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Materialism’s Failures: Hylemorphism’s Vindication


Scientific materialists propose certain epistemological and ontological claims, allegedly in the name of natural science, that conflict with man’s common sense experience of the world. This article will show (1)  that such claims are not based on sound natural science, but the assumed philosophy of materialism, (2) that the materialist/atomist worldview is fundamentally flawed, and (3) that hylemorphism offers scientifically-compatible alternatives that align with reality.

Materialism's Epistemological Blunder


Human knowledge begins with sense experience, including that of immediately-given extramental  physical reality. Scientists make observations and take measurements of this world and stoutly maintain that a vast physical cosmos exists.

Yet, sensation’s scientific description begins with external physical objects, which impact external sense organs (in vision’s case, the eyes), causing chain reaction impulses through the retina and optic nerve, resulting in changes in the brain’s occipital lobe. This leads many to think that all we really know through sensation is some sort of neural pattern, image, representation, or even “hallucination” inside the brain – a representation, but not a direct experience, of external physical reality itself.

To save natural science from epistemological idealism, many scientific materialists argue that science remains objective, because the brain rather accurately represents external objects. They will cite many scientific tests which appear to confirm that the internal image quite perfectly represents external reality -- so that scientific measurements can be taken as accurate and our depiction of physical reality is “scientifically correct.”

Still, if literally all we know are internal neural patterns or images of external reality, how can we verify their conformity to external reality at all? Even by millions of experiments?

To determine whether A conforms to B entails knowing both A and B. Just to know A, but not B – and still make any judgment at all about A conforming to B – is obviously impossible.

The irresolvable problem is that to judge the conformity of internal experience to extramental reality absolutely requires some direct experience of external reality – even as the basis for all further observations and testing of exactly how the physiology works as well as it does.

Materialism's Encroachment on Science


Scientific materialists often fail to distinguish between (1) the neural changes in the brain and (2) the subjective experience of sensing. The former are physically observable neural patterns; the latter are subjective experiences that cannot be subject to physical observation.

Science traces physiological phenomena from the external world into the brain. Science can say the physical sequence terminates inside the brain. But science cannot say that knowledge takes place inside the brain, because knowledge is not itself an observable phenomenon. Science can look at neural patterns “from the outside,” but it cannot look at subjective sense experience “from the inside.”

Sensory neural activity is located inside the brain. But, the only way to infer from that fact that all knowledge is located inside the brain is by illicitly adding the assumption that sense knowledge is a purely material phenomenon, which can be spatially located. Such an assumption does not come from natural science, but from the philosophy of materialism.

When metaphysical materialism’s philosophical claims are gratuitously added to the findings of natural science, they turn scientists into bad philosophers and make their proclamations the conclusions of bad philosophy, rather than good science.

The Immateriality of Sense Experience


If sense knowledge is claimed to take place solely in the brain, this means that (1) the act of knowing and (2) the object known must be physically located inside the brain. And yet, as I have shown elsewhere, sense experience itself cannot be a purely physical entity.

While material things are extended and located in space, sense experience is immaterial in that it is neither extended in space nor physically located. This does not mean that sense experience is spiritual in nature, since spiritual entities are not only not extended in space but also are existentially independent of anything that is extended in space. Still, sense experience depends on material organs for its operation.

Sense experience must not be confused with a sense image. Sense experience begins with direct apprehension of an extramental object, such as a menacing lion. But, a sense image is merely an internal representation of some previously experienced sensed object. The present discussion is primarily about sense experience of extramental things, not images – although both are immaterial entities as evinced by them not being extended in space.

Sense experience is of the whole object seen (in the case of vision). When we see a tree, we see the whole tree – top and bottom, left and right side – all at once in a single act of sensing. The only way any physical entity can represent the whole of any other physical entity is by one part representing one part and another diverse part representing a different part. Thus recording devices store images of objects by using many thousands of diverse bits, each representing a different part of, say, a tree. TV screens and computer monitors do the same, because hundreds of thousands of bits are needed to fully present a screen image.

The old electron gun televisions sweep the screen rapidly with electrons, creating an image composed of illuminated phosphors. While we see the whole picture all at once, the only way to unify the whole image on the screen itself is to collapse the deflection current of the vertical and horizontal output stages, thus making all the electrons hit the same central point on the screen – thereby, creating a single point of light. The image is destroyed. (This phenomenon occurs briefly when you turn off these sets.)  Such a result is unavoidable, since any extended image can be represented on any extended medium solely by having diverse parts of the medium representing diverse parts of the image. Otherwise, all data converges into an indecipherable mass. “Unity” destroys the “image” in purely physical media.

This is because any physically extended image or extramental data must be composed of distinct parts, since all material entities are composed of distinct parts in space. But, if sense experience is of the whole, and yet simple and completely unified, this requires that all such distinct parts be conjoined onto a single “receiving material point” (if that is even possible). But, to do that, all the distinct parts of the data must be so conjoined as to cancel each other’s distinct content, which would make the single “receiving point” totally lacking in any distinct parts, and hence, absolutely incapable of representing the image or data at all. In a word, all data would be so overlayed upon itself as to lose all intelligible or decipherable content. Such analysis would apply even to the most infinitesimally-small physical particles, since whatever is material is extended in space and, as such, has distinct parts.

What this means is that sense experience of an external physical entity is not itself extended in space, whereas any physical entity is always extended in space. Thus, the sense experience of a physically real entity must not itself be a physical entity! And if the sense experience is not a physical entity, this also means that the subjective sense experience cannot be identical with physical brain activity!

Thus, materialism’s central claim that to be is to be physical is dead wrong.

Materialism can be easily tested in our own experience. We see the physical world around us all at once – in a single act that somehow unifies its entire content. We know that material things -- extended in space -- can never unify experience without placing its content on top of itself so as to render its parts indistinguishable and unintelligible. Therefore, we have immediate experience (seeing a whole in a unified act) taking place in a way that contradicts materialism’s basic tenet that all reality is extended and located in space (even energy or force fields).

Moreover, since what is not extended in space is also not located in space, this means that the inference that sense experience is located inside the brain cannot be true. Sense experience of extramentally-given objects simply cannot be located at all, even though it is associated with neural patterns located inside the brain.

Only Partially Dependent on Brain Activity


While sense experience is dependent upon sense organs for its actualization, it is not physically identical to those bodily organs or to the neural activity taking place in them. If brain or end organ activity ceases or is damaged, sense experience ceases or is impaired, which shows some form of dependence of sense experience on brain activity.

But, sense experience actually does something that no purely material entity can do, namely, the immaterial act of unifying the experience of external physical reality, or the internal image, into a simple whole. Therefore, its immaterial nature – precisely because it is immaterial and unitive -- must be superior to that of any purely material organ or neural activity. Now, an inferior cause cannot produce a superior effect, that is, materiality cannot account for immateriality. Thus, while it cannot exist without brain activity, sense experience must get its immateriality from some other source than material brain activity.

Since sense experience is neither located nor extended in space, the fact that it is associated with neural activity that is limited to the inside of the brain offers no reason to assume that experiential content itself must be limited to the inside of the brain – especially given that our immediate experience is primarily of an extramental physical world. But the real question is how can such direct experience of the world take place in spite of being associated with intracranial brain activity? Is there an ontological basis for saying that our senses somehow enable us to directly apprehend extramental reality? To answer this question, we must recognize that materialism misses a central immaterial component of all reality, a component that helps explain how the senses allow the sentient knower to know to its physical environment directly.

What has thus far been discovered is an immaterial act of sense experience, somehow existing “within” us, but not identical with the neural brain activity that scientific materialism mistakenly confuses with sense experience. The question now is how can this immaterial sense experience directly reach an extramental physical world, when the brain activity associated with it is located inside the brain?

Another Materialist Fiasco: No Substantial Forms


As explained elsewhere on Strange Notions, scientific materialism’s “twin sister,” atomism (the claim that all reality is nothing but tiny physical particles) fails to explain a reality that few want to give up, namely, their own existence as living substantial unities. In a video on atheistic materialism I showed that, according to the logic inherent in their own basic claims, atomists, such as Richard Dawkins, do not really exist. Atomism exists as a philosophy, but atomists don’t!

Combine oxygen and hydrogen and you get water. But are water molecules substantial unities, or not? Are they single things, distinct from everything else – or, are they still just oxygen and hydrogen atoms, temporarily sharing outer orbit electrons? If you say they are still separate atoms -- just sharing electrons, that is what atomism implies.

Atomism maintains that nothing really exists above atomic level (whatever ultimate physical particles these “atoms” may really be). That means that no macroscopic, substantially-unified things exist – not cockroaches, not kangaroos, not horses, and not human beings (including Dr. Dawkins). There may be amazingly-complex chemical bonding found in dynamic functional unities based on DNA rules (organisms), but none of it constitutes a substantial unity -- a real being distinct from other things: just countless infinitesimal particles doing a cosmic dance with different sets of temporary partners.

But what if those hydrogen and oxygen atoms really form an existential bond creating a single substantial unity? What if sequoias and zebras and Dr. Dawkins really do exist? Then, what makes them one being?

Here Aristotle’s hylemorphism rescues materialists from the irrational consequences of their doctrine.

Hylemorphism recognizes the necessity of some unifying principle in macroscopic things. This necessary principle is called “substantial form” -- an immaterial co-principle of material beings that makes them substantially one, puts them into a species, and accounts for how they act. Being one substance means that every bodily part shares the same substantial form. For human beings, the form of one’s stomach is not “stomach-ness,” but “humanness.” The form of one’s big toe is not “big toe-ness,” but “humanness.” The human substantial form, or soul (life principle), makes us one being by pervading every iota of our being that is truly “us.”

Some “parts” are not us, such as one’s intestinal flora or the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs. But, if one excluded every part of us reductively, there would be no “us” left to be human. So, whatever in us that is human shares the same immaterial substantial form (soul). If we lose a hand or foot, we are not less human, but there is a little less of us (quantitatively) to be human. Thus, form is present everywhere, and yet, physically is nowhere, since it is immaterial. Substantial form acts throughout the whole substance to make it be one single being of the same nature throughout its whole reality.

How does the substantial form’s immateriality enable sentient beings to directly experience extramental reality? Just as sense experience is not locatable in space, neither is the soul. The soul operates through its faculties, such as sense faculties that enable us to directly know extramental things – as they are given to the end organs of the senses. (Thus, we do not know Alpha Centauri as 4.3 light years away, but as its light is now externally present to the eyes.)

Once materialism’s “located in space” spell is broken, the immaterial soul and its immaterial faculties enable us to interact as a whole with extramental physical things – without having to specify the location of the sense faculties any more than one must physically locate the soul in one’s big toe. The soul and its powers are present in the organism and to extramental reality through its activities, but without us being able to “empirically verify” its exact location, because it has none.

There is no “mechanism” by which sentient organisms directly experience extramental things, since sense experience is not a mechanistic physical thing. Yet, clearly, sense experience exists, is immaterial in nature, and gives direct experience of bodies – as they are extramentally-given to the end organs of the senses.

Materialism's Evident Falsity


While materialism is hugely wrong elsewhere, including its denial of the human soul’s spirituality and its denial of God’s existence, I presently focus on points where materialism’s falsity is most manifest: (1) its failure to recognize that sense experience must be immaterial, and (2) its failure to recognize that substantial forms are real and absolutely needed to explain how real things can exist above the submicroscopic level.

Elsewhere on Strange Notions, I have offered proofs for the human soul’s spirituality and immortality as well as proofs for God’s existence. But those topics have a long history of contentious debate, which can confuse those who do not understand them thoroughly. The present article’s advantage is that it employs phenomena anyone can immediate experience.

No one can honestly deny the unity and wholeness of his sense experience, and no sane person denies his own substantial existence. These immediately-evident experiences, when combined with a little thought about the nature of matter and atomism as explained above, lead to a powerful conclusion that purely physical matter is not all that is real.

We do not live in a world of complex piles of atoms in which nothing has any substantial unity. Rather, substantial forms enable macroscopic things to be real and to be classified according to internal principles of unity and common activity. We do live in a world in which the human intellect can penetrate and classify reality based on whole, substantially-unified beings – from atoms to atomists -- whose natures are revealed through their activities.

Hylemorphism provides realistic solutions to the mistakes of materialism. Materialism traps the materialist inside his own brain from which hylemorphism frees him by pointing out that immaterial sense experience is not spatially located. The human immaterial soul explains the substantial unity of man in which his immaterial sense faculties can be present to the whole body and to extramental reality.

Hylemorphism rescues atomists’ personal existence by affirming the reality of substantial forms, which make them substantially-unified macroscopic beings.

Materialism is empirically contradicted (1) by our ability to sense wholes and (2) by our immediate experience of our own substantial unity – which phenomena are easily explained respectively by (1) immaterial cognitive faculties,  and (2) immaterial substantial forms. Materialism’s failures are remedied by the hylemorphic worldview.

Why would anyone want to be a materialist when materialism cannot even explain how a whole (substantially unified) dog can see and chase a whole (perceptually unified) cat?

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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  • Jim the Scott

    How long before the usual suspects start deploying recycled anti-cartusian polemics and waste everybody's time with non-starter objections....5...4..3...2.....

    • David Nickol

      It's been 11 days, and still no "anti-cartusian polemics."

      • Jim the Scott

        Obviously you have not been reading God Hates Faith's posts.

        Yep.

        • David Nickol

          Not much, anyway. Is he an anti-cartusian?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Not much, anyway. Is he an anti-cartusian?

            Dude I am glad for yer honestly here in implicitly admitting you haven't really been reading the discussion closely. But you do realize that by definition casts doubt on your claim "it has been 11 days and no anti-cartusian polemics".

            You should check first before employing a universal negative. Just saying.....

            Anyway short answer is obviously. He is a dogmatic reductionist materialist and denies all forms of dualism and it is clear he cannot differentiate between the different versions and Dr. B has written about how Descartes says there is only matter and spirit but Aquinas has a third option. GHF clearly sees the idea our subjective senses are immaterial as being identical to Descartes "spirit" view or immaterial substance & not the third option.

            It is obvious. Now I bid you good day.

          • David Nickol

            It's cartesian, not cartusian.

            I have to fight my spell-checker to type it with a u.

          • Jim the Scott

            I have given up fighting the damn thing. But as you all know my spelling sucks and if I didn't have the spell check it would be so so so much worst.

            Sometimes I just say Descartes and be done with it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            An onion by any other name is still an onion.

          • Dagnabbit_42

            Except when it's a satirical news website.

            Or, as one satirical fact-check-site would have it, "a purveyor of fake news."

            Eh, I suppose an onion by any other name still smells a bit and makes folks cry.

    • michael

      Before I fogger I want to ask: Do you believe God is NOT "omnibeneveolent" to us humans since it clearly isn't benevolent to a person to give that person Ebola? Does he love viruses more than that person?

      • Jim the Scott

        Omnibeneveolent literally means All Good which is ambigious. How is God all Good? Well in Classic Theism that all goodness doesn't coherently mean God is all morally good in the unequivocal way a virtuous rational creature is morally good. Just as omnipotence doesn't translate coherently into the divine nature being a champion bike rider which would be absurd.

        "omnibeneveolent" as you understand it is for Theistic Personalist Deities. God is not obligated to protect you from Ebola or create an Ebola free world for yer benefit.

        There is no Moral Agent "god". Go ask the FSM to create an Ebola free world and see what that gets ya.

        Go Classic Theism or go home.

        • michael

          So it doesn't mean benevolent as in willing the good of others?

          • Jim the Scott

            Cut the horsecrap Michael. You define omnibeneveolent to mean allowing no evil whatsoever. Not evil freely chosen or the accidental existence of any privations whatsoever. Classic Theists don't define it that way anymore than we define Omnipotence as meaning God can somehow make 2+2=5. He can't and God isn't obligated to make any specific sort of world in the first place and any world he makes He could have made a better one.

            I am sure I said this this before but there is no such thing as God making the best of all possible worlds because there is no such thing as the best of all possible world (& don't ask "What about Heaven" because the Beatific Vision is Uncreated).

            Now get lost and do yer homework.

          • michael

            So it does'nt mean benevolent as in willing the good of others? Answer with a direct YES or NO.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yer false either/or fallacy question doesn't assume my definition of omnibenevolence but yer own definition ergo it is invalid.

            God wills our good by creating us in the first place and giving us truly sufficient grace to be saved in the second place. Neither of these gifts he owes us and therefore any further gifts He could grant he doesn't owe us and He doesn't owe us a world with no ebola.

  • “While material things are extended and located in space, sense experience is immaterial in that it is neither extended in space nor physically located.”
    Neither the formal cause nor the material cause of a material thing is a material thing. Consequently, the formal cause is not extended and has no relationship of place with respect to material things even the material thing of which it is a cause. However, it is misleading to identify the formal cause as ‘immaterial’, although it is not matter. It is extrinsically dependent upon matter for its existence. A better phrasing of your sentence would be, “While material things are extended and have a relationship of place with other material things, sense experience is not a material thing in that it is not extended and has no relationship of place with respect to material things.”

    • Jim the Scott

      I have been skimming threw your blog and some other posts you have made on other blogs. Yer Mathematical knowledge seems most impressive. I think you and Michael Flynn would get on like a house on fire.

      Cheers. Carry on boss.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I don't think you will find the term, "formal cause," in the context of that statement. I was not presenting this analysis in terms of hylemorphism at this stage. What I said was true: sense experience is neither extended in space nor physically located. What matters is that it is not a physical thing, since physicalism claims that all things are physical. That was the point I was making.

      Edit: Actually, if you look further down the article, you will see precisely how I am using the term, "immaterial," and how I myself note the extrinsic dependence of sense experience on material organs:

      "While material things are extended and located in space, sense experience is immaterial in that it is neither extended in space nor physically located. This does not mean that sense experience is spiritual in nature, since spiritual entities are not only not extended in space but also are existentially independent of anything that is extended in space. Still, sense experience depends on material organs for its operation."

  • Phillip Dent

    >Scientific materialists

    I don't know what this is. I'm a materialist, which is a metaphysical interpretation of the cosmos but science is a very different thing. One can do science but this is limited to empirical things, using methodological naturalism, and I don't see how science can work with anything non-material. But that doesn't make materialism "scientific", because science is not a metaphysical enterprise, it's a rigorous physical epistemology.

    >that conflict with man’s common sense experience of the world

    Well science, particularly quantum science does seem contrary to intuition or common sense I guess.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I am in complete agreement with your first paragraph here. If you can carefully distinguish your philosophical materialism from the nature of natural science, we have no dispute.

      The problem is that "scientific materialism" does exist and does try to meld natural science with certain assumptions taken from philosophical materialism to the detriment of both science and philosophy.

      • Chris Morris

        While I would agree that something which might be described as "scientific materialism" exists as an opinion held by some people in the way that, perhaps, "Marxism" still exists as an opinion, I'm struggling to see in what way this can be described as detrimental to science and philosophy.
        I'm not aware of it causing any problem with science - my computer doesn't suddenly cease to function whenever Dawkins expresses an opinion - and philosophy, surely, is all about expressing opinions that can be analysed and criticised.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          As I describe in the article itself, here is how scientific materialism can be detrimental to good science:

          "Sensory neural activity is located inside the brain. But, the only way to infer from that fact that all knowledge is located inside the brain is by illicitly adding the assumption that sense knowledge is a purely material phenomenon, which can be spatially located. Such an assumption does not come from natural science, but from the philosophy of materialism."

          I have read both personal opinions and published articles making exactly this mistake. A good scientist would only describe where the chain of sensation's causes and effects terminates and say no more. Period. But to say that is where knowledge takes place is to misapply philosophy to a legitimate scientific finding.

          Of course, science itself is not affected. But science exists in the minds of men who can be so affected. They are those who interpret scientific findings in a manner consistent with their personal philosophy of materialism.

          We call them "scientific materialists."

          • Chris Morris

            "Of course, science itself is not affected." Depending on what you mean by "science itself" - the activity of applying scientific methodologies or the knowledge we gain from the results of those activities or both - I'm happy that we agree on that. I would also agree that science is a social construct existing in the minds of men (and, as someone whose daughter has a physics degree, in the minds of women too) so that all sorts of social conditioning, philosophies, world views as well as political ideologies affect the way science is funded and research is conducted and interpreted.
            Given this, I would be very interested to see some examples of the articles you mention where an illicitly added assumption of 'scientific materialism' has demonstrably affected the results of research in a harmful way.
            Perhaps you could also give some examples of philosophy being harmed by 'scientific materialism'.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            While I don't have time to play the research game, perhaps this example of philosophy influencing science precisely as in the example I gave in the article, when I pointed out that some scientific materialists claim that what we know is really what takes place in the brain, not the external object as present to the external organs of sensation:

            "But we don’t ‘see’ with our eyes – we actually ‘see’ with our brains, ... "

            This is taken from a site posted by the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in La Jolla, California: https://www.salk.edu/news-release/we-live-in-the-past-and-our-brain-makes-up-for-it/

            And philosophy is certainly harmed -- in the sense of being led away from the truth -- by those who attempt to impose the methodology of natural science on philosophical enquiry by insisting that every objective truth claim must be empirically verifiable, or, by making the claim that philosophy cannot claim absolute objective immutable truths because all scientific knowledge is ultimately tentative and subject to some revision.

          • Chris Morris

            I find it slightly odd that an academic being asked to provide evidence for an assertion would regard that as playing the "research game", however, the example you've provided seems to me perfectly innocuous; finding evidence that the brain has a mechanism for visual compensation of moving objects isn't exactly a re-run of Kant's Copernican revolution. In what way has a scientist emphasising the part the brain plays in interpreting how we see the world harmed the way you or I think about how we experience reality?
            As far as I'm aware philosophy was not just unharmed but actually benefitted from, for example, Logical Positivism. As with any extreme position, philosophers were forced to re-assess their ideas in order to show its weaknesses so that, rather than being led away from truth, they had a more complete understanding of their position.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You don't see any philosophical harm in saying:

            " ... we don’t ‘see’ with our eyes – we actually ‘see’ with our brains, ... " ?

            A central point of my article is that we see neither with our eyes nor with our brains, but by means of an immaterial act of sense experience which cannot possibly be a physical organ or a neural pattern or any other purely material thing or process.

            Instead of arguing about all these generalized questions of the relation of science and philosophy -- about which we can go for a week, why don't you address a central claim of my article, namely, that sense experience is a non-physical reality that physicalism or materialism cannot explain.

            Am I right, or wrong? Is the act of sense experience physical, or is it immaterial, as I have defined these terms in the article?

          • Chris Morris

            No, I don't see any philosophical harm in saying that. I would, perhaps, suggest that, in writing that sentence, they're oversimplifying the results of their research in order to make an attention-grabbing claim but the rest of the paper dilutes that assertiveness sufficiently to provide reasonable balance.
            "Instead of arguing about all these generalized questions..." But your article is making a "generalized" philosophical claim, repeated in your response to Phillip Dent, that 'scientific materialism' exists (presumably, in the same way that 'science' exists - in the minds of people) and has a detrimental effect on science and philosophy.
            If the central claim of your article is that we are presented with a radical dichotomy in that the "act of sense experience" is either entirely immaterial and therefore cannot be explained by physical science or is entirely physical which you believe raises some philosophical problems, then I would say that I think you may be wrong.
            You say that "No one can honestly deny the unity and wholeness of his sense experience..." but, although this seems like 'common sense', it may not be that simple. My twenty years experience caring for people suffering from various forms of dementia suggests to me that this unity is something of an illusion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "As defined by twentieth century philosophers William James and Alfred North Whitehead, for instance, scientific materialism is the belief that physical reality, as made available to the natural sciences, is all that truly exists [Haught2010, pg. 48]." https://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/philosophy/scientific-materialism.php

            Assuming the above is an accurate description of scientific materialism, it does precisely what it ought not to do with respect to the fact that sense experience is not a physical reality.

            That alone is a harmful result. That is why you need to address my arguments as presented in the OP, not simply as you prefer to address it. My proof either stands or falls on its starting point and the inference drawn from it. It is all in the article and were I able to put it into this thread, I would not have had to write such a long article.

            >"If the central claim of your article is that we are presented with a radical dichotomy in that the "act of sense experience" is either entirely immaterial and therefore cannot be explained by physical science or is entirely physical which you believe raises some philosophical problems, then I would say that I think you may be wrong."

            If you read my article, you will see that I explicitly state that sense experience is not entirely immaterial, since strict immateriality constitutes being spiritual. I make the distinction in the text. Sense experience is immaterial solely because it is itself not extended in space or locatable. Still, I explicitly say that it is dependent on matter in some form, which is evinced by the fact that damage to the sense organs or brain impedes sense experience.

            Saying "this unity is something of an illusion" means that you are not even reflecting upon your own direct experience of either external objects or internal images, since, as the article explains in agonizing detail, such apprehension of any whole object necessarily implies unifying the whole -- which no material entity can do.

            Even an illusion is grasped as a whole, which means it is unified in a single act of apprehension.

          • Chris Morris

            Bailey's article seems to be simply presenting the same view as yours so I'm not sure that it adds much to the conversation.
            As I've said before, I'm happy to agree that any opinion which may be labelled as 'scientific materialism' or 'scientism' is mostly nonsense and you, Ed Feser, J P Moreland and many others have all had, as far as I can tell, no problem showing that to be the case in the same way that philosophers had no problem showing Logical Positivism to be a weak view.
            However, what seems to be missing is some evidence that this so-easily dismantled opinion has a malign influence outside of a few academics who, other than writing the occasional book or article, seem to have very little interest in institutionalising their view in a way that would impinge on the everyday world that the rest of us live in.

            You do, indeed, recognise in your article that there must be some material element involved in sense experience but I was answering your post:
            "...why don't you address a central claim of my article, namely, that sense experience is a non-physical reality that physicalism or materialism cannot explain. Am I right or wrong? Is the act of sense experience physical, or is it immaterial, as I have defined these terms in the article?"
            You say that my use of the word illusion means that I'm not "even reflecting upon" my own experience of reality but it may be that we're using different words to describe the same thing. You believe that a 'soul' or 'life principle' provides our unified experience of the world and this doesn't sound very different from something like the Hegelian 'geist' that I feel makes sense of my experience of living in the world.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Referring to scientific materialism, you write that " what seems to be missing is some evidence that this so-easily dismantled opinion has a malign influence ... "

            I would reply that any philosophical position that rules out a priori the existence of God and the human soul has a profound influence on man's entire position and role in creation, and, if untrue, surely has a "malign influence" on his understanding of himself and his need for eternal salvation.

            When you say it does not impinge your everyday world, you are simply saying that you are not interested in the claims of natural and revealed religion, not that it is untrue. If it is true, it should have massive impact on your everyday world.

            Ducking into Hegel's "geist" hardly illuminates the question at issue, since even many German speaking students of his find it most difficult to be certain as to his meaning, and it certainly cannot even be safely identified with mere "consciousness" as to its basic meaning.

            The question is not whether we have what we call a "soul," but rather what is the nature of such a thing, if it exists. Can it be reduced to mere physical reality .... or not?

            This brings one back to the clear and simple question I was addressing in my article: If materialism denies the existence on non-material entities, that is, ones that are not extended and locatable in space, then what are we to make of sense experience itself, since it is clearly not extended and locatable in space.

            The proof that sense experience is not extended and locatable in space is in the article.

            You have still failed to directly address the logic of my proof in the article that sense experience is not extended and locatable in space, meaning that it lacks the essential properties of a physical entity.

          • Chris Morris

            "When you say that it does not impinge your everyday world, you are simply saying that you are not interested in the claims of natural and revealed religion, not that it is untrue." Yes, quite so, although "not interested" is probably putting it too strongly; I'm interested in all of the different ways people have of making sense of the world.
            However, if one particular belief system turned out to be more true than the others I can't, from my present position, see how it would have a "massive" impact on my everyday life.

            "Ducking into Hegel's "geist" hardly illuminates the question at issue..." Well, I suppose it illuminates it to the extent that it seems to me 'geist' is as difficult to pin down as 'soul'. As you say, the question is "what is the nature of such a thing, if it exists..?" and, if an explanation through the physical sciences is not available, then we are left with a description through language which is necessarily imprecise and open to interpretation.

            "You have still failed to directly address the logic of my proof in the article that sense experience is not extended and locatable in space.." Yes, that's because I'm not a 'materialist', scientific or otherwise, and I'm not, therefore, entirely disagreeing with the idea that there is more to our reality than the merely physical. What I am questioning is the view that, a) 'scientific materialism' is more than just an opinion held by a few well-known people, that it causes actual harm to people other than its proponents, and, b) that hylemorphism and the soul are the best, or perhaps the only, alternative explanations for our ability to connect with the world.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, if you are not a materialist, I guess my article isn't really that much addressed to you anyway, is it?

            As for hylemorphism, one might not want to use Aristotle's terminology about "substantial forms" in order to describe whatever it is that makes us a substantial unity, but some non-material reality appears to be playing the role he describes. That part of the article, of course, is found after the section dealing with sense experience as such.

            We may have different estimates as to how many people are scientific materialists, or simply, materialists. But, I think there are a lot of them. And, frankly, I am less concerned about the harm they may be doing to themselves than I am their negative influence on society in terms of undermining the "immaterial" values that have been the traditional cultural underpinnings of Western society.

          • Chris Morris

            If you wrote the article to only engage with materialists whom you believe to be numerous, influential and apparently intent on undermining traditional Western values and whose belief system you're confident that you've proven to be false, it would seem from the response so far that you may perhaps be overstating the problem.
            Personally, I would differentiate 'philosophical materialism' (I agree with Phillip Dent that 'scientific materialism' is a misnomer) from 'political materialism' which I think should be your real target. If anything is undermining immaterial values it can hardly be philosophy or science; in an increasingly materialist society very few people take notice of what philosophers say and I suspect most people tend to regard science as a form of magic rather than materialism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am still perfectly happy just to demonstrate that not all reality is physical, since that opens the door for classical philosophy, including Thomism.

          • Chris Morris

            And, of course, I'm happy to agree with you that not all reality is physical. Although we may disagree about why that is the case, that open door leaves room for a multiplicity of beliefs about that reality and how we should relate to it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Once my article refutes physicalism or materialism through analysis of the simplicity of sense experience, it then makes the prima facie case for some form of hylemorphism, as opposed to the sole remaining main ontology of Cartesian extreme dualism, which, like materialism, also denies the evident substantial unity of macroscopic organisms in this world.

            As for the rest of the Thomistic worldview which I accept and defend, I have some twenty-two other articles on this Strange Notions web site (as can be found under my listing among the "main contributors" on the home page), which spell out in some detail my position on many of its aspects.

          • Chris Morris

            I suspect that you've written that post fairly casually so I shouldn't be too picky about the wording but your "...as opposed to the sole remaining main ontology of Cartesian extreme dualism, which, like materialism, also denies the evident substantial unity of macroscopic organisms in this world" is intriguing enough for me to comment on.
            I presume what you mean by "...sole remaining main..." is that Cartesian dualism is the only alternative to hylemorphism worth considering but I think this is a claim that much current philosophy would dispute.
            As I understand it, Descartes adopted holenmerism in order to resolve problems with hylemorphism which were already becoming evident and argued that both mind and material are unitary substances.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            From what I know of the history of Western philosophy, only three main viable ontological possibilities exist:

            Materialistic monism: All that exists is physical.

            Hylemorphism: Both spirit and matter exist, but manifest as conjoined co-principles of being, with a single substance being composed by them. Only in man does the spiritual principle continue to exist as an independent substance after death.

            Extreme dualism: Both spirit and matter exist, but they are entirely distinct substances.

            Descartes' use of holenmerism arises after insisting on a real distinction of substances between mind and body in man.

            It appears the only logically remaining alternative would be an ontology in which spirit alone is real, but that is not viewed by many as a realistically viable -- probably in view of the immediate evidence of our senses.

            Are you suggesting some other position which is not a variant on those I mention?

          • Chris Morris

            I can understand that you would want to strongly distinguish between hylemorphism and other forms of dualism but I think dualism is a very 'broad church' (I'm not sure whether this term translates across the Atlantic - it's one all politicians here like to use to describe their party) so I would include all sorts of views such as epiphenomenalism, anomalous monism, Derrida's aporia and so on.
            I'm sure most of these views make absolutely no sense to you especially as it seems you only recognise views which necessarily include God but Davidson, in particular, does describe something which feels very much like how I experience the world.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I realize there are not only many churches, but many pews in those churches.

            Nonetheless, It seems to me that there are only three ways to go here:

            1. Some form of monism: spiritual or materialistic.

            2. Hylemorphism in some form.

            3. Extreme dualism.

            For example, Davidson's anomalous monism admits psychological states that do not follow the same laws that govern physical realities. But that would not evade the basic question as to whether one can make the case that such mental states can be ontologically reduced to the physical.

            Either they can or they cannot. This would allow for the claim that, depending on one's answer, either extreme dualism or hylemorphism or some type of emergent materialism obtains. It does not simply obliterate the distinctions I list above.

            In any event, my article makes the inference that acts of sense experience, even though they depend on physical organs for actuation, still have an immaterial component -- namely, not being extended in space -- which demands some immaterial explanation that mere matter cannot give.

            In other words, the modern churches and pews can be logically reduced to the original Three Branches of the Church that England has claimed since Henry VIII. :)

          • Chris Morris

            Ah, yes! Good old Henry - still causing us problems today!

            "It does not simply obliterate the distinctions I list above." Yes, I agree. It leaves me in the position of saying that, ultimately, I don't know the answer (and I don't know whether I can know the answer) but I don't think this puts me in any worse position than anyone else.

            I can't rule out, no matter how unlikely I think it is, the possibility that science will, one day, formulate a deterministic explanation of how our minds interact with the material world but I don't see any AI scientists or neuropsychologists getting close to that yet.
            On the other hand, the idea that one can ultimately and absolutely determine a question which is not determinable scientifically seems to me equally problematical. I don't think any argument in logic, no matter how strong it may appear or how well supported by analogies, can be said to offer an absolute proof by itself so, although I can't help but be impressed by the confidence with which you hold your beliefs, I remain sceptical.

          • Ficino

            Is a car extended in space but its motion not extended in space? Or are both the car and its motion extended in space?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I have told my students for decades, we have no philosophical knowledge except that which we know ourselves. Merely studying the positions of others makes us students of the history of their thoughts, but it does not give us their convictions.

            I can only hope that the logic of my argument and your own intuition about the nature of matter as expressed in the space-time continuum might enable you to come to the same conclusion that I have. To me, my immediate experience of the extended whole of my physical environment makes sense solely if my being is not itself extended with parts outside of parts. To me, physical things just cannot "get" wholes all at once, like we do.

          • Chris Morris

            "...studying the positions of others makes us students of the history of their thoughts, but it does not give us their convictions."
            Yes, I agree that we can't directly transfer a conviction but we all exist in a cultural/language world where empathy allows us to share ideas but in an imprecise fashion. For example, I'm still trying to get a picture of what you mean when you say that we "get 'wholes' all at once". I intuit that it is the same as my picture of us having a conceptual framework which forms significant links between objects such that we can grasp a meaningful picture of our world. Is this the same thing in different words or do the different words make it something different?

            Ficino, my feeling is that the motion is a property of the car so I don't think it is separately extended.

          • Ficino

            I would think so, too. But then, we don't need to posit something immaterial working in or on the car, do we - unless we're committed in advance to a doctrine of a first unmoved mover. We can account for the car's motion by explaining what its engine is doing without positing an immaterial mover in the engine, right? I am wondering whether thinking is analogous. I.e. that a thought isn't made of matter, but it's a product of an operation of something that is made of matter.

          • Chris Morris

            Well, that's a big question! As I mentioned earlier, I quite like Davidson's anomalous monism (partly because it's such a witty name) but, as Dennis points out, it doesn't actually answer the question in any final sense. What it does do is embody a sort of visual metaphor - seeing two different pictures, one with each eye, and being able to recognise a three-dimensional view from them. Where that view gets put together - mind, brain or soul - has so far eluded my capacity to understand so I tend to regard myself as agnostic. I've lived a long and happy life as an agnostic so I don't lose too much sleep worrying about it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I see you folks get up six hours before we do -- finally figured that out. :)

            Glad you explained your understanding of what I mean by "getting the wholes all at once," since that really is not what I mean at all. I suspect you are trying to think too hard!

            I gave what I thought were simple examples, but I guess no one expects philosophy to be simple. I think I gave the example of seeing a tree. You see the whole tree "all at once." Top, bottom, left and right sides. Your whole field of vision is a "whole." You see all that is around you at once. It is not all in perfect focus, since our sight focuses most clearly on the center of our apprehension. But still, it is all seen in the same act of vision. This means that somehow every bit of what is "in front of us" is seen at the same time. A whole rainbow of colors is experienced in the same act.

            That is all. Don't make it more complex or intellectual! Remember this is "sense" knowledge, shared even by dumb bunnies. Animals see wholes, which is why a dog barks at another dog on a TV screen. (But the screen itself can only represent a dog by having thousands of discrete pixels digitally on or off, meaning nothing in themselves or to the TV which also knows nothing at all.) It takes a living dog to see the image on the screen (because it takes an immaterial soul to experience anything at all. side note. don't get stuck in it, please.)

            So the problem then is how can what is so multiple in content be experienced in one act as one total experience? So then follow the rest of the argument, which simply explains that physical "receivers" don't receive in a unified manner, but by having extension in space that requires different parts of the receiver to "receive" or "represent" different parts of the whole -- but nothing gets the whole all at once the way we actually experience it all at once.

            Does that help any? It is important to understand and agree on this first step before trying to solve all the grander parts of our philosophical worldviews.

          • Chris Morris

            OK, I'm still struggling to get your point. So is what you're talking about simply the physical transmission of light from the photo-receptor cells through the ganglion cells and the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus to the occipital lobe of the cerebral cortex?
            If it is then I'm somewhat confused by your mentioning other animals. You say that "Animals see wholes." Where is this assertion coming from? As far as I know, different types of eyes have evolved multiple times - different animals seem to have evolved very different forms of visual perception according to what sort of environment they occupy.

            But, to concentrate on human visual perception for the moment, you say that the problem is "how can what is so multiple in content be experienced in one act as one total experience?" What I can't grasp is why you regard the scene in front of you as being of multiple content. Surely what stimulates the cells of our retina is the light from that scene, whether that scene consists of many things or just one thing. I can't see any logical reason why the evolution of the brain can't explain our ability to make sense of that information. It is, after all, something we learn to do as babies.

            Clearly, as you feel this is such an important problem, I must be missing something but I honestly can't make out what it is.

          • Sample1

            Personally holding to the hypothesis that aside from eyes (seven known independent formations, if memory serves) consciousness itself may have evolved independently in nature and quite differently too. Without knowing how other species exactly perceive reality, it comes off a wee bit human-centric, suspiciously conceited, to think we can know consciousness as a so-called whole.

            Mike, excommunicated!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "I can't grasp is why you regard the scene in front of you as being of multiple content."

            I know you are honestly trying to understand what I am saying. But it is evident from your comments and those of others that you are so used to thinking in terms of the natural scientific description of the physiology/physics of sensation that you automatically interpret your actual experience by translating it into materialistic, evolutionary, biological, optical, and physics terms -- which wind up presupposing their own physicalist perspectives.

            Thus, it is really hard to get you and others just to pay attention to your actual experience -- something much easier for people not so immersed in scientific thinking to do! This does not make them ignorant. In this case, it allows them to see what we actually see.

            That is, that our immediate experience is of being in a physical world we know mostly by sight which gives us the multiple content of our experience as both a whole in itself and as composed of objects we view as wholes. For example, if you are in front of a monitor at this moment, you can see the entire screen all at once, even though you see it as having various forms of discrete content. The words on the screen spread over the screen, even though your are reading whatever ones you focus upon at a given moment.

            Somehow you perceive the screen as a whole, even though it has multiple distinct parts. I am just as much aware of how the physics and physiology works to transmit photons from the surface of the screen through the various stages of sense organs into the occipital lobe of our brains.

            But to think totally in those terms is to ignore the actual experience itself! This is epistemology, not biology or optics. This is a matter of describing without preconceptions exactly what we experience when we see things in the world around us. Without those scientific preconceptions, most people easily see that we see the whole reality before our eyes and yet do so in a single unified act, which is the exact meaning of "seeing as a whole." To see the whole, you must unify it -- otherwise you would only see thousands of individual "pixels," with no one of them "seeing the whole."

            Try this again and see if any of this helps you grasp this very simple insight that shows that the act of experience itself cannot be extended in space-time, like all physical objects must be.

          • Chris Morris

            "...you automatically interpret your actual experience by translating it into materialistic, evolutionary, biological, optical and physics terms... But to think in those terms is to ignore the actual experience itself!" But what is this "actual experience"? I see (and, importantly to me, hear and feel and smell and taste) the world around me but it becomes 'experience' to me when it means something.
            As I say, it takes some time for us to learn what that colourful, smelly, noisy picture in front of us is - apparently the first thing we recognise are eyes - so the idea of "describing without preconceptions exactly what we experience..." just doesn't make sense, or, rather, doesn't seem particularly useful.
            You say that I, and others, who are not altogether accepting what you assert are presupposing things based on our socialisation and that you are the one who is seeing through that to true reality but is it not possible that you are also making assumptions based on your belief system? I know you feel that the logical argument you've presented demonstrates the correctness of your view but the assumptions you've presented in the last few posts - for example, "...the physical world we know mostly by sight..." seems an odd thing to believe when sensory impairments are so common (I'm somewhat visually impaired so sound and smell are very significant senses for me while my daughter is deaf so sight is very important for her) - lead me to think that you may be extrapolating from your personal experience more than you realise.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fear you are still reading more into this than is intended.

