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Causality and Radioactive Decay

Radioactive

NOTE: Today we finish our two part series by Dr. Edward Feser exploring questions about science, philosophy, causality, and radioactive decay. You can read the first part here.
 


 
 
Now, if there must be causality at the macro level (at the very least in the case of the causal relations between the external world and our perceptual experiences of it), and this causality is not captured in the description of the world that physics itself gives us, then it follows that there is more to causality than physics can tell us. And even if you dispute the views of Russell, Putnam, Merricks, et al., physics itself is not going to settle the matter. For it is not an empirical matter, but a philosophical dispute about how to interpret the empirical evidence.

(Nor will it do to dismiss such disputes on the grounds that the competing views about them are “unfalsifiable.” This is known as falsificationism, a thesis put forward by a philosopher, Karl Popper. As Popper himself realized, falsificationism is not itself a scientific thesis but a meta-level claim about science.)

If physics in general raises philosophical questions it cannot answer, the same is even more clearly true of quantum mechanics in particular. Feynman’s famous remark that nobody understands quantum mechanics is an overstatement, but it is certainly by no means obvious how to interpret some of the theory’s stranger aspects. Quantum mechanics has been claimed to “show” all sorts of things—that the law of excluded middle is false, that scientific realism is false, that idealism is true, etc. By itself it shows none of these things. In each case, certain philosophical assumptions are first read into quantum mechanics and then read out again. But the same thing is true of claims to the effect that quantum mechanics undermines causality. By itself it does not, and could not, show such a thing either. Here as in the other cases, it is the metaphysical background assumptions we bring to bear on quantum mechanics that determine how we interpret it. This is as true of philosophical naturalists, atheists, et al. as it is of Scholastics.

Now, the Scholastic metaphysician argues, on grounds entirely independent of questions about how to interpret quantum mechanics, that there are a number of metaphysical theses that any possible empirical science is going to have to presuppose. Most fundamentally, there is the Aristotelian theory of act and potency, according to which we cannot make sense of change as a real feature of the world unless we recognize that there is, in addition to what is actual on the one hand, and sheer nothingness on the other, a middle ground of potentiality. Change is the actualization of a potentiality, and unless we affirm this we will be stuck with a static Parmenidean conception of the world. And that is not an option, because the existence of change cannot coherently be denied. Even to work through the steps of an argument for the non-existence of change is itself an instance of change. Sensory experience—and thus the observation and experiment on which empirical science rests—presupposes real change. (Hence it is incoherent to suggest, as is sometimes done, that relativity shows that change is illusory, since the evidence for relativity presupposes sensory experience and thus change.)

Now, the main concepts of the Aristotelian-Scholastic metaphysical apparatus—substantial form and prime matter, final causality and efficient causality, and so forth—are essentially an outworking of the theory of act and potency. You can argue about whether this or that object truly has a substantial form or is merely an aggregate, about whether we have correctly identified and characterized the teleological features of such-and-such a natural process, and so on. What cannot be denied is that substantial form, teleology, etc. are bedrock features of the natural order and will inevitably feature in a complete picture of the physical world at some level of analysis. All of that follows from a consistent application of the theory of act and potency. It also cannot be denied that any potential that is actualized is actualized by something already actual. That is the core of the “principle of causality,” and it follows from the principle of sufficient reason—a principle which, rightly understood, also cannot coherently be denied.

I spell out the reasons for all of this in detail, and also discuss the inherent limitations of empirical science, in Scholastic Metaphysics. The point to emphasize for present purposes is that the Scholastic holds that there a number of general metaphysical truths which we can know completely independently of particular disputes within physics or any other empirical science, precisely because they rest on what any possible empirical science must itself presuppose. (One of Cruz-Uribe’s readers insinuates that in resting its key theses on something other than empirical science, Scholastic metaphysics undermines the possibility of any common ground with its critics. But this is precisely the reverse of the truth and once again completely misses the point. Since Scholastic metaphysical arguments begin with what empirical science presupposes—for example, the possibility of sensory experience, and the possibility of at least partial explanations—they thereby begin precisely with what the critics already accept, not with what they reject.)

Radioactive Decay

So, here is where we are before we even get to the issue of radioactive decay: Purportedly physics-based objections to Scholastic metaphysics—including objections to Scholastic claims about causality—are, as a matter of course, poorly thought out. They commonly blur the distinction between empirical and philosophical claims, confuse what is really only one notion of causality with causality as such, and confuse mere illustrations or applications of general metaphysical principles with the principles themselves. Meanwhile, we know on independent grounds that physics, of its very nature, cannot in principle tell us everything there is to know about physical reality, including especially the causal features of physical reality. Its exclusively mathematical conceptual apparatus necessarily leaves out whatever cannot be captured in quantitative terms. Physics also implies that there must be something more to physical reality than what it captures, since mathematical structure is of itself a mere abstraction and there must be some concrete reality which has the structure.

We also know that quantum mechanics in particular raises all sorts of puzzling metaphysical questions (not merely about causality) that it cannot answer. And, the Scholastic argues, we know on independent grounds—grounds that any possible empirical science must presuppose—that there are a number of metaphysical truths that we must bring to bear on our understanding of the world whatever the specific empirical facts turn out to be, including the truth that causality must be a real feature of the world.

So, when critics glibly allege that radioactive decay or other quantum phenomena undermine causality, the trouble is that they are making a charge which requires defense. It is preposterous to pretend that the burden of proof is on the Scholastic to show that quantum mechanics is compatible with Scholastic claims about causality. The burden of proof is rather on the critic to show that there really is any incompatibility. (Few people would claim that the burden of proof is on anyone to prove that quantum mechanics doesn’t establish idealism, or doesn’t undermine the law of excluded middle, or doesn’t refute scientific realism. It is generally realized that the claims in question here are very large ones that go well beyond anything quantum mechanics itself can be said to establish, so that the burden of proof is on anyone who wants to claim quantum mechanics has such sweeping implications. So why is the burden of proof on the Scholastic to show that quantum mechanics doesn’t undermine causality?)

In particular, the critic owes us an account of why, since physics cannot in principle capture all there is to physical reality in the first place—and in particular arguably fails entirely (as Russell held) to capture causality in general—we should regard it as especially noteworthy if it fails to capture causality in one particular case. If the critic, like the early Russell, denies that there is any causality at all, he owes us an account of how he can coherently take such a position, and in particular how he can account for our knowledge of the world physics tells us about if we have no causal contact with it. If the critic says instead that genuine causality does exist in some parts of nature but not in the particular cases he thinks quantum mechanics casts doubt on, he owes us an account of why we should draw the line where he says we should, and how there could be such a line. (As I noted recently with respect to the Principle of Sufficient Reason, it is difficult to see how it could be coherent to think that things are in principle explicable in some cases while denying that they are in general explicable in principle. Yet to affirm the principle of causality in some cases and deny it in others seems similarly incoherent.)

In short, anyone who claims that quantum mechanics undermines Scholastic metaphysical claims about causality owes us an alternative worked-out metaphysical picture before we should take him seriously (just as anyone who would claim that quantum mechanics undermines the law of excluded middle owes us an alternative system of logic if we are to take him seriously). And if he gives us one, it would really be that metaphysical system itself, rather than quantum mechanics per se, that is doing the heavy lifting.

Now, no one expects a logician to launch into a mini treatise on quantum mechanics before setting forth a textbook exposition of classical logic, law of excluded middle and all. The reason is that it is widely understood that it is just false to say flatly that “Quantum mechanics has undermined classical logic.” Quantum mechanics has done no such thing. Rather, some people have been led by their metaphysical speculations about quantum mechanics to wonder whether logic might be rewritten without the law of excluded middle. Logicians who have independent grounds to think that the law of excluded middle cannot be false have no reason to take these speculations very seriously or respond in detail to them when going about their ordinary work.

Similarly, there is no reason why a Scholastic metaphysician should be expected to launch into a detailed discussion of quantum mechanics before deploying the principle of causality in a general metaphysical context, or when giving an argument for the existence of God. For it is also simply false to say that “Quantum mechanics has undermined the principle of causality.” It has done no such thing. The most that one can say is that some people have been led by their metaphysical speculations about quantum mechanics to wonder whether metaphysics might be rewritten in a way that does without the principle of causality. But metaphysicians who have independent grounds to think that the principle of causality cannot be false have no reason to take these speculations very seriously or to respond in detail to them when going about their ordinary work.

Of course, logicians have examined proposed non-classical systems of logic, and classical logicians have put forward criticisms of these alternative systems. The point is that their doing so is not a prerequisite of their being rationally justified in using classical logic. Similarly, a Scholastic metaphysician, especially if he is interested in questions about philosophy of nature and philosophy of physics, can and should address questions about how to interpret various puzzling aspects of quantum mechanics. But the point is that doing so is not a prerequisite to his being rationally justified in appealing to the principle of causality in general metaphysics or in presenting a First Cause argument for the existence of God.

But how might a Scholastic interpret phenomena like radioactive decay? I hinted at one possible approach in the post on Oerter linked to above, an approach which is suggested by the way some Scholastic philosophers have thought about local motion. Some of these thinkers, and Aquinas in particular, take the view that a substance can manifest certain dispositions in a “spontaneous” way in the sense that these manifestations simply follow from its nature or substantial form. A thing’s natural tendencies vis-à-vis local motion would be an example. These motions simply follow from the thing’s substantial form and do not require a continuously conjoined external mover. Now, that is not to say that the motion in question does not have an efficient cause. But the efficient cause is just whatever generated the substance and thus gave it the substantial form that accounts (qua formal cause) for its natural local motion. (It is commonly but erroneously thought that medieval Aristotelians in general thought that all local motion as such required a continuously conjoined cause. In fact that was true only of some of these thinkers, not all of them. For detailed discussion of this issue, see James Weisheipl’s book Nature and Motion in the Middle Ages, from which I borrow the language of “spontaneity.”  I also discuss these issues in more detail here.)

