonly-accepted descriptive character, is by schism. It was only through schism that protestants were able to distinguish their brand of christianity as distinct from catholicism. Equally, Joseph Smith was able to craft a particularly inviting descriptor of christianity sufficiently 'credible' for others to be ungrudgingly lured into its peculiar belief system. But you and I know that the epistemological grounding for Mormonism is manifestly dubious at best.

            "Descriptive sciences and interpretive religions are complementary not competitive methods, the former probing contingent realities, the latter probing axiomatic realities."

            No. I don't think so. This argument has the Gouldian ring of NOMA about it. There is no reality, axiomatic or otherwise, as far as I can tell about a three-day old putrescent corpse revivifying to full physical health with no adverse effects whatsoever sustained from the incident and levitating bodily [as if a helium-filled balloon] into the blue beyond to reside physically at who knows where. I remind you this is the piece-de-resistance of Christianity, the jewel in the crown so to speak. I am pretty sure this 'axiomatic reality' is better and more veridically described as a conjuration of the mind. I know that because as you say, a system's axioms cannot be proved within the system. In my readings of other systems synonymous of christianity, Islam, buddhism, hinduism, make no mention of this 'axiomatic' reality at all.

            I think you are right, we have yet to come to a generally accepted understanding what is happening at the quantum level, and therefore the interpretive phase remains apropos for the moment. In terms of gods, demons, non-human agency and cosmic intentionality, and other things that go bump in the night, I think the jury has pretty much returned.

            In terms of falsifying religion, science is already doing that. But falsifying religion is not nor will it ever be a central feature of scientific research. Falsifying religion need only arise inferentially, peripherally, as a by-product of science investigation. The 'truth' or otherwise of religious claims and assertions will stand or fall on how convincing a re-interpration of these claims can be made to fit with the new scientific data and findings. So far, theology's track record of successful integration into the new paradigm has been rather underwhelming.

          • No, I reject NOMA.

            My axiological epistemology requires our normative methods to mediate between our descriptive probes and interpretive accounts to effect each human value-realization.

            Descriptive methods probe the nature of a system's components, while interpretive methods probe the nature of a system's axioms.

            An axiomatic interpretation accounts  (provides a heuristic framework) for a system's "givens," which include the ontological (material causes), cosmological (efficient causes) and teleological (formal & final causes or regularities).

            In modern physics, an axiomatic interpretation would thus account for such ontological givens as primitives (e.g. space, time, mass, energy), forces (e.g. gravity, electromagnetic, weak & strong nuclear) and laws (e.g. thermodynamic & quantum).

            Descriptive explanations rely on inductive inference, empirical measurements, hypothetical predictions, probabilistic falsification and theoretical verification.

            Interpretive accounts rely only on transductive and abductive inference, logical consistency and evidential plausibility, so will remain inescapably pluralistic, unless and until they become accessible to descriptive methods.

            You are facilely caricaturizing philosophical theology with god-of-the-gaps metaphysics. We're talking cosmology. As I cited before: "contemporary cosmology is fascinating precisely because it has such intricate logical relations with traditional metaphysical and theological issues."

            Look into Kurt Godel's Incompleteness Theorems to gather the distinction between a system and its axioms.

            The distinctions between descriptive methods, evaluative methods, normative methods and interpretive methods do not refer to magisteria but to a triadic inferential cycle of abduction-transduction and deduction and induction as pragmatically ordered. Often, discursive reasoning goes through a dyadic cycling of abductive-transductive and deductive inference, unable to complete the triad inductively due to methodological constraints. It is the nature of the question being asked that places an ontological stick into the epistemic spokes of our inferential wheels and not a faulty epistemology.

            There is no religious epistemology vs scientific epistemology in my pragmatic semiotic realism (employed by many nonbelievers).

            What's happening, instead, is when we ask the question: "How might we reconcile gravity and quantum mechanics?" ---- we get stuck in a dyadic inferential cycle, churning out a plurality of interpretations.

            The same thing happens when we ask: "Why is there not rather nothing?" or, for those who fear that "nothing" may be a reification, "Why is there not rather something else?" or "How did this quantum vacuum come about and what made it fluctuate?" or "What makes you imagine this particular fact is brute?" ----
            we get stuck in a dyadic inferential cycle, churning out a plurality of interpretations.