            "I see (and, importantly to me, hear and feel and smell and taste) the world around me but it becomes 'experience' to me when it means something."

            I intend no sociological or psychological meaning to the term, "experience."

            You don't have to give significance or meaning to a sense experience in order to have it be "of a whole." That is why I say it appears that even animals, absent intellectual knowledge, still experience as a whole. But we need not use animals, since we have our own sense experience.

            Sense experience is not a psychological, sociological, or meaningful experience. It is just the raw experience we have of being in a physical world that we experience as a whole -- even if we do not understand a whit of it. And yes, we do perceive some objects as being "wholes" in some manner.

            All that matters is that we do have an immediate sense experience that is somehow "one," or else it would not be recognized as composed of various colors, shapes, sounds, smells, and tactile content.

            Back this down to its most primitive possible level, and perhaps, you will see what I mean. Perceiving being in a real world "all at once" is the datum. Explaining such varied and multiple content as being experienced as a whole is the problem. Suggesting that an object extended in space can do this is the impossibility -- otherwise all but some mathematical point in space would have to do the unifying, with all the rest of the extended object being useless. But then the point itself contains overlays of content that render itself indecipherable.

            You cannot even apply the logic of the article's argument until you first grasp what is meant by "unifying the whole" in "sense experience." Words can only paint a picture. I am trying to paint one you can see and understand.

          • Chris Morris

            "It is just the raw experience we have of being in a physical world that we experience as a whole - even if we do not understand a whit of it." But the problem is, my experience tells me that, absent understanding, we don't experience reality as a whole, rather it is just a random jumble of unrelated, meaningless objects.

            "Words can only paint a picture." Yes! This, to me, is at the heart of the problem here - words are all we have, words are the air we breathe - "In the beginning was the Word..." I seem to have read somewhere but words do not have a single, fixed meaning. They are always open to interpretation and misinterpretation to some extent which is why humans are so creative, why social structures and cultures change. We start to become Homo Sapiens when we create a language world to live in, when we start giving names to objects and recognising that we have different faculties for experiencing the same objects. Only then do we start to experience our world as a 'Whole' I think.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, you are using "experience" in a very different way than I am. To cut to the chase, neither man nor animals need intellectual reflection to experience things as wholes. When either you or a bear sees a tree, I submit you see it as a whole. You don't need to go to logging school to do this. And that is all you need to make my piece's philosophical analysis.

          • Chris Morris

            "...you are using 'experience' in a very different way than I am." So it seems but, as I say, words can have different meanings depending on the context so perhaps my context is different from yours, certainly your use of 'whole' still seems unclear to me. If I see a tree I see the bits of the tree that I can see; does that mean I see the 'whole' tree? If a bear sees a tree, presumably it sees a collection of objects that are useful for scratching and climbing; is that seeing the 'whole' tree? To be honest, I have no idea.
            Clearly, from the fact that you haven't felt any need to justify your assertions or show any evidence of where they've come from, what you're saying here must seem to you as the most basic of common sense. However, my experience of the world suggests to me that common sense is rarely very common.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Common sense can serve us pretty well. I like to think of Thomistic philosophy as simply sophisticated common sense. :)

            When you say "I see bits of the tree," the mere fact you add "of the tree" implies a reference to the whole. But more ad rem, the "bits" themselves constitute their own "wholes."

            In a word, every experience of anything at all is of a whole, unless it were of something totally unextended in space, in which case, physically speaking, it would not exist.

          • Chris Morris

            "Common sense can serve us pretty well." Perhaps this is another case of us using the same words to mean rather different things; to repeat what I said earlier, I've found 'common sense' to be not particularly common and quite often to not make 'sense'.

            "...the mere fact you add 'of the tree' implies a reference to the whole." In my defence, it was 1am here, I was tired and wanting to get to bed so rather than typing a long and pedantic alternative I followed your lead and used 'tree'. However, if you regard the 'bits' themselves as wholes, this takes us back to the original problem:
            Let's assume I tell you a story, written from the point of view of an all-knowing narrator, about a fictional Chris Morris who only sees what I, as the narrator, know to be a part of a tree but which is too small and undistinguished to be immediately recognisable as such. Now let's extend his field of vision and completely fill it with other such immediately unidentifiable 'bits' perhaps not even recognisable as objects but simply random pixels.
            I can understand that you would regard even this as a 'whole' which has to be captured by something non-material before it can be transferred to the brain or mind so that the "human intellect can penetrate and classify" it but there do seem to be problems with this view that your assumptions have not so far addressed.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I hate to be redundant, but my reply is actually given in the my comment posted many hours ago now right beneath this one.

            Even a fragment of something, as long as it is extended in space-time, can only be represented on a physical medium by diverse parts representing diverse parts of the original.

            Any attempt to unify those diverse parts of the original as happens in sense experience results in the diverse parts of the subjective "representation" overlaying each other in such fashion as to render the resulting image indecipherable.

            That is why the perceiving faculty cannot be material in nature.

            I don't know how to express this more clearly -- and I think you need to address the very logic of the argument in order to either grasp it or refute it.

          • Chris Morris

            No , my intention was never to attempt to refute your argument. If you remember, I joined the conversation to dispute some of your statements about people who hold a view that you characterise as 'scientific materialism'. In the course of those posts you said some interesting things about the central argument of the article to which I've responded.

            I now feel that I have a slightly clearer idea of what you're saying there and, although I don't agree with the approach you take to the problem, I'm happy to admit that I don't have answers that would provide any sort of 'final solution'.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, it we have come even a bit closer to understanding each other, I guess that is some measure of success! Perhaps, it is best then to adjourn this dialogue for now. :)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It just occurred to me that even were our experience conditioned by and created by sociological and psychological factors, it still would not make one iota of difference to the argument.

            That is because no matter how an image or direct external experience of a whole gets formed, it is still an extended whole which sense experience unifies into one simultaneous apprehension of all its parts. The same logic then applies, namely, that no physical entity could express that unity without destroying its content. Again, this is spelled out in the OP.

          • Ficino

            When you get to Sartre's vision of no longer a chestnut tree but a singular knotty lump, then you confront the frightening Nausea of realizing that "existence" confers nothing, is superfluous - but no, it's abundance, it's prior.

            http://twren.sites.luc.edu/phil120/ch10/nausea.htm

            OMG Sartre! (Ficino runs for cover.)

            ETA Sartre as I'm sure everyone knows denies that the essence is nothing other than the thing itself, as Aristotle and Aquinas say that it is (cf. e.g. In III Meta l. 10 C459). I simply thought of Sartre because Dennis had given the example of a bear and a human who have unified sight of a tree as a whole. Sartre's chestnut tree in the park scene tries to describe what his narrator calls the realization that existence is prior to essence. It's years since I read Sartre, though.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Existence is prior because Sartre takes it as a given, whereas by our choices we impose upon ourselves the essence of our existence.

            This is the same chap, who at about age 14, thought to himself one day, "What if God did not exist?" From this very mature insight, he then structured the rest of his philosophy as the logical inference of his assumed answer to his question.

          • VicqRuiz

            Do you think that dualism is unsustainable?

            I am confident that my wife loves me, and I am convinced that that love is real, not material, and not empirically measurable.

            But if I should develop an abscessed tooth, no application of her love will relieve the pain. Only a session in the dentist's chair will help.

            This and many similar observations and convictions have led me to adopt a point of view roughly that of Stephen Jay Gould's "non overlapping magisteria" which I think is not far from your "extreme dualism" (I think that "extreme" is an unnecessary qualifier, dualism seems to me have only an on and an off switch).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That is not what philosophers have historically meant by extreme dualism. The phrase refers to the Cartesian concept that spirit and matter are completely distinct substances. That led Descartes to have a terrible problem explaining how the mind/soul could interact with the body/matter.

            He hypothesized that it was connected through the pineal gland. Of course, that only miniaturizes the problem, since you still have the same problem of how the mind interacts with the pineal gland!

          • VicqRuiz

            Well then, in response to this comment and my other comment upthread, do you agree that pure materialism and supernatural theism are not the only alternatives, that it is possible to accept neither? If you do agree then we have nothing to dispute here.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fear we have oranges and apples here.

            When one mentions Cartesian extreme dualism, it is normally in the contest of contrasting it with Aristotelian hylemorphism and metaphysical materialism.

            Of course, one can believe in non-material entities, but deny God, and hence, be neither a complete materialist nor a theist.

            I am sure there are many other possible philosophical positions one can take. But the major three normally mentioned are the ones I just numbered above in this comment.

          • Raymond

            This seems like a complicated "god of the gaps" argument. Science hasn't determined what physical or cognitive activities happen once sensations reach the brain, therefore the subsequent activities must be immaterial.

            I personally have no problem with the statement "We don't see with our eyes - we see with our brains."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Too bad you did not bother reading the actual argument I gave in the article.

            It is actually based on a proof that sense experience itself cannot be extended in space, and thus, it must not be physical.

            If you are going to rebut an argument, you should at least do it in terms what it actually says.

          • BTS

            Dennis, Can you clarify the line "sense experience itself cannot be extended in space?" I am not sure what you mean there.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See it in the context of the following paragraph:

            "What this means is that sense experience of an external physical entity is not itself extended in space, whereas any physical entity is always extended in space. Thus, the sense experience of a physically real entity must not itself be a physical entity! And if the sense experience is not a physical entity, this also means that the subjective sense experience cannot be identical with physical brain activity!"

            You asked the meaning, not the proof. The meaning is that sense experience is not something physical, since all physical things are extended in space. It may be dependent upon physical organs, but it is not something that, say, a scientist can observe through his own sense experience, since it is not physically "there" to observe, and yet, it is very real, since it is the act of sensing what we sense.

    • Jim the Scott

      >science is not a metaphysical enterprise, it's a rigorous physical epistemology.

      Thank you! Now tell that to GHF. He thinks this whole discussion involves epistomology not philosophy.

  • Phillip Dent

    >Still, if literally all we know are internal neural patterns or images of external reality, how can we verify their conformity to external reality at all? Even by millions of experiments?

    Science doesn't try to do this and it could not. All science is doing is talking about essentially consistent observations. Science cannot prove these things objectively. Science cannot confirm that this external world is actually and objectively that way, though it's language might characterize it this way for convenience. We might be in the Matrix, and science wouldn't be able to confirm this. This is because science is an empirical epistemological discipline not philosophy or metaphysics.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      All you are saying here is exactly what I say in the article. Science is limited to empirical observations. Science cannot make grand judgments, such as claiming that since visual sensation terminates in the occipital lobe, the subjective experience of vision must take place in the occipital lobe. The only way such judgments can be made is by melding the objective findings of science with some sort of philosophical assumptions, such as those emanating from metaphysical materialism.

      • Phillip Dent

        >Science cannot make grand judgments, such as claiming that since visual sensation terminates in the occipital lobe

        But it doesn't say that. It says that the neural signals from the optic nerve go into the brain. What "sensation" is, is not a scientific but philosophical question.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The term, "sensation," there obviously refers to the entire process by which the senses work. It is not a technical philosophical or scientific term, since I am writing about what science does, but not necessarily using its own terminology in my description of what it does.

          The problem which no one seems to want to address is that at least some people using science come to the conclusion that sense experience is nothing but what takes place in the brain.

          • BTS

            The problem which no one seems to want to address is that at least some people using science come to the conclusion that sense experience is nothing but what takes place in the brain.

            But sense experience darn well MIGHT be nothing but what takes place in the brain. I don't have a position on that yet. We don't know the answer yet. And what is our toolbox for finding the answer? Science. I don't think we can "think" our way out of this problem. Science is the best toolbox to solve this.

            I admit that we may never solve it, but we won't solve it with anything BUT science. (or possibly, an irrefutable, grand miracle from god, but I doubt that).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are not following the logic of my proof in the OP.

            If sense experience is not locatable in space, then it is precisely the sort of thing that natural science is not suited to investigate. That is because natural science deals solely with physical entities, and what is not locatable in space is not a physical entity.

            The problem today is that many people are exposed solely to natural science as being the only possible type of science. Philosophy is also a science and has been recognized as such for thousands of years, but not by those whose education is so narrow as to have been exposed only to experimental science.

            Edit: By the way, if sense experience is NOT locatable in space that exactly means that it cannot be what takes place in the brain because what takes place in the brain is defined as locatable, i.e., "IN the brain!"

          • BTS

            If sense experience is not locatable in space, then it is precisely the sort of thing that natural science is not suited to investigate.

            I guess at the end of the day I don't buy that sense experience is not locatable in space. I think the jury is out. We just don't know yet. Doesn't make me an evil materialist. I am just willing to admit that we don't know. Thoughts, consciousness, sense experience, whatever you want to call it, might just be chemicals or patterns of molecular interaction. I agree with the folks on this thread saying that you need more (some?) evidence to back up your claim.

            Also, as I understand modern physics, and I have just a layman's understanding, NOTHING is exactly locatable in space.

            Lastly, I think the scientific method can and should be used to investigate everything. Every phenomena. Why not? You never know when you might learn something unexpected. At the very least, by investigating with the scientific method you can rule some bad explanations out. You might not get all the answers you want right away, but you can surely start narrow the focus of where the answer lies.

            I won't quibble with the claim the philosophy can be a type of science if we are defining it broadly within a historical context. But I don't think that philosophy is allowed off the hook when it makes claims of certainty about things that are currently under investigation by science.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"I guess at the end of the day I don't buy that sense experience is not locatable in space."

            If sense experience is not extended in space, then it cannot be located in space. Even a limited knowledge of physics should make that evident.

            Clearly, your either do not understand or you reject my philosophical argument, which is explained at length in the article. If you don't understand it, we have a problem. If you reject it, you should be able to articulate its error.

            The basic insight is that sense experience is of wholes, which means it unifies the object known. Either what experiences the object is made of parts, and the various parts are needed to represent the object know -- in which case no single part "gets" the whole. Or else, all the data of the whole is overlayed on a single part, making it useless.

            Now where is the problem with this logic? If there is no problem, I am entitled to conclude that what is experiencing this extended in space whole cannot itself be extended in space, and hence, it is not material -- meaning it is also not locatable in space.

            No one can "make" another see the force of an argument. But if it is a valid argument, you can wait for the cows to come home before science will figure it out -- since science deals only with physical entities. Your wondering whether it might still just be some chemistry in the brain merely proves that you do not accept my proof. But it would be nice if you could demonstrate logically what is wrong with it.

          • BTS

            The basic insight is that sense experience is of wholes, which means it unifies the object known. Either what experiences the object is made of parts, and the various parts are needed to represent the object know -- in which case no single part "gets" the whole. Or else, all the data of the whole is overlayed on a single part, making it useless.

            I cannot (yet) logically demonstrate what is wrong with it until I can make heads or tails of the above. I keep reading it and coming up blank. What does it mean that sense experience is made of wholes? Please re-word that paragraph.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I see skeptics constantly getting stuck on the meaning of "wholes" because they are looking for more in the word than it says.

            All it means is that something complex, extended, multiple is seen all at once. Just as you see the word "one" in one act, even though it is composed of three distinct letters.

            Or, you see a whole cow in a field all at once. These words have their ordinary meaning. Do not try to turn them into a biologist's definition of bovinity, complete with an MRI of every internal slice of the poor beast! And yes, it is okay to mean only the side of the cow you are looking at.

            If you make this difficult enough, I am sure you will not be able to understand its simple meaning.

          • BTS

            Aargh! You come across as so arrogant, Dennis. There's a good teacher in there somewhere, but gosh, that arrogance is annoying.
            That being said, that explanation helps a little. I went back and read the entire piece, though, and it is a tough one. I understand the big picture but I have no idea what you mean in the details. Any chance you could re-write the entire piece at a high-school level?

            This paragraph actually causes me physical pain.
            ;)

            Help!

            This is because any physically extended image or extramental data must be composed of distinct parts, since all material entities are composed of distinct parts in space. But, if sense experience is of the whole, and yet simple and completely unified, this requires that all such distinct parts be conjoined onto a single “receiving material point” (if that is even possible). But, to do that, all the distinct parts of the data must be so conjoined as to cancel each other’s distinct content, which would make the single “receiving point” totally lacking in any distinct parts, and hence, absolutely incapable of representing the image or data at all. In a word, all data would be so overlayed upon itself as to lose all intelligible or decipherable content. Such analysis would apply even to the most infinitesimally-small physical particles, since whatever is material is extended in space and, as such, has distinct parts.

            edit: added your quote at the bottom

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If I were a chemistry professor and came into class and told you how the basics of chemistry science had to be understood, you would not accuse me of arrogance.

            It is simply the nature of the science and one either gets it right or not. Good pedagogy does not demand that the chemist give the whole history of his discipline and then plead ignorance as to which theories are currently acceptable. Would he have to show deference to phlogiston theory and alchemy, or risk being called arrogant?

            The "arrogance" comes in the science itself. If it is true, how does one gently convey that fact? No other discipline is asked to grovel in its presentation of its science.

            I can only beg that you have a little more understanding of the role of the messenger, when the message contains certain truths that are amenable to human reason -- while, at the same time, such claims are not considered sufficiently diplomatic.

            As to the basic insight of the article, I have already written it in various aspects and ways several times even today.

            On rereading my own italicized paragraph above, I apologize for the headache it may well have given you. I was trying to make sure the essence of the proof was given entirely in a single paragraph.

            As to rewriting the entire thing in a longer, less intensive manner, I just finished doing exactly that -- and sending its entirety to a different online journal for publication.

          • BTS

            Dennis,

            If I were a chemistry professor and came into class and told you how the basics of chemistry science had to be understood, you would not accuse me of arrogance.

            True, but chemistry is cut and dry, more or less. If you were a physics professor claiming with certainty that string theory is absolutely true, even though currently untestable, I would get a burr in my Bonnette. (See what I did there? :) )

            Would he have to show deference to phlogiston theory and alchemy, or risk being called arrogant?

            Sending me to my dictionary, yet again, ha ha. Alchemy and phlogiston theory are not science, so the professor would have no need to discuss. if the class were meant to cover the history of science, then yes. See Bill Bryson's book on the history of science. Very, very interesting.

            The "arrogance" comes in the science itself. If it is true, how does one gently convey that fact? No other discipline is asked to grovel in its presentation of its science.

            I guess it depends on your purpose - to pound people into submission with your towering intellect or to persuade logically to win people over to the faith (which I wager is really your goal, though you claim to be merely a philosopher). I still don't think philosophy is a science in the way you want it to be - I'd say its a "fluffy" science - but it's not worth arguing about.

            Never asked you to grovel, just to present evidence and also present the material in a more readable fashion. You say you have, so I would enjoy reading the new version.

            Cheers, I gotta run. Last word is yours if you want it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "True, but chemistry is cut and dry, more or less...."

            Some of the basic parts of philosophy are also. It is just that, because they are not experimentally verifiable, people immersed in natural science experience tend to think basic philosophy is as tenuous as string theory.

            I think I have made my case both in the article itself and in many comments today. If people can discover any truth in what I have written, that is to the good.

            I have expended enough words already.

          • Ben Champagne

            A whole would be any composition of more discrete parts.

          • God Hates Faith

            Dennis I am not sure if you are purposefully being obtuse, or you just can't read.

            If you reject it, you should be able to articulate its error.

            HE DID. He said your premise that "sense experience is not locatable in space" is not sufficiently supported. WHAT DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND???

            (Let me guess, you will claim the answer is in your article, when it isn't).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            To say something is not sufficiently supported is not the same thing as pointing out the errors in its alleged support.

          • God Hates Faith

            Distinction without a difference in this case. Either way, your conclusion is unsubstantiated.

          • God Hates Faith

            Either what experiences the object is made of parts, and the various parts are needed to represent the object know -- in which case no single part "gets" the whole. Or else, all the data of the whole is overlayed on a single part, making it useless.

            Fallacy of false alternatives.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What is the fallacy of false alternatives between saying something is "made of parts" vs. saying it is "a single part" (meaning, obviously, that the "part" and the whole are identical, that is, there is only a single thing)? Since both alternatives allegedly must do the job of "representing" the known object, either the several parts must do it, or else, only one does it. Sounds like a legitimate disjunction to me.

          • Jim the Scott

            I suspect GHF will just answer with another dismissal and dodge. If he was rational he might simply say "I don't now know enough to answer you properly" and go do some reading. Instead he simply nay says and hopes that will work. It doesn't.

            This is what I mean about willful stupidity.

          • God Hates Faith

            Saying "something is made of parts or isn't" is not your fallacy. That distinction by itself is useless without your conclusion. (It would be like saying everything in the universe is either inside this circle or outside it).

            Your conclusion based on that distinction is what creates the fallacy of false alternatives and is the problem--"Or else, all the data of the whole is overlayed on a single part, making it useless."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I have already said elsewhere, either:

            1. You have many parts representing the object known as a whole, in which case there is no unity.

            Or,

            2. You have only a single physical receptor representing the complex object known as a whole, in which case what is known would be an overlay of conflicting data that is unintelligible.

            Either way, a purely physical receptor cannot grasp the unity of a whole object as we do, that is, clearly perceiving a whole object with all its distinct parts in a single, unified act of sense experience.

            If you cannot understand this, I really cannot help you further.

          • God Hates Faith

            If you can't understand why that is a fallacy of false alternatives, I can't help you (especially since I have give countless examples to highlight your errors).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I suspect you just don't like the conclusions that follow from my disjunction.

            Just continually restating that a logical error has occurred does not make it one. If my reasoning from the disjunction between a perceiver with many physical parts vs. a physical perceiver with no parts is invalid, go ahead and spell out why it is.

          • God Hates Faith

            I did. Several times. Your conclusion does not follow from your premises. You have unsupported premises.

          • God Hates Faith

            When I taste something, do I have parts of my tongue (i.e. taste buds) that relays the whole taste; or is the tongue whole, and it makes it useless to taste something?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are confusing the mechanism of transmission of the sense data with the act of perceiving it itself.

            Of course, the tongue is composed of many parts. But it is not the sense faculty that tastes the flavor.

            Besides, the most clear example is not taste, but sight.

          • God Hates Faith

            You are confusing the mechanism of transmission of the sense data with the act of perceiving it itself.

            So, what is the "act of perceiving itself"? Does the brain do this? Invisible fairies that telepathically transmit the information to us? Some other non-material event that magically is able to interact with the material without any explanation or falsification?

            "Besides, the most clear example is not taste, but sight."

            Why don't your categories apply to taste? Is sensing light different from sensing taste? Does "the non-material of the gaps" logic only work when the sense perception comes from something non-physical?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you absolutely either do not notice, or refuse to notice, is your own actual experience of "wholes" when you open your eyes and look at the world around you and all the objects in it.

            I cannot make you do that. This is the "immediately known" evidence you appear entirely blind to.

          • God Hates Faith

            (1) You didn't answer my questions.

            (2) Your appeal to intuition is a terrible argument.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Direct sense experience is not an intuition.

            I must accept the fact that not everyone will ever understand any given philosophical argument.

            I am satisfied that at least some readers appear to grasp the essential insight of this one.

          • God Hates Faith

            (1) You are still dodging my questions.

            (2) Your conclusion based on that direct experience is the problem.

            (3) I must accept the fact that you cannot understand simple logic.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            OK: Your questions:

            "So, what is the "act of perceiving itself"? Does the brain do this? Invisible fairies that telepathically transmit the information to us? Some other non-material event that magically is able to interact with the material without any explanation or falsification?"

            If you could follow my logic (which It appears you cannot), the act of perceiving is sense experience. It is what we do when we experience sense objects. The brain does not do this, since it is proven to be an immaterial act and the brain is a material thing. It is not magic. I just told you it is immaterial, but not magic. Of course, it has explanations, but its actual existence is immediately evident to those who are sober and awake. Since it is immediately evident, it needs no further proof that it exists. How we have this ability is another question, one asked after we admit we do this act. If you don't think we can do this act, you are not awake or sober.

            More questions:

            "Why don't your categories apply to taste? Is sensing light different from sensing taste? Does "the non-material of the gaps" logic only work when the sense perception comes from something non-physical?"

            I presume this analysis applies to all the external senses. It is just that we notice the wholeness of the sense objects more readily in the case of sight. Of course, sight differs from taste. Just try them. Your last question is both stupid and insulting. Does it mean the sense perception IS something non-physical or comes from something non-physical? Sense perception is non-physical as was aptly proven by the logic of my argument, which you still do not understand.

            My point is that you are vainly trying to make sense experience, which is not an extended in space entity, into an extended in space entity. Reread the arguments.

          • God Hates Faith

            The brain does not do this, since it is proven to be an immaterial act and the brain is a material thing.

            PROVEN? Nope. You have not shown that perception is non-material, whether it is in parts or in whole.

            Of course, it has explanations, but its actual existence is immediately evident to those who are sober and awake.

            I agree we can perceive stuff, but that is not the same as claiming invisible fairies telepathically, or the non-material, cause me to perceive stuff.

            It is just that we notice the wholeness of the sense objects more readily in the case of sight.

            Are you citing yourself as authority??? I notice a wholeness in taste. Same with sound, or feeling or smell. I can also notice parts, based on each of my senses.

            Your last question is both stupid and insulting

            In other words, my counter-example shows the flaws in your conclusion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Clearly, I am wasting my time giving you direct and honest explanations. You are not working through the arguments, but rather simply making baseless statements of opinion.

            When you are willing to address my arguments in terms of their actual content, I may respond to you further, but don't count on it.

            You may have the last word. But remember, a real philosopher has a passion to discover the truth, not merely to win an argument by any means available. Sense perception is a genuine, very mysterious, phenomenon -- deserving of careful and respectful analysis -- not just exercises in schoolboy rhetoric.

          • God Hates Faith

            I AM addressing your argument. I am directly quoting you. I wish you would offer me the same courtesy, but you simply refer to an argument I already refuted, rather than addressing my counter-argument.

          • Jim the Scott

            GHF is not even close to addressing Dr. Bonnette's argument. Like I said it is like watching a creationist with a 5th grader's knowledge of biology debate someone like Richard Dawkins on Evolution and it is twice as cringe.

          • Sample1

            Do you think sense perception is knowledge? I do not.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is sense knowledge. It is not intellectual knowledge.

            This depends on your understanding of the meaning of knowledge.

            Aristotle worked all this out long ago. :)

            By knowledge, do you mean only intellectual knowledge?

            Do you distinguish between sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge? If you do, that is very Aristotelian of you. :)

          • Sample1

            Knowledge is an explanation of what’s there. That’s my definition.

            There are good and bad explanations. How do you distinguish between good and bad explanations?

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, it isn't mine.

          • Sample1

            Yeah, I think yours is weird. Historically I get the development but neither you nor the ancients had knowledge about neurology and neuroscience and evolution.

            To think one derives knowledge from the senses is demonstrably problematic if not false, as I’ve explained elsewhere. Evolution did not shape us to know reality as it is, or the truth of it, it shaped us to survive. What we sense is an evolutionary interface if you will, not reality. But this is going to be rejected and not appreciated so not too interested in going further here. :-)

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are right about where I would go with it. The first couple sections of my present OP show what an epistemological dead end you get into by your route. But, I agree not to go there.

            You know the old problem. If evolution aimed us not at the truth, but to survive, then how do we know that the theory itself is true? Maybe it only had survival value. But then, if it was accepted because it had survival value, then isn't it true? In which case, it both has survival value and is true. But we will never know, since, as you say, we then are not designed to know reality, but to survive. Not exactly circular reasoning. But perhaps, circular reality -- if true.

          • Sample1

            All science is conjectural with theory-laden explanations placed between ourselves and what is observed. Because our species is fallible, theories can always be improved or discarded. Even if our observations are not perfect representations of reality, evolution will select for anything available (usually on the cheap) that promotes survival.

            Think of this example as a metaphor: Before you is a computer monitor. You really don’t know the truth of how you’re sending posts. You don’t know how the electrical circuits function or the chips. Instead you click on an icon and engage the user-friendly software that gets you where you want to go. That’s evolution. Reality, as we are shaped to see, isn’t selected for because of truth, it’s selected for on account of ease, for convenience, for the cheapest way to survive.

            It explains why people believe all sorts of nonsense on this planet. Truth about reality isn’t important to survive as any primitive human would tell you. As long as one’s culture can get the calories they need they can believe the sun orbits the Earth or spirits inhabit trees. I’m simplifying (I can sense the caveats/objections) but I hope my basic point is clear. We interface well or not so well with reality, we don’t derive knowledge from our senses about what it actually is. We see an interface. And then we try to explain that. Hard-to-vary explanations return the most bang for our efforts. ⬅️That is what creates progress, even if we can’t say it’s definitely true, we value progress and so our species goes with that.

            Mike
            Edit done. I’m not asking you to agree, just sharing my position.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I still don't see how you duck the point probably over-elaborated in the first part of the OP, namely, that there is absolutely no way to know if anything we know comports with extramental reality unless we have at least some direct experience of extramental reality.

          • Sample1

            I follow what you are saying, we just have two different perspectives. I’m looking at the subject of experience as a problem, like any other question of human interest, to solve which, obviously, requires knowledge. We have to know what is meant by knowledge. My position, of late, about it is that knowledge is an explanation of what is there and those explanations can be good or bad. Good and bad along a spectrum with the best of bad explanations rising to, perhaps, “general rules of thumb,” to the best of good explanations rising to, perhaps, 5 Sigma designations. We have to know the difference between a good explanation and a bad explanation. Hard-to-vary vs. easy-to-vary. Your word “direct” adds a layer that has a specific philosophical connotation attached to it that can be addressed but the word experience alone should be looked at as well. That’s my perspective here.

            The question for me, then, is what is experience (minus added qualifiers like direct)? After all, another can have their own experience which is not mine, it is direct for them, indirect or absent for me. So again, just looking at the word experience, what is meant by it, is my focus.

            And we know experiences do not necessarily reflect truth (or accuracy in explaining what is there). I see no evidence that our species possesses an infallible mental faculty for intuitively knowing what all experiences are or how they comport to reality. This is not to say we don’t know anything. What we are doing better as a species, is fine tuning the evolutionary-driven interface between our proprietary human mentation and environmental stimuli.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Sample1

            @dennisbonnette:disqus
            In the end I think this is what’s going on but it requires an agreement that human progress is a desired outcome in what we call the human condition.

            The notion of progress has shifted over the centuries. At one time progress could be described as those activities/positions that led one to their ultimate reward: heaven.

            Today, the notion of progress is that which helps lessen or overcome the challenges our species faces to live well on Earth.

            Metaphysics, extra mental realities, and the like are artifacts kept alive by institutions wherein their advocates can still find the environment that rewards their efforts.

            Really, I think it’s not much more complicated than that.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have the uncomfortable feeling here that my intellectual efforts are being slowly, but surely, relegated to the study of paleoanthropology. :)

          • Sample1

            I’ve never doubted your intellectual acumen. Your mind isn’t lazy, it just found an environment where it can reliably receive the dopamine rewards you crave. ;-)

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            My "dopamine" is the satisfaction the intellect gets from knowing truth. :)

          • Mark

            Today, the notion of progress is that which helps lessen or overcome the challenges our species faces to live well on Earth.

            We will surely squander the greatest moment of human prosperity because most people value individualism and self indulgence. The moral notion of progress is reverting as community and family values take a back seat to individualism and immediate satiation. I would be less cynic if utilitarianism or some other moral code was thriving in the recession of religion, but mostly I just see dystopia. Social-emotional learning that we take for granted from our own childhood has to be taught in schools like Math because technology has made our children emotionally and socially stunted. There are some challenges our species face that only philosophy can solve because the challenges and solutions are both immaterial by my understanding of what is material and what is not.

          • Sample1

            I’m not sure how to respond to your tech/stunting concern. I will say that philosophy, as a tool, will always be with us. I’ve no beef against it, just certain philosophical conclusions which I think is what many of today’s science popularizers tend to mean.

            Most evolving lineages, human or otherwise, when threatened with extinction, don’t do anything special to avoid it. GC Williams.

            Indeed this appears to support your dystopian worries but I prefer to see it as a ray of optimism. We, our species, are aware of this fact unlike any other species. Which, theoretically, means it is a problem that can be solved, if we choose to. All problems are the result of lacking knowledge (Deutsch).

            Just this week the US President said this: he is the chosen one, the king of the Jews (Israel), and the second coming of God, all while trying to buy Greenland. What worries me is that tens of millions of supporters are nonplussed. Giddy even.

            It’s things like that which keep us on the knife edge of progress or extinction. I suppose the consolation here is that, so far, a Constitution is above him in authority. It’s our monarch of sorts, keeping temporal politicians in their place as servants of the people. Sorry for the political segue, was wondering how to incorporate that on this site and your post allowed it. :-)

            But back to the immaterial. I’m trying to understand the various ideas about abstractions (maths, laws of nature, etc.) I have to go over Deutsch again on this as he has a position, he’s quasi-Platonist about them but I have a hard time following his thoughts about it. He’s not a foundation builder per se, more a general principle sort of approach which some see similarly but there are distinctions. Principles can be generalized which may avoid the “house of cards” collapses that can happen when foundations are overturned. His epistemology is also attractive, focusing on knowledge and how the challenge before us is preparing for what cannot be known by reason: future knowledge and all its cascading effects which often don’t resemble the initial knowledge discovery in terms of importance. Better stop here.

            Mike
            Edit done. Final.

          • Mark

            And some knowledge may be lacking due to epistemological constraints. Applying easy or hard to vary explanations may never explain a problem poorly understood. I don't think there is a hard to vary explanation for why my son will go to school tomorrow with a worry of a classmate shooting him.

          • Sample1

            Your last sentence does not seem to be a logical conclusion of your previous ones. Yes, there are problems we may only understand dimly or not at all. But if that isn’t due to a lack of knowledge, what else are you suggesting it could be from?

            Mike

          • Mark

            I guess what I was trying to say is that while hard sciences should be held to hard to vary explanations, soft sciences like pschology or sociology involve the interactions of minds, emotions, and outside influences. The ploblem may be best served by employing an open mind to what is known.

          • Sample1

            Well, I’d like to misunderstand you a little less completely but this reply didn’t achieve that. :-)

            Mike

          • Mark

            Verstehen

            I'm hoping less words might help :)

          • Sample1

            I’ve actually mulled on your post here and there for the last couple of days wondering how I should shape a response. Should we examine what is meant by being open minded? Essentially, the willingness to consider new ideas? I’ve no problem with that definition. But it gets more complicated from there. Not difficult, just a longer discussion.

            Should we explore why I think there is no fundamental difference between a soft problem and a hard problem (both are soluble with the right knowledge)?

            There are two driving principles that can be used for problems. 1. All problems are the result of a lack of knowledge. 2. The laws of nature can inform us of what is possible and impossible. The latter is the crux of Deutsch’s Constructor Theory, an effort by him and others to actually explain the laws of nature.

            There’s a great QualiaSoup vid on YouTube that I’ve known about for years. It was one of the pieces of the puzzle that helped me out of theism. But even if it doesn’t do that for you, it’s clarity about open-mindedness has applications for many subjects we encounter daily such as medical quackery, cargo cult thinking, conspiracy thinking, etc.

            As it happens, I do speak German too aber mein Deutsch ist schwer.

            Mike

          • Mark

            Okay, so I've mulled on this a couple of days. I'm not entirely sure what you mean about "problems". Depending on how your define it and knowledge, the statement could be circular: All (unknown things) are a result of what is unknown... No Shite? By Merriam's definition of problems (an intricate unsettled question;a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation; difficulty in understanding or accepting) I can say I reject the notion that ALL problems are the result of a lack of knowledge. Some problems arise out of chance. Hypothetically lets say my wife dies from a non-preventable cause...hit by a meteor. My problem isn't from a lack of knowledge, it's just the opposite. My problem is I know the void of her presence. I did nothing to inherit Factor V mutation; it's not a lack of knowledge and while there is treatments available you assume that there is a solution. The assumption that there is a solution to every problem is an un-falsifiable dogmatic assumption. Lastly, even if we have a solution from our knowledge to solve a problem, because humans have free will they are not bound to use that knowledge to solve the problem. They may choose to watch problems exist for their enjoyment or personal benefit or apathy. A classic theist might say, "All problems are the result of a lack of Goodness". The statements share so many similarities it's uncanny, unsettling if you reject Goodness. Each statements assumes a perfection.

            I also reject that the laws of nature can inform of what is possible and impossible. We don't understand why the laws of nature exist at all. Assuming the laws of nature will explain themselves is circular or unintelligible. If you allot brute fact you've blown up your paradigm. Also if there is something supernatural or immaterial, the laws of nature may or may not apply or might be different to that something. How is my imagination governed by the laws of nature? How is morality governed by the laws of nature? Is the cosmological constant the same in every multiverse? This as well makes dogmatic assumptions about the nature of all things being material, and that is an unfalsifiable claim because it is made on incomplete knowledge. The dogmatic assumption that it can or will be understood is circular and assumes a perfection.

            Sincerely I learned about Wisdom,
            and ungrudgingly do I share—
            her riches I do not hide away;
            For she is an unfailing treasure;
            those who gain this treasure win the friendship of God,
            being commended by the gifts that come from her discipline. Ws7:13

          • Sample1

            The assumption that there is a solution to every problem is an un-falsifiable dogmatic assumption.

            I’ve made no such assumption. Ever. But I understand that this has animated your reply.

            Some problems arise out of chance. Hypothetically lets say my wife dies from a non-preventable cause...hit by a meteor.

            Chance is irrelevant. The problem is a meteor impact. If you don’t agree that a hypothetical meteor killing your wife fits within a problem description, we’re done and I can’t help you. If a problem is seen the solution to the problem is knowledge. Knowledge, in that case, about meteors, orbits, and technology to stem disaster.

            Assuming the laws of nature will explain themselves is circular or unintelligible. If you allot brute fact you've blown up your paradigm.

            Straw. The philosophical claim here is that all problems are the result of lacking knowledge. Not that we are destined to solve all problems or even destined to recognize problems. It’s up to us and, more broadly, up to our species.

            I also reject that the laws of nature can inform of what is possible and impossible

            What principle are you basing this claim on? Something is either possible or not possible. Are you suggesting that you are not living in the natural world? If you are, we’re done. I cannot help you.

            How is my imagination governed by the laws of nature? How is morality governed by the laws of nature?

            How is it not? Again, if you are claiming to not be living in the natural world nor bound to what is possible or not, we are done. I cannot help you. Now, with morality, it is true that science and philosophy split the is/ought into a divide. However, explanations can bridge that divide. And reason can be used for those explanations, which will either be good or bad (easy to vary or hard to vary).

            A classic theist might say, "All problems are the result of a lack of Goodness". The statements share so many similarities it's uncanny, unsettling if you reject Goodness. Each statements assumes a perfection.

            And theists make that claim. What knowledge is purported to give a good explanation for it? And finally, no. Perfection is not a part of my philosophy because we are a fallible species. Explanations improve or fail based on how well or poorly models agree with observation.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Ficino

            At this point, I think we non-theists are being asked to grant:
            1. the principle of proportionate causality
            2. the thesis that there cannot be an actually infinite series of per se causes

            As to 1., I see no reason to grant this. Aren't there emergent properties?
            As to 2., without the question-begging assumption that a per se series of causes exists and is by definition governed by a mind, I see no reason why there cannot be an infinite series of causes ordered per accidens, or a circular series. To say, well, the whole series itself needs a cause, is a genetic fallacy.

            if 1. and 2. are granted, an unmoved first mover pretty much follows. But no ampliative conclusions are gained. The UM is simply contained in the premises. And why should we grant those premises?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Aren't there emergent properties?"

            Well, you can claim there are -- but only by assuming that the principle of proportionate causality is false.

            " without the question-begging assumption that a per se series of causes exists and is by definition governed by a mind, "

            I have done plenty of work on per se causal chains and, maybe outside of ones directly entailing finality, I don't recall any inclusion of a need for a mind.

            "I see no reason why there cannot be an infinite series of causes ordered per accidens, "

            Neither does St. Thomas Aquinas.

          • Ficino

            Well, you can claim there are -- but only by assuming that the principle of proportionate causality is false.

            The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that the PPC is true. I read much about emergent properties.

            I have done plenty of work on per se causal chains and, maybe outside of ones directly entailing finality, I don't recall any inclusion of a need for a mind.

            It's clear to me from my reading of the saint that a per se series of causes is ordered per se precisely because it is ordered by a mind that wills to actualize an end. I can cite many passages, though at this point I don't know whether you care about what Aquinas actually wrote. But as a layman about science, I am not convinced that such causal hierarchies, governed by mind, obtain in nature. We've gone into this at length.

            "I see no reason why there cannot be an infinite series of causes ordered per accidens, "

            Neither does St. Thomas Aquinas.

            Yay! Then we are agreed. There is a series of causes, ordered per accidens, going on forever and ever and ever... and that is all we need.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am sure there are plenty of examples in which properties appear to emerge. But to say that new qualities of existence can appear without a proportionate cause is equivalent to saying that you can get being from non-being in that particular respect. Clearly, we have a different perspective on the most basic metaphysical principles.