Now, Aquinas himself elaborated on this idea in conjunction with the thesis that the “natural place” toward which heavy objects are inclined to move is the center of the earth, and he supposed also that projectile motions required a conjoined mover insofar as he regarded them as “violent” rather than natural. Both of these suppositions are outmoded, but the more general thesis summarized in the preceding paragraph is logically independent of them and can easily be disentangled from them. One can consistently affirm (a) that a substance will tend toward a certain kind of local motion simply because of its substantial form, while rejecting the claim that (b) this local motion involves movement toward a certain specific place, such as the center of the earth.

Indeed, some contemporary Aristotelians have proposed that affirming (a) while rejecting (b) is the right way to think about inertial motion: Newton’s principle of inertia, on this view, is a description of the way a physical object will tend to behave vis-à-vis local motion given its nature or substantial form. (Again, see this article for discussion of the relevant literature.) The point for present purposes, though, is that the idea just described also provides a model—I don’t say it is the only model, just model—for understanding what is going on metaphysically with phenomena like radioactive decay.

The idea would be this. Let’s borrow an example from philosopher of science Phil Dowe’s book, Physical Causation, since I’ll have reason to return to the use he makes of it in a moment. Dowe writes:

"Suppose that we have an unstable lead atom, say Pb210. Such an atom may decay, without outside interference, by α-decay into the mercury atom Hg206. Suppose the probability that the atom will decay in the next minute is x. Then
 
P(E|C) = x
 
where C is the existence of the lead atom at a certain time t1, and E is the production of the mercury atom within the minute immediately following t1." (pp. 22-23)

Now, applying the conceptual apparatus borrowed from Aquinas (which, I should add, Dowe himself does not do), we can say that the decay in question is “spontaneous” in something like the way Aquinas thought the natural local motion of a physical substance is “spontaneous.” In particular, given the nature or substantial form of Pb210, there is a probability of that it will decay in the next minute. The probability is not unintelligible, but grounded in what it is to be Pb210 . The decay thus has a cause in the sense that (i) it has a formal cause in the nature or substantial form of the particular Pb210 atom, and (ii) it has an efficient cause in whatever it was that originally generated that Pb210 atom (whenever that was).

It is worth noting that you don’t need to be a Scholastic to think that there really is causation in cases like this, which brings me to Dowe’s own use of this example. As Dowe notes, even if it is claimed that decay phenomena are incompatible with deterministic causality, it doesn’t follow that there is no causality at all in such cases. All that would follow is that the causality is not deterministic. In defense of the claim that there is causality of at least an indeterministic sort in cases like the one he cites, he writes:

"If I bring a bucket of Pb210 into the room, and you get radiation sickness, then doubtless I am responsible for your ailment. But in this type of case, I cannot be morally responsible for an action for which I am not causally responsible. Now the causal chain linking my action and your sickness involves a connection constituted by numerous connections like the one just described. Thus the insistence that C does not cause E on the grounds that there’s no deterministic link entails that I am not morally responsible for your sickness. Which is sick." (p. 23)

Dowe also points out that “scientists describe such cases of decay as instances of production of Hg206… [and] ‘production’ is a near-synonym for ‘causation’” (p. 23). This sounds paradoxical only if we fallaciously conflate deterministic causality and causality as such.

Interestingly, elsewhere in his book, Dowe argues that Newton’s first law should be interpreted as entailing, not that a body’s uniform motion has no cause, but rather that its inertia, conceived of as a property of a body, is its cause (pp. 53-54).  This dovetails with the analysis of inertial motion given by some contemporary Aristotelians, to which I alluded above. John Losee, in his book Theories of Causality, discusses Dowe’s views and notes the parallel between what Dowe says about radioactive decay and what he says about inertia (p. 126). The parallel, I would say (using notions neither Dowe nor Losee appeal to), is this: In both cases, Dowe is describing the way a thing will “spontaneously” tend to behave given its nature or substantial form (albeit the manifestation of the tendency is probabilistic in the case of Pb210 but not in the case of inertial motion).

So, Dowe’s views seem to some extent to recapitulate the elements of the Aquinas-inspired account of radioactive decay sketched above, which I earlier put forward in the post replying to Oerter. It is worth emphasizing that neither Dowe nor Losee has any Scholastic ax to grind, and that I came across their work long after writing that post—so as to forestall any objection to the effect that the proposed account is somehow a merely ad hoc way to try to get round the objection from radioactive decay (an objection that would be absurd in any case given that the basic concepts made use of in the proposed account are centuries old). On the contrary, it is an account that someone could accept whatever his views about Scholastic metaphysics in general, or about the application of the principle of causality to arguments for God’s existence.

In any event, as I have said, the burden of proof is not on the Scholastic metaphysician to provide an account of how radioactive decay can be reconciled with the principle of causality, because claims to the effect that there is an incompatibility are not even well-motivated in the first place. The burden of proof is rather on the critic of Scholastic metaphysics to develop an alternative metaphysical framework on which the rejection of the principle of causality is defensible, and within which the critic might embed his favored interpretation of quantum mechanics. But that is not very likely. For the Scholastic has grounds entirely independent of issues about quantum mechanics or radioactive decay to conclude that no such alternative metaphysics is forthcoming.
 
 
NOTE: Dr. Feser's contributions at Strange Notions were originally posted on his blog, and therefore lose some of their context when reprinted here. Dr. Feser explains why that matters.
(Image credit: Nuclear Power Yes Please)

Dr. Edward Feser

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Dr. Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a master’s degree in religion from the Claremont Graduate School, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from the California State University at Fullerton. He is author of numerous books including The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (St. Augustines Press, 2010); Aquinas (Oneworld, 2009); and Philosophy of Mind (Oneworld, 2007). Follow Dr. Feser on his blog and his website, EdwardFeser.com.

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  • Bob

    But nothing can be moved from a state of potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality... it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved i.e. that it should move itself.

    Some of these thinkers, and Aquinas in particular, take the view that a substance can manifest certain dispositions in a “spontaneous” way in the sense that these manifestations simply follow from its nature or substantial form. A thing’s natural tendencies vis-à-vis local motion would be an example. These motions simply follow from the thing’s substantial form and do not require a continuously conjoined external mover.

    I see...

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      That is because a thing as a whole may be moved by its parts. A kitten moves across the room because it is moved by its legs, which are moved by its muscles, which are moved by its nerves, etc. At the root is a first unmoved mover, a saucer of milk on the other side of the room, which suffers no recoil when the kitten begins to move.

      Likewise, the spontaneous motion referred to is caused by the essential nature of the thing, a formal cause, because it is the form of the thing that moves the whole. In particular, the instability of the Pb210 atom is caused by the number and arrangement of its parts: the protons, neutrons, and electrons; that is, by its form.

      When we say that nothing moves itself, it means that nothing that is
      only potential can do diddly squat. You need something actual. Since form is the principle of actuality, we find that a potency (matter) is moved by something already actual (form). If you think of a natural form as something like a "field" that organizes matter the congruence with the superposition of quantum fields becomes even more intelligible.

      Hope this helps.

      • Loreen Lee

        The unmoved mover was an argument from causation of motion.
        I am wondering if there are some contradictions in which these arguments are presented. I need better understanding of logic. The essential nature is 'what it is' that is man, or horse in the concrete, not the abstract, etc. etc. etc. The essential nature is the form. The potentiality is in the future. The actuality is in the 'immediacy'. I also do not think he thinks the parts do the 'work'! Will have to check up on this last one. In any case according to what I have said above, it would be a 'contradiction' because the essential nature would have to do the moving.....The man moves as a whole, not as parts. There is an organization within the particular, and I expect the species, the genus, and the differenta. Any other interpretation means that an actuality cannot be actualized because in is not in the actuality of the present. Potency is potentiality. period.

      • Papalinton

        Where did the saucer of milk come from? Or was it always 'just' there?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It is the consequence of a different causal series. Insofar as explaining the kitten's motion, it is a sufficient final cause.

          • Papalinton

            "...the consequence of a different causal series" all the way down. Riiiiiiight.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Different things have different causes, at least until you get to the most basic. The final cause of the kitten's motion is the saucer milk. Then: sensation, perception, appetition, and locomotion. But the causes of the saucer of milk are a different set. This is not too technical to grasp; and in the interests of modern science even essential.

      • Bob

        1. The saucer, sadly, does not cause the kitten to move. The kitten sensing the saucer causes itself - the kitten - to move.

        However, a saucer of milk as the unmoved mover... :) ... would make a great Python skit!

        2. If the essential nature of a thing can be to move spontaneously, then the conclusion that - "it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved i.e. that it should move itself" - seems to be refuted, or at the very least, arguably so.

        3. When we say that nothing moves itself, it means that nothing that is only potential can do diddly squat.

        Perhaps, but then again, there is nothing that is only potential that I am aware of. Do you have any examples you can point to?

        I do agree that something actual is needed for movement, change, etc - but you seem to be saying that something causes nothing to do something, or so it seems.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          1. The saucer, sadly, does not cause the kitten to move. The kitten sensing the saucer causes itself - the kitten - to move.

          The milk is the final cause of the kitten's movement. You seem to be interpreting "cause" as meaning only "efficient cause." Of course, sensation→perception→appetition is an efficient cause of the motion. Duh? That's good Aristo-Thomist psychology, so you're halfway home!

