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“Existential Inertia” vs. Almighty God

Materialist philosophers, starting in the fifth century B.C. with Leucippus and Democritus, have claimed that physical reality has simply existed without any temporal beginning, thereby avoiding need for any type of transcendent spiritual creator. With Christianity, though, came belief that the world began in time as well as the concurrent claim that a purely spiritual and utterly transcendent God was needed to explain its creation ex nihilo et utens nihilo.

Since the Christian God was held to have created the world “out of nothing and using nothing,” the metaphysical principle which says that when a cause ceases causing its effect ceases was taken to imply that God not only caused the world to be created from nothing, but also, were he to stop creating it, it would fall back into nothingness. Thus was born the Christian doctrine that God continuously creates (conserves in existence) the entire cosmos – even if it had no beginning in time. This has become a central claim of Christian metaphysicians, including St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

Responding to this Christian belief, the recent counterclaim, known as “existential inertia,”1 has appeared. In essence, existential inertia provides a theoretical foundation for materialism’s constant stance that the world explains itself and has no need to be sustained by God’s conserving causation.

Like Newton’s law of inertia, which states that a body in motion tends to remain in motion and a body at rest tends to remain at rest, the concept of “existential inertia” maintains that (1) once a concrete object is in existence, it will persist in existence without any continuously concurrent sustaining cause, and (2) it would require new causal action to make it cease to exist. Thus, one of the most central theses of Thomistic metaphysics, namely, that all finite beings need an extrinsic cause to explain why they continue in existence, is replaced with an allegedly rational justification for Leucippus’s and Democritus’s original thesis of an eternal uncreated material world.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason

This fundamental metaphysical debate over how things exist requires examining the even more basic metaphysical principle of sufficient reason, since Christian thinkers insist that God provides to all finite beings their sufficient reason for continued existence. Instead, atheists maintain that concrete objects either (1) are their own sufficient reason for staying in existence, or else, perhaps, (2) since they already are in existence, they need no further reason for continued existence.

The Thomistic principle of sufficient reason states that everything needs a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be. “Sufficient reason” means an adequate and necessary objective explanation of something. Elsewhere, I maintain that all human reasoning follows this principle, since everyone knows that every claim anyone makes must somehow be supported:

To say that claims need support means that a statement or proposition must somehow be either (1) immediately evident or (2) that some extrinsic evidence proves it is true. A statement may be immediately evident either (1) because it is self-evident, as when I say every triangle has three angles, or else, (2) because it is immediately-known as when I say that I am presently experiencing some form of change or motion.

Human reason universally demands that what is not immediately evident must be proven through extrinsic evidence, which amounts to saying that reason demands a sufficient reason for everything – either in itself or from some other evidence.

And yet, since claims made in the form of propositions are made about reality, if the laws of reason do not apply equally to reality, reason becomes a useless instrument to know reality. Conversely, if reason is a valid instrument whereby to know the real world, then the principle of sufficient reason must universally apply to reality just as it does within reason itself.

Benignus Gerrity offers one of sufficient reason’s best defenses:

“The intellect, reflecting upon its own nature, sees that it is an appetite and a power for conforming itself to being; and reflecting upon its acts and the relation to these acts to being, it sees that, when it judges with certitude that something is, it does so by reason of compulsion of being itself. The intellect cannot think anything without a reason; whatever it thinks with certitude, it thinks by compulsion of the principle of sufficient reason. When it withholds judgment, it does so because it has no sufficient reason for an assertion. But thought - true thought - is being in the intellect. The intellect is actual as thought only by virtue of some being in it conforming it to what is; whatever the intellect knows as certainly and necessarily known, it knows as the self-assertion of a being in it. This being which compels the intellect to judge does so as a sufficient reason of judgment. Nothing, therefore, is more certainly known than the principle of sufficient reason, because this is the principle of thought itself, without which there can be no thought. But by the same token the intellect knows that the principle of sufficient reason is a principle of being because it is being, asserting itself in thought, which compels thought to conform to this principle.”2

Rejecting analytic philosophers’ attacks on metaphysical claims, philosopher Jacques Maritain, defends metaphysics’ prerogative to investigate the principles of being as such:

“We must beware of a fatal error, confusing metaphysics with logic. This mistake has, in fact, been made by the moderns, many of whom maintain that this being as such is a mere word, a linguistic residuum, or else that it is a universal frame whose value is purely logical, not ontological. According to them the metaphysician has fallen victim to human language, whereas in fact he passes through and beyond language to attain its intellectual source, superior to any uttered word. We must, therefore, understand clearly that the metaphysical intuition of being is sui generis and of powerful efficacy and therefore distinguish carefully being which is the object of metaphysics … from being as studied by logic.3

The Act of Existence and Its Sufficient Reason

Having established the ontological principle that every being must have a reason for being or coming-to-be, the question now is whether a being’s continued existence is adequately explained by “existential inertia.”

“Sufficient reason’s” critical relevance to “existential inertia” becomes clear when one realizes that every being, even one allegedly possessing “existential inertia,” absolutely requires a sufficient reason for its existence or coming-to-be. That something persists in existence still requires a sufficient reason for that persistence.

Whatever other significations metaphysicians give to the term, “existence,” in this essay, I refer primarily to whatever it is in something that actually differentiates it from absolute nothingness. For this reason it is called an “act of existence.” Kant correctly points out that existence is not a predicate in the sense of adding a property to something. Still, existence is that act which differentiates all beings and their properties from non-being.

The act of existence needs a sufficient reason for doing whatever it does to make something be real.

Moreover, existence manifests the meaning of the term, “power,” since power refers to the ability to do or make something – and what existence does is to make something be real, that is to say, to make it to be an actual being.

So, the natural question is how great a power is required to explain that something exists in reality?

Sufficient Reason in Causes and Effects

While every being requires a sufficient reason, a logical distinction arises when we ask just “where” this sufficient reason is to be found. A sufficient reason’s locus for explaining something can logically be divided into three possibilities: (1) a thing may be explained by a sufficient reason entirely extrinsic to itself, (2) a thing may be explained by a sufficient reason entirely intrinsic to itself, or (3) a thing may be explained by reasons that are partially intrinsic and partially extrinsic to itself, with the combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic reasons constituting sufficiency.

By definition, any being whose sufficient reason for being is not totally within or intrinsic to itself is, to that extent, dependent upon another for its sufficient reason, and thus, it is called an “effect.” Conversely, any being which serves as an extrinsic sufficient reason is called, in that precise respect, a “cause.” Finally, anything whose sufficient reason for being is entirely intrinsic to itself is simply its own sufficient reason.

While St. Thomas Aquinas gives no direct argument to prove the power needed for a thing simply to exist, he does offer an argument regarding the power required to make something come into being ex nihilo et utens nihilo, that is, by way of direct creation.

In his Summa Theologiae, while answering an objection that only a finite power is needed to produce a finite creature by creation, St. Thomas proposes the following demonstration to prove that infinite power is required in order to create any being at all:

“It must be said that the power of the maker is measured not only from the substance of the thing made but also from the way of its making; for a greater heat not only heats more, but also heats more swiftly. Thus, although to create some finite effect does not demonstrate infinite power, nevertheless to create it from nothing does demonstrate infinite power.... For, if a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more removed from the act, it must be that the power of an agent [which produces] from no presupposed potency, such as a creating agent does, would be infinite; because there is no proportion of no potency to some potency, as is presupposed by the power of a natural agent, just as there is [no proportion] of non-being to being.”4

Now one might be tempted to agree with St. Thomas’s conclusion, but for the wrong reason – since it seems intuitive that “thrusting” a thing into being requires transcending a gap between non-being and being that has no middle through which to pass, and hence, requires infinite power to accomplish. But between non-being and being there is no real relation to measure, since all real relations require that both extremes in the relationship be real – and non-being is not real. Hence, this argument fails.

Rather, St. Thomas’s actual argument is cast in terms of potency and act and the principle that greater power is required to produce the act when the potency is more removed [magis remota] from the act. But, potency and act here can be replaced by the more evident concepts of non-being and being. For, something with fewer real properties may be changed into something with more real properties and that change can be measured in terms of the power required, since having certain initial properties can function as a basis against which to measure how many more additional properties are required to produce the thing that comes-to-be.

Thus, changing non-living matter into a cognitive organism requires more power than would be needed to change an already living organism into a cognitive organism, since the living thing already has more of the properties belonging to a cognitive thing. In that manner, the remoteness of the thing to be changed measures the power needed to produce that which comes-to-be in change.

But this way of reckoning does not apply to the creation of being or existence absolutely considered, since what does not exist at all offers no preceding qualities from which to measure the remoteness to that which comes-to-be, namely, something that really exists. For, the act of creation produces existence absolutely, not merely this or that form of existence. As St. Thomas puts it, “Now to produce existence [esse] absolutely, not as this or that [form of existence], belongs to creation.”5

Hence, while it appears possible to measure the remoteness of something with fewer or less perfect qualities of being to something with more or more perfect qualities of being, it is inherently and objectively impossible to measure the remoteness of non-existence to existence absolutely considered, since, as St. Thomas notes, “there is [no proportion] of non-being to being.”6

Since, then, it is impossible to measure the remoteness of non-existence to existence absolutely considered, it is impossible, in the case of producing being itself, to measure the power required for creation. Hence, the power required to create finite being is, by its very nature, immeasurable. But what is immeasurable is infinite. Hence, infinite power is required to create finite being, since there is no pre-existing being from which to produce it.

Now, it might be objected that “remoteness” assumes measurement between two really existing things, whereas, in the case of creation there is not even a real relation of remoteness, since non-being does not exist. But, this only underlines the impossibility of measuring the power required to create, since there is simply no standard of reference against which to measure or judge its limit.

Following a slightly different approach, the prior state of a being provides a limit against which to measure the qualities produced in the succeeding state, and thus, the power needed to produce them. In this way, what exists, but is non-living, provides a limit to the needed power insofar as something already has existence, even though it lacks the property of life compared to a resultant living organism. But non-being, since it does not exist at all, provides no such limit against which to measure the existence of that which comes-to-be after the effect is produced. Therefore, the power needed to produce being from nothing has no limit by which to measure it – meaning it is limitless or infinite power.

Why it Takes Infinite Power for Anything to Exist

While the preceding argument proves that infinite power is required to create being ex nihilo et utens nihilo, it still must be determined whether similar reasoning applies to what is already in existence, that is, why something could not simply continue to exist through existential inertia without the need for anything whatever causing it to be.

Even if one grants that infinite power is needed to cause a finite thing to begin to exist, one could still take the position maintained by materialists, such as Democritus, that no new beings ever come-to-be at all. Rather, matter is eternal and complex things are merely combinations of what already exists from all eternity with no cause of existence of anything being needed. No infinite power is required because nothing new ever comes-to-be from non-being. No power is needed to explain continued existence at all, since things just continue existing through existential inertia.

Of course, the preceding defense of existential inertia applies solely to the new existence of complete substances. Existential inertia has no defense against the coming-to-be of what I call, in another essay, “new existence” in the form of accidental changes, such as motion.

But complete beings or substances do not “just exist” without a sufficient reason, which “does something,” namely, by functioning as an adequate and necessary objective explanation of why they exist. The sufficient reason must have the power to account for this reality.

Since proponents of existential inertia insist that it would take some external cause to destroy a thing already in existence, the being in question must not be being caused to exist by another. That is because what is caused by another to continue existing would receive its sufficient reason for existing from another. Removing that extrinsic sufficient reason would “automatically” make the caused being cease to be, since it would have lost its extrinsic sufficient reason for existing and no intrinsic one was postulated. As St. Thomas puts it, “… with the cessation of the cause, the effect also ceases….”7

Thus, what must still be explained is this logically remaining intrinsic sufficient reason whereby any finite being continues to be actually real as opposed to being nothing at all. A finite existent does not just happen to exist, since it is “doing something,” namely actually existing. This means that it also must have a really existing intrinsic sufficient reason by which it has the power actually to exist.

So, the question remains: “Can the power (intrinsic sufficient reason) by which a finite existent exists be measured or is it immeasurable, that is, infinite?”

The principle of sufficient reason mandates that there must be a reason for something already existing to continue to exist. If continued existence required no sufficient reason, no power would be needed for existential inertia to occur. But since a real sufficient reason must be operative in keeping something in existence, this would mean that the finite being must continually actively account for its own existence.

Aside from the fact that the sufficient reason needed to account for finite existence is intrinsic to the being now under discussion, an argument similar to the earlier one above shows that it still requires infinite power to account for a finite being’s existence.

No matter how distant a given being is from another given being, non-being is more distant from both of them than they are from each other, since there is not even a proportion of non-being to being, as St. Thomas points out.8 This shows that non-being is immeasurably or infinitely removed from being.

It is inherently and objectively impossible to measure the remoteness of non-being to being, since there is not even a proportion of non-being to being. For this reason, it is likewise impossible to measure the power required in order to account for a finite being’s existing as opposed to its not existing at all.

Furthermore, as noted above, even though a being itself is finite, the lack of any real relation between non-being and being only serves to show that there is simply no standard against which to measure the power required to explain any finite being’s existing. As St. Thomas notes, the power required is known, not only from what is made, but also from how it is made – and there is no way to measure the act by which any being – regardless of what it is -- is distinguished from nothingness.9

The power required to explain why anything exists at all, as opposed to not existing, is, by its very nature, immeasurable, that is to say, infinite.

Even regarding a finite being whose existence does not have a beginning, but one where something is causing it to exist from all eternity, similar reasoning prevails. Infinite power is ultimately required to explain why any being whatever exists as opposed to non-being – if not in itself, then in its cause.

Therefore, to say that a finite being is its own sufficient reason for continuing to exist amounts to saying that it is infinitely powerful and essentially creating itself, which is impossible for a mere finite being to be and to do!

Thus, whether something (1) is caused by another or (2) explains its own existence, infinite power is required to explain its existence. But infinite power cannot reside in a finite being or even in a collection of finite beings. Therefore there must exist an Infinite Being, the God of classical theism, who alone can possess and manifest the infinite power required to create and conserve in existence all finite things, including the entire physical world.

“Existential inertia” turns out to be metaphysically impossible. Rather, all finite things are created by God and held in existence by his continued creative causality. Absent God’s conservation of all things in existence, they would all fall back into nothingness.

The bare existence of anything at all necessarily implies the existence of Almighty God as the only being possessing the infinite power needed to account for the existence of anything at all.

“Existential inertia” vs. Almighty God?   Almighty God wins!

Notes:

  1. Beaudoin, J. The world’s continuance: divine conservation or existential inertia?. Int J Philos Relig 61, 83–98 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11153-007-9113-1
  2. Benignus Gerrity, Nature, Knowledge, and God (1947), 400-401.
  3. Jacques Maritain, A Preface to Metaphysics (1939), 27.
  4. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad. 3.
  5. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, c.
  6. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad. 3.
  7. Summa Theologiae I, q. 96, a. 3, ob.3.
  8. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad. 3.
  9. Ibid.
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

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  • God Hates Faith

    The power required to explain why anything exists at all, as opposed to not existing, is, by its very nature, immeasurable, that is to say, infinite.

    Not sure why you believe the burden of proof doesn't lie on those who claim "nothing" is the default state (or even possible).

    • Philip Rand

      Because scientifically (as you know), the lowest possible energy state is zero...

      You will never get a straight answer to your question from Bonnette as you can tell from the gross exposition of his article Bonnette (like Feser & Pruss) loves jargon... as do all atheists...

      Never, underestimate the ability of the human mind to reason itself to any position...

      • God Hates Faith

        How does entropy justify "nothing" as the default? Our universe has entropy and there isn't "nothing".

        loves jargon... as do all atheists...

        That's quite a generalization!

        Never, underestimate the ability of the human mind to reason itself to any position..

        Completely agree!!!

        • Philip Rand

          The lowest possible energy state is the most common.

          • God Hates Faith

            So, then we have energy and entropy. Both not "nothing".

          • Philip Rand

            energy=zero
            entropy=zero
            nothing==something not identical with itself

          • God Hates Faith

            I am confused why you think something (energy & entropy) is nothing.

            nothing==something not identical with itself

            Could you explain this more. If nothing = something... that simply doesn't make sense to me.

          • Philip Rand

            It is the logical trajectory of "nothing" using the defining concept existential inertia.

          • God Hates Faith

            Please explain what you mean. The "existential inertia" thesis holds that, once in existence, the natural world tends to remain in existence without need of a divine conserving cause.

          • Philip Rand

            Which forces you to accept the existential import of existential inertia.

            To be logical you must concede:

            nothing := thing not identical to itself

            Surely, this trivial point is obvious to you!

          • God Hates Faith

            You've lost me...

            How is nothing not identical to itself? Even if it weren't, how is that relevant. If entropy exists as a law, that is something.

          • Philip Rand

            Good, you agree.

            Therefore, since "entropy" is "something", then by existential import of existential inertia:

            entropy=0

            Is the default.

            So, you have proven to yourself that "nothing" is the default (which after all was the burden of proof you were originally seeking, (i.e. refer to your concern again).

          • God Hates Faith

            then by existential import of existential inertia:
            entropy=0

            This is where you lost me. Explain your logic, step by step, in simple terms.

            Entropy is the second law of thermodynamics. How does a law become non-existent?

            How does energy being dispersed = no energy?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM-uykVfq_E

          • Philip Rand

            x=thing
            S=entropy
            L=entropy law

            Therefore: ∃x (Sx & Lx)
            Let: S=0.5
            Then: ∃x (Sx & Lx) -> the function (Sx & Lx) is true of "something".
            Let: S=0
            Then: ∃x (Sx & Lx) -> the function (Sx & Lx) is true of "nothing".

          • God Hates Faith

            You didn't simplify it at all. LOL.

            Why do you make S and L different?
            Why did you make S = a number (0.5 and 0)? You are creating a tautological conclusion by defining S as both something and nothing, then saying that means its nothing.

            By your logic...

            x= thing
            G = God.

            Let G = 0.5
            Therefore ∃x (Gx) = is true of something

            Let G = 0
            Therefore ∃x (Gx) = is true of nothing.

          • Philip Rand

            I made it perfectly clear to you that it is the function (Sx & Lx) that determines "something" or "nothing", not a single variable. CACHINNATE.

            S and L have to be different, S is the differential and L the integral.

          • God Hates Faith

            So, we agree the default is that god is not identical to itself?

          • Philip Rand

            No.

            Rather, WE have demonstrated that "nothing" is the default state and is possible.

            That, after all was your initial query, right?

          • God Hates Faith

            That nothing would then include a God, right?

          • God Hates Faith

            Please explain how I did the math wrong, since I used the same (flawed) equation with God as you did with entropy (and the law of entropy which is the same thing...).

          • God Hates Faith

            How did you determine that S = 0.5 and S = 0?

            Seems like you assumed the variable, then made your conclusion equal to your assumption. That is tautological.

          • Philip Rand

            Very easily... a tin can at rest in a junk yard open to the environment, as the tin can rusts away it's entropy reduces while the environments increases...over time the tin can's local entropy will eventually reduce to zero, i.e. "nothing" as it rusts away while the environment's entropy constantly increases at the expense of the tin can. That is science.

            My values were qualitative.

          • God Hates Faith

            In your analogy the closed system is not the tin can, its the environment. The energy doesn't cease to exist. It simply transitions.

          • Philip Rand

            Analogy? Energy?

            Shifting the "goal-posts" is always a sign of a defeated position...

            Your concern is my choice of qualitative ENTROPY values not energy (read your above question).

            Now, with regards to entropy, the rusting tin can is a specific physical interaction with the environmental system, the environment is global entropy and the rusting tin can is local entropy, so that the environment system entropy increases as the local system entropy decreases. Now, by the Second Law of Thermodynamics (that you yourself make reference) the increase in entropy must exceed (or equal) the gain in information. My entropy values represent gain in information (i.e. transition) so they are correct.

            STOP COMMITTING FALLACIES

          • God Hates Faith

            Transitions occur within the system. At no point was there "nothing" in the system. The energy is simply re-arranged. If you re-arrange the furniture in your house, do you have no furniture?

            When plants grow, that is also entropy working.

          • Philip Rand

            You are not correct.

            Transition is a change of a system from one quantum state to another.

          • God Hates Faith

            Again, you are too narrowly defining the system, just like you did with the tin can.

            The system is the universe. A transition of energy is not zero energy.

          • Philip Rand

            Consider the integral L a function of energy (E) of S. Compute the integral for some value of S. Since the system is the universe, S=1 , then L=0, which gives us the initial condition E(1)=0.

            We eventually use the fact that E(1)=0 to compute the value of the constant of integration.

            Therefore, the default energy state of the universe is zero, i.e. nothing.

          • God Hates Faith

            Again you are making a tautology by assuming your conclusion. Making up a formula that doesn't represent reality is not an argument.

          • God Hates Faith

            Consider E = 1. Consider energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Therefore, E = 1.

          • Philip Rand

            The formulation is consistent with the Heisenberg world picture.

          • God Hates Faith

            The Pythagorean theorem is also consistent with the "world picture". However, its application is in Euclidean geometry. The formula isn't applicable to all contexts.

            You can't slap a formula to energy, and simply claim it applies.

            You have not refuted my formula. E = 1. Therefore, E = 1.

          • Philip Rand

            The Pythagorean Theorem is a direct result of energy(E)=zero!

          • God Hates Faith

            Again, you are just making up stuff. You can't just say you are right, and as your justification point to a random mathematical theorem.

          • Philip Rand

            No.

            It is true. The Pythagorean Theorem is in fact kinematc and can be proved quite easily. Look at the structure of the theorem, notice the squared terms; the theorem is a kinematic expression of equilibrium for E=0.

            You are just sore because it disproves your E=1 using your own example. Cachinnate!

          • God Hates Faith

            E = 1. You have been defeated

          • Philip Rand

            You are simply confirming the default of the lowest energy in the universe because "1" is the class of concepts equinumerous with the concept "thing identical with 0 -- which has 1 instance!!!

          • God Hates Faith

            Only in your world is 1 = 0.

            In reality 1 = 1.

          • Philip Rand

            What are the units of your formula E=1?

          • God Hates Faith

            Irrelevant.

          • Philip Rand

            So, the magnitude of E does not depend upon the system of units. ..interesting...

            So, E does have a value, i.e. it is "something" but does not have a unit of measure of ranges.

            So, E is "something" but does not have a range of values... interesting...

            You don't realise what you have admitted....

          • God Hates Faith

            I realize that units of measurements are simply human made ideas that allowed us to explain something.

            But it looks like you want the last word. So, even though E = 1, feel free to say why 1 does not equal 1.

          • Philip Rand

            NOTHING to say.

            The dialogue was ZERO-sum.

            You have been defeated.

  • Johannes Hui

    Analogously speaking, Existential Inertia is claiming that once your image in the mirror is formed when you stand in front of the mirror, that image no longer needs your presence to sustain its existence.

    Anything whose existence is continuously dependent upon some condition is impossible to have Existential Inertia. Other than The Unconditioned (ie Classical Theism’s idea of God), nothing else that exists non-abstractly can exist without being continuously sustained in existence, from moment to moment.

    • Analogously speaking, Existential Inertia is claiming that once your image in the mirror is formed when you stand in front of the mirror,

      that image no longer needs your presence to sustain its existence.

      No more like when a blue billiard ball hits a red one and sends it rolling, the red one would continue rolling even if the blue then disappeared.

      Anything whose existence is continuously dependent upon some condition is impossible to have Existential Inertia.

      Sure, but it has not been established that the world is continuously dependent on some condition.

      • Jim the Scott

        Except the mirror image is in an essential causal series and the billiard ball example is an accidental causal series.

        • Johannes Hui

          Thanks Jim. Hope Brian knows about the difference between these two types of causal series.

      • Johannes Hui

        All we need to establish is that your physical existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on some condition.

        This would lead to the existence of an Unconditioned entity who continuously sustain your existence, just like your presence in front of the mirror continuously sustain the existence of your image in the mirror.

        I have constructed a 3-premise proof base on this simple starting point that you exist now.

        • Ficino

          I don't remember whether you mentioned the recent Feser - Oppy debate. They get into this at around 1:51.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-80lQOlNOs

          • Johannes Hui

            Thanks Ficino, I did not mention that debate in Strange Notions, though I have watched it shortly after Feser announced it.

            Oppy failed to see that the red chair (just like Oppy’s image in the mirror) is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on the presence of certain conditions in order to continue to exist into the next moment.

            Oppy’s image in the mirror can continue to exist into the next moment only if Oppy sustains that image’s existence by remaining in front of the mirror into the next moment.

            That image has no existential existence. Neither does the red chair.

          • I am with Oppy at 1:53:55

        • >All we need to establish is that your physical existence is dependent on some condition.

          No you need to demonstrate that some external entity continually causes everything to exist. This would not demonstrate that this cause is unconditioned, you'd need to show that.

          The mirror example is not an essentially ordered series. The image does not exist in the mirror, but in the mind of the beholder. It is being caused by a series of accidental events, the activity of photos hitting a face then the mirror then an eye and into the nervous system. The light source, mirror, and even the eye, and the photons could cease to exist after the nervous system in engaged and the image would still be formed, if only for a very brief period of time. I am unaware of any essentially ordered series.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Brian Green Adams, the mirror-image of a person perceived in the mind of an observer lacks existential inertia; its existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on the presence of that person being in front of the mirror.

            I suppose you would agree with this: When that person disappears from the mirror, then his mirror-image perceived in the observer’s mind would also disappear, even if there is a slight lag in time between the two disappearance.

            For the reason mentioned in the previous paragraph, this mirror-image (perceived in the observer’s mind) caused by the presence of the person in front of the mirror is an essential causal series and not an accidental causal series.

            The mechanics of photons does not change the fact that the mirror-image perceived in the mind of the observer lacks existential inertia; therefore its existence requires CONTINUOUS sustenance/CONSERVATION by the person’s presence in front of the mirror.

            Note: The observer mentioned here is a different person from the person in front of the mirror causing that perceived mirror-image.

            I will reply your other posts’ other points another time.

          • Johannes Hui

            Oh another thing, you have significantly changed my sentence when you quoted me as “All we need to establish is that your physical existence is friend ent on some condition.” You have dropped the very significant word “CONTINUOUSLY” which I emphasized in bold in my original comment. So my original sentence was “All we need to establish is that your physical existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on some condition.“

            And that sentence need to be read together with with my next few sentences which said:
            This would lead to the existence of an Unconditioned Entity who continuously sustain your existence, just like your presence in front of the mirror continuously sustain the existence of your image in the mirror. So you do not have existential inertia.I have constructed a 3-premise proof base on this simple starting point that you exist now.“

            So what I meant was that once we establish that your physical existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on some condition, then we would use that to lead to the establishment of the next point: the existence of an Unconditioned Entity who continuously sustain your existence. And then I mentioned a 3-premise proof that does that task. All these are about the procedure on how I can show the various points mentioned. The actual process of showing it has begun in another comment which I had made immediately after that.

            I would be continuing from there to respond to your comments on that 3-premise proof.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Brian Green Adams, I suppose you would agree with this: If the person standing in front of the mirror were to disappear (ie be gone) from the mirror, then his mirror-image PERCEIVED IN THE MIND of an observer (another person) would also disappear, even if there is a slight lag in time between the two disappearance. This means the mirror-image of a person perceived in the mind of an observer lacks existential inertia; its existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on the presence of that person being in front of the mirror.

            For the reason mentioned in the previous paragraph, this mirror-image (perceived in the observer’s mind) caused by the presence of the person in front of the mirror is an essential causal series and not an accidental causal series.

            The mechanics of photons does not change the fact that the mirror-image (perceived in the mind) lacks existential inertia; therefore its existence requires CONTINUOUS sustenance/CONSERVATION by the presence of the person in front of the mirror.

            I will reply your other posts’ other points another time.

            Additional comment:

            Oh another thing, my sentence was changed when you quoted me as “All we need to establish is that your physical existence is dependent on some condition.” You have dropped the very significant word “CONTINUOUSLY” which I emphasized in bold in my original comment. So my original sentence was “All we need to establish is that your physical existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on some condition.“

            That sentence need to be read together with with my next few sentences which said:
            This would LEAD TO the existence of an Unconditioned Entity who continuously sustain your existence, just like your presence in front of the mirror continuously sustain the existence of your image in the mirror. So you do not have existential inertia.I have constructed a 3-premise proof base on this simple starting point that you exist now.“

            So what I meant was that once we establish that your physical existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on some condition, then an analysis of that fact would LEAD TO the establishment of the next point: the existence of an Unconditioned Entity who CONTINUOUSLY sustain or conserve your existence. And then I also had mentioned a 3-premise proof that would do that task. All these are about the procedure on how I can show the various points mentioned. The actual process of showing it has begun in another of my comment after that.

            I would be continuing from there to respond to your comments on that 3-premise proof.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Brian Green Adams, I suppose you would agree with this: If the person standing in front of the mirror were to disappear (ie be gone) from the mirror, then his mirror-image PERCEIVED IN THE MIND of an observer (another person) would also disappear, even if there is a slight lag in time between the two disappearance. This means the mirror-image of a person perceived in the mind of an observer lacks existential inertia; its existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on the presence of that person being in front of the mirror.

            For the reason mentioned in the previous paragraph, this mirror-image (perceived in the observer’s mind) caused by the presence of the person in front of the mirror is an essential causal series and not an accidental causal series.

            The mechanics of photons does not change the fact that the mirror-image (perceived in the mind) lacks existential inertia; therefore its existence requires CONTINUOUS sustenance/CONSERVATION by the presence of the person in front of the mirror.

            I will reply your other posts’ other points another time.

            Additional comment:

            Oh another thing, my sentence was changed when you quoted me as “All we need to establish is that your physical existence is dependent on some condition.” You have dropped the very significant word “CONTINUOUSLY” which I emphasized in bold in my original comment. So my original sentence was “All we need to establish is that your physical existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on some condition.“

            That sentence need to be read together with with my next few sentences which said:
            This would LEAD TO the existence of an Unconditioned Entity who continuously sustain your existence, just like your presence in front of the mirror continuously sustain the existence of your image in the mirror. So you do not have existential inertia.I have constructed a 3-premise proof base on this simple starting point that you exist now.“

            So what I meant was that once we establish that your physical existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on some condition, then an analysis of that fact would LEAD TO the establishment of the next point: the existence of an Unconditioned Entity who CONTINUOUSLY sustain or conserve your existence. And then I also had mentioned a 3-premise proof that would do that task. All these are about the procedure on how I can show the various points mentioned. The actual process of showing it has begun in another of my comment after that.

            I would be continuing from there to respond to your comments on that 3-premise proof.

      • Johannes Hui

        I constructed this proof which starts from the empirical observation/fact that your physical existence depends CONTINUOUSLY on various conditions.

        Premise 1: Your physical existence CONTINUOUSLY depends on the fulfillment of various series of conditions such as these types of series:

        you > warm temperature > sun > ...
        you > cells > molecules > ...

        generally:
        you > condition 1 > condition 2 > ...

        (every entity in such series is a condition for your existence; your existence depends on the CONTINUOUS fulfillment/presence of every condition in such series)

        Premise 2: Such a series is either a never-ending series or a series with an ending. If it is a never-ending series, then it is a never-ending task to fulfill all the conditions and hence fulfillment is impossible. Since you exist now, that means fulfillment has been achieved, and that in turn entails the series can only be a series with an ending. So a last entity/condition exists in the series now, concurrently with you and every entity in the series:

        you > condition 1 > condition 2 > ... > last condition/entity

        Premise 3: The last entity’s existence is either conditional or not conditional on something else. If its existence is conditional on something else, it won’t exist now because nothing exists after it in the series for its existence to be conditioned on (ie nothing exists after it in the series to enable it to exist). Since it exists now, the only possibility is that its existence is unconditional on anything.

        Conclusion:
        The EMPIRICAL fact that you physically exists now ENTAILS (ie necesarily means) that a last entity having unconditional existence exists now. In other words, your existence now as a conditioned entity is CONTINUOUSLY enabled by an unconditioned entity. You do not have existence inertia.

        Anything wrong with any of the three premises above? Anything wrong with the reasoning-structure? If the premises are true and the reasoning-structure is valid, then the conclusion is impossible to be false (ie necessarily true).

        (To prove that there is one and only one unconditioned entity that is the Ultimate One enabling, at every moment, the existence of all other entities will require the next stage of the proof. The end of next stage lies the conclusion that God exists.)

        • But there is a problem with premise 2. It is the same as one of Xeno's paradoxes. An infinite series of events must occur for me to take one step. By the logic of premise 2, this means taking a step is impossible. But we take steps all the time. So either an actual infinite happening is not impossible or things which seem obviously infinite to us aren't really.

          But sure if an infinite series of causes past is not possible, in any sense, it must terminate. But if there is a cause of everything physical, this doesn't mean that cause is itself unconditioned, it might be one a series of ten trillion causes or many more. We can't even say that there need be one cause of physical reality, why not a thousand?

          The biggest problem though, if premise 2 is sound, is that this argument does nothing to show anything other than physical reality exists. There is no argument here that the unconditioned fact or entity is not physical reality itself. I agree in premise one that a person such as myself is physical and exists only because of past causes. But none of those past causes caused anything physical to exist that didn't before. It is true that the arrangement of matter has causes, but there is no suggestion that the physical itself ever came into being. The matter that makes me up and the order this matter obeys always existed. We take it as a law of nature that physical matter cannot be brought into existence or be destroyed. Further we have no intuition to think it could, it seem downright counter-intuitive.

          So sure if an infinite series is impossible, there must be some brute fact, either it is physical reality, or something else. I don't see any way to place probabilities on the something else.

          • Johannes Hui

            I will first focus on responding to your objection to my Premise 2 before responding to your other objections. My
            response is as follows:

            When a person has moved from point A to point B, he has not crossed over an infinite quantity of parts/points between A & B.

            If the distance between A & B was first divided into two equal parts and after that, the person crossed over from A to B, then that person has crossed over only two parts.

            If the distance between A & B was first divided into 100 equal parts and after that, the person crossed over from A to B, then that person has crossed over only 100 parts.

            If the distance between A & B was first divided into one trillion equal parts and after that, the person crossed over from A to B, then that person has crossed over only one trillion parts.

            A person would have crossed over an infinite quantity of parts/points between A & B only if AB has already been divided up into an infinite quantity of parts before he crosses over.

            It is impossible to finish dividing the distance between A & B into an infinite quantity of parts for that person to cross over, because the ATTEMPT to divide it into an infinite quantity of parts is an ENDLESS TASK. An ENDLESS TASK means it can never achieve completion, and hence there would never exist an actual infinite parts between A & B for a person to cross over.

            (Note: Anyone who claims that an ENDLESS task can achieve completion is making a claim involving an intrinsic contradiction. Such a claim is therefore false!)

            The task of dividing AB into an infinite quantity of parts cannot achieve completion even if an infinite amount of time is given to do that task.

            So when a person crossed over from A to B, he did not cross over an infinite quantity of parts/points because AB was not divided into an infinite quantity of parts/points. Regardless of how many parts AB has successfully been divided into, it would be a finite number of parts.

            Therefore a person being able to cross over from A to B does not illustrate that an endless task has achieved completion. Zeno was correct that we cannot cross over an infinite number of parts but he was wrong to think that there was actually an infinite number of parts between A & B.

            So my Premise 2 remains true:
            Any endless series of conditions cannot achieve fulfillment because it is an endless task to attempt to fulfill an endless series of conditions. The fact that you physically exist now means every series of conditions required for you to exist has already achieved fulfillment, and this in turn means such a series is not an endless series, but instead there is an ending to the series.

            If we are clear on this, then I move on to address your other objections.

          • Philip Rand

            Hi Johannes Hui

            Your tabled position, mimics Pruss's theory:

            It is impossible to finish dividing the distance between A & B into an infinite quantity of parts for that person to cross over,because the ATTEMPT to divide it into an infinite quantity of parts isan ENDLESS TASK. An ENDLESS TASK means it can never achieve completion,and hence there would never exist an actual infinite parts between A& B for a person to cross over.

            Your conclusion Is incorrect, divide the distance below Planck length and the length is no longer local, but rather non-local and is smeared over all space-time.

            Planck length defeats your tabled position.

            What you MUST do to PROVE your assertion is to solve the P or NP mathematical puzzle.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Philip,

            Even if it is true that the length AB would no longer exist as the length AB when the dividing of AB into parts of which each part is so small that it is shorter than the Planck length, it only goes to support my claim that “it is impossible to finish dividing the distance between A & B into an infinite quantity of parts for that person to cross over” and “there would never exist an actual infinite parts between A & B for a person to cross over”.

            If what you said is true, then the greatest number of parts that AB can be actually divided into will be
            = (length AB)/(Planck Length)
            which would give us a finite number of parts, instead of an infinite number of parts.

            We would never be able to divide AB into an infinite number of parts.

          • Philip Rand

            No. The "smearing" of a discrete segment over the entirely of
            space-time implies an infinite segment since all points consisting of
            the segment are blurred over the entirely of space-time.

            Here is another approach...

            Limits do exist, i.e. Absolute zero (i.e. 0 degrees K). Temperatures above Absolute Zero are +K.

            However, experimentally we have reached temperatures of -K in the lab.

            For simplicity sake the relation looks like this: -K < 0 < +K

            However, you are correct when you state that there is "something" that is CONTINUOUS in reality.

          • well, after solving Zeno's paradoxes P or NP is a piece of cake!

          • >It is impossible to finish dividing the distance between A & B
            into an infinite quantity of parts for that person to cross over,
            because the ATTEMPT to divide it into an infinite quantity of parts isan ENDLESS TASK.

            But it isn't. The only task is to cross the distance. Before you cross half. You don't need to physically divide it up, it is just a fact that you need to get half way there first, same with a quarter and so on.

            It is the same with the Achilles paradox, when the arrow is half way to the turtle the turtle is a bit further, three quarters, a bit further and so on.

            We can leave it there if you like. As I said the other point is a much bigger problem.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Brian Green Adams, I refer to your following comments:

            (a) In your first/initial comment on my proof, you wrote these sentences:

            “But sure if an infinite series of causes PAST is not possible...” (emphasis mine)
            “I agree in premise one that a person such as myself is physical and exists only because of PAST causes. But none of those PAST causes caused anything physical to exist that didn't before. It is true that the arrangement of matter has causes, but there is no suggestion that the physical itself EVER CAME into being.” (emphasis mine)

            The sentences above betrayed a significant misunderstanding of the series of conditions in Premises 2 and 1 of my proof. The series is NOT a chronological/time series that goes into the past! The series is a CONCURRENT series of CONCURRENT conditions or entities existing CONCURRENTLY with you NOW, even when you are reading this text AT THIS VERY MOMENT. Examples of such conditions/entities are mentioned in Premise 1. (Analogy: The existence of a tree’s shadow is concurrent with the existence of the tree. The tree is a concurrent condition required in order for that shadow to exist.)

            (b) On Zeno’s paradox, you mentioned
            “An infinite series of events must occur for me to take one step” and “The only task is to cross the distance. You don't need to physically divide it up, it is just a fact that you need to get half way there first, same with a quarter and so on.”

            The dividing of AB need not be physical. It can be mental. The phrase “you need to get halfway there first” is mentally dividing up AB into half. When you further mentioned “same with a quarter”, that would be a mental division of AB into 4 quarters and then the focus would be to travel the first quarter. Only when your mind conceive of “traveling the first quarter” then do we have an actual mental first-quarter. The mind, just like a physical device, can only produce finite divisions, be it the first half, the first quarter, the first one-eighth, or the first one-trillionth, of AB. No matter how small the initial distance your mind can produce or conceive of, it is a finite distance, and there is always a finite-duration associated with that initial finite distance. There is no problem crossing that finite distance as part of the process of crossing from A to B.

            Let’s say the time a lady took to cross over the distance AB was 16 seconds at a uniform speed.

            If you ask: “before she can reach B she needs to reach halfway first right?”
            Answer: To reach the first half of the distance AB, she simply took 8 seconds. So, to travel from A to B, she would need 2 times of this 8 seconds.

            If you ask further: “but before she can reach the halfway mark, she would need to reach the first quarter mark first right?”
            Answer: To reach the first quarter of AB, she took only 4 seconds. To travel from A to B, she would need 4 times of this 4 seconds.

            If you ask again: “but before she can reach the quarter mark, she would need to reach the one-eighth mark first right?”
            Ans: To reach the first one-eighth [ie first (1/8)th] of AB, she only took 2 seconds. So to travel from A to B, she would need 8 times of this 2 seconds.

            To reach the first one-sixteenth of the journey [ie first (1/16)th], she needed only 1 second. Hence, to cross over from A to B, she would need 16 times of this 1 second.

            For every initial “fraction of the distance AB” your mind can actually conceive of, there is always a “initial time-duration” that corresponds with it, and the time taken to crossover AB would simply be a multiple of that “initial time duration” such that the outcome is 16 seconds.

            So the fact that a person need to first cover an “initial fraction of AB” as part of his process of crossing over from A to B creates no problem for her to do so in 16 seconds, no matter how much smaller that “initial fraction of AB” you mind can actually conceive of.

            That initial distance would not be zero. Every initial distance is associated with a time-duration that was actually taken by her. Let AX be the initial distance corresponding to the initial fraction of AB that you can conceive of, and T(AX) be the time taken to travel from A to X:

            Distance:
            A___X______________________B

            Time:
            0___T(AX)__________________16 seconds

            The smaller is AX, the smaller is the duration T(AX).

            If AX is the initial one-quarter part of AB, then time taken to travel AX would be one-quarter of 16 seconds.

            If AX is the initial one-trillionth part of AB, then time taken to travel AX would be one-trillionth part of 16 seconds.