            I have read a bit of St. Thomas on per se causality as well, specifically when I wrote the book, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence back in 1972. Its subtitle was "St. Thomas Aquinas On: The per accidens necessarily implies the per se." Almost half a century later, I am not eager to wade through all the texts again, but I know dang well that there are many contexts in which per se causality is considered without any reference to mind. I also included the commentaries on these texts by such people as Sylvester of Ferrara, Dominico Banes, Cajetan, John of St. Thomas, etc.

            Yes, we have discussed finality at length. But I am not talking about finality, but rather such contexts as causes of motion and being. You can talk about a per se series of efficient causes without having to address final causality.

            And I don't see why you make reference to per accidens series of causes, since it has nothing to do with any proof that you cannot have an infinite regress among per se causes. Of course, per accidens causality can regress through time to infinity. But we all already knew that.

          • Ficino

            I know dang well that there are many contexts in which per se causality is considered without any reference to mind.

            I don't know why you want to hold this. You think that there are series of causes ordered per se that do NOT have God as the first cause of the series? There are per se series of causes in a kingdom in any text of Aquinas, of which the king or prince is not the author?

            And I am mystified as to why you are now cutting out final causes, when you went to great lengths to argue that every efficient cause is directed by a final cause. Finis causa causarum ... you are now saying that efficient causes can be adequately accounted for without reference to a final cause? Cool!!

            i mention series of causes ordered per accidens because I am not convinced that you have proved that behind them there must stand series of causes ordered per se.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Your last comment shows clearly that you do not understand that the proofs for God are NOT based on per accidens series of causes. St. Thomas agreed that such a series could regress to infinity. But he also insisted that per se causes could not do so -- and the proofs for God's existence are based on per se series, NOT per accidens ones.

            It is a common modern misunderstanding that you prove God's existence by going back in time and trying to find a First Cause that began it all. That is to totally misread the classical proofs. It is the kind of error made by some young earth creationists who try to prove God's existence by going back to the Big Bang. St. Thomas held that the beginning of the world in time was a matter of Catholic faith, and that reason alone could not prove the world began in time.

            Those familiar with the classical proofs for God's existence know full well that all causal series leading back to God do so by a here and now series of simultaneous proper causes -- NOT by using a per accidens series going back in time, like a series of men generating men through procreation.

          • Ficino

            Your last comment shows clearly that you do not understand that the proofs for God are NOT based on per accidens series of causes.

            It's getting boring, hearing you tell other people that they don't understand this or that other thing in A-T. OF COURSE I know that Thomistic proofs are based on CLAIMS about per se series of causes. Ed Feser's coffee cup getting cold sits in front of all of us. I've read such stuff for YEARS.

            As I said a few comboxes ago, it's on you to prove the PPC and the need for per se causal series. You'll say that you've done that in your book and articles. But you assume the PPC and some other premises. The generality of philosophers do not share your assumptions.

            Your last comment shows clearly that you do not understand that the proofs for God are NOT based on per accidens series of causes.

            And now that we've been interacting for over a year, I read the above. Holy sh-t, are you actually perhaps just stupid? You can actually think that after all this time, I think that the Thomistic proofs of God are based on series of causes ordered per accidens? I don't know why I bother discussing any more with someone so lacking.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            When you said, “As to 2., without the question-begging assumption that a per se series of causes exists and is by definition governed by a mind, I see no reason why there cannot be an infinite series of causes ordered per accidens, or a circular series.”, I took this to imply that you accepted the possibility of a per accidens series substituting for the function of a per se series, which it does not.

            I see now that you were not denying that the proofs for God depend on a per se series, but in accepting a per accidens series, you are accepting one going back through time, which is precisely what the proofs for God do not depend upon.

            You can reject the per se series if you wish, but that does not make the per accidens one a legitimate substitute.

            What is particularly misleading is the assumption that a per se series is “by definition” governed by a mind, since clearly St. Thomas does not make this assumption. In many places, he argues to a first in a per se series, and tells us that first is what we call God – but there is no claim that this conclusion is made by any assumption of a mind.

            For example: “In Metaphysics II [2(994a)] the Philosopher proceeds to show in another way that it is not possible to proceed to infinity among efficient causes, but rather that one must come to one first cause, and this we call God.” (Contra Gentiles, I, 13.)

            It is clear that our central dispute rests on the role and legitimacy of first principles:

            >“As I said a few comboxes ago, it's on you to prove the PPC and the need for per se causal series. You'll say that you've done that in your book and articles. But you assume the PPC and some other premises. The generality of philosophers do not share your assumptions.”

            I don’t know how many metaphysical first principles you want to deny, but if that is the route you are ultimately following, I think you have to realize that it will undermine even our ability to trust our reasoning powers, since, if there need be no reasons for things, then why ask for any reasons for any assertions or judgments at all? End of all debate.

            You appear to deny all the things that follow from the first concept of being the mind forms when we encounter any being at all. Yes, that insight makes Thomists different from the “generality of philosophers.” I submit that this comes from the effects of an analytic tradition which is grounded in a positivistic mentality which has abandoned the foundations of classical metaphysics. Clearly, there is no room in these comboxes to debate this area at length, nor have I the desire to do so.

            But as to the principle of proportionate causality and “emergent materialism,” the basic insight to me comes down to this. It is like the question of can you get something – anything at all – from absolutely nothing? Some try to dodge this question by redefining nothing into a quantum vacuum – but that is not what philosophers mean by nothing, since it is merely the lowest possible energy field. We mean what we say: absolutely nothing.

            If from nothing, you cannot get something, then the same logic or insight applies to proportionate causality and emergent properties. With respect to whatever new quality of being “emerges” from what was there before, the previous total state of reality was totally lacking it: it was non-being or nothing.

            To assume that somehow a new property “emerges” is to pull a rabbit out of an empty hat. It is to get something from nothing. It is the question begging assumption that what “emerges” was really there already somehow. It is the quantum vacuum trick. The whole point is that to “emerge” is to somehow come from what was there before. And, if it really was not there before, there is nothing to “emerge.”

            And remember that potency is not act. Saying one is potentially intelligent is not a complement. Potency is clearly on the side of non-being, not being. So, claiming that what was potentially there somehow becomes actual does not help. The ancients already addressed that one.

            You are free to disagree with me on this, but it is as basic and simple as it gets. Perhaps, you think you can somehow get something from nothing, but I, for one, do not believe in metaphysical magic.

          • Phil Tanny

            I don’t know how many metaphysical first principles you want to deny,
            but if that is the route you are ultimately following, I think you have
            to realize that it will undermine even our ability to trust our
            reasoning powers, since, if there need be no reasons for things, then
            why ask for any reasons for any assertions or judgments at all? End of
            all debate.

            Not trusting our reasoning powers on issues of such enormous scale seems very reasonable to me.

            And it doesn't have to be the end of the investigation. If we were to reason our way to the conclusion that we are ignorant (on issues of such scale) we could then proceed to investigate what value can be mined from that ignorance.

            I contend there is plenty of value to be found, but we never get around to looking for it because we're all trapped inside the walls of God debate, a unproductive repetitive process which has us going eternally round and round the same small circle, a children's merry-go-round to nowhere.

            The God debate and discussions that orbit around it are built upon the typically unexamined (but understandable) assumptions that 1) knowledge should be the goal of the inquiry, and that 2) we are in a position to develop that knowledge. Both of these assumptions should be inspected and challenged in earnest before diving headlong in to the quest for The Answer.

          • Rob Abney

            What a pleasant response.

          • Ficino

            Thank you for your further precisions. I think we are not going to reach anything new of importance in combox discussions about metaphysical systems or collections of metaphysical theses that may not advertise themselves as "systems." So far I find that nominalism and materialism give me what I need to try to navigate life and make moral decisions. Opinion that keeps showing its mettle under repeated testing takes me a long way without my having to posit immaterial entities, that exist in re independent of human analysis, to serve as objects of knowledge. [ETA: i.e. exist in re. I am fine with universals as names, abstract objects like sentence forms, etc.]

            As to causal series ordered hierarchically per se in Aquinas, I agree of course that the saint does not state, every time he discusses such a series, that it is ordered by a mind. But when he does explain what such a series is, he tends to give as examples an order of ministers acting as agents of a ruler, or soldiers carrying out a general's orders. He also says that the intention of the first cause is carried by the secondary causes unto the end, which was intended by the first cause. Clearly, intentio can be used for causes in nature, so that something without mind might yet bring about an end through secondary, instrumental causes. But given Aquinas' overarching doctrine of divine providence and its correlates, one series ordered per se will ultimately form part of a greater series ordered per se by God, who has mind. And don't forget that "omne quod est per accidens, reducitur ad id quod est per se" (Princ. naturae 3.) Similarly, “It follows, then, that everything which occurs here insofar as it is related to the first divine cause, is found to be ordained by it and not to be accidental, although it may be found to be accidental in relation to other causes. This is why the Catholic faith says that nothing in the world happens by chance or fortuitously, and that everything is subject to divine providence. But in this place Aristotle is speaking of those contingent events which occur here as a result of particular causes, as is evident from his example,” In VI Meta l. 3 C1216.

            In most of Aquinas' cosmological arguments for God's existence, where it's premature of him to presume that God has mind (e.g. the first through fourth Ways don't conclude that God has mind), I don't remember the phrase or its equivalent, "hierarchically ordered per se," used to describe the work done by the first or unmoved mover or cause. If you have arguments from motion or causality to cite, in which Aquinas explicitly appeals to hierarchical ordering per se, I'd appreciate the references.

            Anyway, this particular exchange arose from my replies to Sample1. There I had in the back of my mind the question, what kind of reasoning structures A-T proofs. If it's inductive, in order to arrive at first principles and then deduce from those, we get the problem of induction. If it's simply deductive reasoning, as I was suggesting to Sample1, then no new knowledge is obtained at the end of the deductive system, since the conclusion is already contained in the premises. And if it's abductive reasoning, we get the problem of abduction. So, though there may be a Ground of Being out there etc., I don't agree that we have certitude about it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"But when he does explain what such a series is, he tends to give as examples an order of ministers acting as agents of a ruler, or soldiers carrying out a general's orders. He also says that the intention of the first cause is carried by the secondary causes unto the end, which was intended by the first cause."

            >"I don't remember the phrase or its equivalent, "hierarchically ordered per se," used to describe the work done by the first or unmoved mover or cause."

            You may be asking for too precise a wording for what is a per se series of causes here. And, while St. Thomas does often make reference to some intelligent agent behind a causal series, he does not always do so -- and there is an incidental reason why he does this anyway, as I will explain below.

            First, while I don't have time to dig up a pile of references for any purpose here. I will complete that citation I started earlier from the C.G., I, 13, n. 33:

            "In all ordered efficient causes, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, whether one or many, and this is the cause of the last cause. But, when you suppress a cause, you suppress its effect. Therefore, if you suppress the first cause , the intermediate cause cannot be a cause. Now, if there were an infinite regress among efficient causes, no cause would be first. Therefore, all the other causes, which are intermediate, will be suppressed. But this is manifestly false. We must, therefore, posit that there exists a first efficient cause. This is God."

            I think the context is clear enough that this is a case of per se causal series he is talking about here. Moreover, this is the latter part of the chapter, where he is not talking about self-moved movers, but something "absolutely unmoved." (n. 32)

            The argument clearly stands without reference to any mind. The conclusion to God is, of course, merely nominally defined.

            Any time St. Thomas gives an argument against the possibility of per se causal regress that stands on its own, one need not assume he is presuming mind beneath it.

            Moreover, we Thomists do not slavishly follow his texts. Several of the classical commentators on the quinque viae use parts of his arguments and expand them. Sylvester of Ferrara comments on the prima via, noting that the intermediate movers, "whether they be one or many" may all be treated as "a single moving mover," which, as such, stand in need of a first mover to explain their motion. Cajetan does something similar with the secunda via, where he points out that in a per se series of intermediate causes, if there were no first cause, the causality of all the intermediates would never be fulfilled.

            I have offered myself the simple argument that if one never finds a sufficient reason for causality in any intermediate cause, regression to infinity would mean (like Cajetan argues) that there would never be a sufficient reason for the entire chain of causation.

            In other words, there are several ways to show that per se causal chains require a first cause uncaused -- all without assuming some sort of intentionality in the agents involved or the existence of an overarching mind.

            The fact that St. Thomas so often uses examples that entail some intelligent first mover or cause is understandable, since once you by other means establish that the first uncaused cause or first unmoved mover is the God of classical theism and that he providentially moves all creatures as secondary causes, it is quite natural to speak in such a manner -- since St. Thomas and his readers all know this is the total picture in which intermediate causes or movers would operate.

            In my own research, it is clear to me that, while St. Thomas does often make reference to an intelligent first agent being operative within the world's causality, as far as the proofs for God's existence are concerned, he has valid arguments to a first cause or mover which do not presume, assume, depend upon, or hypothesize the existence of mind or intelligence at work therein.

            I hate to advertise, but you can find more complete exposition of these points and references in my book on St. Thomas's proofs -- doubtless available in your library. :)

          • Ficino

            Re language of causes ordered hierarchically per se in cosmological proofs: I asked whether you had citations in mind because it's important to try to avoid falling into what Richard Robinson called "misinterpretation by inference." But the SCG I.13.33 passage does clearly refer to such an order, so thanks for extending the quotation.

            Sylvester of Ferrara comments on the prima via, noting that the intermediate movers, "whether they be one or many" may all be treated as "a single moving mover,"

            Agreed on the pedigree of such reduction, though it's already in Aquinas and before him, in Aristotle (e.g. all the men pulling a ship can be reduced to one instrumental cause).

            As far as the mind part, I noted in my last that the proofs from motion and causality do not invoke mind.

            More to the point of my earlier reply to Sample1, it seems to me that if the first principles of A-T are said to be self-evident (e.g. PPC), and if they supply premises from which God's existence is deduced, then the conclusion that God exists doesn't get us farther than a claim that God's existence is self-evident--given that the conclusion of a deductive system is already contained in the premises. In a deductive system, propositions are called the matter of the conclusion, inasmuch as the terms of the premises constitute the matter out of which the conclusion is composed (In V Meta l. 3 C778).

            On the other hand, if proofs of God are presented as ampliative arguments, the truth of their conclusions falls short of certainty, though of course the conclusions may not be false.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            However we got there, I am pleased to see that we are in agreement that it is possible to have demonstrations of the impossibility of infinite regress among per se causes or movers that do not entail assumptions about "mind."

            In response to your comment to Sample 1, I would point out that there are two sources of certitude based on immediately-known judgments.

            First, there are those judgments that are self-evident, such as the metaphysical first principles. Even so, I would point out that such jugements are based upon the intellect's actual encounter with real being. Otherwise, there would be no basis for such self-evident principles. What really marks them as metaphysical first principles is that they are as universal and transcendental as being itself.

            Secondly, though, the other source of immediately-known judgments are those that are not self-evident, but still immediately-known with absolute certitude. They are not universal self-evident principles, but they still constitute data of judgment which are absolutely certain because they are based in immediate experience -- just as the metaphysical first principles are based in immediate experience.

            The most obvious of these would be the fact that, as St. Thomas points out in the prima via, "it is certain and evident to the senses that in the world some things are in motion." This is not self-evident as a universal property of being, since it is also possible that some things are not in motion. But we do encounter motion in experience (whether through sensation or not), and this provides an immediately-known, absolutely certain, truth which can serve as a premise in proofs for God's existence which are not self-evident, but rather, are based on immediate experience.

            Such demonstrations are both ampliative and also provide apodictic certainty. Since the premises are immediately-known certitudes -- whether they be universal metaphysical first principles or immediately-known data of experience -- if the reasoning from them is valid, the conclusion is known with certainty.

          • Phil Tanny

            I'm not absolutely certain about any kind of absolute certitude, a suspicious concept in my book.

            As example, "it is certain and evident to the senses that in the world some things are in motion".

            It doesn't seem certain to me that there are such phenomena as "things", other than as conceptual inventions of the human mind.

          • Ficino

            the intellect's actual encounter with real being... as universal and transcendental as being itself.

            I don't buy this sort of thing, because it dovetails with treatment of being as a perfection/predicate.

            But we do encounter motion in experience

            The problem here is that "motion" is a term of art in A-T, heavily laden with constructions that, I suspect, turn out to be adopted as though self-evident: e.g. the PPC. So I suspend judgment about the Ways' being genuinely ampliative arguments.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If the metaphysical first principles are not based on immediate experience, then they have no universal validity. But then, I submit you are going to get into the problem I alluded to earlier, namely, that the very process of human reasoning ceases to be valid, since there would never be a need to give a reason for any judgment.

            But more importantly, your assumption that this is a matter of being also being a perfection is gratuitous in my opinion. The primary first principles of identity and non-contradiction say nothing of the sort. We may argue about the PSR, but again, I see nothing about perfection entailed there.

            I am not backing off affirming that being is a perfection, but I don't see why that aspect has to be dragged into the initial formulations of the first principles.

            As for motion, all we are talking about is the immediately-given reality of it. We may get into debates over its meaning and significance, but that is secondary. I realize that the force of the conclusion from motion is secondary to its immediately-given reality. That has to do with the validity of the proof, not the reality of its starting point.

            I get the impression that when you say the first principles would only give you a proof that is self-evident, you are implying that it would be no more valid than the ontological argument. I distinguish between the first principles and the ontological argument as between apples and oranges. I concur that the ontological argument is invalid. But the proof from motion is distinguished from the ontological argument by the addition of a premise from experience.

            [Edit: In fact, what I am saying is that both the universal metaphysical first principles AND the immediately-given non-universal judgments about such things as motion -- BOTH sources of premises are based in immediate experience. Otherwise, what would be the basis for any certitude at all?]

            The proofs for God may be valid or not, but I don't think you can dispatch them as easily as you do by a priori claims which do not fit their actual basis.

          • Phil Tanny

            that the very process of human reasoning ceases to be valid, since there
            would never be a need to give a reason for any judgment.

            It's possible to reason one's way to the insight that the rules of human reason are useful, but limited, not binding on everything everywhere.

          • Ficino

            In fact, what I am saying is that both the universal metaphysical first principles AND the immediately-given non-universal judgments about such things as motion -- BOTH sources of premises are based in immediate experience. Otherwise, what would be the basis for any certitude at all?

            I think you're equivocating on "motion." Someone's immediate sensory experience is not immediate contact with a potency to F's being reduced to act by an agent that is already in act w/ respect to F. All the stuff I bolded is a contentious metaphysical claim being made about the immediate experience. But that claim is contained in the leading premises of the First Way and elsewhere. When motion is defined as it's defined in A-T, one effectively has posited an unmoved mover.

            I know that Aquinas insists that the existence of God is self-evident in itself but not quoad nos.

            As I think about this now, it seems to me the theist might just as well say with Alvin Plantinga that belief in God is properly basic.

            ETA: Dr. B, you want the Thomist arguments to be BOTH ampliative AND to escape the lack of certainty baked into conclusions in inductive or abductive reasoning-- as though there is a fourth form of human reasoning that gives you conclusions that aren't contained in the premises and yet yield certitude. You risk falling into special pleading.

            As to being, my suspicion of talk about intellect's encounter with transcendent being etc. doesn't stop at the ontological argument. A system based on a logic in which existence is a predicate, and in which we get things like the square of opposition, is going to be flawed. I don't think it would help to bracket off a metaphysical from a logical sense of existence; if the logic is flawed, the metaphysics will likely be flawed.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Someone's immediate sensory experience is not immediate contact with a potency to F's being reduced to act by an agent that is already in act w/ respect to F. All the stuff I bolded is a contentious metaphysical claim being made about the immediate experience."

            My reading of motion is that it is immediately evident as meaning that something that is one way at one time becomes another way at another time. That is merely to describe what is immediately given in sense experience. I don't see why that is problematic.

            I will admit that St. Thomas in the prima via describes motion as entailing a reduction from potency to act, but he does NOT immediately add "by an agent that is already in act."

            Yes, he reasons to that conclusion in the body of the prima via, but then we are into the process of reasoning about the immediately known judgment that "some things are in motion."

            You can argue all you want about whether the rest of the steps made are valid and true, but that does not gainsay that the starting point is simply "motion."

            If you have universal metaphysical principles combined with an immediately given experienced fact, such as motion, -- and if you reason logically to your conclusion, it seems to me that you cannot rule out such an argument a priori as you are attempting to do.

            The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

            You object to me using "a fourth form of human reasoning that gives you conclusions that aren't contained in the premises and yet yield certitude."

            I would point out that, using legitimate metaphysical principles, we can get certitude from premises which do implicitly contain the conclusion -- simply by reasoning from the fact of motion as a starting point.

            It seems to me that you are assuming what you wish to prove, namely, that the conclusion is not contained in the premises. On the contrary, Greek philosophy specifically worked out the theory of act and potency in order to solve the problem of change. You reject, apparently, Aristotle's solution. But that is no reason to claim that the argument does not start from experience, or that it illicitly uses metaphysical principles and logic, to demonstrate its conclusion -- even before the argument gets off the ground!

            Motion is real. Metaphysical first principles do apply to real being. The only way to prove the proof is invalid is by working through its steps. But to say it is impossible before you start is begging the question.

          • Ficino

            You object to me using "a fourth form of human reasoning that gives you conclusions that aren't contained in the premises and yet yield certitude."

            I would point out that, using legitimate metaphysical principles, we can get certitude from premises which do implicitly contain the conclusion -- simply by reasoning from the fact of motion as a starting point.

            There is no neutral "fact of motion" that is not laden with assumptions. The term, motion, is already system-dependent in the First Way: "For nothing is moved, unless insofar as it is in potency to that to which it is moved..." enim, "for," being explanatory, marks the "unless insofar as it is in potency" clause as the premise from which it follows that "everything that is moved, is moved by another." Thomas' argument depends on A-T assumptions from the get-go.

            Beyond this, you have not confronted the question, what mode of reasoning are you using? Is it deductive, inductive, abductive, or some fourth special mode? If it's a fourth, special mode, what philosophers of logic or epistemologists have set it forth? You say that Thomistic arguments for God are ampliative - so if they are so, under the usual senses of terms, then they are either inductive or abductive, and hence, do not generate certain conclusions. If they are deductive, they are not ampliative.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am familiar with the wording of the prima via, and I grant that St. Thomas develops in some detail the argument using potency and act to demonstrate his conclusion.

            All I am saying is that the starting point is simply the fact of motion. We can argue in detail whether the notions of potency and act were properly developed and applied in this argument, but that is not my point. I am just saying that the starting point is motion, which may be defined in its broadest descriptive terms. As for the metaphysical development from that observation of "this becoming that" or "something being in one way at one time becoming in another way at another time," you can call them A-T assumptions if you wish, but I think they are simply the rational implications of the intellect's immediate grasp of "being." The "system" IS the philosophical development of the initial starting points.

            My hesitancy to get much further into this is that I am too well aware one could write a book on the subject, and adequate treatment in comboxes is daunting.

            As for the logical format of the proofs for God, I think you already know them well. For St. Thomas, they are a posteriori demonstrations that begin with some evident fact of sense experience, such as motion, and applying universal metaphysical principles proceed by deduction to a necessary conclusion.

            If you want to insist that starting with motion is a form of induction, I would point out that the a posteriori argument can take the existence of "some" motion as a fact that must be explained and is explained using universal metaphysical principles, so as to produce an ampliative conclusion, namely, that a first mover unmoved must exist, which was not known at the beginning of the argument.

            Does this mean that deduction here violates the criterion that it must produce no knowledge that was not contained in the premises. Well, if the existence of some motion is part of the premises, and it is, then we can deduce from that fact, by applying universal metaphysical principles, an inference that was not known previously.

            You might put it in common language by simply saying that "it is universally true that some motion exists." This might be analogous to the reading of a singular as equivalent to a universal, as when we say "Elsie is a cow."

            It seems that you want to bar the introduction of a given fact to a deductive process of reasoning, when it is evident that it is perfectly licit, and in fact, works.

          • Ficino

            Everyone will agree that our sensory presentations become organized so that we get "common perception", or whatever term one's psychology prefers, of objects common to all the senses, like shape, size, and motion (Arist. De Insomn. 1, 458b4-5). But when motion is defined at the get-go as reduction of potency to act, we are starting out with a system-dependent proof, as Arthur Holmes said Aquinas' proofs are.

            Feser says that "the notions of what is purely actual, what is absolutely simple, what is subsistent existence itself, and what is absolutely necessary are all at the end of the day (I would argue) different ways of conceptualizing what is and must be the same one reality."
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/08/gage-on-five-proofs.html#more

            Feser's is consistent with what I see going in natural theology. Talk of Act-Potency includes something that is pure Act, etc. The theory won't work if there isn't something that is pure act. But with the pure act piece, it virtually has classical theism's god built into it. It's a system of notions, and it explains much of what we see in the world. I don't grant, though, that we get to the theory of Act-Potency by induction and then the notions in the theory can be justifiably treated as necessary truths. Feser himself says, as you do, that the Thomistic arguments are not inductive and are not abductive (Five Proofs 287-288). As I said before, you can't claim both that these arguments are ampliative and deny that they are inductive or abductive, unless there is some fourth mode of reasoning. Until the generality of philosophers of logic or epistemology agree on some fourth mode, I stick with my earlier suspicion that it's special pleading to argue as though there is some fourth mode that gives ampliative conclusions about the world known with certitude to be true.

            I don't think we can go farther along this line of discussion, but thank you for helping me clarify my thinking about some of the issues a little more.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't deny that the rest of the proof depends on the concepts of potency and act. If this makes the argument a "system dependent proof," I suppose it does.

            But merely pointing to the immediate sense experience of motion, to me, merely means to notice that "this becomes that." We really have no more primary way to describe this immediately-given reality.

            The so-called "system" is the product of the entire historical discussion tracing back to Parmenides and Heraclitus, through the imperfect efforts of the various pre-Socratics, to the full metaphysical doctrine of Plato, and finally, the initial presentation of potency and act by Aristotle.

            I don't think there is a better "system" for the simple reason that I would suggest that there is no other intelligible solution than the full exposition of potency and act worked out in detail by all the later successors of Aristotle, including St. Thomas, and yes, Dr. Feser!

            If "this becoming that" does not entail being able to distinguish between something being able to become another being or state of being and its being that other, I don't know how else to express it. The use of the terms, "potency" and "act," are the names that got applied historically, but they are not sacrosanct in themselves.

            I think the possible weak link in your case is the claim that all this presupposes and assumes the existence of Pure Act from the outset, whereas the whole point of the prima via and similar arguments is to show that this is a conclusion not assumed in the premises.

            I can understand why your presentation of the assumed logical format simply reverses this process by declaring that the conclusion must already be present in the premise, and thus, that the entire argument is an instance of question begging.

            Of course, I ardently demur.

          • Ficino

            I think the possible weak link in your case is the claim that all this presupposes and assumes the existence of Pure Act from the outset, whereas the whole point of the prima via and similar arguments is to show that this is a conclusion not assumed in the premises.

            True, in the First Way, Aquinas does not state “there is a mover that is pure act” among his premises but argues to it. That's why I spoke vaguely of how the conclusion relates to the premises. Yet, the conclusion depends on the theory of Act-Potency, and I find it hard to see how that theory can work if there is not a mover that is pure act.

            Once Aquinas has said that we see some things undergoing motion, he does not support his premises with empirical facts. Instead, subsequent premises introduce further notions from the Act-Potency theory: something cannot be in act and in potency in the same respect; there cannot be an actual infinite of movers (sc. ordered per se). I refer to a “theory” because Edward Feser characterizes Actuality – Potentiality as a “theory.”

            To the first of these subsequent premises, the fire and wood example, despite the inferential enim, rather illustrates than offers factual support, since the Act-Potency theory is required in order to understand the example as an instance of act vs potency.

            Even trickier is the status of the premise that there cannot be an actual infinite of movers. Aquinas does not offer empirical facts to support this thesis either. Rather, he appeals to the theory’s latent notion of a per se hierarchical order of movers. The example of the stick does not provide evidence sufficient to prove this thesis, but again, merely illustrates, since it’s not proved that all things in motion in the world are exemplified by the example. If this premise is not deduced from prior premises, then the argument will be invalid, but if it is deduced from prior premises, then it does not contribute ampliation.

            If the Ways, not being inductive or abductive, are not ampliative arguments, I would allow that they are not question begging. But you want them to be ampliative, to establish that an entity exists in reality and not only as a feature of a system of notions ...

            That leads to the work done by a theory. Normally we expect a theory to bring explanatory power to our accounts of phenomena but also to predict existence of entities, whose existence can be subsequently discovered and established by experimental verification. The theory’s purview is not to establish the existence of the entities whose existence it predicts. For it to seek to do so is question begging. What we need to establish the existence of entities is evidence. But in principle, the existence of the first unmoved mover cannot have any empirical evidence. Moreover, as we’ve discussed before, it is not legitimate for an argument about universals to conclude the existence of a particular. And it continues to remain a problem, why an argument in metaphysics should be taken to establish the existence of an entity. Channeling Peter van Inwagen.

            So although I do not undertake to prove that the conclusions of the Ways etc are false—there might be a Ground of Being out there—I don’t accept that they are knowable with certitude, and I don’t find the arguments for them logically compelling.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You have opened up precisely what I told you I was trying to avoid in these comboxes, namely, the full debate over the prima via or the other proofs for God's existence.

            In my book, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972), it takes me from page 80 to 104 to treat just the prima via. If you really want to see how I do it correctly, you need to read my book. So my comments below are merely partial observations.

            >“Yet, the conclusion depends on the theory of Act-Potency, and I find it hard to see how that theory can work if there is not a mover that is pure act.”

            Of course you are correct here, but not for the reason you assume. The reason the theory cannot work without “a mover that is pure act” is simply because an adequate understanding of act and potency requires that things in motion necessarily imply existence of Pure Act. It is simply the logic of the argument that forces the conclusion.

            What you are actually admitting here is that, if act and potency are legitimate concepts, then God DOES EXIST!

            Moreover, you treat act-potency theory like it is some mysterious Aristotelian hypothesis, rather than the common sense applications of a proper understanding of being.

            Translated into basic principles of being, it equates to such obviously-true principles as that you cannot get something from nothing (that is, being from non-being); that if something gains being it did not have, something else had to give it to it; that a being can only give what it already has, and other such evident truths that are less esoteric-sounding than “act and potency.”

            Moreover, the obvious universality and truth of such “being” principles makes them perfectly legitimate premises with which to prove anything, including God’s existence.

            For those concerned about the principle that whatever is in motion needs a simultaneous mover, see my article on Strange Notions: https://strangenotions.com/whatever-is-moved-is-moved-by-another/

            Since my entire book is one big proof for the principle of “no infinite regress among proper causes,” I really am not at all concerned about your skepticism of this principle.

            There are many ways to show its truth, even though the argument St. Thomas gives in the prima via is not among the easiest to grasp. Again, I have an entire article on Strange Notions proving the impossibility of infinite regress among proper causes: https://strangenotions.com/why-an-infinite-regress-among-proper-causes-is-metaphysically-impossible/

            >“But in principle, the existence of the first unmoved mover cannot have any empirical evidence.”

            This is simply the typical positivistic demand for empirical verification for all proofs, something which is proper to natural science, but an improper demand for a metaphysical argument. It is just part of the same mantra that insists that metaphysics is a pseudo-science in the first place. But, the fact is that even natural scientists customarily make inferences from observable phenomena to unobservable causes.

            Positivists just don’t want to admit that one of those causes of observable phenomena, such as motion, happens to be God.

            Oh yes, I know the scientists then make predictions to be empirically verified, which is not the method of metaphysics. But the logic of inference from effect back to a proportionate and apt cause is parallel, nonetheless.

            Despite the objections you raise, a careful exposition of the proofs for God’s existence demonstrates with certitude that a first unmoved mover or uncaused cause, who is God, exists.

            But it would be a bit difficult to post my entire book on the topic on this thread so as to show that my claim is credible.

          • Ficino

            an adequate understanding of act and potency requires that things in motion necessarily imply existence of Pure Act. It is simply the logic of the argument that forces the conclusion.

            OK, we won't get beyond this. I say you are drawing conclusions about a system of notions. You think your system of notions maps what we call reality. I don't think we're going to find a common ground. From yours above, I think I was right a few days ago when I said that you (pl., i.e. Thomists) are dealing with a deductive system.

            Translated into basic principles of being, it equates to such obviously-true principles as that you cannot get something from nothing (that is, being from non-being); that if something gains being it did not have, something else had to give it to it;

            Ditto here. Your "being" doesn't denote anything, as far as I can see. It's nonsensical to talk about "being" as though it's a substance that things tap into more or less perfectly. But you hold that being is a perfection, and that there is a subsistent Being identical with its Essence etc. Don't see a common path forward here. No philosopher I know buys into this.

            This is simply the typical positivistic demand for empirical verification for all proofs,

            Um, I just acknowledged that metaphysical claims are NOT couched as to be satisfied by empirical verification.

            But the logic of inference from effect back to a proportionate and apt cause is parallel, nonetheless.

            This pattern of reasoning is abduction. But you don't want your arguments to be abductive.

            a careful exposition of the proofs for God’s existence demonstrates with certitude that a first unmoved mover or uncaused cause, who is God, exists.

            If I were just a lone voice crying in the wilderness, which I might have been back in the 13th century, I might hesitate to oppose your confident declarations. But as I've pointed out, the majority of professional philosophers do not share your views on these matters. So I am not in bad company in declining to give allegiance to the system that you are proposing.

            Despite our many points of disagreement, and my occasional angry reply, for which I apologize, I have profited from our interchanges. let me know if you plan to attend any Eastern Division meeting of the APA.

            Happy labor day, F

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, I won't prolong the inevitable here, except to insist that I do not view being as a perfection and certainly not just a word. (I really don't get where you get that perfection thing. To me, being is just "dasein," being there.)

            Quoting the "majority" of professional philosophers hardly impresses me, since I know the majority of them in the English speaking countries are heavily influenced by analytic thinking, which reflects the ascendancy of modern science's influence in the last century. We don't put truth to polls.

            I do wonder how professional philosophers can get to the point where they no longer can see the immediate certitude of the first things we know, including the type of principles I mentioned above.

            One that I find most interesting is that you cannot get something from absolutely nothing. I cannot find, or even imagine, any sane and honest and sober person suggesting that being in any form can come from absolutely nothing at all. We can dance around the words, but the mind absolutely refuses to allow that reality can come from absolute nothingness. I suspect the dodge on this one would be to try to suggest that absolute nothingness is not a coherent concept. I'll buy that, but we all still know what it refers to.

            Yet the universal certitude remains.

            And it is the key insight handed down to us by Parmenides. You can use it to pry open many a "metaphysical" mystery, if you take it seriously.

            But it appears we are on different planets.

            You won't find me at any more APA or even ACPA meetings, since I am an over-the-hill ancient philosopher (in the literal sense of the word), waiting soon to meet that Being you are so sure isn't there. Someday, I hope you figure out he is still there before you meet him. Nothing negative. I merely wish you well -- and a happy labor day, too. DB

          • Ficino

            I do not view being as a perfection and certainly not just a word. (I really don't get where you get that perfection thing. To me, being is just "dasein," being there.)

            ??? Two days ago you wrote the following:

            I am not backing off affirming that being is a perfection, but I don't see why that aspect has to be dragged into the initial formulations of the first principles.

            I thought you affirmed that being is a perfection. But now you are saying that you do not affirm that being is a perfection?

            ETA: I haven't professed to be sure that there is no unmoved mover vel sim. I said there might be some Ground of Being out there! But I suspect the god of classical theism isn't.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Glad you came back to that one about being and perfection.

            Let me clarify. Being as the "something there" we first encounter in any intellectually reflective experience at all is not what I would initially call a perfection.

            You had several times told me that we Thomists sneak in the notion of perfection with being -- seemingly at the initial stages of our thought. That is what I was opposing.

            I am just saying that all we first know is being. I really don't know what else to call it. It is the same being we mean when anybody said that something cannot both be and not be.

            But to come back to perfection. When you mention perfection, I immediately move far deeper into the metaphysical system to where we are talking about the good and natures. This is not assumed at the outset.

            If you permit me to bracket the following from the initial encounter with being, let me give you a bit of what I understand as the framework for discussion of perfection. Perfection, as you know, is from the Latin "per" meaning "thoroughly or completely" and "facere," to make. So perfection implies that something is made completely. This has primary reference to a thing's nature, since that is the measure of completion.

            Thus a horse has perfection when it has all the qualities that belong to its nature as a horse, whereas a lame horse lacks in that perfection.

            Recall also St. Thomas's famous equivalence "sorites" in which he talks about a being is good insofar as it is perfect, it is perfect insofar as it is in act, it is in act insofar as it has being, and hence, it is good insofar as it has being.

            I am not trying here to unload and/or defend this entire "new" topic, but merely showing that it is a secondary, down the road, topic -- NOT initial to the first principles of being.

            As to act and potency, I agree that they entail the existence of an unmoved mover. But I would argue that the concepts of act and potency are simply descriptive of our initial knowledge of being and change, where there is a distinction between what is not yet, but is able to be and what actually exists. I don't see how one escapes this as a minimal description of being and change.

            Regarding the nature of the proofs for God (focus on motion), you can describe it as abduction and/or deduction, but it is licit at each step as follows: We start with the fact of motion as given in reality and use that fact as the initial datum for the argument. It is an undoubtable given of experience that something is in motion.

            Then, we apply the universal first principles of being to that datum in a deductive manner: E.g., nothing can give to itself the new "being" found in change; everything receiving such new "being" must get it from another; you cannot have an infinite regress of such moved movers; there must be a first mover unmoved.

            I see no logical gap in this sequence from an undeniable given of experience that is then subject to a deductive sequence of steps leading to a conclusion. Ruling out the entire process by a priori logical exclusion does not address the force of each step. The given is evident. The metaphysical principles are valid in their own right. They are merely being logically applied to this datum.

            Where precisely does this go wrong? And please don't just tell me that modern logicians and modern philosophers don't accept it. What is the exact step that is not licit? I can understand if you reject this or that metaphysical principle mentioned (although I might disagree with you). But to say the whole process violates sound logic is what I find puzzling. Please, not in general terms, but in specific points of application. That would be interesting.

          • Ficino

            It will be another topic to propose logical gaps in the sequence of reasoning in the First or another of the Ways. But for now on being's being a perfection:

            Aquinas puts existence and rationality on a level as both being added to a thing’s nature to determine it, as though existence is a predicate or perfection as rationality is one, De Pot 7.2 ad 6. Being is "the perfection of all perfections," De Pot 7.2 ad 9; Existing (esse) is put alongside goodness, wisdom, and other things of that kind as things that can be predicated of God and of creatures because they designate a perfection absolutely, apart from any defect – though the perfection is in God by a more eminent mode. !!! e.g. SCG I.91.6 “in quantum enim dat esse et alias perfectiones…” SCG II.37.5: “For the predicate, act of being, is not incompatible with the subject, world or man, as commensurable is incompatible with diameter. . “Omnium autem perfectiones pertinent ad perfectionem essendi: secundum hoc enim aliqua perfecta sunt, quod aliquo modo esse habent,” 1a 4.2 r. Aq at SCG I.13.34 says Ari in Meta. II says that there are maximally true things and things that have being maximally (maxime entia), God is maximally existing.

            Such passages together appear to make existence a predicate and allow existence to admit degrees, as goodness or wisdom do. That's consistent with what I understand you to say above, that as a thing more perfectly actualizes its nature, its being is more maximal.

            In your example of the sound horse and the lame horse, the lame horse less perfectly actualizes its form. It is less good than the sound horse qua horse. Good and being are convertible transcendentals. Does it follow that the sound horse has a greater or higher degree of being than the lame horse?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I can understand what your perspective is here, and appreciate a well-documented expression of your point. You do a splendid job of finding the relevant texts.

            BUT, what I was trying to say in my prior comment is that all that is NOT really presupposed in the proofs for God, especially in the first three of them.

            Recall, I said this: " When you mention perfection, I immediately move far deeper into the metaphysical system to where we are talking about the good and natures. This is not assumed at the outset."

            From your excellent citations above, I can see why you would think that St. Thomas is sneaking in perfection into the prima via, the secunda via, and the tertia via. But I would hold that this assumption is not correct and that the arguments work without such a notion. Certainly, just using the notion of being as something having any real quality of existence (primary concepts are difficult to describe properly) is sufficient for the proof to get you to a first mover unmoved.

            Also, please recall that St. Thomas gives us merely a nominal definition of God at the end of each of the five ways.

            As to whether St. Thomas assumes that existence is a predicate, he surely does not do so in the fashion that Kant conceives when he rejects the ontological argument. And recall that St. Thomas also himself rejects the ontological argument. Existence is not a predicate in terms of being a quality added to the being of either a substance or an accident. Recall that St. Thomas holds that every finite being is composed of essence and existence (esse), to which supposit is added the various predicable properties or accidents.

            On the other hand, he clearly does hold that perfection is a transcendental mode of being that is identical with the act of existence, just as are the one, the true, and the good. But that is a horse of another color.

            I am not trying to open up the entire corpus of Thomistic metaphysics here. My only point is to show that much of this "stuff" that is being attached to the proofs really is not necessary to make the arguments work so as to show the existence of a first mover unmoved or a first cause uncaused.

          • Ficino

            Thank you for your reply and the thought you put into it. It took a while to find after three days!