          2. ...the conclusion that - "it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved i.e. that it should move itself"

          Gosh! Both Aristotle and Aquinas, and all those in between and even afterward were so stoopid! They missed this completely, and a commbox bobber picked it up so easily. Go figure. Or go back to that part about "in the same respect and in the same way" and ponder its meaning.

          The “moved by another” claim does originally mean... “no whole can be in motion unless it has parts which are moving”. This is clearest in organic wholes: if a hand is going to move, then the muscles need to move the tendons, and the tendons the bones. But this is also true of the inorganic: if some whole stone x is flying through the air and you stop a part of it, then either the whole x will stop altogether, or a part of it will break off and you will no longer have the whole stone.
          Either way, the relevant whole you were considering stops moving. Considered in this way, the only way one could have something natural in motion without its being moved by another would be if nature were composed of Euclidean points, but this seems impossible both a priori and on the basis of experiment. Nothing in nature is infinitely small.
          http://thomism.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/moved-by-another-and-self-motion-in-nature/

          See also: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieN3dGVkhNTi1SQUU/edit

          3. there is nothing that is only potential that I am aware of. Do you have any examples you can point to?

          a) A body raised to a height in a gravitational field has potential energy. This energy can do nothing until actualized (put in motion/kinesis), hence "kinetic" energy.

          b) A green apple is potentially red. It is also potentially yellow. In artificial cases, where we allow dyes and such, it may even be purple polka-dotted. It is not potentially an armadillo.

          c) An acorn is potentially an oak. It is also potentially dead. It is not potentially an armadillo.

          d) A kitten, which is actually lazing by the window, is potentially standing by the milk saucer. It is also potentially in various other locations. It is not potentially an armadillo.

          e) Speaking of cats, a cat in Schrödinger's Box is potentially alive. It is also potentially dead. Actually opening the box will actualize one of these potentials. (Quantum theory is a nice modern example of Aristotelian thinking.)

          I do agree that something actual is needed for movement, change, etc - but you seem to be saying that something causes nothing to do something, or so it seems.

          No, you either misunderstand or misrepresent the argument. It is the actual thing that actualizes the change. For example: Actual sunlight in the 3,600 to 4,500 Å range activates the anthocyanin in an apple's skin to absorb the near-ultraviolet/violet/blue/green regions of the spectrum, thus reflecting red.

          A pile of building materials has the potential to become a house. It also has the potential to become a barn for storing grain, a scaffold for dealing with impertinent comm boxers, a grandstand for others to watch the aforesaid entertainment, or it may remain a set of building materials. It does not have the potential to become an armadillo, so it's not Heraclitus' "Anything Goes."

          When construction begins, the "wave function" of all those various potentialities collapses to a particular potential aimed at the one particular end. This ["building" as a participle] is the first act: the potency becomes an "actual potency." The second act ["building" as a noun] is when the kinesis reaches its equilibrium state (final cause): the house is actually finished. Between the first and second act there is an intermission.

          Ho ho, TOF jests. Between the first and second acts is what Aristotle called kinesis ("motion").

          BTW, "building" in either sense is not the actualization of the house. It is the actualization of the building materials.

          http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/08/first-way-moving-tale.html

          Hope this helps. Otherwise you'll find yourself stuck on a blind date with Zeno.

          • Bob

            1. The milk is not the "final cause" of the kitten's movement. In your example it is at best the thought of milk in the kittens brain, an efficient cause, I think you might say. The milk itself is and continues to be, in fact, irrelevant.

            2. You do realize that a state of "motion", or "change" is, as far as we can tell, the natural state of things and not a state of "non-motion" or "stasis"? You seem to be arguing for the opposite.

            3. Of course, not one of the things you listed is only potential (which is what I asked you for), in fact each of those seems to be quite actual. Similarly, your subsequent examples consist of the same error.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            1. The milk is not the "final cause" of the kitten's movement.

            I don't think you understand what a final cause is. It is that-toward-which the motion proceeds. For example, a building is the final cause of building. Efficient causes are incoherent without final causes.

            The milk itself is and continues to be, in fact, irrelevant.

            Then why does the kitten move toward the milk and not toward the Milky Way or toward the draperies or simply remain lazing in the sun?

            2. You do realize that a state of "motion", or "change" is, as far as we can tell, the natural state of things

            Indeed, you are simply repeating Aristotelian/Thomistic principles. Nature can even be defined as that-which-changes. But it is no explanation of change to claim that the explanandum is "always there." If you were to ask me why I keep a hammer in the freezer, would you consider it an explanation if I said, "I have always kept a hammer in the freezer"?

            You seem to be arguing for the opposite.

            No, I agree with Aquinas that change is the normal state of affairs in Nature. Apparently, you do, too. So you're halfway there already!!

            3.not one of the things you listed is only potential..., in fact each of those seems to be quite actual.

            A green apple is not actually red. It is only potentially red. You are confusing the potency to the redness with the actuality of the greenness. Every thing is some thing. So any intelligible matter is some form of matter. In this case, it has the substantial form of an apple and the accidental form of greenness. But it is in potency toward redness. The not-redness of the green apple cannot be the cause of the redness since "from 'not' comes naught," and not-redness cannot cause redness. That is, it cannot move itself toward red. Instead, sunlight of a certain wavelength must move the anthocyanin to absorb the blue end of the spectrum. And this part in turn moves the skin to reflect the red. This exemplifies both an external mover (sunlight) and a whole (apple skin) being moved by a part (the anthocyanin).

            Similarly, a body in inertial motion can only change that motion when acted upon by an outside force. That is, Thomas' major premise is actually Newton's first law. (If a body already has a motion, there is no change if it keeps that motion.)

            But a body in motion does change its location. That change is made by whatever put the body in motion in the first place. For example, the Moon's motion was imparted (we think) by a near-collision of a marsbody with the primeval Earth, which knocked off a moon-sized divot. The natural rectilinear motion thus imparted is bent into an orbit by the dimpling of space caused by the presence of the mass of the Earth.

            Now recall that Aristotle thought of the heavenly bodies as being "at rest," and you will realize that the ancient Greek traditionally translated as "rest" really means something more like "equilibrium state." Just as "motion" might better be understood as "acceleration." Alas, the classicists who made the translations did not have access to such terms as "equilibrium state." Planetary orbits, Belusov reactions, predator-prey ratios are all examples of things that are "at rest" in Aristotle's sense. Even the apple, having attained redness, does not proceed by "inertia" to continue into the infra-red.

            "Inertia" (Lat. "laziness") can be seen as not a principle of motion -- inertia doesn't make anything move -- but rather a principle by which a body preserves whatever state it is in; i.e., it is resistance-to-change.

          • Bob

            Again, the milk is irrelevant. You can easily see this by simply stipulating that the kitten was mistaken and that there was, in fact, no milk - only that the kitten thought there was.

            If you agree that motion or change is the natural state, then you also should agree that a first cause, or unmoved mover is superfluous to any description of reality.

            A green apple is actually green...a red apple is actually red. A red and green apple is actually a red and green apple. In fact anything is actually precisely what it is.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            stipulating that the kitten was mistaken and that there was, in fact, no milk

            Congratulations. You have discovered that there might be many reasons for a kitten to move under other circumstances. Do you think that an illustrative example is some sort of universal Scientificalistic Law about the motions of kittens? Had I used an example in which a victim was killed because of jealousy would you answer that the jealousy is irrelevant because other victims have been killed from rage or political calculation?

            If you agree that motion or change is the natural state, then you also should agree that a first cause, or unmoved mover is superfluous to any description of reality.

            Why? That does not follow. It only means that the source of motion must lie outside nature.

            A green apple is actually green...a red apple is actually red. A red and green apple is actually a red and green apple. In fact anything is actually precisely what it is.

            Why do you think this is an objection to potency? At any moment any actual thing is actually what it is. Duh? But in order to explain change there must be potency. Without potency, you are back at Parmenides and change-is-only-an-illusion. Or, if there is nothing toward which the change is directed, an apple might ripen into a kumquat, a tiger lily, or a Chevy Camaro.

            Tell you what, let's ask a physicist:

            "The probability wave of Bohr, Kramers, Slater… was a quantitative version of the old concept of “potentia” in Aristotelian philosophy. It introduced something standing in the middle between the idea of an event and the actual event, a strange kind of physical reality just in the
            middle between possibility and reality."
            -- Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy, Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2007) p. 15.

    • Loreen Lee

      Yes. The 'form' is in the particular. It's not an abstract 'category' at all. . Please help me avoid confirmation bias. Is that the word? Actually I read a couple over last couple of hours. May not have the right one, but there are plenty of blogs on the subject.
      Gave this to Paul, also...http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk/lawsofthought.htm

  • I wonder, if a set of metaphysical propositions cannot be scientifically tested, if they can't be scientifically challenged, do they have anything directly to say about the physical world itself? If they don't, why should I care about them?

    • Because you should care about reality. There are aspects of reality that are not physical. Tell a woman you love her and then say you only care about what is “physical”. Try it and let us know what happens.

      • I see the intrinsic worth in love, music, art, poetry, friendship, all these things. I don't see the intrinsic worth in these particular Aristotilian principles. It seems I can do physics, and be in love, and enjoy music, art, poetry, friendship, etc., with or without them. Why should I bother thinking much about them, even if they may be true?

        There are many things in the world that may be true that I don't pay much mind, because they aren't especially relevant or very worthwhile. There may be an invisible dragon in my garage. That might be true. But why should I care if its existence matters as much as its non-existence?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It seems I can do physics, and be in love, and enjoy music, art, poetry, friendship, etc., with or without them.