            Therefore having to travel the distance AX first before a person can reach point B does not affect her ability to cross AB in 16 seconds.

            If the above are clear, then it would be time to address your other objections.

          • Johannes Hui

            @ Brian G Adams, I refer to your following comments:
            (my previous reply failed to appear so I am reposting)

            (a) In your first/initial comment on my proof, you wrote these sentences:

            “But sure if an infinite series of causes PAST is not possible...” (emphasis mine)
            “I agree in premise one that a person such as myself is physical and exists only because of PAST causes. But none of those PAST causes caused anything physical to exist that didn't before. It is true that the arrangement of matter has causes, but there is no suggestion that the physical itself EVER CAME into being.” (emphasis mine)

            The sentences above betrayed a significant misunderstanding of the series of conditions in Premises 2 and 1 of my proof. The series is NOT a chronological/time series that goes into the past! The series is a CONCURRENT series of CONCURRENT conditions or entities existing CONCURRENTLY with you NOW, even when you are reading this text AT THIS VERY MOMENT. Examples of such conditions/entities are mentioned in Premise 1. (Analogy: The existence of a tree’s shadow is concurrent with the existence of the tree. The tree is a concurrent condition required in order for that shadow to exist.)

            (b) On Zeno’s paradox, you mentioned
            “An infinite series of events must occur for me to take one step” and “The only task is to cross the distance. You don't need to physically divide it up, it is just a fact that you need to get half way there first, same with a quarter and so on.”

            The dividing of AB need not be physical. It can be mental. The phrase “you need to get halfway there first” is mentally dividing up AB into half. When you further mentioned “same with a quarter”, that would be a mental division of AB into 4 quarters and then the focus would be to travel the first quarter. Only when your mind conceive of “traveling the first quarter” then do we have an actual mental first-quarter. The mind, just like a physical device, can only produce finite divisions, be it the first half, the first quarter, the first one-eighth, or the first one-trillionth, of AB. No matter how small the initial distance your mind can produce or conceive of, it is a finite distance, and there is always a finite-duration associated with that initial finite distance. There is no problem crossing that finite distance as part of the process of crossing from A to B.

            Let’s say the time a lady took to cross over the distance AB was 16 seconds at a uniform speed.

            If you ask: “before she can reach B she needs to reach halfway first right?”
            Answer: To reach the first half of the distance AB, she simply took 8 seconds. So, to travel from A to B, she would need 2 times of this 8 seconds.

            If you ask further: “but before she can reach the halfway mark, she would need to reach the first quarter mark first right?”
            Answer: To reach the first quarter of AB, she took only 4 seconds. To travel from A to B, she would need 4 times of this 4 seconds.

            If you ask again: “but before she can reach the quarter mark, she would need to reach the one-eighth mark first right?”
            Ans: To reach the first one-eighth [ie first (1/8)th] of AB, she only took 2 seconds. So to travel from A to B, she would need 8 times of this 2 seconds.

            To reach the first one-sixteenth of the journey [ie first (1/16)th], she needed only 1 second. Hence, to cross over from A to B, she would need 16 times of this 1 second.

            For every initial “fraction of the distance AB” your mind can actually conceive of, there is always a “initial time-duration” that corresponds with it, and the time taken to crossover AB would simply be a multiple of that “initial time duration” such that the outcome is 16 seconds.

            So the fact that a person need to first cover an “initial fraction of AB” as part of his process of crossing over from A to B creates no problem for her to do so in 16 seconds, no matter how much smaller that “initial fraction of AB” you mind can actually conceive of.

            That initial distance would not be zero. Every initial distance is associated with a time-duration that was actually taken by her. Let AX be the initial distance corresponding to the initial fraction of AB that you can conceive of, and T(AX) be the time taken to travel from A to X:

            Distance:
            A___X______________________B

            Time:
            0___T(AX)__________________16 seconds

            The smaller is AX, the smaller is the duration T(AX).

            If AX is the initial one-quarter part of AB, then time taken to travel AX would be one-quarter of 16 seconds.

            If AX is the initial one-trillionth part of AB, then time taken to travel AX would be one-trillionth part of 16 seconds.

            Therefore having to travel the distance AX first before a person can reach point B does not affect her ability to cross AB in 16 seconds.

            If the above are clear, then it would be time to address your other objections.

  • materialism’s constant stance that the world explains itself and has no need to be sustained by God’s conserving causation.

    I am a materialist and I do not hold that principle. I don't know that the "world" needs to be sustained by anything including itself. Theists can argue the "world" needs sustaining, and can argue that a god is doing that, but they need to demonstrate it.

    It then goes on to explain that existential materialism does not say the world explains itself, but that the principle of existential inertia explains why the world persists if it has no deity sustaining it.

    since Christian thinkers insist that God provides to all finite beings their sufficient reason for continued existence

    Well, the assertion is that there is an unknown theistic explanation for the existence of matter, where materialsists just say it is unknown whether material needs an explanation or if it does whether it is a deity.

    atheists maintain that concrete objects either (1) are their own sufficient reason for staying in existence, or else, perhaps, (2) since they already are in existence, they need no further reason for continued existence

    I don't think I have ever seen 1 asserted by a materialist, and 2 is not accurate, not "since" or "further" reason, we just don't know if there is a reason or if there is, what it is. Materialism just says there is fundamentally material, not why there is only fundamentally material.

    The Thomistic principle of sufficient reason states that everything needs a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be

    Why "coming-to-be" why not just say "existence"? This would mean the PSR applies only to things that come to be, not things that just exist. So it needn't apply to the existence of the world, if the world never came to be

    Then comes the conflation of human's needing reasons to defend their assertions to be credible and there being explanation for the existence of things. As if it is impossible for humans to hold convictions for insufficient reasons.

    I disagree that an explanation for the thing can be intrinsic to itself. I have zero experience or examples of this and it implies that the explanation circular: e.g. God exists, what is the sufficient reason for God existing? God exists!

    With so many problems so far in, I need to stop!

    Again, this is all based on the controversial philosophical PSR.

    It also seems to be a critique of an explanation for the persistence of matter for not explaining the origin of matter, which is a different question.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Whatever your particular views about the existence of the material world, it seems that you are not too familiar with the notion of "existential inertia" as proposed by folks like Dr. Graham Oppy. By and large, my critique of this concept is aimed at their claim that, since the world presently exists, there is no reason why it would not continue to exist. Other than that, I gave what I think is a fairly accurate summary of the traditional position of materialism going all the way back to Democritus.

      As for most of your other comments, they are covered in a careful reading of the article itself, including the reason why rational people must hold that the PSR is both valid and must apply to extramental reality. It is all in the essay.

      I will be the first to grant that this entire essay requires some metaphysical insight and reflection, which is why superficial materialists probably will quickly dismiss it. It addresses the most profound question reason can confront: Why is there something rather than nothing at all.

      This is why, when you say, "Materialism just says there is fundamentally material, not why there is only fundamentally material," I am not surprised that you don't find much of value in my article.

      • my critique of this concept is aimed at their claim that, since the world presently exists, there is no reason why it would not continue to exist

        But you didn't critique it. You just claim it is wrong.

        why rational people must hold that the PSR is both valid and must apply to extramental reality

        Nope you can be perfectly rational if the PSR is false. QED

        It is true that easily refuted claims are quickly dismissed.

        Your article does not address the question of why there is something. It just makes unjustified claims based on unjustified metaphysics. At best you are just saying if material world is caused, the cause needs to be the kind of thing that can cause the material world. This is not an explanation of anything. Labelling it "god" doesn't help.

        You are correct that I don't value your metaphysical speculation characterized as demonstrably certain.

        At least people like Feser recognize that there are reasonable positions and problems on both sides and can have constructive discussions. You just think we are all stupid or not paying attention.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Essentially, you claim I lay out no argument.

          But, if you read the article, an argument is clear. Even things that already exist need a sufficient reason for existing. Since there is no way to measure the power needed in terms of a sufficient reason for things existing, continued existence implies an infinitely powerful cause, God.

          This is not the argument, but a thumbnail schema of what is fully explained in the article. I am sure that you would deny every step of the proof. But, that does not mean that I did not "critique" existential inertia. It merely means that you don't like my critique.

  • Ficino

    Existence is not a mass term. Existence is not a constituent of anything. Existence is not a first order predicate. It is a second order predicate, like number.

    To ask us to give up modern predicate logic is too high a price to demand.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      This sort of concern is precisely why I included Maritain's warning not to confuse metaphysics with logic.

      This is also why I defined my use of the term in this essay as meaning "whatever it is in something that actually differentiates it from absolute nothingness."

      Yes, I do use the words, "being," and "existence," in the rest of the essay, but I think you will find they are used merely to designate things that are real or exist in some manner -- not as referring to the distinct metaphysical principle expressed by the meaning of esse.

      I don't even need the term, "existence," specifically here. If there is nothing real in a thing that differentiates it from nothing, then it would be nothing at all.

      But we are faced with the overwhelming reality of the world in which we live. And, this reality needs explaining.

      The second point I made about this "whatever makes things real" is that it absolutely needs "a sufficient reason for doing whatever it does to make something be real."

      But it is also critical to realize that the need for a sufficient reason is an ontological matter, not merely a logical one -- which is why I devote so much of this essay to defending the ontological status of the PSR>

      Since (1) it is obvious that something differentiates being from nothing and (2) that whatever that something is needs a sufficient reason for doing whatever it does to make things real, my argument then proceeds without having to make any further reference to "existence," except for grammatical convenience.

      In other words, my entire argument can completely prescind from making any judgments about whether "existence" is a distinct metaphysical principle in its own right. That is a separate issue, simply not needed to be addressed in this article.

      • Ficino

        No confusion on this end.

        This is also why I defined my use of the term in this essay as meaning "whatever it is in something that actually differentiates it from absolute nothingness."

        A strict construal of your words supports what I wrote above. You are using "existence" as a material property and as a mass term ("in"), and it is not clear that you're not also introducing the seemingly Meinongian "somethings" that get existence added to them - as though there are things that don't exist.

        We talked about this at length before.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          All I can tell you is that in sixty years or more of following the Thomistic philosophical psychology and metaphysics, I have never seen a problem with something that be thought, but does not exist -- such that Thomism cannot explain it easily and clearly in its own terms.

          Thomism does not begin with a philosophy of language, but by talking about real things in a real world. I notice you call existence a "material property," which is foreign to me because (1) I don't conceive it a property, like some note added to the conceptual "whatness" of a thing, and (2) I know that not all things are material. My suspicion is that there is a lot of metaphysics buried under the analytical view which is not explicitly stated -- as Kelley Ross points out. https://www.friesian.com/syllog.htm

          Philosophical psychology makes clear that the intellect can form all sorts of conceptual content and associations that have no relation to existence at all, since real existence is known only in the second act of the mind, judgment.

          As Maritain puts it, "Unfortunately a number of popular expositions of scholasticism ... speak as though the object of the first operation constitutes intellection as such. This is quite untrue. It is merely a preparation for the second, which achieves knowledge." (Preface to Metaphysics, 20.

          Suffice it to say, St. Thomas was not Meinong -- so it may lead to misunderstanding to try to translate his notion of existence through the eyes of Meinong.

          As for the mind's natural ability to know being, I would point simply to the principle of non-contradiction, which, in all possible actual conditions, when properly understood and applied, is undoubtedly both universal and transcendent -- as evinced even by skeptics who try to show allegedly-defeating contradictions in the divine essence. If the mind cannot use being in that fashion, then it cannot function at all -- since its utility becomes incoherent. But, if the mind can use being in that fashion, then the concept of being has already established its fundamental credentials.

          As you say, we have talked about this at length before.

          • Ficino

            I have never seen a problem with something that [can?] be thought, but does not exist

            The problem lies in saying there is a something that does not exist. That's not even in line with the convertibility of transcendentals, for ens and aliquid should be convertible in A-T. I would say that our concept, unicorn, exists as an abstract object (nominalists would not allow abstract objects to exist). There is no further shadowy "something" of which the concept is the concept. Unicorn is the concept.

            I notice you call existence a "material property,"

            Yes, I'm using "material" as the opposite of "formal". I think Frege gives the example of four thoroughbred horses. "Thoroughbread" is a material property of the horses, a first order property. "Four" is a formal property of the concept, "horse," saying it's instantiated four times (and each time, we're also saying, "thoroughbred" is instantiated over the same variables). I'm not using it in the sense of Aristotelian matter.

            I have read Kelly Ross's Bramantip a couple of times. I don't think Frege et al would deny that they have metaphysical views. I am no expert on Frege (!), so I can't say whether he announced his logical innovations as having metaphysical implications. I think standard predicate logic as it's taught today is superior to the Aristotelian syllogistic for reasons we've discussed before. A further reason is that it allows us to analyze utterances about fictional and other non-existent objects more coherently, since it gets us away from hunting for the referent of every term.

            Have to go, till later, F

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "The problem lies in saying there is a something that does not exist. That's not even in line with the convertibility of transcendentals, for ens and aliquid should be convertible in A-T. I would say that our concept, unicorn, exists as an abstract object (nominalists would not allow abstract objects to exist). There is no further shadowy "something" of which the concept is the concept. Unicorn is the concept."

            We do not say that there is a something that does not exist.

            We can form all kinds of concepts and combinations of concepts. But they exist only in the mind unless we make a judgment of existence. You can say that "the present king of France is bald," but that in no way deceives the Thomist into thinking there is anything real about any of it except that you have built up a complex concept that has no correlative reality. You can have affirmative propositions where you predicate x of y and negative ones where you deny x of y. But none of it has any connection to reality unless you make a judgment of existence about there actually being a y that is or is not x.

            Maybe this is more complicated than how modern logic does it, but it is not deceptive to the Thomist. What really would be deceptive would be to say that we cannot make judgments of existence that go beyond the mere conceptual level and affirm what exists in reality..

            Now, what about ens (being) and aliquid (something)? Once again, just as you can have a concept of being without a being actually existing, so you can have a concept of something (as an individual being) without that something actually existing. Just because the transcendentals are modes of being common to all things does not mean that their meanings are identical. Otherwise, they would be mere synonyms.

            This is why Maritain warns against thinking of being as a mere word. It is far more complex than simply the manipulation of second intentions, since, for example, there is a difference between the concept of existence (existentia ut significata) and the judgment wherein existence is affirmed as extramentally real (existentia ut exercita).

            Maritain again: "When we affirm that the object of the intellect is being, an affirmation which displays the profound realism of Thomist philosophy, we do not stop short at essences. It is to existence itself that the intellect proceeds when it formulates within itself a judgement corresponding to what a thing is or is not outside the mind." Preface, 20-21.

            Once again, just for clarification, this does not mean that the real distinction between essence and existence is assumed when describing the mind's initial encounter with being, or that judgments of existence are understood as referring to the metaphysical principle (esse). Such a real distinction must be proven by a further process of reasoning that in no way is presently being considered.

          • Ficino

            Hi Dennis, I can't reply to all of yours now, so I will just reply to one thing and come back tomorrow.

            But they exist only in the mind unless we make a judgment of existence.

            I understand what Thomism tries to do. But do you see what your tradition just led you to do? You are using "exist/existence" equivocally. Equivocation on "exist/being" is one of the problems I've been pointing out.

            We've all read up on analogical predication. As you know, I don't accept it in demonstrative syllogisms, and I see no reason to accept it, since to appeal to an "analogy of being" begs the question.

            The longer I think about these matters, the more I wonder whether the notion of "being" as a mass term isn't literally devoid of sense.

            Anyway, till later, F

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I will admit that the terms in English of "being" and "existence" are frequently used equivocally, which can be confusing to the novice. But in the original Latin, as I have pointed out, the confusion disappears, as it does when you read it in context if you know some basic Thomism.

            A large part of the problem is not Thomism's fault, but rather the fault of the Dominican translator(s) who did the main English version of the Summa Theologiae. They used the word, "being," both for ens and for esse in many places, which is totally confusing unless you are careful of the context and the part of speech being employed.

            I don't see a minor difficulty in practice as sufficient to abandon a whole philosophy, especially when the rest of it works very well IMHO!

            And I still want to know how the basic usage of the term, "being," can work universally and transcendentally in the PNC unless the mind correctly grasps the general meaning of being so as to use it in philosophical reasoning.

            I simply do not buy the claim that the PNC holds good only for propositions and not for being itself, since I can personally see it working just fine ontologically. :)

          • Ficino

            I can only make some statements, or else this reply will be too long.

            1. As I've said before, I do not accept claims like "the first thing the mind/we know/encounter is "being" (esse)," because this formulation is already theory-embedded. It already treats esse as a mass term or something like it. We agree that in life, young children encounter things, and from their experiences form concepts - for which they later learn names. In the order of reason, we as adults know things by knowing properties. I don't believe we have experience of anything as "being"/esse/ens in abstraction from the qualities that make it a "something."

            2. Aquinas following Aristotle presents at least three modes of esse: being actual; being potential; non-being that in some way has being or exists. He explicitly presents things as differing in their degree of "being entities" (gradus entitatis)," some that are more entities ("entia") than others. This is all a muddle. A-T can get a lot of the same results for predicating properties of things by using "exists" as a quantifier, but then various metaphysical outcomes defended by A-T will fade out.

            3. Above I spoke of "seemingly Meinongian somethings" in A-T that don't exist. This of course is not an anachronistic assertion that Aquinas was a Meinongian, and I'm not sure why you thought it necessary to point out that Meinong postdates Aquinas. I made the comparison because Aquinas seems to hold to a theory of denotation that is like Meinong's in some ways in that he wants something to be there, to which terms refer. Cf. e.g. De Veritate 1.1 ad 7 "for ens is said of not-being, non ente, when [the term] is accepted in a certain way, insofar as not-being is apprehended by the intellect... also Avicenna says in the beginning of his Metaphysics that an enunciation cannot be formed except about something that exists/a being (nisi de ente), because it is necessary that that thing about which the proposition is formed be apprehended by the intellect"
            One of the signal accomplishments of Frege, Russell and successors was to get away from this conception of predication. Russell's famous paper "On Denoting" was a groundbreaker.

            4. Dennis since you minored in symbolic logic, what use do you make of it in your own work? You seem to want to relegate it to a corner of neglect, on the conviction that your metaphysics trumps modern logic, so the Aristotelian syllogistic is better. I remain amazed that your theory dictates your logic, but OK. In selecting your logic to fit your theory, though, I urge you to consider this of Carnap, who allowed theorists to build up their own logic but demanded syntactical rules made explicit:

            “... to build up his own logic, i.e., his own form of language, as he wishes. All that is required of him is that if he wishes to discuss it, he must state his methods clearly, and give syntactical rules instead of philosophical arguments” (The Logical Syntax of Language).

            I don't see Thomists giving syntactical rules, esp. rules that are applied rigidly, that govern "esse" terms. I suspect that led by the patina that adheres to thousands of years of tradition, Thomists can be misled into doing, without intending do it, what Plato's sophist is accused of doing: hiding in the shadows of different senses of "esse" terms. Another commentator on this board has made a similar point.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            " I do not accept claims like "the first thing the mind/we know/encounter is "being" (esse)," because this formulation is already theory-embedded. It already treats esse as a mass term or something like it. "

            I am afraid we are divided fundamentally. One reason I don't chase down the path of modern logic, or any other logic for that matter, is that I hold that logic simply is not competent to challenge the initial insights of metaphysics. Logic deals with concepts and their relationships in the mind, whereas metaphysics deals with judgments about the real world and is, in fact, presupposed by logic. So, for logicians to forbid metaphysicians from talking about the being of things is really for them to speak outside their field of competence. I do not say this to offend, but to clarify the extent of how we differ in approaching these matters.

            Since I am just an old retired professor no longer that active in the field, let me allow the distinguished Thomist, Jacques Maritain, to explain the situation I summarize above.

            The following citations are taken from his A Preface to Metaphysics (1939), where he explains in detail the nature of our knowledge of being and its first principles, while including some incisive comments about the relationship of logic to metaphysics.

            "Do not forget that logic is a reflex science in which the mind returns upon itself, upon the things it already knows to study them and enquire how it has known them and in what order they are present within itself. Therefore being has already been apprehended by ordinary intelligence, and may equally well have been apprehended as such, secundum quod ens, by the metaphysician. But this intuition, this perception, is presupposed by the logician. it is not his business. [bold added] It has already taken place. He turns back upon it to study it from his own reflex and logical point of view. (34)

            In absolute proof that logic totally presupposes the concept of being, Maritain points out: "T]he whole of logic depends upon the principle of contradiction [bold added], which is the logical form of the principle of identity: non est negare et affirmare simul. We cannot affirm and deny the same thing from the same point of view." (34)
            This why, yes, we do have a transcendental understanding of the concept of being -- applicable even to God. (When he says "logical form," I do not take it to mean that the PNC is merely a logical principle, but rather that this is being's application to logic.)

            Finally, "The logician's being differs in this from the metaphysician's that it is envisaged as present in the mind and can exist in the mind alone. In short all its real functions are presupposed but are not formally studied by the logician. What the logician formally disengages are the functions of being in and for knowledge which are functions of the conceptual order. ... For by definition none of the real functions of being, but only its conceptual functions, are the proper and the direct object of logical study. There could be no more serious error than to suppose that the being of metaphysics is this being envisaged under the aspect of conceptual being {bold added], the being which belongs to the distinctive subject matter of logic and is apprehended by the objective lights distinctive of logic." (35-36)

            You wrote: "5. creatures are in fact composites of essence and esse,..." Remember, that this is NOT an initial claim of Thomism, but a later claimed inference.

          • Ficino

            So, for logicians to forbid metaphysicians from talking about the being of things is really for them to speak outside their field of competence.

            To the extent that I have a grasp of the last two centuries or so of the history of philosophy, I think the above needs nuance. The same philosopher, even in the same publication, can talk both about logic and about metaphysics. Logic can help reveal things in the field we call metaphysics, as math reveals things in the field we call physics. I've heard scientists say things like "It seems counter-intuitive, but the math shows it is so." A system of metaphysics that requires a flawed system of logic, and that collapses when a more robust system of logic seeks to regiment the theory's assertions, has many weak points - as would a theory in physics that relies on fuzzy math.

            For Maritain's words to be convincing, readers have to divine the senses he attaches to the term, "being," and test what his uses of "being" commit us to. I see no reason to agree that the work being done by the notion, "being," in A-T yields insights and judgments about the real world that are presupposed by logic. Maritain et al. continue to beg the question, i.e. beg us to grant that "being" is a mass term, is a predicate, a constituent of things, admits of degrees ... all the stuff I am not adopting.

            You wrote: "5. creatures are in fact composites of essence and esse,..." Remember, that this is NOT an initial claim of Thomism, but a later claimed inference.

            That creatures are composites of essence and esse most certainly is an initial claim of Thomism. It is explicit in the saint's writings. A selection:

            In I Sent. 8.5.1 s.c. 1 “omnis creatura … composita est ex esse et quod est,” and in co. he says that in every creature, whether corporeal or spiritual, is found its quiddity or nature and its esse, “et ita componitur ex esse, vel quo est, et quod est.”
            ST 1a 50.2 ad 3 there is a composition in an angel, such that it is said by some that an angel is composed out of “quo est et quod est, vel ex esse et quod est”;
            De Veritate 27.1 ad 8 everything in the genus of substance is composed out of a real composition, so its esse must be other than it itself, so everything in category of substance is composed at least out of esse and quod est.”

          • Dennis Bonnette

            " I see no reason to agree that the work being done by the notion, "being," in A-T yields insights and judgments about the real world that are presupposed by logic."

            Here is an ultimate test of the relationship of subordination between metaphysics and logic. The problem for logic is that the ontological principle of non-contradiction is absolutely presupposed by logic. As Maritain puts it, "The whole of logic depends upon the principle of contradiction...."

            Indeed, if the ontological PNC were not presupposed by logic, there would be no reason to adopt its allegedly merely logical form of it. Worse yet, merely accepting the logical form of the PNC as a mere axiom would totally betray the sure utility of logic for knowing reality, making logic worthless.

            The human mind knows with certitude that the PNC applies universally, not just to logic, but to everything that does or could possibly exist. Any time someone tries to deny the ontological PNC, it quickly becomes evident that he has introduced a distinction that means that he is not talking about the exact same aspect of being.

            But the fact that the principle does apply to every possible aspect of being shows that the concept of being it expresses is indeed universal. I don't know if that is what you mean by a "mass term," but, whether it is conceived as univocal or analogous, the concept of being applies to everything. And that makes it genuinely transcendental.

            "That creatures are composites of essence and esse most certainly is an initial claim of Thomism. It is explicit in the saint's writings. "

            No, it is not, as I clearly distinguished, an initial claim of Thomism. I did not deny that the real distinction is Thomistic doctrine. I said it was not an initial claim but rather something modern Thomists (and likely St. Thomas as well) demonstrate as a later inference from initial starting points.

            You are quite right about the texts you cite showing that St. Thomas held the real distinction between essence and existence, but it is also clear that he offered proof for that position in his De Ente et Essentia, which dates back to the same time or, in some cases, earlier.

          • Ficino

            Sorry, Dennis, and I don't know whether this discussion will just end up in opposed presuppositions. All your uses of the term, "being," and those in Maritain and others going back in time, are system dependent and theory embedded. "Being," or esse, in A-T is a term of art. As a term of art, its sense is fixed by the way it is used in the theory that employs it. When you or Maritain or Aquinas says something like "that which the intellect first conceives as most known, and in which it resolves all conceptions, is being (ens)," De Veritate 1.1 co, the sense of "being" is fixed within A-T theory. To assent to propositions like this, the interlocutor must assent to the framework of the theory, of which the term of art is an instrument. But the truth of that theory is the very thing in question.

            It's as though someone says, "The First Way is an empirical proof. We all see in daily life that things are reduced from potency to act by other things that are already in act." The object of "we see ... that" is a theory-embedded proposition, just like "we first cognize being." The key term, the one that does the work, is a term of art, and thus, demands assent to the theory that gives it its sense.

            In order to accept Maritain's talk about insights about "being," I need a way to evaluate the theory in which that and associated terms are embedded. Maritain et al give no semantic rules for how their use of the term, "being," is governed. So assertions about how the metaphysics of "being" controls all our other philosophical decisions remain undemonstrated.

            I don't understand why you seem to maintain a naive view about starting points in theories. As John O'Callaghan, Notre Dame, said somewhere (can't find the citation), all metaphysicians work from presuppositions.

            You are quite right about the texts you cite showing that St. Thomas held the real distinction between essence and existence, but it is also clear that he offered proof for that position in his De Ente et Essentia,

            So you concede that in Aquinas himself, a creature is a composite (composita) of essence and existence? Great. That position entails that existence is a constituent of the thing. I maintain that such a position is senseless. Existence is not a constituent of anything, for reasons I've detailed previously. In order to convince me that existence IS a constituent of things, you have to convince me that your theory and all it entails, including abandoning modern logic, commands our assent. You haven't done that, at least on my end. You have theory-embedded assertions, but all the stuff that your theory seeks to explain about reality can be explained better on more parsimonious theories, except for the question, Why does anything exist? But we don't know that that isn't just a pseudo-question.

            I hope you are weathering these COVID days three months in. I thought of the 75-yr-old man who was pushed to the sidewalk in Buffalo, and his head split open, and shuddered to think of that done to you or me or any of us - especially us no longer younguns.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am a little confused. You say, " "Being," or esse, in A-T is a term of art."

            But I thought it was perfectly clear that "being" and "esse" are not the same thing. You seem to assume that Maritain and I have been talking about being as esse, when we simply have not been doing that at all!

            Being is what is first encountered when we experience anything at all. It refers to the whole being or ens, without any further intended real distinctions But the term, "esse," in Thomism is reserved for the act of existence considered as a metaphysical principle distinct from essence. So, if you were equating our use of "being" with "esse," I am not surprised that you reject what you think we are saying.

            You seem to think that saying we encounter being is the same as to say we encounter esse, which is quite wrong. We encounter being as something that has two aspects to it: (1) some intelligible content or whatness, and (2) existence in the sense that it is a reality, it is not nothing. But our initial encounter does NOT isolate esse as a distinct principle, since we do NOT know that it is a distinct principle without proof of some type.

            What we do know is that the whatness of things varies from thing to thing, while all things exist. So, the initial concept of being contains confusedly both aspects of essence and of existence. But it would be very wrong from that to infer that Thomists start with as assertion of existence (esse) as a distinct reality from essence. All that we acknowledge is that we know beings and that the concept of being entails both essential and existential aspects that are affirmed in our immediate judgment. But we do not know that those aspects are distinct metaphysical principles.

            I see that you are very concerned that I admit that St. Thomas holds the real distinction between essence and existence. That has never been a state secret. But neither have I attempted any proof of it here. All I have said is that that real distinction must be proven at some point after one begins metaphysics. So you say it is senseless to say that existence (esse) is a constituent of a thing, but that claim has not yet even been made in the discussion here thus far. So, I really have no way to comment on your dissenting position.

            I think what you really do need to address, though, is how we know the principle of non-contradiction as we clearly do. You may want to debate its universality or certitude, but I don't think anyone really can do that successfully once a given case is carefully described.

            What is more relevant is that we have a concept of being that clearly applies to every possible being and strictly affirms that being either is or is not and cannot be both from the exact same perspective. How is this possible if the concept of being is not truly universal and applicable to all things? And how do we have this universal certitude of the PNC unless the concept of being is itself universal, which would entail that being (ens) is somehow transcendental?

            As Maritain correctly observes, it is not a mere principle of logic, but an ontological universal truth which is presupposed by every logician who expresses it in terms of its logical form. You could never be sure of the truth of its logical expression unless you were first sure of its ontological reality. It is nonsense to say the PNC applies to propositions, but not to universal being, since propositions are a part of being (reality) and unless you are sure that being cannot be non-being, you could never be sure that a given predicate cannot both be affirmed and denied of the same subject.

            And that means that logic presupposes this very first principle of metaphysics. The tail does not wag the dog.

          • Ficino

            Yes, good catch, I should not have used the English term "being" as though ens is synonym of "existence" in A-T. I didn't think it was - hence my talk of existence as a constituent of a being - but I should have checked my language more carefully.

            "Being" and "existence" ARE considered synonyms by certain modern metaphysicians, but that's another story.

            As to mass terms, I am using that locution as the counterpart of sortal or count terms. I have seen it used so by Thomasson, van Inwagen et al. In Aristotle (πρώτη) οὐσία, first substance or first "being," is used as both:

            "For example, he not only asks questions like “Is Socrates a (prote) ousia?” and “What is a (prote) ousia”?, but questions like “What is the (prote) ousia of Socrates?” and “What is (prote) ousia?”" ~ van Inwagen

            When we read that something "habet esse," I am taking "esse" in this mass term sense. When we read about entia, I'm reading the term as a count term.

            I don't understand the difficulty about the question (whatever its answer) formulated so that esse might or might not be a constituent of a creature. I'm rereading De Ente et Essentia, and the language of composition (componitur, constituitur, etc.) is all through there. If a creature is a composite of A + B, what shall we call A or B, if not "constituent"? That's just a given of language, once we have a "res composita ex A et B."

            - as a count term when it has the definite article and as a mass term, denoting that in which things participate or the like, without the article.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            ""Being" and "existence" ARE considered synonyms by certain modern metaphysicians, but that's another story."

            The confusing use of being and existence as synonyms in English is not anyone's fault. It is just that sometimes we use "being" instead of "existence," when we say something is in existence or has existence. That is why the Dominican translator of the Summa Theologiae caused such unneeded confusion when he translated both ens and esse as being!

            I can understand why you find the constant references of St. Thomas to the real distinction between essence and existence as leading you to think he is assuming that "esse" is somehow immediately known in sensio-intellective experience.

            The problem is that once he or a later Thomist has concluded that these principles are really distinct (by some process of reasoning), he will naturally speak of them as distinct principles which are (you are correct) constituents of the whole being (ens).

            Maritain's and my key point is that that direct affirmation of esse as a constituent of ens is NOT presumed in our initial encounter with being (ens). If you can lay hands on Maritain's Preface to Metaphysics, lesson 2, he explains this in greater detail than I can here.

            But, if I understand him and our experience with things we first encounter correctly, what it means is that the "being" we affirm has both an essential aspect (dogginess) and an existential aspect (it is real), and that is all we affirm. Period. No "esse" at this instance!

            Now we do notice that the essential aspect differs from thing to thing, while all things are affirmed as to existence. A further distinction Thomists do make is that the essential aspect is grasped through a concept by the first act of the mind just as the existence can be know as signified in that same first act. BUT, existence as exercised is grasped only through the second act of the mind, judgment.

            Still, none of this directly tells us that essence is really distinct from esse at the level of that first encounter. That is why St. Thomas offers a proof for the real distinction in c. 4 of the De Ente. Not having looked at it for some time, I would not be surprised if he talked about the real distinction in earlier sections of that same work, but that does NOT gainsay two salient points: (1) "Esse" is NOT known as such when we initially form a concept of being, and (2) the real distinction can only be known as such AFTER some philosophical process of reasoning demonstrates it as true.

            Still, the fact remains that even this initial concept of being is such that it is validly used in the understanding of the PNC as an ontological first principle, without which nothing else could be known to be what it is and not what it is not, including the intelligible content of words in logical propositions.

          • Ficino

            (1) "Esse" is NOT known as such when we initially form a concept of being, and (2) the real distinction can only be known as such AFTER some philosophical process of reasoning demonstrates it as true.

            I said earlier that, while a child experiences things and later forms concepts and learns names, Aquinas holds with Aristotle that "being" is the first object of the intellect. I forget whether I specified, in the order not of time of one's life but in the order of nature, or in an ontological order.

            That is what Maritain says of the priority of being among all objects of intellect, i.e. an ontological priority.

            But in Lectio 3, Maritain expressly states what I had earlier interpreted Thomism to hold, i.e. that principles about "being" are asserted as though self-evident, as though their truth is apprehended directly, BEFORE we get arguments. Cf. "It [i.e. intuition of "being" in the sense of "a perception direct and immediate"] is a very simple sight, superior to any discursive reasoning or demonstration, because it is the source of demonstration" (p. 46 of the 1962 translation).

            That is what I had already concluded.

            I note Maritain's injection of devices to inoculate his metaphysics, and the metaphysician he represents, against disconfirmation. He claims for the metaphysician a privileged access to the truth, not open to others. (I'm too pressed for time now to look for the page numbers.) He contrasts The Professor, as one whose grasp of truth is defective, to the metaphysician. He claims his metaphysical principles trump any system of logic. These devices are rhetorical. They leave no space in the game to the interlocutor who declines to affirm Maritain's system, for from the inoculated space, demurrals can be dismissed as failures of Professor types like Ficino to grasp the "mysteries" (Maritain's term) of being through the right kind of intuition.

            Loud warning bells ringing and bright red lights flashing.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But, if I read you correctly, you were saying that it is the metaphysical constituent of being (ens) which is called the esse or actus essendi, which is first known as such in our primordial contact with reality.

            Maritain does not say that. He says, as do I, that the concept of being (ens) is what is first known.

            As I have repeatedly tried to point out, esse, as a metaphysical co-principle of being (ens) is not known as such in our primordial contact with reality.

            I tried to explain this to you clearly in my immediately preceding comment.

            Everything you read about Lectio 3 pertains to the initial encounter with being (ens). It is NOT about claims directly pertaining to esse.

            I think you are simply misreading Maritain.

            And his claim about metaphysical insights trumping logic are absolutely correct, since logic presupposes the ontological principle of non-contradiction, without which its propositions would be simply unintelligible, since they could mean the very opposite of the content they express.

          • Ficino

            But, if I read you correctly, you were saying that it is the metaphysical constituent of being (ens) which is called the esse or actus essendi, which is first known as such in our primordial contact with reality.

            In an earlier post I was not being precise about the ens/esse distinction. I did try to distinguish between the order of experiences starting from childhood and an ontological ordering, or ordering by nature, of the objects of intellect, such that "ens" is the first object of intellect. But i didn't bring that distinction out as I tried to do above in quoting Maritain.

            And got it, yes, Maritain was talking about "ens" not "esse" in what he said about "the intuition of being." Aaargh, I'm going crazy. Thank you for the specification.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Given the perpetually insane confusion of "being" with "being" in English, perhaps, it should be called the "institution" of being. :)

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Dennis,

            Do you have any objection to the following alternative expression of what you said in various comments and posts? (In case I have distorted what you said.)

            •••••••

            We first perceived through our sensory perception of "something" (upon conceptual analysis of this basic sensory perception, we understand this conceptually as "there is something" or "there is something rather than nothing" even if this something is a hallucination)

            From that basic concept, we started to form the idea of "what is this something?" or "what is it?".

            And so when we are able to answer the question of “what is it?”, we have the idea of "what it is" or "it is such and such".

            We then ask: "does this idea exist concretely or does it exist only abstractly?"

            So from the initial perception and idea of "there is something rather than nothing" we have formed two further ideas: (1) what it is? and
            (2) does it exist non-abstractly?

            Idea (1) is distinct/different from idea (2),

            Upon further thinking, we realise that both ideas (1) and (2) apply to everything. So for everything, we can anlayse it in terms of (1) "What it is?" and (2) "Does it exist non-abstractly?"

            (Dennis, from this point onwards I add in other elements)

            For something that exists concretely, we can then ask further: "Why is it able to exist non-abstractly right now?" or equivalently, "Does it depend continuously on something else in order to exist?"

            We find that everything we encounter around us depends continuously on other things in order to continue existing. So we understand that such things do not exist intrinsically. Their nature is such that they do not exist intrinsically.

            We then ask: "Is it conceptually possible for there to be something that does not depend on something else in order to exist non-abstractly?"

            There is no logical reason to say no. Hence it is logically possible for something to exist non-abstractly without depending on anything else for its existence.

            Then we ask: "If there is such a thing, then WHAT IS IT like, in order for it to be able to exist non-abstractly without depending on anything else for its existence?"

            Then we realise: "If there is such a thing, then this thing must be something that exists intrinsically, i.e., its existence is intrinsic to its nature." Let us call this thing 'special entity'.

            So when we ask about this speical entity: "What is it?", the reply is: "It is something that exists intrinsically, whatever else it may be" or "existing intrinsically is part or whole of its nature" or "intrinsic existence is part or whole of its nature"

            Another way of saying the previous statement is: "its essence is either existence, or existence plus something else".

            If this special entity's nature is "existence plus something else" then we ask what does the 'something else' depend on in order to exist? Since that 'something ELSE' means something which does not exist intrinsically, the existence of that 'something else' must depend on the other part of the special entity that exists intrinsically. This means this something else is not the most essential and not the most fundamental to this special entity.

            So the most essential feature/nature of this special entity boils down to only its feature/nature of existing intrinsically. .

            In other words, the most essential feature/nature ("what it is?") of this special entity is the feature of intrinsic existence.

            Therefore, in the above sense, we say its essence is existence.

            (Proving that this special entity exists non-abstractly in reality is a separate matter. This of course has been accomplished by Thomists.)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Let me first say that I am extremely sympathetic to your entire project of using reason to lead the mind step by logical step from our initial experience of the world to the discovery of its ultimate explanation in the form of something that explains its own existence as well as that of everything else.

            That said, though, I am hesitant to confirm as a whole the details of your argument, even in its starting point. For example, you begin by saying:

            "We first perceived through our sensory perception of "something" (upon conceptual analysis of this basic sensory perception, we understand this conceptually as "there is something" or "there is something rather than nothing" even if this something is a hallucination)"

            The problem is that our initial encounter with being is not known directly in a concept, but in a judgment: Scio aliquid esse (I know something to be). So, we do not "understand this conceptually as "there is something,"" because "there is something" is a judgment, not a concept. From that judgment, we may abstract the concept of being and proceed therefrom. But these nuances are the reason that I normally have to state thing exactly as I do -- and hope I got it right!

            So, I must say that, while much of your expressions come very close to how I might put it, the nuances are of such concern that I would be more comfortable just to let you develop your argument on your own terms, which is what most of your comment here does anyway.

            Although it comes after you appear finished with my starting point, I am concerned about this statement:

            "We find that everything we encounter around us depends continuously on other things in order to continue existing."

            I fear you would find the skeptic challenging exactly how we know that things depend on other things in order to keep existing. To say, "We find," immediately begets the question: "How do 'we find.?" What tells us this. Is it causality? How do we know things in our experience are really caused by anything? And why must the things cease to be when you remove their cause?

            This is why arguments like this really take a lot mores space to develop in a foolproof manner. And this also is why I don't usually attempt such proofs inside comment thread like this one!

            That is why most of my posts on Strange Notions run over three thousand words! Still, keep at it and work to make your arguments more and more air tight. It helps to always try to think of how a skeptic might attack your arguments -- because there are plenty of them on this site to do so! That is their job. :)

          • Johannes Hui

            Thank you very much, Dennis, especially for pointing out the very crucial part right at the beginning where I should not have brought in “conceptual understanding” so early, without first mentioning the prior judgment of “I know there is something”. This is a very important nuanced stage I failed to notice.

            I love the challenges given by sceptics because they help me to see my blind spots which my own confirmation bias tends to prevent me from noticing. This helps me to re-express my reasonings in a better way (eg clearer, tighter, perhaps simpler, and shorter where possible, etc). Of course what you have just responded helped a lot too in my above attempt to rephrase your idea.

            Thanks again.

          • Ficino

            Dennis, above you say that the intellect first forms a judgment that there is something, and only later it goes on to form a concept of being. But in an earlier article, you wrote this:

            Once the human intellect first encounters any being whatever, it forms a concept of being that endows it with immediate grasp of its universal application–an application possessed with absolute certitude.

            https://strangenotions.com/are-metaphysical-first-principles-universally-true/

            Is what you wrote in the earlier article just an abbreviated version of a more expanded version that you set out for Johannes, or have you changed your views so as to present a more complex process of forming a concept of being?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Is what you wrote in the earlier article just an abbreviated version of a more expanded version that you set out for Johannes,..."?