            As an aside, also leading me to think that existence is a predicate in Thomism is when Aquinas in de Pot 7.2 s.c. 1 quotes Hilary's de Trinit. as saying that existence is not an accident to God but is subsisting truth, as though existence can be an accident to other things. What this means of course is set by how the whole system speaks of ens commune.

            BUT, what I was trying to say in my prior comment is that all that is NOT really presupposed in the proofs for God, especially in the first three of them.

            I'm already forgetting all that I wrote previously in this thread, but I do not intend to say that a notion of existence as a predicate need be presupposed in the Ways. Feser reinterprets the Ways as all consistent with, or even entailing (I forget which offhand) denial of existential inertia and affirmation of the doctrine of divine conservation, but that's a different issue.

            Existence is not a predicate in terms of being a quality added to the being of either a substance or an accident.

            I don't think anyone would accuse Thomism of teaching that esse is added to a thing's esse! I'm translating 'existence' and 'being' both as 'esse' here, I think consistently with the use of the term 'esse' in the texts.

            My worries over how "being" gets talked about arise for two reasons I think of now:

            1. I am used to hearing that existence is a quantifier: e.g. F-ness is distributed over these things and, maybe, not those things. I get nervous when I read about something's 'having being' or 'having an act of existence added to it'.
            I don't know what problems in logic are going to come along in the wake of this way of talking about being.

            Vincent Torley talked about this here:

            http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/fesers-fourth-proof-and-the-mystery-of-existence/

            ---------
            ETA Eric Perl talks about how existence in Aquinas is not something added to substance but is a precondition of it. I don't know that I can get much more deeply into this, so if you'd rather hold off the time it would take to reply to this, no worries!
            --------------------
            2. Talk about our having deep, primary encounters with "being" makes it sound as though being is something more fundamental than things. It sounds as though I encounter some x that is F, but through deeper intuition or whatever I encounter Being in this x. It sounds as though behind all the things of experience we encounter some further, unitary thing called "being". The latter sounds like a "deepity," like something couched in impressive language but which is literally nonsensical because it does not denote anything.

            ETA: I'm not sure how intelligible it is when Aquinas says that being is a higher predicate than any particular "being": "But the act of being which each thing has in its own nature is substantial; and therefore when it is said that Socrates is, if the is is taken in the first way, it belongs to the class of substantial predicates; for being is a higher predicate with reference to any particular being, as animal with reference to man." In V Meta l. 9 C896. This sounds like existence is a perfection: "Now, just as the act of being and the nature of a thing are considered as belonging to its first perfection [lit: "secundum primam perfectionem"], so operation is referred to its second perfection." SCG II.46.3.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            How can I argue against your claim that St. Thomas regards existence as a perfection, when he writes in the De Potentia Dei, q. 7, a. 2, ad 9, "esse is among all things the most perfect ... esse is the actuality of all acts, and on account of this, it is the perfection of all perfections." (esse est inter omnia perfectissimum ... esse est actualitas omnium actuum, et propter hoc, est perfectio omnium perfectionum)?

            As I said above, though, the point I was making was simply that the notion of esse as perfection is not required in order to make the first three ways work.

            I think you can make their case by simply referring to being as the real, that to which existence belongs -- with existence simply being the act by which being in any form exists. Rather than using the theory of act and potency, I think the arguments can be made to work if you use merely the first metaphysical principles, for example and importantly, the principle that you cannot get being from non-being.

            I am not trying to open up the entire subject of these complex arguments to dispute here, but mainly trying to show that they can be put without explicitly using the language of act and potency (even though St. Thomas does so in the prima via) to get to their conclusions -- since act and potency can be expressed in terms of being as well.

            I know this does not fit the usage in modern formal logic of existence as a quantifier, but I doubt St. Thomas had such usage in mind back in the 13th century. :)

            Again, we must remember that all that the ways get to as a conclusion is merely a nominal definition of God, not the complete nature of God as defined in classical theism.

          • Ficino

            I presume my last came to your cellphone. I'm glad this of yours came to mine, because at this point it is very difficult to sift through the comments as disqus orders them.

            I know this does not fit the usage in modern formal logic of existence as a quantifier, but I doubt St. Thomas had such usage in mind back in the 13th century. :)

            My questions about esse are really not so much about the Ways as about the Thomistic system overall. If its logical foundation is flawed, will flaws show up in the conclusions arrived at in the system? As I think I've said before, a colleague maintains that Aquinas was "seduced" by the traditional system of logic based on the AnPr and modified by Porphyry and others. He says that Avicenna, Buridan and Ockham are examples of thinkers who did not subscribe to a logic consistent with the Square of Opposition, and who therefore avoided falling into certain traps. I recall we discussed this a bit before, and I think you said that Aristotle rightly was not concerned about classes that have no members. This makes me suspicious of the system - as I recall we discussed when talking about the Fifth. Likewise, although ens and res are held to be convertible, if there can be talk of a res that might not have esse added to its essence (e.g. ST 1a 3.4), is this going to lead to problems down the road?

            ETA maybe Aquinas would just say that it's self-contradictory to say that a res might not be an ens. Admittedly, In IV Meta l. 2 C558 Aq says Avicenna is wrong to think that Ari means that one and existing do not signify the substance of the thing but something added. Aq says although the existence of anything is other than its essence, existence is not something superadded in the manner of an accident, but existence is as it were constituted through the principles of the essence. So the word Ens which is imposed by existence itself signifies the same thing as the word that is imposed by the essence itself.

            No worries if you'd rather not get into these topics.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I can prove that you did not get my comment from my cell phone. I own solely a landline! But I confess that Disqus is a source of constant frustration -- for many reasons we all know.

            This may not go down well with you, but frankly I am very suspicious of trying to sort one's metaphysics out through logic -- as if logic were the ultimate science, not metaphysics. It seems to me that when Aristotle virtually invented logic, he did so by first doing his philosophy very carefully, and then reflecting back upon which mental moves were see clearly to be correct. By discerning the rules followed in that correct reasoning, he later must have produced his logic.

            This suspicion also makes me also suspicious of efforts by modern logicians to supersede metaphysical reasoning entirely, making logic itself regulative of what is valid metaphysics -- when the logic presently used itself presupposes some form of metaphysics. For that reason, before conceding that modern logic invalidates Aristotle's or St. Thomas's reasoning about the most basic metaphysical principles, I would have to see precisely how the logic proposed itself interfaces with the metaphysical insights it would depose. I am sure all this sounds like rank heresy to you, but it does make me a bit cautious before accepting the dogma of contemporary logicians and then using it to disenfranchise Thomistic metaphysics.

            My experience is that very careful explanation of precisely what one means by terms like ens and res can avoid what might otherwise be seen as logical pitfalls. For instance, the only instance in which a real res might not have esse added to its essence would be in God, in whom essence and esse are one. Careful metaphysical description precludes logical errors here. In a sense, logic is simply a method of making certain that metaphysical claims are true -- but careful metaphysics gets there first!

            As for how one can do metaphysics without presupposing a potentially confusing misapplication of act and potency, please look as how I convert act and potency to simple usage of non-being and being in the following passage taken from my Strange Notions article on how everything in motion requires a mover:

            " a thing in motion is gaining new properties of being it did not previously possess. As such, with respect to those properties it did not have, it is non-being; nothing at all. Since nothing cannot beget something without extrinsic causal assistance, a being in motion must be getting this new being from something other than itself, that is, from a mover."

            "For a thing to reduce itself from potency to act would be for it to be giving itself the very perfections of existence that it lacks. This is equivalent to having something that is non-being in a certain respect accounting for the coming-to-be of the selfsame being that it does not have. Being coming from non-being is impossible and absurd."
            https://strangenotions.com/whatever-is-moved-is-moved-by-another/

            Notice how Garrigou-Lagrange "reverts" act-potency to being and non-being in the following: "If there were in this prime mover a transition from non-being to being, this could be so only in virtue of a higher cause ...." God, His Existence and His Nature, I, 287 (B. Herder, 1934).

            Your friend might be right about St. Thomas being seduced by Aristotelian logic -- or he might be wrong. It all depends on the extent to which Aquinas was careful in the handling of his most basic insights. It is also possible that logical errors affected some tangential inferences, but do not undercut his most basic insights and reasoning. Remember that modern Thomists do not accept all that St. Thomas taught -- hook, line, and sinker.

          • Ficino

            My ETA crossed yours just now. Will go back to yours this PM, thanks. F

          • Ficino

            This may not go down well with you, but frankly I am very suspicious of trying to sort one's metaphysics out through logic -- as if logic were the ultimate science, not metaphysics.

            Yes, the above doesn't go down well with me. I don't know all what is entailed by "sort out," so I'll leave that aside. Though my area is not logic, I have learned and used enough logic to be confident that a metaphysical system that is built on flawed logic runs the risk of being flawed.

            Careful metaphysical description precludes logical errors here. In a sense, logic is simply a method of making certain that metaphysical claims are true -- but careful metaphysics gets there first!

            Yes, care in use of terms is crucial. I don't agree that metaphysics establishes claims before logic does, however, since we are using logic already in whatever reasoning we are doing. You might want to say that Thomistic metaphysics doesn't get its claims by discursive reasoning but by direct intuition (νοῦς?), but I don't think that Thomism jettisons logic even in its foundational stages as a system.

            An example is the problem of deducing a particular existence claim from universal premises. We talked about this earlier. Positing real immaterial entities to account for the possibility of predication, to paraphrase Lloyd Gerson, raises red flags for me.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There is a tendency to assume that modern logic must be superior to Aristotelian logic because it is, well, “modern.” This is not the case, and it leads to gross misunderstandings of the validity of Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy.

            I have a doctoral minor in symbolic logic, whose major defect is that I studied it nearly sixty years ago and my memory is nearly extinguished at this point in time. But I do recall enough to know that modern logic is no legitimate threat to A-T philosophy, and especially, to metaphysics.

            An excellent online article by another retired professional philosopher, Dr. Kelley Ross, exposes the philosophical bias of modern logic in great detail, and I strongly suggest that you or anyone else wanting to really understand the difference between traditional and modern logic read it. You mention the implications of changes in the Square of Opposition found in modern logic, and this article exposes the weakness of the modern interpretation, which erroneously ignores meaning of concepts.

            The modern acceptance of the Empty Set would be understandably rejected by Aristotle, since he insisted that we talk about real things. This article points out, with respect to the Square of Opposition, that “…there is nothing wrong with the four "invalid" syllogisms except when a new interpretation of meaning introduces the possibility of the Empty Set.”

            But the worst critique of modern logic is simply that it incorporates materialist presuppositions which lead to conclusions of the sort which make you and others illicitly reject traditional metaphysics.

            “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. … Since the Positivist logicians could simply build their assumptions, semantic, epistemological, and metaphysical, into their logic, it is not surprising that they felt vindicated in their conclusions. Symbolic logic as it exists today still reflects many of those assumptions….”

            http://www.friesian.com/syllog.htm

            Careful reading of this solid article reveals why no Thomistic philosopher should be fearful of criticisms of Thomistic philosophy made in the name of modern logic, and this, especially in the case of primary metaphysical insights which would remain virtually untouched by applications of the Square of Opposition anyway.

            Edit PS: Because of the general importance of this question about modern logic in relation to metaphysics, I am placing essentially this same comment (without any references to you) at the top of the thread.

          • Phil Tanny

            But I confess that Disqus is a source of constant frustration -- for many reasons we all know.

            I've concluded from the fact that Disqus is still being used here that the site owners have moved on to other projects and no longer care much what happens here. As is their right of course, but kind of a shame.

            Forum software is readily available and often free. But nobody cares, so...

          • Phil Tanny

            it is certain and evident to the senses that in the world some things are in motion.

            It is also certain and evident to the senses that time is a fixed measure. Except that, oops, it isn't. It seems that way to us at human scale because the scale of our everyday lives is so small that the difference in the speed of time from one location to another is measured in billionths of a second. Thus, calling time a fixed measure at human scale is practical, workable, useful.

            But as the scale expands, the concept starts to fall apart. As example GPS satellites have to be programmed to take time speed differences (between Earth and the satellite) in to account or the location data they generate would be worthless.

            Point being, many or most of the "proofs" for or against God seem to involve the attempt to map concepts that are entirely sensible at human scale on to the very largest and smallest of scales in all of reality, ie. the realm of God.

            In other words, what seems certain and evident to us may be worthless in regards to the God topic.

          • Jim the Scott

            >>"I see no reason why there cannot be an infinite series of causes ordered per accidens, "

            >>Neither does St. Thomas Aquinas.
            >Yay! Then we are agreed. There is a series of causes, ordered per accidens, going on forever and ever and ever... and that is all we need.

            You didn't know this? Dude that's Feser 101 it's in The Last Superstition. Everybody knows this an accidental series can go one forever from an infinite past without a formal beginning. But of course that is not the same as a per se causes series. To come up with an analogy to explain it. I can have a father begetting a son and that son begets a son etc from all eternity from an infinite past without an Adam figure or missing link ancestor or a formal beginning. But I can't have let us say a lamp hanging on a rope that goes up and up and up and doesn't terminate in a celling.* .

            Or better example (since I just thought of space elevators and some people here don't get analogy) a caboose being pulled by an infinite series of un-powered box cars that doesn't terminate in a locomotive is not possible. So it is not all we need. Indeed it is impossible. Any ordered per accidental infinite series has a first cause beneath it causing it to exist.

          • Ficino

            Too bad you spent the time to write this. See other comboxes on here.

          • Jim the Scott

            I was looking threw them & noticed Dr. B informed you an infinite accidental series was possible. But an essential series cannot be infinite it needs a first cause.

            >Too bad you spent the time to write this. See other comboxes on here.

            If you don't want to explain what you mean here I respect yer lazyness? I really do. Carry on with Dr. B. then.

          • Mark

            You never addresses the free will issue. I'd be interested in your take on that as well.

            2. The laws of nature can inform us of what is possible and impossible.

            Can the laws of nature inform us if they are contingent or necessary? That would go a long way for me in discerning what is possible and impossible.

          • Sample1

            Depends on what criterion you are setting for contingent and necessary. If something that is claimed to be contingent or necessary are physical phenomena or human abstractions that can be mimicked computationally then the criterion is scientific. If not, then the criterion is philosophical. Either way, good explanations are what we are after. Explanations which are theory laden will be either hard-to-vary or easy-to-vary and they will, of course, always be fallible and open to improvement.

            What are you asking me about “free will” that wasn’t answered in my previous reply that laid out the distinctions between knowledge, solutions and problems? Namely there is no guarantee knowledge will be applied to problems or even sought out in the first place. That’s up to us. In fact, the only limit to reason is the future. We cannot know what problems are in store for us. All we can know is that problems are inevitable and knowledge is what we apply to find solutions. Why? Because knowledge always illuminates new problems to tackle. Some will be philosophical and some will be scientific.

            Mike

          • Phil Tanny

            Either way, good explanations are what we are after.

            Why should we assume that this is what we should be after?

            All we can know is that problems are inevitable and knowledge is what we apply to find solutions.

            For the needs of the body, obviously yes. But religion typically addresses deeper problems, and it's not automatically certain that knowledge is always the solution.

            What if what we're seeking at the deeper level is to be found in the real world, and our relentless focus on symbolic abstractions, ie. thought, is the primary obstacle to focusing on the real world?

            As example, I'm walking down an empty Florida beach on a crisp winter morning as an amazing sunrise unfolds all around me, but I miss the whole thing, because I'm living in my head thinking stuff like this.

          • Phil Tanny

            The philosophical claim here is that all problems are the result of lacking knowledge.

            Sorry to nitpick, but "all" is a very big word. Surely many problems are as you describe, but not all. As just one example, the modern world suffers from having more knowledge than we can successfully manage, and that becomes more true every day.

            More to the point, this site is largely about religion, and this complicates the analysis considerably. As example, ideas in my head about God (supposed knowledge) may be the primary obstacle to me experiencing God, should such a thing exist.

            Here's why. To the degree that my mind is focused on knowledge, symbolic representations of reality, I am distracted from a focus on reality itself, where God is typically claimed to reside.

          • Sample1

            As just one example, the modern world suffers from having more knowledge than we can successfully manage, and that becomes more true every day.

            How do you propose to solve or attempt to solve this so-called suffering that you claim exists? Can it be solved without knowledge? If you say yes, I’m all ears. Make your case. If you say no, then your reply needs more work in my opinion.

            To the degree that my mind is focused on knowledge, symbolic representations of reality, I am distracted from a focus on reality itself, where God is typically claimed to reside.

            So, if I understand you, you see knowledge as an impediment of sorts to understanding reality which is where you claim God exists? I couldn’t agree more.

            Mike

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi Mike, thanks for your engagement. You asked...

            How do you propose to solve or attempt to solve this so-called suffering that you claim exists? Can it be solved without knowledge? If you say yes, I’m all ears.

            Psychological suffering is made of thought. To the degree thought is surrendered, suffering goes with it.

            Ok, I'll grant you that this claim can be labeled a form of knowledge. But it's not this knowledge which heals suffering, but rather the surrender of this knowledge, ie. thought.

            When it comes to the needs of the body, then yes, knowledge is the solution. This is a religion site so I'm focusing my comments on the psychology side of things.

            So, if I understand you, you see knowledge as an impediment of sorts to understanding reality which is where you claim God exists? I couldn’t agree more.

            I see knowledge (ie. thought) as an impediment to experience of reality. This isn't so esoteric. If I'm living in my head I'm not really paying close attention to the real world beyond symbolic abstractions.

            I don't claim God exists or doesn't exist. I jokingly refer to myself as a Fundamentalist Agnostic, which might be defined as the position that we don't know, and that is a good thing, an opportunity to be harvested.

          • Sample1

            There are some challenges our species face that only philosophy can solve because the challenges and solutions are both immaterial by my understanding of what is material and what is not.

            I’ve never found much use for the claims of the immaterial, YMMV.

            although factual and moral assertions are logically independent (one cannot deduce either from the other), factual and moral explanations are not. There is an explanatory link between ought and is, and this provides one of the ways in which reason can indeed address moral issues. -Deutsch.

            This quote is from a short Edge article, the 2002 Question. His was, “How are moral assertions connected with the world of facts?” Here’s the link. It’s a short read.

            https://www.edge.org/response-detail/11271

            Mike

          • Phil Tanny

            We will surely squander the greatest moment of human prosperity because most people value individualism and self indulgence.

            Seems reasonable. So why do we have such values?

            It's because we experience reality as being divided between "me" and "everything else", with "me" being very very small and "everything else" being very very big, a perception which generates fear. And so we scramble to try to defend what we perceive to be our tiny piece of ground.

            Why do we have this experience of "me" vs. "everything else"? That's because we're made of thought (psychologically) and thought operates by a process of dividing the single unified reality in to conceptual parts, with "me" being a prominent one of those conceptual parts.

            If the content of thought was the source of the problem we would have long ago stumbled upon some ideology which brings us together in to cooperative unity.

            But what we see instead is that every ideology ever invented inevitably subdivides in to competing internal factions, thus fueling more division, and less cooperation. Even ideologies like Christianity which are explicitly about creating unity undergo these divisions and conflicts.

            The universality of this divisive process in every ideology suggests that the division must arise from something that all ideologies have in common. And that can only be thought itself.

            Catholics are attempting to address the divisions with moralizing guilt trip labels such as "self indulgence". They've had 2,000 years to succeed, and can't achieve unity even within their own religion.

            This is not because Catholicism is a bad ideology which needs to be replaced with a better ideology. We've tried that too, a thousand times.

            It's because Catholicism, like all ideologies, is made of thought. It's not the content of thought which is the problem, but the medium of thought.

            Once it is seen that division and conflict arise from the nature of thought itself, one's relationship with philosophy is transformed.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, we have oranges and apples here, which makes it not a debate on the same topic.

            Nonetheless, when you call knowledge an explanation, I would say that what you are trying to explain is what I call knowledge in the first place. If you did not already know something, there would be nothing needing to be explained.

            What you mean by explanation correlates to what Aristotle meant by science. We have science when we know something is true, we know why it is true, and we know why it cannot be otherwise. Your definition of knowledge is the "why it is true" part. But it still presupposes knowing something -- rightly or wrongly.

            And then there is the distinction between sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge, with is another entirely different can of worms -- as we both know.

            Finally, as to whether we have any direct knowledge of the world, I would direct your attention to your entire love of science and evolution, etc. Unless we have some way to directly certify that our science and its theories comport with extramental reality, it could all be fantasy and delusions. All noetic claims have value solely if you can show that they somehow comport with reality, and there is no way to make such a judgment unless you know both your "knowledge" and reality, so as to compare what you know to what is real.

            So, no direct knowledge of reality, no science, despite how enthralling it may be. You will have to sink back into your hopes for probabilities, etc., even though probability judgments have the exact same problem!

          • BTS

            This book forever changed my thinking on the human senses:
            "The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat" by Oliver Sacks. What a great read. Our brains are primed for mischief, no doubt.

            https://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Mistook-His-Wife/dp/0684853949/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1LG9LTWVOK1XV&keywords=the+man+who+mistook+his+wife+for+a+hat&qid=1566483221&s=gateway&sprefix=the+man+who+mi%2Caps%2C152&sr=8-2

            Also, another critically important and groundbreaking cultural phenomenon that will no doubt be puzzling neuroscientists and philosophers alike for the next thousand years, and which clearly demonstrates that our senses do not indeed provide knowledge, but rather, merely input:

            The Laurel vs. Yanny debate
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yanny_or_Laurel

            (Whimsy intended)

          • Sample1

            Good taste, I’ve read that book, and most of his others. A great loss, Sacks.

            I was out fly fishing once a long time ago with a physician friend/acquaintance and mentioned that author’s works to him. Without missing a beat he described Dr. Sacks as “one of the smarties”. It might have been there and then that I found an interest in seeking out those who smart people, like my friend, thought of as their own intellectual go-to resources.

            It’s also perhaps one of the few pleasures of Twitter, to have the opportunity to freely access the thoughts of incredibly talented people.

            If you are looking for another book, David Deutsch has two. I’ve only read The Beginning of Infinity but it really helped me understand a perspective about what knowledge is. A word everyone thinks they probably already understand to some degree.

            Yanny, excommunicated
            Edit done.

          • God Hates Faith

            "The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat" by Oliver Sacks

            I LOVE THAT BOOK!

          • God Hates Faith

            I also recommend The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I not only read that book by Dr. Sacks long ago, but am all too familiar with someone who could match the symptoms of his artist case. And I know the Laurel vs. Yanny example as well.

            Neither of these convinces me that we do not have direct knowledge of extramental reality, since (1) some such knowledge is absolutely necessary even to determine whether our knowlege (including scientific) comports with reality at all -- as I explain in the beginning of the present OP, and (2) even purely intramental and false knowledge provides the content of being from which to form the intuition of being that is the basis for the immediately-evident metaphysical first principles of identity, non-contradiction, sufficient reason, and causality -- from which an entire metaphysics can be constructed. (Don't ask me to do it all on this thread, please!)

          • God Hates Faith

            Do you taste wholes?

          • God Hates Faith

            (1) Do we taste in "wholes"? You definition of "wholes" is still problematic.

            (2) Even assuming arguendo that we see or smell in wholes (or part), your conclusion based on that (perception= magic) is unsupported.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just stick to the sense of sight and you will be a bit less confused than you already are. I am not saying the other senses do not grasp wholes. It is just harder to make a perfect definition of a whole in their case. And, why should I bother, when sight works so well? Just to please you?

          • God Hates Faith

            I am not limited to your examples, when there are counter examples with highlight the holes in your theory.

          • Ben Champagne

            Yes, you very clearly do have a layman's understanding. A bad one at that.

            But please, show me the scientific field within the natural sciences that are currently searching for a locatable sensory experience within the physicality of existence. I'll wait...

          • Sample1

            A hologram or mirror image appears to be extended into space too, despite having only a 2D reality. To think it’s really a 3D image is to fall victim to illusion because of lacking knowledge. Wow would I have liked to been able to travel back in time to the 12th century with a hologram. Likely would have been smoked alive for devilry.

            At any rate, some brain scientists are exploring how memory and imagery (like Jim The Scott’s sweetheart) may be explained not unlike holography. Many different angles of light interference pattens for an image, captured by a single laser, and then used to etch a 2D piece of plastic, like a vinyl record’s microscopic dents reproducing sound waves.

            But I agree with you. We don’t fully know. And some restless people have found a way to appease gaps in scientific knowledge for them. I suppose that’s just being very human. :-)

            Mike, excommunicated

          • BTS

            Thanks, Mike. Interesting stuff on the holography.
            I heard a story on NPR a couple weeks ago about how memory might not be "stored" the way we think it is but rather recreated each time we dredge up the memory. Can't find the link. Darn.

            Dennis wore me out today. I need a nap.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I know you have a fideistic commitment to natural science as the ultimate referee of all things rational, but I don't think going from 2D to 3D will help your case, only make it worse.

            I posted the following response to someone else who could not see the problem with seeing a whole and thought I was objecting to compressing all the data of the whole onto a single point. Anyway, here below is my reply and the problem, which I hope may help you think twice about a purely physical solution:

            When we see something as a whole, we do not compress all the data to a single point. This can be misunderstood. I am not saying we do this. I am saying it is impossible to do this -- and then giving reasons why it is impossible.

            But the reason I mention this at all is to show that there are only two alternatives: (1) the object known is somehow displayed, represented, depicted on many points or parts of the brain at once, like on the surface of a TV screen, or else (2) the object known is somehow displayed, etc., on a SINGLE POINT or PART.

            My point is that NEITHER is possible. If it is "spread out" over a surface of many parts or points, then nothing "sees" the whole, just like a TV can depict the image over a large surface, but does not "see" the image as a whole, since none of the parts (phosphors) are "seeing" what any part except itself represents. On the other hand, you cannot compress all the data on a single point or part without losing the image or content itself, for obvious reasons.

            That is the point of my proof. Neither physical explanation suffices. And yet we see the whole. So, if you cannot explain how the whole is grasped by many parts, AND if you cannot explain how the whole is grasped by a single part -- and if the entire process or project or device is such because it is a physical entity, then the only logical conclusion is that, since the whole IS SEEN, it must be seen by something that is NOT physical.

            I know this is pure logic. But what is wrong with the logic?

          • Sample1

            but I don't think going from 2D to 3D will help your case, only make it worse.

            Where it gets “worse” (for whom I don’t know) is the fact that we exist as a wave-function in 4D and memory may be intimately tied to the extrinsic and intrinsic properties of spacetime curvature in our brains; the hologram is an analogy where memory is a process of recalling information not from a 2D plane of neurons but rather a 4D structure of interdependent complexity. It is not accurate, at all, to compare this to a TV screen. If you take a digital picture of a blue sky and look at it under a microscope, you’ll see a single pixel point of blue. If you take a hologram picture of a blue sky and look under a microscope, you will not see a single point of blue at all. The macro and micro do not correspond in holography with point pixels. When you mention points and wholes, that’s not what is going on with holographic points, and we can derive wholes from holographic points (reconstruction of the interference of light that bounces all over holographic structures). But this is only plausible conjecture (the memory part, not holography) to the best of my knowledge. Still, as Deutsch says, conjecture, not observation/experiment is the real beginning of all knowledge. I digress.

            Conjecture seems both absent and present in A/T. From my POV A/T is all conjecture but a Thomist claims infallible certainty in one way or another. So when you use words for me like fideistic commitment I just have to laugh. Is this bait, a stunt, a taunt? I’m a naturalist, all claims are on a spectrum of confidence not on a spectrum that includes absolute certainty. Why? Because humans are fallible. You know this about me, or should by now.

            I leave the logic question to others. I don’t have enough recall under my belt to follow exactly what you’re saying right now. Maybe restate?

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Glad to keep you laughing, but there is a clear faith commitment on your part to science that sounds analogous to the theological anti-rational error of fideism.

            Be that as it may, I am bemused to learn that I am now just a "wave function in 4D." It is worse than I feared when critiquing Dr. Dawkins for having no substantial unity and therefore no substantial existence. If he doesn't exist following the logic of his own atomistic worldview, then we are really annihilated in the face of being reduced to a mere 4D wave function!

            No, I probably cannot make my proof any clearer than I just stated it to you in the prior comment. Whether 2D, 3D, or 4D, the logic remains the same. Data perception is either on a multi-part medium or a single part medium. The former loses the unity of perception, and the latter loses its content's intelligibility. As long as the perceiver is a physical entity, this is what reason implies.

            It appears that you prefer scientific speculation on future probabilities while scoffing at the employment of philosophical reasoning. This reinforces in me the suspicion of you being fideistic in your commitment to science even in the face of rational demonstration that contradicts a purely physical explanation of the phenomena under consideration.

            Perhaps it is best that I not further disturb your apparent comfort with solely scientific speculations.

          • Sample1

            If faith is required to please your middle Eastern God (and scripturally it is), then you should be over the moon that according to you I am a person of faith.

            But if you are not pleased at my faith, then it is because of...what? My faith isn’t your faith? Correct, correct, correct. Ten thousand corrects. And that’s the distinction that matters. So put that in your thurible and smoke it. :-p

            Mike, faith free.

          • Jim the Scott

            >If faith is required to please your middle Eastern God (and scripturally it is),

            Scripturally? An ex-Catholic Atheist who channels Lutheranism? Yer Funny.
            "Come now, let us reason together"-Isaiah 1:18

            >then you should be over the moon that according to you I am a person of faith.

            Fideism is not faith laddie. "not by Faith alone"(James 2:24). It seems you just traded an irrationalist theism for an equally irrationalist atheism. That is not really an improvement & it undermines yer science as well. Reasoning is a learned skill. Just because you merely deny the gods doesn't automatically make you rational.

            >But if you are not pleased at my faith, then it is because of...what? My faith isn’t your faith? Correct, correct, correct. Ten thousand corrects. And that’s the distinction that matters. So put that in your thurible and smoke it. :-p

            Reason proceeds faith. One must have reason to believe and motivation for belief.-Aquinas

            That is just common sense. But if you wish to embrace a form of anti-intellectual fundamentalism in godless form well you are free to it. The thing is you can't complain when I mock you without mercy because it is pure incoherent silliness.

            Lad you might as well just become a Flat Earther and be done with it(like Democritus) .

          • Sample1

            Before David Nickol gets to it, allow me:

            The necessity of faith

            161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"43 -Catechism

            Your other stuff I already let you have the last word on but by all means, do continue!

            Mike, excommunication is a gas

          • Jim the Scott

            >Before David Nickol gets to it, allow me

            He is good. He is way better than the rest of you lot with the CCC & knowing Catholic teaching but I have Ott and Denzinger and I can quote Popes and Church Fathers and Councils.
            So come at me bro.

            Anyway you think by equivocating that is going to win you the argument?

            >The necessity of faith.

            Where did I say the Faith isn't necessary? I said it was proceeded by reason.
            I also denied yer "Faith alone" view which last time I checked the CCC confirms is false and so does Canon 9 Session Six of the Council of Trent.

            >excommunication is a gas

            Take some pepto bismol for that.

          • Sample1

            Your replies have been read. Silence is what you will experience for a while as I focus on other ideas from other people.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            Fair enough.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Ahh. But we Catholics are committed to the harmony of faith and reason.

            My reading of your faith is that it is opposed to reason.

          • Sample1

            There is no way you missed my point. Idea exchange complete. As for your post, if that is what you really think, what can I say? Have it.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            Can A/T be programmed?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Probably. Dang near anything can be programmed. But, as we used to say when I worked for Ford Motor Company as a programmer, "Garbage in, garbage out."

            No philosophy is any better or worse for being programmed. It is only as true as its premises. Atheism can be programmed also. So, what?

          • Sample1

            I asked because I think there is an important insight to the saying, if you can’t program it you don’t fully understand it.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We should all realize that we cannot fully understand hylemorphism, since, while we can see that it must be as real as the macroscopic beings around us, we cannot create such beings. The ontological foundation for hylemorphic beings is the One who creates and sustains such beings in existence. He is the only One who understands them and how they can exist. He is the Chief Programmer.

          • Sample1

            Is this your final answer? I mean, is there anything you’d wish to add to the above?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am a philosopher. And you ask me if I have anything I could add? Seriously? We get paid to talk endlessly. :)

          • Sample1

            So here’s the thing, what knowledge do you have to say, “we cannot create such beings?”

            Mike
            Deleted first reply to place it here instead.

          • David Nickol

            I don't know how many here watched the excellent AMC series Humans (three seasons and then cancelled) but it was about very convincingly human robots (called "synths") who, through a software modification, become truly self-aware and "human."

            My question is whether there is any possible scientific discovery or breakthrough that could undermine hylemorphism. If someone produced "synths" as in Humans, and their behavior was indistinguishable from human behavior, would that prove consciousness and intellect could be generated by the purely physical? Or would synths be considered philosophical zombies? Or would it be concluded that they must somehow have been ensouled?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I hope this isn't too intrusive, but I wonder if that can be separated into two, or perhaps three questions.

            [I will phrase this as one comment and two questions, though you could make a question out of my first bullet.]

            1. There is (it seems to me) no question that computers already conform to immaterial forms, a.k.a. "software". Since the logic of software can be abstracted from any individual material manifestation and materially re-instantiated any number of times in any number of material media, that logic is not itself material. In that sense, every computer running software is an affirmation of hylemorphism.
            2. There is then the question -- and this is what seems most relevant to the OP -- of whether the immaterial forms associated with machines could ever rightly be called "sensitive souls", i.e. could there be evidence that they "perceive wholes". I also would be interested to hear Doctor Bonnette's position on this. It seems to me that any machine that engages in pattern recognition is engaging in something that is behaviorally similar to the holistic perception that we attribute to animals. E.g. my iPhone acts as if it recognizes the "whole" of thumbprints, and reacts one way if that whole is my thumbprint and another way if the that whole corresponds to the thumbprint of another.
            3. Then there is the question of whether, computers could ever exhibit behavior that would make them indistinguishable from rational souls, and if so what that behavior would look like. That seems like a more complex question.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Of course, we can program computers to recognize patterns and respond to them as wholes. They do it all the time. But they do it by having receptor devices (for want of a better term) that receive the data on a recording medium where different parts of the medium represent different parts of what is being received (a whole object). We program them to respond to such patterns of data, but that does not mean anyone or anything experiences the pattern as a whole.

            The problem is that computers know absolutely nothing. They are a pile of junk we humans put together to manipulate data for our purposes. A tribute to their complex and effective functioning is a tribute to human intelligence. They are no more a single thing than are our automobiles, as complex and functional as they are.

            When I was a computer programmer for Ford Division back before the Flood, we were programming in basic machine language. You know, CBA1248 on the punch cards? That level of proximity to the actual function of the machines made one all too aware of the basic stupidity and absence of knowledge on the part of any computer.

            Forgive me, but I am a computer atheist.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree with your conclusion that computers do not experience anything, but the argument you are making to get to that conclusion seems like question begging. You say: "We program them to respond to such patterns of data, but that does not mean anyone or anything experiences the pattern as a whole." But, if they act as if they experience patterns as a whole, then how do we know that they do not experience patterns as a whole. What is the evidence that my iPhone does not experience my thumbprint?

          • Jim the Scott

            I think John Searle's Chinese room explains the problems of turning a computer into an AI. I seem to remember reading somewhere someone saying after 50 years of cognitive research science still has no idea what a consciousness is and how it is generated. I think we will perfect FTL long before we even come close to AI & truth be told we will never perfect FTL. I saw the earlier episodes of Human. At best if a Synth is just a cyborg which a cloned human brain operating it that is the closest you may come. But speculating that science creating an AI would refute Hylemorphism? I don't see how it would refute the being/essence distinction? Or the act/potency?

            It is a good question thought. Better than what has been posted in this thread thus far..

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We know it is now possible to program computers to pass the Turing test. I have no doubt that near anything is possible in programming computers, including AI.

            But none of it affects hylemorphism at all. Hylemorphism is known to be true primarily in one's own self-awareness and self-reflection. This is its immediate evidence. You can fake consciousness "from the outside" by clever programming.

            You can program a computer to say, "Cogito, ergo sum." But it still does not think and has no substantial unity or existence.

            A computer or robot is simply a pile of junk we put together to function in some manner that serves our human purposes. No matter how you put them together, these piles are still just accidental unities. The distinction between substantial and accidental unity still stands.

            At present, there appear to be no artificial unities that can fake substantial unity running around. That being the case, I presume that dogs and cats and people are real substantial unities, needing a real principle of unity, which is the role played by substantial form.

            Hence, hylemorphism. Synths are, indeed, well named as "philosophical zombies." One might make a great wife, if she were programmed properly. To love, honor, and, above all, to obey.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Where it gets “worse” (for whom I don’t know) is the fact that we exist as a wave-function in 4D and memory may be intimately tied to the extrinsic and intrinsic properties of spacetime curvature in our brains;

            Of course if you don't believe yer senses sense real things then none of these conclusions can be trusted or believed.

            >But this is only plausible conjecture (the memory part, not holography) to the best of my knowledge.

            It isn't even that. If you can't trust yer senses then you can't even measure probability.

            >So when you use words for me like fideistic commitment I just have to laugh. Is this bait, a stunt, a taunt?

            As a wise Hologram once said "It is as plain as a Bulgarian Pin up!". (BOYZ FROM THE DWARF!!)
            Yer view is based solely on faith and not on reason prior to faith.

            >I’m a naturalist, all claims are on a spectrum of confidence not on a spectrum that includes absolute certainty.

            Try reasoning first. That is the essence of philosophy.

            >Why? Because humans are fallible.

            There is a difference between merely being fallible and willful stupidity. I can see why the Philosopher Dave Stove (who was an Atheist BTW) dismissed this Humean nonsense as pure irrationalism.

      • God Hates Faith

        The subjective experience is simply emotions. What is sometimes described as qualia (which is a better argument than the one you are making).

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The "subjective experience" does not mean "subjective" in the modern sense of an emotional response.

          It means the experience which takes place in the knowing subject: man or beast.

          The Scholastics understood the simplicity and immaterial nature of sense experience centuries before modern philosophers finally felt the need to invent "qualia" to describe experiences that did not fit neatly into empirically observable phenomena.

      • BTS

        This is just a really complicated way of saying that we (humans, science, philosophy, whatever) have not solved the hard problem of consciousness yet. Right? If so, I will agree to that.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          It is a bit more daunting than even that. Since philosophy can show that consciousness is not something subject to scientific observation, the real possibility is that it is not something that science can even make. If so, it will not be a matter of solving the problem "yet," but at all -- ever.

  • Ficino

    I have no expertise in neuroscience or philosophy of mind, but to me reading over the OP and comments, the phrase "obscurum per obscurius" keeps coming to mind.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      To clarify the "obscurity," materialism claims nothing non-physical exists.

      My article offers demonstration that at least some non-physical entities exist.

      • Raymond

        It's not a demonstration - it's a philosophical argument. Demonstrations are typically the purview of science, in which you have a hypothesis and use empirical methods to support the hypothesis or indicate the hypothesis is wrong or needs refining.

        Philosophical (and metaphysical) arguments are nice, but they can't "demonstrate" that non-physical entities exist - they just argue that they might.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You are giving only one meaning of demonstration and one limited to modern science.

          No one owns words. The term, "demonstration," has been used by logicians for many centuries. And Aristotle, who virtually invented logic, offers many examples of scientific demonstrations that produce certitude.

          No, and that is not "science" as you understand it, since it seems your knowledge is limited to modern science. It refers to certain knowledge had through premises from which a conclusion or inference is validly drawn. There is a whole history of logic you seem to be skipping.

          • Raymond

            "[Science] refers to certain knowledge had through premises from which a conclusion or inference is validly drawn."

            Nope. Science makes no claims to certain knowledge. It takes premises and attempts to test them by generating evidence either for or against the premise. You can say this is "modern" science, but scientists through the ages used this process.

            Archimedes made an initial observation about liquid displacement, but it would take subsequent premises about the behaviors of solids and liquids to better understand the premises. After Sir Isaac Newton's original observations of gravity , it took a great deal of work, through testing and mathematics, to arrive at a theory of gravity which is still being studied and tested today.

            There can be certain knowledge derived from scientific study. Louis Pasteur was able to refute the premise of "spontaneous generation" as far as how maggots occurred in rancid meat.

            My point here is that there is no such thing as "modern" science. There's just science, however it is understood at the time. In the same way, philosophical or metaphysical "demonstrations" do not necessarily provide "certain" knowledge depending on the validity of the initial premises.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You really need to do a little study of the history of Greek philosophy, the origins of logic, and the evolution of the definition of the term, "science." "Science" is from the Latin, "scire," meaning "to know." It means to know with certainty originally, but has been diluted in recent times because of the limitations of natural or experimental science.

            What you are referring to is called "experimental science" or "natural science." The very fact that the adjectives, "experimental" or "natural" is applied to "science" should tell you that "experimental science" or "natural science" is not identical to "science."

            Even the definitions given in a standard dictionary should clarify this for you. Natural science is only ONE of several definitions given by Merriam-Webster, and it is several definitions down the list:

            https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science

          • This is a specious rebuttal. It's clear that Raymond is talking about what we now understand as the scientific process, not the history of the word 'science.' That the Greeks used a word differently thousands of years ago does not have any bearing on its use today. If modern people use the word 'science' to describe a certain thing, you can't honestly use a different definition of the same word to claim that they mean something else.

          • Jim the Scott

            >This is a specious rebuttal. It's clear that Raymond is talking about what we now understand as the scientific process,

            What is specious is this is a philosophical analysis and argument not a scientific one so why are you or Raymond bringing science into it?