          You can "do" physics without knowing metaphysics in the same way you can drive a car without knowing thermodynamics. It all depends on the scope of your interests.

          • David Nickol

            You can "do" physics without knowing metaphysics in the same way you can drive a car without knowing thermodynamics. It all depends on the scope of your interests.

            I don't think the analogy is apt. Thermodynamics designates a coherent body of empirical knowledge. Metaphysics designates a whole host of points of view, many of them entirely incompatible with one another. It may be true that you can't "do physics" without certain basic assumption philosophers would categorize as metaphysical, but there is no particular metaphysical approach that is required to "do physics." You don't have to be an Aristotelian, for example.

            So while it may be true that you can't "do physics" without having some bare-bones metaphysical assumptions (that you may not even think of as metaphysics), that doesn't mean you can't "do physics" without believing what Dr. Edward Feser or Ye Olde Statistician believe. So metaphysicians cannot say, "The joke's on you, scientists! You can'd do science without believing what we metaphysicians believe, which is metaphysics!" There is no body of knowledge called metaphysics in the way there is a body of knowledge called thermodynamics. Any number of people who consider themselves philosophers/metaphysicians and consider it a highly valuable field of study may all disagree among themselves what is true in metaphysics.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Analogies are not equivalences, and one may always find some aspect in which the analog differs. The basic idea remains: every body of knowledge lies upon axioms which it must accept -- because it cannot prove its own axioms.

            Despite an open disavowal of Aristotelian metaphysics, natural scientists often smuggle in Aristotelian principles by the back door if they are to maintain coherence in their foundations. Things like being, causation, motion, life, the intelligibility of nature, etc. are axiomatic, and can no more be demonstrated by the sciences than the Euclidean axioms can be demonstrated by Euclidean geometry. You simply cannot do physics coherently without assuming that stuff exists (being) or that it is changing (motion) and so on. Although there be no shortage of folks in the twilight of the Modern Ages who write learned papers denying that "life" exists or claiming that "change" is an illusion or that quantum mechanics proves that some things happen without being caused. They will firmly deny finality in nature while at the same time asserting that there are scientific laws of nature.

            Hume famously asserted that books of metaphysics should be consigned to the flames, and this has been the general consensus of the Modern Ages ever since. So it's not like we've had alternate metaphysics since the Scholastic era so much as we've had no metaphysics at all since then.

            This is useful:
            http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~jross/aristotlesrevenge.htm

          • Loreen Lee

            It's true that Kant considered Hume one of the giants upon whose shoulders he stood.

          • David Nickol

            Despite an open disavowal of Aristotelian metaphysics, natural scientists often smuggle in Aristotelian principles by the back door if they are to maintain coherence in their foundations. Things like being, causation, motion, life, the intelligibility of nature, etc. are axiomatic, and can no more be demonstrated by the sciences than the Euclidean axioms can be demonstrated by Euclidean geometry.

            I think the overwhelming majority of "natural scientists" don't give two hoots about philosophy in general or the philosophy of science in particular.

            Things like being, causation, motion, life, the intelligibility of nature, etc. are axiomatic, and can no more be demonstrated by the sciences than the Euclidean axioms can be demonstrated by Euclidean geometry.

            It is not as if Aristotle patented or copyrighted concepts like motion and life. One doesn't have to be a hypocrite or a closet Aristotelian to make use of such concepts.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I think the overwhelming majority of "natural scientists" don't give two hoots about philosophy in general or the philosophy of science in particular.

            That is correct. Not everyone has the time, the skills, or the inclination to look under the hood. The grunts doing paradigm science need not bother their pretty little heads. For example, P.Z.Meyers once derided a commboxer who pointed out to him the distinction among fact, law, and theory by mocking philosophers of science as running along beside the locomotive of science calling out advice to the engineer, who might nod from time to time but normally just shrugs. He seemed unaware that the distinction was developed by philosophers like Poincare, Mach, et al., all far more accomplished scientists than he. (He also seemed unaware that a locomotive can only go where the rails lead it, and so made a lousy metaphor for science.)

            It was not always thus. Poincare, Heisenberg, Einstein, Mach, and the rest knew philosophy, perhaps even three hoots' worth. Though they were perhaps of the last generation to hoot. They didn't always do it well; but they always did well enough to be worth taking seriously.

            But then, for the most part, they were not doing paradigm science.

            "The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schrödinger, Boltzmann, Mach, and so on. But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth…"
            -- Paul Feyerabend to Wallace Matson
            (Quoted in For and Against Method, by Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend)

            (One of the benefits of knowing some philosophy is that one does not get sucked into bad forms of it. Mary Midgley's books are instructive in this regard.)

            It is not as if Aristotle patented or copyrighted concepts like motion and life. One doesn't have to be a hypocrite or a closet Aristotelian to make use of such concepts.

            One is a hypocrite only if one knows better. These people have been told all their lives that Aristotle is passe, so that when they use Aristotelian concepts, they do so unwittingly. You cannot be an unwitting hypocrite.

            Of course, they can use the concepts. You can use an automobile without knowing how it works. The point was that the concepts do not derive from physics. They are questions of logic, not of empirical evidence. That is why they are called metaphysical. But people who do not understand such things are likely to write asinine articles like this one:
            http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/2013/12/02/why-life-does-not-really-exist/

        • Nanchoz

          Human nature looks up for perfection. (eternal love. Inspiring music. Exquisite poetry. Sublime art. The beauty of a mathematical theorem. An unifying theory of physics ) there is more perfection in that which is true than in that which is false. So ultimately human nature is directed to the truth. That truth aught to be perfect also. Then We seek perfect truth. Truth to be perfect must exist (given that the lack of existence is a kind of imperfection). Our desires are to be fulfilled when we meet that ultimate truth. In the meantime, if we are rational, we should be compelled to orient our actions to live according to that truth.
          I think that the way we live our lives is a response (conscious or unconscious) to that truth (whatever we believe it may be)(and even if our ultimate truth is the denial of truth) and i think that is relevant.
          Thank you.

      • George

        "Tell a woman you love her and then say you only care about what is “physical”. Try it and let us know what happens."

        should he expect some negative result? if the physical for both parties simply covers what is real to them, no problem should result.

        • Loreen Lee

          Rational in Aristotle's definition of man is the differentiata. It is 'what makes us special' my interpretation. I don't know the 'actual/potential Aristotelean logical term.' Am going to wait for scientific corroboration, before proceeding further. My attempts to be a modern scientist. I certainly don't want to be on my own if I am assigned to the fiery furnace. Is this Aristotelean dialectic. Many kinds. rhetoric is one of them.
          But I could absorb everything that was said in the articles. Admission of failing to - I forget the word..

      • David Nickol

        Far be it from me to claim to understand any of these discussions on anything but the most elementary level, but I think you are making a mistake if you assume (as you seem to) that physicalism holds that it is meaningless to talk about love because love isn't a physical object. Since physicalism itself is not a physical object, if physicalists believed only in physical objects, they could not believe in physicalism, which is not a physical object.

        • Loreen Lee

          Is it a differentia? Maybe it's Platonic.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          This is the very conundrum that led materialism to be re-dubbed physicalism.

          • David Nickol

            Be that as it may, it appears that Ben @ 2CM was making a wrongheaded assumption about physicalism when he suggested, "Tell a woman you love her and then say you only care about what is 'physical.'" Assuming the man's meaning is that he subscribes to physicalism, he is not saying something like, "When I say I love you, I mean only that I am turned on by your beautiful face, your luxurious hair, and your smokin' hot body."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            IOW, that he regards her merely as a sex object.

          • George

            than shouldnt ben have said "there are aspects of reality that are not sexual". wouldn't that have been more clear?

          • Loreen Lee

            The difficulty is not whether or not he regards his mind as material or immaterial, but that he regards her mind as ieither she has no mind, or she doesn't mind!!!!

          • Correct, "Tell a woman you love her and then say you only care about what is physical." Meaning tell her, "I only care about whatever the electrochemical impulses in my brain force me to feel about you. In fact, there is no "I" at all. There is no observer within. Those thoughts are just more electrochemical impulses that give me the delusion of 'self'". Try that on your next date, or on any of your loved ones.

          • George

            and your point seems to rely on assumption that love being electrochemical impulses is a bad/undesirable/unpleasant thing.

            if love is chemicals, if love is physical, than love is physical. you can call that "mere", but that is your problem. that is not necessarily a problem for other people.

            if the lady in the example accepts herself as being physical, than "I care about the physical" would mean "I care about you". so your scenario about physicalism turning people off socially wouldn't happen there.

            and I'm finally going to turn this around and inform you that immaterialism is still in the same boat, with the same problem of reducing us, IF you think the idea of being purely material reduces us. you haven't produced that observer or the "I" which you think would be lacking without your "immaterial".

            ad an "im" to material, or a "non" to physical, throw out all the chemical details, all the knowledge, all those explanations, and what do you have? what have you explained, what have you accounted for?

            do you see how picking the right words can let you spin any idea into something that sounds unpleasant? I can dismiss the spiritual by saying "well the truth is that I'm JUST a soul in a vessel. My merely immaterial ectoplasm core is forcing me to love you." (and I could either back it up by saying this immaterial thing is interacting with this immaterial thing, or by saying "it just happens". which of those brings knowledge?)

            putting a twist on ideas you disagree with is easy. but do you think it is dignified?

      • Doug Shaver

        Tell a woman you love her and then say you only care about what is “physical”. Try it and let us know what happens.

        Some of the women in my life have understood that love is no less real just because it's only a neurophysiological phenomenon.