            Now, there are those who might claim that the first set of questions, above, are meaningful but the second set are not. And they must demonstrate why they are not thereby being arbitrary.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks again. You have supported my intuition regarding the limitations of the on-going -deductive?- debates on SN and EN. Your descriptions are far more educative and convincing. Thanks.

          • Thanks, Loreen.

            If Godel has implications for cosmology, the same implications inform philosophical theology, as their logical relationships are inextricably intertwined, not susceptible to facile (arbitray, even) demarcation attempts by unrepentant positivistic holdouts.

            John Polkinghorne

            "If we cannot even prove the consistency of arithmetic, it seems a bit much to hope that God's existence is easier to deal with ..."[Faith of a Physicist p.57]


            Stephen Hawking:

            "Some people will be very disappointed if there is not an ultimate theory that can be formulated as a finite number of principles. I used to belong to that camp, but I have changed my mind. I'm now glad that our search for understanding will never come to an end, and that we will always have the challenge of new discovery. Without it, we would stagnate. Godel’s theorem ensured there would always be a job for mathematicians. I think M theory will do the same for physicists. I'm sure Dirac would have approved."


          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you. I will commend myself as a good 'passive' reader. But this must be one of the first articles I have read. Have ordered Roger Penrose - maybe that will help.
            So thanks for having 'faith' in me. Is it possible that Kant could be correct in what I believe he said: i.e. that math had an element of intuition about it. (as a higher order thought that places particulars within universals, and of space and time.) This is a rhetorical question - am not expecting an answer. But it helps me in these 'male' debates, to think of myself as justifiable in my difference by stressing the possible value of my 'intuition'. Thanks again.

          • Jack Haught has long-critiqued what he calls an "epistemology of control," which is very much a "power" dynamism, as some strive to suppress the unmanageable "horizon of mystery," vanquishing the need for any "surrender of self." Epistemic hubris, an affliction that doesn't discriminate per worldviews, is not just unbecoming form or style, but, philosophically, makes for indefensible substance or content.

            Intuition accounts for much of what evolution gifted us, epistemologically, in terms of fast and frugal heuristics, which include our participatory imagination, common sense, inference to the best explanation, abductive-transductive inference, all which refer to informal reasonong. Its modeling power is substantial for most of the ways we live and move and enjoy our being. As we find ourselves one or more removes from everyday experience, however, it must be bolstered by the evidential methods of science and the syllogistic methods of philosophy.

            A real practical question presents, beyond the merely empirical and logical, whenever, beyond our best scientific and philosophic approaches, we encounter horizons of mystery. What makes this or that existential interpretation of reality normatively justifiable, when our evidential and logical methods, for various reasons, cannot provide us strong epistemic warrants?

            It is my belief that such existential stances may proceed, as Wittgenstein might say it, via attitudes rather than opinions, as I would say, via evaluative dispositions rather than descriptive propositions. Before we avail ourselves of these attitudinal and evaluative prerogatives, however, we must take account of our leaps, must be as evidentially and logically virtuous as we can, which is to say that we must have established a degree of equiprobability vis a vis competing interpretations. Those faith-filled leaps will then rightly fallback --- not just onto intuition and common sense, as a matter of the head, but ---
            onto our common sensibilities, which are matters of the heart.

            Not sure I shared this article of mine: http://www.academia.edu/7739396/With_John_Sobert_Sylvest_Reasons_and_Values_of_the_Heart_in_a_Pluralistic_World_Toward_a_Contemplative_Phenomenology_for_Interreligious_Dialogue_Studies_in_Interreligious_Dialogue_20_2_2010_170-93 but it strikes at the HEART of these matters. Women, of course, provide indispensable contributions to both highly refined intuitive grasps and to singularly human matters of the heart!

          • Loreen Lee

            The philosophical/biographical/Menippean Satire I wrote explored among other things intuitive thought within a person's life. It ended with accepting the constraint that it was advisable to supplement intuition with 'reason'. These two elements are of course the Beauty and Truth, in Kant's classic (and Christian) schemata.
            With respect to the epistemic hubris, I shall limit my comments, and continue to develop my observations and intuitions with respect to on-going debates.
            I went to register for the link you provided and found that I was already a member. This is going well. Thank you.

          • Didn't realize I linked to anything requiring registration. I apologize to any and all.