            You latent Positivist types are tedious. You don't get the concept of a category mistake do you?

            Yer pointless objections are like someone having a discussion on physics and an archeologist comes in & says he doesn't believe in the existence of a Higgs Boson because he can't dig it up in a fossil bed.

            What part of philosophy not emperical science do ye lot not understand laddie?

  • God Hates Faith

    Wow! This article is wrong on so many fundamental levels...

    Claim: “many scientific materialists argue that science remains objective”

    Response: No they don’t. Science is a tool/method. Humans are limited by our abilities to observe. Even if we assume something called “objective reality” exist, our senses are only capable of showing “perceived reality”.

    Claim:”adding the assumption that sense knowledge is a purely material phenomenon, which can be spatially located. Such an assumption does not come from natural science, but from the philosophy of materialism.”

    Response: I agree an axiom is necessary to avoid solipsism. But (1) materialism does not preclude making presuppositions since the presupposition is not a knowledge claim, but rather a epistemological tool (2); Also assuming our senses do a decent job of perceiving what we think of us reality, is not an absolute claim, because we know our senses can deceive us. (3) The opposite is to say that empiricism (use of senses) provide no knowledge of what we perceive of reality, which is contradicted by direct experience.

    Claim: "sense experience itself cannot be a purely physical entity"

    Response: Yes it can. If I have an idea, that idea resides in my brain. Simply because we cannot trace that idea to a binary code in my brain, because it is wetware (not software), does not show the idea is immaterial. Supernatural of the gaps fallacy.

    Claim: Moreover, since what is not extended in space is also not located in space, this means that the inference that sense experience is located inside the brain cannot be true.

    Response: The conclusion does not follow from the premise. If I see something, the image is in my brain. The object I see is not.

    Claim: But, sense experience actually does something that no purely material entity can do, namely, the immaterial act of unifying the experience of external physical reality, or the internal image, into a simple whole.

    Response: Yes it can. Pick up a biology book.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      >"If I have an idea, that idea resides in my brain."

      >" If I see something, the image is in my brain."

      For all your attempts to distance yourself from the errors I describe in my article, the two above quotes from you prove the need for my article.

      You are blatantly asserting that knowledge takes place in some physical location inside one's brain.

      The article proves otherwise by showing that sense experience itself is neither extended in space nor locatable in space.

      You really need to reread the article without superimposing your own preconceived notions about the physiology/physics of sensation and your own materialistic philosophical presuppositions.

      • God Hates Faith

        the two above quotes from you prove the need for my article.

        The quotes are a conclusion, based on the evidence that the supernatural has never been demonstrated. But unlike those who believe in the supernatural, my belief IS falsifiable. You failed to demonstrate a non-material cause.

        You are blatantly asserting that knowledge takes place in some physical location inside one's brain.

        As opposed to some Platonic realm? Yes. When the brain gets damaged or diseased, we lose memories, knowledge, etc.

        The article proves otherwise by showing that sense experience itself is neither extended in space nor locatable in space.

        It doesn't "show" it. It argues it...poorly (which I already highlighted, and which you ignored).

        • Dennis Bonnette

          >"You failed to demonstrate a non-material cause."

          I did not need to demonstrate a non-material cause. All that needs be shown is that the act of sense experience itself is non-material in nature, which I did if you read the piece.

          >"When the brain gets damaged or diseased, we lose memories, knowledge, etc."

          I even included that objection almost verbatim in the text. Did you not read it? It proves some form of dependence, but not that the experience itself is extended in space, etc.

          Of course, my entire piece is an "argument" that "shows" the conclusion that sense experience is not a physical something.

          It is clear that you are not used to following philosophical demonstrations. That is one reason I gave many examples to prove the central point that the sense experience cannot be extended in space. Take a look at the analogy to the electron tube television I put in there for philosophical neophytes.

          • God Hates Faith

            All that needs be shown is that the act of sense experience itself is non-material in nature, which I did if you read the piece.

            I read the piece, and I explained in my original response how you failed to demonstrate its non-material nature.

            Did you not read it? It proves some form of dependence, but not that the experience itself is extended in space, etc.

            I did read it. You admit there is a material aspect, but then state in a conclusory way, that it doesn't explain everything (insert your "non-material" of the gaps argument).

            That is one reason I gave many examples to prove the central point that the sense experience cannot be extended in space. Take a look at the analogy to the electron tube television

            Your central thesis is conclusory. Simply because our sense take bits of data and then interprets it, does not support your conclusion. At best you could conclude--"I am not sure how this works"; NOT "I don't know, therefore its non-material." But its easy to understand this if you took a course in biology or neuroscience.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "We know that material things -- extended in space -- can never unify experience without placing its content on top of itself so as to render its parts indistinguishable and unintelligible."

            If you cannot understand this, I probably cannot help you.

            You cannot just say that "our sense takes bits of data and then interprets it." There is a pack of philosophy in that claim that you simply are not dealing with. The word, "interprets," is loaded with content. That is where the knower had to unify the content known and do it in a material manner. That is where the arguments and examples given in the piece make my case. You are simply ignoring the actual arguments. Show me where they are even physically wrong.

            And referring me to a biology book hardly helps you avoid the accusation of engaging in scientism!

          • God Hates Faith

            "We know that material things -- extended in space -- can never unify experience without placing its content on top of itself so as to render its parts indistinguishable and unintelligible."

            That is a conclusion, not evidence. You have failed to provide evidence that supports that conclusion. The only evidence you can provide is -- we don't know how this works (allowing you to assume a supernatural cause).

            That is where the arguments and examples given in the piece make my case.

            Except the examples and arguments don't make the case. It seems you feel you have good evidence, and I disagree. Rather than going back and forth about our conclusion based on the evidence, let's discuss the actual evidence. To start, please pick one or two pieces of evidence/arguments, and then we can discuss them.

            And referring me to a biology book hardly helps you avoid the accusation of engaging in scientism!

            If I claimed that diseases are caused by supernatural forces, and you referred me to a biology book, would you be engaging in scientism?

          • Jim the Scott

            GHF I haven't forgotten about you laddie.

            >That is a conclusion, not evidence.

            It is a rational conclusion what does "evidence" have to do with it?

            It is a rational conclusion, just like given the axioms of math that a Googleplex +1 is greater than a Googleplex + 0. One need not formally count a Googleplex # of objects to know this. You have pointed to no flaw in the argument you have merely dismissed it.

            >The only evidence you can provide is -- we don't know how this works (allowing you to assume a supernatural cause).

            Do learn to read my son. Dr. B is arguing sense experience is immaterial. That has nothing to do with it being supernatural.

            >To start, please pick one or two pieces of evidence/arguments, and then we can discuss them.

            Stop trying to answer philosophical questions with science.

            >f I claimed that diseases are caused by supernatural forces, and you referred me to a biology book, would you be engaging in scientism?

            What if you are subject to radiation poisoning? There would be no biological agents responsible for yer sickness and then when I tried to explain radiation you dismissed it as "magical invisible light nobody can see so it must be supernatural".

            That is what you sound like to me thus far. Try again son.

          • Ben Champagne

            The Dunning Kruger lives loudly within you.

          • God Hates Faith

            Thanks for the conclusion without any supporting evidence or argument...

          • Ben Champagne

            Just a comment, but I guess that would go over the head of the DK mascot.

          • God Hates Faith

            What is DK?

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I don't claim to understand what you have just written here, but one thing is certain. All the components of this analysis exist in the same real world, and hence, have something in common.

    The problem with the claim that all we can know is the representation inside the brain is that we have thereby no concept whatever as to the nature of the extramental physical reality to which it is said to conform. Even hypothesizing that the representation is "inside a brain" presupposes the existence of the very extramental world (including brains) of which we are being told we know absolutely nothing.

    The example you give has many constants and variables that share a common reality platform, and hence, I don't think it is a legitimate argument. What it is, perhaps, saying is that we have no direct way to estimate the variable in question. But it surely does give a lot of information about the type of reality it hopes to say something about, including the nature of the things it is working with and many physical laws about their interaction.

    In other words, absolutely everything your example entails takes place in the same physical world. It does not entail trying to make judgments taken from one type of world somehow conform to a potentially entirely different world about which you know nothing at all. It presupposes the constants of a common physical universe.

    You simply lack all that utterly in the case of the claim that all we know is the contents of our brains. As I said, you cannot even really know the brain as a brain unless someone has removed someone else's brain case and looked at one through direct experience.

    On the other hand, this entire abysmal epistemological nightmare is ended the moment you allow that we have some direct knowledge of extramental phenomena as they are presented to the end organs of the senses.

  • VicqRuiz

    Elsewhere on Strange Notions, I have offered proofs for the human soul’s spirituality and immortality as well as proofs for God’s existence. But those topics have a long history of contentious debate, which can confuse those who do not understand them thoroughly. The present article’s advantage is that it employs phenomena anyone can immediately experience.

    I see no contradiction whatever in denying materialism as an explanation for all that exists, and at the same time finding that there is no conclusive evidence for a personal God. Those two concepts have coexisted comfortably in my mind for several decades now.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      If you read carefully what I said, the present article is not even dealing with the proofs for God existence. It is merely showing that not all reality is physical.

      If you want to deal with the proofs for God, that is another topic for another day.

    • God Hates Faith

      Care to share the link? In human history, every time the supernatural has been used as a explanation (famine, war, disease, ocean tides, etc.) eventually the physical evidence shows otherwise.

      Today the supernatural claims are limited to a small pocket of things we don't know (yet). Or the supernatural claims are unfalsifiable.

      • VicqRuiz

        I believe in the non-material existence of human character traits and emotions, but I do not believe that supernatural forces act upon the physical universe. That is why I am neither a theist nor do I accept reductionist materialism.

        • God Hates Faith

          How does the non-material and material interact?

          My eyes, ears, nose, mouth, fingers, all produce different feelings/sensations using a physical process based on external stimuli. My brain/body also produce other feelings/sensations (emotions) using a physical process based on internal stimuli (although external stimuli can also affect it). Emotions aid in survival and reproduction. Non-human animals have them as well.

          • VicqRuiz

            Perhaps some day it will be possible to analyze my body and brain chemistry and determine empirically (for example) that I love gypsy jazz, tolerate hip hop and loathe techno.

            When that level of analysis is achieved, I will concede that everything I think and feel is determined by the chemical/electrical responses of my brain to stimuli.

          • God Hates Faith

            Until then, you prefer to stick to the theory that "if we can't explain something, it could be magic (non-material)."?

            Humans used supernatural theories for thousands of years to explain famines, disease, wars, ocean tides, etc. That theory has been correct zero times. Yet people keep assuming that "I don't know" = "magic".

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You are right. The two statements you depict as not contradicting each other do not contradict each other. But that does not make them true.

      What is true, as the article proves, is that the act of sense experience cannot be extended in space, which means that at least something is not a material entity. You may deny the validity of the proof. But to do that you ought to address yourself to a careful reading and rebuttal of the proof itself.

      • God Hates Faith

        Light is "extended in space".

  • God Hates Faith

    https://www.brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/vision/2012/vision-processing-information

    Perception requires various elements to be organized so that related ones are grouped together. This stems from the brain’s ability to group the parts of an image together and also to separate images from one another and from their individual backgrounds.

    How do all these systems combine to produce the vivid images of solid objects that we perceive? The brain extracts biologically relevant information at each stage and associates firing patterns of neuronal populations with past experience.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Great. Except it ignores the force of my argument in the article. You are just assuming that somehow the brain manages to integrate the data like a massive computer. But that is not the problem. The problem is that sense experience unifies the data into a single whole in a manner that no material medium can do. You really have to read the argument and not just more scientific literature about how neurology works. This is an argument that is part epistemology and part ontology. Just assuming more natural science simply does not address our experience of wholes and its ability to unify distinct parts without destroying the intelligibility of the object experienced. It helps to read the article.

      • God Hates Faith

        "The problem is that sense experience unifies the data into a single whole in a manner that no material medium can do. "

        Again, you have failed to support this claim with evidence. If you said "we are not sure exactly how this happens" that would be closer to accurate. However, if you make a positive claim, that "no material medium can do it" you need to do better than showing we don't know how it works. So far, you have lots of claims, but no evidence.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Can you follow a rational demonstration?

          "This is because any physically extended image or extramental data must be composed of distinct parts, since all material entities are composed of distinct parts in space. But, if sense experience is of the whole, and yet simple and completely unified, this requires that all such distinct parts be conjoined onto a single “receiving material point” (if that is even possible). But, to do that, all the distinct parts of the data must be so conjoined as to cancel each other’s distinct content, which would make the single “receiving point” totally lacking in any distinct parts, and hence, absolutely incapable of representing the image or data at all. In a word, all data would be so overlayed upon itself as to lose all intelligible or decipherable content. Such analysis would apply even to the most infinitesimally-small physical particles, since whatever is material is extended in space and, as such, has distinct parts."

          This must be read in the context of the rest of the article.

          • God Hates Faith

            Let me know where I misunderstand...

            "since all material entities are composed of distinct parts in space."

            For example: A deer is a whole object, but has parts like legs and a tail.

            But, if sense experience is of the whole, and yet simple and completely unified, this requires that all such distinct parts be conjoined onto a single “receiving material point”

            The (material) light bouncing off the object is received by the (material) eye.

            "But, to do that, all the distinct parts of the data must be so conjoined as to cancel each other’s distinct content, which would make the single “receiving point” totally lacking in any distinct parts, and hence, absolutely incapable of representing the image or data at all."

            The eye has different (material) parts that do different jobs. The eye can sense different (material) waves of light to form patterns.

            The nose can sense different (material) sents to form what we know of as a smell. Do the distinct parts of the data of smell also cancel each other out, when we have one receiving point? How can we combine the entire spectrum of smells from a wet dog, to form something coherent?

            The ear can sense different (material) sound waves. Do the distinct parts of the data of sound waves also cancel each other out, when we have one receiving point? Why don't we always just hear the same loud noise? How does the brain make sense of it?

            same for the sense of taste and touch...

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But you make my point. You presume this is all done by material organs of the senses or parts of the brain.

            What we experience IS the unified wholeness of the data object. But just saying that the brain does this, while preserving the distinctness of the parts of the whole is not the same as proving the brain can do it or actually does it.

            On the contrary, if the brain acts like every other physical medium, it must handle the data like the distinct digital bits on a DVD -- where distinct parts record or reflect certain bits of the whole, but no single bit represents the whole.

            You assume we have "one receiving point" that somehow keeps the distinct data distinct. But material things do that by having distinct parts represent distinct bits of the data. The only way to "get" the whole all on a single bit would be to pile all the data on top of itself, thereby making it useless.

            You need some receiver that is not extended in space to accomplish this unifying act in a way that does not overlay the data physically in such manner as to make it useless.

          • God Hates Faith

            But just saying that the brain does this, while preserving the distinctness of the parts of the whole is not the same as proving the brain can do it or actually does it.

            Saying the brain can't do this, when it does it for every sense, requires more than a god of the gaps argument.

            "where distinct parts record or reflect certain bits of the whole, but no single bit represents the whole.

            But one device (the TV) takes those bits and presents it as a whole picture (through light). The eye can take bits of light and the brain looks for patterns it recognizes to make a picture. The eye can't even see the entire light spectrum!

            The only way to "get" the whole all on a single bit would be to pile all the data on top of itself, thereby making it useless.

            Just like the ear can hear a chord of several distinct sound waves at once, the eye can perceive several distinct light waves at once, and combine it to a pattern. Humans recognize some patterns better than others (like human faces we see in clouds).

            You need some receiver that is not extended in space to accomplish this unifying act in a way that does not overlay the data physically in such manner as to make it useless.

            I.e. A brain. The ear captures the sense data of sound waves. The brain interprets the entire sound, and then determines whether that sound is pleasant.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just saying the sense or the brain "interprets" the data to unify the whole set of discrete data points sounds far more like magic than science.

            You are just simply ignoring the force of the argument. I realize not all will understand it, especially those who have gotten accustomed to assuming that mechanisms just automatically do things because such things happen -- and, assuming all reality is physical, some physical entity -- brain or sense organ -- must have done it.

            This is scientific fideism.

          • God Hates Faith

            Just saying the sense or the brain "interprets" the data to unify the whole set of discrete data points sounds far more like magic than science.

            To a non-materialist, saying a TV turns invisible signals in the air, and electricity, into a unifying picture with sound, might also seem like magic. I could explain how a TV works, but a non-materialist could still argue that we don't "really" understand how it works, (insert non-materialism).

            To a non-materialist everything that we don't understand with 100% confidence (i.e. everything) is ripe for a "supernatural of the gaps" claim.

            You are just simply ignoring the force of the argument.

            I specifically addressed your argument, and broke it down into parts. I even asked questions and gave counter examples. How is that "not addressing your argument"???

            I think what you mean is "you don't agree with me, therefore you don't understand it". If you could address MY counter-arguments, counter examples, and questions, rather than simply repeating your conclusion over and over and over, that would be helpful.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Just like the ear can hear a chord of several distinct sound waves at once, the eye can perceive several distinct light waves at once, and combine it to a pattern."

            The problem is that your examples merely assert that the ear and eye somehow unify the wholeness of their perceived objects, whereas when you apply the logic of my analysis it becomes evident that any organ, including the brain, that is extended in space, cannot account for how some image or external object which is also extended in space, can unify that extended object into a whole experience all at once -- because physical representations always "record" data in discrete bits. Such bits can reconstruct an extended image or object only by bit by bit digital building of a pattern, but nothing perceives the pattern as a whole in that case.

            That is why you really have to address the argument as I gave it in the OP, where the example with the electron gun television probably illustrates it best for those who have trouble following an abstract philosophical argument.

          • enchess

            We can make machine learning algorithms that are able to identify wholes (ex. "This picture contains a human") using these individual bits. They even put out a quite literal single bit at the end, a 1 or 0, that signifies if the input bits all combine to form a certain category of whole.

            For me to take your arguments even remotely seriously, I have to assume that the human brain is a pitiful machine compared to a modern phone, for you assert it cannot manage to do something as trivial as construct a concept of a whole from individual bits of input without leaving a material space.

          • God Hates Faith

            He would probably respond that is magic too.

          • enchess

            That, or by purposely ignoring my example by saying "humans programmed that pattern from our immaterial understanding"

            Missing both that the machine still proves material understandings of wholes exist, and that programmers explicitly don't program in the patterns in these types of machines.

            It's actually kind of crazy. My grad school research was tangential to machine learning and I was surprised at first how they could explain in great detail how their machines learn, but it's just speculation exactly how the machine's decision process works a lot of time.

          • Jim the Scott

            >We can make machine learning algorithms that are able to identify wholes (ex. "This picture contains a human,

            Fallacy of equivocation. You can program a machine to print "this picture contains a human" if it detects a certain pattern of data when put together looks like a human but that is not the same thing as the machine actually consciencously conceving it is a human and idenifying it intellectively.

            >For me to take your arguments even remotely seriously, I have to assume that the human brain is a pitiful machine compared to a modern phone...

            Yer fallacy is assuming the Brain is like a computer in the first place. One doesn't need religion to see the limits of the reductionist materialist view. The Atheist Philosopher John Searle's Chinese Room argument works quite nicely.

            https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-room/

            You and GHF just don't know what yer talking about.

          • Yer fallacy is assuming the Brain is like a computer in the first place. One doesn't need religion to see the limits of the reductionist materialist view. The Atheist Philosopher John Searle's Chinese Room argument works quite nicely.

            This is a misunderstanding of the Chinese room argument. The Chinese room argument was never an argument that machines could not be made that 'know' things or that the mind was somehow immaterial. It was an argument that old fashioned approaches to AI that use formal logic systems to manipulate symbols could not by themselves constitute 'strong AI,' or a human like intelligence. His reasoning was that it would be impossible to associate the symbols with real world objects.

            This doesn't apply to machine learning techniques who's whole purpose is to associate sensed objects with symbols. In other words, what machine learning does is bridge the gap between the man in the Chinese room and the outside world, giving him a 'window' so to speak.

          • Jim the Scott

            >This is a misunderstanding of the Chinese room argument. The Chinese room argument was never an argument that machines could not be made that 'know' things or that the mind was somehow immaterial.

            I don't agree since Searle wasn't a reductionist materialist. He was closer to a property dualist thought he denies believing in property dualism.

            > It was an argument that old fashioned approaches to AI that use formal logic systems to manipulate symbols could not by themselves constitute 'strong AI,' or a human like intelligence. His reasoning was that it would be impossible to associate the symbols with real world objects.

            Which kills the idea the brain recording mere data is the same as accounting for the subjective experience in the mind under materialism.

            Do you understand the difference between qualitative knowledge vs quantatative? Also GHF and his lot are using the Brain is a computer model. You on board with that?

            >This doesn't apply to machine learning techniques who's whole purpose is to associate sensed objects with symbols. In other words, what machine learning does is bridge the gap between the man in the Chinese room and the outside world, giving him a 'window' so to speak.

            Who cares? We are not having a scientific discussion but a philosophical one. Get over it. Put down your shovel because that is not how you find a Higg Particle.

          • I don't agree since Searle wasn't a reductionist materialist. He was closer to a property dualist thought he denies believing in property dualism.

            This might be true of John Searle in general but it's not true of the argument he gave with the Chinese room. Have you actually read the Chinese room argument and are you familiar with the AI technology of the time that he discussing? You don't seem to be.

            Which kills the idea the brain recording mere data is the same as accounting for the subjective experience in the mind under materialism.

            I don't believe any recent scientist or philosopher has made the claim that subjective experience is merely the recording of data. I certainly haven't made that argument. The brain processes all information before you become consciously aware of it.

          • Jim the Scott

            >This might be true of John Searle in general but it's not true of the argument he gave with the Chinese room.

            The argument as I said shows the limits of modeling the brain as a computer since as we can see from the CR argument. A computer doesn't really know Chinese and if I didn't know it I could still carry on a conversation in Chinese if I followed the instruction manual and responded to one set of symbols using the corresponding symbols dictated to me by the proverbial instruction book in the argument. I would never know I was answering questions and the person asking them would never know I don't speak Chinese.

            > Have you actually read the Chinese room argument and are you familiar with the AI technology of the time that he discussing? You don't seem to be.

            I am familiar with it. That argument convinced me a Hard AI was likely impossible. Are you familiar with the argument we are having here? I don't think so.

            >I don't believe any recent scientist or philosopher has made the claim that subjective experience is merely the recording of data.

            Good I would add it isn't the data either.

            > I certainly haven't made that argument. The brain processes all information before you become consciously aware of it.

            What is the "you" that become "conscious" of it? Is it a material thing? If the brain is the "you" as the materialist claims then yer statement is contradictory.. A true Reductionist Materialist must say it is an illusion (which leads to all sorts of entertaining incoherences). But we are discussing philosophy here. Not neuroscience.

          • enchess

            A programmer need not program the pattern nowadays. Instead they can and have programmed a machine with the ability to develop its own patterns to look for knowing only what other inputs had previously been associated with the concept.

            You don't seem to understand the core difference in programming approach.

            Also, you completely missed my point that it's irrelevant whether a brain and computer process wholes the same. It wouldn't even matter if the programmer did program the definition of the whole really. The author tries to assert that brains can process bits, but need something immaterial to process wholes. Well, we know with certainty there exists something purely material that can take bits and understand higher level patterns that form the concepts of the whole in question. Therefore an essential building block of the argument (that concepts can only be grasped by the immaterial) is laughably false.

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't care about programing. This is a discussion on philosophy.

            >The author tries to assert that brains can process bits, but need something immaterial to process wholes.

            No he didn't you are reading that concept into him to avoid the argument. This is a discussion on the qualitative knowledge of the mind not the quantitative power of the brain. You haven't even begun to address the issue. So "processing" is irrelevant to the discussion.

          • Ben Champagne

            You seem to be misunderstanding the entirety of the argument. He is not saying that concepts can only be grasped by the immaterial, or that it is impossible for something purely material that can take bits and understand 'wholes', but rather that the inflection point of such sense can't exist in singularity within the purely material, as demonstrated by the OP.

            The certainty you express isn't certain, and that something you suggest certainly doesn't exist in the necessary singularity it must for such an inflection under a materialist or atomist perspective.

          • God Hates Faith

            So, you are now claiming ALL sense perception involves the supernatural??? Are you next going to argue that a TV is a magic box? Perhaps disease is caused by sin? Does the supernatural cause ocean tides?

            any organ, including the brain, that is extended in space

            The organ is not "extended in space". The light rays, sound waves, etc., are extended and our eyes, ears, etc., react to them.

            can unify that extended object into a whole experience all at once -- because physical representations always "record" data in discrete bits.

            You are back to repeating your conclusion, not making any argument. Even assuming arguendo that your "bit theory" is true, it does not support a supernatural conclusion. It supports the conclusion that the brain does it. The human brain is a pattern seeking machine! Basic neuroscience tells us this.

            Even if our ears react to sound waves in bits, does not mean that turning those bits into a musical chord is magic. The fact that we take in some sounds and not others indicates this is a material process. If it were immaterial, then why wouldn't we be able to hear super-high pitch sounds?

            Your theory has no explanatory value, is not falsifiable, and is not predictive.

            How does a TV take bit of data and make it an image? Magic or material?

          • Jim the Scott

            God Hates Faith. Sonny you really don't have a clue.

            >So, you are now claiming ALL sense perception involves the supernatural???

            That doesn't logically follow. John Searle is a philosopher of the mind and an Atheist who rejects the reductionist materialist model. Saying sense experience isn't material isn't the same as saying it is supernatural. You really have to accept the brute fact we are not doing ID here & yer anti-ID polemics are all non-starter objections.

            >The organ is not "extended in space".

            The brain isn't a three dimentional object? As Mr. Macky would say "Um...drugs are bad!".
            Seriously re-think what you just wrote.

            >The light rays, sound waves, etc., are extended and our eyes, ears, etc., react to them.

            You are begging the question by discussing the subjective metal images and not trying to rationally account for their qualitative existence and you are confusing them with their quantatative existence (i.e. data). This is getting tedious.

            >The human brain is a pattern seeking machine! Basic neuroscience tells us this.

            Irrelavant. The patterns sought by the human being are quantatative data the subjective experience is qualitative and it cannot be accounted for materially. Is there a literal stop sign in your brain when you see one?

            You are not understanding the argument.

            >Your theory has no explanatory value, is not falsifiable, and is not predictive.

            We are not doing science genius we are doing philosophy. Good grief pearls before swine.

          • God Hates Faith

            But you make my point. You presume this is all done by material organs of the senses or parts of the brain.

            I also presume that disease is not caused by supernatural forces.

  • Ficino

    Does animal sensation, i.e. in animals "lower" than humans, require an immaterial sensorium - not sure what word to apply. Does animal reasoning, to the extent that animals employ "a certain sagacity," require an immaterial reasoning faculty? If so, then do animals also have immaterial, spiritual souls? I thought it was established a few months ago on here that according to A-T, animals do not have immaterial souls. If animals don't have immaterial, spiritual souls, then why do humans need to have them in order to carry on sensation and certain lower cognitive processes?

    So do animals have immaterial, spiritual but mortal souls? Why should their souls, if immaterial, be mortal, but human souls are immortal? I'm not seeing why what applies to the one does not apply to the other, if not only intellection but also perception requires an immaterial sensing faculty. Animals even have some inchoate ability to grasp substantial form; as Aquinas says, a sheep knows whether the creature across the field is another sheep or a wolf, and reacts according to what we can see is a rudimentary system of classification.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You raise a lot of good points, and I don't have much time to clarify them. But you may be sure that over the centuries, philosophers have had enough time to sort them all out. Let me just sketch out the main highlights. No proofs.

      Animals lack intellect. They have immaterial souls, but not spiritual and immortal ones. A thing is immaterial if it is not extended in space. But it can still depend on something material -- and so is called "organic." Solely spiritual souls are neither extended in space nor depend on something extended in space. (Lots of shorthand here.)

      Humans do NOT need spiritual souls to carry on sensory actions. It just happens that they DO have spiritual souls, which, since we are also animals, have the lower functions included. Recall, St. Thomas maintains there is a single form in any organism.

      The above answers some of your later questions. Our human souls are what we call "strictly immaterial," whereas animal organic souls are merely "immaterial." So, animals have immaterial souls, but they lack spiritual souls. St. Thomas makes reference to this ability of animals to recognize other animals based on the grasp of the "common image."

      Hate to publicize myself (ha), but take a look at this: https://www.godandscience.org/evolution/ape-language.html

      It will answer most of your questions about humans and animals. Be careful about trusting chimps too much. You will find out why.

      • Ficino

        Be careful about trusting chimps too much. You will find out why.

        You mean, like with the one that swiped my banana? /s

        Thanks for the clarifications.

        I gather that a plant, too, has an immaterial soul in A-T?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You are lucky you only lost a banana. I am referring to the world famous "talking" chimp, Washoe, who was accused by psychologist Karl Pribram of biting off one of the good doctor's fingers!

          It appears, despite Washoe being a top chimp linquistics student, there was an apparent failure in communication with Dr. Pribram. I think it is in that article I cited for you. It is also on p. 96 of my book, Origin of the Human Species.

          I have had some difficult students, but never one that discourteous.

          Yes, you are right. Plants have immaterial souls as well. Not having given a plant a thought lately, I suspect you cannot prove its soul's immateriality by its activities, except insofar as it is also its substantial form, and substantial forms are always an immaterial principle of substantial unity.

  • Sense experience is of the whole object seen (in the case of vision). When we see a tree, we see the whole tree – top and bottom, left and right side – all at once in a single act of sensing. The only way any physical entity can represent the whole of any other physical entity is by one part representing one part and another diverse part representing a different part. Thus recording devices store images of objects by using many thousands of diverse bits, each representing a different part of, say, a tree. TV screens and computer monitors do the same, because hundreds of thousands of bits are needed to fully present a screen image.

    This is mostly wrong, I think.

    It's not true that when seeing an object we necessarily see the whole thing at once. We don't see the backside, or the inside, or often even the whole thing as parts of it are often occluded from our vision. Yet, when I see a tree I can still identify it as a 'tree.' The reason is that you need to sense the whole of an object for the mind to identify it. You only need some of the information and the mind can extrapolate the rest.

    This is in fact also true of digital storage devices. We rarely ever store every pixel of an image except as an archival or working copy and even then not always because doing so is simply unnecessary. Information can be compressed. There is in fact a whole branch of mathematics that deals pretty heavily with this called information theory. Standard image formats such as jpeg and png are implicitly compressed.

    This is because any physically extended image or extramental data must be composed of distinct parts, since all material entities are composed of distinct parts in space. But, if sense experience is of the whole, and yet simple and completely unified, this requires that all such distinct parts be conjoined onto a single “receiving material point” (if that is even possible). But, to do that, all the distinct parts of the data must be so conjoined as to cancel each other’s distinct content, which would make the single “receiving point” totally lacking in any distinct parts, and hence, absolutely incapable of representing the image or data at all. In a word, all data would be so overlayed upon itself as to lose all intelligible or decipherable content. Such analysis would apply even to the most infinitesimally-small physical particles, since whatever is material is extended in space and, as such, has distinct parts.

    It's not clear why a sense experience would need to 'unified' in this manner. The mind doesn't need 'unify' it sense experiences to create knowledge but only to create the correct associations.

    We see the physical world around us all at once – in a single act that somehow unifies its entire content.

    You must have eyes on the back of your head! I don't do this at all. Whenever I enter a new environment I slowly get familiar with it as my mind acquires and correlates more information. Even things that I technically 'saw' right away get missed because my mind does *not* in fact take in everything all at once but in fact filters most of what it sees, and from what I've read, this is true of most other people as well. I believe that this is because the mind is physical and is limited by physical constraints.

    • Jim the Scott

      >This is mostly wrong, I think.

      Since what you are giving is a scientific analysis and not a philosophical one everything you wrote here is a meaningless list of non-starter counter objections.

      Again with my Higgs Boson archeology analogy its like you started complaining about the types of shovels the Physicist should use to "digg up the Higgs Boson" vs suing the "wrong one".

      Ya really don't get philosophy do ya? You don't understand a quantatative discription (science) vs a qualitative one( philosophy) do ya?

      Learn some philosophy or go beg the question elsewhere because even if we deny all gods what you wrote has no meaning to us.

      Again category mistake.

      • Since what you are giving is a scientific analysis and not a philosophical one everything you wrote here is a meaningless list of non-starter counter objections.

        Philosophical arguments typically depend on factual observations. If an argument depends on an observation that is wrong, then the argument is wrong. Dr. Bonnette's argument depends on faulty premises (in my opinion), so it is wrong.

        • Jim the Scott

          Rather you have misread him and me for example I said "Yer fallacy is assuming the Brain is like a computer in the first place. One doesn't need religion to see the limits of the reductionist materialist view. The Atheist Philosopher John Searle's Chinese Room argument works quite nicely." I never made the claim Searle's Chinese Room argument proved the intellect is immaterial.

          So my criticism stands. You are wasting everybody's time with non-starter objections.

    • Jim the Scott

      I checked yer history and read part of a discussion you had with Mike Flynn. So you are a Nominalist? Well that is lovely. Here is an idea. Make a case for nominalism and a nominalist account for qualitative subjective experience and we might have a productive discussion...

      Just saying....

      • Why would I do this? This has nothing to do with the current discussion.

        • Jim the Scott

          >Why would I do this? This has nothing to do with the current discussion.

          You would do this because we are having a philosophical discussion not a scientific one. It has everything to do with the current discussion.

    • BTS

      There are only two kinds of people. Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data and...

      :)

  • gquenot

    Thus, the sense experience of a physically real entity must not itself be a physical entity! […] Thus, materialism’s central claim that to be is to be physical is dead wrong.

    I don’t know whether materialism (or physicalism or metaphysical naturalism) is true or false. It seems that you are convinced that the “sense experience” argument is a decisive and definitive one. Yet, it seems too that many people, including a number of very smart ones, are not convinced at all by it. Do you have an explanation for that?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You ask a question that, perhaps, should be more addressed to a psychologist than to either a student of the hard sciences or philosophy.

      Nonetheless, I think you would agree that Albert Einstein was no intellectual slouch, and yet, he never could accept the Uncertainty Principle.

      I suspect the real answer to your question is that, for many people, once you have been conditioned to think that science has all the reasonable answers available, anyone appearing to challenge them in the name of some "archaic" philosophy must be simply too ignorant to take seriously.

      Thus, if you look at the comments replying to my article, you will see many of them simply stating that the sense organs or the brain is able to interpret the wholes of experience in a unified manner because this is what they are able to do. This is not an explanation of the facts, but merely a restatement of what everyone tends to conclude from what they are taught in science classes.

      I am still looking for an attempted refutation of my argument that actually takes it, point by point, and refutes its content.

      The closest some come is by way of misunderstanding what I mean by a "whole," which most less educated observers have no trouble with, since they have no preconditioning to interfere with a simple epistemological description of what we see when we look at the world and its objects.

      When I say I see a whole dog in front of me, I do not mean that I can also see the other side of him at the same time -- but one of the commenters actually thought that was what I meant!

      Still, I am waiting to see someone take the actual argument on its own terms and try to show why it is flawed. Even it they do so, it won't make them any more right than was Einstein.

      • gquenot

        I am sorry, this is a bit long.

        What a psychologist might have to say on this question would certainly be interesting and helpful. However, if an argument “makes it” only with those who are already gained to its conclusion (possibly with a few borderline people) while having virtually no effect on those who are not already gained to its conclusion, maybe this is something that should not be left only to psychologists.

        Surely, this question is specific neither to this argument nor to the theistic position. The same can be observed with materialists’ arguments. Maybe too, this is an off-topic digression from your initial post. Yet, it appeared to me as an exemplary case, with the argument itself being of significant interest too. I got that Strange Notions is a place for investigating such questions as this is at the core of why we believe what we believe and of why there are so many and so different world views out there. If such a discussion should be conducted in a separate thread, please just tell me how to proceed.

        You mentioned pre-conditioning. This is probably among the first things a psychologist would mention and this is certainly relevant. That seems a bit short to me however as facts are still facts and logic is still logic. Even if some conclusion or reasoning appears as counter-intuitive, almost everyone surrenders to “two plus two equals four”. However weird quantum mechanics appears to us, all of those who studied it and experimented with it admit that this is how the state of affairs is. Einstein’s concern on this was pretty specific (it was about “true indeterminism”) and he did not deny the uncertainty principle itself.

        You specifically mentioned pre-conditioning via scientific education. To whatever extent pre-conditioning has an influence, this certainly apply on both sides (assuming a “theism” versus “materialism” discussion) as an extensive theological education might pre-condition someone no less than a scientific one would. Regarding the supposed “default position” that would have been polluted or distorted by a scientific education, while scientific education is not so common, religious or cultural education is ubiquitous and fathoms people’s mind from childhood. It is therefore difficult to figure out what the default position would actually be. Even without any cultural or educational influence, the default position could still come from innate factors, which we have a priori no reason to suppose that they should correctly inform us.

        That no one was able to convince you that your argument is flawed is one thing, the persuasive strength of this argument on those who are not already gained to its conclusion is another. I am not suggesting that the inability of your argument to convince those that are not already gained to its conclusion is a flaw. At least, this is not in itself a logical flaw. However, this is a puzzling fact which, I believe, deserves investigation, possibly leading to a better presentation of the argument. If you are interested in this, I can try to explain you why I do not find it compelling.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I am not saying that the majority of people or even the majority of readers on SN would tend to interpret the data as I described. What I am saying is that a scientific mindset that is used to explaining all data in terms of physical mechanisms tends to simply allow that the brain "does this" by interpreting the "input" like a computer would, and that this must then, somehow, equate to our subjective perceptual experience.

          I don't blame people for tending to read the data and argument in that fashion. But I do think it explains in large measure the answer to the question you initially posed to me, namely, why do so many intelligent commenters find my argument unconvincing.

          If you wish to rebut the argument itself on its own philosophical terms, this thread is the proper venue for such disputations.

          • gquenot

            Long comment again.

            […] a scientific mindset that is used to explaining all data in terms of physical mechanisms tends to simply allow that the brain "does this" by interpreting the "input" like a computer would, and that this must then, somehow, equate to our subjective perceptual experience.

            The computer analogy is largely misleading but we may agree that “a scientific mindset that is used to explaining all data in terms of physical mechanisms tends to simply allow that some brain activity, somehow, equate to our subjective perceptual experience”.

            If the brain is actually producing (or equating) our subjective perceptual experience, we are far to understand how it achieves such a feat. A “scientific” (resp. “theological”) mindset is more (resp. less) likely to consider this as an epistemic possibility. This, at best (or at worse), influences our prior probabilities on the question but it is not decisive either way.

            I don't blame people for tending to read the data and argument in that fashion. But I do think it explains in large measure the answer to the question you initially posed to me, namely, why do so many intelligent commenters find my argument unconvincing.

            Isn’t this acknowledging that your argument is not supposed to work with people who would have a “scientific mindset”? Isn’t also requiring a “non-scientific mindset” ability for the argument to work just begging the question?

            It happens that I do have a scientific mindset (nobody's perfect), I have it since I am able to remember of anything, even before learning what science is, and there is probably nothing I can do to remove that, would I even want to give it a try. Yet, I am not closed to the idea of the existence of non-physical things, including regarding our subjective perceptual experience, but your argument still appear as unconvincing to me. Let’s see why.

            If you wish to rebut the argument itself on its own philosophical terms, this thread is the proper venue for such disputations.

            First, I should mention that whatever rebuttal I could attempt, it will probably appear as unconvincing to you as your initial argument appears to me. So I proposed to explain why I find your argument unconvincing but that would probably not count as a rebuttal from your perspective. I will just address the question of “The Immateriality of Sense Experience”.

            […] sense experience is immaterial in that it is neither extended in space nor physically located

            This is an unsupported claim. This is an appeal to intuition and it does not work with me, as well as with many other people. We are not convinced because we do not share the appropriate intuition and, yes, this may be related to a “scientific mindset” and I see nothing wrong with that.

            The only way any physical entity can represent the whole of any other physical entity is by one part representing one part and another diverse part representing a different part.

            This also is an unsupported claim and an appeal to intuition that does not work with me.

            You also used several analogies (e.g. the TV monitor). These are unconvincing because, as with any analogy, some properties are relevant for both sides and some are not. That some validly transfer does not entail that the others validly transfer too. Analogies are logically weak if logically relevant at all. They mostly constitute appeal to intuitions, which, again, may work or not work, depending upon people’s own intuitions. Analogies may at best help to understand an idea. In no case, they can validly be used in a demonstration. A demonstration has to be direct.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Isn’t this acknowledging that your argument is not supposed to work with people who would have a “scientific mindset”? Isn’t also requiring a “non-scientific mindset” ability for the argument to work just begging the question"

            Not at all. I am just noting that those who automatically assume that some mechanism can explain the unity of perception will do so without penetrating the problem any further. This tends to make them dismiss the proof without even considering it as intended.

            Your objection to my description of immateriality puzzles me. If being extended in space and physically locatable does not define something as being material, I don't know what you are looking for. As far as I know, anything which is material has some extension in space-time and can be described as having some definite location in space-time. This is true even of energy or force fields or the curvature of space itself. Even highly unstable and fluctuating physical entities still meet these criteria at any given instant. It is not a question of intuition, but recognition of the nature of the physical universe as understood even in modern physics. Even if you wish to introduce a nuance my wording did not convey, I suspect my meaning can be adjusted to still make my argument work.