    • Loreen Lee

      I'm just struggling with Aristotle's logic. I am not convinced that he had some kind of logical universal on which the particular was dependent.http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk/lawsofthought.htm

    • Metaphysical propositions vary in their degree of epistemic virtue, some fostering, others frustrating, human value-realizations, like scientific inquiry, for example. (I discussed some of the criteria of epistemic virtue vis a vis metaphysics in response to comments re: the previous Feser installment.)

      Certain propositions serve as indispensable methodological stipulations. These include various first principles like noncontradiction and excluded middle, principles of causation and sufficient reason and such. Common sense notions of causation are hard to abandon because they pretty much map over
      our various scientific laws, which describe nature's dispositional tendencies. What Thomism calls potentiality does not seem wholly unrelated to what
      Peirce's pragmatism called Thirdness, what Scotus called the Formal Distinction, what we experience most often as probabilities, sometimes as necessities. The precise nature of these regularities has been debated between different philosophic schools and, for example, is not unrelated to Hume's
      problem of induction.

      It seems to me that we cannot avoid being metaphysical realists regarding reality's regularities but that we may be metaphysically agnostic regarding their precise nature, affirming them as a category in a vague, phenomenological modal ontology, while remaining undecided regarding any particular regularity, whether or not it's emergent or transcendent, local or universal, static or dynamic, random or systematic.

      While our methodological stipulations may be metaphysically suggestive, they are not ontologically decisive. Methodological naturalism doesn't necessarily implicate philosophical naturalism. The principles of causality and sufficient reason don't necessarily implicate a thoroughgoing Aristotelian approach to causation beyond our space-time-matter-energy plenum to the initial, boundary and limit conditions of our cosmos, much less to some putative atemporal realm, where our concepts may or may not successfully refer.

      That one would not deny the principles of sufficient reason and causality to avoid blocking inquiry (why a priori imagine we'll be methodologically thwarted, epistemically, or ontologically occulted, metaphysically) amounts to an indispensable methodological stipulation, perhaps, but it's not ontologically decisive (merely suggestive). For all practical purposes, the closer we get to T=0, the chances seem to be that our inquiries will probably stall (not to mention the practical upshots of godelian incompleteness re: theories of everything).

      At any rate, just because one asserts that methodological stipulations like PSR and PC cannot be coherently denied, that doesn't make them metaphysically necessary or philosophically true. One has only demonstrated --- not that they cannot be UNTRUE, but --- that if they are not, we will be UNFORTUNATE?

      All that said, I choose to live as if they are true. It's eminently reasonable to do so, performatively, while awaiting a final adjudication, informatively.

      • Loreen Lee

        And you wonder why I keep slipping into the dialectic of satire, that is if you accept that definition of my 'rhetoric'!!! Thank goodness there is a choice of dictionaries on Google.

      • I'm not sure if even the principle of sufficient reason is unassailable by new empirical discoveries. It seems to me, in any case, that quantum mechanics challenges the principle of sufficient reason, although I continue to accept it for other reasons.

        Even the principle of non-contradiction may have exceptions, dialetheists argue for this and it's not as easy to refute as it first sounds (not to me anyway). It may be, if there are exceptions to non-contradiction, that some of these exceptions may be empirically discoverable.

        Like you say, maybe these metaphysical principles are in fact true (I'd like to think so). Maybe instead, we can't help but think of them as true, even if we know that they aren't. But either way, it seems new discoveries may at least affect whether we think that they are true, or false but unrelenting.

        If these metaphysical principles couldn't be challenged by new discoveries, then it would seem to me that they would have no intersection with physical reality. If they have no intersection with physical reality, then what are we even talking about when we say that, for example, one billiard ball causes another to move? Or that stars can be explained? etc.

        • I know there are different categories of dialethea, but most seem to be generated by circular referentiality, static conceptions of the principle of identity and overuse of the principle of excluded middle.

          In my modal ontology of possibilities, actualities and necessities, I prescind from from necessities to probabilities. I'm not even sure that necessity successfully refers to physical reality. So, in this approach, noncontradiction holds but excluded middle folds in that category representing regularities. Both continue to hold for actualities. For possibilities, excluded middle holds but noncontradiction folds. Possibilities are only found instantiated in actualities, irreducibly so.

          As for the principle of identity, Hartshorne recognizes asymmetric temporal relations, where an identity's past but not its potential future is included in its identity, as objects inhere in states, not vice versa. This recognizes the dynamical (not static), processive (not substantial) nature of physical realities and helps avoid paradoxes that arise when we conflate logical and efficient causes (like the sorite paradox of when, exactly, the next addition of a grain of sand will result in a heap of sand).

          Circular referentiality seems to be an inescapable artefact of our language systems, where our concepts refer one to another, dictionary style. When plugged into a formal symbol system, like syllogistic logic, we cannot avoid, then, necessarily running into a godelian choice between completeness and consistency because we cannot prove the axioms (establish the definitions of our terms) within their own systems (our dictionaries, our language games).

          The first two examples are ontological and the last linguistic. Even with such approaches, other dialethea will present, but only rarely. Even more rarely would we encounter one that had practical significance. When confronted with the choice between an inconsistent account and a incomplete account, we best settle for incompleteness.

          I think we should abide with the notion that some dialethea deserve to be taken seriously and not cursorily dismissed but included in our informal deliberations as evidentially significant, just not decisive. They wouldn't be the sole determinant but would weigh in - for or against -alongside all other evidence toward the establishment of a preponderance. If we give them their due, perhaps we could make unpredictable strides in artificial intelligence.
          As Haldane suggests, reality is not only stranger than we imagine but stranger than we can imagine. Perhaps reality is just more complex than our symbolic logic and human language can reflect.

          A Catholic priest, Protestant priest and Graham Priest walk into a bar. The Catholic priest asks for a whiskey. The Protestant Priest says "I shall not have any." Graham Priest says: "I'll have what they're having."

        • BTW, because metaphysics, as methodological stipulations, are tautological and normative, abductive and deductive but not descriptive and inductive, any challenge wouldn't come, evidentially, from empirical verification or probabilistic falsification, per my reading. The challenge would present in pragmatic terms as gains or losses in heuristic value, e.g. no longer paving the way for novel hypotheses, loss of interdisciplinary consilience (speaking to a narrower spectrum of disciplines), providing fewer conceptual placeholders and bridging concepts for advancing sciences, loss of explanatory significance in common sense and evolving folk psychologies and other indirect guages of truth-making, model-constructing power. Those are just my conceptions and categories of how metaphysics intersects physical reality.

        • The dialethea discussion has got me musing further.

          I mentioned elsewhere how formal/final causation conceptions (analogous to the more robustly causal Aristotelian notions)
          have been valuable heuristics at the interface of modern semiotic science with emergentist paradigms. Terry Deacon also employs teleodynamic conceptions in his account of the emergence of human consciousness.

          Deacon derived 10 sign classes from the 9 signs types (this is semiotic jargon from Peirce's sign theory). Interestingly, Dr. Sungchil Ji was then able to use Deacon's derivation to formulate a quark model of signs. These modeling attempts are playing out within complexity theory, which admits of ontological hierarchies, out of which emerge --- not only novel properties, but --- novel laws, dispositional tendencies, regularities.

          Another type of dialethic phenomenon can result from hierarchical ontologies which each would require a hierarchically specific language, or partially overlapping languages. Beyond the need to disambiguate terms, semantically, beyond the fuzzy logic required to handle our epistemic in/determinacies re: possibilities and vagueness re: probabilities, this hierarchy of language systems would require something more akin to set theory than linear logic.

          For example, looking at reality per complexity, in quantum superpositioning, for example, in the ontological mode of possibilities, the principle of noncontradiction wouldn't be determined as valid or invalid. Instead, it would simply be inapplicable.

    • Mike

      The unexamined life is not worth living, someone really really "smart" once said.

      • George

        I'm fed up with apologists straw manning critics into extreme positions.

        • Mike

          Oh really?

          • George

            Yes. Paul was not saying life should be unexamined. (So far, the "physical" is a fine realm for examining life. If one has something better, bring it on I say.)

            This type of extreme mischaracterization happens often here. Someone admits honestly that we don't exactly know what's outside the observable universe. We have theories and make some provisional assumptions. Brandon vogt replies that they shouldn't be so intellectually defeatist and give up on learning, as if the person had said we should all stop trying to know more. The idea we want to bring to SN is that we should just try to not make stuff up (all of us).

          • Mike

            But look if to Paul these issues are no more relevant than a dragon in his garage then maybe the issue is his not "ours" as we obv think these issues are the most important there can be bc they literally support or undermine the most important claims ever made about reality: that it contingent that is created by a "mind" that it is purposeful etc etc until finally this is NOT the end of our lives but only the beginning.

            Well i agree with brandon if the issue is whether we can know anything more about reality than just it's basic abstracted physical nature via math and the hard sciences.

            Some ppl really do believe that there is NOTHING to be learned from anything that is not strictly "Scientific" these types are the vast majority of new atheists and so to them you have to point out things really are more complicated than that.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Shouldn't you care about presuppositions of science like the universe has order, we can know that order, it is good to know that order, things change, and cause and effect exist? You at least have to assume them to be true, even though you don't have to think about them when your are doing science.

      • Much of the order of the universe is discovered. Admittedly, it would have to have been assumed in order to get people to do such hard work to find the order (of a very different sort than the Scholastics imagined). In that sense, Christian Metaphysics may have been a sort of training wheels for science. Useful for a time. Now that we've got our balance, the training wheels may not be necessary. Maybe they even start to get in the way, and should at some point be discarded.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Paul, I think the bigger issue is that the scientific method depends on something outside itself, something it is intellectually subordinate to.