          • Loreen Lee

            Well maybe I just 'wandered?' into the link. Anyway, I have just read the essay, and realize that it is not possible to ask or discuss the concepts, ideas, and paths that you discuss. I had trouble reading Longeran? I think I told you that I ran into Derrida again a few days ago, and was amazed to hear him speaking, (according to his language of polarities) of a God who was both absent and present, and that both were important. I hadn't extended his idea towards such a metaphysical conclusion. That's why I want/ed to follow him up. There were just a few paragraphs that did not ring the 'familiarity' bell with me, such as your discussion of Eastern Religions, although I was with the Mahayana Buddhists for about 5 years in the 90's. I left them to 'get back to Samsara' i.e. the world, and ended up reading Nietzsche and Kierkegaard!!! I really doubt that too many people in the 'real' world, would be interested into getting into the mystical, (New Age enthusiasts possibly excepted?). But I was most delighted to read this. I have just been involved in a confrontation with a couple of people from EN, and so this reading has come as a welcome resolution, and perhaps an indicator that over all I handled the results of my internal dialogue which when expressed caused some difficulty, in a way that has shown me an alternative more real direction. Perhaps the need I felt to be satiric over there at EN has come to a close. This is all 'speculation' of course. (I do realize that there can be both aggressive and defensive satire). Anyway, I'm glad I'm a follower. I will check up on past posts you have documented. Thanks for giving me this. It is on file in one of my folders. Have a pleasant evening. Looking forward to talk to you soon.

          • Loreen, don't discount the inherent difficulties of communicating in cyberspace, often with anonymous interlocutors, all without the benefit of nonverbal gestures and auditory cues. Tone and tenor gets misinterpreted and confrontations happen that wouldn't happen with the very same people regarding the very same topics in your parlor. Best to give others the benefit of the doubt, that they don't intend to offend. And appreciate, too, that if they take umbrage at what you've written, they likely just misinterpreted your intent and disposition and understandably so. No harm, no foul. Some may come into a forum deeply wounded and any suffering, which they have not somehow allowed to transform them, they will somehow continue to transmit. Happy thoughts.

          • Loreen Lee

            I'm not going to comment further on this. I appreciate all that you have said. Especially about the necessity to transform suffering into a greater capacity for 'life'. Thanks for the Happy Thoughts. (Cant' remember why you have discarded the Post-modernists! But will get back to your posts later. I'm always in the process of absorbing things, you know!!! It's never 'all there'!!) Thanks again.

          • re: Cant' remember why you have discarded the Post-modernists! <<<

            My take: Postmodern thought provides a critique not a system. A constructive postmodern response would include either a weakened foundationalism or nonfoundationalism, the move to a critical realism but not anti-realism. Radically deconstructive postmodernISM, with its excessive epistemic humility, is an incoherent over-reaction to the epistemic hubris of naive realisms, which saws off the epistemic branch where its own ontological eggs are nested. A goldilocks epistemology has been chastized by the postmodern critique but not seduced by vulgar pragmatisms. It doesn't confuse a theory of truth (e.g. correspondence) with a theory of knowledge (coherence), which is fallible, but advances inexorably.

          • Loreen Lee

            Nope. I regret that this summary went way beyond my capacity to understand. I do know how I felt when reading them. Foucault. Good intent with respect to incarceration and the mentally ill. History of sexuality, etc. I felt that these were somehow 'personal?' ideologies. Tried to read Schizophrenia and Capitalism. The language impossible. The thesis, an insult (by way of any comparison). Same with the work on desire by the woman. Some good work on Literary theory- Barthes, etc. My daughter really liked the structuralists when she was at university. And recently I saw their point. Structuralism, as per form, as an expression of the conscious! Rorty- good leaving analytic philosophy for continental philosophy - if only to break up the domination in the universities. Derrida. He's got a wide compass. He's the one guy that I have respect for. But I had to leave it - which brought me here. And now I'm not so sure about that.

            I found it interesting that I believe you are calling yourself some sort of 'naturalistic' Catholic. That's difficult. I don't want the cosmologists, (like the positivist religion of August Comte) to gain control. The Catholic Church Vatican has only a couple of billion dollars. The U.S.A is going to have a quadrillion dollar budget very soon. And there is so much happening in the news at the moment, that I just don't think we can predict what may develop in the (even few) years ahead of us. Wittgenstein did announce the 'end of philosophy' - as a goal, or as a cessation of argument????