            Yes. First, we know something exists in a judgment .... and from it abstract a concept of being.

            But please see my other longer response to you in the immediately prior comment by me.

  • Philip Rand

    Dennis Bonnette is unaware of a self-deceptive equivocation within Thomism when he tables:

    We can form all kinds of concepts and combinations of concepts. But they
    exist only in the mind unless we make a judgment of existence. You can
    say that "the present king of France is bald," but that in no way
    deceives the Thomist into thinking there is anything real about any of
    it except that you have built up a complex concept that has no
    correlative reality. You can have affirmative propositions where you
    predicate x of y and negative ones where you deny x of y. But none of it
    has any connection to reality unless you make a judgment of existence
    about there actually being a y that is or is not x.

    Dennis Bonnette is stating that the Thomist uses two rules to define reality:

    1/ The Thomist conceives of an "object" as an independently constituted entitiy whose characteristics the Thomist reads off, rather than decides, and which the Thomist picks out as "that".

    2/ The Thomist also conceives of an "object" as a person-in-a-particular-spatial-location-as-opposed-to-another-spatial-location, rather than as a man-as-opposed-to-a-woman and so on.

    Consequently, the Thomist can attach no sense to an "object" understood in 1/ because "object" understood in 2/ fails to provide an independent determinant of the dimension in which the Thomist can speak or think.

  • Ficino

    A few impressions upon reading Jacques Maritain on "being" in Thomism, in lectures 2-4 of his A Preface to Metaphysics:

    I. Reactions to Maritain and his writing:
    a. very eloquent and impassioned, and tries to bring Thomism into the intellectual milieu of France of the time of writing (1932)
    b. as I said before, through various devices he inoculates his version of metaphysics against criticism. The critic can be put into Maritain's large bin of "professors" and others who lack the true, and rarely found, spirit of the genuine metaphysician. He represents himself as having through "intuition" an access to truth not vouchsafed to the majority, not even to Kant.
    c. although he achieved a lot in life and was a voice for human rights, his early resolve to commit joint suicide with his future wife if they could not find meaning in life within a year (they converted to Catholicism instead) gives me pause about taking him as a safe guide.

    II. Thoughts about being (ens) and existence (esse) as treated in Thomism as Maritain explains it:
    a. the following remain unconvincing:
    modes and degrees of "being", the Analogy of Being
    existence as a perfection, and a fortiori, as a predicate of a thing
    existence as a mass term (not Maritain's terminology)
    a real distinction in things between essence and existence
    necessity as a property of things not propositional functions
    the PNC as applied to things not propositions (cf. De Veritate 1.2 "there is not true and false except in a mind". It won't help to locate them in God's mind in a premise in an argument for God's existence.)
    b. in particular, I see assertions but not reasons why conclusions of Thomistic metaphysics justify Maritain's insistence "that ‘Russellian mathematical logic’ was “inferior to traditional Aristotelian logic”, and that any demonstration of religious belief needed to follow Aristotelian syllogistic" [in his Introduction to Logic, 1923 [1937a: 222–232], which I have not read but found in SEP article on Maritain by Wm. Sweet). This is a deal-breaker.
    c. in general, talk about levels and mysteries of "being" sounds profound but obfuscates.

    Maritain speaks of his own experiences: "I have often in a sudden intuition the reality of my own being, the profound first principle which makes me exist outside non-entity. It is a powerful intuition whose violence has sometimes frightened me and which first revealed to me a metaphysical absolute" (p. 47 of the Eng. tr.). I have had such, too. But I don't appeal to it/them as providing ground of insights that, say, trump modern logic or rule out skeptical scrutiny.

    • Mark

      I have had such, too. But I don't appeal to it/them as providing ground
      of insights that, say, trump modern logic or rule out skeptical
      scrutiny.

      Are you aware of anyone who denies their own being? It would be useless to appeal to such a skeptic non-being with modern logic. Philosophy somewhere F; it's not a vacuum. What makes universal appeal to every perceived intellect seems like the rational place to start.

      • Ficino

        Thanks for the 'like'. Rarely-used words are fun.

        Are you aware of anyone who denies their own being? It would be useless to appeal to such a skeptic non-being with modern logic.

        I don't see anything in what I wrote suggesting that I think it's a good move of a skeptic to deny that he/she exists. There are some schools of thought that deny there is a unified "self," but I wasn't going there in this combox (have no interest in their take, to be honest). The issue I'm getting at is a particular theory about "being" (the Thomist one, at least as usually presented by fairly traditional Thomists I've encountered). I don't think the unique tenets of that theory with all they entail, are self-evident from our experience.

        The special, overwhelming experiences Maritain mentions, by the way, are NOT presented by him as everyday moments of self-awareness that everyone has. His quasi-mystical experiences are presented by him as rare and limited to the few who have the endowments of the genuine metaphysician, a special type.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I have neither the time nor inclination to respond to every claim you make against your litany of what you understand to be Maritain's and, I suppose, Thomism's major theses.

      But the deal-breaker of your position to me is your statement that you are "unconvinced" by "the PNC as applied to things when it should be applied only to propositions (cf. De Veritate 1.2 "there is not true and false except in a mind"."

      Truth and falsity do exist solely in a mind, since truth is the conformity of the mind to reality or being, whereas falsity is the lack of such conformity.

      But that does not quite address the ontological principle of non-contradiction which is itself a judgment in the mind which says that being (whether in a mind or not) cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.

      The ontological principle of non-contradiction, when properly understood and applied, is undoubtedly both universal and transcendent -- as evinced even by skeptics who try to show allegedly-defeating contradictions in what they understand would be the transcendent God.

      As Maritain points out in his A Preface to Metaphysics (34), "[T]he whole of logic depends upon the principle of contradiction [bold added], which is the logical form of the principle of identity: non est negare et affirmare simul. We cannot affirm and deny the same thing from the same point of view."

      As Maritain correctly observes, the ontological PNC is not a mere principle of logic, but a universal truth about being, which is presupposed by every logician who expresses it in terms of its logical form. You could never be sure of the truth of its logical expression unless you were first sure of its ontological reality. It is nonsense to say the PNC applies to propositions, but not to universal being, since propositions are a part of being (reality) and unless you are sure that being cannot be non-being, you could never be sure that a given predicate cannot both be affirmed and denied of the same subject.

      If your position that the PNC "should be applied only to propositions" represents the position of analytic philosophy in general, then analytic philosophy is simply unable to grasp the most basic of rational truths and its very foundation is false.

      The fundamental problem with analytic philosophy attempting to engage with the Thomistic notion of real existence is that analytics deals exclusively with concepts, which are confined to the first act of the mind and do not reach existence, -- whereas it is by the second act that the intellect judges real existence.

      In a 2015 International Philosophical Quarterly article, entitled, "Thomist Esse and Analytic Philosophy, Gavin Kerr, O.P. surveys major analytic philosophers with respect to their ability to engage with the Thomistic notion of esse. He concludes:

      "When we do analytic philosophy, in particular metaphysics, we do not enter an intellectual mode of experience essentially different from the other sciences since the other sciences along with analytic metaphysics are involved with the conceptual contents that we abstract from the respective subject matters. For the Thomist, on the other hand, we are not concerned with conceptual contents abstracted from the subject matter of metaphysics (being); rather, we are concerned with that very subject matter itself, not in abstraction therefrom. In order to do the latter we must focus on the existentiality of being, which requires that we engage with the phenomena not through our conceptual capacities that themselves only bring into relief beings, but through the intellectual faculty of judgment, which brings into relief existence and thus the very being of beings."
      https://www.pdcnet.org/ipq/content/ipq_2015_0055_0001_0025_0048

      He further concludes: "Given all of these considerations, I submit that analytic philosophy is constitutionally unable to come to terms with Thomist esse."

      N.B. This does NOT mean that he or St, Thomas or I or any other Thomist is merely assuming that esse is a distinct metaphysical principle from essence. It only means that the mind does have direct knowledge of existence as the act whereby things exist and not merely of the concept of existence that is abstracted from that act of existence.

      • Ficino

        As far as I know, the principle of identity holds of entities: Each object/thing A is identical with itself. The law of non-contradiction, on the other hand, holds of propositions: No proposition is both true and false. I don't go with an "ontological" version of the PNC, as I said earlier, because "contradiction" implies assertions or propositions. When we say the chair cannot be both made of wood and not made of wood in the same respect, that's discourse.

        " The 'ontological' version is often expressed by saying that no object can both have a certain property, and not have it. But of course, there is nothing peculiarly ontological about this statement in itself, since it could perfectly well be used to express a quantificational variant of the 'logical' version. If 'Not both p and not-p' is a way of expressing the 'logical' version, so also is 'For all x, not both cçx and not cç." ~ Henry Johnstone

        I read Kerr's paper. I don't know that I can refute directly claims that he and other Thomists make about "being," because the notion "being" is both polyvalent and, to my lights, of indeterminate reference. It makes sense to me to say that something exists if properties are quantified over it. Utterances like this of Kerr's strike me as perhaps literally senseless: " In order to do the latter we must focus on the existentiality of being, which requires that we engage with the phenomena not through our conceptual capacities that themselves only bring into relief beings, but through the intellectual faculty of judgment, which brings into relief existence and thus the very being of beings."

        I do agree with Kerr and you that analytic philosophy tend to speak past each other. I can accept, though, the letter of what you quote from Maritain, into which I insert bolding: "[T]he whole of logic depends upon the principle of contradiction [bold added], which is the logical form of the principle of identity: non est negare et affirmare simul. We cannot affirm and deny the same thing from the same point of view."

        I don't see that I am under logical compulsion to characterize the PNC as an ontological principle if I'm agreeing that the principle of identity is an ontological principle.

        • Jim the Scott

          >I don't go with an "ontological" version of the PNC, as I said earlier, because "contradiction" implies assertions or propositions.

          Oh Ficino my friend, propositions are tools we use to make judgements about being. They are not ends in themselves. The end is apprehension and conception and if the PNC is not ontological then by definition all Atheist & or religious skeptic objections to the claims of specific religions based on perceived contradictions in their make up have no meaning. If you take the classic one "How can God be All Good and All Powerful and Evil exists etc?" well then Rowe is out of the job and Brian Davies and I can relax because there is nothing to answer or defend.

          >I don't see that I am under logical compulsion to characterize the PNC as an ontological principle if I'm agreeing that the principle of identity is an ontological principle.

          If true contradictions cannot automatically be conceived of as unreal then logic cannot really compel anything. I would then have no reason to believe 2+2=4 is true and that 2+2=5 is a contradiction.

          But I thank you for showing what Feser has convinced me of. Modern philosophical thought is grievously flawed and ultimately irrational.

          • Ficino

            propositions are tools we use to make judgements about being things.

            Oh Jim my friend, the above alteration is a start toward how I'd express what you expressed.

            Too much in the last day from you and Dennis to reply more right now, except to note that even in A-T, the relation of identity does not "put something in the nature of things" but is one of the relations that "put something only in reason" (cf. De Veritate 1.5 ad 16). The thing is what it is; "self-identity" is a principle of our account of the thing.

            As Dennis said, maybe more of the dispute is terminological than might appear at first.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Too much in the last day from you and Dennis to reply more right now,

            Fair enough. Ye are a stand up guy friend Ficino.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          From what I understand the principle of non-contradiction refers to being directly, whereas its logical form is expressed in terms of propositions in which you are not being able to both affirm and deny the same predicate of the same subject.

          We may be getting into semantics here, since we find Benignus saying this: "The principle of contradiction is merely the negative form of the principle of identity, and it is asserted when the intellect compares being with non-being. Being is not non-being; that which is, is not that which is not; that what is something, is not what that something is not; nothing is what it is not; nothing can be and not be something at the same time." (386)

          By that reckoning, if you accept identity as ontological, you also accept non-contradiction as ontological.

          But, of course, you do not. I fear we are talking past each other. But I think this from Kerr might help:

          "Whereas conceptual analysis is existence neutral, separatio is not and cannot be since it aims to bring a thing’s esse into view. Esse is not identical to any essence of which we are capable of apprehending, in which case it will not be by means of the same intellectual pursuit that focuses on essence, i.e., conceptual analysis, that we grasp esse. We must then adopt a different mode of thought in our thinking about esse. Whereas an existing essence, a being, can be conceived and thought about by means of conceptual analysis, its existing, its esse, cannot be so conceived but stands as the condition for the possibility of understanding the existing thing.53 Consequently, it is not through conceptual analysis that we arrive at the existence, the esse, of a thing, and given that conceptual analysis is distinctive of analytic philosophy, it cannot be through analytic philosophy that we arrive at an understanding of esse."

          Rather than trying to score points by technical talk, let me try to explain what I understand in simpler language. I risk wording that may fail by imprecision.

          The problem is that when quantification says something is "not 0," this tells us something as conceptual as number. It is equivalent to saying "something exists," but with no content beyond the mere counting of those items to which the word,"exists," applies.

          But it is a league away from what the Thomist is getting at when he says "something exists," since he is going beyond the mere concept to assert the intellect's affirmation of a real act whereby the object at issue is radically standing in opposition to nothingness. Now you may challenge some of the wording here on technicalities, I am sure, since our language isn't very good at getting at what the Thomist is saying.

          One might say that saying something is red is no different than saying something exists. But when we affirm something is red, we attend to the property of redness, not the existence that must attend the redness to make it real. There is a difference between the concept of redness and the actual existence of the property of redness. The Thomist is concerned not only with the redness, but more importantly, with the act of existence whereby the property is real.

          In other words, we can talk about existence as a mere concept and make sense of it, but that is not the real act of existence that requires a sufficient reason for being that is radically different than the mere concept.

          To make the point another way, one can say that existence does not exist, since if existence refers merely to a concept of existence, it does not have real existence as merely a concept of the essence of existence. But to say that what exists does not exist would be a contradiction, since the verb that expresses the judgment is attained as exercised, as actualized or possessed. (See Preface, 20.)

          That is why the judgment of existence goes radically beyond the mere noting of a "not 0" presence of things that remains in the domain of conceptual existence, not real existence.

          In a word, the analytic approach notes the fact that what exists is "not zero," but that fails to grasp the insistence of the second act of the intellect that far more than mere conceptual content is expressed -- that real acts that render something real must be accounted for by analysis of what it means to exist, for example, to have the power by which to stand "outside of nothingness." While we have no proper concept of nothingness, the activity of existing is not a mere concept of existing, but a reality itself that demands intellectual accounting.

          I hope that begins to explain how analytic philosophy differs from Thomistic metaphysics. The former remains in the conceptual order of analysis, while the latter grants the former, but insists that the reality of real things demands recognition that a judgment of actual existence touches reality radically distinct from the conceptual order by itself.

          This does not mean that the esse must be distinct in reality from the essence of a being, but it does mean that really distinct aspects of a being can be grasped by the intellect -- and that to fully grasp the content of an actual being requires grasping both its essential qualities (including existence as abstractly conceived) and also the actual existence concretely realized that is recognized solely through the judgment of existence.

          • Ficino

            Thank you for working to explicate Thomistic ontology/metaphysics, or accounts of "being," around the poles of essence and existence. As was said by each of us in different ways, I don't think I can strictly speaking prove A-T wrong; it is more that I don't find it offers a compelling framework. I don't know that I can point out explicit contradictions in it for the same reason that I don't find its framework compelling. The reason is A-T's non-univocal use of the cluster of terms originating from εἶναι and esse. You note above that

            our language isn't very good at getting at what the Thomist is saying.

            But if we were writing in Greek or Latin, we'd still face the problem of non-univocal terms used in arguments. I propose instead that we need an ontology "consistent with the view that ‘exists’ is a formal term governed by core rules of use (connecting it with rules for the quantifier, for number claims, and for disjunction) that do not vary even when we add new material terms to the language." (A. Thomasson, Ontology Made Easy, 75).

            Some days ago I urged that Thomists seek to apply to their own discourse Carnap's admission that theorists can use different systems of logic. A theorist may be permitted “to build up his own logic, i.e., his own form of language, as he wishes. All that is required of him is that if he wishes to discuss it, he must state his methods clearly, and give syntactical rules instead of philosophical arguments.” I'm not seeing this sort of thing being done for A-T arguments about "being" and its associated terms.

            Instead, I get language like this that you quote of Benignus: "that which is, is not that which is not." It's left unclear whether "that which is not" designates something that does not exist. I don't admit anything that doesn't exist into my ontology. Or, if Benignus' language can be rephrased so as to eliminate things/somethings that don't exist, it's not clear how the rephrasing should be done.

            Thomists talk as though the mysteries of Being are so deep that language fails before their splendor, as the Form of the Good - beyond Being? - blinds the eye of the intellect. I fear I am just one of Maritain's "professors." If I'm being given an account, I want dry clarity as much as I can get it.

            I am not sure that you are accurately capturing Fregean quantification, i.e. existence claims in standard analytic-speak, when you say this:

            The problem is that when quantification says something is "not 0," this tells us something as conceptual as number. It is equivalent to saying "something exists," but with no content beyond the mere counting of those items to which the word,"exists," applies.

            Quantification is not performed "with no content." It is done to a string of predicates, as many as you like, that provide the content. Quantification tells us how many variables are bound by them, or how many instances of the predicates there are. If I'm saying that Frege's four thoroughbred horses are in the field, we have heaps of content: everything that is true of horse as a first order predicate, ditto of field, a definite description (if you're a descriptivist about names) satisfied only by Frege, and the predicates entailed by thoroughbred. We have life, spatio-temporal location, causal powers all built into the bundle of predicates. "Four" as a predicate of all these concepts tells us the conjunction of ALL the predicated concepts is instanced four times.

            We need a lot more than "form of horse plus materia signata plus an act of existence" to capture what conjunction of concepts gives us one of just those horses. Regimentation in logical notation expresses that conjunction if you want to spend the time writing it all out! And there is no remainder and no mystery about the "being of the being" etc.

            And the existential quantifier is what does that work. That's why we add nothing if we throw in "exists" as another predicate of the horses. On the predicate logic view, quantifying all those predicates just what we do when we say there are four thoroughbred horses in the field.

            So analytic philosophy does not get us only to concepts and then fail. It provides a criterion for stating what things exist more precisely than A-T does. You can see some of its advantages by regimenting in logical notation utterances about test cases like fictional or non-existent objects.

            You may ask, But what is it that makes the conjunction of concepts REAL - what gives us a being and not just some concepts? The answer will come from empirical judgments. There are the horses, look at them! To add "well, each makes an act of existence" is vacuous; it doesn't amplify what we've already established.

            I haven't arrived at a view about van Inwagen's acceptance of all this but his insistence that existence is a "feature" - i.e. it is the feature of self-identity. I think that's wrong, as does a colleague with whom I discussed van Inwagen's ontology. I like his views on the existence of abstract objects, though.

            I think this is the best I can do at least for a while in trying to explain why I don't sign on to A-T accounts of being. Those accounts have been superseded by theoretically superior ones. Thomists who meet objections by saying that objector just doesn't understand Thomism, that the objector is wrong to shove Aquinas into a Frege-Russell-Quine box, don't demonstrate, in my view, that Thomism is the superior scheme. They remind me of critics who accuse Aristotle of failing to understand the Presocratics or Plato. Although progress in philosophy may be harder to detect over the centuries than progress in some other fields, I think the "discovery of quantification," as my friend David Reeve put it, was a signal step forward in philosophy, and it was made possible only by the prior abandonment since Hume et al. of the conviction that existence (or even "being" - entitas?) is a predicate.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you appear to be saying is that, with Fregean quantification properly applied, existence (esse) does not appear as a first order predicate.

            I would say that the problem is that, with Fregean quantification properly applied, existence (esse) does not appear as a first order predicate.

            In other words, the process of Fregean quantification, whether intentionally designed that way or not, automatically “filters out” existence (esse) as a first order predicate. It is not that existence (esse) is not directly known. It is merely that quantification is inherently blind to its presence.

            That is why I appreciate you giving actual examples of how first order predicates work.

            The concept of existence (existentia ut significata) may be, in Fregean terms, a second order predicate, but there is simply no place in Fregean quantification for existence in act (existentia ut exercita).

            You give the examples of horses and a field, both of which have “acceptable” first order predicates, such as “life, spatio-temporal location, and causal powers.” And nowhere need “existence” appear. The horses and field appear able to have “heaps of content.” But why? Is it because they are observable through sense experience? Are “life” or causal “powers” empirically verifiable?

            Perhaps, these are first order predicates solely because they add real properties to the things involved. But we Thomists already knew that existence (esse) adds nothing to the essential or accidental properties of a thing.

            I found this comment quite illuminating: “But what is it that makes the conjunction of concepts REAL - what gives us a being and not just some concepts? The answer will come from empirical judgments. Give the horses a medical or scientific examination.”

            So, it appears that at least part of the metaphysical filter of Fregean logic turns out to be materialism/positivism after all! “Empirical” judgments. “Scientific” examinations. Res ipsa loquitur.

            Empirical judgments tell us that things are real, but do not explain the sufficient reason why they are actually differentiated from nothingness. Moreover, existence in act cannot be the object of sense experience as such. But it can be known directly in an existential judgment, as when we say, “This horse exists.”

            All this is precisely why human knowledge is not merely sensory, but rather is sensory-intellectual. Human experience is not restricted merely to sensation (as Hume assumes), but is simultaneously intellectual in nature.

            That is why we say that existence (esse) is known in a judgment, NOT in sensation as such. When we say that “this horse exists,” the physical attributes of the horse are experienced through sensation, but solely the intellect pronounces that the horse has actual being or existence.

            And because existence is known immediately in sensory-intellectual experience, it is, whether it be so in Fregean logic or not, a legitimate predicate of actual things. No, it adds nothing to the properties of the thing (to the essence, that is), but it pronounces the whole thing as real – as not nothing at all.

            When we encounter real things, we not only experience their physical attributes, but we also judge that they and whatever it is that has those properties are real, that is, that they exist. They have something real in them that differentiates them from nothing at all. If we deny this evident fact, we lose all intellectual contact with reality.

            And how do I know this explanation is true? The proof lies in the ontological principle of non-contradiction, which is universally and transcendentally applicable to all things, true for all reality. All attempts deny it end in folly. And the PNC arises from the concept of being that is formed from our immediate experience of the actual judgment of existence.

            That is why Maritain says that “the whole of logic depends upon the principle of contradiction.” You cannot be sure of the logical form of the principle unless you are first certain of its ontological form. That is, you cannot be sure that the same predicate cannot be affirmed and denied of the same subject universally unless you are certain of this because of presupposing the ontological form of the same principle. Otherwise, since propositions are part of reality, it might be possible to affirm and deny the same predicate of the same subject.

            Either one must deny the transcendental truth of the ontological PNC, which appears to be intellectual suicide, or else, admit that there is something to the concept of being as taught by the Thomists.

            “I get language like this that you quote of Benignus: "that which is, is not that which is not." It's left unclear whether "that which is not" designates something that does not exist. I don't admit anything that doesn't exist into my ontology. Or, if Benignus' language can be rephrased so as to eliminate things/somethings that don't exist, it's not clear how the rephrasing should be done.”

            Thomists are not bewitched by their own language. We could simply say that there is no such thing as “that which is not.” Knowing the concept of being does not mean that we are forced to say that every subject of predication must have extramental existence.

            And, for the record, saying we directly judge the real existence of things does not mean that we are assuming that existence (esse) is a distinct metaphysical co-principle of being (ens). That must be demonstrated by a subsequent, distinct metaphysical argument.

          • Ficino

            We are getting far from my familiar shores of Classics here! I know enough, though, to know that ontology is fiercely debated just among philosophers of an analytic stripe, let alone between them and Thomists.

            Before going further to respond to your last, I'd like to ask what sense you would ascribe to statements in Aquinas and other scholastics that things have "entitatem," or references to the "entitas rei," the "entitas" of a/the thing (cf. e.g. De Veritate 1.8). I assume that entitas is just a substantival form of "ens," so that "res ens est" conveys the same meanings as "res entitatem habet." Is this true?

            Do such locutions then tell us that the thing is a composite of an essence and (an act of) existence (esse)? In other words, that the thing that has "entitatem" just means a thing that has "essence + existence"?

            Thanks.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't mean to dodge your question, but I would suspect that one has to be aware that St. Thomas and others may constantly be presuming the real distinction between essence and existence whenever they write about this area.

            That is not because the doctrine itself is a matter of mere assumption, but because it was decided early on -- as in the case with St. Thomas in De Ente, 4 -- and thus stands as an understood background for discussion.

            And, as a classicist, you are just as able as I, if not more so, to know the most literal translation of the text. One must recall that in reading St. Thomas, the best translation is usually the most literal one.

            All this said, we must recall that modern Thomists are not necessarily slavishly subordinated to the words of St. Thomas. We all know he has made some clear errors, especially in matters where the ancient biology and cosmology were involved. If you doubt this, just look at the text where he raises the question of what would have happened to original sin if Eve alone had sinned! See Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 81, a. 5, c.

          • Ficino

            As I've said before, the polyvalence of key terms like those of the "being/existence" complex is a high hurdle.

            I assume in any case from your reply that it's safe to rely on ST 1a 48.2 ad 2 and kindred expositions for the equivalence of "a thing is an ens" and "a thing has 'entitatem'." There the saint goes on to say that the "entitas" of a thing is divided through/by the ten predicaments.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Without having the time to check the Latin, yes, it looks like the first part of the text is speaking that way. Your reading of it is as good as mine, perhaps, better. :) Even well known Thomistic scholars sometimes dispute the exact meaning of a given text, as you know.

            Even with an authority like St. Thomas, scholars may cite him, not because they agree with him, but because he seems to agree with them!

        • Johannes Hui

          Hi Ficino,

          Below is a paper by Gyula Klima showing an inappropriate use of Frege’s modern logic to judge Aquinas’ writings on Essence and Existence:

          https : // pdfs. semanticscholar. org/fd01 /a2aa6cc8b354c2a7ce4636841d33daa25498. pdf

          Google “On Kenny on Aquinas on Being” (Title of the paper) or join up the gaps in the above link.

          You may have read it. I mention it here, in case you have not.

          Cheers!

          • Ficino

            I read it a while ago, but thanks.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            Intersting paper. The paper highlights the main anomaly with the Aquinas system, i.e. necessary monster-barring of concepts.

            The fact that monster-barring is required within the Thomistic system should be a clear sign that the system is not metaphysically fundematal.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    @Ficino

    What you appear to be saying is that, with Fregean quantification properly applied, existence (esse) does not appear as a first order predicate.

    I would say that the problem is that, with Fregean quantification properly applied, existence (esse) does not appear as a first order predicate.

    In other words, the process of Fregean quantification, whether intentionally designed that way or not, automatically “filters out” existence (esse) as a first order predicate. It is not that existence (esse) is not directly known. It is merely that quantification is inherently blind to its presence.

    That is why I appreciate you giving actual examples of how first order predicates work.

    The concept of existence (existentia ut significata) may be, in Fregean terms, a second order predicate, but there is simply no place in Fregean quantification for existence in act (existentia ut exercita).

    You give the examples of horses and a field, both of which have “acceptable” first order predicates, such as “life, spatio-temporal location, and causal powers.” And nowhere need “existence” appear. The horses and field appear able to have “heaps of content.” But why? Is it because they are observable through sense experience? Are “life” or causal “powers” empirically verifiable?

    Perhaps, these are first order predicates solely because they add real properties to the things involved. But we Thomists already knew that existence (esse) adds nothing to the essential or accidental properties of a thing.

    I found this comment quite illuminating: “But what is it that makes the conjunction of concepts REAL - what gives us a being and not just some concepts? The answer will come from empirical judgments. Give the horses a medical or scientific examination.”

    So, it appears that at least part of the metaphysical filter of Fregean logic turns out to be materialism/positivism after all! “Empirical” judgments. “Scientific” examinations. Res ipsa loquitur.

    Empirical judgments tell us that things are real, but do not explain the sufficient reason why they are actually differentiated from nothingness. Moreover, existence in act cannot be the object of sense experience as such. But it can be known directly in an existential judgment, as when we say, “This horse exists.”

    All this is precisely why human knowledge is not merely sensory, but rather is sensory-intellectual. Human experience is not restricted merely to sensation (as Hume assumes), but is simultaneously intellectual in nature.

    That is why we say that existence (esse) is known in a judgment, NOT in sensation as such. When we say that “this horse exists,” the physical attributes of the horse are experienced through sensation, but solely the intellect pronounces that the horse has actual being or existence.

    And because existence is known immediately in sensory-intellectual experience, it is, whether it be so in Fregean logic or not, a legitimate predicate of actual things. No, it adds nothing to the properties of the thing (to the essence, that is), but it pronounces the whole thing as real – as not nothing at all.

    When we encounter real things, we not only experience their physical attributes, but we also judge that they and whatever it is that has those properties are real, that is, that they exist. They have something real in them that differentiates them from nothing at all. If we deny this evident fact, we lose all intellectual contact with reality.

    And how do I know this explanation is true? The proof lies in the ontological principle of non-contradiction, which is universally and transcendentally applicable to all things, true for all reality. All attempts deny it end in folly. And the PNC arises from the concept of being that is formed from our immediate experience of the actual judgment of existence.

    I have already addressed the ontological PNC at length here: https://strangenotions.com/the-principle-of-non-contradictions-incredible-implications/

    That is why Maritain says that “the whole of logic depends upon the principle of contradiction.” You cannot be sure of the logical form of the principle unless you are first certain of its ontological form. That is, you cannot be sure that the same predicate cannot be affirmed and denied of the same subject universally unless you are certain of this because of presupposing the ontological form of the same principle. Otherwise, since propositions are part of reality, it might be possible to affirm and deny the same predicate of the same subject.

    Either one must deny the transcendental truth of the ontological PNC, which appears to be intellectual suicide, or else, admit that there is something to the concept of being as taught by the Thomists.

    “I get language like this that you quote of Benignus: "that which is, is not that which is not." It's left unclear whether "that which is not" designates something that does not exist. I don't admit anything that doesn't exist into my ontology. Or, if Benignus' language can be rephrased so as to eliminate things/somethings that don't exist, it's not clear how the rephrasing should be done.”

    Thomists are not bewitched by their own language. We could simply say that there is no such thing as “that which is not.” Knowing the concept of being does not mean that we are forced to say that every subject of predication must have extramental existence.

    And, for the record, saying we directly judge the real existence of things does not mean that we are assuming that existence (esse) is a distinct metaphysical co-principle of being (ens). That must be demonstrated by a subsequent, distinct metaphysical argument.

    • Ficino

      I answered below about entitas. Now I’ll give my best shot at the question, is existence a real or first-order predicate. The question matters to the purpose of SN because other theses are associated with it (though they belong to their own discussion threads).

      If we take the proposition, “A horse runs,” we could regiment it so:
      A horse runs (∃x) (xH ∧ xR)

      In Fregean quantification-speak, it’s “There exists an x such that x is a horse and x runs.” We can further clarify the existential operator by rewording “there exists an x” in some way like “the first-order concepts ‘horse’ and ‘run/s’ are quantified over a variable more than zero times,” or “the conjunction of ‘horse’ and ‘runs’ is instantiated more than zero times/at least once.”

      The implications of this proposition could be further unpacked. We could specify place and time, the fact that the horse is alive, that it’s performing an operation, etc., but these predications are implicit in “horse runs.” So I don’t spell them out.

      But are we failing to grapple with the fact that our intellect encounters not only the concepts horse and running, but prior to those, our intellect cognizes Being? After all, by H we could symbolize not “horse” but “unicorn,” and the propositional function would stay the same but the truth of the sentence would not remain; the sentence would be false. So is this logic of quantification serving a defective ontology – that is, an account of “being” that is defective precisely because it is concerned only with concepts and not with being itself, the reality of the subject of which the concepts are predicated?

      Before trying to answer this question, let me propose a dialogue.
      Frege: Look at that beautiful sight!
      Critic: Oh, what do you see?
      Frege: Look, there are some thoroughbred horses.
      Critic (squinting): Capital, but where are they?
      Frege: Down there in the field by the river.
      Critic: And how many horses are there?
      Frege: Four, see, all coal black. Stunning. And so fast!
      Critic: Amazing, I see them, yes! And do they also exist?
      Frege: Wise guy.

      Why ‘wise guy’? Because when we describe a thing so as to satisfy the application criteria for discourse about things, there is no further task of stating that the thing is a thing. As I think Strawson put it, existence is not a possession. In conversation we never assert that something exists unless some doubt has already been raised, such that “it doesn’t exist” is on the table. And when we do need to establish that the thing exists, what we do logically is quantify the appropriate criteria or concepts over at least one variable – we say that we have at least one instantiation of the relevant concepts. An instatiation JUST IS a thing of the relevant type: a living body, a mathematical entity, an artifactual object, what have you.

      Questions about “is it really an instantiation” are answered in line with the relevant domain of discourse. That’s why I appealed to empirical evidence in an earlier post about horses. How do we know the horses are real? Well, look at them! Or the veterinarian can determine whether they are alive, the geometer can measure their volume, the AI specialist can certify that they are not machines, etc. The Thomist and the analytic philosopher are in the same boat, starting from the directly evident in experience or relying on testimony. No one is stipulating metaphysical materialism at this point.

      So on the Frege scheme, ‘horse’ and ‘thoroughbred’ and ‘black’ and ‘running’ and ‘in the field’ are first order predicates, quantified over variables. ‘Four’ according to Frege is a second-order predicate, not of the horses – a horse can’t be four – but of the first-order predicates. It tells us those predicates are quantified four times, there are four instances of them. And the conjunction of THOSE predicates is only predicated of living quadrupeds.

      The Thomist must say, “But each horse IN ADDITION needs to have/make an act of existence, otherwise we only have concepts or essences.” This is to misunderstand instantiation. In the case of animals, reality is entailed by instantiation of predicates like spatio-temporal location and causal powers. To say those are instantiated just means there exist animals etc. There is no remainder of work to be done by a further first order predicate, ‘existence,’ said of the living horses. That would be vacuous. ‘Existence’ on Frege’s theory is a property of the concepts, stating that they are instantiated more than zero times. Have those concepts instantiated and you have a thing that exists. And you have expressed your claim in more rigid expressions than you do when you talk of 'things' as having different modes or degrees of esse.

      A payoff is that we don’t need to puzzle over the equivocity of ‘being/existence’ terms forced on us by Avicenna and others who say that ‘being’ is the first object of intellect. As I said before, some tests can be run with tricky cases like various non-extended objects. First-order predicate logic can solve more puzzles. That's a sign that a metaphysics incompatible with that logic, one that uses a less powerful logic, is not obviously the best theory.

      Ok, this is already too long. I will try to get back to your individual points later.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        I really do appreciate your superb explanation of how predicate logic works. At the same time, I suspect that there is a lot of misunderstanding of what each side is saying is going on.

        "To say those are instantiated just means there exist animals etc."

        It appears to me that saying something is "instantiated" or "not zero" is just another way of saying it exists. Or, if I want to make you cringe, I could say "another way of saying it has existence." :)

        That latter expression does not need to mean that the thing in question has a distinct act of existence. BUT, the problem is that, in Thomistic metaphysics, things DO have acts of existence distinct from their essences. What appears to confuse people is that this claim about "having a distinct act of existence" is NOT what we know when we first encounter things. It is something known only AFTER a process of reasoning is applied to the things we encounter which happen to exist!

        " ‘Existence’ on Frege’s theory is a property of the concepts, stating that they are instantiated more than zero times."

        This sounds very strange to me, since in Thomism concepts exist only in minds, not as extramental things. So, how can a concept have "existence?" Things have existence, not concepts.

        "The Thomist must say, “But each horse IN ADDITION needs to have/make an act of existence, otherwise we only have concepts or essences.”

        This Thomist does not say that a horse has to have "in addition" an act of existence! And concepts or essences are nothing by themselves, except as something in a mind.

        " To say those are instantiated just means there exist animals etc. There is no remainder of work to be done by a further first order predicate, ‘existence,’ said of the living horses."

        This again sounds to me like you think Thomists think that first you have a horse instantiated, and then, in addition is added the "act of existence."

        Frankly, I sense here a total misunderstanding of what Thomism teaches.

        That is why Maritain says we start with "Scio aliquid esse," "I know something to be." We start with saying "I know a horse exists." But this does not mean that first you have a horse and then you add an act of existence to it. Heavens no!!

        First, you encounter something, say, a horse. In one and the same sensory-intellectual act, you know the total being (ens) encountered as being "something here" (meaning real, existing) and having the nature, form, shape, whatness of a horse.

        The being we first encounter is always a particular being of a particular nature or essence. That means we encounter, say, a horse. Of course, it is existing, which is why you have Frege saying "Wise guy!," since existence comes with the horse!

        I think, when you say that Thomists think existence is a first order predicate, you think it is something in addition to the thing that we encounter! But when we encounter a real horse, that means it is a being (ens) of a certain kind (horse), which of course is "instantiated," which means existing in front of us.

        The fact that the thing (horse) is real is the same as that it exists. But this is not to back away from the next metaphysical step which demands a sufficient explanation or sufficient reason as to why this thing is real as opposed to being nothing at all. But that is another story for another time.

        "Avicenna and others who say that ‘being’ is the first object of intellect"

        I sense that there is here some misperception to the effect that classical metaphysicians somehow start with an abstract notion of "being" and from it draw all sorts of rational inferences grounded on nothing. That, in fact, is what Spinoza does in his , where it starts by defining substance and turns it into God.

        Thomists start with the real things of experience, noticing both that they are real and that they are of certain natures. But the "concept of being" they form from the real thing in front of them contains confusedly BOTH the formal essential content AND the reality-existence content, combined as one in a single thing. I am sure Frege would not allow that there are any non-real instances of horses, and Thomists are simply starting with real beings of experience and accepting as given both their essential and existential aspects in one "concept of being."

        I cannot underline too strongly that Thomists do NOT say that we start by knowing existence as a principle distinct from the thing which exists! It is not a principle over and above the thing itself. There are no non-existing essences. There are only things, real things, that have both a nature or whatness and a reality that needs explaining.

        "But are we failing to grapple with the fact that our intellect encounters not only the concepts horse and running, but prior to those, our intellect cognizes Being? "

        Again, Thomists do not say that the intellect directly encounters concepts at all, much less "being" before the concepts. Concepts exist only in minds. We encounter things, which are both real and have natures. We form a confused "concept of being" which is abstracted from the second act of the intellect when it judges that "something exists," for example, "A horse is there (meaning, of course, it is real)." That confused concept simultaneously has both an essential aspect (horseness) and an existential aspect (it is real). It is from that confused concept that we form the concept of being that can apply to anything else that is real.

        Of course, Thomism insists that it is by two distinct acts of the mind that all this takes place: (1) the first act by which abstraction of the nature takes place (INCLUDING existentia ut significata), and (2) the second act by which the thing is judged to be real, that is, having existentia ut exercita (not meaning that that existence must be really distinct from the being as a whole). Existence as exercised is not conceived to be something in addition to the thing itself, which appears to be how analytical philosophers read Thomists as saying.

        But "existence" is NOT known as a real principle "separated out" from this "real horse" in front of us -- not and never unless and until we PROVE the real distinction in a later metaphysical argument.

        • Ficino

          I suspect that there is a lot of misunderstanding of what each side is saying is going o

          I am starting to lose patience, quite frankly. Over and over on boards like this, I see the person who disagrees with Thomism presented as simply failing to understand. Why don't you spend some years reading up on analytic philosophy and then come back? You minored in symbolic logic, and yet you don't seem to know even what Frege held? I don't see evidence that you understand quantification.

          To say that something "has existence" is inadmissable because that locution presumes that a "something" has existence and some other something might not have existence. There are no somethings that do not exist. So a something that has existence is just a something that is a something. Away with vacuities.

          Take this, for example, of yours:

          It appears to me that saying something is "instantiated" or "not zero" is just another way of saying it exists.

          NO. It is the first order predicate that is instantiated. The variable over which it is instantiated is the thing. "The" horse is not instantiated. The property "Horse" is instantiated one time if we are saying "the horse" is something or other.

          "The Thomist must say, “But each horse IN ADDITION needs to have/make an act of existence, otherwise we only have concepts or essences.”

          This Thomist does not say that a horse has to have "in addition" an act of existence! And concepts or essences are nothing by themselves, except as something in a mind.

          If we have a horse already, obviously under A-T an essence has been actualized by an act of existence. In each horse, if it exists, there has to be the essence and an act of existence. The composite is the created "being." We have been over this very many times.

          You spend a lot of time equivocating on 'before.' Do you deny that Aquinas paraphrases Avicenna as saying that "illud autem quod primo intellectus concipit quasi notissimum, et in quo omnes conceptiones resolvit, est ens, ut Avicenna dicit in primo Metaphysicae suae"? (De Veritate 1.1 co)

          Frankly, I sense here a total misunderstanding of what Thomism teaches.

          Total me no totals, and proud me no prouds. More is a waste of my time. I thought I was going to learn something on here.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am sorry if you were disappointed in my ignorance of quantification. I was merely trying to respond to what you had written. I did have a technical minor in symbolic logic, but most of it was focused on the Warsaw School of Logic under Bolesław Sobociński some sixty years ago. And being 81 years old, I doubt I can afford to spend years of my life learning analytic philosophy -- especially when I am not convinced it is on the right track.

            "To say that something "has existence" is inadmissable because that locution presumes that a "something" has existence and some other something might not have existence. There are no somethings that do not exist."