          Even though philosophy has important things to say about the physical world (like what it means to say something changes or has a cause), I think a person who only cares about the physical world would be pretty limited intellectually, wouldn't he?

          "Ethics? Values? Oh, I'm not interested in those because they cannot be scientifically tested."

          • I think a previous response I gave on this same thread (not to you; I don't remember who to) addresses this. Some things I can see the intrinsic worth: love, ethics, having a scientific method. I don't see the intrinsic worth to Aristotle's metaphysics. It doesn't seem to make any difference to anything I care about whether it's true or not.

            This is not an argument, but a concern, about this kind of metaphysics. It may be as Flynn said, a sort of arcane mathematics that is very important to those who wish to study it. Why, then, does Strange Notions spend so much time talking about it? And if it is something important, maybe of vital importance to my life, to my very soul, what difference does it make to the world whether its true or not? It seems as though something that would affect my eternal trajectory would also have some impact on the way I would do my work.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, this requires metaphysics and I think it's pretty darn important if it is valid.

            http://thinkingbetween.blogspot.com/2014/06/introductory-remarks-to-argument-for.html

            I don't know what you mean by the following:

            "And if it is something important, maybe of vital importance to my life, to my very soul, what difference does it make to the world whether its true or not?"

            You think something could be vital to your soul that is not true?

          • I misphrased there, sorry. I meant that if it is of vital importance to the eternal trajectory of my soul, it would seem to make some real difference to my life now whether I treated it as being true or not.

            How do you see a scientist's views on Aristotle's metaphysics affecting his or her science? Do you think it would? Maybe not in terms of quality (although I suspect it should, if it were actually important). Maybe in terms of topic or approach.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you take the scientific method as a given and stay within its boundaries, I don't think a scientist has to think about metaphysics at all.

            However, if you begin to make all kinds of unwarranted claims about things outside the purview of the scientific method, then philosophy can show you the error of your ways.

            For a full treatment of this, see this book: http://www.amazon.com/Oracles-Science-Celebrity-Scientists-Religion/dp/0195310721

  • Loreen Lee

    Quote: For it is not an empirical matter, but a philosophical dispute about how to interpret the empirical evidence.
    I have been told by you that I must believe that empirical reality is real, because Aristotle said it was. This you have said is what is wrong with modernity, since the Copernican revolution in which this possible Aristotelean naive realism was overthrown by the subjectivity, that the 'data' from the positivists to the 'modern computers, grin grin) is a phenomena because it is distilled through the misperceptions, perhaps, etc. etc. of the subject who perceived reality. This is conceived as not being naive. You don't want me not to be naive so please tell me how I can see the reality on this question within this post.
    I'm going for coffee break. One step at a time. After all, hopefully I'm not a child,you know. But at the same time I don't want to be deceived by the Cartesian evil spirit!!!! I say this in faith, hoping I'm not in league with the 'devil'.

    • Loreen Lee

      Just doing a bit of musing now, as you understand from past comments
      of mine, that you may or may not be interested in, as I understand. But
      after a recent 'revelation!' in which I finally 'saw' the meaning in a
      former comment that Joyce's 'Finigan's Wake' was with respect to states
      of consciousness, and relationships both internal and 'external'.
      Consequently this great philosophic satire, suggested with respect to
      the post offered on Radioactive Decay and Potentiality and Actuality,a
      'poetic' interpretation which as an examination of my consciouness can
      only be complimentary to that described within the scientific context.
      .
      Within my internal consciousness for instance, on the assumption
      that I was 'open' to becoming aware of what constitutes the 'stochastic'
      (one perspective on Aristotle's philosophy) in relation to a possible
      understanding/reinterpretation of Aristotle's (modal) logic as well as
      the 'metaphysics' of causation: I have now found many possibilites..
      My
      immediate 'presuppositions and intentionality' readily found an
      'answer' which has long been outstanding in that 'historical/memory
      relationship of 'self' to 'church'. Thus, it was quite disconcerting to
      consider that the primary assumption that I perhaps was taken to assume
      within a religious context was that the immediacy of the moment was one
      of potentiality and not actuality. This would have left me open to
      being, within the context of a universalized metaphysic, merely within a
      secondary causation to what is argued as 'being' from an 'epistemology'
      that there is an overall comprehension, or omniscience that is the
      primary cause. I also considered that this has become a principle of a
      prior causation not only identified with God, but with the assumption
      that rational explication/interpretation has subsumed 'all?'
      particulars, even that.of my immediate 'self' awareness. Thus the
      assumption that the immediacy of the intuition of the moment is preceded
      by a rationality or that intuition is 'necessarily' dependent on
      'reason' independent of my personal intuitions/pereptions, and that thus
      I may interpret my self as being 'locked' within a state of possibility
      rather than any immediate actuality either of intuition or perception,
      and indeed reason. That is descriptive of many 'passive' states of
      mind produced .through processes of external control over an
      individual..
      .
      However, If the actuality of my consciousness in
      time, as say, a nuclear scientist's is based on a intuition of what
      constitutes this remarkable physical phenomena, then to interpret the
      words spoken within today's post, perhaps if I were to be within a state
      of intuition of potency, even as interpretated as receptivity, rather
      than within the 'actuality' that is generalized in my mind, the
      phenomena considered (as in the case of the quanta) could possibly not
      be found to have any explanation. There would necessarily be an appeal
      to 'reason', at some level with respect to even causative explanation.
      In this case, the possibility of their not being a cause within this
      phenomena, is certainly worth consideration, for the reason is perhaps
      not yet sufficient enough to explain the phenomena..

      Within an
      'historical' context to be 'definitive' and thus 'productive' of a
      causal relationship in which my 'self' is defined within a causative and
      'authoritarian' context be it 'Church' or 'State' or 'Other'. then my
      state of being is indeed 'defined by a rational law and order, (or not
      as in some cases of authority that as an example are rule by force) that
      is 'eternal' to this self-perception of immediacy in actuality of
      being, or what is called today an 'authentic' self.
      I could go on,
      indefinitely with possibilities. Perhaps this is what they studied in
      modal logics both with respect to epistemological definitions, and modal
      realities.
      So with respect to this, are there, as an abduction,
      significant impressions and interpretations of relations within my
      memory which are at this moment, or have been, perhaps/possibly in a
      process of 'radioactive decay! Could there be any possible truth within
      this metaphysical speculation? Could this happen, even, during the
      turn about of certain neurons in my brain during a reconsideration of
      active and passive relations I have experienced during the development
      of my awareness of the 'cause' of states of passivity, or even
      passive/aggression..
      In considering my actual intuitions to the
      blog's priority of potency, it is perhaps possible to 'think I am, but
      not quite sure' , and indeed this might be a very good description of a
      mental state related poetically as 'waves and particles' of meaning
      within my mind.
      Although it may not possible to be within the
      moment in a state of actuality, potency, or even necessity,
      concurrently, as has been predicated on the conception of God,
      perhaps,there are various combinations and processes in relation to
      both epistemological and ontological categories, that could be made more
      explicit, and conscious..After all the 'definition of God' is
      considered to be a 'necessary state of being', although I am not aware
      of distinctions nor unity within the orthodoxy which distinguish their
      conceptions of will, reason and judgment, which could be related in any
      coherent way, (at least to me) to the existence of a quanta reality, nor
      to the conception of God..Edited: as I usually have to do after
      getting away from it for awhile to have further (hopefully more
      objective) consideration of what I have previously attempted to express.
      Does not the possibility that both the movement from empirical
      evidence to theory, as well as the movement from theory to evidence,
      (whether or not that is regarded as the best 'method' as in the first
      case, to science, and the second to religious dogma, generally) not
      suggest that the on-going process of mind within both theory and
      practice may be regarded as an interactive process, and that both may
      bring discoveries and consolidations..
      Final Edit made. Thank you.

  • Krakerjak

    Metaphysics Class Of 2015

    • BTW, Krakerjak, I edited a reply to you on another thread yesterday because I had inadvertently pasted something in the combox that was in response to someone else. :) I wanted you to be aware. Thanks!

    • Mike

      Work it Krakerjak! ;)

  • Mike

    "Physics also implies that there must be something more to physical reality than what it captures, since mathematical structure is of itself a mere abstraction and there must be some concrete reality which has the structure."

    This is so crucial to understanding that there is more to actual reality than can either be put into a math equation or into any philosophy.

    • Yes, neither God nor one's girlfriend would be a syllogism! At the same time, empirical and logical moments must inform even the reality of lovemaking, for example, to avoid not being seduced unawares by one's girlfriend's twin sister or some half-god. :)

      • Mike

        LOL.

      • Loreen Lee

        All girl;friends are made by God.
        My girlfriend was not made by God.
        Therefore she is not my girlfriend.

        That's how you get radioactive decay.

        You should have bought her an i-pad.

        • Note, too, I didn't judge such a twin sister by labeling her the "evil twin sister" because she might very well be exculpable due to uncontrollable passions, etc

      • Loreen Lee

        The difficulty in this syllogism is that it was not logically possible to bring into logical context any possible 'existence' of the 'girlfriend's twin sister, and a half-god. It would have to be a totally different syllogism. The limitation of the universality of such syllogisms, is 'perhaps' hereby demonstrated.

        It is the awareness of such states of consciousness, logic etc. that are related in such a way to my current use of philosophical satire, as some kind of 'mirror image' or something. I am merely attempting to 'understand' the what? mechanism of brain/mind within observations of my own state of consciousness within the context of intuitive relationships, both internal and within an empirical context, including my relationships with 'others' I cannot record of course all of my reflections, but as someone suggested that I should simply 'write my thoughts in a diary', I understand a bit better now that this is not the 'full domain' of my philosophic study. I have yet to understand and appreciate more the meaning and significance of what constitutes 'philosophical satire'.