          • Loreen Lee

            quote: This is what I did not understand: as it saws off the epistemic branch where its own ontological eggs are nested. A Goldilocks epistemology

            I thought it was all tied into Saussure and Le Can, et all. I told Doug Shaver that I didn't think it was a system also. But Heidegger has a very difficult structural Fourfold, which after the great 'he is my guru' thing had passed, I recently looked at as being quite ----nothing comes from nothing. All about 'things'.....Something is 'not good' here.

          • Loreen Lee

            Perhaps you will find a little time, in the next little while, to take a look at the dialogue between myself, Mike and Ben. I 'confess' that I got into the difficulty through my use of satire. But hopefully, the rest of the dialogue explains itself. I attempt always to remain alert to possible subconscious factors within my dialogue with others. As the post-modern semioticians, after Pierce, assure us, language is 'riff' with subconscious implications. Perhaps their analysis however, extends the thesis often into more of a subjective projection than would be demanded by science.
            Will continue to read through your comments here. I hope to understand, particularly the structure which you offer. You, of course, speak in far more abstract and comprehensive language, than I am capable of. Am going to read Julia Kristeva today. Perhaps I should go back to the writing of 'philosophical/literature' where I can deal with whatever issues I am able within the context of the multitude of dynamics that remain options of interpretation.
            On the dialogue. Hopefully, if you do read it, you will find that hopefully, that the rule of better left things unsaid was followed, but also that what is said can be variously interpretated.
            I appreciate your philosophical acumen. I hope not to bother you too often, but be assured, that I will keep abreast of your writings within this 'stream of consciousness'.....

          • Everyone seemed in good humor.
            If you were uncomfortable, that's natural for kind, sensitive folks, who fear misunderstandings. And it doesn't seem you made anyone uncomfortable in return. I got the impression that everyone would've wanted you "not to worry."

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks so much Johnboy. (for an 'objective' point of view') :)

          • I get the irony. Well done. :)

          • Loreen Lee

            As I said, I can't help myself. Usually I 'see the irony' only after I have committed that 'deadly sin'. Don't know how this fits into your criteria of being 'authentic', but then the treatment of this question varies, as usual, between such philosophers as Heidegger and Sartre. So perhaps I can be 'sincerely, ironical'.

          • Loreen Lee

            I shall be back to you after some reading.....

          • Papalinton

            Thanks Johnboy, I do appreciate the outline, and what you write is fine, as far as I can tell. However you seem reluctant to address the examples that i have put forward. What I am more interested in, and germane to the issue, is how you reconcile, say, the resurrection and ascension as fact and reality within your axiomatic paradigm? It's all well and good to philosophize [and I don't mean that pejoratively] but to do so does not lead us closer to the' truth' until one attaches a hard edge, bona fide example [I take it you believe in the resurrection and ascension], that distinguishes it as THE veridical element from other competing beliefs, beliefs that are as fervently and sincerely held by billions of people [for example Ganesha of hinduism]? Until one can present such an example, philosophising remains little more than feel-good rhetoric and a meaningless word salad.

          • Papalinton, the practical upshot of
            what I have written regarding the relationship of faith to epistemology is that, veridically (your favorite word?), beyond logical consistency and evidential plausibility, we're pretty much screwed. Not all competing stances regarding putative "over the horizon" realities will enjoy the same degree of epistemic virtue (another topic), but some certainly do, including various agnostic, atheistic and theistic interpretations. See my comments to Loreen re: Wittgenstein's "attitudinal stances" & my "evaluative dispositions " and what epistemically warrants and normatively justifies such leaps (to avoid fideism).

            There's a great deal of nonpropositional content in the orthopathic (right desires), orthopraxic (right behaving) and orthocommunal (right belonging) approaches of all traditions, which, orthodoxically, fosters what Lonergan (via a theological anthropology) called human authenticity. Without elaborating, let me point out that such authenticity is, for Lonergan, in part, realized via "secular" conversions, which are not explicitly religious.