            I am sorry also if you do not accept my linguistic expression for affirming existence. This is simply ordinary language. What you are demanding in formal expression reminds me of what the early Wittgenstein expected in his Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, but later firmly rejected in his Philosophical Investigations wherein he explicitly condemns his own earlier claim that "language mirrors reality." Ordinary language does not so bewitch Thomists that we do not know when something does not exist, or, do you prefer me to just say that there is no such thing as x?

            "If we have a horse already, obviously under A-T an essence has been actualized by an act of existence. In each horse, if it exists, there has to be the essence and an act of existence. The composite is the created "being." We have been over this very many times."

            We may have been over this many times, but you never seem to get my point that the essence/existence composition of a being is not known when a given thing is first encountered. Even the vague concept of being that is initially formed does not mean that " there has to be the essence and an act of existence. The composite is the created "being,""

            For the umpteenth time, I must underline that the composition of essence and existence as co-constituents of being is not known in the formation of the initial concept of being.

            You will note that it is not until page 64 of his Preface that Maritain explicitly addresses the essence and existence dual aspects of being, even though he waxes eloquently about being and existence up to that point.

            There is no doubt that in St. Thomas what is first in the intellect is being, since that is what the second act of the mind first knows. But it knows its object first vaguely as "something there," "something existing," but always as something immediately particularized under some aspect of structure (a horse, a carrot, a man) that is real (dare I say, "exists?").

            Perhaps, I misunderstand what you are trying to say, but when you read A-T philosophy as saying that the moment you encounter a horse "an essence has been actualized by an act of existence" -- as if that was Thomism's contention from the very outset of intellectual knowledge of an object, I do have to wonder whether you "understand what Thomism teaches."

            For, Thomism does not teach that "an essence has been actualized by an act of existence" until the real distinction between essence and existence has been demonstrated by rational argument -- and this clearly has not been done the first time we realize that we have encountered something real.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Dennis, if you have not seen this paper, you may enjoy it because the author, who is familiar with Frege’s modern logic, seeks to show why it failed to show any superiority over the Thomist system over the issue of Existence. At least in the way Anthony Kenny applied it.

            The paper is by Gyula Klima.

            https : // pdfs. semanticscholar. org/fd01 /a2aa6cc8b354c2a7ce4636841d33daa25498. pdf

            Google “On Kenny on Aquinas on Being” (Title of the paper) and it will appear for free downloading, or join up the gaps in the above link to go to the paper. (StrangeNotions does not allow the link to be posted here so I had to create the gaps).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do greatly appreciate your directing my attention to this review of Kenny's attempt to undermine Thomistic metaphysics through application of Fregean logical claims.

            See Gyula Klima's "On Kenny on Aquinas on Being," a critical review of Aquinas on Being by Anthony Kenny, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
            https://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/FILES/Kenny.pdf

            The review itself is both long and complex, which shows the folly of trying to completely adjudicate these claims on this thread.

            Nonetheless, some conclusions for which Klima gives good arguments include the following one concerning what he terms " the analytic philosophers’ mantra: “existence [the existential quantifier] is not a [first-level] predicate”. "(p. 3.)

            Klima concludes: "Accordingly, for some analytic philosophers the only legitimate concept of existence is the
            Fregean second-level concept, and so, according to them, any metaphysical claim that cannot be made sense of using this concept is simply meaningless. A case in point is Rudolf Carnap’s famous paper: “The Elimination of Metaphysics through the Logical Analysis of Language”.4 Given the contemporary flourishing of analytic metaphysics, it should be clear by now that this sort of aggressive application of the Fregean concept led into a cul de sac in the recent history of
            philosophy. But even without going into the issue of the changing attitudes towards metaphysics in analytic philosophy, it should be clear that in certain cases we can make good sense of existence (or non-existence) claims which obviously involve a first-level concept of existence. [bold mine] (p. 4.)

            In other words, analytic philosophy's claim that the Thomistic understanding of the term, "existence," is invalidated because it is not a first order predicate is highly suspect, if not simply wrong.

            Moreover, Klima contends that understanding Aquinas's own perpective would have helped Kenny to see that his criticisms were logically without foundation:

            "Had Kenny been willing to learn Aquinas’ concepts, instead of merely trying to “reconstruct” (up to the level of logical equivalence) Aquinas’s thoughts using his own Fregean
            concepts, he could have realized that within Aquinas’ conceptual framework it is quite possible to provide a much stronger interpretation of Aquinas’ thesis, which is immune to his criticism.18" ( p. 11.)

            Klima's paper, taken as a whole, offers much detailed evidence in support of Kelley Ross's analysis of modern logic, wherein he concludes: "Problematic philosophical assumptions, whether from Set Theory, from Leibniz, etc., can be built into a system of logic, which is then used to "discover" the consequences of these assumptions in some area. Such question begging "discoveries" can then be used to trumpet the power and usefulness of the new system."
            https://www.friesian.com/syllog.htm

            My own Strange Notions article on the "Principle of Non-Contradiction's Incredible Implications," shows that the validity of the Thomistic "concept of being" is strongly validated by its expression in this metaphysical first principle's universal and transcendent application to all beings, which even skeptics implicitly acknowledge when they try allege that contradictions can defeat classical theism's concept of the transcendent God.
            https://strangenotions.com/the-principle-of-non-contradictions-incredible-implications/

            Thank you again for this excellent reference to Klima's review.

          • Ficino

            One should first read Kenny's book before pronouncing on the review by Klima. I have read the latter; am working through the former. Much of value in the Kenny book, though on one point he seems ignorant, i.e. the A-T denial of Existential Inertia.

            Peter Geach held that in assertions like "the Alexandrian Library does not exist", existence is applied differently from the way it's applied in assertions like "There is a horse in the field."
            The former is a statement of individual existence, and the latter, a statement of specific existence. Geach said statements of specific existence, that a concept is quantified over variables, is in line with Frege. But he said that in a statement of individual existence, existence is property predicated of a subject, e.g. of the NY Public Library (yes) or of the Alexandrian Library (no).

            This is a side road, but I think Geach's distinction is made otiose under a Russell-style theory of direct description. I was born in French Hospital. French Hospital now does not exist. I'm not negating the first-order predicate, "existence." Rather, we're dealing with a member of the species, hospital. Construct a series of predicates that are predicated of that hospital and no other, and deny that their conjunction is instantiated now one time - that's all you need to do. In our world, we don't have species of one member. So I propose that Geach's distinction collapses. So it stands that "“To be is to be a value of a bound variable”.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "One should first read Kenny's book before pronouncing on the review by Klima. "

            Fortunately, Klima makes clear in his review that he is also directly addressing the Fregean claims:

            "For Frege’s concepts of existence/being are radically different from Aquinas’ concepts; and so the Fregean concepts simply cannot be used to “translate” Aquinas’ claims into our modern logical idiom in the way Kenny attempts to do. Obviously, to substantiate this claim, I should be able to provide some criteria for identifying and
            distinguishing Aquinas’ and Frege’s various concepts of being/existence." (3)
            https://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/FILES/Kenny.pdf

            And to show that Klima is coming directly against the denial of existence being a first level predicate as claimed by Frege, note that the same paragraph concludes:

            "Hence the analytic philosophers’ mantra: “existence [the existential quantifier] is not a [first-level] predicate”. [bold mine]
            .... For what it says is not merely that whoever would try to analyze an existence-claim differently is saying something false; rather, it says that such a person is not making any sense." (3)

            Before going further, I suggest you look at Klima's home page to check whether he is really competent to challenge the claims of analytic philosophers. Here, if you examine the contents of many of his published papers, you will see he is as competent in modern logic and analytic philosophy as well as its medieval counterparts as any other author you may quote: https://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/

            And to restate the most important conclusion Klima makes about the critical issue of whether Thomists can legitimately talk about existence and being without rendering their metaphysical claims to be senseless:

            "Accordingly, for some analytic philosophers the only legitimate concept of existence is the Fregean second-level concept, and so, according to them, any metaphysical claim that cannot be made sense of using this concept is simply meaningless. .... But even without going into the issue of the changing attitudes towards metaphysics in analytic philosophy, it should be clear that in certain cases we can make good sense of existence (or non-existence) claims which obviously involve a first-level concept of existence. [bold mine] (p. 4.)

            The final and critical point to be made about Dr. Gyula Klima is that he clearly manifests a Thomistic commitment, which means that, even having a competent grasp of analytical philosophy and modern philosophy, he rejects the "mantra" that " “existence [the existential quantifier] is not a [first-level] predicate." (3)

            In Klima's own words: " I also happen to believe that, despite Kenny’s claim to the contrary (p. 189), it is possible to show (by means of an exact model theoretical reconstruction) that Aquinas does have a comprehensive, profound, and coherent doctrine of being, uniting all of the various senses of the verb est he distinguishes under the umbrella of his theory of the analogy of being, about which, by the way, Kenny has precious little to say." (13)

            In light of all of the above (and especially on reading the content of Klima's review of Kenny's book as well as some portions of other articles on Klima's home page {for example, see https://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/NLN.htm), I do not feel constrained to reject the Thomistic use of natural language about existence and being in metaphysics -- some of which I may discuss in my reply to your third comment when I can get to it.

          • Ficino

            I plan to reread Klima's review after finishing Kenny's book. It's handy that Klima makes so many of his publications readily accessible; I've read a number of them.

          • Mark

            Another critique of Fregean analysis of existence as a first or second level predicate by Knasas and abridged by Feser in Aquinas p59:

            "is that it has the absurd implications that "Martians do not exist" is self-contradictory. For this would follow only if, when we grasp the concept of Martians, we necessarily already grasp it as applying to something existing in reality, so that "Martians do not exist" amounts to "the existing Martians do not exist," which of course is self-contradictory. But statements attributing existence or non-existence to a thing do not function logically in the same way other attributive statements do. In particular, their subjects are grasped in an existence-neutral way. In the case at hand our mere grasp of the concept Martians does not by itself entail a judgment that they exist or do not exist, but leaves the question open. "Martians do not exist" thus says, not "The existing Martians do not exist, but rather something like "Martians, which are of themselves existentially neutral, do not in fact exist." In general for Knasas as for Aquinas, when the mind grasps the essence of a thing it grasps it as something distinct from its act of existence (or lack thereof), even if that of which the act of existing is ultimately predicated is the thing itself and not a mere concept."

          • Ficino

            Given the contemporary flourishing of analytic metaphysics, it should be clear by now that this sort of aggressive application of the Fregean concept led into a cul de sac in the recent history of
            philosophy. But even without going into the issue of the changing attitudes towards metaphysics in analytic philosophy, it should be clear that in certain cases we can make good sense of existence (or non-existence) claims which obviously involve a first-level concept of existence.

            This of Klima's is an assertion. Obviously it doesn't follow from the flourishing of analytic metaphysics that existence is established as a first-order predicate in Frege's sense.

            see mine elsewhere on Geach.

            I suggest that people on this board read philosophy outside of the Thomist school, if they are not doing so.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Without going into the details of Klima's arguments about the legitimacy of natural language usage of existence and being, the point is that there can be legitimate uses of these terms and that they need not always be placed into Frege's preconceived metaphysical straight jacket.

            To that end, can you help me understand why you claim (if I read you correctly) that the PNC is licit as a logical rule, but not as an ontological universal principle?

            Without using any specialized metaphysical concept of the notion of being, all the PNC says is that a thing must either be or not be, and cannot be both at the same time.

            Is this untrue? I know you always want to convert every statement into formal logical construction, but that is not how human beings speak. And we know quite well what it means for something either to be or not be such and such.

            The problem that most directly strikes me is that to have even the logical form of the PNC, one has to know that its very enunciation is for real, and not otherwise. That may be why Maritain says that the PNC is the basis of all logic.

            You can neither think a proposition nor write it on a blackboard unless you affirm what you affirm and deny its opposite -- in reality, not just words or concepts.

            For that matter, every scientific or philosophical or theological affirmation about the real world presupposes the denial of its non-existence.

            I know you will want to re-express every statement I make into its logical formulation. But, that is precisely the point. I invite you to look at the reality expressed, not merely the expression itself! That is why I have several times noted that first, we know things, and then we invent words to describe them.

            In sum, I don't see how you can coherently affirm the logical form of the PNC while simultaneously deny its ontological form.

            And, needless to say, the moment you affirm the ontological form of the PNC, you inherit a lot of metaphysical "baggage" at the same time -- only I would call it "benefits," rather than baggage. :)

          • Ficino

            A naive answer would be based on the name of the PNC. Diction and contradiction are speech acts, not substances. So the PNC is a principle about speech acts not substances or accidents of substances.

            It may just be the frailty of my intellect, but I can't conceive of the negation of the ontological version of the PNC in a particular case. I can't imagine one object that is both, say, circular and not circular under all the same respects. So if I can't conceive of the negation of the ontological version, I don't see the basis of formulating it as a principle - for usually, we imagine that for something to violate a principle excludes it from the relevant domain of consideration. I don't know what it means to say that something is a principle, the violation of which cannot be conceived.

            to have even the logical form of the PNC, one has to know that its very enunciation is for real, and not otherwise.

            I don't know what it would even mean for there to be an enunciation that is not an enunciation.

            My assumption is that the truth of an assertion is "made" by a fact. The assertion doesn't make the fact that it asserts. I haven't done a study of truth makers, though, and there may be conflicting theories about them.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "A naive answer would be based on the name of the PNC. Diction and contradiction are speech acts, not substances. So the PNC is a principle about speech acts not substances or accidents of substances." F

            This almost sounds to me like a reflex inability to talk about being (probably conditioned by the structure of modern logic we have been discussing).

            "I don't know what it means to say that something is a principle, the violation of which cannot be conceived." F

            The very inconceivability of its violation IS the reason why it is a universal principle!

            Thomists are very used to talking about being. I don't mean it personally, but evidently you intellectually get stuck when you try to do it. BUT, I would say that it is not the frailty of your intellect that prevents you from conceiving the PNC's negation in a particular case -- but the power of your intellect to see that a violation of the PNC is impossible in reality!

            My task is to get you to see what your intellect already sees, and to realize that it is not a mental defect!

            My fear is that you are thinking in purely conceptual terms and not even noticing the existential aspect of your every concept, namely, that you cannot even have a concept unless that concept really exists in your mental apprehension and that it is impossible for it to both be in your apprehension, and yet, not be there.

            "I don't know what it would even mean for there to be an enunciation that is not an enunciation." F

            That sounds purely conceptual to me -- like the concept of enunciation contradicting the concept of enunciation.

            "to have even the logical form of the PNC, one has to know that its very enunciation is for real, and not otherwise." DB

            How to explain this? It is not the formal content of the enunciation to which I refer, as when one thinks or says, "Horses have four legs." No. I am talking about the "fact" or reality that the judgment enunciated exists in our mind -- and the obvious fact that it cannot both be in our mind, that is, as known by us, and, simultaneously, not be in our mind and not known by us.

            To get Thomistic about it, it must exist in act before our mental apprehension, or we know nothing at all. It is not a question of its formal content, but of its very being or existence at all as an act of understanding.

            And what I am trying to get you to do is to realize that you have absolute certitude that this is the way it is -- precisely because you know that either something is, or it is not, and it cannot both be and not be at once.

            This is how your mind -- all our minds -- work. And if they are defective, then the mind cannot be trusted about any knowledge of reality whatever, even with solid logic -- since the logic itself presupposes the PNC applies to all reality.

            If you ask how we can be so sure, I will get waxing Thomistic theory, and right now I would be happy just to get you to see that this is how reality -- not just logic -- is.

          • Ficino

            I haven't "worked on" the PNC, so all I can say is that I affirm the principle of identity of all things. Everything without exception is identical to itself. I would say the PNC is the logical expression of the principle of identity. So in that I am not far from Garrigou-Lagrange and Maritain.

            Most of Aristotle's discussions of the PNC either explicitly present it as a logical principle - if you deny it, you annihilate all discourse, Meta. Γ.4 1006a20ff - or in a way that's consistent with its being a logical principle - "the same thing cannot belong and not belong to the same thing." This fits what we now think of as the language of predication, although it can also be construed as affirming the ontological version of the PNC, i.e. of the things of which we make predications.

            I think as far as the wording of the PNC goes, we may be differing over semantics. We agree that reality is a certain way, and that therefore an affirmation about reality, and its contradictory affirmation (i.e. negation), cannot both be validly uttered. Perhaps we disagree over what entailments to admit. You admit existence as a predicate in a sense in which I do not admit it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "We agree that reality is a certain way, and that therefore an affirmation about reality, and its contradictory affirmation (i.e. negation), cannot both be validly uttered."

            Do you grant that saying that contradictories not being able to be "validly uttered" about "reality" is equivalent to affirming the ontological version of the PNC? If it isn't what use is it?

          • Ficino

            As I said, I haven't made a study of the PNC as such, but I would say the use of the logical PNC is that it is a "principle" of all discourse. Glog cannot validly tell Klog that the tiger is outside the cave and is not outside the cave "secundum idem". That's a huge use!

            As for the tiger, it is identical with itself. Facts about the tiger are truthmakers of assertions about the tiger; the assertions must conform to the logical PNC or else, we learned in Logic class, all assertions will be true.

            As I quoted from Ari and Aq a while ago, true and false are apprehended by the intellect, and to use a metaphor, they "reside" or "are" properly in an intellect. In A-T terms, the matter of truth is not only esse, but also non esse, because we are able (contingit) to speak truth about ens and non-ens (De Veritate 10.1 ad 8). But when people start talking about things as being true or false, then I decline to go along.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "But when people start talking about things as being true or false, then I decline to go along."

            Truth and falsity pertain to the conformity of what is in the mind to extramental reality. I don't see what this has to do with the fact that a being or thing or aspect of reality itself cannot both be and not be at all.

            You are still talking about discourse and "truthmakers of assertions" and what is "true and false." Your focus is on what is in the mind and on enuciations.

            This is the "stuff" of analytical philosophy and modern logic.

            But when you admit that contradictories cannot be "validly uttered" about "reality," you are saying something not only about what is in the mind but what is in reality as well.

            I am sure you do not mean this, but it sounds as if you think that the mind cannot actually know extramental reality -- and that extramental reality is not bound by the same rules of consistency that you grant must apply within the mind.

            Discourse is not just about discourse itself, but about that which the discourse describes, and that, in many cases is extramental reality.

            If we cannot utter contradictories about extramental reality, does this not entail that extramental reality itself cannot entail contradictory states of reality? While the etymology of "contradictory" superficially indicates it is solely about statements, unless statements tell us something about extramental reality, they are useless.

            it appears to me that you are defending a system of linguistic consistency that has nothing really to do with extramental reality and that, therefore, your logic is essentially unrelated to the real world. That is, it is useless.

            More importantly, as you admit, your own mind cannot conceive of an extramental situation in which something could both be and not be at the same time. You should listen to what your own mind is telling you -- in my opinion.

          • Ficino

            your own mind cannot conceive of an extramental situation in which something could both be and not be at the same time.

            As far as I can see, the above is an ill-formed locution.

            I'm not sure at this point what is the importance of disputing an ontological PNC. Aren't we agreed on the logical PNC and on the principle of identity? What work in addition to their work is being done by a further "ontological PNC"? The latter just seems a more fraught way of presenting the principle of identity.

            As to "things'" being true or false in A-T, we didn't really dispute that thesis, and I don't think we have to. But it has good Thomistic and Aristotelian pedigree. I can admit it as just a manner of speaking that strictly, requires sentences about "true" things to be reworded as sentences about the truth of propositions about things.

            Richard Rorty is famous for saying, "We can't know the mountain. We only know how we talk about the mountain." Allowing perhaps that "mountain" is more of a heap than a substance, I'd say that we know many things about the mountain, some that they are truths, others that they are falsehoods. I'm not a postmodernist. What makes the truths truths are facts. Thomism loses me when it asks me to go further and affirm things like the mountain has "esse," for then we're back to the problem of esse as a property.

            You want analytic types to confess that without a Thomistic doctrine of Being, they cannot speak meaningfully about reality or disclose what in the depths of their intellects they already know of Being/reality. I don't need a philosophy of Being to tell me how I can know things about the mountain when I climb it. And I'm too old to start investigating Heidegger's Being, or the Existentialists' Being!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "I'm not sure at this point what is the importance of disputing an ontological PNC. Aren't we agreed on the logical PNC and on the principle of identity? What work in addition to their work is being done by a further "ontological PNC"? The latter just seems a more fraught way of presenting the principle of identity."

            As I have shown above, the problem isn't the need to do additional work, but rather the fact that the logical PNC already implies its ontological form under penalty of being useless in adjudicating extramental reality -- in which case, what is the actual function of the logical form of the PNC? If it is only adjudicating relations between concepts in the mind, it is of no use with respect to extramental reality. And since it is the fundamental rule of logic, this renders logic itself of no use in deciding actual conditions of the extramental world.

            You cannot have it both ways. You want the PNC to function purely as a logical rule, but then refuse to allow that its governance has any ontological effect. But without ontological effect, both the PNC and logic become hollow instruments of reason with respect to the real world.

            It really does not matter what you do with the principle of identity. The question is whether either identity or the logical PNC entail any consequences for extramental reality at all.
            If they do not, then reality can be Wonderland where things can both be and not be, which renders extramental reality totally unintelligible.

            Even Kant had the good sense to realize that the ontological PNC was the ultimate arbitrator of reality between alternative epistemologies in his Antinomies of Pure Reason. But you would have analytic philosophy discuss all matters without being concerned whether the extramental world can contain contradictions?

            If you affirm (re Rorty) that we can "know many things about the mountain," does not that mean that we know how these things actually are real? And if so, can they simultaneously be otherwise? If so, then how do we know anything at all about the mountain? We deceive ourselves in that case, since we do not know anything at all outside our own mental constructions and internal logic -- none of which have any real guarantee of being real outside ourselves.

            I agree with you that, until we resolve this more basic issue of the ontological validity of the PNC, the question of whether things can be true or not is secondary and presently irrelevant. And again, until we resolve this more basis question, I am not asking you "to go further and affirm things like the mountain has "esse," for then we're back to the problem of esse as a property."

            The only issue before us presently is whether the PNC is merely a logical rule, or whether reality itself must obey its meaning, not in terms of mere consistency of predication, but also in terms of things themselves not being able to both be what they are and not be what they are at the same time.

            I realize you don't wish to follow that line of reasoning, since it immediately may have other philosophical entailments. But a good logician knows that one must take one issue at a time when it is essential to all subsequent ones.

            To me, your attempts to restrict the PNC merely to a rule of predication renders its necessary use in all mental discourse meaningless with regard to extramental reality -- and with that goes the entire philosophical enterprise!

          • Ficino

            What do you think of this?

            "In contrast, the logical formulation seems to be for Aristotle logically equivalent with the ontological formulation. The traditional [althergebrachte], even if deficiently formulated dictum: veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus, is rendered much more precisely by the Stagirite in the following way: Met. Γ 7. 1011b 26, 27: τὸ... γὰρ λέγειν ... τὸ ὂν εἶναι καὶ τὸ μὴ ὂν μὴ εἶναι ἀληθές --- "To say of that which is that it is and of that which is not that it is not is true."

            The equivalence of the logical and the ontological principle
            of contradiction comes necessarily from the one-one correlation between assertions [propositions] and objective facts."

            ~ Jan Lukasiewicz, "On the Principle of Contradiction in Aristotle," RevMeta 24 (1971) at p. 489

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That makes perfect sense to me, since it is what I would also hold. The only difference is that one applies it to propositions and the other applies it to objective reality or being.

          • Ficino

            Ok, great. But then consider this of Lukasiewicz further on, p. 496 (the article is a translation of L's 1910 paper):

            "In reference to this [sc. that the PNC is not provable] it must first be emphasized that there are "simpler" and "more evident" principles, which could hold good as prior to the principle of contradiction as a final and unprovable principle. Above all, the principle of identity belongs here. It reads: To each object belongs that characteristic to which it belongs. (a) The principle of identity is different from the law of contradiction. The principle of contradiction cannot be formulated without the concepts of negation and logical multiplication, which are expressed in the words "and at the same time"; while the principle of identity holds very well without recourse to those concepts.
            Symbolic logic first assisted us toward clarity in this question..."

            You're speaking out of your whole career's area of specialization, and I'm not. So I am at a theoretical disadvantage. But I suggest that the principle of identity gives you what you want about reality.

            The bronze lamp is identical with itself. For it to be itself, it must be of bronze. It cannot be the same one thing as bronze and as not-bronze, for those would be two different lamps. If A = A, then all that is included in A is included in A. And there you have your principle of explaining why a real thing is identical with itself. A lamp that is bronze and not-bronze is two lamps, violating the principle of identity (or else we just have a malformed proposition, but I'm trying to discuss things not propositions about things). Your ontological PNC does not do any more work than this.

            As an aside, I'll note that van Inwagen does allow that things have existence as a "feature". I think, as I said elsewhere, that this is mistaken. But I think van Inwagen is on the right track when he resolves "existence" into self-identity.

          • Ficino

            Adding this from the latter part of Lukasiewicz' paper:

            "Actual objects and reconstructive abstractions, insofar as they correspond to reality, appear to be placed beyond contradiction. In fact there is known to us no single case of a contradiction existing in reality. Indeed it is generally impossible to suppose that we might meet a contradiction in perception; the negation which inheres in contradictions is not at all perceptible [wahrnehmbar]. Actually existing contradictions could only be inferred [erschlossen]. One might not forget, however, that from oldest times contradictions were suspected in the continuous change to which the entire world is ceaselessly subjected in constant becoming, arising, and passing away. Whether these suspicions can ever be confirmed seems to be improbable; one will always find ways and means eventually to dismiss inferred contradictions. But one will never be able to assert with full definiteness that actual objects contain no contradictions. Man did not create the world and he is not in a position to penetrate its secrets; indeed, he is not even lord and master of his own conceptual creations. From (a) and (b) it is clear that a real [realer] proof of the principle of contradiction, i.e., a proof which would relate to an exact investigation of the actual and the possible cannot be carried out."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Lukasiewicz is merely saying what all A-T philosophers have always known: These first principles, such as non-contradiction, are, as I cite St. Thomas in my comment immediately below, "indemonstrable." It is fool's folly to try to "prove" them.

            They are known either (1) by the intellect's reflection on its own conformity to being (which is another project not treated here), or (2) by a reduction to absurdity, such as I gave in my earlier Strange Notions article showing that their denial would entail the denial of the utility of reason itself. In part, I argued thus:

            "That is, just as its logical formulation must be universal, so too, must the ontological formulation of the principle of non-contradiction be universal. Otherwise, reason would not equivalently reflect reality – leaving rational understanding of the world unattainable."
            https://strangenotions.com/why-reason-demands-absolute-certitudes/

          • Ficino

            Lukasiewicz doesn't pronounce on any "ontological" PNC. I read him as saying that such is inaccessible. He's pronouncing on the indemonstrability of the logical PNC only. He seems disinclined to affirm an ontological PNC.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What gets missed is that the reason that the logical PNC is not a mere axiom is that we are certain that the same predicate cannot be affirmed and denied of the same subject is precisely because the mind knows that it would violate the ontological PNC, whether articulated consciously or not!

            So, I am hardly shocked at the conclusion that the logical PNC is also not subject to direct proof.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I understand that the order of the immediately known first principles can be a bit confusing, since it depends on who you read and the precise way in which they "unpack" being. St. Thomas at least gives this immediate connection between the concept of being and what he calls "the first indemonstrable principle" here:

            Nam illud quod primo cadit in apprehensione, est ens, cuius intellectus includitur in omnibus quaecumque quis apprehendit. Et ideo primum principium indemonstrabile est quod non est simul affirmare et negare, quod fundatur supra rationem entis et non entis, et super hoc principio omnia alia fundantur, ut dicitur in IV Metaphys. "For that which first falls under apprehension, is "being," the notion of which is included in all things whatsoever a man apprehends. Wherefore the first indemonstrable principle is that "the same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time," which is based on the notion of "being" and "not-being": and on this principle all others are based, as is stated [by Aristotle] in Metaphysics, IV, Lect. 9."
            Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 94, a. 2, c.

            While it may be of interest to know exactly how various authors "unpack" the exact relations of the concept of being to the principles of identity and non-contradiction, for our purposes what matters is the universal truth of the PNC and its implications for the concept of being.

            I take it as established that logic is impossible without accepting the universal truth of the logical form of the PNC, and that from this, follows the necessity of the universal truth of the ontological form of the PNC, without which reality itself becomes unintelligible as shown earlier.

            Garrigou-Lagrange, in his book, God: His Existence and His Nature (130), compares the ontological and logical forms of the PNC as follows:

            "... we have only to contrast the ontological formula with the logical principle of contradiction. The ontological formula states that 'a being, viewed under the same aspect, cannot at the same time exist and not exist.' The logical formulation of the same principle is 'that we cannot affirm and deny the same predicate of the same subject under the same aspect.' This latter formula merely declares the inconceivability of the absurd, whereas the former states that the absurd is objectively impossible."

            Now here comes the next step, to which you may take exception, but which I think is impossible to avoid. If the principle of non-contradiction says that a being (ens) cannot both exist and not exist, then this principle is using the concept of being (ens) in a clearly universal, in that it applies to all things, and transcendental, in that it cuts across all categories of things, manner.

            From this, I infer that the concept of being (ens) does apply to all things in themselves, whether substantial or accidental in the A-T understanding, regardless of whether the Fregean system considers what it calls "existence" not to be a first level predicate.

            Please note that this concept of being (ens) considers being as a general term that merely, but actually, distinguishes what exists from what does not exist and does not, within this clearly initial level of application, mean existence (esse), understood as an intrinsic metaphysical co-principle of a being (ens).

          • Ficino

            As I've lamented before, we are way out of my area of direct academic training. From what I've seen, however, I am in doubt whether the contemporary mainstream would agree with your expectation that logic "adjudicat[e] extramental reality." Wouldn't the generality of professional philosophers today hold that logic adjudicates formal structures of discourse? I am loath to accept on authority a system that has been superseded in some of its major components, such as its logic (I'm not going to concede superiority of the Aristotelian syllogistic to modern predicate logic of quantification). That's a motive for my caution about ontological claims made by Thomists, however limpid the encounter with Being may seem to Thomists.

            Here is a long passage from Thomasson's work on onotology, from which i've quoted previously. What she says about logical positivists can be ignored, I think, for present purposes:

            "The idea that logic is—in some sense—formal or topic-neutral is, as John McFarlane (2000) makes clear, historically central, indeed perhaps the historically dominant conception of logic—and one endorsed by such diverse philosophers as Kant, Lotze, Husserl, Frege, and de Morgan. It is not to be quickly tossed aside by associations with (an uncharitable interpretation of) the conventionalism of logical positivists. The basic idea has nothing to do with logical truths being ‘made true’ by our adoption of certain conventions, or with the idea that we may ‘legislate’ certain sentences to be logically true. Thus Sider’s arguments against conventionalism leave this view untouched.

            So how else, apart from by embracing conventionalism, can we develop the idea that logical terms (including quantifiers) are not ‘contentful’, are purely ‘formal’, or ‘do not describe features of the world’—to justify saying that, even if it may be appropriate to think (p.312) of (many) predicates as attempting to carve the world at its joints, it is inappropriate to think of logical terms as even attempting to map structure?

            We can again look to the history of treatments of logic as formal for some ideas along these lines. The basic idea behind the classical treatment of logic as formal is the idea that logic is topic-neutral, or independent of subject matter (McFarlane 2000, 51). But if logic is topic-neutral, then its topic is not the structure of the world; unlike the terminology of biology, political science, or physics, it is not attempting to map the structure of a particular part of reality. Once we have a formal/material distinction in hand, we can suggest a picture like this: some material predicates may be designed to carve the world at (certain of its) joints, to map a certain structure—for example, a structure of the world into biological or physical natural kinds.

            But the distinctive feature of logical terms is that they may apply to material terms of any kind, indifferent to the distinctions among the objects and properties described, or the domains discussed. As MacFarlane puts it:

            the concept is a thing, the relation is identical with, and the quantifier everything do not distinguish between Lucky Feet [a horse] and the Statue of Liberty … . As far as they are concerned, one object is as good as another and might just as well be switched with it. Notions with this kind of indifference to the particular identities of objects might reasonably be said to abstract from specific content—to be ‘formal’.

            (2000, 57)

            This provides at least one way of articulating the idea that logical terms such as the quantifier are content-neutral: they may govern terms with any particular material content, many of which may aim (p.313) to map different structural features of the world, but logical terms are neutral between them.

            What about the idea that logical terms do not aim to describe the world, or tell us anything about the world? Kant employs a slightly different conception of formality that may express a version of the idea that logical terms abstract entirely from semantic content:

            For example, general logic treats ‘all horses are mammals’ simply as the unification of two concepts in a universal, affirmative, categorical, and assertoric judgment. It abstracts entirely from the content of the concepts. The way in which the concepts are united in thought is not, for Kant, a further constituent of the thought (a ‘binding’ concept), but a feature of the thought’s form.

            (McFarlane 2000, 61)

            To the extent that we think of semantic content as what connects our words to the world, we can then also see a way of making sense of the idea that logical terms are not ‘about the world’, and even that pure logical truths do not aim to describe features of the world." ~ Ontology Made Easy 310ff. [note: "easy" in Thomasson is a term of art. Her title does not amount to Ontology for Dummies - though some people who post on boards I shall not name might call Thomasson and her school 'dummies', lol]

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If I get the thrust of these quotations, it seems to me only to underline the importance of Maritain's warning not to confuse logic with metaphysics.

            I really do not believe that Aristotle wrote his logical works out of thin air. My intuitive suspicion is that he first did some careful thinking about reality, came to some conclusions about the nature of things, and later on reflected on the rules he was intuitively following in order to do his reasoning correctly. In a word, logic is a secondary science, consequent upon careful thinking about the world and then reflecting on how one does such thinking properly.

            At any event, it also seems to me that even the logical formulation of the principle of non-contradiction is secondary to knowing the universal ontological principle itself (at least intuitively), which is then applied to the art and science of logic in terms of whether one can both affirm and deny the same predicate of the same subject.

            Formalizing logical structure of language entails an abstraction from the context of natural language that always risks leaving behind some important aspect of that context. So one is wisely wary of reducing all thought about the world to mere logic.

            This is why I am not as scandalized by statements, such as, "Something does not exist," as are some formal logicians. Thomists are in no way seduced by such statements found in natural language, since we understand full well that what does not exist really is nothing at all.

          • Ficino

            The reason why I included this long quotation from Thomasson is to respond to your expectation that logic should be useful for "adjudicating extramental reality." To do that is not in the purview of logic but of other sciences. Not even Quine's quantifier test is applied to "reality" but to theories, as a way to help specify the scope of ontological commitments entailed by a given theory.

            I reread your article about the PNC, and it generates the following question. I can provide candidate propositions for falsification by the logical PNC. For example, a proposition about a corporeal object: "The bronze lamp in my study is not bronze." Or a proposition about a non-corporeal object: "I'm drawing a square triangle." Both sentences are false because they express propositions that violate the logical PNC. By providing candidate propositions for falsification, I show how (and that) the PNC works to exclude the truth of certain propositions and to uphold discourse.

            Can you point to candidate OBJECTS, not propositions about objects, that serve as test cases for violation of, and exclusion by, the ontological PNC?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Can you point to candidate OBJECTS, not propositions about objects, that serve as test cases for violation of, and exclusion by, the ontological PNC?"

            Propositions are more confusing, since the mind can hold within itself contradictory concepts and hypothetically consider their uniion -- before making the judgment that such unions are impossible in reality because the concepts contradict each other.

            But the very suggestion that there can be test cases for violation of the ontological PNC in reality assumes that it is possible to have contradictions in real things. Suggesting we might have cases that need to be exclude sounds to me of an inductive process that would seek to reach a universal by eliminating contrary particulars. Such a process renders reaching a real universal impossible.

            Knowing the ontological PNC eliminates a priori any possible exceptions to the rule. Even before looking at any claimed exception, the mind should know that it is based on a mere difference in perception or perspective, since a real contradiction is impossible.

            Once you know that the ontological PNC is true, there can be no exceptions to worry about. This question returns to the starting point of how you know the PNC is ontologically valid. You had earlier stated that you accepted the logical form as valid. My reasoning to the ontological PNC proceeded from that supposition, since if the ontological form were then invalid, the use of the logical form by the mind would make the mind's function itself useless for dealing with reality.

            Still, there are a couple ways we can know that the ontological PNC itself must be universal: (1) by the fact that the mind knows that it comports to being through self-reflection (not dealt with) and (2) by an indirect method of noting that denial of the principle would mean that the mind could never be trusted to know reality, since reality could always be contradictory to, not just what we know, but even to itself! The examination of how the mind can reflect on its own conformity to reality is rather complex and is explained by Thomists, as in some of the works by such as Garrigouo-Lagrange, Maritain, and Benignus.

          • Ficino

            I knew in advance that you would not be able to provide any candidate objects that are excluded from Being by the ontological PNC.

            Karl Popper said that a theory that explains everything explains nothing. The ontological PNC is proposed, not as a theory, but as a principle - which in A-T, is a starting point, ἀρχή. Still, Popper's insight applies here. What do we have when we are given a purported principle, by virtue of which nothing is excluded from the relevant domain? I can adduce many propositions that are falsified by the logical PNC. You can point out no THING that is debarred from Being by the ontological PNC. Because we would not have a THING.

            The conclusion is obvious. Contemporary Thomist's so-called Ontological PNC is otiose. It does no work, unlike the logical PNC, which undergirds all discourse. You said earlier that on my construction, the logical PNC is of no use. The tables are quite turned about. Thomism's "ontological" PNC, applying to everything, excludes no object. To the extent that it excludes formulations about objects, it is just the logical PNC. A principle that admits of no instances, where its application excludes the instances from the relevant domain (here, Being), is empty, because there are in principle no cases under which it can be violated.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am glad that my response about there being no object excluded from the PNC met our mutual expectations. :)

            (Unless qualified here, where I say "PNC," I refer to the ontological PNC.)

            It is interesting that you cite Karl Popper, who was an outstanding philosopher of science, to offer his own universal principle that "a theory that explains everything explains nothing." Do you have an example of a "candidate object" which is excluded from that theory itself, that is, a theory that explains everything and explains something?

            Just as Maritain warns that logic must not be confused with metaphysics, so he would warn not to confuse natural science and its proper methodology with metaphysics. All three are different and distinct disciplines using different legitimate methodologies. Applying the methodology of one to another may not be at all legitimate.

            it is not a weakness of the PNC that it excludes no objects from its embrace, but a strength. Yes, there are no exceptions to the PNC whatever. If there were, the PNC would not be universal. That limitation might be proper to a scientific theory, but it is not proper to a metaphysical principle that applies to all possible beings (since what is impossible cannot even exist).

            The certitude of the PNC arises from the moment the mind understands the implications of the being (ens) that we first encounter in experience. Scio aliquid esse.
            I have no doubt whatever about the universal truth of the PNC precisely because I do understand what being is as first encountered, and from this, immediately understand its negation "non-being is not." That was Parmenides first insight in the history of philosophy and its stands as true today as it did to him. Of course, there are no instances in which the PNC can be violated, simply because it cannot ever be violated. That is its very power as the most basic universal truth the mind can grasp about reality.

            That is precisely why any time you can show that an opponent's claims entail a contradiction, either in propositions or in reality, he is instantly proven wrong.

            "You can point out no THING that is debarred from Being by the ontological PNC. Because we would not have a THING."

            I am not sure what your words here are intended to mean. All they really can mean is that a thing that would be a contradiction in being cannot exist, which is simply what the PNC means. That is to confuse its strength with a purported weakness.

            The implications of the PNC for Thomism are immense, as I am sure you realize. If the PNC is universally true, then the concept of being is both universal and transcendental, and thus, Thomism has a basis in reality to be off and running.

            But what you are telling me is that the PNC is not a genuinely true universal principle. This would mean that it is possible for there to exist something which does not exist. And to this claim you attach the anti-Thomistic position.

            From this, I infer that the possibility of the anti-Thomistic philosophical position of being true is the same as the possibility of something existing and yet not existing at the same time and in the same way.

            As a Thomist, I am perfectly happy to accept that degree of possibility for Thomism being wrong, since it is no possibility at all!

          • Ficino

            Not a reply to your last, just a note about Garrigou-Lagrange and Lukasiewicz. I had thought I remembered Garrigou-Lagrange as saying that the principle of identity is the first of the self-evident principles of metaphysics. He does in fact say this: "... the principle of identity is the fundamental law of thought and of reality," God, His Existence and Nature I p.158.

            Of course he also links the PI very closely to the PNC. Although he gives its proper definition to each of these, G-L even speaks as though to conflate them here: "whether we are at least certain of the objectivity of the principle of non-contradiction or identity," I.145. If "principe" appeared in the singular in the French, this sounds like an identification or conflation of the two principles.

            You may note the agreement between G-L and Lukasiewicz on the priority of the principle of identity, though L brought out that priority more explicitly. I thought the point important because so far I take the principle of identity to apply to things as well as to terms etc: any thing can stand in relations, including in a relation to itself. To try to imagine a thing that is F and ~F is to imagine either two things or no thing.

            Of course, promoting what G-L calls "traditional Realism," G-L insists that both the PNC and the PI are not only logical principles but real principles, and that the metaphysical work they both do is as real principles.

            Here we have a contrary position to that of Lukasiewicz, given that the latter, as I read him, denied the real PNC: "But one will never be able to assert with full definiteness that actual objects contain no contradictions. Man did not create the world and he is not in a position to penetrate its secrets..."