    • Loreen Lee

      I fear it's another case of believing is seeing, or would you see in order to believe?

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Now, if there must be causality at the macro level (at the very least in
    the case of the causal relations between the external world and our
    perceptual experiences of it), and this causality is not captured in the
    description of the world that physics itself gives us, then it follows
    that there is more to causality than physics can tell us. And even if
    you dispute the views of Russell, Putnam, Merricks, et al., physics itself is not going to settle the matter. For it is not an empirical matter, but a philosophical dispute about how to interpret the empirical evidence.

    Causality is captured by physics in the macro world. Newton's Laws of Motion capture causality. One cannot talk have a philosophical dispute about empirical evidence that ignores the evidence.

    • Loreen Lee

      At leas Newton was not blind enough to need a pair of glasses when he perceived a copy of Aristotle's logic among his volumes of astrological wisdom..

  • Luke

    I think it's important to note for those who are unfamiliar like I was, that "Scholastic" in the context of this article does not mean "scholarly," "academic," or "relating to education." Rather, "Scholastic" refers to Scholasticism, which is essentially a midieval, pre-scientific theological attempt to defend Christian dogma hundreds of years ago. "Scholastic metaphysics" should not be taken to mean "current academic philosophical approaches to metaphysics," but rather, "outdated dogmatic philosophical approaches to metaphysics." An important distinction, as only religious philosophers seem to take this stuff seriously, which is telling.

    • Krakerjak

      Interesting indeed. So one can be forgiven for thinking of the term "scholastic metaphysics" as a way of adding a veneer of superfluous respectability to the term? Forgive me if I seem unduly jaded, but there seems to be a fair number of academics parading around in the emperor's new clothes these days.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        No. Scholastic is an adjective which modifies the noun metaphysics. It is a particular approach (the scholastic approach) to philosophical questions about basic aspects of being (which is what metaphysics is).

        • Mike

          Hee hee ;)

          • Krakerjak

            Very mature of you to think any opinion other than the Catholic one is worthy of laughter and ridicule. Typical theistic attitude. And I was not even commenting to you.

          • Mike

            HA!

        • Krakerjak

          That was just my opinion and you are entitled to yours...as that is all it is...your opinion.

        • Krakerjak

          philosophical questions about basic aspects of being (which is what metaphysics is)

          I know what metaphysics is you clone....My comment was to to with a reply to the term scholastic metaphysics.

          • Mike

            What's a "Catholic clone"? Do i qualify?

    • Mike

      Are you a happy atheist?

      • Luke

        My Disqus legal defender: Objection! Relevance.
        Disqus judge: I'll allow it.
        Me: *gives judge stink eye for a full four seconds* Fine. Happy. Yes, I am as happy as my current constraints and context allow (I'll not go onto those further on a public forum). Yes, I am as happy as my conscience allows given that people are being beheaded, burned alive on video, and murdered over cartoons; that religious figures are intent on constructing totalitarian theocracies that limit basic human rights; that much of the world chooses to worship a being that they believe will torture many of its own creations for eternity; and that someone I'm very close to found out yesterday that the radiation therapy prescribed to kill his cancer might end up killing him as a result of malpractice.

        • Mike

          Sorry to hear about your friend and the rest that is on your conscience.

          Do you feel personally responsible for it in some way? for all that evil?

          • Krakerjak

            Did he indicate anything about his friend's illness being on his conscience, as per anything as to him being to blame? :You and your clone Kevin are just too much to bear.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Clone?

          • Mike

            You flatter me with talk of any similarity btw me and Kevin!

          • Krakerjak

            More like cut from the same cloth...or like peas in a pod.

          • Mike

            Take it easy man, you're the one insulting us remember?

          • Luke

            Thanks. No, I feel no personal responsibility. I am concerned, however, about being complicit / complacent, which is what motivates me to engage in these discussions online.

          • Mike

            I see; and i agree: i think that's why many of us are on here: bc we have what has been termed an unquenchable thirst for justice - it just feels so wrong what's happening that it seems to many of us to "point" towards "something more", something beyond this world - it doesn't just seem wrong or cruel but i don't know somehow "evil"!

          • Loreen Lee

            I read Richard Rorty's philosophy within the context that we don't need a God, and indeed the important focus 'should' be towards eliminating the 'cruelty' within the world. I interpreted this as placing the fault within a context that required even the elimination of the concept of 'God'. As it is understood by many that even as a concept, it has been the most misunderstood and misused among humanity, would it's elimination be required or produce a humanity in which there is no 'cruelty'? Is all the cruelty I see in this world dependent on such a concept as those of our actions, words, and thoughts directed towards a higher, yet not attained, end, consequence, purpose? Would it be possible to develop the ability and awareness to fashion one's possibilities within an ongoing developmental awareness solely within the framework of the personal, without being caught within some limitations of secondary causation, be that directed by the state, as for example in the case of the ideology of fascism, or indeed within the framework of being unable to determine good from bad advice, say, within social interrelationships. And indeed, when it comes even in the 'fight' for justice, are we always able to discern what constitute the best methods and theoretical framework, that will not in themselves produce undesired 'effects'? Many 'just wars' have, for instance, been fought, and continue to be fought, which themselves have brought unfortunate 'injustices'. And yet is it always possible to 'resist not' evil?.

          • Luke

            we have what has been termed an unquenchable thirst for justice - it seems to many of us to "point" towards "something more", something beyond this world

            Speaking personally: Yes, for justice; no for something more beyond this world.

          • Mike

            How can you conceive of justice without an afterlife? I just can't; one of the biggest reasons i am a christian is just that, justice; the killers won't get away with it by blowing their brains out and the victims will be compensated.

            Why in the world would you NOT want an afterlife if so many millions of ppl will never get justice here on earth?

          • Luke

            Does anyone deserve an eternity of suffering? No human could ever cause enough pain and death than an eternity of pain would be a fair punishment. I see no justice in such an afterlife.

          • Mike

            But you may be wrong about what kind of punishment awaits them whereas the victims here have absolute certainty that they will die unjustly and have nothing not justice for their oppressors nor even compensation for themselves...doesn't that hopelessness seem cruel itself?

          • George

            just because you desire the world to be a certain way does not make it so. there is no evidence murderers live on in some other phase of existence so wishful thinking about that is useless

          • Mike

            but that's the very point of this site: there is LOTS OF EVIDENCE! Stop by your local catholic church tomorrow, look at it and ask the priest if he believes there's evidence.

          • Luke

            Cruel or not, I will not believe in an afterlife or a God for the sole sake of making me feel better inside. Would I rather it be different? Of course!

            Edit: Minor word added.

          • Mike

            Does it make you feel better inside to believe there is God and an afterlife?

            If it does doesn't that count as evidence? weak sure but evidence and plus if you're right it won't matter that you 'took comfort' in a lie bc you'll be dead and won't even know you're dead.

            I personally find the possibility of atheism being true very liberating in that it gives me complete freedom to hope for something more for any shred of evidence there may be that this is not the end - to sell all for that pearl of great price.

            Afterall the alternative is plainly obvious: death, physical and metaphysical.

          • Luke

            Does it make you feel better inside to believe there is God and an afterlife?

            Not any God that I've ever heard of. Not any afterlife that involves a hell.

            If it does doesn't that count as evidence? ... if you're right it won't matter that you 'took comfort' in a lie

            No, not evidence to me. I couldn't force myself to believe in something that I knew was a lie.

            I don't follow your last paragraph, sorry.

          • Mike

            If atheism turns out to be true i lose nothing for my belief - i won't even know i was wrong!

            That's why atheism can be so liberating bc it basically says there's nothing past this life which means you can do anything you want as when you die that's it there's nothing else.

          • Luke

            But what if Islam (or any other religion) is right? Then you and I will have lost something.

            I don't believe I can do anything I want without consequence, nor would I want to do many things, even if I could get away with them without consequence.

          • Mike

            But if you end up being right we'll never know it bc we'll all be dead and gone so you have literally nothing to lose so why not place a bet?

            What consequences are there if your dead?

          • Luke

            Sorry, but a discussion based on Pascal's wager is not worth pursuing for me at this time. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager#Criticism

          • Mike

            I understand, thanks.

          • Doug Shaver

            That's why atheism can be so liberating bc it basically says there's nothing past this life which means you can do anything you want as when you die that's it there's nothing else.

            "Nothing past this life" doesn't mean nothing in this life matters. It matters all the more, if it's the only one I'm going to have. And I did manage to learn, at a pretty young age, that if all I cared about was my immediate self-gratification, it was guaranteed that I would spend this life in misery.

          • Doug Shaver

            Does it make you feel better inside to believe there is God and an afterlife?

            If it does doesn't that count as evidence? weak sure but evidence

            For me, not even weak evidence. In my life, the correlation between how things are and how I wish they were has been negative.

          • Mike

            I see and so you're probably right that in your particular circumstance it does make more sense to stay "vigilant", on the look out for false promises and other things like that. Actually i think that's why many ppl reject religion nowadays not for exactly your particular reasons but just a general feeling that it too like so much else will in the end disappoint and frustrate.

          • George

            "Killers".

            do you know what the great Christian apologist William Lane Craig said about the act of killing in the case of babies? he called it "the termination of the earthly phase of life".

            can you tell me how you can conceive of anything being a crime if there is an afterlife?

          • Mike

            If you kill a person for his car say that's a crime and if you get away with justice in this life in the next God will exact perfect justice for your crime and the victim will be compensated with life.