            But, we cannot deny that all traditions have propositional, creedal content. Much of this is of course mythic, which doesn't amount to an epistemic pejorative, as commonly misused, but means that a narrative evokes an appropriate response to ultimate reality even though not otherwise literally true. Of course, not all creedal elements are mythic. Many explicitly refer to various divine attributes.

            Through deep interreligious dialogue and serious academic comparative theology, pluralistic interpretations have emerged to explain many creedal differences, at least in their overall theologic arcs. The one I subscribe to is called polydoxy, which harvests from each of the great traditions as well as from many indigenous traditions, complementary, even supplementary, attitudes and dispositions toward God and Her putative attributes --- now regarding unitive strivings and intimacy, next regarding unitary being and identity, again regarding ultimate unicity and indeterminacy, and other such categories. (For these purposes, I needn't explicate what they are but want to make the point THAT they are).

            Practically, then, all religions seem to foster, albeit in varying degrees, a certain essential authenticity, orthodoxically. They otherwise differ, polydoxically, in the manner of relationship to ultimate reality they tend to variously de/emphasize, thus fostering what Lonergan called "sustained authenticity." Authenticity accounts for the traditions' shared soteriological trajectory (nurturing and healing). Sustained authenticity accounts for the traditions otherwise distinct sophiological trajectories (ways of being-in-love, devoted, etc).

            For the most part, then, many of us reject the premise that the soteriological trajectories shared by the traditions and/or sophiological trajectories unique to each tradition compete, as you say, veridically.

            Our philosophical categories and lingua franca, as Maritain liked to say, distinguish only in order to unite.

          • Papalinton

            And you ccontinue to circumvent my query in respect of how you reconcile the resurrection and the ascension as factual reality other than by invocation to faith. But faith, in and of itself, is incontrovertibly problematic and is indeed a failed epistemology.

            As philosopher Prof Gary Gutting, Notre Dame, perceptively observes: ""Your religious beliefs typically depend on the community in which you were raised or live. The spiritual experiences of people in ancient Greece, medieval Japan or 21st-century Saudi Arabia do not lead to belief in Christianity. It seems, therefore, that religious belief very likely tracks not truth but social conditioning."

          • As I said, logical consistency and evidential plausibility.

            Also, I agree that communities gift faith (polydoxically).

          • Papalinton

            I am happy for you to hold this belief for as long as you can because the strongest arguments against religion are not those against religion but those for religion.

          • Show your work.

          • Papalinton

            Show me yours first :o)

          • Usually we employ standards of evidence and burdens of proof. While the rules of evidence remain the same, what we can reasonably expect to do with that evidence will vary.

            As I view things, as far as evidence is concerned, we're all in the same boat. So, we don't really differ, believers vs nonbelievers, in how we gather evidence or admit evidence. At least, I don't feel we should. Epistemology is epistemology is epistemology. How we describe reality remains a constant. No NOMA. Same HOWs of epistemology.

            A question arises regarding our ultimate concerns and primal realities, different WHATs, that recede over the horizon of the axioms of our systems, per Godel's implications for TOEs per Hawking, Jaki, Polkinghorne, et al. There are a number of reasonable suspicions regarding same, many very suggestive, none decisive. Beyond this descriptive stalemate, then, a normative question arises, what is called an existential disjunction, which means a decision "to live as if " this is the case or that.

            The same thing happens even regarding proximate realities when
            insufficient evidence is available, notwithstanding the fact that sufficient methodologies are, or when methodological constraints do impinge. For example, many throughout the world are deliberating about the present and/or future value of stocks and bonds in the energy sector, given the price of oil. All are equipoised, faced with equiprobable interpretations of the same facts that are plausible, yet need to make decisions to hold or sell. Not to decide is to decide, for it's a forced choice with vital financial consequences, informed by several live options.

            Beyond our best empirical and rational efforts, then, practical and pragmatic concerns arise. These have been variously addressed by William James (will to believe), Pascal (wager), JS Mill (license to hope) but require, too, the preambles of faith (Aquinas) so as not to fall prey to a vulgar pragmatism or fideism.

            So, the best philosophers of religion have determined that faith is eminently reasonable and existentially actionable even though not metaphysically demonstrable. To that extent, it enjoys epistemic parity with other stances toward ultimate reality, like the materialist monisms. That's why the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the US Bill of Rights and long-established jurisprudence of many countries around the world respect and protect religious liberty, free exercise, nonestablishment and such.