            It won't surprise you that I take the PNC as a law of thought but not also as a law regulating extramental reality, i.e. things. The PNC regulates what we, scientist or layman, can say about reality, what properties we can ascribe or deny to things. Although Aristotle first sets out the PNC in Meta. Δ.3 as mandating the impossibility of F's and ~F's belonging to the same thing, using the verb "to be" and the dative, Aristotle spells out the importance of the PNC in Δ.4 by sketching how to show a denier of the PNC that his discourse is asserting nothing significant.

            So, if I allow that a thing is identical to itself, am I implicitly committing myself to the real PNC? No, that implication doesn't follow, for reasons I've outlined previously. The PNC doesn't control the thing.

            OK, I shall go back to your last presently.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That is an excellent review of the various texts of these authors, including Aquinas. I, too, have noticed the variations in the readings and basically come to the conclusion that most, in the A-T tradition at least, simply view both the PI and PNC as various expressions, both in the mind and in reality, of what is implicit in the concept of being.

            That said, I have always thought that the PI was less impactful than the PNC, largely because of what you say, that is, a relation of self-identity is not a real relation.

          • Ficino

            This would mean that it is possible for there to exist something which does not exist.

            OK, but this is no problem for the analytic philosopher, because you've switched from making assertions about "being" to making assertions about existence, which you said many times elsewhere is too narrow. What you described above would be symbolized as propositional function in which over a variable is quantified the conjunction of F and ~F. There can be no variable bound under this conjunction, or, put another way, the number of variables over which that conjunction is quantified is zero.

            I think the focus of dispute between the two philosophical impulses, if you will (I won't call analytic philosophy a "school"), lies in the notion of "being," ens. In your article on the PNC, early on you summarized that principle so: "being cannot both be and not be at the same time" etc. I suspect that may be literally senseless. I don't know how such sentences can be regimented in predicate logical notation. And as I've pointed out before, theory choice entails costs and benefits. The cost for me of jettisoning modern logic is greater than the perceived benefit of adopting a system, sc. Thomism, in which I see gaps, equivocations, and inconsistencies.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "OK, but this is no problem for the analytic philosopher, because you've switched from making assertions about "being" to making assertions about existence, which you said many times elsewhere is too narrow."

            But when I talk about existence here, I am not talking about the narrow notion of an intrinsic co-principle of being (ens).

            I know the natural language can be confusing if misread, but this is about being in the sense of that which exists. I am talking about being as opposed to non-being, not existence as opposed to essence. Let me try to explain it in those terms:

            "That would mean that there can be a being that is actually a non-being."

            What we are talking about here is the ontological PNC, which is critically at issue between analytical philosophy and Thomism, with the Thomists insisting that it is extramentally real.

            Aristotle appears to have held that the PNC is extramentally real and Garrigou-Lagrange summarizes Aristotle's arguments for it as such as follows:

            “Aristotle gives eight principal reasons for defending the necessity and real validity of the principle of contradiction. They are briefly: (1) to deny this necessity and this validity would be to deprive words of their fixed meaning and to render speech useless; (2) all idea of the reality of an essence, or thing or substance as such, would have to be abandoned; there would be only a becoming without anything which is on the way of becoming; it would be like saying that there can be a flux without a fluid, a flight without a bird, a dream without a dreamer; (3) there would no longer be any distinction between things, between a galley, a wall, and a man; (4) it would mean the destruction of all truth, for truth follows being; (5) it would destroy all thought, even all opinion, for its very affirmation would be a negation. It would not be an opinion which Heraclitus had when he affirmed that contradictories are true at the same time; (6) it would mean the destruction of all desire and all hatred; there would be only absolute indifference, for there would be no distinction between good and evil; there would be no reason why we should act; (7) it would no longer be possible to distinguish degrees of error; everything would be equally false and true at the same time; (8) it would put an end to the very notion of becoming; for there would be no distinction between the beginning and the end of a movement; the first would already be the second, and any transition from one state to another would be impossible. Moreover “becoming” could not be explained by any of the four causes. There would be no subject of becoming; the process would be without any efficient or final cause, and without specification, and it would be both attraction and repulsion, concretion as well as fusion.”
            God: His Existence and His Nature, (168, note 48).

            I don't think this is anything you can dismiss by saying that quantification covers it, since we are talking about the reality behind all the words and propositions. That is why I have said several times that first we know things and then we invent words to describe them.

            Essentially, unless reality itself cannot both exist and not exist, all its manifestations, such as described by Aristotle, become meaningless. You cannot even think or utter a judgment or proposition unless it is real and not non-real at the same time.

            Despite some oddities in Aristotle's style, he is dealing with the reality underneath linguistic expression which cannot itself violate the PNC in things themselves without rendering meaningless all logical and linguistic reality.

            This is not a matter of mere logic, but of its underlying reality presuppositions. Just read the summary of Aristotle by Lagrange. I think both are dead serious about the extramental reality of the PNC.

          • Ficino

            Once again I wonder whether most of our dispute is actually just over nomenclature.

            I think we'd agree that the sentence, "A red maple stands on the northeast corner of my property," is true if and only if a red maple stands on the northeast corner of my property. We'd agree that the sentence is false if and only if it's not the case that a red maple etc etc.

            We'd agree that there is no maple tree that is not a maple tree. If someone points to a candidate, we'd wind up deciding that either there are two trees or no tree or an unusual tree. Maybe we'd expand our conception of the boundaries of the species, acer rubra. The Fregean might say that he's modified the concept being quantified. Maybe the Aristotelian would say he'd been wrong about the essence up until now. ?

            Whatever we did, the tree would just be itself.

            So this is why so far in my foray into ontology I am fine with the principle of identity.

            I still resist allowing that Aristotle's ἀντίφασις, translated in the medieval translations as contradictio, is a property of things and not of λόγοι, utterances or assertions, about things. Antiphasis just means "speech/speaking against/in opposition." When you go through Aristotle's dialectical/elenctic defense of the PNC in Meta. Δ.4, and Aquinas' commentary on it, as I said earlier, it's the opponent's discourse that Aristotle shows up as destroying itself. No animal is destroyed when the opponent destroys his own (or all) discourse.

            I don't know if it was Lukasiewicz who first came up with the threefold classification of Ari's PNC as ontological, logical, and psychological, but that triad certainly does persist in the literature. I don't see Aristotle scholars asking whether there SHOULD be an ontological version of the PNC. They just note that Ari speaks as though such is the ground of the logical version, and they note that it's in the Metaphysics that Ari discusses the PNC. But Ari defines it and gives examples in the Organon, too, e.g. De Interpretatione and AnPo, and there it's clearly a law of thought and discourse.

            So I think I must leave the legitimacy of the ontological PNC at rest for now, having nothing more to contribute without doing a dedicated study. There may be analytic philosophers who go into the problem, but I haven't encountered any - they just talk about the logical PNC and maybe mention Ari for the sake of the history of philosophy. Since extramental reality is covered by the PI, I think we get to the same place - both of us want sentences to be true or false because of reality, but you're using one more name for ontological principles than I am.

            As for sentences like "being cannot both be and not be ...", though, I can't admit their sense. The vagueness of locution makes it hard to pinpoint what I think is wrong with it, but there seems to lie concealed either an equivocation, or the same term is not a sortal and is a sortal, or an act is its own act, or something, not sure what. I would just stop using "being" as a noun. Heh heh.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Unless there is no difference at all between the logical PNC and its ontological form (which Thomists insist is distinct), then the logical form is "clearly a law of thought and discourse," whereas the ontological PNC claims that things in themselves (not just as known or spoken about) cannot both be and not be.

            Analytic thought finds the mere statement of the ontological PNC to be senseless, and thus, we Thomists are not even permitted to speak it. Talk about thought police! :)

            But Thomists believe we understand our own natural language very well and that we know the difference between (1) saying that the PNC is merely a law of thought and discourse and (2) saying that the PNC actually governs reality itself, such that no reality can both exist a certain way and also not exist that exact same way at the same time.

            The ontological PNC is only a "property" of things in that things themselves, and not merely discourse about them, are governed by this rule of "being," and moreover, we can know with objective and universal certitude that things in themselves, and not just as we apprehend them, must follow this rule.

            You can deny this distinction only by saying that the laws of thought are also the laws of reality, in which case the logical PNC becomes the ontological PNC, rather than having somehow the ontological PNC really just being the logical PNC itself, and thereby, not binding anything beyond what the mind itself apprehends or thinks.

            Now, if you are correct about the PNC not being a meaningfully distinct law of reality, would you say then that it is actually possible that analytic philosophy and Thomistic metaphysics are in fact depicting the exact same reality at the same time and from the exact same perspective?

            It seems to me that, if there is no really distinct ontological form of the PNC, then you must admit the real possibility that analytic thought and Thomism do not actually differ at all in reality. If you are certain that this is utterly impossible, then you can only know this because you know the ontological PNC is objectively true -- since I am not talking merely about its logical application now, but about the two supposedly very different philosophical systems both actually describing the exact same state of reality.

            But if you are certain that it is impossible that analytics and Thomism are objectively identical in being and that one cannot be identical to the other in reality, not just in thought or discourse, then you must accept the reality of the ontological version of the PNC. Remember, these two distinct philosophical systems insist that they differ, not merely in expression, but in the objectively true way in which the world exists and in how the mind properly describes it.

            So, if you are correct, I am very happy to learn that your view is in perfect agreement with the Thomistic one in reality.
            :)

          • Ficino

            things in themselves (not just as known or spoken about) cannot both be and not be.

            This is a better formulation than your earlier "being cannot both be and not be." Still, "be" requires disambiguation, since it can function as copulative (things cannot both be F and be ~F) or as existential (some A cannot both exist and not exist) or maybe some other way (things cannot both have being and not have being).

            This polyvalence of forms of "esse" of course goes back to the PreSocratics, but after philosophers worked hard in the last century or two to cut through the ambiguities, it is a turnoff to be told we have to reject those advances and stick with the philosophy of Being after all. Aquinas inherited a tradition that many later thinkers broke away from for reasons - even within a generation of his own time. Consider this in Boethius' De Trinitate 2: "... to look at form itself which is truly form and not image and which is being/existence (?) itself (esse ipsum) and from/out of which is being/existence (?) (esse)." If form is esse, but esse is from form, then esse is from esse. At the least, we have more than one sense or mode or degree or what have you of esse in play here.

            As I quoted twice before from Carnap, people outside a theory's universe of discourse (ought to?) allow that theory its discourse. But those evaluating the theory are justified in demanding that the theorist "state his methods clearly, and give syntactical rules instead of philosophical arguments.” As I said, I'm not seeing rules stated in advance to make rigid the employment of esse terms in arguments. A-T esse terms fail to be rigid, so when an argument is challenged, the Thomist can reply as you did above, "[we] Thomists believe we understand our own natural language very well." The Thomist who refuses to regiment propositions in symbolic notation evades one mode of testing whether he is employing his terms univocally. But you haven't set forth other "syntactical rules." Then when we find the Thomist actively championing non-univocal use of terms in arguments for metaphysical conclusions, we are left with no agreed-on methodology for testing his theses.

            So we keep reaching this point where it appears we are playing different scholarly "games".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, looking back, I think I stated it pretty clearly when I said that the ontological meaning of the PNC means that "the PNC actually governs reality itself, such that no reality can both exist a certain way and also not exist that exact same way at the same time."

            But, let me keep it as simple as possible, so that there is no ambiguity at all -- and I shall use your wording. I am not using the copulative function, but the existential one.

            Thus the ontological PNC means that " (some A cannot both exist and not exist) or maybe some other way (things cannot both have being and not have being)."

            What you seem to be saying is that it is impossible to understand this simple principle when it is expressed in natural language. I have trouble with that, since it is pretty clear to me exactly what I mean. A thing cannot both exist with property x and without property x . Nor can a thing exist as a whole and not exist at all at the same time. Why must one make this so complicated by introducing a notation which itself may have hidden metaphysical assumptions within it?

            In any event, if you take the ontological principle and state it exactly as you have given it to me, does not my analysis of why its denial would entail that analytical philosophy might possibly describe the exact same reality as Thomism still work? Just go back and apply my line of reasoning in my prior comment to the PNC exactly as you have given it to me.

            I don't think it is all that mystifying when we avoid using the loaded term, "esse," and just stick to saying that a thing (no matter what it is) cannot both exist and not exist. -- to use your formula.

            In any event, even if you don't like me stating it in natural language, what precisely is wrong with the argument I use to show that the ontological form of the PNC is valid? Or else, that analytical philosophy could possibly describe the exact same realities as Thomism?

          • Ficino

            PNC means that "the PNC actually governs reality itself, such that no reality can both exist a certain way and also not exist that exact same way at the same time."

            So now you are taking "esse" to mean "exist"? And not "be"? Are you saying "exist" and "be" mean the same? I think you are not. But I wish you were.

            Please explicate for us the sense of the term, "esse," such that it is applied under that sense every time you use it in an argument.

            Thank you.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This paragraph will self-destruct when you finish reading it! What I am trying to do in this argument is not to use the Latin term, "esse," at all -- since it clearly is causing a lot of confusion. Sometimes is simply means "to be" or "to exist," as in "Scio aliquid esse," meaning I know something "to be" or "to exist." Then again it appears like Covid-19 virus all over the place meaning "esse" as the intrinsic metaphysical co-principle that combines with essence to make a whole being (ens). Given that abominable ambiguity, I am trying to talk about the PNC while hiding esse under the nearest rug.

            Now, to start afresh, since this is the first paragraph of my reply. :) When I say that the ontological PNC means that "no reality can both exist a certain way and also not exist that exact same way at the same time," I could just as well say that "no reality can both be a certain way and also not be that exact same way at the same time."

            So I am using "exist" and "be" interchangeably in the context of the PNC. To be or not to be means the same as to exist or not to exist. Now the term, "being," is inherently bewitched, since it can be the noun, being (ens), which is the whole being -- or else, it can be the participle, being, as when we say that something has being, which merely means that it exists.

            I know this must frustrate you, but it is merely a matter of making clear what the usage means in each context in which it is applied. I don't think Maritain is all that confusing, despite his whole Preface to Metaphysics is one long soliloquy on "being." Does this help any? At any rate, I don't think this usage should be all that confusing in the argument about analytic philosophy and Thomism I gave two comments above.

          • Ficino

            I am using "exist" and "be" interchangeably in this context of talking about the PNC. To be or not to be means the same as to exist or not to exist.

            This is great, I think ... but do you mean that there are other contexts in which "exist" and "be" will have different senses? If so, then we are back to the problem of determining what game we're playing.

            If you can affirm that always, "be" and "exist", "being and "existence," are covalent, then we can go on from there.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            By "covalent," do you mean "equivalent?" The only meaning I know for covalent is in chemistry where it denotes chemical bonds formed by the sharing of electrons between atoms.

            But if you mean that "be" and "exist" have the same meaning in the context of the PNC, we have no problem. But in English, I have seen some Australian Thomists talk about the "be" of a thing, by which they mean that nasty intrinsic principle -- I think! So, I have to restrict this equivalence to the PNC to be sure it works.

            As for "being" and "existence," this simply does not work! "Being" can mean ens which is the whole composite of essence and existence. But it can also mean existence, as when we say a thing has being, meaning simply that it exists.

            I am sorry, but this may be why people find English such a hard language to learn. At any rate, I do not see any ambiguity in my usage in the context strictly of the PNC. Cannot you just address it solely in that specific context in which to be and to exist mean exactly the same thing?

          • Ficino

            Yes, equivalent. Can't type anymore!

            Thomism is a whole system. It won't help for one who tries to evaluate the system if "be/being" and "exist/existence" are synonymous/equivalent in one context and not so in another, or if "be" and "exist" are equivalent but "being" and "existence" are not equivalent. Most analytic types just make "being" equivalent to "existence."

            I was asking about syntactical rules that are followed rigorously. If the syntactical rules for discussions of the PNC are different from the rules for discussions about other tenets of Thomism, then we won't have rigorous syntactical rules for the whole system. Adherents of Thomism might maintain that they should not be required to state syntactical rules that govern discourse throughout their theory, but then inquirers will justifiably ask why they should grant the theory that pass.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not unsympathetic to your frustration with Thomism.

            Let me see if I can summarize some of your concerns: First, the terminology of Thomism appears maddeningly equivocal and inconsistent -- both in the English and in the Latin itself! I don't think we need to give a multitude of examples to grant that point, especially with respect to the term, "esse." Second, you are dealing with a Thomist who appears either not to know how or who refuses on principle to put the Thomistic arguments into proper formal notation so as to obviate logical imprecision and overcome some of the ambiguities mentioned in point one. Third, as you just said above, because of failure to state syntactical rules that govern all discourse in Thomistic theory, any success in plumbing the validity of the PNC may not licitly transfer to other parts of Thomistic theory. And finally, fourth, the entire theory is suspect anyway, since it appears to employ "existence" as a first order predicate and your understanding of post-Fregean modern logic convinces you that existence is not such a predicate.

            Did I miss anything essential here?

            Sometimes I suspect we scholars get so technical that we miss the forest for the trees.

            Everyone knows and uses the PNC as a universal truth, even when they cannot formulate it explicitly. You said you could not conceive a case for an instance of exception yourself. When we aren't getting worried about the metaphysical implications of the PNC, we use it freely and with certitude -- applying it in thought, discourse, and even transcendentally to allegedly-contradictory divine attributes!

            And, as I think I have shown in a prior comment, refusal to apply it ontologically would necessarily entail being open even to the authentic possibility that analytic philosophy describes the exact same state of reality as does Thomism!

            The generalized application of this type of argument would show that you cannot deny the ontological PNC without implicitly denying also the intelligibility of the rest of reality, including all forms of logic and philosophy!

            So, it seems to me, that, even if one quibbles about the exact wording with which one states the principle of non-contradiction, there must be an essential truth it expresses that is both universal and transcendental -- that applies not only to every finite thing, but also to every possible form and instance of reality -- even to God, if he exists.

            If this is so, it is like the woman who sells her virtue for the right price. She may quibble about her price, but we all know what she is.

            Now, we may still debate about the exact formulation of the ontological PNC, whether it should be "being cannot both be and not be" or "some A cannot both exist and not exist" or "things cannot both have being and not have being" or some equivalent thereof.

            But the critical element of all of them would be that is it universally and transcendentally true that reality in any form whatever must obey the same rule about not both being and not being or existing and not existing or having being and not having being.

            Once some form of the ontological PNC is admitted as an absolute truth about the objective order of reality, we have established a law of reality itself, a metaphysical principle if you will that all things must conform to. One might even call it a metaphysical first principle of being, for want of a better expression.

            Whatever it is, it is then an established truth that applies to all real things of any possible type and has an intelligible content. We may then discuss the nature of that intelligible content, but, since it is an ontological law of reality, we have moved philosophy itself beyond the mere analysis of language and into the realm of reality (or being: that which exists) that is what the Thomists are talking about.

            This may not establish the rest of Thomistic philosophy, but it does, as I see it, establish a sound foundation on which to examine the rest of the genuinely metaphysical issues that Thomism explores.

          • Ficino

            The generalized application of this type of argument would show that you cannot deny the ontological PNC without implicitly denying also the intelligibility of the rest of reality, including all forms of logic and philosophy!

            Dennis, you keep speaking as though you think I am claiming that the ontological PNC is false. I am claiming that the PNC doesn't apply to things. It's as though I say some truth about oranges doesn't apply to apples, and you accuse me of saying that truths about oranges are in fact falsehoods about oranges.

            The PNC is a principle of contradiction. Contradiction is by definition a feature of discourse. Things are not propositions. Things, or more precisely, the concepts we form of them, supply the content of propositions. That is all.

            What you're asserting about reality under what you call the ontological PNC, I am asserting under the guise of the principle of identity. If you can show that the generality of analytic philosophers affirm an ontological PNC, then I will gladly yield to their expertise. But if the proponents of the ontological PNC boil down only to proponents of A-T, then I do not yield, because I mistrust the A-T doctrine of Being as infected by equivocity. Are there analytic philosophers who maintain an ontological PNC?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "you keep speaking as though you think I am claiming that the ontological PNC is false. I am claiming that the PNC doesn't apply to things"

            This sounds like equivocation to me -- saying the ontological PNC is not false, but it just does not apply to things. If the ontological PNC is not false and does not apply to things, then how is it any different than the logical form of the PNC?

            Regardless of how you express it and regardless of how many analytic philosophers maintain an ontological PNC, how do you answer the argument I gave you earlier about denial of the ontological form of the PNC necessarily implying the actual possibility that analytic philosophy describes the exact same reality at Thomism?

            I do not see you meeting my argument head on. The question is whether things can both be and not be. If you deny that, then I think you have a problem with my argument just mentioned above.

            "I mistrust the A-T doctrine of Being as infected by equivocity."

            That is precisely why I framed my argument in terms, not of "Being," in terms of whether "the PNC actually governs reality itself, such that no reality can both exist a certain way and also not exist that exact same way at the same time."

            Is that what you are denying or claiming does not apply to things? If so, I don't see how you avoid the logic of my argument which says if you deny this, then analytic philosophy could describe the exact same reality as does Thomism.

            I am sure you do not want to say they could ever possibly be the same, since, if they could, you would have no reason to disagree with me! :)

          • Ficino

            A molecule cannot be both a molecule of gold and not a molecule of gold. It is an ill-formed question to ask, whether a molecule can be a molecule of gold and not a molecule of gold.

            If you propose a molecule, that is of gold and is not of gold. we shall say that you propose either two molecules or no molecule.

            When I was a freshman, I asked our professor, Joseph Neyer, whether those people have a point who ask, can God make something so heavy that He cannot pick it up? Prof. Neyer replied, those people do not know what they are talking about. It is as though they ask, can God create a square triangle? Their question presupposes a materially false idea.

            There is no molecule that is a molecule of gold and that is not a molecule of gold.

            Which principle would be violated by such talk of a gold-not gold molecule? It violates the logical PNC and it violates the principle of identity. You want to take a step further and say it violates an ontological principle of non-contradiction.

            Show me where ἀντίφασις is a feature of an object and not of discourse.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "A molecule cannot be both a molecule of gold and not a molecule of gold."

            Your statement here is not just a statement about discourse, but a statement about how reality itself must be.

            You are actually stating a version of the ontological PNC, but merely putting in specific examples instead of universal terms. It could be re-expressed in universal terms as "A thing cannot be both that thing and not that thing."

            That is also why you say, "There is no molecule that is a molecule of gold and that is not a molecule of gold."

            The reason questions about such things constitute "ill-formed questions" or presuppose "a materially false idea" is precisely because they entail contradictions in reality and such things are impossible precisely because they are self-contradictory.

            "Which principle would be violated by such talk of a gold-not gold molecule? It violates the logical PNC and it violates the principle of identity. You want to take a step further and say it violates an ontological principle of non-contradiction."

            You seem to accept the principle of identity, but balk at making non-contradiction a principle of reality itself, not merely logic. But Thomists are simply saying, as does Benignus, "The principle of contradiction is merely the negative form of the principle of identity, and it is asserted when the intellect compares being with non-being. Being is not non-being; that which is, is not that which is not; nothing is what it is not; nothing can be and not be something at the same time. The intellect not only necessarily asserts these principles, but it knows that it must assert them and that it cannot be mistaken in asserting them." (Nature, Knowledge, and God, 385-386)

            "Show me where ἀντίφασις is a feature of an object and not of discourse."

            Of course, I cannot -- for the simple reason that the law of discourse is determined by the law of the objects!

            The real truth is that the laws of identity and of non-contradiction are both rules of thought and of reality, just as I explicitly demonstrate in my article on certitude in the section entitled, "The Rules of Reason are the Rules of Reality."
            https://strangenotions.com/why-reason-demands-absolute-certitudes/

            I understand you don't want to accept the PNC as a principle of real things, but if you grant the truth of this statement, ""A molecule cannot be both a molecule of gold and not a molecule of gold," it logically follows that you are granting the truth of the ontological version of the PNC, since you are saying here something about real things that could be universalized to anything at all -- and that is all the ontological PNC does.

            Of course, Thomists prefer to say that a being cannot both be what it is and not what it is [a molecule of gold]. But our use of the term, "being," means merely "that which exists." So, it does not load the metaphysical dice.

            Still, it does tell us something about reality that is a universal truth that applies to all things, that is, to all beings. It tells us what no one can deny, namely, that every being is what it is and cannot be what it is not. This is not a statement of discourse, but rather, it is the ontological basis for the corresponding statement of discourse.

            And yes, it does tell us something about the reality of all beings without exception. I am sure you are suspicious about the implications I would draw from this basic truth about all beings. But, that suspicion is not itself an adequate reason to deny the first metaphysical principle of non-contradiction as a law of being -- applying to all those things which exist, not just the mind.

          • Ficino

            I view the PNC as applicable to discourse and not to natural entities because its domain includes affirmations and negations that lack natural referents. For example, the PNC rules this as false: "All goat-stags have two horns and do not have two horns in the same respect" etc. I don't know your position on the ontological status of imaginary objects, but I can easily suppose that Aristotle's "goat-stag" is not even a being of reason. The PNC applies to all affirmations and negations whatever.

            on the other hand, you display more epistemic confidence that I take on when you say that the PNC tells us about the reality of all beings without exception. I don't know that a principle formulated by philosophers tells us about all beings without exception. I am told that "an electron can be here and there and that's it" (Angelo Bassi). The usual Thomistic response is to say that a physicist either is doing philosophy while pretending not to or that the physicist is just a bad philosopher. I don't know that what Bassi and others say about subatomic particles is false.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You may think me unduly optimistic, but I think we are finally beginning to communicate in somewhat the same language and not still merely talking past each other. :)

            Your first paragraph confuses me a bit. By PNC, do you mean each time "in its ontological application?" Tying it to linguistic formulas simply misses the point from my perspective. I have no problem with the imaginary goat-stag at all, since there just are no such things. If you assume one for a proposition's subject, then of course you cannot both affirm and deny the same predicate of it. But, that does not make goat-stags real. Could that be why Aristotle does not accept empty sets?

            "The PNC applies to all affirmations and negations whatever."

            I really do not understand your concern with imaginary things and with affirmations and negations. The "problems" occur only in the mind and in propositions, which may involve the logical PNC, but have no effect whatever on application of the ontological or real PNC.

            Imaginary things are real only in the imagination. I can image putting square-circles together by imagining the words conjoined, but I cannot even imagine an actual square circle, much less conceive one! And so with stag-goats.

            Affirmations and negations pertain to propositions or judgments, both of which can be hypothetically entertained in the mind, but do not apply to reality itself, since a thing is not a judgment, although judgments are about things! In a word, there is no case in which problems with propositions or judgments actually affect the application of the real PNC. It seems to me that your problems arise because you are thinking we can know things only in and through concepts, not through actual judgments of real things.

            The point of my earlier comments about the real PNC is that even its logical form could not be actually known or coherent unless you presuppose the reality of its ontological form.

            As for the problems in physics you mention, I have had some experience in this area. There is nothing about the superpositions of subatomic particles before you "collapse the field" (take an actual reading) that forces anyone to actually maintain that they exist simultaneously in distinct orbits around a proton.

            Here is a paper, written by someone well versed in the field, that explains the problem. See "Superpositons of Eigenstates" here: http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/science/quantum.htm#s6

            Part of the problem is that you are approaching some of these topics coming out of the analytic tradition which, in turn, comes out of the positivistic tradition, which, in turn, was heavily influenced by Kant.

            The curious thing about Kant is that in attempting to save Newtonian physics from the skepticism of Hume, he wound up totally subjectivizing our understanding of the physical world through his a priori forms of all possible cognition. Yet, in allegedly proving his epistemology was objectively correct through his Antinomies of Pure Reason, he actually used the ontological PNC to prove his solution was correct! So, even Kant embraces the ontological form of the principle of non-contradiction.

            Your approach to doubting the real PNC seems to be looking for exceptions (like subatomic particle behavior), which indicates to me that you are using an inductive method to seek the universal, which we both know is impossible. Rather, I use either (1) the reflex method of showing that even the logical form of the PNC is based on its real form, which is how I allege that denial of the real form would commit you to possibly allowing our divergent philosophies to actually be identical, or else, (2) there is a way to do this by analysis of the mental acts involved, which I am prescinding from thus far on this thread.

          • Ficino

            The "problems" occur only in the mind and in propositions, which may involve the logical PNC, but have no effect whatever on application of the ontological or real PNC.

            Yes, perhaps we are approaching some overlap in what we're saying. From yours above I take it that you consider what we've been calling the ontological PNC and what we've been calling the logical PNC to be two different principles of different scopes of extension, not one principle applied to things and a Doppelgaenger of the same applied to propositions about those same things.

            You have described the ontological PNC as governing extramental reality, beings, "being," and so on. The logical PNC, on the other hand, does not govern propositions only about being/ but about any notion whatever, including non entia. I can produce cases of the logical principle's violation, but neither of us can produce a case of the ontological principle's violation (except that I left the door open that there might be fuzziness below the atomic level...) Thus, much that is true of the one is not true of the other.

            I have not done a study of the Franciscan, Gerardus, sometimes Geraldus, Odonis (died 1349), but I read in his De Principiis Scientiarum about the PNC as one of the most common principles of the intellect. About it, Odonis wrote that he does not apply it to ens reale, "real being":

            Item. Uterque terminus huius principii subicibile et ad omne predicabile ... Sed ens reale non; patet quarto Thopicorum quod opinabile communius est ente" (... what you can think about is of wider extent than what has being). Therefore, L.M. de Rijk goes on to say, "Subsequently, an objection is raised: should not the subject of metaphysics, which is 'real being', be the proper subject matter of PNC ? The answer is that PNC is not an adequately metaphysical principle, since the metaphysician should have some previous cognition of not only the quiddity of the subject under discussion but also its being given, whereas for the subject of PNC all that counts is the knowledge of its quiddity." And Odonis goes on to say that "ens rationis is not the proper subject matter of PNC either. Odonis' main argument is that, just as the terms of PNC do not imply the 'real being' of what they signify, similarly they do not imply that they are used to stand for its counterpart, viz. the kind of being that corresponds to. and is named after, apparential or fictitious being" (Franciscan Studies 54 [1994-97], pp. 54-55).

            Despite habitual practice among commentators, I propose that PNC as a term of art be restricted to what we've been calling the logical principle, and that some other name be employed in the stead of what we've called the ontological PNC.

            As for things that some physicists say about the subatomic level, I don't KNOW that the subatomic is regulated by the ontological PNC or whatever one call it. But as I said earlier, I can't conceive of a thing's violating the principle of identity. I can imagine, as I said, that physicists may find ways of reformulating their formulations. I shall presently read the article you linked.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino, regarding PNC & Quantum Physics: A number of persons misunderstood that Quantum Physics claims that a subatomic entity such as an electron can be a particle and a wave (ie not-particle) at the same time.

            Quantum Physics only says that under certain conditions, a subatomic entity exists as a particle, while under some other conditions, it exists as a wave.

            Hence in the double-slit experiment, when the conditions of experimental set-up make the entity exists as a wave, it passes through both slits at the same time (because a wave passes through both slits at the same time). When the conditions of the set-up make it exists as a particle, it passes through only one of the two slits.

            Subatomic entities do not exist as a particle and a non-particle at the same time.

            Quantum Physics does not contradict the ontological PNC.

            I understand the logical form of PNC (which includes propositions within its domain) has a wider scope than the ontological form (which deals with potential and actual entities independent of human minds). It seems like the logical form is not as secured as the ontological form, because it seems that propositions could be creatively designed to violate the logical PNC.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            You tabled:

            1) A subatomic entity, when existing as a particle, does not exist at this slot and that slit at the same time. When it exists as a particle,it does not pass through both slits at the same time.

            This means the distinction between particles and waves is artificial.

            Which means that the ontological PNC is artificial.

            You've defeated yourself yet again... Face it, the PNC contradicts even physics...

            For example, Reletivity Theory is a complete logical formulation dependent solely on the speed of light being constant that makes exact predictions whereas Quantum Physics is not.

            Quantum Physics follows a logical formulation but should an experiment and theory not fit it is the theory that is adjusted not the experiment. Therefore QM is not a logical system; it is based solely on what works.

            So, you see? Even the methodology of physics contradicts the ontological PNC.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Lest we become entangled in terminology, let me cite a text from Maritain that essentially affirms what you have said earlier, and something which Thomists also affirm, namely that the principle of identity is prior to that of non-contradiction. As Maritain puts it:

            “For example the notion of being is of the first importance in securing the coherence of thought, in as much as the whole of logic depends upon the principle of contradiction which is the logical form of the principle of identity: non est negare et affirmare simul. We cannot affirm and deny the same thing from the same point of view. The notion of being also plays a part in the theory of the verbal copula essential to the judgement.” (Preface to Metaphysics, 34-35.)

            Thus, the proper order is, as you say, from the principle of identity first, and from that subsequently to the logical principle of non-contradiction.

            Still, Garrigou-Lagrange insists on the priority of the concept of being to all moves in the conceptual order:

            “This idea of being, which is implied in all other ideas, must be absolutely the first for the intellect, which otherwise could form no concept of anything whatever.”
            (God: His Existence and His Nature, 158.)

            Maritain underlines the relation of being to logic:

            “That which gives logic its specific character, the formal aspect under which it studies objects, is conceptual being which cannot exist outside the mind.” (Preface, 35.)

            Garrigou-Lagrange maintains that the very first judgment of the mind is based on the idea of being, and is expressed in startlingly metaphysical terms:

            “Aristotle says that ‘it is impossible for anything to exist and not to exist at the same time and in the same sense.’ This axiom may be expressed in a simpler form by saying: ‘That which is, cannot be that which is not.’ It is important to note carefully the order of these primary notions.” (God, 158-159.)

            The only point I have room to make here is that, whatever may be the complications that arise from making the extension of the logical PNC wider in its proper conceptual order (and these can be considered separately), it is clear to me that the logical rule depends on the ontological first judgment for its own validity.

            That is, the only reason we know that you cannot affirm and deny the same predicate of the same subject is because the same being (the concept existing in the mind) cannot be both conjoined with a given predicate concept and also not conjoined to it at the same time.

            At least, then, for propositions referring to reality, to say you cannot affirm and deny the same predicate of the same subject in a proposition must mean that, in the real world, you cannot have a property be both real and not real at the same time.

            Let me make, then, one simple point for now. Whatever the problems that some logicians propose may arise for the greater extension of the logical PNC, it appears that its fundamental universality arises from the presupposition of the universal ontological judgment that being cannot both be and not be in some form or other. And this is what enables us to use logic to discern truths about the world.

            One clarification: When I said that the ontological rule applied to extramental reality, I meant to imply that it pertained to anything that is objectively real in any way, including what I think Maritain meant when he said, “The notion of being also plays a part in the theory of the verbal copula essential to the judgement.” (Preface, 34-35.)

          • Ficino

            “This idea of being, which is implied in all other ideas, must be absolutely the first for the intellect, which otherwise could form no concept of anything whatever.”

            A couple times I've quoted the thesis from Aquinas going back through Avicenna to Aristotle that Esse is the first object of intellect. Does Garrigou-Lagrange's addition of "idea of" turn his into a different thesis, and if so, what is the significance of the difference?

            being cannot both be and not be in some form or other.

            Is the above proposition formally different from "running cannot both run and not run in some form or other"? If different, how; if not, how not?

            ontological rule applied to extramental reality, I meant to imply that it pertained to anything that is objectively real in any way,

            Gerardus Odonis' point was that the logical PNC applies also to terms that don't refer to what is objectively real. You'll be stretching reale beyond its range of meaning if you mean to include negations, imaginary constructs etc among realia.

            More difficulties with Disqus on here than on some other blogs right now.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "A couple times I've quoted the thesis from Aquinas going back through Avicenna to Aristotle that Esse is the first object of intellect. Does Garrigou-Lagrange's addition of "idea of" turn his into a different thesis, and if so, what is the significance of the difference?"

            Here I would urge you to read slowly Maritain's Preface, 17-21, because of the complexity of the starting point of all knowledge of being.

            What the intellect first knows is "being 'clothed' in the diverse natures apprehended by the senses, ens concretum quidditati sensibili'." (18)

            This "being" is not the object of metaphysics, which is instead "being as such, ens in quantum ens...." (18)

            What may confuse people is that being presents itself to the mind in dual aspects: "One of these is its aspect as essence which corresponds particularly to the first operation of the mind. ... The other is the aspect [of] existence, the esse in the strict sense, which is the end in which things attain their achievement, their act, their 'energy' par excellence, the supreme actuality of whatever is." (19)

            Thus the realism of Thomism does not stop short at essences: "It is to existence itself that the intellect proceeds when it formulates within itself a judgement corresponding to what a thing is or is not outside the mind." (21)

            Thus, unless I express it incorrectly, the answer to your question is that the first object of the intellect is being grasped both as a concept of being and as existence concretely realized in some sensible object. Unless one realizes that both operations of the mind are involved in apprehending a concretely existing sensible object, the diverse statements you cite can be confusing.

            "being cannot both be and not be in some form or other." DB
            "Is the above proposition formally different from "running cannot both run and not run in some form or other"? If different, how; if not, how not?" F

            Take a look at page 20 in Preface to see the complexity entailed here. Is "running" like "existence?" Then the sentence becomes unintelligible, since it says that "existence cannot both exist and not exist," which is nonsense.

            Rather, the the subject of the sentence, "being," means ens, not esse. It is ens which "cannot both exist and not exist" that is intended to be expressed here.

            "Gerardus Odonis' point was that the logical PNC applies also to terms that don't refer to what is objectively real. You'll be stretching reale beyond its range of meaning if you mean to include negations, imaginary constructs etc among realia."

            I am well aware that the phoenix does not exist.

            This is tricky, but when I said that the ontological rule applies to anything that is objectively real, I mean that when we say that a phoenix cannot both be consumed by fire and not be consumed by fire, the reality is not in the concept, "phoenix," which refers to a non-existent entity, but simply to the fact that the assumed subject of this judgment, which has existence as a subject (even though that to which the concept of the subject refers does not exist) cannot both have a predicate conjoined to it and not conjoined to it at the same time.

            In other words, even the conceptual order has existence as concepts (even though the concepts themselves are "empty concepts"). As such, one can speak of the existence of the act of predicating properties of the subject, since I am not talking here about the referent of the concept itself, but merely of the function in the mind which is occupied by that empty concept. This is where, I suspect, some of the confusion about the extension of the logical PNC to non-existent things arises -- although my thoughts here are merely speculations that are not researched.

            And, yes, Disqus is being quite diabolic at present.

          • Ficino

            Can we agree to stop using the English word "being" as a substantive?

            I can't read more Maritain or the physics article right now. In the meantime:

            Rather, the the subject of the sentence, "being," means ens, not esse. It is ens which "cannot both exist and not exist" that is intended to be expressed here.

            Ens in A-T is convertible with res/aliquid.

            As I understand your sentence, it is the equivalent of

            "For all x, if x is ens, then it is not the case that x exists and x does not exist."

            I don't know how this can be regimented in a proper propositional function, since "exists" is a first-order predicate in yours. That's a red flag.

            In any case, the conjunction "x exists and x does not exist" is a false conjunction, because it is never the case that if x is ens, x does not exist. We don't have res and aliqua that do not exist, unless you want to deny the doctrine of the transcendentals. So you're left with the trivially true "if x is ens, then x is ens."

            But that's just the PI, as I've been saying.

          • Ficino

            Rather, the the subject of the sentence, "being," means ens, not esse. It is ens which "cannot both exist and not exist" that is intended to be expressed here.

            I suggest we stop using the English word, "being," as a substantive altogether on here, since translators render esse as well as ens as "being" in certain contexts.

            Amphiboly infects the pages of Maritain as it does writings of other Thomists. Maritain quotes with approval Cajetan's dictum that it is not contradictory to say, "existentia non existit," because the term denotes existence from the standpoint of essence, i.e. existence as a concept. This implies that Cajetan and Maritain deny that abstract objects like essences "exist." Yet, Thomists want to have "beings of reason." So are we back to beings that don't exist, or do essences exist in one mode and not exist in another mode? From what I've seen, it's the latter, but I don't need an ontology where EXISTENCE has modes or degrees. Correct me if you think I misunderstand here.

            Re: imaginary or fictional objects like the phoenix:

            the assumed subject of this judgment has existence as a subject (even though that to which the concept of the subject refers does not exist), which subject cannot both have a predicate conjoined to it and not conjoined to it at the same time.

            The above merely says that some sentences can be malformed. It does not support the thesis that a sentence form is part of "ens reale," which is what you need to overturn Odonis. A sentence form is an abstract object. Some ontologies accord existence to abstract objects (e.g. van Inwagen), but if yours also accords existence to abstract objects, then Cajetan's above is overturned The facticity of speakers' operations in speech acts is a different issue.

            In your last you said, "being [sc. ens] cannot both be and not be in some form or other." You reworded this as "being [ens] cannot both exist and not exist."

            1. The proposition expressed by your sentence cannot be put into standard notation because you use "exist" as a first order predicate. I've said before that the following is a malformed propositional function, because a quantifier is not a predicate:

            (∀x) ¬(Bx → (∃x ∧ ¬∃x)) For all x, it is not the case that if x is [a] being, then x exists and x does not exist.

            In predicate logic, this is literally senseless.

            The above is an illustration of what I've said is the choice posed to the inquirer, that s/he must give up standard modern logic if s/he is to be a traditional Thomist.