          • Doug Shaver

            Why in the world would you NOT want an afterlife if so many millions of ppl will never get justice here on earth?

            Why do you assume that my denial of an afterlife implies any lack of desire for the justice that an afterlife would bring?

            Is there any reason I should believe that the universe is so arranged that whatever I want to happen must happen?

          • Mike

            You can desire justice and deny an afterlife but you can not expect justice and you have to i don't know come to terms with a basic fact that many ppl will if there is no afterlife never get any sort of justice or recompense.

            IF you are right and there is no afterlife then nothing at all what so ever will make any difference as we'll all be dead AND not even know it.

            AND since you can't be 100% sure there is no afterlife indeed LOTS of ppl say the exact opposite, why not HOPE that there is and try to hang your hope on anything that'll meet the most basic test?

            That's how i got out of a cultural atheism which seemed to me invincible or perfectly logically self consistent: i had a moment of epiphany or grace (although i have no idea what grace is supposed to be btw) when i realized that if atheism is true that i am justified in believing anything and this was a moment of liberation so to speak - if the athiests are right and there is no afterlife no god no account of my life then why can't i believe in God in the resurrection?

            See i needed that freedom that atheism was able to provide me bc i lived in a very very hostile leftwing place on the eastern seaboard and grew up with an angry hostile to religion atheist older brother who used to make fun of me for showing any signs of wanting to believe in God and so i had to out smart him and i figure out how: i took him seriously. If we all just turn to dust then what have i got to lose by doing silly things like praying and reading about God and learning about religions? The answer was plainly obvious, nothing. So that gave me the room; that's why i say atheism can be very liberating, TOO liberating. Anyway the rest is history as the more i looked into these claims the more astounded i was that they nothing were possible but also maybe even probable and in fact true.

            Sorry for the burst of words there but i am procrastinating at work.

          • Doug Shaver

            Nothing will matter to me after I'm dead because, after I'm dead, there won't be any me. But as long as I continue to exist, then there is a me for things to matter to.

          • Mike

            Exactly if you are right nothing will matter as nothing will not exist.

          • Doug Shaver

            Nothing will matter to me. Many things will matter to those who live after me. Why should I be indifferent to their concerns? Why should I live so selfishly?

          • Michael Murray

            I don't know why it is so hard for some theists to get this. I wonder if they think theists are the only people to write wills ?

          • Mike

            You shouldn't but even if you did it wouldn't make one salt of difference, none at all. Plus in the end it doesn't matter how 'they' live either as they too will die and will forget or never remember anything either, no one will bc there won't be anyone at all there will just be infinite nothingness for everyone.

          • Doug Shaver

            You keep talking as though some life after this one is the only life I should care about. But since I don't expect to have any life beyond this one, the way I live it is, to me, of the utmost importance. And, having lived both immorally and morally, I have learned that moral living is smart living.

          • Mike

            What? no you have to care about this one bc this one determins the next!

            But if there is no next then nothing you or anyone else do here will matter in 3 million years when the earth is burned up or whatever.

          • Doug Shaver

            you have to care about this one bc this one determins the next!

            That is what many people say.

            But if there is no next then nothing you or anyone else do here will matter in 3 million years

            And therefore nothing matters right now? I can't see the logic in thinking that way.

          • Mike

            The logic is very very simple and easy to see...anyway thx for engaging.

          • Doug Shaver

            anyway thx for engaging.

            I wish you would reciprocate, but you're welcome.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If until very recently you didn't even know what the term scholastic meant, how can you be so certain your other comments about it hold any water?

      For example, what about scholastic metaphysics is outdated or dogmatic?

      • Mike

        Don't feed the trolls.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't think Luke is a troll. I just don't think the comment above is reasonable.

          • Mike

            Your probably right but this:

            "outdated dogmatic philosophical approaches to metaphysics." ... only religious philosophers seem to take this stuff seriously, which is telling."

            is very close.

          • Luke

            Not if those statements are accurate.

          • Mike

            That's a sneer not an argument.

          • Luke

            I apologize. It's not my intention, nor how I meant it.

      • Luke

        Find me modern philosophers who are not attempting to prove the existence of their God and who treat Scholastic metaphysics as anything other than a historically influential movement.

        From a 1908 Notre Dame article series on Scholasticism (http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/scholas1.htm ):

        Will Scholasticism ever overleap the walls of the Seminaries? Will it remain a philosophy for the clergy only, a vestibule to dogmatic theology for those whose profession it is to be theologians, or will it largely imbue the Catholic laity also? Will it take a hold upon the universities? Will it ever colour, as Kant and Hegel at this day colour, the thought of the writers in our magazines? Any ordinary educated man who spent a week with St. Thomas, Duns Scotus, and Suarez, would come out, I fancy, crying: 'No chance; Scholastic tomes are only less archaic than Babylonian bricks; Scholasticism is as the traceable old bed of a river, which the water once filled, but to which it will never return; the current of modern thought has turned irrevocably another way.'

        You can find also find quotes in the same article that present Scholasticism favorably. Maybe sentiments have changed toward Scholasticism in the last 100 years, but every article I see speaks of it in the past tense.

        • Loreen Lee

          You can either remain open or closed with respect to finding within the past, either in the context of history or ideas, an idea or event which is seminal, with respect to possibilities of interpretation/reinterpretation within the context of theory especially, and in my case discovery, within a personal context.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You are not aware that there are many neo-Scholastic philosophers and Thomistic philosophers who have worked in the past century?

          • Luke

            Are they all religious apologists?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What does that mean?

          • Luke

            I thought that my question was clear. You're familiar with religious apologetics, yes?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Apologetics is a specific branch of philosophy and theology.

            So are all Scholastic-tradition philosophers and theologians professional apologists? No. I'd say very few.

            Even Peter Kreeft who writes lots of apologetical works is primarily a college-level teacher of philosophy. I also doubt that Ed Feser talks much about Catholicism in his Pasadena Community College courses.

          • Luke

            I'm not saying that Scholastics do not currently exist and that they cannot possibly have other ideas about philosophy. I'm saying that there seem to be few, if any, current philosophers who take Scholastic metaphysics seriously enough to apply it to any arguments except for those that argue for the existence of their God. A handful of atheistic Scholastic metaphysicians, for example, would falsify my claim.

  • Marc Riehm

    Please explain the logic behind this statement:

    Nor will it do to dismiss such disputes on the grounds that the competing views about them are “unfalsifiable.” This is known as falsificationism, a thesis put forward by a philosopher, Karl Popper. As Popper himself realized, falsificationism is not itself a scientific thesis but a meta-level claim about science.

    Why does it matter that the claim was made by a philosopher, or that it was a meta-level claim about science? This is a foundational idea within the scientific method. And it should be a foundational concept behind all forms of serious enquiry about our world.

    I mean, it has to be, else you have no way of discarding all kinds of cockamamie ideas. Sasquatch, astrology, homeopathy, and The Fall.

    The author enjoys referring to Russell. Russell's teapot is relevant here.

    • Caravelle

      I think there are two issues at play here though. On the one hand, whether we should believe something without any evidence. On the other hand, whether a hypothesis has substance and if so what it is.

      Russel's teapot is a case where we can't practically obtain direct evidence of its existence, therefore it's reasonable not to believe there's a teapot orbiting Saturn (though there's also the issue of indirect evidence, which is very strong that there [i]isn't[/i] a teapot orbiting Saturn. It would go against everything we know of teapots and the kinds of objects likely to have ended up orbiting Saturn).

      That said, the hypothesis "there's a teapot orbiting Saturn" does [i]say[/i] something. There is a difference between a Universe where there is a teapot orbiting Saturn, and a Universe where there isn't. It's even theoretically possible for evidence to turn up at some point - if such a teapot existed, there's a nonzero chance the Cassini probe could catch a glimpse of it, or that our telescopes would grow powerful enough to see it at some point. Even if we never get that evidence, the evidence exists in the teapot's light-cone.

      This is a different situation from some mistier hypotheses, like those of Platonic Forms, or p-zombies. In those cases it can be hard to even articulate how the world would be different if those hypotheses were true vs if they weren't, let alone imagine theoretical evidence that could help us tell one from the other.

  • Krakerjak

    Attention @ Michael Murray, since you seem to be the unofficial liaison for
    conveying comments and links by request, from EN to SN for the EN
    participants who are banned on SN.Perhaps as a coutesy you could also do
    the same as per individual request for SN participants who are banned
    from EN. Such would seem to be a reasonable request, until such time as
    a truce or amnesty between the two sites regarding the banned becomes a
    reality.....as I don't think either Brandon or Andrew is open to the
    idea of amnesty at present.

  • Loreen Lee

    Hey! Everybody. The Scientific community have made a statement on the relation of Science to Religion that should stop all of this argument.
    Please read this post from today's news: http://www.opednews.com/Quicklink/Human-Soul-Found-Quantum-by-Kyle-McDermott-Ascensional-Transudation_Big-Seed-Hypothesis_Consciousness_Cosmic-Bio-Fine-Tuning-150206-251.ht

    • Doug Shaver

      Who wrote that article, and why should I think that they represent the thinking of the scientific community?

      • Loreen Lee

        You mean it's not going to end all argument? grin grin

        • Doug Shaver

          I wasn't commenting on its effectiveness. I was asking about its relevance.

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, I'll let those who run this post make the decision on that. They haven't deleted it yet, so they must think it has some relevance.

  • Howard

    What caused Adam to decide to eat the apple? Eve influenced him, as did the appearance of the apple and the words of the serpent, but what caused Adam to make a potential decision an actual decision?