            Humankind, then, has in the largest measure sanctioned religious freedom and valued the contributions of religion, socially and culturally. Greater ranges of freedom are extended to our modes of interaction with God or other conceptions of primal reality than are granted in our interactions with one another in our temporal reality.

            Our interactions with one another, morally, economically, politically, etc are transparent to human reason without recourse to special divine revelations.

            The amount of evidence required for religious exercise requires a lower burden of proof throughout the world. The amount required for matters of conscience, morally, are much higher, requiring a higher burden of proof because others' freedoms are in play. It takes more evidence to stop, even more to search, much more to arrest, very much more to hold liable and a whole lot more to convict. Same rules for gathering and presenting evidence, different burdens of proof, depending on what one hopes to do with it, especially as it impinges on or coerces other people --- morally, economically, politically.

            In my opinion, more quarrels should be had regarding epistemology and moral reasoning, while we leave each other alone regarding religion vis a vis creedal affirmations. Epistemology and morals are transparent to human reason and do not rely on religious foundations. Those who reason from faith to morals aren't helping matters. That's bad epistemology, though, not flawed religion. Those who fly planes into towers are morally corrupt. Their "morality" doesn't enjoy free exercise, only their devotionals.

            Those who are militantly atheological are often well intended in trying to purge immoral impulses. Most of the world suspects they have chosen the wrong culprit (evaluative dispositions of believers) and sociological and historical evidence bears this out, so they don't gain much traction academically or in the world's parliaments, only in popular and social media.

          • Loreen Lee

            Gee I wish I could 'unpack' all of your comments. Just with respect to Kant''s 'as if' and faith. I have found that the 'as if' does not work within practical situations. I cannot even think of the required universal and necessary constraints upon any moral (or satirical) attitude, action, or thought I 'might' take. But why is it that faith is regarded as something that demands a specific religious affiliation. (Catholic criteria of theological virtues, for instance). Yes, I understand the 'metaphysics' of this concept. That it is specifically a 'state of being' is not so widely discussed. I like for instance what Kierkegaard said about this: i.e. living within the sphere of paradox. That, at least 'theoretically' (pun not intended) allows me to be 'open' to the many alternatives of faith and non faith, from the different religious perspectives, to the 'lack' thereof. In this respect, where as faith might be characterized as an internal stance, hope (as per others, and what might happen to my body in the grace over billions of light years, and the possible betterment of mankind, etc. are area of hope. The first I associate with beauty, Holy Ghost, what have you. The second with truth or Jesus, within Catholic/even Kantian 'doctrine'. Thus, from my understanding of your philosophical thesis, I am not in agreement with respect to the arrival of Goodness, independent from the interaction of faith and hope - to love or Goodness, which to quote the bible, is that which belongs to 'God' alone. (Still want to read up on Scotus, et al, though, especially since Kant, it is the will rather than truth which dominates most philosophy?) Thanks again.

          • Faith does have practical norms. It doesn't establish goodness vis a vis the demands of justice. It might inspire one to exceed those demands, such as with mercy, forgiveness, charity --- all which are means ordered to another end, love, but happen to be suitable to that end we call justice. At least, that's my parsing.

          • Loreen Lee

            Your above comment just came to me again, via Disqus. And yes, the 'as if', is an 'under grounding', so it's not something we make time for, as I suggested in a previous comment. That's also, in accord with your schemata, what makes faith, hope, and charity, theological virtues. In this sense the difficulty of sorting out the Kantian Transcendental Ideal from the Catholic Reality, is to see that our ideas/ideals and our way of life, in themselves, are very 'real'. Thanks again.

          • Sure. In the case of quantum mechanics the plurality of interpretive accounts is a product of and a result from having only been seriously engaged, research and investigation wise, for less than a century. As we speak research into quantum mechanics is inching slowly, progressively, towards becoming accessible to descriptive methodologies.
            In the case of religion, not so much. Indeed, for religion, the plurality of interpretive accounts has intractably persisted for well over 2,000 years without even coming closer to, let alone becoming accessible to descriptive methodologies. <<<<<<

            THINK about WHY!!!

            It's NOT due to a difference in HOW we approach. It's due to a difference in WHAT we approach.

            It's easy to approach the reality of an apple falling from a tree or of water rising when Archimedes gets in the tub.