            2. Your conjunction can be reworded so that we have a disjunction, but either way, we have a formal structure that fails as a material structure. To say, "if it's being, then it does not both exist and not exist," or "if it's being, then it exists or it does not exist" is of the same form as "if it's a laughing animal, then it's a human or it's not a human." But a non-human animal never has a sense of humor in A-T; we already know that risibile is a proprium of a rational nature and that human is the only rational animal, so that the second member of the disjunction is empty. Similarly, being never does not exist. So the conjunction or disjunction is merely formal. The material proposition is the trivially true "If it's being, then it exists." We learn only an obvious truth about language from that. We have no reason to allow an ontological PNC when other principles do the necessary work about explaining "reality."

            On the other hand, you may want beings that don't exist, but my ontology does not admit them, and I think yours doesn't, either.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am sure that your analysis of our contending positions is probably quite correct in terms of the rules of modern logic.

            My essential problem with your entire analysis is that the conceptual order in which these rules of logic are framed automatically eliminate us from knowing that something exists through a judgment.

            My suspicion is that, as Maritain observes, logic operates solely in the realm of second intentions, that is in the conceptual order -- whereas the existence aspect of being (ens) is known in an intellectual judgment.

            I fear we have reached an impasse.

            I recall Maritain's warning not to confuse logic with metaphysics, and that the "being" of metaphysics is not the "being" of logic.

            As Maritain puts it, "It is most important to understand that this being which is studied by the logician and is bound up with other distinctive objects of logic and involved in them all, is not the metaphysician's being. It presupposes the latter. But in logic being is apprehended as an object of secondary mental vision, secunda intentio mentis." (35)

            And again: "For by definition none of the real functions of being, but only its conceptual functions, are the proper and direct object of logical study. There could be no more serious error than to suppose that the being of metaphysics is this being envisaged under the aspect of conceptual being, the being which belongs to the distinctive subject matter of logic and is apprehended by the objective light distinctive of logic." (36)

            Central to you overall position is your claim that "existence" is not a first-order predicate in modern logic. Small wonder that this is, perhaps, the case in modern logic, since the only thing logic deals with is the order of second intentions, that is, concepts.

            But, Thomists point out that existence is not known immediately by conception! Rather, it is known by the second act of the mind, judgment, which is not what logic studies!

            We can never get to the real existence of anything by mere conceptual analysis.

            But, we do know being in a judgment, which is why Thomists are totally certain that, however you formulate it, "being (ens) cannot both be and not be" is a universal and transcendent law of reality. Indeed, I would contend that this is why even you admit that you cannot conceive an instance that violates the rule.

            Once an existential judgment is made, from that judgment of existence can be abstracted the universal concept of being which the mind immediately knows must apply to anything that exists, including a transcendent deity.

            Once I know something to exist (Scio aliquid esse), I know the concept of being is not restricted to any particular essence, since "being" includes all possible essences. While the abstracted concept of "chickenness" may apply to all possible chickens, it is possible that there be things that are not chickens. But the concept of being excludes that possibility, since, while there may be beings that are "non-chickens," there can be no beings that are "non-beings."

            This is why, as I have said several times, even atheistic skeptics try to disprove God by finding alleged contradictory attributes in him.

            It appears that we may simply have to agree to disagree, since your ultimate standard of truth appears to be modern logic, whereas mine is the entirely distinct science of metaphysics.

          • Ficino

            You said that my fealty to modern logic entails that I hold that we don't know through a judgment that something exists. Well, I hold with the saint that our knowledge begins in perception.

            Where do we go from there? Yes, I think that in this "disputation" - I use scare quotes because I don't claim to have reached the rigor of a scholastic disputation in the medieval schools - we have, gone as far as they can go, in the words of "Oklahoma", though we're not in Kansas City...

            Above you write that the "being" of metaphysics is not the "being" of logic. Yes, when all these different "beings" or modes or degrees of "being" get pulled out, I get out of the car.

            As to the atheists, since they don't think that God exists, they don't appeal to an ontological PNC when they point to contradictions. What you adduced proves my point: the atheists point to contradictions in the system of notions of theism, i.e. to propositions in that system that entail the contradictory of other propositions in that system. The logical PNC.

            In any case, I appreciate the dialogue we have had. Dennis, your gentlemanly demeanor and your privileging of what you take to be truths over self-presentation go a long way toward making this the best Christian-based blog I know for interaction between Christians (Catholics) and skeptics.

            Till the next go-round, F

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "As to the atheists, since they don't think that God exists, they don't appeal to an ontological PNC when they point to contradictions. What you adduced proves my point: the atheists point to contradictions in the system of notions of theism, i.e. to propositions in that system that entail the contradictory of other propositions in that system. The logical PNC."

            Touché!

            I forgot that, from your perspective, that would be the explanation. Still, I have encountered many atheists making those kinds of claims who gave no sign of analytic proclivities -- and hence appeared to be talking ontologically. :)

            Thank you for the polite and coherent dialogue. I think the next step of this journey might lead into the realm of epistemology. But that is for another time. Stay well..... D

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Dennis,

            I propose this analogy of Fergean logic vis-a-vis Thomistic philosophy on existence:

            Fregean Logic is like a metal detector.

            Thomistic philosophy is like ordinary human sight and touch.

            Metal detector (Fregean Logic) performs much better than the use of ordinary human sight and touch to detect the presence of metallic objects.

            Metal detector, however, could not detect the presence of glass objects. In contrast, ordinary human sight and touch can detect the presence of glass objects.

            It would of course be false to say that glass objects do not really exist just because the metal detector, by its own nature, cannot detect any glass objects, especially when ordinary human sight and touch have discovered the presence of glass objects.

            As Ficino has replied me last week, if a hypothetical entity has one and only one feature, and that feature is intrinsic existence, then it will manifest within Fregean Logic as malfunctioned.

            So if there are independent arguments that point to the presence of a glass object (an entity having intrinsic existence as its essential feature), it would not be appropriate to use Fregean Logic to dismiss it without begging the question.

            It seems that Fregean Logic, by its own nature, is able to capture things with contingent/conditional existence for analysis, but would not be able to capture something whose feature is intrinsic/unconditional existence, if the latter really exists (or has been instantiated). If so, then Fregean Logic on existence does not capture everything about existence.

            Fregean Logic on Existence seems to be paradisal on Existence
            —————————————————————————————

            One way to express “humans exist” consistent with Fregean Logic is “The concept ‘humans’ is instantiated in at least one specific individual, eg Johannes”.

            Instantiation of the concept ‘humans’ appears to be paradisal on the existence of at least one individual (eg Ficino or Johannes).

            So why the concept ‘humans‘ is said to be instantiated? Because at least one specific human individual exists. If so, then “existence” is more fundamental than “instantiation”.
            But if a Fregean proponent does not want to use “exists” but to say the concept ‘humans’ is instantiated because at least one specific human individual is instantiated, then he runs into either the problem of circularity or the problem of infinite regress.

            Consider the instantiation of the concept “single horn horsehead”: The concept of “single horn horsehead” is instantiated in the species called unicorns. But unicorns do not exist. So a concept being instantiated does not necessarily mean it exists in the real world; instantiation itself is not identical to existence.

            Generally it appears that:
            a. If a concept C is instantiated in an existing individual x, then instantiation is paradisal on the existence of x.
            b. If a concept C is instantiated in a fictional (ie non-existing) individual x, then instantiation is not identical to existence.
            c. Even though both the concepts of tri-angular figure and tri-lateral figure give us the same figure. the concept “tri-angular figure” is not identical to the concept “tri-lateral figure”. Similarly, even though both the propositions “the concept of ‘humans’ is instantiated in Johannes” and “Johannes exists” give us the same outcome, the two propositions seem to be non-identical with each other.

            From the above, it seems that the language of instantiation can only capture a subset of existence, just like the metal detector can capture only a subset of things that exists.

            I have just posted my question to Ficino, asking him why he rejects the idea that there are different modes of existence in the whole of reality. These seem to be examples of different modes of existence: abstract concepts exist in the mind in a different way from how tigers exist in the zoo, or the AT concept of Potentiality of a seed exists in a different way from how the AT concept of Actuality of a seed exists.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Also @ Ficino

            Thank you for shedding some light on the mysterious problem as to why Fregean logic of quantification allows instantiation without also allowing what it calls first-order predicates for existence.

            I have slowly realized the critical distinction between logic and metaphysics with reference to knowing actual existence. We distinguish between first intentions (in which the direct object of knowledge is reality itself) and second intentions (in which the direct object of knowledge is only concepts).

            What seems so intractable once it is put into the notation of modern logic becomes relative child's plan when one realizes that it was never the function of logic in the first place to pronounce judgment on the nature of being or existence.

            As I look at Wuellner's Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy (1956), 71, I find these entries:

            "science of logic,the science of the first princiiples of conceptual beings; the science of second intentions ....."
            "logical, adj. ... 3. in contrast to the ontological or real, mental; pertaining to thought or knowledge but not directly pertaining to beings."

            The Thomistic position is that knowledge of being arises in the second act of the mind, which is the judgment. It is only after we make a judgment that something exists that we abstract from that judgment the initial concept of being and, perhaps, a rough concept of the nature of the thing existing before us (a horse, a rock).

            One is free to disagree with Maritain, but he does express the Thomistic position on the status of logic here:

            "Therefore being has already been apprehended by ordinary intelligence, and may equally well have been apprehended as such, secundum quod ens, by the metaphysician. But this intuition, this perception is presupposed by the logician. It is not his business. [bold mine] It has already taken place. He turns back upon it to study it from his own reflex and logical point of view." (Preface to a Metaphysics, 34.)

            Since modern logic, indeed, all logic, studies second intentions and not first intentions, it is perfectly understandable why Fregeans insist that "existence is not a first-order predicate."

            But existence is encountered by all human beings in ordinary everyday life. We constantly make judgments about things being real or not real, existing or not existing, all the time. Moreover, we have a very clear notion of being that is freely applied to all things, including what most people understand at a transcendent God. While most people do not run around enunciating a proposition, "Being cannot both be and not be," yet all understand perfectly clearly that nothing can both be and not be at the same time.

            No one has any real problem with these judgments and expressions about being or existence -- save for those suddenly trying to do philosophy about such notions as technically expressed in modern logic. To follow your analogy, like the hammer that sees every thing as a nail, so do modern logicians see "being" as a second-order predicate, just like all the other concepts that logic investigates.

            And, yes, Thomists do have a defense of the concept of being as part of our direct knowledge of the world in which we live. But, they do not attempt to justify it as applying to the real world through the lens of logic. For example, see Benignus's Nature, Knowledge, and God, 360 ff.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Dennis,

            In addition to the paper by Gyula Klima I mentioned to you, below is another book I like to highlight (sorry if you have already read it).

            I suspect Fresellian Logic is weak/lacking in explaining “WHY something is instantiated (exists) instead of nothing is instantiated (exists) at all” even though it has given lots of explanation on what it logically means to say “something exists”.

            Sebastian Rehnman said: “A theory of existence must explain BOTH what it is for an individual to exist AND WHY an individual exists.”

            To this end Rehnman recommends this particular book which he reviewed:

            “This is an exciting book about what is it for an individual to exist and what existence itself is... The book amounts to a sustained and detailed, though clear, argument from the beginning to the end. Vallicella argues for the nature and ground of existence in a twofold way. Chapters 2 to 5 argues what existence is not and chapters 6 to 8 what existence is.”

            [my remark: The book’s author is deeply familiar with Frege, Russell and Quine, both their similarities and their nuanced differences, on existence. The book “thoroughly ANALYZES and demolishes the main deflationary and eliminativist accounts of existence, including those of Brentano, Frege, Russell, and Quine, thereby restoring existence to its rightful place as one of the deep topics in philosophy, if not the deepest.”]

            Rehnman also commented:
            “A theory of existence must explain both what it is for an individual to exist and why an individual exists. But a valid theory of actual existence can neither be neutral on whether or not individuals really exist, nor presuppose that individuals really exist. The object is to explain the existence of individuals without merely specifying a property that all and only existent individuals instantiate and without presupposing the existence of anything. However, to avoid existential neutrality the theory must presuppose the existence of something, and to escape existential circularity the theory must specify what it is for all and only existent individuals to exist.”

            The book Rehnman refers to is A Paradigm Theory of Existence: Onto-Theology Vindicated by William F. Vallicella.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I had already made a lengthy reply to your comment here, but made the mistake of letting it sit on Disqus for a few hours before looking at it again to post it. Well Disqus appears to have removed it instantiation!!

            I think I said something along these lines: It is good to have two lines of reasoning supporting the key insight that the mind can know existence, namely, (1) by showing that the Fregean arguments are not themselves sound, and (2) by recalling that logic deals solely with the conceptual order, while our actual knowledge of existence arises in the judgment that occurs when we actually encounter something real.

            We form a concept of being by judging the reality of something encountered in direct experience and from that judgment abstracting the concept of being.

            That is why Maritain says the first thing we know is that something exists: Scio aliquid esse. It is from this first and immediate union of the mind with something real that we form the general concept of being, a concept we immediately know applies to all possible beings. At the same time, we may form a rough concept of whatever happens to be the nature or whatness of the specific being encountered, for example, a horse or a man.

            The reason that even the uneducated understand that this concept applies to anything whatever is precisely because being is not a particular, limited nature, such as a chickenness, which would apply to all possible chickens, but would not apply to some possible being that is a non-chicken. Since the concept of being applies to all possible beings, there would be no exceptions, since non-beings do not exist!

            While some skeptics attempt to hypothesize a violation of the rule, such as the claimed contradiction of a wave-particle state of the photon, careful analysis always shows a misinterpretation of the data, which, of course, we already know must be the case -- since the principle is universal!

            Thomism is not confused by hallucinations, since they are real as subjectively experienced. Self-contradictory subjects, such as square-circles, can be spoken or written, but cannot be imagined since they are not even proper concepts. So, too, possible, but non-existent subjects, such as the present king of France, pose no real problem at all, since there really exists no subject to which a predicate can attach. Such enunciations are pseudo-enunciations, since they lack an actual subject.

            Perhaps, all this is why Aristotle was so prejudiced against empty sets?

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            Bonnette's tabled position in his reply to you is extremely interesting... the interesting part is:

            ...the concept of being applies to all possible beings,there would be no exceptions, since non-beings do not exist!

            A proposition that contradicts the ontological PNC.

            Remember, the PNC says:

            Things cannot both be and not be.

            In inferential form the PNC is saying this:

            (p OR q) if and only if not (not p AND not q)

            But, Bonnette is not stating this in his comment to you... rather his position now reads:

            (p AND q) if and only if not (not p OR not q)

            Interestingly his intuitions have been defeated by inference and he has been forced to jettison the Thomist PNC!

            The really weird thing is that he will be aspect-blind to this fact.... very interesting...

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Prof Bonnette

            Any tentative thought on the following proposal?

            One major reason that supports Fregean/Rusellian treatment of existence to belong to concepts/propositions/properties is how beautifully it can explain the logic behind propositions such as “unicorns do not exist”. If existence is treated as a predicate of unicorns, then “unicorns do not exist” becomes either like “the non-existing unicorns lacks the predicate of existence” (a tautology) or like “the existing unicorns lacks the predicate of existence” (a contradiction). The Fresellian treatment would render “unicorns do not exist” simply as “the concept of unicorns is not instantiated in any individual x in the real world”. This solves the problem of explaining the logic of non-existing entities.

            Those who want to apply the above Fregian treatment in a symmetrical way to existing entities would then say “horses exist” merely means “the concept of horses is instantiated in some individuals in the real world”.

            My proposal is that it is an error to give such a symmetrical treatment to both existing and non-existing entities. The relationship between treatment given to non-existing entities and treatment given to existing entities should be ASYMMETRICAL. I have not read or come across such a proposal hence I called it “my proposal”.

            For an entity that does not exist (eg unicorn), it seems correct that the logic behind it is “the concept C of such an entity lacks instantiation in the real world”. Non-existence would not be a predicate of any such non-existing entity because they is no such extramental entity to possess any property. Non-existence of such an entity would be merely a predicate of the CONCEPT of a non-existing entity.

            However, for an entity that exists (eg Dennis the professor exists or humans exist), it is not merely that the concept of humans is instantiated in Dennis; it is also that “Dennis exists” in the sense that existence is also a predicate of the actualised person Dennis.

            Again, for existing entities, existence belongs not only to the concept of those entities but also to the actualised entities themselves. Existence is a predicate of BOTH the concept and the actualised entities that instantiated that concept.

            This should not be surprising, given that a concept that is not instantiated has no actual entities for existence to be a predicate of, whereas a concept that has been instantiated has one or more actualised entities for existence to be a predicate of.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I like this distinction, since it retains the sense of "existence is not a predicate" for non-existing things.

            And, we should make a distinction between existing things and non-existing things, as your asymmetrical treatment recognizes.

            It has always seemed odd to me that a whole system of logic should stand or fall merely on the coherence of its treatment of non-existing things! After all, as I have insisted previously, such statements as "the present king of France is bald" pose no problem to Thomists, since we know there is no present king of France and therefore no real subject of predication. One might argue that this is not even a proposition, since a proposition need both a subject and a predicate.

            Does not Aristotle solve such enigmas by simply insisting that there are no empty sets?

            Still, I rest my position primarily on the fact that logic fails to encompass existential judgments, since it deal only with the conceptual order. But, I don't doubt an analytic thinker will not find something wrong with the way I stated that!

          • Johannes Hui

            One more thing to add: Fresellian treatment of existence is like putting the cart before the horse if Fresellian logicians believe that Fresellian Logic on existence can replace or eliminate the traditional metaphysical explanations of existence. Logically, the former is dependent or paradisal on the latter. Things must first exist before the human mind can form concepts out of those things. Therefore the talk of “concepts and the instantiation of concepts” comes only after the human mind abstracts concepts from things.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Here I think you are saying the exact same thing I have said myself. The content of logic presupposes that we first know things from which concepts are then abstracted.

            In fact, the only way we get the logical principle of non-contradiction is because we know that a predicate cannot both be conjoined to a subject and not conjoined to the exact same subject, which is an application of the principle that being cannot both be and not be.

            St. Thomas Aquinas clearly confirms this order of dependence when he says, "...the same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time, which is based on the notion of being and not-being." (Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 94, a. 2, c.)

            So, it would appear that, if we do not first know that being cannot both be and not be, we would never affirm the logical PNC from which it is derived. And yet, the logical PNC is a fundamental principle used by modern logicians with the exception of the "problematic" cases of things like imaginary, self-contradictory, and non-existent sets.

            The "problematic" examples become of interest solely because we expect the logical PNC to be universal. I submit we expect it to be universal simply because it itself is an expression in the logical order of an ontological universal principle: being cannot both be and not be.

            Ironically, it is that same ontological PNC which "must" be rejected as universal, since, were it true, that would be to admit the possibility that there is, in fact, a valid universal concept of being that the human mind knows -- something that analytic philosophy does not admit.

          • Dr. Bonnette,

            Could you clarify your last paragraph there? I'll quote it here:

            "Ironically, it is that same ontological PNC which "must" be rejected as universal, since, were it true, that would be to admit the possibility that there is, in fact, a valid universal concept of being that the human mind knows -- something that analytic philosophy does not admit."

            Thank you in advance.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If the analytic philosophers admit that it is a universal certitude that being cannot both be and not be, they have committed themselves to admitting that the human mind can know being as a universal concept applicable to all things, both finite and infinite. But that is to admit that the concept of being is analogically valid as descriptive of everything in an analogical, not univocal manner.

            Normally, they would argue that, because being is a univocal term, it cannot apply transcendentally both to creatures and to God. Being is not a genus. Therefore you cannot use being as a valid middle term in the proofs for God's existence. Moreover, if being is analogical, you can talk in terms of degrees of being, which they also reject. A whole metaphysical can of Thomistic worms opens up the moment you admit that the same principle of being applies to all things whatever. They cannot accept that being or existence is a first-order predicate, that is, something that is actually a special reality of the things we know.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino, would this be a suitable analogy of Fergean logic vis-a-vis Thomistic philosophy on existence:

            Fregean Logic is like a metal detector.

            Thomistic philosophy is like ordinary human sight and touch.

            Metal detector (Fregean Logic) performs much better than the use of ordinary human sight and touch to detect the presence of metallic objects.

            Metal detector, however, could not detect the presence of glass objects.

            It would of course be false to say that glass objects do not really exist just because the metal detector, by its own nature, cannot detect any glass objects.

            As you replied me last week, if the hypothetical entity has one and only one feature, and that feature is intrinsic existence, then it will manifest within Fregean Logic as malfunctioned.

            So if there are independent arguments that point to the presence of a glass object (an entity having intrinsic existence as its essential feature), it would not appropriate to use Fregean Logic to dismiss it without begging the question.

            Would you agree that Fregean Logic, by its own nature, is able to capture things with contingent/conditional existence for analysis, but would not be able to capture something whose feature is intrinsic/unconditional existence, if the latter really exists (or has been instantiated)? If so, then Fregean Logic on existence does not capture everything about existence.

            Another point:

            Would the Fregean Logic on Existence be paradisal on Existence?
            —————————————

            One way to express “humans exist” consistent with Fregean Logic is “The concept ‘humans’ is instantiated in at least one specific individual, eg Johannes”.

            Instantiation of the concept ‘humans’ appears to be paradisal on the existence of at least one individual named Johannes.

            So why humans is instantiated? Because at least one specific human individual exists. If so, then “existence” is more fundamental than “instantiation”.

            Now consider the instantiation of the concept “single horn horsehead”: The concept of “single horn horsehead” is instantiated in the species called unicorns. But unicorns do not exist. So the instantiation itself is not identical to existence.

            Generally it appears that:
            a. If a concept C is instantiated in an existing individual x, then instantiation is paradisal on the existence of x.
            b. If a concept C is instantiated in a fictional (ie non-existing) individual x, then instantiation is not identical to existence.

            From the above, it seems that the language of instantiation can only capture a subset of existence, just like the metal detector can capture only a subset of things that exists.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            You have precisely and accurately found the misunderstanding between logicism & metaphysics.

            Fregean Logic is like a metal detector.

            NO. Fregean Logic is NOT psychological.

            Thomistic philosophy is like ordinary human sight and touch.

            YES. Thomistic metaphysics IS psychological.

            This the cause of the Ficino/Bonnette discussion resulting in an impasse.

            The discussion MUST go nowhere. This is the result Bonnette wishes for it is his strategy.

          • Ficino

            No, the metal detector analogy is not apt. But to make a stab at explaining why it's not apt requires supplying too much background. I suggest, if you're interested in analytic philosophy and the various ontologies that its proponents have defended, that you give yourself at least a year. Start with some classics, like Russell's essay on Denoting, and his Metaphysics and Logic and The Problems of Philosophy. You might get away with neglecting the logical positivists, but you need to grapple with Quine.

            Perhaps a place to start would be Amie Thomasson's Ontology Made Easy. As I've noted before, "easy" is a term of art; she does not mean, Ontology for Dummies, lol. Your university library should have it. You can get some overviews there.

            You'll then see that it's circular to say, "Well, the reason why concept F is quantified over x is because x exists!"

            I am sorry that I must decline to continue this line of discussion. I have deadlines and can't be a sounding board now. I hope you understand.

          • Johannes Hui

            Thanks Ficino for yr suggestions. Does Fresellian Logic explains “WHY something is instantiated (exists) instead of nothing is instantiated (exists) at all” in addition to explaining what it logically means to say “something exists”?

            As the philosopher Sebastian Rehnman says: “A theory of existence must explain BOTH what it is for an individual to exist AND why an individual exists.”

            To this end Rehnman recommends this particular book on which he commented:

            “This is an exciting book about what is it for an individual to exist and what existence itself is... The book amounts to a sustained and detailed, though clear, argument from the beginning to the end. Vallicella argues for the nature and ground of existence in a twofold way. Chapters 2 to 5 argues what existence is not and chapters 6 to 8 what existence is. Vallicella argues that existence is not a property of individuals, not identical to individuals, not a property of properties, and not a property of possible worlds or domains.”

            [my remark: You mentioned Russell, Quine and Frege. The book’s author is deeply familiar with Frege, Russell and Quine, both their similarities and their nuanced differences, on existence. The book “thoroughly ANALYZES and demolishes the main deflationary and eliminativist accounts of existence, including those of Brentano, Frege, Russell, and Quine, thereby restoring existence to its rightful place as one of the deep topics in philosophy, if not the deepest.”]

            Rehnman also commented:
            “A theory of existence must explain both what it is for an individual to exist and why an individual exists. But a valid theory of actual existence can neither be neutral on whether or not individuals really exist, nor presuppose that individuals really exist. The object is to explain the existence of individuals without merely specifying a property that all and only existent individuals instantiate and without presupposing the existence of anything. However, to avoid existential neutrality the theory must presuppose the existence of something, and to escape existential circularity the theory must specify what it is for all and only existent individuals to exist.”

            The book Rehnman refers to is A Paradigm Theory of Existence: Onto-Theology Vindicated by William F. Vallicella.

          • Johannes Hui

            I understand that one major reason that supports Fregean treatment of existence to belong to concepts/propositions/properties is how beautifully it can explain propositions such as “unicorns do not exist”. If existence is treated as a predicate of unicorns, then “unicorns do not exist” becomes either like “the non-existing unicorns lacks the predicate of existence” (a tautology) or like “the existing unicorns lacks the predicate of existence” (a contradiction). The Fregean treatment would render “unicorns do not exist” simply as “the concept of unicorns is not instantiated in any individual x in the real world”. This solves the problem of explaining the logic of non-existing entities.

            Applying the above Fregean treatment in a symmetrical way to existing entities, “horses exist” means “the concept of horses is instantiated in some individuals in the real world”.

            My proposal is that it is an error to give symmetrical treatment to both existing and non-existing entities. The relationship between treatment given to non-existing entities and treatment given to existing entities should be ASYMMETRICAL. I have not read or come across such a proposal hence I called it “my proposal”.

            For an entity that does not exist (eg unicorn), it is correct that the logic behind it is “the concept C of such an entity that lacks instantiation in the real world”. Non-existence would not be a predicate of any such non-existing entity. Non-existence would be a predicate of the concept of every non-existing entity.

            However, for an entity that exists (eg Dennis the professor exists or humans exist), it is not merely that the concept of humans is instantiated in Dennis; it is also that “Dennis exists” in the sense that existence is also a predicate of the actual person Dennis.

            Again, for existing entities, existence belongs not only to the concept of those entities but also to the actualised entities themselves. Existence is a predicate of both the concept and the entities that instantiated that concept.

            This should not be surprising, given that a concept that is not instantiated has not actual entities for existence to be a predicate of, whereas a concept that has been instantiated has one or more actualised entities for existence to be a predicate of.

          • Johannes Hui

            Would the logical form of PNC be “contradictory PROPOSITIONS is impossible to be true and false in the same respect at the same time”?

            I take the ontological form of PNC to be “a non-abstract entity cannot exist and not exist in the same manner at the same time” eg a two-dimensional figure cannot exist as a circle and as a square at the same time.

          • Ficino

            What you write is OK, but the PNC is not usually presented in the words you use to describe it above. Usually it's formulated as the principle that a proposition and its contradictory cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time.

            What we've been calling the ontological PNC is formulated variously in the literature. Sometimes forms of the verb "to be" are used, as in yours, or sometimes we find "belonging to" expressions. I'm not sure why you limited yours to non-abstract entities, though, and I think you introduce complications with drawn figures, since one might think they aspire to represent abstracted entities.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino, am I correct with to describe these two versions of PNC this way:

            Logical form: A PROPOSITION cannot be true and false in the same sense at the same time.

            Ontological form: A non-abstract entity cannot exist and not exist in the same manner at the same time. eg The same drawn figure cannot exist as a circle and not a circle at the same time.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            Ontological form: A non-abstract entity cannot exist and not exist in the same manner at the same time. eg The same drawn figure cannot exist as a circle and not a circle at the same time.

            Ontological result: The duck/rabbit figure is therefore an ontological contradiction according to your definition... you defeated yourself!!!!!!!

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino, why do you need to jettison modern logic if you accept Thomism? That there exists Analytic Thomists (or in your language: “The concept of Analytic Thomists is instantiated in the world” :p ) means there is a way for Thomism to include modern logic within the Thomist system.

            Questions:
            1. Going by the idea that “Horses exist” means “the concept of horses is instantiated”, how would the concept of a hypothetical entity which has only one feature, namely the feature of intrinsic existence or unconditional existence, be described using the expression of instantiation?

            2. How would the distinctions in these three statements be expressed“Entity A exists contingently”, “Entity B exists abstractly (in the mind only)“ and “Entity C exists concretely” be expressed using the language of instantiation (or in the form “There is at least one x such that...”)?

            Thanks :)

          • Ficino

            1. I am working from things that Dr. Bonnette and also Edward Feser have said about modern, Frege-Russell style predicate logic. As I understand them, they hold that modern logic is infected by naturalistic metaphysical presuppositions or assumptions, so they (esp. Bonnette) are disinclined to regiment their arguments in symbolic notation. I haven't read analytic Thomists beyond Anthony Kenny, who traditional Thomists say fails to understand Aquinas.

            2. From what I have read, I think your description of your hypothetical entity, which has no feature except intrinsic or unconditional existence, might just wind up as a malformed propositional function. Since existence is a quantifier not a predicate in modern logic, I don't know how your entity would find symbolization. Something like (Ǝx)Ǝx. This is a defective propositional function.
            I haven't studied modal logic, so I don't know whether expressions that include modal terms like "unconditional" would call for their own symbolization. If you are thinking of a "necessary being," I point out that Russell said that necessity is a property of propositional functions, not of things.
            You are at university, no? If you are taking philosophy, I'm sure one of your instructors can give a better answer!

            3. Ditto your question 2, re "contingentjly" etc. As for the difference between abstract and extended or corporeal entities, the difference would be shown in the predicates. You would not include spatio-temporal or causal terms among the capital letters that stand for concepts quantified over a variable, when you are symbolizing a proposition about an abstract object. You would include such predicates implicilly (e.g. "horse") or explicitly in the case of corporeal objects.
            Many moderns deny that abstract objects exist. Some of them appeal to quantifier variance. This is a very complex topic, and I only know a little about the controversy. I agree so far with van Inwagen that if we are using the existential quantifier, we commit ourselves to the existence of whatever the relevant concepts are quantified over. E.g. "There is a faulty sentence form" will be regimented so that "sentence form", re to an abstract object, is quantified - so van Inwagen would say the sentence form exists and is an abstract object.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            The concept of a hypothetical entity which has only one feature, namely the feature of intrinsic existence or unconditional existence, be described using the expression of instantiation would be described thus:

            (all All A's are B's) :⇔ (all All non-B's are non-A's)

            The logical trajectory of the Thomistic concept instantiation leads to the above logical equivalence.

            However, the Thomistic concept of instantiation can be exploited by Hempel type paradoxes.

            In order to avoid such defeaters, the Thomist is forced to employ monster-barring techniques. This can be achieved but at the expense of violating the Thomist PNC.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            Existential Inertia: The natural world remains in existence without need of a divine conserving cause.

            Existential Inertia is based on a scientific principle.

            However, existential inertia is a counter-induction atheist/pagan strategy.

            The contradiction in the concept is highlighted by adjusting the intentionality of the conditional so the concept does not lose its meaning.

            Existential Inertia: The natural world is mind-independent.

            Doing this reveals the contradiction in the term.

            A= Natural Word
            B= Mind Independent

            The conditional reveals the contradiction:

            (if If A then B) :⇔ (If not-B then not-A)

            The two forms are equivalent.

            The atheist/pagan argument is similar to the Thomist argument. The atheist/pagan however is aspect-blind to the fact that the concept does point to a Divine Cause.

          • Ficino

            Dennis, I apologize for losing my temper a week or so ago.

            This of yours:

            you never seem to get my point that the essence/existence composition of a being is not known when a given thing is first encountered.

            We are going around the merry go round on primo. It's clear from Aquinas' reference to Avicenna that the latter is using the term, primo, not in a temporal sense, as though an individual first in time knows the real distinction of essence and existence when cognizing a thing, but rather, secundum naturam - Avicenna held that it is in the order of reason, not in the order of your intellectual biography, that you know "being" primarily.

            I don't think I said that in A-T, "esse" is superadded to a thing in the way of an accident. To say that it is so is not A-T; cf. In IV Meta l. 2 C558 “Esse enim rei quamvis sit aliud ab eius essentia, non tamen est intelligendum quod sit aliquod superadditum ad modum accidentis, sed quasi constituitur per principia essentiae. Et ideo hoc nomen Ens quod imponitur ab ipso esse, significat idem cum nomine quod imponitur ab ipsa essentia.”

            From the thesis that esse is not superadded like an accident, it doesn’t follow that esse is not a constituent of a creature.

            The ambiguity in Thomas' uses of esse remains a major problem.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Glad to see you back, Ficino. And I apologize for causing your frustration a week or so ago.

            I don't think either of us have made the mistake of thinking of esse as something superadded like an accident.

            It appears that the ambiguity one finds in Thomistic usage of being and existence may be found in the original Latin as well, which is understandably frustrating to all who try to understand the exact doctrine being offered.

            Moreover, it would not be unsettling to me to find that even St. Thomas himself on occasion might use the terms inconsistently with his own doctrine, since it amazes me the amount of material he has produced and the fact that he is only human. Moreover, I have heard that he had scribes taking down his words in medieval shorthand, which could introduce such very ambiguities without the saint even being the direct cause of them!

            For my part, in English, I try to reserve the term, "being," to mean ens, that is, the entire being composed of essence and existence as intrinsic co-principles. I try to reserve the term, "existence," to mean esse or actus essendi or existentia as referring to the intrinsic co-principle which joins with essence to constitute being. This refers solely to the context of the description of the metaphysical "structure" of a thing, though.

            But, before you rejoice at the precision and clarity of how I intend to use these terms, I must admit to betraying the entire project, since in natural language, I freely use "being" and "existing" as simply meaning that something stands outside of nothingness (for want of a better expression)! And I am sure that my natural language is not careful always to define usage in each context, even though I might know the exact meaning intended!

            I fear that is simply how Thomists speak, as when we talk about things "being beings" and "having being" and other usages I cannot presently recall. I must defend that this does not mean the entire Thomistic metaphysics is impossibly defective, but rather that one must struggle to understand what is intended when reading its works in modern English, to wit, the Dominican translation of the Summa Theologiae some years back.

            I see you have two other comments posted today. So, I shall end this for now -- having confirmed your worst fears about Thomistic ambiguity of expression about "dare I say what?" I will try to address other issues when I find time to respond to your later comments.

          • Ficino

            I try to reserve the term, "existence," to mean esse or actus essendi or existentia as referring to the intrinsic co-principle which joins with essence to constitute being.

            Agree, for the most part, as far as construing Aquinas' Latin. A good example of this restricted sense of esse as "to exist/existence" seems to be this from Compendium Theologiae 11:

            : “in quocumque enim aliud est essentia, et aliud esse ejus, oportet quod illud alio sit et alio aliquid sit: nam per esse suum de quolibet dicitur quod est, per essentiam vero suam de quolibet dicitur quid sit" [for in whatever essence is one thing and its 'esse' another, it is necessary that that thing 'be/exist' by virtue of the one and that it be something by virtue of the other: for through its 'esse' it is said about anything that it is/exists, but through its essence it is said about anything, what it is."

            But even here, 'est' or the subjunctive 'sit' are equivocal. The bolded instances assert existence. The others predicate, acting as a copulative, i.e. that something is F.

            Then in other places, 'esse' seems to mean more broadly, 'being' and not only the act of existing, e.g. In I Sent. 8.5.1 ad arg: “…de illis creaturis quae non habent esse completum, quae non compuntur ex aliis sicut ex partibus, et … creaturis quae habent esse completum" [about those creatures that do not have completed esse, which are not composed from other things as parts, and ... about creatures that have completed esse...] But wouldn't one think that both immaterial and material creatures exist in the same way just qua existing? If not, that's a problem; if so, then at least in an early work like In Sent, Aquinas seems to use 'esse' more widely than strictly as 'exist.'

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I plead "no contest" to your careful analysis of the usage here.

            Still, it may be part of the problem is (1) the natural inconsistency of even saints still being human :), and (2) the fact that his mind may have already been thinking in terms of the essence/existence composition of beings even in contexts where it would not or should not have application.

            Much like looking at a picture one should not retain, once seen it is hard not to have appear to one's imagination at inconvenient times! Similarly, once the real distinction either occurred to him or had been demonstrated in his mind (if not in writing), the understanding of the metaphysical composition of being (ens) might constantly intrude into his thought process, even if it had not yet been formally demonstrated. When you consider the sheer mass of his writings, the thought of trying to keep perfect consistency of expression, using natural language, is daunting!

  • weknow

    Is God logically necessary?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Not all philosophers agree on the exact meaning of the phrase, "logically necessary." I would rather answer this way. It is logically possible that God never existed. But we can prove from the things we experience in this world, that God must exist as their ultimate cause. Thus, given that the world exists, it is necessary that God exists.

      • weknow

        So God is logically contingent?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I don't like the word, "logically," in there. Metaphysics can show that in God his essence is identical with his act of existence, which means that -- given his actual existence, he exists necessarily, that is, he cannot not exist.

          Terms like "necessary" and "contingent" usually are used in relation to propositional logic. I am not speaking in terms of logical usage, but metaphysical reality. God does not depend on anything. Therefore God is not a contingent being.

          • weknow

            What is act of existence?

            It sounds like it refers to two things. First, a subject (which in this case is God) and an action (which in this case is the action God engages in).

            Since divine simplicity entails that there is no distinction between what god is and what god does, it seems that "act of existence " betrays that theological commitment.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, I defined "act of existence" as it is used in this article:

            "Whatever other significations metaphysicians give to the term, “existence,” in this essay, I refer primarily to whatever it is in something that actually differentiates it from absolute nothingness. For this reason it is called an “act of existence.” "

            Unless there is no difference between something existing and there being nothing at all, the act of existence is whatever accounts for that something being real. There is nothing theological assumed by this statement.

            One has to be cautious not to assume more than is being asserted. And please remember that, in answering your questions, I am merely describing the findings of the metaphysics of classical theism. I am not putting forth here the philosophical demonstrations that prove such findings.

  • Joseph Noonan

    I would hardly call existential inertia a "recent counterclaim". It seems, on the contrary, to be the default view. Why would something disappear from existence just because the thing that caused it to come into existence isn't there anymore? The latter certainly doesn't entail the former.

    Existential inertia is a principle based on our everyday experience - we don't see things disappearing from existence unless there is some reason for them to disappear from existence. Something must cause things to disappear from existence - it doesn't just suddenly happen automatically. This is the converse of "ex nihilo, nihilo fit". Just as, in our everyday experience, something never comes from nothing, we also observe every day that nothing never comes from something (i.e., something never becomes nothing). I see existential inertia as being just as intuitive as similar principles, like the causal principle, "ex nihilo, nihilo fit", and the PSR, and it is just as experientially supported as these, so I don't really see how you can hold up some of these as absolute certainties while you reject existential inertia as false.

    I should also add that, just like the other intuitive principles I mentioned above, I don't think existential inertia universally holds true. It holds true for everyday experience, but in extreme scenarios, something can stop existing without any cause of its existence's end, just as something can begin existing without a cause in extreme scenarios.

    • Mark

      It holds true for everyday experience, but in extreme scenarios,
      something can stop existing without any cause of its existence's end,
      just as something can begin existing without a cause in extreme
      scenarios.

      Can you give examples Joe?

      Disappearing from existence means different things for different philosophers.

      • Joseph Noonan

        One example would be beta decay. During beta decay, a down quark spontaneously changes into an up quark and a W boson, so the down quark ceases to exist without a cause. After this, the W boson will spontaneously decay into an electron and an electron antineutrino, again without cause. A second example is pair production, when a gamma ray spontaneously decays into an electron and a positron. The gamma ray ceases to exist without a cause. A third example is virtual particles, which spontaneously pop into and out of existence randomly.
        In all three examples, you could rightly point out that the energy making up the particles doesn't go out of existence - that must be true for all interaction due to the law of conservation of energy. However, the particles themselves stop existing, and there is no prior cause of these events - they happen spontaneously.

        • Philip Rand

          Joseph Noonan

          You are incorrect. In all your examples the "transitions" are observed.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Of course decay is observed (albeit indirectly). That's how we know about it. How would that make the example incorrect?

          • Philip Rand

            Joseph Noonan

            Observation is direct creation of transition.

            system -> measurment (observation) <- environment

            Therefore, the conclusion of your examples are incorrect.

            Formally this can be conclusively proven; recent quantum experiments confirm this.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Observation of decay happens after the decay. And it certainly doesn't cause the decay to happen because it doesn't even alter the probability of decay occurring.

          • Philip Rand

            Joseph Noonan

            You are wrong...

            Observation time length alters decay probability. This can be formalised.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Decay probability depends on proper time, not the time that you observe from a different reference frame than the particle's. That's why atmospheric muons can survive their journey to the Earth's surface even though, from the Earth's reference frame, they have been traveling for far longer than their proper decay time.

          • Philip Rand

            Wrong again... we are speaking of transition... therefore, you should be referencing Klein-Gordon equations, therefore the PDF prob(t) is the probability that the decay is measured somewhere (anywhere) within the measurement space at the time (t, t+dt). A small prob(t), for example signifies that the decay has a low probability of being measured.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Wrong again... we are speaking of transition

            I have no idea what you mean by this. We're still talking about the probability of decay, right? The probability that a particle decays in a given time period depends on the length of that time period in the particle's reference frame, i.e., on the proper time. This has been confirmed experimentally - it's one of the most famous tests of special relativity.

          • Philip Rand

            Joseph Noonan

            Transition is the term used to describe a change of a quantum system state to another.

            Transition probability is dependent on the probe's (t, t+dt) used in the experimental measurment.

          • Joseph Noonan

            You're confusing correlation with causation. Of course the transition probability depends on time, and the duration of time measured by a probe also depends on time. Thus, the two will be correlated.