            I will be happy to admit that my explanation of the argument is not necessarily clear to all observers, but that need not mean the argument is invalid. When you say that our intuitions may not coincide, the is entirely possible. I have found others to whom the argument appears ineffective, but that is, I suspect, precisely because they do not understand what I am trying to convey.

            Please tell me what part of the argument is not convincing when I allege that every "receiving" point must itself be extended in space-time in order to be physical, and that the only way multiple data can be "imbedded" in what is extended in space is by distributing data over the medium that is extended. Putting the argument another way, compressing that data to a single point or minimum possible spatial extension inherently overlays the data so as to make it useless.

            Since you hesitate to state your objection explicitly, I have no way of grasping whether your objection defeats my argument completely, or whether merely there is some misunderstanding of what I am trying to convey. Again, you tell me the electron tube is an unconvincing analogy, but fail to say why it is so. This leaves communication as a stalemate. I thought it neatly illustrates the problem one always gets when discrete data is attempted to be expressed on a single spatial point or whatever physical entity is the least extended physical medium of information storage.

          • gquenot

            My reply was "detected as spam" and removed.

          • Jim the Scott

            It isn't purpose. This blog has eaten some of my best work.

            BTW when arguing with Dr. B ditch the implied Cartesian dualism. We don't do that nonsense here.

            Carry on.

          • Chris Morris

            "We": are there many of you in there?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I believe he is referring to those of us on this site who are Aristotelian-Thomistic hylemorphists, since "we" do not accept the extreme ontological dualism of Rene Descartes.

            And yes, there are more than one of us. That includes me.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yes. We Thomists are everywhere.

          • gquenot

            Thanks. I did not think that this was intentional.

            I don't think I referred to Cartesian dualism at all.

          • Jim the Scott

            Just a preemptive warning. Too many critics of dualism in general simply default to the Cartesian.

          • gquenot

            Can you please restore my reply? Thanks.

          • Ficino

            I think the moderator is Brandon Vogt.

          • BTS

            Dennis,
            My understanding of Einstein's theory is that this statement of yours is false:

            As far as I know, anything which is material has some extension in space-time and can be described as having some definite location in space-time.

            The entire point of the theory is that NOTHING has a definite location in space-time. Anything material only has a location relative to something else, but never a definite location. How would that location be described with coordinates? By the the time you described the coordinates, the object would have moved.

            And quantum theory would build upon that, stating that as soon as you try to measure where the thing "is," you have just affected (ie, changed) its position.

            Edit: second last par. for clarity

          • Dennis Bonnette

            So, you are arguing with my use of the word, "definite."

            But if something has a location relative to something else, is not that a definable definite location relative to that something else? If it is not, then science degenerates into undefinable non-sense.

            As for it having moved by the time you have described the coordinates, that is precisely why we speak of space-TIME coordinates.

            And Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle does not say that things do not have definite positions in space, but merely that we cannot determine any given position because the act of observing affects that which is being observed.

            Besides, all this is quite irrelevant to the whole matter under discussion, since what matters is that there IS a physical universe and things are extended within it, or else, lacking all extension, they simply DO NOT EXIST PHYSICALLY.

          • BTS

            Does "extended" in this context carry the meaning of "has mass or energy?"

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I already allowed for the fact that physicists today extend the meaning of matter to include some things we initially thought were not matter. For example, I included such "things" as energy and force fields and even the curvature of space.

            All of them fit the meaning of matter in physics today, since all of them are locatable in some limited area of space-time. Obviously, what has mass is also subject to location in space-time.

            This really is not all that difficult -- unless one is looking for ways to define something as being physical, but in such a way that it is not really physical.

  • Gregory Bogosian

    "Sense experience is of the whole object seen (in the case of
    vision). When we see a tree, we see the whole tree – top and bottom, left and
    right side – all at once in a single act of sensing." This isn't true in the strictest sense. When you look at a tree, you only see the side of the tree that is facing towards you. The side that is facing away from you is inaccessible. Same with any other 3 dimensional opaque object. The side facing away from you is invisible. So doesn't this indicate that sense experience is not of the entire object at once? At least, not in the strictest possible sense?

    • Gregory Bogosian

      Also, doesn't the fact that there are deaf people who can see perfectly well and blind people who can hear perfectly well indicate that "sensing" is a composite of different acts instead of one single unified act?

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Both of your comments show that you haven't a clue what the article is talking about.

        I really don't know where to begin to explain what you are missing. The "whole" of the tree has nothing to do with how much of the tree you see, but merely with the fact that you are experiencing an extended visual object all at once. Even were it a patch of color that you perceive, it must be perceived as extended in space, or you would see nothing at all. But your awareness that it is extended in space requires that you see all its parts at once in the same act of apprehension, which is what is meant by "seeing it as a whole."

        Whether one sees or hears or combines both acts at once or replaces one with the other, again, makes no difference whatever to the argument -- since what matters is that some sense act containing multiple parts is unified in a single experience. While vision is the easiest case to imagine, even something like hearing a song entails experiencing multiple sequential notes simultaneously as a single experience, otherwise we could not hear the melody, but only single notes. Yes, I know that also entails sense memory so as to unify the sequential notes into a single experience of the pleasing tune.

        But the sense of sight gives the easiest examples to understand. So that is what I use to explain how sense experience must not itself be extended in space, and hence, must be immaterial.

        • Gregory Bogosian

          "But your awareness that it is extended in space requires that you see
          all its parts at once in the same act of apprehension, which is what is
          meant by "seeing it as a whole."" There are lots of questionable assumptions about the nature of perception embedded in that passage. Since when did we establish that you need to see all the parts of an object simultaneously to be aware that it is extended in space? What stops us from reaching that conclusion by multiple, sequential acts of apprehension instead of one unified act of apprehension?

          "what matters is that some sense act containing multiple parts is unified
          in a single experience. While vision is the easiest case to imagine,
          even something like hearing a song entails experiencing multiple
          sequential notes simultaneously as a single experience, otherwise we
          could not hear the melody, but only single notes. Yes, I know that also
          entails sense memory so as to unify the sequential notes into a single
          experience of the pleasing tune." But I think that this is the root of the problem I am having. What precisely do we mean by "unified as a single experience?" Using the song as an example, we could easily argue that each verse of the song is a separate and distinct experience from every other verse, and that the song isn't a unified single experience at all. Go listen to Money for Nothing and you will perceive a distinct break between the introductory riff, the verses, the chorus, and the outro.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have been hoping that people would intuitively see what I am talking about, but it is clear that you do not.

            In terms of basic epistemology, no one has any more prior experience than anyone else. We don't start with a "scientific explanation" of anything, but all have the same basic starting point, that is, our immediate experience -- which is first given as that of an extramental physical world.

            It really does not matter how it got put together. The act of experience itself is given as having extension in space (for vision, the easiest one to consider) for the object apprehended. To deny that is to deny what is immediately given in sense experience, and you have no other knowledge by which to judge what is immediately given.

            Even were not "extension in space" at issue, our experience is of multiple colors, shapes, movements, etc., all in the same immediate sensory experience. And we have them all at once -- even if they somehow were not propagated or produced all at once, we experience them as such. And it is the subjective experience that must be explained, an experience whose object or content is complex and varied.

            Once that is granted, the rest of the logic follows -- since things physically extended in space can only represent an object by using their multiple parts to do so. Were there no such use of multiple parts, then all data falls on the same part or point and the overlaying effect destroys the intelligibility or decipherability of the content.

            Remember, you cannot use the findings of natural science here, since they all presuppose judgments about an external physical world that is derived from initial sense experience of an external physical world extended in space and located in space, with parts outside of parts.

            That is to say, we have no knowledge which is prior to our own immediate sensory experience. All such preconceptions arise from data taken from and presupposing immediate sensory experience.

          • gquenot

            […] we have no knowledge which is prior to our own immediate sensory experience.

            This is a very strong claim. Can you justify it?

            This is unrelated but, if you can do something about it, I am still waiting for a moderator to restore my reply to your http://disq.us/p/23rl5v4 comment, which was probably erroneously filtered out by the disqus anti-spam.

          • Ben Champagne

            How can you argue it? It is an incontrovertible extension of cogito ergo sum. Can you give a single counterfactual?

          • Chris Morris

            So, you're saying that Cartesian dualism supports Dennis's assertion?

          • Ben Champagne

            Nope, I don't believe I am.

          • Chris Morris

            "It is an incontrovertible extension of cogito ergo sum." …?

          • Ben Champagne

            And?

          • Chris Morris

            Well, I'm not aware of the Cogito linked to any other philosopher than Descartes, and certainly not Aquinas so I'm puzzled as to how you're deriving Dennis's view from it.

          • Ben Champagne

            The incontrovertible need not be necessarily linked to a broader philosophical ideology in exclusivity.

          • Chris Morris

            Erm, that sounds vaguely post-modern so I approve but I'm not sure that Dennis would :-)

          • Ben Champagne

            What's post modern in any sense about it? Incontrovertible themselves can be linked to multiple broader ideologies, so long as they fit within the necessary context of the given ideology. It is on the indeterminates or contradictions that they would differ.

          • Chris Morris

            Yes, who could possibly disagree with that? I'll leave it to the Thomists to say whether they agree but they seem reluctant to comment so far.

          • gquenot

            How can you argue it?

            I am not sure what you are asking for but, would I have no argument at all against it, this would not by itself constitute a justification for it.

            It is an incontrovertible extension of cogito ergo sum.

            I don’t see how this would follow from “cogito ergo sum” or (edited) in what sense this would be an extension of it. Could you please elaborate?

            Can you give a single counterfactual?

            What about two?

            When I have an “immediate sensory experience” of a tree, I have the feeling that I knew before having it what a tree is. When I have an “immediate sensory experience” of something I have never seen before and I don’t know what it is, I have the feeling that I know at that time that this is something I have never seen before and I don’t know what it is, and this does not come from the “immediate sensory experience” alone.

            From (Slater and Kirby, 1998): “Several lines of evidence converge to suggest that newborn infants come into the world with some innately specified representation of faces”.

            Slater, A. & Kirby, R. Exp Brain Res (1998) 123: 90. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002210050548

          • Ben Champagne

            Looks like zero... In the first, you are arguing your post hoc recognition or lack thereof. Neither addresses the sensory experience itself.

            As for the second, in what way does having knowledge in any way represent the nature necessarily of sensory experience? I can't see what kind of connection you are trying to make here, but it seems to be the same confusion as the first.

            To elaborate, you have no previous knowledge of the immediate sensory experience prior to having the immediate sensory experience. The act of thought, or the cogito, is the most base form of expression in philosophy of an incontrovertible regarding experience. The experience of thought itself is another example of an immediate sensory experience which can not be distilled into a singularity in a material sense.

            "I am not sure what you are asking for but, would I have no argument at all against it, this would not by itself constitute a justification for it." This is a fine misapplication of logic. If you can't formulate a counterfactual in any capacity, you have no reason, quite literally, to not believe the veracity of that which you can not dispute, contradict, or determine to at least be within the realm of indeterminancy.

          • gquenot

            Looks like zero...

            Why not just say that you are not convinced or that you did not get the point? Or maybe that there is something that I have possibly misunderstood ?

            In the first, you are arguing your post hoc recognition or lack thereof. Neither addresses the sensory experience itself.

            Not just post hoc. This is all the question: is our sensory experience of a tree shaped or influenced by our prior knowledge of what a tree is or not? I have the strong though possibly misled feeling that knowing what a tree is does influence my “immediate sensory experience” of a tree. You will probably say that you have just the opposite feeling. How could this be sorted out?

            Personally, I can tell of at least one case in which my prior knowledge does influence my “immediate sensory experience”. This is when I hear a good piece of music for the first and for the second time. Obviously for me, the “immediate sensory experience” is different in both cases while there is no significant difference in the sensory inputs causing them.

            As for the second, in what way does having knowledge in any way represent the nature necessarily of sensory experience?

            This says that babies do have (at least some) prior knowledge on what a face is (and probably on what it means) before having seen any face. The same question as previously regarding whether and/or up to what point such knowledge shapes or influences their “immediate sensory experience” is also open. It seems that they don’t have the same sort of “immediate sensory experience” when seeing a face and when seeing an image displaying the usual face elements shuffled, and this before having ever seen a face or this type of image (this is indirectly inferred through their physiological responses to the stimuli).

            To elaborate, you have no previous knowledge of the immediate sensory experience prior to having the immediate sensory experience.

            In the above (music) case, it seems to me that I do and that it makes a huge difference. The prior knowledge that can influence our “immediate sensory experience” is not necessarily limited to the knowledge of that particular “immediate sensory experience”.

            If you can't formulate a counterfactual in any capacity, you have no reason, quite literally, to not believe the veracity of that which you can not dispute, contradict, or determine to at least be within the realm of indeterminacy.

            Wow… This sound very counter-intuitive to me as I would rather think that we should not believe what we cannot justify. This sounds like we should endorse anything that we would not be able to refute. How do you justify such an epistemology?

          • gquenot

            I replied to your deleted comment and my reply comment was deleted too. It is just impossible to discuss here. :-(

          • Sample1

            I see no evidence that we derive knowledge from our senses. How could we? Your question to Dr. Bonnette is spot on.

            First, our senses are not perfect. But even if they were, what we really do is place explanatory theory between ourselves and what we observe. Then we determine if the explanation is good or bad. Nobody sees hydrogen fusion, we see starlight. The theory of fusion describes the unseen, but we call it a good explanation because it is testable and is found to be reliable in relation to what is seen. We call that knowledge.

            In point of fact, secondly, we are not even sensing starlight as it is, namely corpuscles of light. Starlight stimulates the optic nerve which excites activity in the brain, electrical activity we also do not sense. And so on with all phenomena where varying degrees of reliability depend on the theory. The word sense is a historical prejudice with baggage, helpful colloquially but not helpful in acquiring knowledge about reality.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done.

          • Mark

            First, our senses are not perfect. But even if they were, what we really do is place explanatory theory between ourselves and what we observe.

            self-sense = ourselves
            external sense = observe

            I agree sense is baggage word, but are you not just renaming "sense experience"? I'm trying to make sense of self-sense. Others have hinted it is evolutionarily hardwired but that seems to be an unfalsifiable claim. I'm hardwired therefore I am:)

          • Sample1

            I’m countering the claim that all knowledge is derived from senses. I am not denying or rebranding the word sense. I simply object that knowledge is derived from the senses.

            Intuitions and personal experiences are not substitutes for theory laden, hard-to-vary explanations. They can be starting points for further inquiry, but not an end point resembling anything I would call reliable knowledge. YMMV. :-)

            Mike

          • Mark

            For clarification are you also denying knowledge is reliant on the senses?

            If I'm reading you correctly it seems the starting point (of what I would call knowing) is not what you call knowledge. But it seems that only kicks the question back another step. Is knowing sense dependent?

            Also for clarification, I agree that not all knowledge is derived from the senses because I believe reality is contingent on perfect Knowledge, which I understand you don't believe. I'm trying to figure out how materialists get to knowledge independent of senses. edit done.

          • Sample1

            Knowledge is an explanation of what is there. How we get to “there” is not derived from the senses; we don’t see what is actually there. Our brains reconstruct, sometimes demonstrably wrong, an interpretation of reality that we are generally able to muddle through in what we call life. That satisfies plenty but not others. We explain what is seen in terms of the unseen. Catholicism has a version of that in the sacraments: they are supposedly the visible representations of the invisible. But from there, no hard-to-vary explanation is provided, it ends, necessarily, in mystery, unlike the unseen explanations of naturalism where, in principle, all challenges/problems are the result of lacking knowledge. Mystery by definition is not an explanation.

            I would suggest, if you don’t already know, reading a primer on the philosophy of empiricism (which I reject) and where the philosophical idea of “knowledge coming from the senses” is explained.

            Mike, excommunicated and that’s ok.
            Edit done.

          • Jim the Scott

            Who says "all knowledge"? Before something is in our mind it is first in the senses but that doesn't exlude inference?

            > I simply object that knowledge is derived from the senses.

            So you don't think our senses tell us anything? I am confused here?

            >Intuitions and personal experiences are not substitutes for theory laden, hard-to-vary explanations.

            So how do you formulate a theory without using yer senses to examine the data? Son....drugs are bad. Just saying....

            > They can be starting points for further inquiry, but not an end point resembling anything I would call reliable knowledge. YMMV. :-)

            Which kind of kills explanation across the board. I recomend you follow Negal into non-materialist Atheism. You can do it. I gave up the YEC of my misguided youth. You can give up materialism for a more coherent way of thinking. It is up to you.

          • Sample1

            Before something is in our mind it is first in the senses

            Operative word “something” and that something is not what is there in reality. When you sense four dimensional spacetime, get back to me.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Jim the Scott

            >Operative word “something” and that something is not what is there in reality.

            How does one know that without sensing it?

            >When you sense four dimensional spacetime, get back to me.

            4d spacetime is an interesting model but "sensing it" or feeling the Force or whatever fantasy scifi clap trap you are channeling (I like my science fiction the way I like my Cider, Hard as nails but that is just moi) has little to do with realism.

            Yer response makes no sense?

          • Sample1

            Do you see evolution? No, you don’t. You see rocks and finches, like Darwin. Nobody senses allele changes over time. And yet you accept that evolution is real. Or maybe like spacetime you think evolution is fantasy?

            Mike

          • BCE

            You know Ethologists would disagree?
            It's kind-a funny...Can you see( the theory of evolution)or the process(alleles) with your eyes?
            Evolutionary biologists would say....yes
            Biology is their only explanation. Even one nerve cell is sensing
            the other, like chemicals on our tongue, chemicals in our body
            trigger cells that sense(inform)other cells

          • Sample1

            Nope. Colloquially it’s fine to say we see evolution. We are discussing philosophy here, knowledge being derived by the senses.

            Apples and oranges.

            Mike

          • BCE

            Actually I'm posing a question.
            There's an enthymeme in my comment above based on materialism.
            There is you, how your brain works.
            There is matter, apart from you and including you.
            Is there non matter?
            Well...yes...gravity. But isn't gravity in of itself energy? No.
            And negative space. And "off"

          • Sample1

            I vaguely suspected so but could only work with what I had, not a suppressed premise. :-)

            Your post made me think about some personal musings about what we call the universe/reality that I’ve kept on the back burner since around the 90s and return to when I’m alone and not distracted.

            But rather than go there, can I ask you to restate what you’re asking? I’m unclear what that is.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            But according to you my senses aren't sensing anything real so I don't really see rocks and finches according to you. Which means how is it that you can believe in Evolution? It's easy for me I am a moderate realist.

          • Sample1

            Excellent. You’re partially correct. You don’t see rocks and finches as they are, you “see” brain representations of rocks and finches. Rocks and finches are really a wave-function evolving through time. You do not sense the wave-function of the universe. That’s the theory-laden explanation via QM which you are free to also call fantasy. Which would be an irony for me.

            I’ll let you have the last word.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You know, I recall you somewhere saying you don't even bother to read the OP before commenting most of the time.
            I hoped you were just kidding.

            But, now I believe you, since your claim that all we know are "brain representations" was directly addressed and refuted in the first sections of my article dealing with "materialism's epistemological blunder" and "materialism's encroachment on science."

            You don't seem to show any awareness of how your claim was directly addressed in the OP. You don't have to agree with me -- and doubtless, you won't. But you would appear to be in much better form is you at least showed some awareness of the matter being directly addressed in the OP.

          • Sample1

            The combox had posts that I responded to and exchanges ensued. I have not made a formal response directly to your article. Last I checked that isn’t required. ;-)

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Nobody is required to do anything at all on this site -- not even to read it. Still, if you make a statement in the comments that directly contradicts an inference developed in the article -- without even referencing the article, it does look a bit odd.

          • Sample1

            Dennis, I made a reply to others in a combox. If you want to ask why they didn’t inject your objections then ask them. Ask them if they read it!

            Good grief.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do not see any sign that they were doubting or denying epistemological realism -- as you are. So, why should they take issue with me or I with them?

          • Sample1

            Fine. Call my posts odd. I can live with it.

            Mike

          • BTS

            Dennis, when I see a post from you, I read the first and last paragraph, then skip to the comments. It is typically only through the comment exchange that what you were trying to say is finally revealed. Your writing is dense, and, not having a philosophy background, I need the exchanges to clarify things.

            Then I go back and re-read the entire piece and it makes more sense.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since it is the material between the first and last paragraphs in which I show the logic leading to the last paragraph, I would suggest that you at least take a look at that, too, before you look at the comments. The comments are often sidetracking from the article, and sometimes are written by people, like yourself, who have not even read most of the article!

          • Jim the Scott

            >Excellent. You’re partially correct. You don’t see rocks and finches as they are, you “see” brain representations of rocks and finches.

            This all assumes my senses are sensing something real. That I don't sense everything is irrelavant to wither it is real or not real. I don't need a complete picture just a real one.

            >Rocks and finches are really a wave-function evolving through time.

            A wave-fuction is a mathamatical modeling of the wave like behavior of particles. This is like saying a baseball team is just a list containing its batting averages and nothing more.

            >You do not sense the wave-function of the universe.

            Well you do need to see the paper or computer or other physical medium to do the math. I don't see how you can create a coherent metaphyic out of mere mathmatic descriptions? This will only give you a quantatative picture of the thing in question not a qualitatative one.

            >That’s the theory-laden explanation via QM which you are free to also call fantasy. Which would be an irony for me.

            Sounds like quantum woo to me? Quantum phenomina only makes sense in either a Platonic model or an Aristotelian. Anything else leads to at best Idealism. Also as fascinating as the Quantum Argument for the existence of God is I don't think I trust the metaphysics behind it anymore then I trust the Mechanistic metaphysics of the ID crowd? I am an Atheist toward Theistic Personalist so called deities after all. Only the God of Abraham and Aquinas is God. The God of both Moses' i.e. the Prophet and Maimonides.

          • Jim the Scott

            @Dennis Bonnette

            Sample1,

            Here is an interesting find. Perhaps it will help you? Someone with a professional knowledge of theoretical physics and a seemingly good knowledge of Thomism.

            The Quantum Thomist.
            http://www.quantum-thomist.co.uk/my-cgi/blog.cgi?first=44&last=44

            Also Dr. B can have a look. Great stuff!

          • Sample1

            I only skimmed the first few paragraphs and they look interesting. Interesting enough to read further. Later. For now I will post it over at OTS for the owner of that site to see as well as the other physicists.

            Thanks.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            Don't mention it.

          • Mark

            Ficino gets a few good back and forths with Dr. Cundy. I also like Stephen Barr who is a particle physicist at University of Delaware. He writes occasionally for First Things and has a book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. He is also a founder of the Society of Catholic Scientists.

          • Sample1

            When I was still a Catholic, I had some strong scientific mentors/friends in my life. Hell, I grew up in a scientific family, immediate and extended. These mentors were respectful of my non-proselytizing attitude likely because I was able to compartmentalize religion and live in both worlds. Or maybe they just liked me. :-)

            There was one time, however, when one of these mentors/friend showed a bit of disgust/disappointment/anger (pick your word) in the face of some religious kerfuffle in the news at the time. I was in Hawaii and had purchased a sandwich earlier (these friends were older and didn’t cook enough food for me to be full during the day, haha). This friend took the sandwich out of the fridge and threw it toward me landing on the table while the kerfuffle was being discussed. It was a display of frustrated honesty that, while I was liked, there was an aspect of me that was not respected (religious beliefs). Ten years later and many experiences and studies, I was an atheist and then I knew more deeply why that Hawaiian afternoon was emotionally charged. I regret my deconversion happened after the sandwich thrower’s death. Would have liked to have shared that (the journey to atheism, not the sandwich).

            Believers experience the same sort of scenarios in reverse. It’s only when one is truly enslaved to God, they might say, that one’s freedom is experienced (insert similar maxims). Merton and his abbey: “the four walls of my freedom.” What a clever, paradoxical mantra! I used to be deep into Catholicism, never more Catholic than the pope like so many Trads, but close. I was pegged to be a priest by many who knew me when younger. Little did they know. Haha. Being a naturalist is priest-like. Truth is claimed to be important for both.

            I think there is a good reason why there are seemingly fewer deconverted atheists returning to their rejected religions. Aside from the appeal of naturalism, nothing bad happens when one sheds faith! Well, there is shunning for sure for many, and I experienced some of that but it didn’t really bother me too much. All the shunners have calmed down by now. But one reason, and this will sound silly but it’s true. There aren’t lightening bolts. No locusts. No first born killings. It’s quite peaceful actually. :-) Next Lent, try to be an atheist. Maybe you’ll find something new about yourself. :-)

            So all this is to say, when I see the words Catholic and Society and Scientists juxtaposed together, I remember that warm Hawaiian day and how others, and now me too, see it as preposterous. No offense.

            Mike, excommunicated (free lessons).
            Edit done.

          • Mark

            Mike thanks for your genuine honesty.

            I shed the a half hearted religious faith for selfish endeavors. Unlike you it nearly cost me my marriage, half my businesses, my time with my children and most of my friends. Most importantly the woman who I vowed to love and to hold I cast aside due to her lack of sexual health/wellness. The only truth I found was in a confessional I didn't believe in and a faith I thought was obtusely backwards. The exact place a man with 2 science undergrad degrees and a post graduate doctorate would expect to find truth. Truth is I didn't understand truth. I didn't know sacrifice is the true language of love. Laying down your life is truth, I didn't know thing one about that.

            When I see Catholic Society and Science together I don't experience a juxtaposition, but I do when I see my formal self pretending to have knowledge of anything that truly matters. So, no offense, but I think there are worse things than plagues and locusts. Hunger and sickness are a respite compared to the evil that can preside in a mans heart. But that sounds like blather to you. We should always appreciate someone's story because we learn something about ourself, so thanks for your story.

          • Sample1

            And thanks for your story. I don’t think anything you said is blather by a long shot. I get your perspective. And I have mine.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, I was aware of Dr. Cundy's excellent site. We need more good physicists who also know what they are talking about philosophically.

          • Sample1

            So far, it’s a site over yonder. Not a refutation here so don’t be slapping the reins on your pony yet to some sort of finish line. I’ve been reading it but it’s ridiculous for me to expect concerns I might have (nay, I do have some already) to be discussed here. It would be the opposite of the Kevin Bacon-esque degrees of separation analogy to attempt it here, among non physicists by a non physicist for non physicists.

            But I’ll keep reading. The rebuttals in the comments are helpful. Right now I’m interested in that guy’s mind. Remember, there is a well known Harvard geologist who rejects a billions year old Earth too, despite his training, he is a YEC.

            To be continued...

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See! That proves that the world is only ten-thousand years old -- and that the Earth is flat, too! We just needed a reputable natural scientist to prove it. :)

          • Sample1

            I’ll tell you. We are a very strange species.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            The world's first Atheist Philosopher Democritus was a flat Earther yet out of 50 or more Church Fathers maybe one or two believed in a flat Earth & the rest confessed a round Earth......just saying. ;-) .

            >Remember, there is a well known Harvard geologist who rejects a billions year old Earth too, despite his training, he is a YEC.

            He like many of yer New Atheist friends here is just following yer mutually held anti-realism to its logical conclusion. Denying our senses actually sense real things undermines the whole enterprise of science leading to a whole bunch of absurd beliefs. In this case YEC and in another case Dennett claiming with a straight face the Self, the mind and Human consciousness are mere illusions just to maintain his self referential and incoherent materialism.
            At least if there is an omnipotent Classic Theistic God then a 6 day creation period and and a Young Universe made to look old is coherent. But how can illusions do credible science?

            It takes all kinds........

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You do not justify what is immediately known.

            Just consult your own experience. If you don't realize that it is the starting point of all your knowledge, you are just not really reflecting on its nature.

            Wish I could help you with that demon Disqus. I assure you that it is an equal opportunity destroyer.

          • gquenot

            You do not justify what is immediately known.

            It is not clear to me what “immediately known” exactly means. The only “thing” for which that would work is “some feeling / thinking is immediately happening” or “something exists”. However compelling, anything beyond that appears as possibly dubious to me as our immediate feelings are known to be highly unreliable. I don’t see for instance “we have no knowledge which is prior to our own immediate sensory experience” as something that would be “immediately known”.

            Just consult your own experience. If you don't realize that it is the starting point of all your knowledge, you are just not really reflecting on its nature.

            After having thought a lot about it, it happens that I have a quite deflationary view of knowledge. In any case, I certainly do not “immediately know” that “we have no knowledge which is prior to our own immediate sensory experience”.

            Wish I could help you with that demon Disqus. I assure you that it is an equal opportunity destroyer.

            Yes, thanks. This is not the first time this happens to me and to many others. I know that there is nothing I can do on my side and just trying to repost the comment would not work and only make things worse. Only a site moderator can do something and, usually their intervention works and prevents further spurious detection for me. I emailed directly Brandon Vogt about this but he is probably busy for now. I hope we can resume this part of the discussion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I wish I could encourage you about the behavior of Disqus, but I fear even the site moderator cannot help you. I suspect there is something in Disqus's software package that thinks it detects spam, even when it isn't there -- as I am sure it is not in your case.

            I did not realize that my article would come to revolve around questions in epistemology, since I thought it rather evident that if one was challenging materialism, its defenders would at least recognize the validity of sense knowledge. After all, some really hard minded materialists will sometimes say they only believe in what they can sense with their five senses!

            To sidestep the problem you and some others raise, let me just recall for us that this is a question about materialism's failures.
            And you don't get materialism at all unless you admit that we encounter a physical world through sensation. Surely it does not appear in radical subjectivism, solipsism, or other forms of epistemological idealism.

            Thus, if one grants that we know through the senses at any time at all, then the problem of materialism exists only if someone asserts that what we know in sensation is an external physical world. My argument takes external physical reality as being real and uses its spatial extension to show that not all things can be of that type. I won't bore you by repeating it here.

            So, perhaps, if you frame the debate in terms of its original setting in physicalism and there being knowledge of a physical world, we can sidestep the epistemological skepticism that appears to plague you -- as we search to see if I have proven how to escape materialism.

          • gquenot

            There are strong and essential epistemological assumptions behind your argument and these are at the core of its convincing power (or lack thereof) as they are not shared by most materialism defenders (there are also other assumptions that they will not share, the type of which I am talking of in my reply which is currently “quarantined” as spam). What you are attacking is not just materialism’s truth (which I would not even try to defend), it is materialism as an epistemic possibility so epistemology is there from the get-go. You can’t avoid epistemological questions on this argument and you should expect that this is precisely on them that defenders of materialism’s epistemic possibility will concentrate their defense.

            So, perhaps, if you frame the debate in terms of its original setting in physicalism and there being knowledge of a physical world, we can sidestep the epistemological skepticism that appears to plague you -- as we search to see if I have proven how to escape materialism.

            Let’s see but, if you refer to knowledge at all, epistemology is de facto involved.

            My argument takes external physical reality as being real and uses its spatial extension to show that not all things can be of that type.

            I don’t think that anyone would challenge the reality of a physical reality (no pun intended, your terms), and it involving spatial and temporal extensions. What can be challenged is to call it “external” as this begs the question of an internal / external distinction but this is probably not problematic here. Where you failed to convince, as I elaborate in my currently quarantined reply, is on the “show that not all things can be of that type” part. This is basically an appeal to intuition which works only with those that are already gained to the conclusion. Worse, I think that those people who believe that “immediate sensory experience” has no spatial extension do so because they conceive it as being immaterial, and not the opposite.

            I attempt to reproduce part of my quarantined reply, hoping that this will not trigger the anti-spam once again:

            Again, you tell me the electron tube is an unconvincing analogy, but fail to say why it is so.

            About this, the property that does not straightforwardly transfer is that of the electron beam collapsing into an annihilating additive singularity. In the brain, what happens is a huge shuffling and reverberation of the input signal. This has nothing to do with an annihilating additive singularity.

            My experience is that a moderator can restore a filtered out comment using the disqus control panel he has access to. Randal Rauser, for instance, did this for me.

          • God Hates Faith

            I don’t think that anyone would challenge the reality of a physical reality (no pun intended, your terms), and it involving spatial and temporal extensions. What can be challenged is to call it “external” as this begs the question of an internal / external distinction but this is probably not problematic here. Where you failed to convince, as I elaborate in my currently quarantined reply, is on the “show that not all things can be of that type” part. This is basically an appeal to intuition which works only with those that are already gained to the conclusion.

            Damn! U is smert!

            I find that for people like Dennis, its easy to make ontological claims, and hard for them to justify the epistemology behind it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See my reply immediately above to gquenot.

          • God Hates Faith

            I did. Your ultimate conclusion is:

            My argument takes external physical reality as being real and uses its spatial extension to show that not all things can be of that type.

            He challenges your conclusion by highlighting the fact that you are "question begging" and appealing to intuition, rather than evidence.You categorically decide some things are non-material, as evidence that it isn't material. Its circular logic at its finest.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Starting with the real given that sense experience gives us an object known that itself multiple in content but known as a whole, I conclude that some things are not extended and locatable in space, which I take as meaning that they are not material.

            If being material means being extended and locatable in space, then not having those properties means not being material.

            Or, do you have a different definition of being material? This definition, of course, includes energy and force fields and even the curvature of space-time itself.

            The conclusion that some things are non-material is not an assumption or mere assertion, but an inference from the data. That is not question begging or circular reasoning.

            It is easier to claim that an argument is question begging than to deal with the details of the argument itself. In fact, isn't falsely claiming that someone is question begging itself question begging?

          • God Hates Faith

            If being material means being extended and locatable in space, then not having those properties means not being material.

            gquenot already addressed this..."What can be challenged is to call it “external” as this begs the question of an internal / external distinction but this is probably not problematic here. Where you failed to convince, as I elaborate in my currently quarantined reply, is on the “show that not all things can be of that type” part."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Why don't you just read my response to gquenot above?

          • God Hates Faith

            I did. I already addressed it. You are going in circles.

          • God Hates Faith

            You are making up terms like "extended in space" but don't define what it means or provide evidence.

            It would be like me saying that some things exist in the "ether" and some things don't. Since X doesn't exist in the ether it is non-material.

          • Jim the Scott

            Hey God Hates Faith.

            Can you formulate even one intelligent objection? Because Dr. B has answered his critics including you. Sticking your fingers in yer ears and shouting "You didn't answer me" when he clearly did is getting old.

            Can't someone intelligent chime in here? Where did that physicist fellow go?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First of all, the first few sections of my article do address the epistemological claim that all we know are internal representations -- by showing that this position presupposes some direct knowledge of the external world. Otherwise, we could never make judgments affirming the utility of our internal knowledge, since there would be no way to compare it to a totally unknown external world. See the article.

            Second, you do not make clear how whatever epistemological position you are taking defeats the argument I am offering. All that I presuppose is what materialism declares, namely, that all things are physical. I take this to mean extended and locatable in space, which is hardly an eccentric definition of material.

            Given that whatever we perceive is taken as experienced as extended in space, and given materialism's claim that all things are extended in space -- this would imply that whatever does our experiencing must also be extended in space. But that is a conclusion which my argument in the article directly disproves. Again, see the article.

            >"In the brain, what happens is a huge shuffling and reverberation of the input signal."

            This statement again appears to assume that this is all we really know, which is the epistemological error I addressed above and in the first part of the article.

            I can only infer that either you are suggesting that this "reverbration" is (1) what we actually know or that it is (2) the act of knowing what we know. You do not say. If the former, then it itself is extended in space and subject to the force of my argument in terms of an extended object known not being able to be known as a whole by something extended in space. If the latter, then you are saying that the act of knowing itself is extended in space, which is what my argument demonstrates is impossible.

            The electron beam example must be applied if the reverbration is what we actually know since that reverbration in the brain would be extended in space, in which case the analogy would be, not to the reverbration, but to whatever reduces it to unity. On the other hand, if the reverbration is claimed to be the act of knowing, since it is something extended in space, there is no way it could serve to unify the object known (image or external), since it still have the problem of one part representing one part and nothing experiencing the whole. Examples are only examples. Even if the example were defective, the principles and argument it exemplifies can still be valid.

          • gquenot

            Once again, my comment has been erroneously detected as spam and removed (it reproduced parts of my previous comment which had the same fate).

            I am afraid that we can serenely resume this interesting discussion only once a moderator has fixed this problem.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Looks like you got labeled as spam again! I cannot fix that, BUT I DID see your post before it got deleted. So here below is my reply to your comment that is no longer there!! Maybe we can work around this beast?

            >"when we perceive something as a whole, or as a “unified object known”, this necessarily involves compressing that data to a single point."

            Since you have twice said this is a basic sticking point, I will take it to be so -- unless you correct me.

            Yes, this is a KEY insight!! When we see something as a whole, we do not compress all the data to a single point. This can be misunderstood. I am not saying we do this. I am saying it is impossible to do this -- and then giving reasons why it is impossible.

            But the reason I mention this at all is to show that there are only two alternatives: (1) the object known is somehow displayed, represented, depicted on many points or parts at once, like on the surface of a TV screen, or else (2) the object known is somehow displayed, etc., on a SINGLE POINT or PART.

            My point is that NEITHER is possible. If it is "spread out" over a surface of many parts or points, then nothing "sees" the whole, just like a TV can depict the image over a large surface, but does not "see" the image as a whole, since none of the parts (phosphors) are "seeing" what any part except itself represents. On the other hand, you cannot compress all the data on a single point or part without losing the image or content itself, for obvious reasons.

            That is the point of my proof. Neither physical explanation suffices. And yet we see the whole. So, if you cannot explain how the whole is grasped by many parts, AND if you cannot explain how the whole is grasped by a single part -- and if the entire process or project or device is such because it is a physical entity, then the only logical conclusion is that, since the whole IS SEEN, it must be seen by something that is NOT physical.

            Does that help any?

          • Jim the Scott

            @gquenot:disqus

            Yeh that spam filter is a total b......bad thing.;-)

          • gquenot

            Looks like you got labeled as spam again! I cannot fix that, BUT I DID see your post before it got deleted. So here below is my reply to your comment that is no longer there!! Maybe we can work around this beast?

            Yes. It is good that you could see it before it got deleted. If you check the “Receive an email when someone replies to your comments” box in your disqus settings, you should receive in your mailbox a copy of any reply made to your comments and, indeed, these will not disappear if the comment is later deleted oy filtered out. I agree to attempt to work around the problem in this way but, on most sites, there are “moderators on duty”, at least from time to time for fixing this type of problems.

            Yes, this is a KEY insight!! When we see something as a whole, we do not compress all the data to a single point. This can be misunderstood. I am not saying we do this. I am saying it is impossible to do this -- and then giving reasons why it is impossible.

            It seems that your argument is based on the idea that the perception of something as a whole necessarily involves some sort of singularity. I see no reason for that.

            But the reason I mention this at all is to show that there are only two alternatives: (1) the object known is somehow displayed, represented, depicted on many points or parts at once, like on the surface of a TV screen, or else (2) the object known is somehow displayed, etc., on a SINGLE POINT or PART.

            I am afraid that this is a false dichotomy. For what we know from neuroscience, what happens in the brain is neither (1) nor (2). Even if we did not know that from neuroscience, there would be no way to justify that these are the only two possibilities. It might just be a bit harder or a bit more counter-intuitive to think of other possibilities.

            My point is that NEITHER is possible. If it is "spread out" over a surface of many parts or points, then nothing "sees" the whole

            I think that the intuition that (1) is the only alternate possibility to (2) comes from the prejudice of the Cartesian theater. I have been warned that you are not into Cartesian dualism but I still feel an influence there.

            Even though we don’t need neuroscience’s findings to imagine that, it may be help to fix ideas to consider these findings. During the early stages of visual processing, some image topology is preserved but as we follow the processing deeper and deeper, especially beyond the visual areas, the initial 2D image signal is completely scrambled and no longer close to a 2D image of what is seen. What happens at these levels is far from being understood but I see no reason to claim that, within that, “nothing can "see" the whole”. Maybe it is true that nothing does and, if something does, we currently don’t know how it does, but I don’t see any reason for which this just could not be.

          • God Hates Faith

            Dennis' lack of imagination prevents him from accepting alternative possibilities.

          • gquenot

            No fate.

          • God Hates Faith

            I am not sure what you mean.

          • gquenot

            Leave him a chance.

          • God Hates Faith

            I do leave him a chance, which is why I engaged in discussion with him. However, its a slim one based on how close-minded he appears.

          • gquenot

            Well. Maybe the chance depends on both of you. Maybe too he thinks the same about you. Not pretending to be a model.

          • God Hates Faith

            No doubt my rhetoric could be to blame. But even when I toned it down, he kept repeating himself and stating that if I didn't agree with him, it is because I don't understand his argument.

          • gquenot

            […] he kept repeating himself and stating if I didn't agree with him, it is because I don't understand his argument.

            I am currently at the same point and that could in principle be true. However, if we don’t understand, this certainly depends on both him and us, too. Repeating the argument is certainly ineffective as our understanding is unlikely to pop out from his repetition. If there really is something that we do not understand, we should collectively work on that. It is certainly short to just say that we don’t understand but he probably needs our help to figure out what it is or ... whether there truly is a problem with the argument, which could, in principle too, be the case.

          • God Hates Faith

            Good luck, I hope you are right. I attempted to explain it several different ways, quoted exactly where I disagreed, and even used counter-examples to his examples (such as the parts of the tongue leading to a "whole" taste). It didn't make a difference. I am not sure if he even tries to understand counter-arguments.