            It's harder to approach quantum particles in an accelerator or the earliest moments after the Big Bang or the event horizons near a Black Hole.

            It's even harder to approach putative realities, whether they end up being contingent or necessary, explainable or brute, that might transcend the space-time plenum.

          • Papalinton

            > "It's harder to approach quantum particles in an accelerator or the earliest moments after the Big Bang or the event horizons near a Black Hole."

            Inch by inch, centimetre by centimetre, our cumulative knowledge and understanding of the quantum filed is building a model of reality of both the HOW and the WHAT.

            > "It's even harder to approach putative realities, whether they end up being contingent or necessary, explainable or brute, that might transcend the space-time plenum."

            Following two millennia of Christian theological thought, and after almost a thousand years of Thomism, the theological explanatory tool remains in hiatus; we are no closer today to the HOW and WHAT than in the days of Aquinas. His Scholasticism remains a hot button issue not because of its relevance but because of its failure as an explanatory tool in contemporary philosophy. Even Dr Ed Feser cannot mask his deep exasperation of the direction Thomistic Scholasticism being largely sidelined in mainstream philosophy.

            "Thomistic scholasticism in the English speaking world went into decline in the 1970s when the Thomistic revival that had been spearheaded by Jacques Maritain, Étienne Gilson, and others, diminished in influence. Partly, this was because this branch of Thomism had become a quest to understand the historical Aquinas after the Second Vatican Council. Still, those who had learned Scholastic philosophy continued to have unresolved questions about how the insights of the medieval synthesis could be applied to contemporary problems. This conversation departed from the academic environment and entered internet discussion groups such as Aquinas,[24] Christian Philosophy,[25] and Thomism,[26] and websites such as Open Philosophy,[27] where it continues today." Wiki

          • If you only read Hawking's essay, perhaps listening to it will inspire you more. You missed his point. Entirely.

          • Papalinton

            I did read his essay that you graciously cited.. Indeed I have and read many of his books

          • I apologize if I was intemperate. Perhaps celebrating Eddie Redmayne's Oscar win together can heal any frayed emotions. :)

          • Thomism is philosophical, not theological. And it has numerous schools. It, in general, Feser, in particular, have no bearing on this present exchange. I can only suppose you're advancing a reverse consensus gentium argument (what most believe or not), but that's a fallacy in either direction.

            I thought we had an understanding regarding NOMA and triadic inference? Now you speak of "theological explanatory tools," as if NOMA's in force?

  • Krakerjak

    Beyond Reductionism

    Very good little video, not too long.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      He says some good thing but he tends to reduce the faith side to dummies (fundamentalists) and seems unaware that sophisticated and complete syntheses of faith and reason (he might call it humanities and science) already exist (like the encyclical Fides et Ratio).

      • Krakerjak

        he tends to reduce the faith side to dummies (fundamentalists)

        I think that is a dismissive over simplification of what the guy was saying.....especially given that the majority of world religions, including Catholicism are mostly fundamentalist to a great degree in their thinking. One of his main points was stating that secular humanists have lost their sense of spirituality broadly speaking,and that we have to evolve a global ethic through mutual cooperation, and that both theists and humanists have to invent a more cooperative paradigm in which to coexist.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't agree that Catholicism can be correctly characterized as "fundamentalist" unless you mean fundamentalists believe what they say they believe. "Fundamentalist" ought to refer to those who pretty much deny the sphere of rationality like Biblical creationists and Islamists.

          Do you think that if secular humanists get enough power to do what he wants that they will be able to resist the temptation to impose it by force?

          • Krakerjak

            There are about 16 related videos by him on this topic if one cares to follow the links from the video that I posted.

            I don't agree that Catholicism can be correctly characterized as "fundamentalist

            Whether you agree or not...the facts remain.

            First, there is the cultural revolution of the 1960s. The credibility of ever value and institution, including the churches, were questioned. This had profound social, economic and political consequences that continue to this day. Second, there is impact from the immense cultural changes generated by the much-needed reforms of Vatican II. Catholic fundamentalism is an often aggressive reaction to the anxiety-creating turmoil of these two cultural and religious upheavals. It is an ill-defined but powerful movement in the Church to restore uncritically pre-Vatican II structures and attitudes.