          • Philip Rand

            No, I am not .

            Causality is the effect of a source located a finite distance [r-r'] away that is turned "on" at a time t' be felt a later time t >t'.

            Consider the amount of effort gone in increasing the probe's (t, t+dt) in your muon example to achieve the result. It is the internal process of the measuring instrument that gives you the unitary transformation property for the source.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Consider the amount of effort gone in increasing the probe's (t, t+dt) in your muon example to achieve the result.

            I have no idea what you mean by this.

          • Philip Rand

            The measuring gauge in your experiment has an iron block in way of the probe. This gives an high value for Prob(t) in order to create the conditions, i.e. high probability of muon re-entry of the volume; (t, t+dt) is increased.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I still have no idea what you're talking about. What is Prob(t) supposed to mean? (It looks like the probability of time, which doesn't make sense). What "muon re-entry" are you talking about? The experiment I mentioned has nothing to do with re-entry. And what is (t, t+dt)? That looks like a time interval, where the limit of some quantity would be taken as dt approaches 0, but you have not explained what you are talking about at all.

        • Mark

          There was, in the past on this site, a great discussion about these very things. Dr. B wrote an article here:

          https://strangenotions.com/does-modern-physics-refute-thomistic-philosophy/

          It's very easy to talk past each other and when someone like Krauss says "it spontaneously pop into and out of existence" that means something rather different to him than it would to a Thomist philosopher such as Dr. B. I think I'd do us both a service here and let Dr. Cundy (Oxford PhD in Theoretical Physics) who commented on the article on his own blog lay out the notion of cause as used by you and cause as used in AT tradition. He discusses Beta decay specifically.

          http://www.quantum-thomist.co.uk/my-cgi/blog.cgi?first=44&last=44

          • Joseph Noonan

            This is why I specified in my previous comment that the energy making up the particles doesn't go out of existence. There are still material causes for all of the events in quantum mechanics, due to conservation of energy, but there are no efficient causes. The changes from down quark to W boson and up quark, from W boson to electron and anti-neutrino, from vacuum energy to virtual particle, and from gamma ray to particle-antiparticle pair do not originate from any prior cause. The Quantum Thomist blog doesn't do a good job refuting this because it claims that the down quark is the efficient cause of the up quark and W boson, but this cannot be because the down quark didn't have any property that actually caused the change - it could just as easily have decayed by some other route or not decayed at all at the time when the beta decay happened. It only really makes sense to call the down quark a material cause.

            Now, to address some general points from both of the articles:

            I don't deny the existence of things like act and potency, causes, or any of the other concepts used in Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics. I don't even deny that these ideas played a role in the creation of modern physics - on the contrary, I know that they played an important role, which is why potential energy is still mentioned in physics classes today, and why the word "energy" was derived from words Aristotle used to describe actuality. The only problem I have with using concepts like these is that they are vague, so it is generally better to use the more precise terminology of modern physics. The problem I have with Thomistic metaphysics is not that I think these concepts are invalid, but that Thomistic philosophers make many assertions about these concepts that I don't think are justified, particularly assertions that these concepts universally behave in a certain way in all metaphysically possible scenarios. For example, Dr. Bonnette espouses the principle of sufficient reason, which claims, not merely that "sufficient reason" is a well-defined concept, or that many things have sufficient reasons, or that we should look for sufficient reasons for things, but that absolutely everything has a sufficient reason, and that this is an absolute certainty on par with the laws of logic. Physics in no way supports such claims, and it often contradicts them.

            The supposed basis for Thomistic metaphysics, according to both articles, is the rational intelligibility of the Universe. It is claimed that these concepts are required for the Universe to be intelligible. However, not much justification is given for this claim. I can comprehend a Universe where there is no causality at all, although I don't think any life would be able to live in such a Universe (and I don't think this "no life could exist there" caveat matters because the argument from intelligibility doesn't seem to be an attempt to apply the strong anthropic principle). Regarding the actual world, as long as it is possible for intelligent agents to exist and to create devices that can measure all sorts of aspects of the Universe, the Universe is rationally intelligible. It doesn't matter if, in certain realms far removed from the everyday experience of rational agents and from the functioning of their brains, there are violations of the principle of causality or the PSR. That says nothing about whether the rest of the Universe is intelligible, and, as long as the rational beings are able to create models of reality that allow for violations of the causal principle and the PSR, it also doesn't even affect the intelligibility of those far-removed aspects of the Universe.

            Sound methodology demands that we follow the scientific evidence wherever it leads, even if it violates philosophical assumptions. Even if it is useful to assume a certain metaphysical theory from the start when doing physics, it is counterproductive to then assert that this metaphysical theory must never change. Physics has been revised a great deal since the 1600s. So, too, should the metaphysical assumptions that were originally very important to physicists be revised to fit the current data.

            The true basis for Aristotelian metaphysics is intuition and experience. The weird attempts at trying to argue that reason wouldn't even work if AT metaphysics is wrong don't make much sense and seem much more like arguments that were made up after the fact to try to justify an overconfident level of certitude in AT's claims. AT metaphysics comports well with out intuitions, and it was reasonable for Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas to believe many of its claims given that they fit with the observations people had made at the time. However, intuitions are not a very good reason to believe in something, and we now have more observations to wok with than Aristotle and Aquinas did. We have observations of what happens in conditions and on scales far removed from everyday experience. We should not expect the facts that hold true in everyday experience to hold true there as well.

          • Joseph Noonan

            (I am splitting up my reply because Disqus has seemingly decided to mark any comment long enough to respond in detail as spam).

            This is why I specified in my previous comment that the energy making up the particles doesn't go out of existence. There are still material causes for all of the events in quantum mechanics, due to conservation of energy, but there are no efficient causes. The changes from down quark to W boson and up quark, from W boson to electron and anti-neutrino, from vacuum energy to virtual particle, and from gamma ray to particle-antiparticle pair do not originate from any prior cause. The Quantum Thomist blog doesn't do a good job refuting this because it claims that the down quark is the efficient cause of the up quark and W boson, but this cannot be because the down quark didn't have any property that actually caused the change - it could just as easily have decayed by some other route or not decayed at all at the time when the beta decay happened. It only really makes sense to call the down quark a material cause.

            Now, to address some general points from both of the articles:
            I don't deny the existence of things like act and potency, causes, or any of the other concepts used in Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics. I don't even deny that these ideas played a role in the creation of modern physics - on the contrary, I know that they played an important role, which is why potential energy is still mentioned in physics classes today, and why the word "energy" was derived from words Aristotle used to describe actuality. The only problem I have with using concepts like these is that they are vague, so it is generally better to use the more precise terminology of modern physics. The problem I have with Thomistic metaphysics is not that I think these concepts are invalid, but that Thomistic philosophers make many assertions about these concepts that I don't think are justified, particularly assertions that these concepts universally behave in a certain way in all metaphysically possible scenarios. For example, Dr. Bonnette espouses the principle of sufficient reason, which claims, not merely that "sufficient reason" is a well-defined concept, or that many things have sufficient reasons, or that we should look for sufficient reasons for things, but that absolutely everything has a sufficient reason, and that this is an absolute certainty on par with the laws of logic. Physics in no way supports such claims, and it often contradicts them.

          • Joseph Noonan

            The supposed basis for Thomistic metaphysics, according to both articles, is the rational intelligibility of the Universe. It is claimed that these concepts are required for the Universe to be intelligible. However, not much justification is given for this claim. I can comprehend a Universe where there is no causality at all, although I don't think any life would be able to live in such a Universe (and I don't think this "no life could exist there" caveat matters because the argument from intelligibility doesn't seem to be an attempt to apply the strong anthropic principle). Regarding the actual world, as long as it is possible for intelligent agents to exist and to create devices that can measure all sorts of aspects of the Universe, the Universe is rationally intelligible. It doesn't matter if, in certain realms far removed from the everyday experience of rational agents and from the functioning of their brains, there are violations of the principle of causality or the PSR. That says nothing about whether the rest of the Universe is intelligible, and, as long as the rational beings are able to create models of reality that allow for violations of the causal principle and the PSR, it also doesn't even affect the intelligibility of those far-removed aspects of the Universe.
            Sound methodology demands that we follow the scientific evidence wherever it leads, even if it violates philosophical assumptions. Even if it is useful to assume a certain metaphysical theory from the start when doing physics, it is counterproductive to then assert that this metaphysical theory must never change. Physics has been revised a great deal since the 1600s. So, too, should the metaphysical assumptions that were originally very important to physicists be revised to fit the current data.
            The true basis for Aristotelian metaphysics is intuition and experience. The weird attempts at trying to argue that reason wouldn't even work if AT metaphysics is wrong don't make much sense and seem much more like arguments that were made up after the fact to try to justify an overconfident level of certitude in AT's claims. AT metaphysics comports well with out intuitions, and it was reasonable for Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas to believe many of its claims given that they fit with the observations people had made at the time. However, intuitions are not a very good reason to believe in something, and we now have more observations to wok with than Aristotle and Aquinas did. We have observations of what happens in conditions and on scales far removed from everyday experience. We should not expect the facts that hold true in everyday experience to hold true there as well.

          • Joseph Noonan

            The supposed basis for Thomistic metaphysics, according to both articles, is the rational intelligibility of the Universe. It is claimed that these concepts are required for the Universe to be intelligible. However, not much justification is given for this claim. I can comprehend a Universe where there is no causality at all, although I don't think any life would be able to live in such a Universe (and I don't think this "no life could exist there" caveat matters because the argument from intelligibility doesn't seem to be an attempt to apply the strong anthropic principle). Regarding the actual world, as long as it is possible for intelligent agents to exist and to create devices that can measure all sorts of aspects of the Universe, the Universe is rationally intelligible. It doesn't matter if, in certain realms far removed from the everyday experience of rational agents and from the functioning of their brains, there are violations of the principle of causality or the PSR. That says nothing about whether the rest of the Universe is intelligible, and, as long as the rational beings are able to create models of reality that allow for violations of the causal principle and the PSR, it also doesn't even affect the intelligibility of those far-removed aspects of the Universe.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Sound methodology demands that we follow the scientific evidence
            wherever it leads, even if it violates philosophical assumptions. Even
            if it is useful to assume a certain metaphysical theory from the start
            when doing physics, it is counterproductive to then assert that this
            metaphysical theory must never change. Physics has been revised a great
            deal since the 1600s. So, too, should the metaphysical assumptions that
            were originally very important to physicists be revised to fit the
            current data.
            The true basis for Aristotelian metaphysics is
            intuition and experience. The weird attempts at trying to argue that
            reason wouldn't even work if AT metaphysics is wrong don't make much
            sense and seem much more like arguments that were made up after the fact
            to try to justify an overconfident level of certitude in AT's claims.
            AT metaphysics comports well with out intuitions, and it was reasonable
            for Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas to believe many of its claims given
            that they fit with the observations people had made at the time.
            However, intuitions are not a very good reason to believe in something,
            and we now have more observations to wok with than Aristotle and Aquinas
            did. We have observations of what happens in conditions and on scales
            far removed from everyday experience. We should not expect the facts
            that hold true in everyday experience to hold true there as well.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "Existential inertia is a principle based on our everyday experience...."

      Everybody already knows how things appear to act in the world. The philosopher examines, not only the "how," but also the "why" of the phenomena we observe.

      The point of the article is to show the philosophical reasoning that demonstrates that existential inertia is a false doctrine. To do that, I explore the rational intelligibility of the continued existence of things in the world. I offer specific analysis of the proper metaphysical principles that govern all existing things, especially the principle of sufficient reason which is key to understanding why things cannot explain their own continued existence unless they possess the infinite power needed to keep themselves in existence as opposed to falling back into nothingness.

      The arguments supporting my theses -- none of which you directly address and attempt to refute -- are in the article. You need to do the rational heavy-lifting of offering specific objections to my line of reasoning and proving you are right and I am wrong.

      This is not what you do above. You merely say, "It doesn't look that way."

      But we knew that to begin with.

      • Joseph Noonan

        My comment above is not meant to address the entire article. I will get to the rest of the article when I have time (likely sometime next week), but I didn't want to address the entire article in one long comment because of problems with Disqus (I have written a couple of long comments on previous articles here that Disqus marked as spam, so it seems that my comments will only stay up if I split them into multiple comments).
        I will say one thing now, though, about the PSR. I don't think it is possible to justify the PSR as an absolute truth on logical or evidential grounds, although it can sometimes be a useful principle as a general rule of thumb. However, I think we can go farther than that. The PSR is not only indemonstrable but also disprovable. Consider the following question: Why is the actual world exactly the way it is, and not any other way? If the PSR is true, there must be an answer to this question, some sufficient reason that explains why the actual world is exactly how it is. We have two possibilities for this sufficient reason - either it is necessary, or it is contingent.
        The sufficient reason can't be necessary because, if A is necessary, and A is sufficient for B, then B is also necessary. In this case, that means that, if the sufficient reason is necessary, then the exact state of the actual world is necessary. This is known as modal collapse, the position that there is only one possible world. However, it is clearly false because the world could have been otherwise. It is logically, metaphysically, and even physically possible that unicorns could exist, but they don't.

        Therefore, if there is a sufficient reason, it must be contingent. But this cannot be either because anything contingent is part of the exact state of the actual world. Trying to use something contingent as an explanation for everything contingent is clearly untenable because it is a circular explanation, and thus not an explanation at all. Therefore, by reductio ad absurdum, we must conclude that the PSR is false.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          "I don't think it is possible to justify the PSR as an absolute truth on logical or evidential grounds, although it can sometimes be a useful principle as a general rule of thumb."

          Did you read my article on "Certitude," which spells out the case for the PSR? Can you refute my reasoning in the section on the principle of sufficient reason there? https://strangenotions.com/why-reason-demands-absolute-certitudes/

          As for your supposed logical argument against the PSR, it fails because of certain ambiguities in the meaning of necessary and contingent. Do these terms refer to propositions or to beings. Also, do they consider suppositional necessity.

          The actual state of the world and God illustrates that this is not as simple as your argument supposes.

          Is the existence of this world necessary or contingent? It is contingent in that there is nothing inherent in this world that, considered in itself, necessitates its existence. But it is necessary by suppositional necessity in that, if God chooses to create it, then its existence becomes necessary.

          Is God's very existence a necessary reason for the world existing? Of course, since he creates it. But is it necessary that God create this particular world. Of course not, since God is eternally free with respect to his doing anything not necessary to his own existence and happiness, such as creating this particular world.

          Thus, the world's existence is both contingent and necessary, depending on how you define your usage of the terms involved. And God's choice to create the world is both necessary (in that he is his own choice in virtue of divine simplicity) and also contingent (in that he is eternally free with respect to his choice of creating finite things).

          Your claim that the PSR is "disprovable" thus fail in light of the inherent ambiguity in its terms.

          And no, do not tell me that I must prove all the above claims I make about God, since I am merely illustrating how the logic of your argument is invalid. It is quite sufficient to show merely that your argument fails should certain variables be true in order to show that it is a false argument.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Did you read my article on "Certitude," which spells out the case for the PSR? Can you refute my reasoning in the section on the principle of sufficient reason there?

            Yes, this is actually one of the articles I was referring to above when I said that Disqus deletes my long comments.

            As for your supposed logical argument against the PSR, it fails because of certain ambiguities in the meaning of necessary and contingent. Do these terms refer to propositions or to beings.

            I actually did make this distinction in my original comment on the absolute certitudes articles, but I don't think it's necessary. "Necessary" and "contingent" refer primarily to propositions. A proposition is necessary if it cannot possibly be false and contingent if it could have been false. However, they also refer to beings and states of affairs by extension. A being is necessary if and only if the proposition that said being exists is necessary, and contingent otherwise. Likewise, a state of affairs is necessary if and only if the proposition that said state of affairs holds is necessary, and contingent otherwise. So the terms "necessary" and "contingent" can refer to things in either of these three categories without ambiguity. And that is exactly how I use them in the proof.

            Also, do they consider suppositional necessity.

            No, what you call "suppositional necessity" is something completely different from the type of necessity used in my proof. It is generally referred to as entailment, strict implication, or sufficiency. My proof doesn't need to consider a completely different meaning of the word "necessary" from the one I was using. Rejecting the proof because you thought of a different type of "necessity" is like rejecting a mathematical proof that relies on parity because there is more than one meaning of the word "odd".

            Is the existence of this world necessary or contingent? It is contingent in that there is nothing inherent in this world that, considered in itself, necessitates its existence.

            Then it is contingent. I was not using some notion of suppositional necessity or suppositional contingency any time that I referred to necessity and contingency in my proof.

            But it is necessary by suppositional necessity in that, if God chooses to create it, then its existence becomes necessary.

            There are two problems here. First, God choosing to create the world doesn't make the world necessary. You are confusing, "It is necessary that if God chooses to create the world, then the world exists," with, "If God chooses to create the world, then it it is necessary that the world exists." This is the modal fallacy. Secondly, in my proof above, I was talking not about the physical world, but the actual world, in the sense that the term is used in modal logic. God may have created the physical world, but not the actual world. If God exists, he is a part of the actual world, so he couldn't have created the actual world - otherwise, he would be creating himself.

            Thus, the world's existence is both contingent and necessary, depending on how you define your usage of the terms involved.

            Based on the way that I consistently used the terms in my proof, the world's existence is contingent, which means that the proof still succeeds.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I am going to try to split my responses into multiple comments from now on because Disqus seems to remove any comment that is more than a few paragraphs long.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Did you read my article on "Certitude," which spells out the case for the PSR? Can you refute my reasoning in the section on the principle of sufficient reason there?

            Yes, this is actually one of the articles I was referring to above when I said that Disqus deletes my long comments.

            As for your supposed logical argument against the PSR, it fails because of certain ambiguities in the meaning of necessary and contingent. Do these terms refer to propositions or to beings.

            I actually did make this distinction in my original comment on the absolute certitudes articles, but I don't think it's necessary. "Necessary" and "contingent" refer primarily to propositions. A proposition is necessary if it cannot possibly be false and contingent if it could have been false. However, they also refer to beings and states of affairs by extension. A being is necessary if and only if the proposition that said being exists is necessary, and contingent otherwise. Likewise, a state of affairs is necessary if and only if the proposition that said state of affairs holds is necessary, and contingent otherwise. So the terms "necessary" and "contingent" can refer to things in either of these three categories without ambiguity. And that is exactly how I use them in the proof.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Even so, my reply above still stands. The complexity of ways things can be necessary or contingent has to be considered. And I showed you how these terms can apply to God and creatures without being forced into your claimed conclusion.

          • Joseph Noonan

            That's sort of a non-response. Responding to a refutation of your argument with, "my reply above still stands" isn't an argument at all.

            The complexity of ways things can be necessary or contingent has to be considered.

            This is also not a refutation. Other meanings of the words "necessary" and "contingent" are completely irrelevant to the proof I gave. As I said before, this is like rejecting a mathematical proof that relies on parity because "the complexity of ways a thing can be odd has to be considered."

            And I showed you how these terms can apply to God and creatures without being forced into your claimed conclusion.

            No, you didn't. As I explained already, your reply misunderstands what "actual world" means.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            One of the specific problems with your argument is that it fails to grasp the complexity of God's actual relationship to the world.

            The finite world is existentially contingent in that it depends on God and there is nothing a priori about the nature of God that would demand that he create the finite world.

            But the fact that God actually chose to create the world is both contingent in that he need not have done so (watch the temporal use of the verb), but also necessary in that, given that he did make that choice from all eternity, and given that God is eternally unchangeable, it is not necessary that both God and the finite world exist as they do in relation to each other.

            So, it the usage here properly "necessary" or "contingent?" You cannot answer that question without making some of the distinctions I make above. Your argument is too simplistic.

            Similarly, if "actual world" includes God, the fact that his free choice did not have to be as it is in principle makes it contingent, but given that he did eternally make this choice, suppositional necessity obtains.

          • Joseph Noonan

            The finite world is existentially contingent in that it depends on God and there is nothing a priori about the nature of God that would demand that he create the finite world.

            Then God is not a sufficient reason for the finite world. He is a necessary condition for the world's existence, but not a sufficient one, if this claim is correct.

            But the fact that God actually chose to create the world is both contingent in that he need not have done so (watch the temporal use of the verb), but also necessary in that, given that he did make that choice from all eternity, and given that God is eternally unchangeable, it is not necessary that both God and the finite world exist as they do in relation to each other.

            Obviously it is necessary that, given that God chose to create the finite world, the finite world exists, but that's not what's in question here. The notion of necessity used in my proof is not this suppositional necessity. If God's choice is necessary, and it is a sufficient condition for the Universe's existence, then the Universe's existence is just plain necessary. Not "suppositionally necessary on the assumption that God chose to create it", but absolutely necessary, without making any suppositions.

            So, it the usage here properly "necessary" or "contingent?" You cannot answer that question without making some of the distinctions I make above.

            The reason my argument doesn't discuss this distinction is because my argument only uses one meaning of the terms "necessary" and "contingent", and it's not the suppositional version. Suppositional necessity and suppositional contingency are completely irrelevant to the argument, and the argument assumes that the reader understands that the terms "necessary" and "contingent" are being used in the absolute sense, not in the suppositional sense. If you didn't understand this at first, it's fine to ask for clarification, but you cannot insist that my argument is invalid unless I use the terms the way you want me to. I already explained to you how I was using them in the argument.

            Similarly, if "actual world" includes God, the fact that his free choice did not have to be as it is in principle makes it contingent, but given that he did eternally make this choice, suppositional necessity obtains.

            If this is the case, then God's choice is contingent for the purposes of my argument, which means that, if God's choice has a sufficient reason, that reason must also be contingent.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "The finite world is existentially contingent in that it depends on God and there is nothing a priori about the nature of God that would demand that he create the finite world." DB

            "Then God is not a sufficient reason for the finite world. He is a necessary condition for the world's existence, but not a sufficient one, if this claim is correct." JN

            This is where you reveal that your lack of knowledge of metaphysics makes your argument defective.

            Yes, God is a totally sufficient reason for the finite world, not merely a condition, since God is the complete and perfect cause of the existence of the finite world. Your claim that he is not a sufficient reason is simply and completely false.

            "If this is the case, then God's choice is contingent for the purposes of my argument, which means that, if God's choice has a sufficient reason, that reason must also be contingent."

            Here again, lack of knowledge of the specifics of God's choice to create the finite world gets you into metaphysical difficulty.

            God's choice to create the finite world is both perfectly free, which is why the world is contingent, but to say the sufficient reason for that choice must be contingent leads one to ask, "Contingent on what?" The sufficient reason for God's choice is the choice itself. But God's choice is identical with his being which is identical with his nature, which means that it cannot be contingent, since he is the Necessary Being.

            Whatever is in God is there eternally and unchangeably. Now, does that make it contingent or necessary. The concept you are missing is that God is an eternal act of free choice, which means that as being the sufficient reason for the finite world, he absolutely cannot be contingent, even though the world itself is contingent and he did not have to make the choice to create this world.

            God is his own free choice and his own sufficient reason both for his existence and his free choice to create this finite world.

            Your argument fails to grasp the complexity of contingency and necessity in God. This is not a logical problem, but a problem of understanding the metaphysics of God's nature and his relation to his freely chosen effects.

            You can reject my description of God's actual state of existence, but that is not because your argument is correct. Rather it is because you do not grasp the intelligibility of the metaphysics of natural theology.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Yes, God is a totally sufficient reason for the finite world, not merely a condition, since God is the complete and perfect cause of the existence of the finite world.

            Not if the things you just said about God are true. If God's existence does not guarantee that the finite world exists, then by definition, God is not a sufficient reason for the finite world.

            God's choice to create the finite world is both perfectly free, which is why the world is contingent, but to say the sufficient reason for that choice must be contingent leads one to ask, "Contingent on what?"

            You are conflating two meanings of the word "contingent". The meaning of "contingent" that I am using is simply "not necessary", but now you are using a different meaning, which is "dependent on something else". These do not mean the same thing. A brute fact is contingent by the first definition, but not by the second. On the view you are espousing, it certainly sounds like God's choice is a brute fact. It was not necessary that God make that choice, since God is perfectly free. The choice simply is the choice that God made, and there is no further explanation of why.

            The sufficient reason for God's choice is the choice itself.

            Again, this means that you are saying, "God made the choice because God made the choice." That is incoherent. A sufficient reason for something, must, by definition, explain that thing, but a circular explanation is no explanation at all. On the view you are espousing, the correct thing to say would be, not that the choice is its own sufficient reason, but that the choice has no sufficient reason.

            But God's choice is identical with his being which is identical with his nature, which means that it cannot be contingent, since he is the Necessary Being.

            You cannot object to the claim that God's choice is contingent by asserting that it must be necessary because it is identical to God himself. All that means is that your assertion that God's choice is identical to God's nature is wrong because it leads to a contradiction - that God's choice is both necessary and contingent.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, please notice that you are now having to give me all sorts of arguments as to why the real state of things demands that it conform to the terms of your argument. If so, then you are outside the bounds of your "simple logical argument" and engaged in philosophical reasoning that must be added to your "simple logic."

            " If God's existence does not guarantee that the finite world exists, then by definition, God is not a sufficient reason for the finite world."

            This is clearly false. God creates and sustains this unique world, but nothing "guaranteed" that he create it at all, since he was free not to even bother making finite things. And you surely cannot answer this objection within the "simple logic" of your argument.

            "The choice simply is the choice that God made, and there is no further explanation of why."

            To defeat your "logic," it is not my responsibility to explain everything you do not understand about classical theism.
            I don't have to prove each of these theses, but (1) there is no such thing as the "best possible creation," (2) God had reasons to chose one or another of the possible ones, and "3" since different reasons can support different alternatives, there were sufficient reasons for the freely chosen creation.

            "All that means is that your assertion that God's choice is identical to God's nature is wrong because it leads to a contradiction - that God's choice is both necessary and contingent."

            Rather, IF God chooses to create anything at all, he is perfectly free with respect to which creation he makes. Nonetheless, given that from all eternity he is self-identical with the choice he freely makes, that choice becomes suppositionally necessary -- a concept you do not seem to fully grasp.

            All this shows is that you have never studied natural theology and this is why you do not realize that your "foolproof" argument against the PSR fails.

          • Joseph Noonan

            First, please notice that you are now having to give me all sorts of
            arguments as to why the real state of things demands that it conform to
            the terms of your argument. If so, then you are outside the bounds of
            your "simple logical argument" and engaged in philosophical reasoning
            that must be added to your "simple logic."

            There are two problems with this claim. First of all, I am still using logic as the main tool for arguing against your metaphysical assertions. You will notice that all of my arguments are pointing out contradictions in your claims or why they are false by definition. So these are still purely logical arguments. Secondly, even if we were now discussing some other topic, divorced from logic, that still wouldn't mean that my original argument wasn't based solely on logic. Just because you tried to use your metaphysical assumptions to claim that my argument was wrong doesn't mean that the original argument made any metaphysical assumptions beyond what is logically necessary. There are instances where people have tried to claim that certain mathematical theorems are false for philosophical reasons. If someone were to dispute these claims by arguing against them using their own philosophy, it would not mean that the original proof of the mathematical theorem was not purely logical.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            All this shows is that you are still claiming that contradictions exist in the notion of God being his own eternal totally free choice or choices, which alleged contradictions are not really contradictions if you only understood the concepts entailed correctly.

            This isn't a fight between logic and metaphysics, but merely as I just replied to you in another comment, a matter of understanding the nature of God and his freedom properly.

          • Joseph Noonan

            This is clearly false.

            It's literally the definition of sufficient. It can't be false.

            God creates and sustains this unique world, but nothing "guaranteed" that he create it at all, since he was free not to even bother making finite things.

            Then God isn't a sufficient reason.

            And you surely cannot answer this objection within the "simple logic" of your argument.

            Are tautologies not "simple logic"?

            To defeat your "logic," it is not my responsibility to explain everything you do not understand about classical theism.

            You really are not listening to anything I'm saying. I didn't claim that you needed to tell me what the explanation is for there to be an explanation. If you think that there are additional reasons God had for creating the world he did, then a sufficient reason for God's existence would not just be "God", but "God, and the reasons God had for creating this world". However, no matter what those reasons are, it is logically necessary that, if they are indeed sufficient for the existence of the world we know, at least some of them must be contingent because the overall sufficient reason for the existence of the contingent world must be contingent itself.

            Rather, IF God chooses to create anything at all, he is perfectly free with respect to which creation he makes. Nonetheless, given that from all eternity he is self-identical with the choice he freely makes, that choice becomes suppositionally necessary -- a concept you do not seem to fully grasp.

            Repeating the same claim over and over again doesn't make it true. I've already explained multiple times why this is logically impossible. And I have no problem grasping your concept of suppositional necessity - it's just that it has absolutely nothing to do with my argument.

            All this shows is that you have never studied natural theology and this is why you do not realize that your "foolproof" argument against the PSR fails.

            Ah yes, the classic Courtier's reply.

          • Jim the Scott

            Geez Joe with you its like watching a guy with a 5th grader's knowledge in biology debate a PhD in Biology over the scientific truth of evolution. Only more painful.

            Just splice in the word "philosophy" for biology and "metaphysical" for scientific and "God" for evolution. You are without a clue sir. Naturally I will show you no mercy.

            >It's literally the definition of sufficient. It can't be false.

            But we are literally discussing the definition of the philosophical concept of "the principle of sufficient reason" not the mere adjective "sufficient". Nice fallacy of equivocation you have there.

            >Then God isn't a sufficient reason.

            How so? What does the possibility God could have chosen not to create the world have to do with Him being the sufficient reason for it or not?

            Do explain to us how you are gravely misunderstanding this concept before it becomes even more comical than it already is for the love of pete?

            >Are tautologies not "simple logic"?

            Not as simple as the lame objections of New Atheists who are notoriously philosophically incompetent.

            >You really are not listening to anything I'm saying.

            We don't care. You are offering a polemic of our views. At least have the common decency to attack our actual views and not waste time on the straw man of yer own making.

            >I didn't claim that you needed to tell me what the explanation is for there to be an explanation. If you think that there are additional reasons God had for creating the world he did, then a sufficient reason for God's existence would not just be "God", but "God, and the reasons God had for creating this world".

            So many errors here to destroy? Where too begin? I guess I will just do it randomly. First there is no real distinction between God's Being and Essence ergo God is His Own Attributes. So God's reasons are God since anything that subsists in the divine essence is God. So the reason God has for creating(which subsists in his essence) is God thus God is still His own reason and thus the sufficient reason for creating the world.

            Third the PSR deals with explanations for why something exists. Whatever God's reason (which given the divine simplicity is God Himself)for creating is by definition ineffable since the divine essence by definition is incomprehensible. So we can't know what it is other than that it is.

            You are equivocating between whatever "reasons" you imagine God has to create (like in the old Negro spiritual "I'm lonely so I will make me a world") with the philosophical concept of the Principle of Sufficient reason. Geez pick up a philosophy dictionary and stop being pedantic! It is tedious.

            > However, no matter what those reasons are, it is logically necessary that, if they are indeed sufficient for the existence of the world we know, at least some of them must be contingent because the overall sufficient reason for the existence of the contingent world must be contingent itself.

            So you are here trying to equivocate between the Rationalist version of the PSR with the Scholastic one? The rationalist version of the PSR includes the content of propositions where as the scholastic one excludes them and believe the PSR only applies to existent things. Thus under the Scholastic version a proposition is a being of reason and that is its sufficient reason for its being.

            Dude we are THOMISTS, Aristotelians, scholastics and essentialists here. Keep that false Leibniz nonsense to yerself. We don't accept the rationalist formulation of the PSR. Only the scholastic one. So non-starter....

            >Repeating the same claim over and over again doesn't make it true.

            Follow yer own advice. Stop boring us all to death with yer lame polemics of a version of the PSR we reject.

            Don't make me come back. I am not in the mood.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "However, no matter what those reasons are, it is logically necessary that, if they are indeed sufficient for the existence of the world we know, at least some of them must be contingent because the overall sufficient reason for the existence of the contingent world must be contingent itself."

            But what you are inferring from your argument is that God must be contingent. Am I not right?

            You can make this inference by conflating the alleged contingency of the reasons God chose to make this particular world with his very substance, since in him his substance and his acts of free choice are identical. Right?

            This is where we part company, since you are shifting the meaning of "contingency" from "could have chosen other motives or made another choice" to the divine substance itself is contingent as meaning "could have been otherwise and therefore is not the necessary being."

            These sorts of moves are why one must be very careful in applying seemingly harmless logical categories to very complex metaphysical realities.

            God had before him different sets of possible worlds he could have created with different sets of specific outcomes possible. None of these necessitated his decision, since all the alternatives were compatible with the divine nature and its necessary attributes. Why? Because they were all merely finite goods, none of which are needed for God to be God and all perfect and all good and happy.

            Thus, from all eternity, God selects the choices he wishes by selecting which of the alternative sets of licit scenarios he wishes to freely choose. Given that these are his choices from all eternity, it is suppositionally necessary that God now has made these choices and they become identified with the divine being itself. Hence, given that supposition, God is necessarily now for all eternity as he is, complete with the specific choices he freely made.

            The one great danger in expressing these truths about God is that we are in time and therefore tempted to think in terms of "before he decided" and "after he decided," NEITHER of which is a proper way of understanding the divine eternal nature freely choosing to create or not create.

            This is what your "logical argument" fails to adequately capture in its "perfect logic."

          • Jim the Scott

            @disqus_UdrEJovLRd:disqus

            It is simple Dr. B. Joseph Noonan is confusing the Rationalist version of the PSR(which we reject) with the Scholastic reformulation which we accept.

            Till he admits that fatal flaw he is just gonna repeat the same nonsense and we will both go blind from our collective eye rolling.

            We define the PSR to mean "there is a sufficient reason or adequate necessary objective explanation for the being of whatever is and for all attributes of any being."

            The Rationalists believed the PSR presupposes that propositions are among the things PSR says require an explanation, and that for an explanans to be a sufficient reason for an explanandum involves its logically entailing the explanandum. But while rationalist versions of PSR might endorse these assumptions, the Thomist understanding of PSR does not.

            Joe's modal logic does not and cannot prove "If a sufficient being is the cause of another being then that being must be sufficient" because that would be a clear contradiction since if the second caused being is caused then how can it be sufficient?

            He is without clue. Hey Joe we don't believe in the rationalist PSR. Stop pretending we do.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Whatever is in God is there eternally and unchangeably.

            That still doesn't make it necessary, nor does it make it part of God's nature. If everything in God is necessary, then you are instantly led to modal collapse because God is supposedly omniscient, which means that, in him, there is knowledge of every single fact about the world. If everything in God is necessary, then his knowledge that, for example, the finite world exists, is necessary, which entails that it is necessary that the finite world exists.

            The concept you are missing is that God is an eternal act of free choice, which means that as being the sufficient reason for the finite world, he absolutely cannot be contingent

            This is a non-sequitur.

            even though the world itself is contingent and he did not have to make the choice to create this world.

            If God didn't have to make the free choice, then by definition, the free choice is contingent. But if you also claim that God himself is that free choice, then it follows by the indiscernability of identicals that God is contingent. There is no way to get around this problem. You cannot believe all three of the following at once:
            1. God is necessary.
            2. God is identical to his free choices.
            3. God didn't have to make the choices that he did.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "You cannot believe all three of the following at once:
            1. God is necessary.
            2. God is identical to his free choices.
            3. God didn't have to make the choices that he did."

            You see, you are imposing certain preconceived notions to your understanding of what it means for God to be necessary.

            He is the Necessary Being, meaning he cannot no exist.

            But this does not mean that he is lacking free will and free choice.

            Yes, his free choice is eternally identical with his nature or being.

            From your conflating "necessity" with "determinism," you have imposed a false notion of what "necessary" means in God.

            God is necessary in that he must exist. But it is also necessary that he exist with freedom of choice.

            What you cannot understand is that, being Eternal, God does not sit there, and then later on, decide to do something -- so that his later "choice" is somehow determined by his prior state of existence.

            It is hard for atheists or agnostics to "get" this, but God is an eternal substantial act of free choice, so that while his existence is necessary, he is also eternally freely determining the things that he chooses to create or not create.

            Once again, you are imposing your very faulty metaphysical assumptions into your "flawless" logic about God so as to come up with your desired conclusion -- which happens to be totally invalid.

          • Joseph Noonan

            You see, you are imposing certain preconceived notions to your understanding of what it means for God to be necessary.

            If, by this, you simply mean that I am using the same definition of "necessary" that I have consistently used throughout this discussion, then yes, that's what I'm doing, and it's not a bad thing. You don't get to make your claims true by changing the meaning of "necessary" throughout the discussion.

            He is the Necessary Being, meaning he cannot no exist.
            But this does not mean that he is lacking free will and free choice.

            So far, so good. Like I said, you can't believe all three of the statements at once, but you can believe two of them consistently

            Yes, his free choice is eternally identical with his nature or being.

            And now you've contradicted yourself. If God didn't have to make the free choices that he did, then, by definition (the definition you gave, even), these choices are not necessary. God's choice to create the universe did not have to exist at all, since God could have done something else instead. However, if God's choices are not necessary, but God is necessary, then God's choices cannot be identical to God.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You just cannot wrap your mind around the concept of suppositional necessity, can you?

            We cannot ourselves step outside of time and eternity to understand that God could have from all eternity made a different set of choices than he actually did. But, on the supposition that he did make the choices he does, then it is necessary that they be as they are and cannot be otherwise.

            That is the meaning of being an eternal free act of choice. He could have eternally been a different set of choices. The fact that he is now necessarily as he is follows from him freely determining his own eternal choices. And, no, this does not mean he could have been a different God, since there is only one God.

            You see, we are Monday morning quarterbacking, since we now know something about the actual choices he did make. But then we, being creatures of time, simply cannot understand how he could eternally have made those choices.

            Atheists inevitably stumble badly on this one.

          • Joseph Noonan

            From your conflating "necessity" with "determinism," you have imposed a false notion of what "necessary" means in God.

            I didn't conflate necessity with determinism.

            God is necessary in that he must exist. But it is also necessary that he exist with freedom of choice.

            Again, that alone would be fine, but you are insisting that God could have made choices other than the ones he actually made, which implies that the choices he actually made are not necessary.

            What you cannot understand is that, being Eternal, God does not sit there, and then later on, decide to do something -- so that his later "choice" is somehow determined by his prior state of existence.

            I never claimed any of these things. You are ignoring the argument I actually made and making up some other argument.

            Once again, you are imposing your very faulty metaphysical assumptions into your "flawless" logic about God so as to come up with your desired conclusion -- which happens to be totally invalid.

            On the contrary, you are simply not listening to the argument that I actually made. You are making up supposed metaphysical assumptions that were never mentioned in the argument. Besides, even if this accusation was true, it would still say nothing about my original argument against the PSR, since that argument had nothing to do with God.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Your argument fails to grasp the complexity of contingency and necessity in God.

            Responses like this do not actually say anything. It is kind of like responding to someone who has pointed out a contradiction in your claims by saying that it is just a "mystery" that the claims are true. The problem is not that your claims are too complex. It's that your claims contradict each other.

            You can reject my description of God's actual state of existence, but that is not because your argument is correct.

            The reason I reject your claims is because they are logically inconsistent. It is not because of some metaphysical reason. My arguments are not predicated on the denial of your metaphysical claims. It is the other way around. My denial of your metaphysical claims is predicated on my arguments showing them to be inconsistent.

            Rather it is because you do not grasp the intelligibility of the metaphysics of natural theology.

            I will never be able to grasp the intelligibility of a logical contradiction.

            God's choice does have a sufficient reason, but that reason is not contingent, since his sufficient reason for being and for all his acts is himself and he is not contingent on anything.

            Give me a straight answer to this question: Is God's choice to create the world contingent or necessary? Use the definitions of "contingent" and "necessary" that I have already explained, not a definition based on dependence or suppositional necessity.

            One simple point: Just because some effect is contingent, it does not follow that its sufficient reason must be contingent.

            Actually it does. It's literally the most fundamental rule of modal logic that it does. □(p→q)→(□p→□q)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Is God's choice to create the world contingent or necessary? Use the definitions of "contingent" and "necessary" that I have already explained, not a definition based on dependence or suppositional necessity."

            Frankly, at this point you would have to restate your exact definitions of contingent and necessary, since they are too far back in the thread and I am getting too old to remember everything!

            But I have myself explained how God is a necessary being, while being totally free to create a universe that is thereby itself not necessary.

            The problem with imposing preconceived notions of how necessity and contingency must work is that they are terms often borrowed from intellectual venues that fail to grasp what classical theism is actually holding. You want me to fit classical theism into your vocabulary. How about showing how your vocabulary actually applies to classical theism?

            I think my prior replies to you explain clearly how God can exist as he does and yet creation flows freely from his being without entailing any contradiction.

            Besides, based on the position you took in a parallel thread, what is wrong with a contradiction in God's being? ;-)

          • ~inserted http://disq.us/p/2aehwsc fwiw

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is really not personal, but my computer seems to think that your website contains malware. I am sure it isn't so, but my computer won't listen to me. Sorry. :(

          • Not a problem as it is quotes from your threads wrt Divine Freedom and so it's not something you haven't seen :-}

          • Joseph Noonan

            To say that a proposition is necessary is to say that it absolutely must be true (not that it must be true on some supposition, but that it must be true, period). Another way of saying this is that it is true in all possible worlds. A being is necessary if it is necessary that that being exists. Contingent simply means "not necessary".

            But I have myself explained how God is a necessary being, while being totally free to create a universe that is thereby itself not necessary.