            The difference between Dennis and you and I, is I am willing to honestly consider other arguments (including that my rhetoric could be the reason for the problem), even if I don't ultimate agree with them.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"It seems that your argument is based on the idea that the perception of something as a whole necessarily involves some sort of singularity. I see no reason for that."

            When you perceive anything whatever as a "whole," this necessarily receiving it in some form of unity. Think about it.

            As for the notion that my argument is dependent on some sort of 2D example, that is wrong. Whether you have a 2D, 3D, 4D, or "completely scrambled signal" makes no difference whatever to the argument, since the problem is that any multiple part or point physical receiver cannot explain the unity of the whole without adding some non-locatable form to unify their common function. Discrete parts as parts can reflect only a part of the whole. Nothing gets the whole. But the "whole" is what is experienced.

            I know this is a philosophical argument, but natural science can only describe the observable. The perception of sense experience itself is not observable by natural scientific means. If you think it is, you are imposing the philosophy of materialism on your observable data -- as I have pointed our elsewhere.

            This is a rational argument, but reason is what makes us superior to that dumb bunny that still perceives the carrot as a whole, even though he does not grasp the philosophical significance of doing so.

          • Sample1

            Human intelligence is unparalleled on this planet. I don’t deny that. But it really bothers me when non-human animals are called dumb, even in jest.

            Our state bird in Alaska is the willow ptarmigan. To explain why calling animals dumb bugs me, I shall relate a direct experience. Ha.

            Some guy once said in conversation that ptarmigan are so dumb! He justified his belief by saying, whenever he was hunting ptarmigan they just stood there, still, and made for easy targets. Dumb birds! Yuk, yuk, yuk.

            I had to chime in and say, no, remaining stock still is an evolutionary adaptation that, along with their cryptic coloration, renders them virtually invisible to natural predators. Ptarmigan have succeeded in living out their lives far longer than the human species has. They just haven’t had time to evolve defenses for high-power rifle scopes that allow two legged predators to remain much further away before they are stimulated to take flight.

            I know you’re saying dumb bunny in a usually understood joking manner but it’s only considered joking because it’s perpetuated. And I know that perpetuation continues to keep people from understanding the amazing and deeper realities to animal behaviors. Consider a child who is told a bunny is dumb. Then consider a child who is told why bunnies behave differently than humans. Which one is going to have their interest piqued which could result in becoming a scientist?

            Off my soap box. It’s a major pet peeve and you were just the proximate cause of my rant. Could have been anyone.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are absolutely right. I apologize for discriminating against rabbits. I had no right to call them "dumb" as though they were the outcasts of the animal kingdom.

            From now on I shall take care to call, not only, bunnies, but all animals "dumb." Mankind has a long history of referring to our animal friends as "dumb animals."

            Even so, that is not correct either, since "dumb" usually has the connotation of being of low intelligence. Animals are not low in intelligence. They are lacking it altogether.

            That is, to define this exactly, lest you object -- intelligence is from the Latin words "intus" and "legere," meaning, in reverse order, "to read within" -- which equals, to understand. But to understand is to have an intellect (which is from the same etymological root stem as intelligence), and animals have no intellect at all. Hence, they are neither of low intelligence, nor are dumb -- technically speaking.

            The evidence shows clearly that there is a qualitative difference between sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge, and that, while men have both, animals are lacking in intellect and intelligence (properly defined). Animal researchers notoriously blend the terminology because the are invariably evolutionists and do not know or recognize the difference between sense and intellect.
            Now I know at this point you are about to blow a fuse with what I have written. But, this is because your evolutionary philosophy claims that man is but a highly developed animal and that, therefore, animals are simply less developed or evolved men, so to speak.

            You are free to disagree with me, but the evidence for my position is spelled out long ago in this article, which has done pretty well in terms of reviews: https://www.godandscience.org/evolution/ape-language.html

            The main criticism by some today is that its research is a bit dated, but that is because it was written about 1993. Nonetheless, I stand by its main evidence and arguments, since the more recent studies do not obviate my observations and the evidence.

            Still, from now on, I shall try not to insult our animal friends so blatantly, given that they have no ability to understand the insult at all and thus no means of defending themselves.

          • Jim the Scott

            Animals are Great. They are fantastic creatures and cruelty toward them for its own sake is unreasonable therefore mortally sinful. My paternal Grandmother was an infamous animal lover in that she would stop her car in traffic, get out & ignore the people cursing at her to walk up to a man beating his dog and letting him have whatfore. I am proud a feck to have 25% (give or take) of that woman's DNA. God rest her soul. Animals are Great.

          • Sample1

            God bless your grandma. See, I can use cultural niceties without believing a god exists. The sentiment is enough.

            We’ve come a long way with understanding animal behavior but disseminating that knowledge broadly is taking a while. Last I checked, 25% of dogs in the US die from elective euthanasia due to behavior that is unacceptable to the owner. In some cases that behavior could be genuinely dangerous, attacking people. But that’s not the common reason. Common reasons are typically not understanding how to set a dog up for success when training. Almost all behavioral problems in dogs are owner enabled and/or caused due to lacking knowledge. Descartes ascribed mere automaton status to non-human animals. Today we know they need more than food and shelter. They need mental enrichment to thrive.

            I always ask new, non-traditional parents (dog owners) if a behavior could be taught through negative (physical punishment) reinforcement or positive (non-physical punishment) which would they prefer? They all say positive. And yet that’s not what happens. It’s getting better as new generations of people have experienced different parental modeling of their own growing up but for many, it’s, “well I was beaten or given the strap growing up and I turned out just fine, good enough for my dog.”

            Of course it’s then when I raise my left eyebrow and question just how fine they are.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Jim the Scott

            Cheers man. I believe the Sentiment comes from God threw you even if you don't realize it. But it is nice all the same.

          • Sample1

            Whatever floats your dinghy.

            Mike

          • gquenot

            We can get to the hard part in many different ways but this one seems the simplest:

            Discrete parts as parts can reflect only a part of the whole. Nothing gets the whole.

            What I do not understand here is why an organized set of interacting parts as a whole could not get the whole? Even if we have no idea of how this could be achieved, I don’t see why this should be in principle impossible. I don’t see why what gets the whole should be either a physical singularity or “some non-locatable form”.

            Ben Champagne said in a comment that disappeared but that I found in my mailbox, that I do not understand what an “immediate sensory experience” is. I replied to him in a comment that was also filtered out as spam (third one for me). I do have an intuitive understanding of this concept though I see it as possibly problematic. Could you please briefly explain that concept and what is it in it that I would have not understood?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "What I do not understand here is why an organized set of interacting parts as a whole could not get the whole?"

            The problem is that to perceive at all (at least in sight) IS to perceive the whole. Otherwise, no sense experience is had at all. That is because physical objects are extended in space. So, what has no extension cannot be seen because it isn’t physically real. But what is seen “as extended” is seen as some sort of whole.

            By now it should also be clear that no single part can “reflect” a complex, physically extended whole as a whole, since all the distinct data would overlay so as to cause indecipherability.

            So, the question remains, “Could the complex of parts somehow perceive the unified whole, when no individual one can do so?”

            If none of the parts can perceive at all, since to perceive is to perceive a whole, then none of the parts has in its nature the ability to perceive. Since nothing can give what it does not have, no part and no collection of parts can account for actual perception. These parts are singularly and collectively an ontological welfare case. Perception is not part of their nature. Adding indigence to indigence does not produce wealth. Neither can adding together things that cannot of their own nature perceive create perception.

            Hence, if perception occurs, neither a single part nor a complex of physical parts can account for it.

            But, let's look at this from a different perspective.

            Yes, acting together the complex of parts CAN represent a whole complex image, but only as first described, by each part reflecting only its own part. That is, this WHOLE neural pattern acting as a WHOLE would do so by its different parts reflecting distinct parts of the whole object known. But that is just like the manmade recording devices we already know, e.g., computers and TV sets.

            To have all the parts acting together still means that each part is locatable in space and contributing some distinct data to the “whole” image. But no single part “knows” the whole. It only “knows” its own portion of the whole. The only way to avoid this would, again, be to have all the data imposed on a single part, thereby destroying its intelligibility.

            The only remaining alternative is that when all the parts act to reflect a whole, they do so in virtue of some common reality that is NOT LOCATABLE IN SPACE, say, an immaterial principle, like FORM?

            But since no single one of the parts can do this by itself, the only way all can act together to do it is if something is added to them all, some form that is NOT EXTENDED IN SPACE, since what is extended in space has the same problem we started with (parts “knowing” only their own portion of the image).

            But what is not extended in space is not locatable in space, that is, it is not physical or material. Thus the act of sense experience cannot be a purely physical entity.

          • gquenot

            There are two main points in your reply, I will so far address only the first one, which I see as the weakest and the most unconvincing one.

            Adding indigence to indigence does not produce wealth.

            It is likely that there is a name for this principle but I was not able to find it so, for now, I propose to call it the “Principle of Transferred Indigence” or PTI for short. I think that I have a good counter-example for it.

            Prochlorococcus are to date the smallest known photosynthetic organisms. They are about 0.6 micrometers in size and contain about half a trillion particles (counting “real” quarks and electrons). Each of the particles of a single Prochlorococcus cell is indigent with respect to the ability to reproduce itself, while the organized set of interacting particles that they constitute as a whole has wealth with respect to the ability to reproduce itself.

            Neither can adding together things that cannot of their own nature perceive create perception.

            In the Prochlorococcus’ reproduction case, as you put it, the PTI would say: “neither can adding together things that cannot of their own nature self-reproduce create self-reproduction”. Now, one can still say that, even in this case, the PTI holds and that something has to be added to the set of particles interacting according to the laws of physics for this feat to happen. However, unlike the case of the brain's perception, this case is almost sorted out. Indeed, we don’t have all the details yet but we do have a big picture as well as many details which, globally, are enough for making the PTI unconvincing and unlikely.

            If the PTI fails on this case, it fails as a principle and it is no more convincing in other situations.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do appreciate the thought you put into this part of the reply, but truthfully, the main argument was the second half. This first part deals with qualities that are essentially lacking in something, so that mere addition of more things like it does not produce that lacking quality. In any event, and I know this must be a bit frustrating, the real argument -- the one that was implicit in the OP -- is the second half.

            But the PTI is like, say your have a line of people going into a theatre and each tells the ticket taker that the fellow behind him has the tickets. You can regress that process to infinity, but since no one has the tickets, you wind up with an overstuffed theatre and no profits!

            Our real concern here must be to find the truth. I think one can make a case parallel to that PTI one that will work, since it can be used successfully in the infinite regress contest. But that is not really at issue here, so I am willing to just let that part go -- even though it was not fair to you to make it look like it was an equal argument.

            We need to really focus on the latter part of the argument.

          • gquenot

            Edited for correcting cut and paste errors.

            I do appreciate the thought you put into this part of the reply, but truthfully, the main argument was the second half.

            OK. I planned to get to the second too. I started with this first because I had the feeling that the PTI was a key element of the second.

            But the PTI is like, say your have a line of people going into a theatre and each tells the ticket taker that the fellow behind him has the tickets. You can regress that process to infinity, but since no one has the tickets, you wind up with an overstuffed theatre and no profits!

            There are not so many ways for justifying the PTI. I see only two. Either you deduce it from deeper and agreed upon principles, which you do not seem to have attempted, or you induce it from observations or from examples. For establishing a principle by induction, you need not only one positive example but many of them and, in the case of the PTI, it is not hard to find many examples of the theater ticket type that confirm it. However, it suffices of a single counter-example for the induction to fail. I think I have provided a convincing one and whatever number of positive examples you could find would not save it as a universal principle.

            Our real concern here must be to find the truth. I think one can make a case parallel to that PTI one that will work, since it can be used successfully in the infinite regress contest.

            As I said, it is easy to find many examples that will follow the PTI but it suffices of one that does not follow it for refuting it.

            We need to really focus on the latter part of the argument.

            As I said, I addressed that part first but I will also address the second part. As this comment is already long, I will do it separately later but, before that, I would like to have two clarifications. Do you think that the PTI, as a universal principle, survived the Prochlorococcus counter-example? Does your second part rely on the PTI?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you look above, you will see my answer to both questions.

            First, I do think the PTI survives the Prochlorococcus example. But I haven't the time to work it out in detail. What I was using was something borrowed from my book, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence, which uses a similar line of reasoning. I simply applied it to this OTHER context, thinking it might work. I still suspect it DOES. See above comment. But really don't care to put in the psychic energy to prove it one way or another. I know how I handle the ANALOGOUS argument in my book works. But I am not certain that my switching it to this case works as well.

            The more important point is that the second part does NOT rely on that PTI line of reasoning.

          • gquenot

            I am replying here to both your http://disq.us/p/23x4gv7 and http://disq.us/p/23x4jbu comments as well as to the second part of your http://disq.us/p/23vor3h comment.

            How is this example any different than the far less complicated (but more exciting) case of sexual reproduction? Either sex by itself cannot reproduce, but add them together and ....... !!

            I don’t think that sexual reproduction is a good defeater of the PTI while I think that Prochlorococcus’ self-reproduction is. Whether or not sexual reproduction is a good defeater is irrelevant as long as Prochlorococcus’ self-reproduction because a single defeater is enough for the induction to fail.

            Prochlorococcus’ self-reproduction is a good defeater because (i) none of the particles constituting a Prochlorococcus’ cell has in its nature any self-reproduction ability while the organized set of them interacting according to the laws of physics does have such an ability and (ii) Prochlorococcus’ self-reproduction is understood well enough to make unconvincing any claim of the necessity of something else (e.g. “form”) to be added for that feat to be achieved.

            The more important point is that the second part does NOT rely on that PTI line of reasoning.

            Let’s see that.

            To have all the parts acting together still means that each part is locatable in space and contributing some distinct data to the “whole” image. But no single part “knows” the whole. It only “knows” its own portion of the whole. The only way to avoid this would, again, be to have all the data imposed on a single part, thereby destroying its intelligibility.

            This is where I thought that the PTI was at work (and why I addressed it first) and I still think it is.

            First, I would say that no part “knows” or “perceive” anything, not even itself (just as no particle of a Prochlorococcus cell has any self-reproducing capability, not even of itself). Second, if you want to deduce from that that “the organized set of these parts interacting according to the laws of physics” can’t “know” or “perceive” “the whole” (which you implicitly do by writing “The only way to avoid this […]”), you need the PTI (or something else, which you did not provide either). That, unlike in the case of Prochlorococcus’ self-reproduction, we don’t know how so far this could be achieved, does not mean that it can’t be achieved. If you want to claim that it can’t, you have to directly justify it, either with the PTI or with anything else.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I said before, you really have to address the second part of the argument, or rather, the second and separate argument.

            As for the PTI, that entails all the entities acting at once and together, without a sequential chain of causation entailed.

            The example I gave from the movie theater was based on the original problem of infinite regress and DOES WORK for that purpose. I abstracted it from that context and quickly added it to the combox with the argument against sense experience of wholes. I have not had time nor inclination to see just how well it works with those differences. So please just address the second argument.

          • gquenot

            So please just address the second argument.

            Sure. So, you wrote:

            To have all the parts acting together still means that each part is locatable in space and contributing some distinct data to the “whole” image. But no single part “knows” the whole. It only “knows” its own portion of the whole. The only way to avoid this would, again, be to have all the data imposed on a single part, thereby destroying its intelligibility.

            I agree with “no single part “knows” the whole”. You then say: “The only way to avoid this would […]”. I take “this” here to be “no single part “knows” the whole”. Why I don’t get is why this should be avoided. It might well be, though we currently don’t know how, that “no single part “knows” the whole” while, at the same time, “the organized set of these parts interacting according to the laws of physics does “know” the whole”.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is based on a logical division that does not depend on the size of the part.

            What is physical is extended in space, meaning it has parts spatially outside of parts. Either some combination of these parts "represents" the whole, or else, a single part does the job.

            The latter part of this division is a piece of cake. If you put multiple, diverse data on a single part or point, the overlay of different parts destroys the meaning of the whole.

            But if somehow you put the "image" on multiple parts, then each part must contain or represent only a part of the "image." The only way to then get unity in the image of those distinct parts is if something unifies the parts which is NOT the parts. But since the physical thing is nothing but the physical parts, whatever unifies the parts must be something OTHER THAN the physical parts, which means something which is NOT PHYSICAL.

            BUT, you might say that hydrogen and oxygen unite to form the single molecule of water, so that a union is achieved while the parts are distinct.

            That is perfectly true, but note that the physical parts of the water molecule are still distinct AND separate in that the oxygen end of this dipolar molecule contains the oxygen part of the molecule while the hydrogen end contains the hydrogen part, while one part is not the other -- so that the whole does not contain the whole in a unified way, but in a separated way -- since each distinct physical part contains only a part of the chemical content. It remains like the case of the TV, CD and DVD recorders, where discrete data must be found on separate parts, which is why only a living, sensing being can actually perceive as a unified whole the conveyed data when it is assembled on some physically extended medium, such as a TV screen.

          • gquenot

            But if somehow you put the "image" on multiple parts, then each part must contain or represent only a part of the "image."

            That may be true for the representation of an image but what we are talking about here is a perception.

            The only way to then get unity in the image of those distinct parts is if something unifies the parts which is NOT the parts.

            I am sorry but this does not seem obvious to me if we are talking of a perception. I don’t see why the unity of a perception could not result from an organized set of interacting physical parts, none of which perceiving anything, though each would possibly represent a part of the image. That we cannot explain or conceive how that could happen does not prove that it cannot.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are absolutely right. This is about a perception, not a mere representation (which here we call an "image").

            The problem is that as long as what is experiencing the whole is claimed to be purely physical, the logic of the problem remains -- for the same reason even you said that interacting physical parts cannot "perceive anything."

            Making the perceiver do what no physical thing can do is the problem. Of course, there is a perceiver -- but it cannot be physical, for the same reasoning I have given multiple times.

            Physical things are extended in space and thus must "assign" different functions to different parts. But to perceive a whole all at once is precisely what a material entity cannot do, since the different functions, exactly as different and separate, defy unification by purely physical means. Think of the water example above.

            But perception does occur. Therefore it is not just a matter that we cannot conceive how it does it. We can conceive precisely how a physical thing works -- with different parts doing different things. But the logic I gave above shows that the one thing a physical thing cannot do is to unify the whole.

            There is no "reasoning of the gaps here." Physical things simply cannot do what is entailed in sense experience, namely the unifying of the whole.

            You are finally grasping that perception is not an image, but what you understandably are resisting is the realization that perceiving is radically different than a physical image, since in its immateriality it can do what no physical thing extended in space can do, namely, embrace its wholeness at the same moment it is merely a bunch of distinct and separate parts in space.

            This is the same reason that materialists cannot see that some immaterial principle of unity must make them one being, when a total purely physical analysis of our being would indicate that all we are is a bunch of discrete atomic parts.

            Although materialists resist it, the much more reasonable position is to accept that the macroscopic things of the world around us do exist as independent, whole beings, and that they are unified by some real, non-material, principle which is not explained by the atoms alone.

            And, if that it true, it is far more reasonable to believe that some central principle of the same type, or some aspect of that central principle, enables us to perceive the world around us in an immaterial way -- since it is evident that perception is radically difficult to understand if you insist it is merely some function of a bunch of material parts.

            In a word, materialism is not only metaphysically impossible, but it is also unlikely. :)

          • Phil Tanny

            "But the logic I gave above shows that the one thing a physical thing cannot do is to unify the whole."

            Trying to keep up here, not sure if it's working...

            I would agree that thought can not unify the whole, because it operates by a process of division. Thus for example, all religions seeking unity which are built of thought inevitably wind up generating even more division.

            I'm less confident about agreeing to a more sweeping proposal because experiences of reduced thought volume, or even no thought, are possible, and do result in a different perception which is often described as an experience of unity.

            Unsure of if or how this relates to what you are trying to say.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am afraid we are talking about totally different topics here.

            You mention thought, but I am talking solely about sense perception, which is not intellectual thought at all. Since thought is not at issue, union between religions is just not relevant to my topic.

          • Phil Tanny

            Hmm... I understood us to both be talking about the perception of unity.

            You said, "But the logic I gave above shows that the one thing a physical thing cannot do is to unify the whole".

            I'm suggesting a human mind may be able to unify the whole, just not in the medium of thought. A theory for possible investigation, not an adamant claim.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, the way the intellect works is by uniting and dividing concepts. But more generally, in knowing reality, the mind becomes one with what is known -- and knows it in a simple act of understanding and judgment.

            But what the article was about was primarily the act of sense perception or experience in which we know things that are under the conditions of matter, that is, as extended in space -- and we know them in a unified manner. That is, while they are extended in space, we know them in a simple act of perception which itself is not extended in space.

          • gquenot

            […] as long as what is experiencing the whole is claimed to be purely physical, the logic of the problem remains

            I am making no such claim. I am defending an epistemic possibility, not an actuality, even though the problems are the same. I am still not convinced that there is a problem.

            -- for the same reason even you said that interacting physical parts cannot "perceive anything."

            To clarify, I was saying that probably none of the individual small parts can, not that the organized set of them can’t.

            Making the perceiver do what no physical thing can do is the problem. Of course, there is a perceiver -- but it cannot be physical, for the same reasoning I have given multiple times.

            This reasoning still did not convince me and many others. In some sense, we can talk of a perceiver. However, that what is perceived is perceived as unified does not a priori require that what is doing the perception be unified in the same way or, at least, I still see no reason for which it should.

            […] to perceive a whole all at once is precisely what a material entity cannot do, since the different functions, exactly as different and separate, defy unification by purely physical means.

            I believe the hard part to be here and I see this as just a call to intuition. Neuroscientists have identified global brain “oscillating patterns” within which perception could occur. Even ignoring that, I see no definitive reason for which such a unification should be impossible. Again, that what is perceived is peceived as unified does not a priori require that what is doing the perception be unified in the same way or, at least, I still see no reason for which it should.

            Think of the water example above.

            I am not sure of the significance of this example but a water molecule has a global electronic cloud in which you can’t identify oxygen’s or hydrogen’s electronic clouds. I am not sure either that this has any relevance with how the brain works.

            But the logic I gave above shows that the one thing a physical thing cannot do is to unify the whole.

            That may seem very counter-intuitive but that the perception is of a whole does not a priori require that the whole itself be unified. We can only say that a whole is perceived, not that that perceived whole has actually been unified as a whole for being perceived.

            There is no "reasoning of the gaps here." Physical things simply cannot do what is entailed in sense experience, namely the unifying of the whole.

            Again, I see that as a call to intuition. The perception is of a unified whole, that does not imply that the whole itself had to actually be unified in a singularity-type way for being perceived as such.

            You are finally grasping that perception is not an image, but what you understandably are resisting is the realization that perceiving is radically different than a physical image, since in its immateriality it can do what no physical thing extended in space can do, namely, embrace its wholeness at the same moment it is merely a bunch of distinct and separate parts in space.

            Maybe that was not clear, but I always distinguished the “physical image” from the perception. I am not particularly resisting to this distinction. I think that you are begging the question when saying “in its immateriality”.

            the much more reasonable position is to accept that the macroscopic things of the world around us do exist as independent, whole beings, and that they are unified by some real, non-material, principle which is not explained by the atoms alone.

            I am not in any way saying that this can’t be a reasonable position or an epistemic possibility as well. I also see difficulties with such approaches but I do not pretend that they should constitute a decisive and definitive refutation to a well-enough thought one, especially in a context of bound rationality.

            In a word, materialism is not only metaphysically impossible, but it is also unlikely. :)

            Likeliness is relative as we all have different priors. Regarding the impossibility, I am still not convinced.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think we are hung up on the following point:

            >"Again, I see that as a call to intuition. The perception is of a unified whole, that does not imply that the whole itself had to actually be unified in a singularity-type way for being perceived as such."

            It is not the whole itself is actually unified, since the whole -- say, an image of a triangle or an actual triangle -- is NOT unified, precisely because as an object under the conditions of matter, it is itself extended in space, and hence, has parts outside of parts. (The angles are exterior to each other.)

            What is unified is the act of perception itself, NOT what is perceived.

            That is the entire point of the insight. Were not the perception itself unified, we could never perceive the whole that is being perceived as a whole. Solely by apprehending all the parts of the whole at once can we know them both as distinct parts in themselves and as parts of a whole. Thus, the unification is in the act of perception, NOT in the whole which is being perceived.

            This is not an intuition in the sense of a guess about reality. It is rather a careful description of what we are experiencing, which is the proper role of epistemology.

          • gquenot

            Were not the perception itself unified, we could never perceive the whole that is being perceived as a whole.

            Let’s say that the perception is unified. It still does not a priori have to be unified in a singularity-type way. It (epistemically) might well be unified as an organized set of particles interacting according to the laws of physics.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The problem is not avoided.

            A unified set of particles is still extended in space-time and either its parts do something toward "representing" the apprehended whole, or they do not. If they do, then you have the same problem I have described many times, with discrete parts representing discrete parts of the whole, but with nothing representing the whole in a single act -- or else, you have a single part on which all the data converges altogether, producing unintelligibility.

            I think you are thinking that somehow material reality MUST be able to do precisely what a close analysis of the facts reveals it cannot do.

          • gquenot

            A unified set of particles is still extended in space-time and either its parts do something toward "representing" the apprehended whole, or they do not.

            What we are talking about is perception, not representation. So, you may still argue that a unified set of particles is extended in space-time but, for the second part, you could only say that either its parts do something toward “perceiving” the whole, or they do not. Now, the question is what it means for the parts to “do something toward perceiving the whole”. In the Prochlorococcus case, we may well say that the parts do “do something toward self-reproducing the whole” (indeed, not the same whole).

            If they do, then you have the same problem I have described many times, with discrete parts representing discrete parts of the whole, but with nothing representing the whole in a single act

            That does not work with perception as it might work with representation. You don’t need to have discrete part perceiving discrete parts of the whole while nothing a priori prevents the organized set to “perceive the whole”. In the Prochlorococcus case, we may well say that nothing a priori prevents the organized set to “self-reproduce the whole”.

            I think you are thinking that somehow material reality MUST be able to do precisely what a close analysis of the facts reveals it cannot do.

            I do not think that material reality MUST be able to, say, “generate” perceptions alone. That a close analysis of the facts reveals that it CANNOT do that is something that I am still not convinced of.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But you have to decide whether a perception, then, can be extended in space. If it is, then it falls victim to the same objection that a representation does.

            My whole point is that an act of perception does what it does precisely because it is NOT extended in space. Saying that an extended representation somehow produces a perception, and then, that the rules of extension do not apply to that perception is to grant that the perception is NOT extended in space, which is exactly my point.

            As to whether an extended in space representation (or neural pattern) can generate a perception that is not extended in space is a distinct question. The answer to that is "no," for the simple reason that the perception is doing something that no physical thing can do (as per the argument), and hence, does not have the quality of "existence without extension" needed to give it to the perception. This pertains to a secondary issue, known as emergent materialism. That is, can material bodies make things that do not have physical characteristics. But, by definition, things that lack physical characteristics do not belong in the space-time continuum, and hence, materialism is defeated again.

          • Dr. Bonnette,

            Sean Carroll's "Something Deeply Hidden" has interesting segues into and out of that concept of extension into space wrt Mind. If you have time perhaps you can share your thoughts on http://disq.us/p/24auxns

          • gquenot

            Please note that I edited my previous reply http://disq.us/p/23x16y4 for correcting cut and paste errors.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            How is this example any different than the far less complicated (but more exciting) case of sexual reproduction? Either sex by itself cannot reproduce, but add them together and ....... !!

            I think the PTI case is not really met until you have something that is lacking not only a quality in itself, but also in relation to anything else as well.

            The theatre case is not just an outlier case in which the PTI happens to work, but an example in which none of the components has the quality that is being looked for at all.
            The male/female case, like the one you describe in far greater complexity, is a case where the individual components are designed to complement each others lack. Hence when they are combined, what is missing to one is added by the other.

            But in the theatre case, every individual in the series lacks the needed quality (a ticket) and worse yet has no complementary possibility of helping another, for example, if each one had half a ticket to share with another. In sexual reproduction, each individual has half a ticket. Analogously I think that can be applied to your case as well.

            But, as I said earlier, the real argument is the second part, which in no way depends on the first one.

          • gquenot

            […] I fear even the site moderator cannot help you.

            This tutorial might help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B9FlG9bsA4

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thank you. That was very informative.

        • BTS

          Both of your comments show that you haven't a clue what the article is talking about.

          Dennis,
          That is just a rude, ungentlemanly comment.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            All right. If I just said that he was completely missing the point of the argument, would you feel more comfortable?

            I explained why in my comment.

          • BTS

            That would be somewhat better, yes.

            I enter these forums with a spirit of charity and openness, and I see many who don't. We can all learn something here.

            For those who already know everything there is to know, I find myself wondering at what age they decided to hang up their critical thinking cleats.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not sure your last statement would pass your own "charity and openness" criteria.

            It is easy to dismiss any claims of certitude as amounting to intellectual pride, which constitutes claiming to know all there is to know.

            Well, then, if you are certain that two plus two equals four, you must be an arrogant intellectual snob with a totally closed mind. (I know. You then redefine the context in which the math is done to make it somehow provisional.) How about knowing the principle of non-contradiction?

            What I am pointing out here is that anyone who makes any claims whatever of any certitude whatever is all too easily and uncharitably accused of claiming to know all there is to know.

            The only alternative is to embrace relativism and skepticism which itself is a position from which one can look down upon those who claim that we can know some objective truth.

            How about just looking for the truth without casting aspersions on those who claim to find some they are willing to share with their fellow human beings?

            Knowing a few things with certitude is not the same thing as claiming to know all there is to know about everything.

  • Jim the Scott

    At some point in time legitimate and innocent ignorance becomes willful stupidity and I don't feel bad at all about calling it out.

    Here is the thing. It is obvious a subjective sense experience is not a physical thing. Otherwise I could point to it outside my mind in the real world. The Atheist philosopher Dennett says consciousness and the mind are illusions. An illusion is something unreal and in Dennett's dogmatic reductionist materialism only matter is real. Why doesn't he just admit the obvious? The mind and conscieness are immaterial!

    This is not the same as saying they are an immaterial substance. We Scholastics don't give a fig for Descartes and his errors. But it is obvious that it is immaterial. Even if their are no gods.

    Why is this hard people?

    • Raymond

      "Sure you could map my brain right now and show the nerves firing away while I am thinking about this but where is the image of Theresa"?

      You just pointed at it. The nerves firing away while you're thinking. How it that so hard?

      • Jim the Scott

        Sorry I only see nerves firing. Outside of my immaterial subjective experience (which has yet to be accounted for physically) I don't see my Theresa as she was back then. You are pointing at nothing.

        • gquenot

          And yet, there she is (or she might be).

          You only see nerves firing because you are not using the right reader. This is just like trying to visualize a JPEG image with a text editor. You will see the binary codes of the scrambled image but nothing like the real image. You can only see the image stored in a JPEG file with an image viewer that include a JPEG decoder. For your Theresa, the only viewer, if any, which can properly decode her image and make you experience her is your brain, which would actually tightly embed both the “pixels” and the “decoder” software. That might be. Or not. But “I only see nerves firing” is not a convincing objection.

          • Jim the Scott

            >And yet, there she is (or she might be).

            I see her subjectively in my mind/memory. But where is that memory in the physical world? Next to the invisible tea pot?

            >You only see nerves firing because you are not using the right reader. This is just like trying to visualize a JPEG image with a text editor. You will see the binary codes of the scrambled image but nothing like the real image. You can only see the image stored in a JPEG file with an image viewer that include a JPEG decoder.

            Way to miss the point. I know how a digital reader works genus. But if all there is is matter alone then materially where is this image of my former college girlfriend? Where is the movie screen in my brain and "what" is looking at it? It clearly doesn't seem to be a physical thing.

            >For your Theresa, the only viewer, if any, which can properly decode her image and make you experience her is your brain, which would actually tightly embed both the “pixels” and the “decoder” software. That might be. Or not. But “I only see nerves firing” is not a convincing objection.

            That the brain is involved is beyond dispute but what is looking at it and the image itself clearly isn't the brain or we would see the image of Theresa in my brain. At least Dennett is more consistent (even if mad) with the illusion mishigoss.

          • gquenot

            That the brain is involved is beyond dispute but what is looking at it and the image itself clearly isn't the brain or we would see the image of Theresa in my brain.

            This is the Cartesian theater prejudice. There is no such thing as a viewer looking at a screen in the brain.

          • Jim the Scott

            I am not a Cartesian and you are equivocating.

            >There is no such thing as a viewer looking at a screen in the brain.

            There is also no such thing as a subjective sense experience extended into 3d space. Something has to be extended into 3d space to be objectively material. Thus subjective sense experiences are not material.

            When you objectively show me Theresa in my brain feeding a pink unicorn sitting next to a flying spaghetti monster I might believe in yer weird materialist supersticion. Till then Thomistic Dualism or Property Dualism or some other scheme seems more likely. Reductionist Materialism does not.

            I don't have to know what a subjective experience is I do know what it is not and it is clearly not material and it is clearly not the nerve impulses anymore then the stored data on a DVD is the actual image prior to the TV set generating it.

          • gquenot

            There is also no such thing as a subjective sense experience extended into 3d space.

            I guess that this is obvious for you. It is far from obvious for me. Do you have any justification for such a claim?

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't have to prove a negative. Show me the subjective image in my brain. Since you cite the computer model for the brain and mind well I can hook up a webcam to my computer and video my own screen. Thus I can make the compter "see" the image it generates. The image on the screen is real and physical. Where is the physical image of my Theresa in my brain given that I am only a brain without an immaterial soul of any kind, neither hylomorphic, substasive form, cartusian, emergent property etc.....

            Because my point is simple whichever view is true the reductionist materialist one is clearly false.

            Maybe non-reductionaist materialism works but you would still need property dualism.

          • gquenot

            I don't have to prove a negative.

            This is an epistemological question whose answer is still debated. From Wikipedia, on proving a negative: “[…] Nevertheless, it has been said whoever makes a claim carries the burden of proof regardless of positive or negative content in the claim”. I know that Wikipedia is not a very authoritative source but I quite agree with that.

            You are probably referring the “principle of parsimony”, also known as Ockham’s razor. I see this “as a guideline rather than an actual rule” (not a Bible quote) and, in practice, it turned out many times that things actually were more complex than initially thought.

            Actually, I have seen (and dismissed) exactly the same argument on the same question from “the opposite side”, just switching what you respectively see as “the positive” and “the negative”. Basically, they say that they don’t have to prove that there is no such a thing as an immaterial soul (or form or whatever) intervening in the mind just as you say that you don’t have to prove that here is no such thing as a subjective sense experience extended into 3d space. In short, your positive is their negative and vice versa. And none of you is able to directly justify any (non-)existence claim.

            […] emergent property […]

            This is not necessarily incompatible with materialism (not saying that materialism is true). You may have a look at my discussion with Dennis on the emergence of the self-reproduction ability.

          • Jim the Scott

            Both sides always try to shift the burden of proof but here where you are IMHO equivocating......

            > Basically, they say that they don’t have to prove that there is no such a thing as an immaterial soul (or form or whatever)

            That would be proving a negative and it does mandate we need to give reasons why we think there is a soul if we positively claim there is a soul.
            It is proper for the materialist to ask "where is this invisible soul?" But...

            >you say that you don’t have to prove that here is no such thing as a subjective sense experience extended into 3d space. In short, your positive is their negative and vice versa.

            Rather the materialist has to explain how a subjective sense experience is materially real considering it doesn't seem to extend into 3D space like something that is properly material. This has to be explained within a material framework and I don't see how it can be done anymore than the Positivist can produce a scientific proof for the truth of Positivism(thus making it coherent).

            So I don't see how they are equivalent? The materialist doesn't see the soul and I don't see this subjective sense or image in my mind inside my brain or anyone else's brain? That is the problem.

            >n short, your positive is their negative and vice versa. And none of you is able to directly justify any (non-)existence claim.

            Except I don't positively claim all is matter and only matter. Since I presuppose the existence of the non-material an invisible soul is compatible with that. If all is only matter an invisible material subjective experience is a contradiction.

            So I don't see them as equivalent?

          • michael

            Hav you even tried to get a brains can or see someone else's brains can to prove what you're saying? Perhaps that's why you don't see it in your mind, because you aren't looking?

          • Jim the Scott

            So brain scans can reconstruct subjective images and put them on a screen?

            Enough of yer Star Trek crap! Smeg off!

          • michael

            Appeal to Incredulity fallacy.

          • Jim the Scott

            Rather you watch too much Star Trek. Take my advice. Ben Bova is more Hard Scifi and so is Alaystair Reynolds or Charles Shepfield. Next you are going to invoke the Force?

          • michael
          • Jim the Scott

            This is like those clickbait articles where they claim they are a decade away from Warpdrive or Quantum Vacuum thrusters. Real science bites them in the end. For you sonny this is the Atheist equivolent of Articles that claim they found Noah's Ark or dug deep into the Earth so as to hear the screams of the damned in Hell. Or similar nonsense.

            All I see here is a computer program that draws pictures based on an unproven suposition that it's algorithm somehow duplicates brain patterns?

            They use a lot of weasel words like "almost" or "so we will develop".

            Where is yer pear reviewed Data? OTOH as Dr. B tried to explain to you in vain nobody here denies the Brain stores data. Even if you can collect that data to reconstruct an image the question he asks is where is that image right now? Where does it exist? I can decode a dvd to reconstruct an image on it but that image appears on a screen. Where does our subjective image appear? Not in 3d space so it can't be material.

            We went over all this and like the others you are going out of yer way to dodge the question. You are just repeating the same crap hoping yer bad answers will somehow become true if you just wear me out. Not gonna happen pal.

          • michael

            They wouldn't publish it if it weren't peer reviewed. The technology wouldn't even work if they mechanism weren't proven. You are just dismissing it out of hand.

          • Jim the Scott

            Nobody publishes anything without peer reviewing it? ROTFLOL! Or you could just cite the peer reviewed data? I would like to look at the actual science and actual claims vs the popular simplistic click bait you like. I have a deep respect for authentic science and I have little respect for simpletons regardless of their metaphysical beliefs abusing it.

            >You are just dismissing it out of hand.

            I am very skeptical you can scan my brain like they do in Star Trek or other science fiction shows that show yer memories to people played on a screen. I need to see hard science & data not click bait. Besides it is irrelevant. I can read DVD and generate an image on a screen from the Data stored there. That is I can generate that image on a physical screen that extends into 3D space. Where is the screen in my brain? That my Brain is in some sense like the DVD holding Data I have not disputed and neither has Dr. B in his article. But where is the freakin image? I am not looking for the Data in my physical memory that generates the image of Theresa. I want the image itself. You want to talk about everything else but that! Just like you want to pretend God is a moral agent because you have no use for yer anti Theodicy polemic otherwise.

            We all went over this and I think Dr. B tried to explain it to you (or what that GHF? Like it matters you idiots all say the exact same thing).....

            What is the point of you....

          • michael

            Why presume the electronic data is not the image itself? Because your religion forbids it?

          • Jim the Scott

            Because the electronic data isn't the image regardless of the existence of gods? That is self evident. I don't see images on my dvd. I see it on the screen which uses the data on the DVD. Yer equivocating yet again.

            So stupid I am so bored right now..........

          • michael

            The only "So we will develop" part is higher resolution versions of the technology already demonstrated to work.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yeh I don't care. Yer argument is a red herring. I am not disputing the existence of data on the brain and neither does Dr. B. He said as much if you can read. The image is not on the DVD it is on the screen extended in 3d space. The image from my brain exists in my mind, my consciousness and it doesn't extend in 3D space. Where is it?

            The overblown claims of this article not withstanding.

          • michael

            My consciousness is obviously in my brain. It isn't 5 feet away form my brain, and it isn't "nowhere" either.

          • Jim the Scott

            I dont deny the connection between the brain and mind and consciousness it is just the mind, subjective experience and brain are clearly distinct and only the brain is extended in 3d space & thus physical. One need not believe in gods to acknowledge it.

          • Ficino

            I mentioned to Luke Breuer Gilbert Ryle's case that "mind" is a construct, like "university." If you ask what is the university, it is not some intelligible form existing in reality independently of speakers. It is just the term we use to bundle together all the buildings, employees, students, activities, even the colleges, like "pair of gloves", a term bundling left glove and right glove but not existing independently. I thought Ryle made a lot of sense when he proposed that "mind" is in like manner a construct; it's a notion we use when we bundle together all the operations of our brain and nervous system.

            Although Ryle's target was mainly a Cartesian substance dualism, he was aware of Platonic and Aristotelian theories of mind (cf. e.g. p. 23). And Ryle thought that both Idealism and Materialism in modern philosophy are answers to an improper question: "The 'reduction' of the material world to mental states and processes, as well as the 'reduction' of mental states and processes to physical states and processes, presuppose the legitimacy of the disjunction 'Either there exist minds or there exist bodies (but not both)." (22)

            I've only just looked again at Ryle, so I can't say now whether I think a hylomorphic theory of mind escapes the error that Ryle thought he had ferreted out. I notice though that some of the arguments I think I see put forth by defenders of hylomorphic dualism coincide with those put forth by substance dualists, e.g. concepts aren't material so something material can't act on concepts. I don't know yet whether hylomorphic dualism doesn't collapse into substance dualism, though I understand that A-T chaps say that it doesn't. Philosophy of mind hasn't been a "thing" of mine so I'm no expert.