            Anyway....Earlier on another topic I stated that I no longer will comment to you or Mike on these matters as in my opinion you are both intransigent in your thinking as per the Catholic Church. Anyway it was against my better judgment to reply and henceforth....my self imposed censorship is again in effect, as I do not wish to argue or be confrontational, and I fear this is heading in that direction. So Sayanora.


          • Mike

            Hey, no problem Kraker you can reply to me or ask me a q anytime!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree that there are some Catholics that could be characterized as fundamentalists but the Church as a whole, no way.

            In re. your quote, just cuz the guy says so doesn't make it so.

            In regard to your last paragraph, when you were a kid did you use the following strategy: "Tag. You're it. I quit."

  • I suppose Taylor would exorcise foundational epistemologies, like Rorty, but not realism, unlike Rorty. He restores a certain balance to epistemology by properly emphasizing "knowing HOW" without unduly deemphasizing "knowing THAT." He rightly appropriated postmodern insights as a "critique" and not a "system," as if that were even possible.

    • Loreen Lee

      Thanks as usual for your comments, Johnboy. I always find it helpful to check whether my 'intuitions' conform to your 'reasons'....
      Edit: Am going to check further into Derrida's 'metaphysics???'.though. Of all the post-moderns I find that he has given the most valid 'insights', his aporias, etc. But I find that I have not understood what they really are about with respect to their term - deconstruction. I now 'intuit' that it is a bit more complicated than I have been able to grasp.

      • I thought you might bring Wittgenstein to bear on this conversation. My take is not that he'd undermine the various distinctions --- realist and anti-realist and idealist --- per se, but that he would question the presuppositional baggage that both rationalists and empiricists, realists and anti-realists, bring to the discussion. Specifically, he thinks they're too often ignoring that there is simply no non-question-begging way to establish
        their stances.

        So, without getting caught up in distinctions such as early and later Wittgenstein, one might gather that Wittgenstein endorsed a common sense realism, but categorized it as an "attitude" and not an "opinion," as an existentially performative rather than a metaphysically informative approach, as propositional in the pragmatic sense, as the practical requires us to respond even when the empirical and logical get stalemated?

        • Loreen Lee

          Thanks for the opportunity to respond. The realist, idealist, etc. positions can be held with respect to either the empirical as well as the 'metaphysical' . I understand Catholicism to be realist in both directions, which explains why they hold that phenomenal accounts such as 'sense data' deny the realism which would entail a 'naive Aristotelean' belief that the color, for instance, 'is' indeed in the object perceived. (My undertanding). Perhaps the stalemates you mention arise not only from non-acceptance of specific terminologies, but even prior to that, failure to identify what the differences are. The latter failing is what I must attribute to my limitations in understanding these philosophers.
          So yes, I will think over your classification of Wittgenstein's positions, from a representative 'picture' realism to a 'living language'. I certainly see you description within that context.
          Been thinking about the classification of the soul in this post. I was brought up under the continual dictate that I 'must save my soul'. The identification of that soul with a rational self only became apparent in the context of Aristotelean metaphysic. Without being a 'feminist', however, perhaps I could at least question whether or not the later definition has explicitly been extended to the inclusion of the feminine. When I spoke of 'feeling one' in a previous comment, the consistency with the first definition would involve a conscious integration of the body-material, including such diverse characteristics as memory and how propositional knowledge is applied within a pragmatic context.
          Thanks again for your posts. Johnboy.

  • The discussion took off in a direction that I would not have anticipated, i.e. regarding philosophy of mind, theological anthropology, eschatology. But it did so in a manner that highlighted what the OP was addressing regarding dueling classical epistemologies (empiricism vs rationalism, realism vs anti-realism vs idealism, essentialist vs nominalist).

    Those classical divides were best emulated by the Platonic (rationalist-realist), Aristotelian (empiricist-realist), Kantian (rationalist-idealist) and Humean (empiricist-realist) approaches, which later variously gave way to others, like the phenomenological, pragmatic, existential, and analytical schools. Thus the different "turns," like the turn to the subject, the postmodern turn, the pragmatic turn, the linguistic turn.

    Since it's Lent, we might revisit the OP to see what it's asking us to give up, to repent of, to turn away from? And, in terms of metanoia, to ask what it's inviting us to turn toward? all epistemologically, of course?