            You haven't actually explained how that is the case, but I won't get into that because it isn't the issue at hand. The problem is that, if God is a necessary being, and if God created a Universe that was not necessary, then God cannot be a sufficient reason for the Universe because God's existence does not guarantee the Universe's existence (otherwise, the Universe would be necessary). You can say that God's choice is the sufficient reason for the Universe's existence, but then God's choice must be contingent, and it cannot be identical to God himself.

            The problem with imposing preconceived notions of how necessity and contingency must work is that they are terms often borrowed from intellectual venues that fail to grasp what classical theism is actually holding.

            The only notions of how necessity and contingency work that I used in my proof are the laws of modal logic.

            You want me to fit classical theism into your vocabulary.

            When did I say this? I don't even know what you mean by this. I'm not asking you to explain classical theism to me using "my vocabulary". I was simply making a logical argument for why the PSR is incorrect.

            Besides, based on the position you took in a parallel thread, what is wrong with a contradiction in God's being?

            If you're trying to imply that I denied the principle of non-contradiction, you're being deceptive. I explicitly said that I accept it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "The problem is that, if God is a necessary being, and if God created a Universe that was not necessary, then God cannot be a sufficient reason for the Universe because God's existence does not guarantee the Universe's existence (otherwise, the Universe would be necessary). You can say that God's choice is the sufficient reason for the Universe's existence, but then God's choice must be contingent, and it cannot be identical to God himself."

            This is precisely why I indicated that you need to better understand the natural theology -- which I just explained more clearly in another comment.

            Do you really think that the medieval scholastics who dealt with this material have a contradiction lurking right in the middle of it all and have not noticed it in eight centuries?

            And you suddenly have?

          • J.N.,
            Near the end or the bottom of https://metachristianity.com/why-create-if-possible-evil-metrics-of-to-create-metrics-of-to-not-create/ is the bolded subsection titled Divine Freedom In Creating & “Does God Change If He Creates?” and there are 12 quotes there which may be of help for context etc.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Also, do they consider suppositional necessity.

            No, what you call "suppositional necessity" is something completely different from the type of necessity used in my proof. It is generally referred to as entailment, strict implication, or sufficiency. My proof doesn't need to consider a completely different meaning of the word "necessary" from the one I was using. Rejecting the proof because you thought of a different type of "necessity" is like rejecting a mathematical proof that relies on parity because there is more than one meaning of the word "odd".

            Is the existence of this world necessary or contingent? It is contingent in that there is nothing inherent in this world that, considered in itself, necessitates its existence.

            Then it is contingent. I was not using some notion of suppositional necessity or suppositional contingency any time that I referred to necessity and contingency in my proof.

            But it is necessary by suppositional necessity in that, if God chooses to create it, then its existence becomes necessary.

            There are two problems here. First, God choosing to create the world doesn't make the world necessary. You are confusing, "It is necessary that if God chooses to create the world, then the world exists," with, "If God chooses to create the world, then it it is necessary that the world exists." This is the modal fallacy. Secondly, in my proof above, I was talking not about the physical world, but the actual world, in the sense that the term is used in modal logic. God may have created the physical world, but not the actual world. If God exists, he is a part of the actual world, so he couldn't have created the actual world - otherwise, he would be creating himself.

            Thus, the world's existence is both contingent and necessary, depending on how you define your usage of the terms involved.

            Based on the way that I consistently used the terms in my proof, the world's existence is contingent, which means that the proof still succeeds.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Therefore, if there is a sufficient reason, it must be contingent. But this cannot be either because anything contingent is part of the exact state of the actual world. Trying to use something contingent as an explanation for everything contingent is clearly untenable because it is a circular explanation, and thus not an explanation at all."

            The problem with these clever a priori arguments is that they fail to accurately describe the complexity of the actual world.

            God is the sufficient reason for the actual world that he created. He did not have to create himself. The actual world is contingent on his eternal choice to create it, but because of the divine simplicity, God's eternal free choice is identical to his very being and hence is as it must be eternally. But, you will say, then he had no free choice! But God is an eternal act of free choice and so the fact that his choice cannot change is a suppositional necessity, much like, having robbed a bank, you cannot undo the fact that you robbed it.

            Your argument sounds good on the surface, but you show me where there is a single illogical step in my description of how God is the Necessary Being who creates a contingent world with perfect freedom.

            Sorry. You actually have to do the metaphysics, not simply make assumptions about how you think things must work without actually considering the complexity of necessity, contingency, and suppositional necessity in God's eternal relationship to this temporal world.

          • Joseph Noonan

            The problem with these clever a priori arguments is that they fail to accurately describe the complexity of the actual world.

            My argument doesn't rely on the external world having any level of complexity. The argument is sound no matter what the external world is like - that's the entire point of an a priori argument. The only type of argument that could "fail to accurately describe the complexity of the actual world"is an argument that uses a model of the actual world. Mine does not.

            God is the sufficient reason for the actual world that he created.

            You still are not understanding what "actual world" means in modal logic. The actual world includes everything that exists and all true propositions about them. If Christianity is true, then God created the physical world, but he could not have created the actual world because, if God exists, then God is part of the actual world. Thus, to create the actual world, God would have to create himself.

            Your argument sounds good on the surface, but you show me where there is a single illogical step in my description of how God is the Necessary Being who creates a contingent world with perfect freedom.

            I already showed you that. If God's choice is necessary, and God's choice is a sufficient reason for the rest of the world to exist, it follows by the laws of modal logic that the rest of the world is necessary. To get around this, you must either reject the claim that God's choice is necessary or reject the claim that it is sufficient for the rest of the world to exist. Out of those, there is only one tenable option - reject the claim that God's choice is necessary. All you have done to get around this is make up a completely different type of "necessity" to claim that God's choice is still necessary. This is the equivocation fallacy.

            You actually have to do the metaphysics, not simply make assumptions about how you think things must work

            That's ironic given that you are trying to use "suppositional necessity" as a substitute for actual necessity. Nothing in my proof makes any assumptions about how things must work - that is the nature of logical proofs. But what you are referring to as "doing the metaphysics" seems to be the pinnacle of making assumptions about how things must work because that's exactly what supposedly universal principles like the PSR are.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "if God exists, then God is part of the actual world. Thus, to create the actual world, God would have to create himself."

            Of course, God does not create the entire actual world as you just defined it. But he does create the finite world that is not actually part of the himself.

            God does not create himself, but he is the sufficient reason for his own existence. God is not the cause of himself as if he were a cause and also an effect, since an effect is a being whose sufficient reason is not totally within itself.

            Your logic does not work because it ignores the metaphysical realities it seeks to define.

          • Joseph Noonan

            God does not create himself, but he is the sufficient reason for his own existence.

            If this is what you believe, then this is where the crux of our disagreement lies. My proof relies on the impossibility of something being its own sufficient reason, which you apparently disagree with. However, the claim that it is impossible for something to the sufficient reason of its own existence is justified. If I ask you, "Why is grass green?" and you respond, "Because grass is green," you haven't really answered my question. Any time you posit something as a sufficient reason for itself, you are doing the same thing. If God is the sufficient reason for his own existence, then the answer to the question, "Why does God exist?" is, "Because God exists," which is not an answer at all.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Now you have really let the cat out of the bag!

            So, your argument is NOT A PURELY LOGICAL ARGUMENT! Your argument depends on your own understanding of what is possible and what is not possible. As you now admit: " My [that is, YOUR] proof relies on the impossibility of something being its own sufficient reason, which you apparently disagree with."

            So, why do you masquerade it all as a purely logical argument? You are simply making metaphysical assertions and masking them in the facade of logical form.

            Your description of why God cannot be his own sufficient reason merely shows that you do not know the standard metaphysics that classical theism has taught for many centuries.

            This is much like the superficial arguments made by people who say if God is the First Cause, then what caused God?

            Unlike creatures, God is not composed of essence and existence. His essence is his very existence, which is why he can be his own sufficient reason, but nothing else can.

            Notice now that this is a metaphysical argument. Where did all your logical argument go?

            You see. These things are NEVER about mere logic!

          • Joseph Noonan

            So, your argument is NOT A PURELY LOGICAL ARGUMENT! Your argument depends on your own understanding of what is possible and what is not possible. As you now admit: " My [that is, YOUR] proof relies on the impossibility of something being its own sufficient reason, which you apparently disagree with."

            First of all, an argument that relies on the understanding of what is logically possible and logically impossible is a purely logical proof. That is what modal logic, which my argument makes use of, deals with. Secondly, the argument does not merely rely on "my own understanding". I gave a specific argument there for why something can't be its own sufficient reason.

            So, why do you masquerade it all as a purely logical argument? You are simply making metaphysical assertions and masking them in the facade of logical form.

            In your attempt to get in a cheeky "gotcha", all you have done is build a straw man. It isn't just an assertion - I specifically gave you an explanation of why something cannot be its own sufficient reason.

          • Philip Rand

            Joseph Noonan

            Your response is interesting... it appears that this "sufficient reason" concept is the root of confusion in your "argument" with Bonnette...

            You are stating something to this effect:

            1/ Men who take birth control pills don't get pregnant.
            2/ Bruce is a man and he takes birth control pills.
            3/ Bruce is not pregnant.

            Sufficient reason that Bruce is not pregnant is that he takes birth control pills.

            Bonnette on the other hand is stating something to this effect:

            1/ Men don't get pregnant.
            2/ Bruce is a man.
            3/ Bruce is not pregnant.

            Sufficient reason that Bruce is not pregnant is that he is a man.

            However, note that Bonnette did give you a caveat to get out of this one, i.e. Bruce does not need a sufficient reason not to be pregnant...

          • Joseph Noonan

            You are stating something to this effect:

            1/ Men who take birth control pills don't get pregnant.
            2/ Bruce is a man and he takes birth control pills.
            3/ Bruce is not pregnant.

            Sufficient reason that Bruce is not pregnant is that he takes birth control pills.

            That is not what I was stating.

          • Philip Rand

            Joseph Noonan

            So, is it a contingent "fact" that Bruce is not pregnant... or a necessary "fact" that Bruce is not pregnant?

          • Joseph Noonan

            That depends. By "Bruce is not pregnant", do you mean, "It is not the case that Bruce is pregnant", or "Bruce is a being who is not pregnant"? In the latter case, it is clearly contingent. In the former case, it depends on whether the inability to get pregnant is an essential property of "Bruce".

          • Philip Rand

            Many Questions

            Before offering an explanation, let's be sure there is a fact to be explained.

            Therefore:

            Is "Bruce is not pregnant" not known in the sense of a real thing?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The problem is that you appear to be confusing a reason with a cause.

            Basic metaphysics says every being needs a reason for being or coming-to-be.

            But that does not immediately tell you the existential location of that reason. Logically it can be intrinsic (within the being to be explained) or extrinsic (outside the being to be explained)

            If the reason is extrinsic to the thing to be explained, then it is called a cause. And a thing that does not fully explain itself is called an effect.

            But if a thing is its own explanation, it is simply its own sufficient reason.

            If your "proof" implies anything to the contrary, there is within it a presumption that every being needs a cause, which is not logically true.

            As I said previously, what you are arguing is like those who claim that if the world is caused by God, what then causes God? This is the same fallacy. It assumes that everything must be caused. But the whole point of the proof for God from causality is that, to end the series of dependence on per se causes, there must be a First Cause Uncaused.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Basic metaphysics says every being needs a reason for being or coming-to-be.

            No, that is what you claim based on your intuitions. It isn't a demonstrable fact, let alone "basic metaphysics." You act as if metaphysics is like science in that there is some specific body of knowledge that everyone can agree on.

            Logically it can be intrinsic (within the being to be explained) or extrinsic (outside the being to be explained)

            No, logically, the reason for something's existence cannot be within the being to be explained. You can't explain why something exists by pointing to a property of that being because that is a circular explanation.

            And a thing that does not fully explain itself is called an effect.

            No, an effect is the result of a cause. Your definition makes the assumption that anything that doesn't "fully explain itself" is an effect, which is incorrect.

            But if a thing is its own explanation, it is simply its own sufficient reason.

            A thing can't be its own explanation - that would be ridiculous. "X exists because X exists," is not an explanation, no matter what X is.

            If your "proof" implies anything to the contrary, there is within it a presumption that every being needs a cause, which is not logically true.

            My proof demonstrates the exact opposite of that.

            As I said previously, what you are arguing is like those who claim that if the world is caused by God, what then causes God? This is the same fallacy. It assumes that everything must be caused. But the whole point of the proof for God from causality is that, to end the series of dependence on per se causes, there must be a First Cause Uncaused.

            And as I already explained in my response to that, you are the one saying that everything has a sufficient reason. Just as the "Who created God?" rebuttal would work against someone who claims that everything has a cause, my argument works against someone who claims that everything has a sufficient reason. In fact, my argument is similar to cosmological arguments in that it shows that there must be something unexplained, just as first cause arguments are meant to show that there is something uncaused.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Your description of why God cannot be his own sufficient reason merely shows that you do not know the standard metaphysics that classical theism has taught for many centuries.

            No, just as before, my argument doesn't care what metaphysical claims you believe in as long as they are logically consistent. If your metaphysical claims are not logically consistent, then my argument will not take them into account as possibilities because they aren't possibilities.

            This is much like the superficial arguments made by people who say if God is the First Cause, then what caused God?

            I don't think you actually understand what that argument is supposed to mean. I see it used much more often as a theistic strawman of atheism than an actual atheist argument, but when atheists do use it, it is as a response to naive versions of the cosmological argument that rely on principles like, "Everything has a cause." I'm sure agree that those versions of the cosmological argument are unsound because you don't think that everything has a cause, since you don't think that God has a cause. But any argument involving the PSR is very similar to the naive version of the cosmological argument I just mentioned. The PSR claims that absolutely everything has a sufficient reason, including God himself. That means that, if the PSR is true, the question, "Why does God exist?" must have an answer because that's what a reason is.

            Unlike creatures, God is not composed of essence and existence. His essence is his very existence, which is why he can be his own sufficient reason, but nothing else can.

            Like I said earlier, incoherent claims need not be considered as possibilities, even if they are what classical theism teaches. It doesn't even make sense to say that God's essence is his existence. The essence of something is a purely abstract concept - it is the set of all properties something must have if it exists. Surely, you aren't saying that God is an abstract concept, right? If you are, then we aren't talking about the same notion of "God". Also, saying, "His essence is his very existence," still does not explain why God can be his own sufficient reason when nothing else can, even if true.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            All right. Since you are convinced of the validity of your a priori argument against the PSR, I will finally directly parse its logic.

            "The sufficient reason can't be necessary because, if A is necessary, and A is sufficient for B, then B is also necessary. In this case, that means that, if the sufficient reason is necessary, then the exact state of the actual world is necessary. This is known as modal collapse, the position that there is only one possible world. However, it is clearly false because the world could have been otherwise. It is logically, metaphysically, and even physically possible that unicorns could exist, but they don't."

            Your very first premise is false: "if A is necessary, and A is sufficient for B, then B is also necessary."

            If you studied classical natural theology, you would know that it maintains that while God is the Necessary Being and while he is clearly a sufficient reason for creating the finite world, the finite world's creation by God is entirely free on his part and not at all necessary. So the exact state of the actual world is NOT necessary.

            Now you can argue against this inference of classical theism, but to do so you must step outside the logic of your "foolproof" demonstration. This means that your proof does not work by pure logic alone.

            Also, this position of classical theism that I describe entails that, while the actual state of reality is necessary, it remains logically possible that God could have freely chosen NOT to create THIS finite cosmos, in which case, it remains possible that some other world could have existed.

            Your argument simply fails to encompass the actual complexity of the classical conception of divine nature and the creation of the world.

            And since the first part of your argument entails a clear fallacy, the second part of it is no longer relevant.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Your very first premise is false: "if A is necessary, and A is sufficient for B, then B is also necessary."

            So, you deny the laws of logic. That very first premise is literally one of the basic laws of modal logic.

            If you studied classical natural theology, you would know that it maintains that while God is the Necessary Being and while he is clearly a sufficient reason for creating the finite world, the finite world's creation by God is entirely free on his part and not at all necessary. So the exact state of the actual world is NOT necessary.

            That does absolutely nothing to refute my argument. In fact, all you did there is shoot yourself in the foot. If natural theology claims that God is necessary, God is a sufficient reason for the finite world, and the finite world is contingent, then natural theology contradicts itself. The problem with your reply is that you assumed that natural theology is consistent, when , in reality, if you have accurately portrayed its claims there, it is not.

            Now you can argue against this inference of classical theism, but to do so you must step outside the logic of your "foolproof" demonstration. This means that your proof does not work by pure logic alone.

            No, I can use the exact same logic in my original proof to argue that this claim of classical theism is inconsistent.

            while the actual state of reality is necessary, it remains logically possible that God could have freely chosen NOT to create THIS finite cosmos

            That's a direct logical contradiction.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not even bothering to reply to this one, since I already just gave you a rather detailed explanation of how all this takes place with perfect consistency.

            I cannot help it if you cannot grasp its consistency.

            "If natural theology claims that God is necessary, God is a sufficient reason for the finite world, and the finite world is contingent, then natural theology contradicts itself. "

            The fact you still think you see a contradiction here only proves that you do not understand what I have explained in the other reply.

          • Jim the Scott

            >So, you deny the laws of logic. That very first premise is literally one of the basic laws of modal logic.

            Scholastics believe Modal Logic is flawed. I have no reason to believe "if A is necessary, and A is sufficient for B, then B is also necessary."

            We do classic logic.

            >That does absolutely nothing to refute my argument.

            That is because yer argument is a non-starter since it presupposes the rationalist version of the PSR not the Scholastic One.

            >No, I can use the exact same logic in my original proof to argue that this claim of classical theism is inconsistent.

            You meaning give us a straw man. We reject the Rationalist version of the PSR. Yer argument presupposes a version of the PSR we reject.

            >That's a direct logical contradiction.

            Not at all since yer modal claims are not proven and are not themselves nessesarily true by there own standards.

            You are wasting our time.

    • Philip Rand

      Joseph Noonan

      Existential Inertia is based on mechanics and the judgement one has concerning the choice of reference frame between absolute space and relative space. Newton came up with it with his bucket thought experiment.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        I am having great difficulty reading this entire comment as something other than total nonsense.

        First, my comment has nothing whatever to do with any Newtonian conception of the world, especially since the world is a material entity and my discussion with Ficino had to do with the validity of the ontological application of the principle of non-contradiction to all things, whether material or not.

        Saying that "being" is known in an "intellectual judgment" has nothing to do with Newton either. Anything we know of reality must be known in a judgment. So, what is the relevance?

        If you are going to make grand statements, filled with bold letters, you really have to spell out your reasoning connections -- which you do not do here. Since what you are saying is not even intelligible, I have no idea how to respond to it.

        Your reasoning begins to sound like that of Philip Rand -- to whom I no longer even reply.

  • Joseph Noonan

    I have already explained in my previous comments on this article why the principle of sufficient reason must be false. But, in addition to making this counterargument, I will also address your claims about why the PSR must be true. Your main argument in both this article and the "Absolute Certitudes" article for the PSR is, "If reason is a valid instrument whereby to know the real world, then the principle of sufficient reason must universally apply to reality just as it does within reason itself," but this is a very silly idea for two reasons (which I will separate into two comments so Disqus doesn't take them down).

    First of all, this argument relies on the idea that human reason and reality must have every single property in common in order for reason to be reliable, but that is equivalent to saying that it's impossible for reason to be reliable. Human reason isn't identical to external reality, and therefore, it cannot have all of the same properties. This is not a problem, however, because the claim that reason must have the same properties as reality in order to be reliable is completely unjustified. The only thing required for reason to be reliable is that it works in such a way that beliefs formed by reason are likely to be accurate.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I appreciate that you are taking on my article point by point and offering rational objections.

      "I have already explained in my previous comments on this article why the principle of sufficient reason must be false. "

      And my previous comments have shown why your alleged proof that it is false is itself invalid, since it does not properly grasp the actual nature of the necessary and the contingent as it applies to God. Scroll down the thread.

      Actually, I offered a rather complex argument for the validity of the principle of sufficient reason in both articles, and it was not based saying that reason was identical to reality, but rather that, since reason demands a reason for all claims that are not immediately known, it would be a totally useless instrument unless reality could offer existential foundations such as our use of reason demands. For, when we make rational claims, they are not merely claims within the rational order or order of rational discourse.

      "Since all such claims are claims about reality, the reasons needed for them to be true must be reasons pertaining to the real order of being, or else, such “reasons” are totally irrelevant as to why they would support the truth of the claim about reality being made, since it is a claim about reality, not merely about the way reason functions."

      You cannot demand that we give reasons within the realm of rational discourse and then claim that our discourse does not reflect the need for reasons in reality as well -- or else you make human reason totally useless.

      The PSR is not merely about how likely our explanations are to be correct or how closely they fit reality. It is about the need to give explanations at all. And unless the real world can offer explanations that reason demands, human reason is not merely less precise, rather, it is totally useless, since reason could demand an explanation but none at all would be needed in reality.

      • Joseph Noonan

        And my previous comments have shown why your alleged proof that it is false is itself invalid, since it does not properly grasp the actual nature of the necessary and the contingent as it applies to God. Scroll down the thread.

        And I have explained why the attempted refutations don't work.

        Actually, I offered a rather complex argument for the validity of the principle of sufficient reason in both articles, and it was not based saying that reason was identical to reality, but rather that, since reason demands a reason for all claims that are not immediately known, it would be a totally useless instrument unless reality could offer existential foundations such as our use of reason demands.

        And this is exactly where your article relies on reason having all the same properties as reality. You are arguing that, because reason demands a sufficient reason before accepting a claim as true, reality must do the same if reason is useful. That inference only makes sense if you think that reason must have all the same properties as reality to remain useful. Otherwise, your argument is logically invalid.

        "Since all such claims are claims about reality, the reasons needed for them to be true must be reasons pertaining to the real order of being, or else, such “reasons” are totally irrelevant as to why they would support the truth of the claim about reality being made, since it is a claim about reality, not merely about the way reason functions."

        The reasons required to accept a claim are not the reasons needed for the claim to be true. Stellar parallax is a good reason to accept that the Earth goes around the Sun, but it certainly isn't the reason why the Earth goes around the Sun.

        You cannot demand that we give reasons within the realm of rational discourse and then claim that our discourse does not reflect the need for reasons in reality as well -- or else you make human reason totally useless.

        You are committing the same fallacy that I pointed out in my comment after this one. You are conflating two meanings of the word "reason", and you are conflating a reason for accepting a claim with a reason that the claim is actually true.

        And unless the real world can offer explanations that reason demands, human reason is not merely less precise, rather, it is totally useless, since reason could demand an explanation but none at all would be needed in reality.

        You still have done nothing to demonstrate that reason demands explanations. It only demands a reason for believing in a claim, which is something completely different. You certainly have not done anything to demonstrate that human reason is "totally useless" is the PSR is false.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          There is an essential distinction between (1) the universal certitude that claims which are not immediately evident need to be supported by extrinsic proof and (2) the work of trying to provide an adequate proof of a claim.

          If the human intellect were wrong about that first universal certitude, it would indeed be quite useless, since it would give us no useful direction to rational discourse.

          But this is not the only reason we have for accepting the PSR based on the way the mind works. It is even more forcefully defended by Benignus Gerrity in his Nature, Knowledge, and God, 400-401:

          “The intellect, reflecting upon its own nature, sees that it is an appetite and a power for conforming itself to being; and reflecting upon its acts and the relation to these acts to being, it sees that, when it judges with certitude that something is, it does so by reason of compulsion of being itself. The intellect cannot think anything without a reason; whatever it thinks with certitude, it thinks by compulsion of the principle of sufficient reason. When it withholds judgment, it does so because it has no sufficient reason for an assertion. But thought - true thought - is being in the intellect. The intellect is actual as thought only by virtue of some being in it conforming it to what is; whatever the intellect knows as certainly and necessarily known, it knows as the self-assertion of a being in it. This being which compels the intellect to judge does so as a sufficient reason of judgment. Nothing, therefore, is more certainly known than the principle of sufficient reason, because this is the principle of thought itself, without which there can be no thought. But by the same token the intellect knows that the principle of sufficient reason is a principle of being because it is being, asserting itself in thought, which compels thought to conform to this principle.”

  • Joseph Noonan

    The second problem with your argument for the PSR is the claim that the PSR applies universally to reason. The problem with this claim is that the principle of reasoning that you are referring to as the "principle of sufficient reason", namely, the principle that one ought not believe propositions without a good reason, has little to no connection with the metaphysical claim that you also call the principle of sufficient reason, the principle that every fact has a sufficient explanation for its truth, or that every being has a sufficient reason for its existence. There are two enormous difference between these principles, which you have glossed over by conflating different meanings of the word "reason". First of all, the "PSR" in reason is not about what propositions are true or what beings exist, but about what you ought to believe to be true. Belief and actual truth are not the same thing, nor are they even analogous. For example, for any proposition, either it is true, or its negation is true. But there are plenty of propositions that we neither believe in, nor believe their negations. I don't believe that the number of stars I can see in the sky is even, nor do I believe that it isn't even. If I accepted your claim that the PSR must apply to reality because we require reasons to believe in things, I would also have to claim that the law of the excluded middle doesn't apply to reality, since, based on your argument, it doesn't apply to reason itself.
    The second difference between the "PSR" in reason and the metaphysical PSR is that the word "reason" means something completely different in these two principles. In the article, you explain what it means to say we need a reason for believing in something: "To say that claims need support means that a statement or proposition must somehow be either (1) immediately evident or (2) that some extrinsic evidence proves it is true." However, for the metaphysical PSR, a reason is "an adequate and necessary objective explanation of something." These two definitions of the word "reason" couldn't be more different. The first definition refers to something that indicates that a belief is true, while the second refers to something that explains why a proposition is true. Thus, your argument relies on the equivocation fallacy.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You suggest I am engaging in a type of equivocation in my handling of the need for reasons in discourse and also in reality: " The first definition refers to something that indicates that a belief is true, while the second refers to something that explains why a proposition is true."

      But, the claims of reason I speak about in both articles are not merely matters of belief, but truth claims put forth as propositions about reality. You are suggesting that what belongs to the order of reasoning need not correspond to the order of reality itself, but I have answered that in the article on certitude:

      "Since all such claims are claims about reality, the reasons needed for them to be true must be reasons pertaining to the real order of being, or else, such “reasons” are totally irrelevant as to why they would support the truth of the claim about reality being made, since it is a claim about reality, not merely about the way reason functions."

      • Joseph Noonan

        But, the claims of reason I speak about in both articles are not merely matters of belief, but truth claims put forth as propositions about reality.

        I don't know what you mean by this or how it is relevant. You were, very clearly in my opinion, conflating a rational justification for a belief with a reason for a proposition being true, and those are not the same thing. In fact, they are close to being opposites. When I justifiably believe something, it is because the belief is true that I have justification for it. It is not because of my justification that the belief is true.

        You are suggesting that what belongs to the order of reasoning need not correspond to the order of reality itself, but I have answered that in the article on certitude:

        What are you referring to as "the order of reasoning" and "the order of reality"? And how and why must these things correspond with each other? My response to the quote is in my response to your reply to my previous comment.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          This just comes down to the evident fact that, when we make propositional claims in any discourse, those claims must correspond to actual reality for them to be accepted.

          So, when the intellect demands that we give reasons for assertions, it is also demanding that reality be such as to support the claims. That is why the intellectual order must correspond to the real order to be of any use.

  • Joseph Noonan

    Even if we assume that the principle of sufficient reason is true (and we have very good reasons not to), you still are left with the problem of existential inertia being a sufficient reason. You say, "That something persists in existence still requires a sufficient reason for that persistence." However, if the PSR is true, then things would also need a sufficient reason to cease existing. If you believe that existential inertia is false, you believe that the default state of reality is nothingness and that, without some sufficient reason holding things in existence, they would simply disappear from existence - with no reason. Wait a second, I thought you believed that everything has to have a sufficient reason! Not only does the denial of existential inertia conflict with the PSR, it also conflicts with weaker forms of the PSR, like the law of causality ("Every event has a cause"), since things could pop out of existence with no cause. Thus, as someone who affirms the PSR, you have your work cut out for you if you want to deny existential inertia without having your metaphysics devolve into total incoherence.

    The act of existence needs a sufficient reason for doing whatever it does to make something be real.

    This assumes the conclusion. You are assuming that something must do something in order to continue existing, which is exactly what existential inertia denies.

    So, the natural question is how great a power is required to explain that something exists in reality?

    No matter how great of a power you posit, it will never explain why something exists in reality because to posit such a great power is to assume that said power already exists in reality. It would be a circular explanation and require the power to be ontologically prior to itself.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "However, if the PSR is true, then things would also need a sufficient reason to cease existing. If you believe that existential inertia is false, you believe that the default state of reality is nothingness and that, without some sufficient reason holding things in existence, they would simply disappear from existence - with no reason. Wait a second, I thought you believed that everything has to have a sufficient reason! Not only does the denial of existential inertia conflict with the PSR, it also conflicts with weaker forms of the PSR, like the law of causality ("Every event has a cause"), since things could pop out of existence with no cause."

      You are not thinking in terms of a sufficient reason being a positive reality supporting something in existence. That is why it is absurd to say you need a sufficient reason for something being held in existence to need a cause to make it go out of existence. It is no more mysterious that what happens when you turn out a light bulb by stopping the electricity making it glow. You don't need something positive to make it stop glowing! It just no longer has anything enabling it to glow and so it ceases to do so.

      This is what metaphysicians mean when they say that to take away the cause is to take away the effect. God must continue to keep things in existence or they would instantly cease to exist. It is absurd to say they would then need something to "put them out of existence," any more than a car running out of gas needs a positive cause to make it stop moving!

      And the reason we know there must be a power great enough to keep things existing in reality is simple. Things do exist. So there must be a sufficient reason for them to do so. And that sufficient reason must have enough power to produce that existential effect.

      • Joseph Noonan

        You are not thinking in terms of a sufficient reason being a positive reality supporting something in existence.

        I am not thinking in terms of a claim that already assumes that you are correct. What's the problem there? What you are saying here essentially amounts to saying that things need sufficient reasons to come into and remain in existence, but they don't need sufficient reasons to stop existing. But that conflicts with the PSR, making any argument against existential inertia that uses the PSR self-refuting.

        You don't need something positive to make it stop glowing!

        Actually, you do. In the case of an incandescent bulb, you need it to cool down to get it to stop glowing. The reason it cools down is because it loses energy by glowing and by conduction. So the only reason a light bulb requires something (electricity) to sustain it is because the light bulb is actually causing itself to stop glowing at every instant that it is glowing, and thus, some other cause is needed to counteract that and keep it glowing.

        This is what metaphysicians mean when they say that to take away the cause is to take away the effect.

        My parents caused me to exist. If they die, I will keep existing. Even if the "take away the cause, take away the effect" principle applies in some scenarios, it can't be used as a general rule, so you can't rule out that some things have existential inertia.

        It is absurd to say they would then need something to "put them out of existence," any more than a car running out of gas needs a positive cause to make it stop moving!

        Now you've really shot yourself in the foot. A car running out of gas does need a positive cause to make it stop moving. That's what the law of inertia (i.e., Newton's first law), one of the most basic laws of physics, says. If your philosophy requires you to deny this, then there are some major problems with your philosophy.

        • Jim the Scott

          The Neo-Scholastic formulation of the PSR, states that “there is a sufficient reason or adequate necessary objective explanation for the being of whatever is and for all attributes of any being”.

          The Rationalist version of the PSR OTOH presuppose that propositions are among the things PSR says require an explanation, and that for an explanans to be a sufficient reason for an explanandum involves its logically entailing the explanandum. But while rationalist versions of PSR might endorse these assumptions, the Thomist understanding of PSR does not.

          Philosophers like Peter van Inwagen and Jonathan Bennett presupposing the rationalist version of the PSR argue to the effect that PSR entails necessitarianism, the bizarre claim that all truths, including apparently contingent ones, are really necessary truths.

          But the Scholastic doesn't accept the rationalist version of the PSR,

          Note Mr Joseph Noonan, because you do not understand this distinction this goofs up yer "logical" argument against God being a necessary being(which is related to yer non-starter objections to divine free will).
          Hilarity ensures.

          My dear Mr. Noonan for the love of Darwin please learn the distinction between the Rationalist vs the Neo-scholastic versions of the PSR.

          Also learn the difference between a Metaphysical brute fact vs an epistemological ones while you are at it. So we don't repeat these mistakes.

          Thanks!

          Yer whole counter argument presupposes a version of the PSR we Scholastics and Thomists reject laddie.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          How to put this gently?

          You appear never to have studied metaphysics at all, or else, you would understand what I am saying above.

          I am not going to try to teach you the whole science, but here is an example of the kind of simple error you are making:

          "My parents caused me to exist. If they die, I will keep existing."

          No. Your parents are the (partial) cause of your coming-to-be. When they quit causing you to come to be, you quit coming to be. But now you are here, your continued existence is caused, not by them, but by other causes acting here and now.

          Technically, your parents are what we call, "per accidens," causes. What you need is the continued causality of per se or proper causes to keep you in existence.

          Your grasp of the metaphysical PSR is about as adequate.

          As Jim the Scott explains below, it just isn't what you think it is for Thomists. That is why your arguments simply miss the mark.

          The rest of Jim's reply is spot on.

  • Joseph Noonan

    Your discussion of "power" does not make much sense at all. First, you define power as "the ability to do or make something," but there is clearly more to it than that if the rest of your discussion is correct, since you add criteria, like the criterion that it takes more power to do or make something that a being is more remote from. I wonder what your full definition of "power" is and how you derive these principles from the definition, rather than merely by giving an example (an example is not enough to establish a universal principle). Furthermore, how are you quantifying power? "The ability to do or make something" does not suggest quantity at all.
    Also, if you cannot quantify the difference between being and non-being, how can you call any beings "finite"? To call a being finite is to quantify the difference between said being and non-being.
    Perhaps the biggest problem in your discussion of power, however, is this sentence:

    what is immeasurable is infinite.

    That is completely false. "Infinite" can mean a lot of different things, but the closest thing to "immeasurable" it means is "unlimited". If you don't even have a reference by which to measure something, you can't call it unlimited, because that it implies that you already have some measure of whatever quantity it is unlimited in, and that it exceeds all possible measurements. If you can't even define a measure for something, then it doesn't exceed anything. We don't say that a square has an infinite diameter just because we cannot measure a square's diameter - we say that it has no diameter because the concept of "diameter" doesn't even apply to squares. For an even more to-the-point mathematical example, in analysis, we define the size of a set of real numbers using a measure called the Lebesgue measure. It can be thought of as the length of a set of numbers; for example, the interval from 1 to 2 has Lebesgue measure 1, and the union of the intervals from 0 to 1 and from 5 to 6 has Lebesgue measure 2. Some sets, like the set of all positive numbers, have infinite Lebesgue measure. However, there are some sets for which the Lebesgue measure is simply undefined. Non-measurable sets are not infinite. They have no Lebesgue measure at all, not an infinite Lebesgue measure.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      The problem with measuring the power needed to explain why things exist as opposed to total nothingness is that this an unique context. Every other standard of measurement between finite, but real, things allows some limit against which to measure what is being measured.

      This is not like purely conceptual entities, such as mathematical examples offer. We toss the term, "infinite," around in math like salt on food, but no one thinks that this entails an actual infinite being. Mathematical relations can be incommensurable without entailing an actual infinite.

      But here we have the actual existence of something, indeed, an entire universe of somethings -- all needing an actual sufficient reason able to explain why there is something rather than nothing. This entails what we mean by an act, the most primary act, the act of existence itself. And that act is doing something, meaning exhibiting power, the power to explain reality itself -- as opposed to absolute nothingness -- nor some mere concepts about possible realities.

      When you take "what is immeasurable is infinite" out of context, of course it does not apply to mathematical usage pertaining to the relationship of conceptual things. But this usage in in the context of a real power whose limit cannot be measured against any possible standard.

      As I said in the text, "... there is no way to measure the act by which any being – regardless of what it is -- is distinguished from nothingness." This is unlike any comparison of one finite thing to another, no matter how different they may be. That is also why we intuitively realize the impossibility of making something out of nothing at all, since there is simply no relation at all between non-being and being. But, note, no one is saying that something is being made out of nothing, since the unlimited power to account for existence does not flow from nothingness (as if it were something), but from God whose power is infinite.

  • Joseph Noonan

    Since proponents of existential inertia insist that it would take some external cause to destroy a thing already in existence, the being in question must not be being caused to exist by another. That is because. Removing that extrinsic sufficient reason would “automatically” make the caused being cease to be, since it would have lost its extrinsic sufficient reason for existing and no intrinsic one was postulated.

    You are denying the metaphysical principles you claim to be absolutely certain of if you think something can just automatically cease to exist without some external cause of its ceasing to exist. Even if something no longer has a sufficient reason to exist, that doesn't mean it has a sufficient reason to stop existing.

    No matter how distant a given being is from another given being, non-being is more distant from both of them than they are from each other, since there is not even a proportion of non-being to being, as St. Thomas points out. This shows that non-being is immeasurably or infinitely removed from being.

    The argument from immeasurability is already nonsense, as I explained in the previous comment, but even if I accepted it, this argument would not make sense. An object that is merely continuing to exist is not being created from nothing. Thus, you cannot try to compare it to non-being in order to figure out how much "power" is required to continue existing. The method of its continued existence is not creatio ex nihilo and thus, the way in which it continues to exist involves no comparison with nothingness.
    One must also wonder, if your analysis is accurate, how much power it takes to sustain an infinite being's existence. If it takes infinite power just to sustain finite things in existence, one has to wonder whether even infinite power could sustain something infinite in existence. But that obviously causes problems for God.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "Even if something no longer has a sufficient reason to exist, that doesn't mean it has a sufficient reason to stop existing."

      Here you demonstrate again that you do not understand the metaphysics of causality. If a cause gives from itself a sufficient reason to its effect, that effect has no sufficient reason for being within itself, but receives it from another. If you then remove the extrinsic reason for its being (the cause), it then has no sufficient reason for being either within itself or from another, which means it now has no sufficient reason for being at all. But nothing can exist without a sufficient reason for its existing. Lacking any such sufficient reason for existing, there is now nothing in reality to distinguish that thing from nothingness and it would then be nothingness. It would cease to be.

      You are failing to grasp the positive nature of a cause giving existence to an effect. Turning off that flow of existential support from the finite being is like turning off a faucet. The water of existence must cease to be present.

      "An object that is merely continuing to exist is not being created from nothing. "

      On the contrary, that is exactly what IS happening. God's continued creative causality keeping a finite being in existence is precisely continuing to create the very being of the creature. That is why it must cease to be the moment God ceases to continue that existential support.

      And, NO, it is NOT being "created from nothing." It is continuing to be created by reason of the infinite power of God supporting it in existence.

      You may be deceived by the common parlance that Christians say that God creates the cosmos "from nothing," That is not technically the correct formulation, as can be seen in the Catholic Church's dogmatic definition about creation of the world by God. The correct formulation is that God creates the world "ex nihilo et utens nihilo," out of nothing and using nothing. It does not mean that God takes some "nothing" and turns it into some "something," but rather that God using no presupposed subject, such as matter, simply wills the world into existence through his divine power.

      And yes, it takes infinite power to create anything "presupposing nothing," since, as St. Thomas says, the power is measured not only by what is made, but also how it is made (which is why even creating finite things requires infinite power). God uses infinite power to explain creatures' existence and also it takes infinite power (intrinsic sufficient reason) to explain God's own existence as well. But the difference is that in the case of the creature, the effect is finite, whereas God's self-sufficient intrinsic reason accounts for his own infinite being. It is no metaphysical embarrassment that infinite power is manifest in both diverse cases.

    • Philip Rand

      Joseph Noonan

      Bonnette's position is subtle, his tabled paragraph succinctly "quantifies" Thomism:

      You may be deceived by the common parlance that Christians say that God creates the cosmos "from nothing," That is not technically the correct formulation, as can be seen in the Catholic Church's dogmatic definition about creation of the world by God. The correct formulation is that God creates the world "ex nihilo et utens nihilo," out of nothing and using nothing. It does not mean that God takes some "nothing" and turns it into some "something," but rather that God using no presupposed subject, such as matter, simply wills the world into existence through his divine power.

      God creates the cosmos from nothing is a perfectly rational, scientific hypothesis that is in fact Biblical.

      However, in contrast his Thomist statement that God creates the world "ex nihilo et utens nihilo is simply a philosophical stipulation.

      The thing to note is his monster-barring science and the Bible from his argument... quite subtle.

  • Jim the Scott

    The Neo-Scholastic formulation of the PSR, states that “there is a sufficient reason or adequate necessary objective explanation for the being of whatever is and for all attributes of any being”.

    The Rationalist version of the PSR OTOH presuppose that propositions are among the things PSR says require an explanation, and that for an explanans to be a sufficient reason for an explanandum involves its logically entailing the explanandum. But while rationalist versions of PSR might endorse these assumptions, the Thomist understanding of PSR does not.

    Philosophers like Peter van Inwagen and Jonathan Bennett presupposing the rationalist version of the PSR argue to the effect that PSR entails necessitarianism, the bizarre claim that all truths, including apparently contingent ones, are really necessary truths.

    But the Scholastic doesn't accept the rationalist version of the PSR,
    Note bellow how Joseph Noonan, who does not understand this distinction goofs up his "logical" argument against God being a necessary being(which is related to his non-starter objections to divine free will).

    Hilarity ensures.

    Dear Atheists for the love of Darwin please learn the distinction between the Rationalist vs the Neo-scholastic versions of the PSR.

    Also learn the difference between Metaphysical brute fact vs epistemological ones while you are at it.

    Thanks!