          • Jim the Scott

            Wow! I am so used to ignorant stupid responses from the usual suspects I forgot what a critical and intelligent analysis looks like. Thanks boss!:D
            You Da Man!!!:D

            > I don't know yet whether hylomorphic dualism doesn't collapse into substance dualism, though I understand that A-T chaps say that it doesn't.

            That is a strong observation and maybe above my paygrade. Perhaps DR. B can chime in?

            OTOH if I took a running stab at it.... I seem to recall the soul is the form of a rational creature. As such it is more a metaphysical component. Asking how the mind moves the body is like asking how does "roundness" interact with and move a ball. I will have to consult my sources.

            Cheers boss.

          • Ficino

            I seem to recall the soul is the form of a rational creature. As such it is more a metaphysical component.

            Generally we're used to hearing, "the soul is the form of the body," but I think that needs a lot of unpacking - and people spend their careers on that!

            A place to start is De Anima: "soul is the first actuality of a natural body that is potentially alive," 412a27; “soul is the first actuality of a natural organic body,” (412b5). I haven't gotten to Aquinas' commentary on that treatise or to his own Quaestiones Disputate de Anima ('cept in places), but in his Commentary on Metaphysics VIII.3 , l. 3 C1706, Aquinas says that it's a question, whether the name "animal" signifies soul in a body, as form in matter, or only soul, which is the form of the organic body.

            I'm not thinking right now of a place where either guy analyzes soul as the form of a "rational creature," since then, if the creature is a composite of soul and body, the soul would be the form of itself, no?

            I don't think the roundness / ball analogy will fit Thomism as a whole, since the Thomist has to allow that the soul can exist apart from the body and carry out certain operations, even if it is incomplete or impaired as a substance. That wouldn't be the case for "roundness."

            Lots of puzzles even for us old geezers, or at least, this one.

          • Jim the Scott

            One should note Aquinas for the Human Rational Soul borrows from Plato.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            @ Ficino
            Chiming in ....

            Hylomorphism does not collapse into substance dualism, since the substantial form and primary matter in man are not distinct substances, but merely metaphysical co-principles of a single human substance.

            Since at death, the human substance is decomposed into a subsistent spiritual substantial form and decaying organic matter, what is left is neither two distinct substances (since the matter has now lost its unifying form), nor is there any remaining relation between the separated substance and its former body.

            Although it is possible that substance dualists argue for the spiritual nature of the mind in much the same way Thomists do for the separated soul, this may be only because one can form a similar argument for a thing being spiritual in nature. That does not make their ontological positions the same, since the substance dualist never did have the mind as being the substantial form of a body.

          • michael
          • Jim the Scott
          • michael

            The article sabot the size of the brain, not the fact that we can retrieve images from the brain since our thoughts exist in space.

          • Jim the Scott

            Here read this from a responsible scientist who btw it seems isn't a dualist & is a materialist.

            PS I hate it when I have to do yer homework.

            https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/jun/25/neuroscience-media-neuromania

          • michael

            It seems you didn't read past paragraph 3 in that article. Nothing int hat article actually argues for the existence of the soul.

          • Jim the Scott

            The article talk about doing responsible science and not relying on clickbait.
            None of yer objections to date have anything to do with the substance of the OP. Nobody disputes the brain contains data. We are not Cartusians ya wee nutter.

          • Jim the Scott
          • Jim the Scott

            BTW none of this has anything to do with Dr. B OP. That the brain contains data is not in dispute. Where is the image as it objectively exists now? I am seeing an image so where in 3d space is that image? You don't answer you dodge the question and change the subject and pretend it is something else. Much like you always do. It is getting tiresome.

          • michael

            Where? IN YOUR BRAIN. Wow you can't read.

          • Jim the Scott

            So we have to repeat ourselves again because you are so thick. There is no image in yer brain just as there is no image on a DVD. The image for the DVD is on a screen. That data is stored on the DVD is not in dispute just as yer brain storing data is not in dispute but the image is not in yer brain anymore than it is one the DVD. It is in yer mind and the image that is in yer mind is unlike the TV screen not extended in 3D space.

            You are equivocating (Big Surprise there eh?) between the Image vs the Data. They are not the same. Wow you really can't read or comprehend what you read? If it wasn't for irrelevant tangents and equivocations you would have nothing to say. Which would bless all of us because at least there would be less stupid in the room.

          • michael

            I just showed you we can literally see pictures you think of and memories you have on brain scans. If that's not material, what is material?

          • Jim the Scott

            No you can't literally see pictures. This article postulates data can be extrapolated from the brain to reconstruct images the person remembers but that is not my point(& the claims seem overblown and you have no peer reviewed data for me). I am not disputing the exitence of brain data. As I said in the other posts the data is not the image. The image is the image. Thus you cannot see images on the brain anymore than you see images on the DVD itself.

            You and yer equivocations again.

          • Jim the Scott

            BTW what about what Michael Murray said?

            "It doesn't seem to me that they are at the stage being able to project onto a screen the pictures you see in your mind. Is that what you meant ?"

            He gets it. So what is yer damage son?

          • michael

            The machine described in the article does (DOES, present tense) exactly what you asked: find where the picture of Teresa in your mind is and put it on a screen like a dvd recorder.

          • Michael Murray

            And while this tech was not used to attempt to read actual minds, it seems likely that it could.

            It doesn't seem to me that they are at the stage being able to project onto a screen the pictures you see in your mind. Is that what you meant ? Or are you saying the machine can tell you where in your brain the image is rather than what it is ?

          • Jim the Scott

            Thank you.

          • michael

            The article clearly says it can scan your brain and create pictures form your memory. Exactly the criterion described by Jim in the above response to gquenot for proving the mind is material. Just read it for yourself. The test subjects said it "works pretty well". Works. Present tense.

          • Michael Murray

            Maybe I looked at the wrong article. Was that the Popular Mechanics article or the study linked from the Popular Mechanics article or something else ? Thanks.

          • Michael Murray

            OK I guess you mean the Science Mag article. That is definitely impressive.

            This new work can generate recognizable images on the fly and even reproduce shapes that are not seen, but imagined.

            Particularly that last bit about imagined images.

          • michael

            https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/mind-reading-algorithm-can-decode-pictures-your-head

            "Using algorithms to decode mental images isn’t new. Since 2011, researchers have recreated movie clips, photos, and even dream imagery by matching brain activity to activity recorded earlier when viewing images. But these methods all have their limits: Some deal only with narrow domains like face shape, and others can’t build an image from scratch—instead, they must select from preprogrammed images or categories like “person” or “bird.” This new work can generate recognizable images on the fly and even reproduce shapes that are not seen, but imagined."

          • Jim the Scott

            I doubt it does that & I think you are misreading it here. But even if it does, all it does is interpret data in my brain to reconstruct an image and show it on a physical screen extended in 3D space. Where is that "screen" in my brain? Where is that image? Not the data that generates the image but the image itself? The image in my subjective experience? The article doesn't tell us.

            Even if you could do like they do in Altered Carbon or some Transhumanist Scifi show stick a devise in my head and play back my memories on a physical screen it still doesn't explain where are those images being projected right now in my subjective perception.

            You haven't even begun to address the argument. These tangents are tedious.

          • michael

            What would show you it is if not the machine? It seems you're moving the goalpost.

          • Jim the Scott

            Listen dude on science I am always a skeptic. That is how you do science. Show me the hard data. I do philosophy a different way and theology another and politic etc.
            I very much doubt we will see something like we see in the movie THE FINAL CUT with the late Robin Williams in the near or far future and thus I doubt this clickbait's claims till I see some peer review. It doesn't matter thought.

            It has little to do with the fact in my brain there is no image of my Theresa. She only appears in my subjective memory. That hard data exists in my physical brain which might help my mind generate that image doesn't change the fact the image itself is not extended in 3d space and thus not material. As Feser says the term "subjective" is the rug underneath which materialist sweep the non-material aspects of thought.

          • michael

            You're saying the article from a professional science site is a lie and this machine doesn't exist?

          • Jim the Scott

            I am saying we don't have the technology to do what is protrayed in the movie staring the late Robin Williams FINAL CUT. This machine isn't even close to that.

          • michael

            So if a bunch of scientists showed you in person t multiple labs that the machine exists and works, you'd admit that the criteria you set for showing the image exists in 3-d space was met? If not, what criteria would convince you?

          • Jim the Scott

            Sorry but that data doesn't exist anymore than archeological evidence for Noah's Ark and a Global Flood. Do some real science son not pop science or clickbait.

          • michael

            Type in "peer review machine reads mind" on google.

          • Jim the Scott

            Here it is.

            Reconstructing Perceived and Retrieved Faces from Activity Patterns in Lateral Parietal Cortex

            https://www.jneurosci.org/content/36/22/6069.short?sid=39264297-467f-403a-9806-429798f2237c

            I read the abstract all it does is read data recorded in the brain it doesn't show what a mind is subjectively seeing or imagining at any given movment.

            What did I say about confusing Data with the Image and equivocating?

            You are just thick at this point. I am not looking for the data in my brain that records my Theresa you dolt rather I am looking for the image as it manifests when I think of it.

            Oy vey its like pulling teeth with you......

          • gquenot

            That the brain is involved is beyond dispute but what is looking at it and the image itself clearly isn't the brain or we would see the image of Theresa in my brain.

            It might be that the image is in your brain, completely scrambled and coded in the synaptic weights, just as this is the case for a JPEG-coded image stored as bits in the memory of a computer. You don’t see the image when looking at the memory chips of the computer. Yet, it is there. Similarly, it is an epistemic possibility that Theresa’s image is in your synaptic weights, though scrambled with a lot of other things, which is fine as long as an adequate decoder is available. In principle at least, it should be possible to reverse-engineer the coding in the synaptic weight and to display it for anyone to see. It is already possible, from fMRI images, to infer very roughly what a subject is experiencing. That can be understood as achieving something similar though currently with an extremely low resolution.

          • Jim the Scott

            >It might be that the image is in your brain, completely scrambled and coded in the synaptic weights, just as this is the case for a JPEG-coded image stored as bits in the memory of a computer.

            Yer not getting it. I know there is data stored on a DVD but the Data is not the image on the screen. It preceeds it and the image is dependant on it but it is not the same thing. So bullocks stop Freakin wasting my time repeating GHF's Bulls**t.

            >You don’t see the image when looking at the memory chips of the computer. Yet, it is there.

            Fallacy of equivocationa and false alternative. I don't deny data is stored in my brain. But the data is not the image. The image is the image.

            > Similarly, it is an epistemic possibility that Theresa’s image is in your synaptic weights, though scrambled with a lot of other things, which is fine as long as an adequate decoder is available.

            The human brain is not a computer and does not opperate on the formal logic of one. Searle proved that with his Chinese room experiment.

            >In principle at least, it should be possible to reverse-engineer the coding in the synaptic weight and to display it for anyone to see.

            Except what would see it? Would you put it on a screen like you see in Transhumanist so called Hard Science fiction like in Altered Carbon and "view" my memories? Now who is the cartusian? Who is looking at the screen now in my brain?

            Beg the question much? Materialism doesn't and cannot account for the subjective in principle. Little wonder Dennett or Rosenberg just dismiss subjective experience as illusion. Why not just save a step and admit they are immaterial?

            >It is already possible, from fMRI images, to infer very roughly what a subject is experiencing. That can be understood as achieving something similar though currently with an extremely low resolution.

            But you cannot recreate subjective experience in the lab and after 50 years of cognitive research we haven't even moved the needle. Like I said we will probabily discovery how to travel FTL before we download a mind and well realistically we will and can never travel FTL.

            So get rid of the Enterprise and buy a Lighthugger from Alistair Reynolds.

          • gquenot

            Yer not getting it. I know there is data stored on a DVD but the Data is not the image on the screen. It precedes it and the image is dependent on it but it is not the same thing. […] Fallacy of equivocation and false alternative. I don't deny data is stored in my brain. But the data is not the image. The image is the image.

            OK. Let’s clarify that first. What is it precisely then that you call an image?

            Who is looking at the screen now in my brain?

            I might (though only if you allow it) but I would not do that from inside your brain.

            But you cannot recreate subjective experience in the lab and after 50 years of cognitive research we haven't even moved the needle.

            Sure I can’t and I don’t think I will see such a thing happening in my lifetime. Yet, that does not prove in any way that this is not possible at all.

          • Jim the Scott

            >OK. Let’s clarify that first. What is it precisely then that you call an image?

            The one I am looking at in my mind from my memory. You have memories. Pick one and think of it. There that thing right there you are now thinking of and "seeing" in yer mind. That one(yer first kiss. Yer first date. Mom getting sick on the rug at Thanksgiving from the flu) . Where is it inside yer brain give that you are only a physical brain and nothing more?

            I can see an image my computer generates on a screen and I can make the computer see it by using a webcam to record that image. So where is my subjective experience in the physical word?

            >Sure I can’t and I don’t think I will see such a thing happening in my lifetime. Yet, that does not prove in any way that this is not possible at all.

            It seems to me it is impossible in principle. If it is not extended in 3d space then it doesn't physically exist. It subjectively exists in my mind but the subjective is the rug the reductionist sweeps the immaterial.

          • Jim the Scott

            PS one thing we agree on disqus is a bitch.

          • gquenot

            I miss Usenet.

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't know what that is but it sounds lovely. I'll take yer word on that M8.

          • gquenot

            Usenet is (or rather was) a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It worked great and was very popular in the 80s and 90s and was widely used until about 10 years ago when things like Disqus de facto replaced it.

          • Phil Tanny

            Let's start a campaign to move this excellent site to forum technology. It's a significant (but common) mistake to try to use blog software for conversations of this scale. I'm going to claim a bit of expertise on this, as I've coded my own blog and forum software from scratch, and thus have many opinions on the subject. Blog software is for giving speeches, forum software is for conversations, and social media is for teenagers. :-)

          • Jim the Scott

            Sounds interesting. But my 5 minute attention span would preclude me from such a campaign....ooohhhh.....shiny!

            Cheers sir & peace be with you.

          • Phil Tanny

            You're right, this needs to be really simple. So, um, each of us could simply add "FORUM PLEASE" to the end of each comment. Before long we'll all be banned, and then we won't need a forum. Problem solved! :-) FORUM PLEASE

          • Jim the Scott

            i hope this isn't a double post.

            >OK. Let’s clarify that first. What is it precisely then that you call an image?

            The one I am looking at in my mind from my memory. You have memories. Pick one and think of it. There that thing right there you are now thinking of and "seeing" in yer mind. That one(yer first kiss. Yer first date. Mom getting sick on the rug at Thanksgiving from the flu) . Where is it inside yer brain give that you are only a physical brain and nothing more?

            I can see an image my computer generates on a screen and I can make the computer see it by using a webcam to record that image. So where is my subjective experience in the physical word?

            >Sure I can’t and I don’t think I will see such a thing happening in my lifetime. Yet, that does not prove in any way that this is not possible at all.

            It seems to me it is impossible in principle. If it is not extended in 3d space then it doesn't physically exist. It subjectively exists in my mind but the subjective is the rug the reductionist sweeps the immaterial.

          • michael

            Your memory is in the long-term memory section of your brain.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yes I know what does that have to do with the conversation or topic or the point I was making?

            Get lost till you say something interesting.

          • michael

            So your memory of what teresa looks like has a location and is therefore not spiritual.

          • Jim the Scott

            "Theresa" spell her name correctly or feck off!

            >So your memory of what teresa looks like has a location and is therefore not spiritual.

            My memory of her is not "spiritual". You are repeating the same shite that was already discussed. Now feck off till you come up with one intelligent orgininal thought. I won't hold my breath.

      • Jim the Scott

        Let me make this easy for you so you don't waste my time with useless Neurobabel and nonsense.

        A DVD can store electronic data that can reconstruct a physical image on a physical screen. Where is the "physical screen" inside my brain showing the image of my Theresa? Where does it physically exist? Because as it stands it seems the subjective screen doesn't extend into 3d space or even 2d space. Thus I must conclude this qualitative image is non-material unless you can produce this material and whatever invisible pink unicorns you can show me as well?

        • Pandurang Shastri

          Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
          -- Albert Einstein

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi there Pandurang Shastri, not sure if you are new to the site, but if you are, welcome. Nice to meet you in any case, looking forward to your posts.

          • Pandurang Shastri

            The whole of Modern SCIENCE is based on Materialism - God has explained what is science in the Vedas which is open source on the net - here is the brief explaination of What is complete SCIENCE or what is the definition of Science as explained by the God almighty-
            Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these eight constitute My [ God ] separated material energies. This material world is a temporary manifestation of one of the energies of the Lord. All the activities of the material world are directed by three expansions of the Lord. These three are called incarnations. Generally one who does not know the science of God assumes that this material world is for the enjoyment of the living entities and that the living entities are the puruṣas – the causes, controllers and enjoyers of the material energy. According to Bhagavad-gītā this atheistic conclusion is false.
            In the material energy, the principal manifestations are eight, as above mentioned. Out of these, the first five manifestations, namely earth, water, fire, air and sky, are called the five gigantic creations or the gross creations, within which the five sense objects are included. They are the manifestations of physical sound, touch, form, taste and smell. Material science comprises these ten items and nothing more. But the other three items, namely mind, intelligence and false ego, are neglected by the materialists. @Thornne:disqus

        • Phil Tanny

          Let me make this easy for you so you don't waste my time with useless Neurobabel and nonsense.

          Wait, wait, wait! Don't go yet, you forgot to call us morons! And STOP wasting his time everybody! Cut that out, and I mean RIGHT NOW!

          • Jim the Scott

            Still bored.......

          • Phil Tanny

            Yes, obviously Jim the Scott is bored, because he is a genius, and the rest of us here are MORONS!!! Jim the Scott is way above all of our pathetic little postings, and if it wasn't for him we wouldn't even know we are morons, that's how truly moronic we are!

          • Jim the Scott

            What with the "we" nonsense? It's just you my son. Other then that not a bad post as long as we change the plurals to singulars.

        • michael

          Perhaps someone doing a high-tech brain scan will find the image of Theresa in there one day. Who knows? Have you tried actually getting brain scan?

          • Jim the Scott

            Science has betrayed you sonny. If you marry the current science my friend you will be a widower within a week.

            https://news.ncsu.edu/2018/03/free-will-review-2018/

            Ah well then.......

          • michael

            The Benjamin Libet thing that has nothing to do with pictures of Teresa? That's off-topic. And even if a scanner couldn't find the picture, it would still have a location (in your mind) and be where your mind is (In your head and not your feet or 10 feet to the left) which means it is matter and not spirit since spiritual things don't have any location.

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't care if it is "off topic". This topic was Two Months ago and I have moved on. Now bugger off & my college Girlfriend's name was Theresa not Teresa. Get her name right Mr. Sad Git.

            We have gone over this nonsense before and you are just repeating the same old shite. Now bugger off until you say something intelligent or interesting. Which means have a nice life.

        • michael

          Also scientists have proven that "Seeing" takes place in the back of the brain, the left brain processes what the right eye sees, the right processes what the left eye sees, the visual cortex in back of the brain puts them together, and flips them right-side-up (The refraction of light through the lens and aqueous humor make sit upside-down on its way to the optical nerve), and the short-term and long-term memory sections of the brain respond to the image.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yes that is lovely I am sure and why are you responding to posts I made 2 months ago where I have forgotten the topic and what does any of this gibberish have to do with the price of tea in China?

            Get lost Mike you are boring me.

          • michael

            I simply stumbled across it and thought "Wy not?".

          • Jim the Scott

            Well you are boring me regardless.

    • gquenot

      I missed that.

      […] willful stupidity […]

      Matthew 7:1-6.

      [...] obvious […] obvious […]

      I take your word when you say that this is obvious to you. If you believed that it should be so to anyone, you can count me as a counter-example.

      • Jim the Scott

        Atheists can't cite the Bible against Catholics genus. We simply shut you down by pointing out yer private interpretation of the text is not the same as Our Church's authoritative interpretation of the text. We Catholics are not Protestant fundamentalists. We don't confess Luther's Perspicuity(look it up!) error nor his heresy of private interpretation or Sola Scriptura.

        So you are wasting my time and yours with the bible quote and you are in danger of becoming tedious. I am not a Baptist buddy. Accept that or bugger off.

        • gquenot

          I do not define myself as an atheist, that was not against and no particular interpretation was suggested.

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't really care what kind of non-believer you are(& that category broadly embraces all non-Catholics) and if you won't at least own what kind you are then you are as tedious to me as the non-denominationalist Protestant who argues Scripture with me. They have no objective historic fixed set of beliefs which makes polemics against their view impossible.

            It is an offensive rhetorical trick designed to not subject ones' own views to scruteny.

            Fight me as an equal. I don't respect intellectual cowardice.

          • gquenot

            Let’s at least try to get rid of this misunderstanding: I don’t come here to fight. And I never thought of you as other than equal.

            Regarding Bible quotation, don’t worry, I got that you don’t want them from me and I don’t want that to become a conversation stopper.

            You did not address the obviousness issue. I think that this is why we don’t understand each other and why the discussion is so difficult and sometimes tedious. There are indeed things that seem obviously true to some of us while not being so obvious or even being obviously false to others.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Let’s at least try to get rid of this misunderstanding: I don’t come here to fight. And I never thought of you as other than equal.

            Argue? Debate? Dispute? Make contrary assertions? Fight? It is the same thing in my mind. If it isnt in yers that is fine. As for thinking of me as an equal I thank you BUT I need to be treated as one so have the common curtisy to spell our yer view plainly.

            >Regarding Bible quotation, don’t worry, I got that you don’t want them from me and I don’t want that to become a conversation stopper.

            Thank you.

            >You did not address the obviousness issue. I think that this is why we don’t understand each other and why the discussion is so difficult and sometimes tedious. There are indeed things that seem obviously true to some of us while not being so obvious or even being obviously false to others.

            Funny that is my charge against you as well? So we need to find a way to build a bridge.

          • gquenot

            Argue? Debate? Dispute? Make contrary assertions? Fight? It is the same thing in my mind. If it isnt in yers that is fine.

            I would be more into cooperating for finding the truth (ideally) or at least for a better understanding of each other’s views. Indeed, that might involve some sort of digging but I see that in a constructive perspective. However, from the get-go, both the substance and the wording of the OP appear as an attack against the mere epistemic possibility of materialism and with a charge of irrationality for those that would even hold a doubt about it being just plain false. I would not even try to defend the truth of materialism but I do feel compelled to defend its epistemic possibility.

            […] spell our yer view plainly.

            I am not sure what you are asking me but I am willing to clarify whatever I might have missed.

            Regarding the practice of philosophy, I feel some proximity with Robert Nozick’s approach of non-coercive philosophy, which he presents in the introduction of “Philosophical Explanations” (I do not necessarily endorse his other views, which I don’t even know very well).

            Regarding “the God question”, I would define myself as a theological non-cognitivist or, alternatively, as a pantheist (maybe not of the mainstream type, would there be any).

            Regarding the metaphysical questions, I don’t have a definitive position. I lean toward naturalism but while keeping a non-trivial doubt about it. You will probably not believe it but I have been called “irrational” for that (just holding a non-trivial doubt) by many people describing themselves as rationalists.

            Additionally, it happens that I have been baptized as a Roman Catholic. I have also been raised as such but that did not work and this is still a mystery for me why it did not. As I have not been excommunicated as far as I know and as I have not apostatized, I guess that I am still counted as one. I still have a quite good knowledge of the Catholic Doctrine, as well as of a number of Bible verses (I did refrain from citing another one)

            Funny that is my charge against you as well? So we need to find a way to build a bridge.

            I don’t see that as a charge, we all have our inutitions, but as something needing to be clarified.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I would be more into cooperating for finding the truth (ideally) or at least for a better understanding of each other’s views.

            Again for me it is the same. The rutheless Darwinism of logic and reasoned argument willowing the weak arguments.

            >Indeed, that might involve some sort of digging but I see that in a constructive perspective.

            Good on you friend. I naturally concede we need common ground to argue/dialog/debate/dispute whatever to get at truth.

            >However, from the get-go, both the substance and the wording of the OP appear as an attack against the mere epistemic possibility of materialism and with a charge of irrationality for those that would even hold a doubt about it being just plain false.

            Such is the nature of polemics and finding truth. If the Atheist didn't tell I was in error believing in God or the Agnostic tells me I am in error professing some degree of certainty then where would we be? We can't all agree.

            > I would not even try to defend the truth of materialism but I do feel compelled to defend its epistemic possibility.

            Materialism is ontology and metaphysics not epistemology. That is GHF gross error. It requires philosophy. Even if he wants to dogmatically demand his Positivist fantasy he would still need to use the philosophy of science to philosophically argue it is really a scientific problem not a philosophical one.

            So already we are not on the same page.

            I'll get back you later as I have to go.

          • gquenot

            Such is the nature of polemics and finding truth.

            Polemics and finding (or seeking) the truth are not the same even though they may be interlaced in practice.

            If the Atheist didn't tell I was in error believing in God or the Agnostic tells me I am in error professing some degree of certainty then where would we be? We can't all agree.

            I don’t think that there is something like the atheist or the agnostic. These concepts have variants that range from those that just live while just ignoring the God question to extreme militants whose agenda is the eradication of all forms of religions.

            Regarding “tell I was in error believing in God”, for instance, this is not clear either. If someone says “I believe that there is no God” or “I don’t believe that there is a God”, does that count as would “it is an error (or irrational) to believe in God”. The OP is of the last type and does attacks (and calls “irrational”) even those that would do nothing else that just express a non-trivial doubt about the falsity of materialism. This is precisely what Robert Nozick refers to as “coercive philosophy”. Yes, some atheists and rationalists do exactly the same, just replacing “falsity” with “truth”. This is neither better nor an excuse. In both cases, Robert Nozick and I and others expose the coercion.

            Materialism is ontology and metaphysics not epistemology.

            Epistemology is about what we can know and how we can know it. I don’t see why ontology and metaphysics should evade the scrutiny of epistemology.

          • Jim the Scott

            >These concepts have variants...

            Absolutely! There is not one kind of Atheism or Theism and there is no such thing on either side of a one size fits all polemic.

            >If someone says “I believe that there is no God” or “I don’t believe that there is a God”, does that count as would “it is an error (or irrational) to believe in God”.

            They are similar. There may be subtle differences. Depending wither or not yer dealing with Positive Atheism (there is no god(s)) vs Negative Atheism (I lack belief in god(s) vs the various species of Agnosticism & Skepticism I could list.

            >This is precisely what Robert Nozick refers to as “coercive philosophy”.

            Well Truth is coercive. I could believe I can fly. I really could in theory convince myself of that but the second I jump off the Empire State Building to "prove it".....yeh that would not end well. Even Jesus refused the Devil's offer to jump off high places.....not happening.

            >Epistemology is about what we can know and how we can know it. I don’t see why ontology and metaphysics should evade the scrutiny of epistemology.

            If you use epistemology to render it so you can't really know anything then you can't know the version of epistemology that leads you to doubt truth or knowledge is true or valid or even useful.

          • gquenot

            They are similar. There may be subtle differences. Depending wither or not yer dealing with Positive Atheism (there is no god(s)) vs Negative Atheism (I lack belief in god(s) vs the various species of Agnosticism & Skepticism I could list.

            There may be substantial differences regarding the coerciveness (or attempt thereof). The OP is attacking anyone not rejecting materialism, without distinction.

            Truth is coercive.

            Again, “hard rationalists” say no less. The materialism question is less easy to sort out than that of whether we can fly or not and it has less dramatic consequences (unless you want to count as consequences of that people flying planes against building or anything of the like, on both sides). The fact is that many people have a coercive attitude while what the truth is on the subject (this one or any other) is far from being sorted out.

            Even Jesus refused the Devil's offer to jump off high places.....not happening.

            That is unfair. You do not want me to quote the Bible while you do.

            If you use epistemology to render it so you can't really know anything then you can't know the version of epistemology that leads you to doubt truth or knowledge is true or valid or even useful.

            I am aware of this sophism but that still does not justify that ontology and metaphysics should evade the scrutiny of epistemology.

          • Jim the Scott

            >There may be substantial differences regarding the coerciveness (or attempt thereof). The OP is attacking anyone not rejecting materialism, without distinction.

            It is not an "attack" it is merely saying they are wrong and gives reason why. Are you not implicitly saying I am wrong for saying others are wrong? What is that about eh?

            >Again, “hard rationalists” say no less.

            I concur we have that in common except absolute relativists are incoherent like positivists. If it there is absolutely no cohesive truth then how is asserting that not a coercive truth?

            >The materialism question is less easy to sort out than that of whether we can fly or not and it has less dramatic consequences (unless you want to count as consequences of that people flying planes against building or anything of the like, on both sides).

            That is a wee bit of equivocation given my analogy. I never said I can't fly even with help. I am confident I could "fly" if I get on a plane and it takes off. Indeed I did it before a few times.

            >The fact is that many people have a coercive attitude while what the truth is on the subject (this one or any other) is far from being sorted out.

            I didn't say it was legitimate in all circumstances to coerce people into accepting truth. If you want to jump off the side of a building without a jetpack or workable flying apparatus I do believe it is my duty to knock you down and sit on you till someone comes and gets you and puts you somewhere where ye cana hurt yourself. OTOH if you want to stand in the middle of the park flapping yer arms then that is none of my affair.

            >I am aware of this sophism but that still does not justify that ontology and metaphysics should evade the scrutiny of epistemology.

            It is not sophism it is incoherence pure and simple. Whose epistemology are we using anyway? (GHF refuses to tell us) Kant's? Hume? Because I would take issue with them.

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/search?q=epistemology

          • Phil Tanny

            "I don’t think that there is something like atheist or agnostic. These concepts have variants that range from those that just
            live while just ignoring the God question to extreme militants whose
            agenda is the eradication of all forms of religions."

            Agreed, and please allow me to insert that the range of agnosticism can extend beyond the God debate.

            While agnosticism typically refers to a person who can't figure out where they stand within the God debate, it can also refer to those who decline the God debate itself. I don't mean those who just aren't interested, but instead those who have investigated with some seriousness and determined the God debate is too flawed to be a useful tool for investigation.

            As example, all sides within the God debate seem to assume without questioning that the point of the inquiry should be to establish an answer, a knowing, a symbolic representation of reality, a pile of concepts. Such an assumption can be inspected, and then rejected, transporting the agnostic outside of the God debate.

            One can be "atheist" to positions within the God debate. One can also be "atheist" to the debate itself.

          • gquenot

            Yes. I think that this is not very different from theological non-cognitivism, which I feel close to.

          • gquenot

            Corrected typo in http://disq.us/p/23ymuh6

          • Jim the Scott

            I meant to get back to this bit but I was in a rush. I will comment briefly.

            >Regarding “the God question”, I would define myself as a theological non-cognitivist or, alternatively, as a pantheist (maybe not of the mainstream type, would there be any).

            I read the link I find the implicit positivism off putting because well Positivism is incoherent and self refuting. It is at best trivial at worst false or "not meaningful" by its own standards.

            > I lean toward naturalism but while keeping a non-trivial doubt about it. You will probably not believe it but I have been called “irrational” for that (just holding a non-trivial doubt) by many people describing themselves as rationalists

            I believe you.

            >Additionally, it happens that I have been baptized as a Roman Catholic...etc.... . I still have a quite good knowledge of the Catholic Doctrine.

            That I will have to see as I have rarely met an ex-Catholic or Lapsed One that has a good command of theology.

            >.I don’t see that as a charge, we all have our inutitions, but as something needing to be clarified.

            Agreed.

          • gquenot

            I meant to get back to this bit but I was in a rush.

            Not enough time either. I reply when I have some time.

            I read the link I find the implicit positivism off putting because well Positivism is incoherent and self refuting. It is at best trivial at worst false or "not meaningful" by its own standards.

            I cited that just for the general idea. In short, what I meant is that I just don’t get the concept of God or, alternatively, that the only variant that makes sense to me so far is the pantheist one, which I know is not recognized as a valid one by most other theists, including Catholics.

            That I will have to see as I have rarely met an ex-Catholic or Lapsed One that has a good command of theology.

            I explained why I thought I was still counted as one. I just wrote “good knowledge”, I don’t pretend to be an expert.

            Agreed.

            Good. Let’s see that in other replies (when I find some time).

          • Jim the Scott

            To be counted as a Catholic at bare minimum you have to be validly baptized and formally think of yourself as one in belief. I presume the former is the case but the later it seems you doubt the faith if only because one can't be a Catholic and a Naturalist anymore then one can be a Muslim and a Polytheist? However a Pantheist is broadly speaking a type of Theist thought ironically they can have similar metaphysics to the Atheists. Note none of these external judgement is an attempt to guess the state of yer soul which is God's domain alone.

          • gquenot

            I might come back to this another time. For now, I have too many sub-threads open, I don't have enough time to follow all of them and that one, besides being off-topic, does not appear as a priority to me yet I would have more to say on it.

    • michael

      A sense experience is in your mind and not someplace else, which is why you can't point outside your mind to show where it is. That'd be like saying "that bird on the left of the fence, if you can't point to it on the right side of the fence, it isn't physical". You're asking someone to point in totally the wrong spot.

      • Jim the Scott

        >A sense experience is in your mind and not someplace else, which is why you can't point outside your mind to show where it is.

        Yep!

        >That'd be like saying "that bird on the left of the fence, if you can't point to it on the right side of the fence, it isn't physical".

        But I can point to a bird on either side of a fence if a bird is in fact sitting on the fence. I can't point to a bird on the fence if there is no freaking bird on the fence you eejit. Well my subjective image has no physical analog in my brain that extends into 3d space. I can't see my bird Theresa in my brain only my subjective memory and she looks fetching in that white sweater and shoes that show her toe cleavage. But that is where she lives and it is clearly not material.

        >You're asking someone to point in totally the wrong spot.

        Rather she is not there.

        • michael

          "Well my subjective image has no physical analog in my brain that extends into 3d space." What makes you so sure? Just because you haven't seen it?

          • Jim the Scott

            So you admit nobody has seen it? Good. Because yer silly machine clearly can't produce it anymore than it can create "warp drive" or whatever clickbait you will copy/paste next. I read Michael Murry's comments. He clearly wasn't impressed either and he is no Classic Theist or dualist type.

        • michael

          https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/mind-reading-algorithm-can-decode-pictures-your-head is from a peer-reviewed journal and the article itself cites eyewitnesses to the function of the machine from Purdue University in Indiana, Columbia University, Zuckerman Institutue, and Kyoto University.

          • Jim the Scott

            Quote"But instead of showing their subjects painting after painting until the computer got it right, the team built a software stand-in for the brain, a deep neural network (DNN) with several layers of simple processing elements.
            ........Using a “decoder,” the researchers created representations of the brain’s responses to the images, but in the DNN. From then on, they no longer needed the actual fMRI measurements, just the DNN translations."END

            More confusing Data with the Subjective Image as it objectively exists now in my mind. More fallacies of equivocation. Do you really not get the data on the DVD is not the Image? The thing on the screen is the image. Where is the image in my brain. I see it in my mind but according to you that is the same as the brain. Well were is it?

            Stop pretending I am denying the data exist you twit!!!!

            Useless......

        • michael

          'Using a “decoder,” the researchers created (PAST TENSE) representations of the brain’s responses to the images, but in the DNN.'

          • Jim the Scott

            They created an image from the data. I don't deny my brain has physical data. But again where is the image created by this data? Again you are confusing the data with the image. The data on the dvd is not the same as the image on the screen. You are giving me the data on the dvd not the image or the location of the screen in my mind/brain.

          • michael

            If they used a camera it'd be no different, since cameras also crunch the images they get into bytes run through a wire before they are put on the screen.

          • Jim the Scott

            But there are no literal images on my brain anymore than there are literal images on a DVD and you still are equivocating between the image and the data.

            The image is not the data for the ten billionth time. Neither I nor Dr. B has disputed the Brain contains data. Here is a penny buy a clue.

          • michael

            So now you're saying that even if a camera was used to show the image instead of brain scan, you STILL wouldn't be convinced? Yes or no?

          • Jim the Scott

            It is not a valid question and I don't answer "Do you still beat yer wife" type questions. There are no literal images on my brain.

          • michael

            How do you know if no one's looked?

          • Jim the Scott

            You lost me.

          • michael

            If nobody's put a video camera in your visual cortex, how do you know it won't see any image?

          • Jim the Scott

            >If nobody's put a video camera in your visual cortex, how do you know it won't see any image?

            WhatdoesthishavetodowiththepriceofteainChina?

            I know I will see an image in my mind as I am seeing it while I type it. My question and the one Dr. B was asking, the one you have been avoiding is where, physically is that image I am seeing in my brain? The data on a dvd produces an image on a screen. The data in my brain about Theresa produces an image in my mind. But the screen is a physical thing extended in 3d space. Where the actual FFFF............udge is the Fudging image physically manifesting itself in my Brain? Where is the TV screen? I don't care if somebody thinks they found a way to decode the data in my brain to reconstruct an image I saw. I want to know where the image that his happening now is physically manifesting itself in the physical world if all is matter alone and nothing else?

            You haven't even tried to answer that question. Now bugger off!

  • Jim the Scott

    I don't know why this is hard? Right now I am thinking about my first kiss with my old college girlfriend. I can see the image in my mind very clearly. Now where is that image in the physical world? Sure you could map my brain right now and show the nerves firing away while I am thinking about this but where is the image of Theresa in that lovely white sweater siting on my lap on a couch in her basement planting one on my lips in the physical world right now? Where can I see this image outside my mind in the physical world? Where is it? Well?

    Many Atheists confess there is a distinction between the subjective (i.e. what Feser calls the rug under which they sweep the immaterial) vs the objective. But if all is matter (& energy is a species of matter) then where is my Theresa? Anybody? It is an illusion? Well why not save a step and just admit it is immaterial.

    Again it is not an immaterial substance because Descartes blows chunks! Well?

    • Mark

      Maybe you're just a Labrador retreiver dreaming about being a man dreaming about a beautiful woman on his lap. You need to be more skeptical.

      • Jim the Scott

        If you change the word "Labrador" to "Smurf" I might agree with that.

        Soon I will wake up in the Village and go court Smurffette with some Smurfberries I found.....any second now wake up.....any second....

        ;-)

      • Ben Champagne

        More skeptical of what exactly? The immediate sensory experience that can in no way be mapped to any natural science directly? I think you need to learn what skepticism actually entails.

  • BTS

    I went back and read this passage, posted below, for maybe the 25th time. It reads like absolute gobbledygook. Dennis did his best in conversation with me - I appreciate that - but is there anyone else who can put this into plain English?

    I can follow a fair amount of Dennis' arguments but this one is utterly confounding.

    This is because any physically extended image or extramental data must be composed of distinct parts, since all material entities are composed of distinct parts in space. But, if sense experience is of the whole, and yet simple and completely unified, this requires that all such distinct parts be conjoined onto a single “receiving material point” (if that is even possible). But, to do that, all the distinct parts of the data must be so conjoined as to cancel each other’s distinct content, which would make the single “receiving point” totally lacking in any distinct parts, and hence, absolutely incapable of representing the image or data at all. In a word, all data would be so overlayed upon itself as to lose all intelligible or decipherable content. Such analysis would apply even to the most infinitesimally-small physical particles, since whatever is material is extended in space and, as such, has distinct parts.

    • Phillip Dent

      Yes I finally think I know what he's on about.

      The light coming in from an image hits individual cells in your retina which if your brain were a tv would result in dots of different colour.

      Each cell transmits a dot of info, not a shape or image. The question is how do we go from a bunch of dots to a full image experience.

      Then there is an argument from ignorance that something spiritual and immaterial can do this but nothing material can.

      I think we lack info on what conscious perception is so I think this question is unanswered.

      I don't know if this is impossible on materialism. It might or might not be. But this unknown does not prove a fundamental immaterial substance.

      • Jim the Scott

        >Each cell transmits a dot of info, not a shape or image. The question is how do we go from a bunch of dots to a full image experience.

        At last a relatively sane person who is paying attention. I almost lost hope..... One correction/clarification. What we are saying here is if reductionist materialism(all is matter alone) is true then where is this full image experience in the physical world? Where is it? If it is not anywhere in 3d space then it is correct to conclude it is not material. Now that doesn't make it spiritual or magic or whatever freaking woo someone wants to throw in to berate the argument rather then address it but it is obviously immaterial.

        (Not to be confused with an immaterial substance. Descartes blows!)

        Materialism in principle cannot account for subjective experience. One need not believe in God to know this. Ask Nagel.

        • Chris Morris

          "What we are saying here is..." When you say "we" presumably you mean yourself and Dennis but I would be interested in hearing Dennis confirm that this is exactly what he means in his article. In comments elsewhere in these posts, Dennis seems pretty clear that he does believe that this can only be spiritual and is very closely aligned with his argument for the existence of God.

          • Jim the Scott

            You should address him directly with your questions.

            >"What we are saying here is..." When you say "we" presumably you mean yourself and Dennis but I would be interested in hearing Dennis confirm that this is exactly what he means in his article.

            Well Dr. B has been upvoting me when I take shots at GHF's goofy misunderstanding of the issue here. So I hope I agree with him. He has the PhD so I defer to him or Feser or some profession for more accurate exposition of particulars.

            >In comments elsewhere in these posts, Dennis seems pretty clear that he does believe that this can only be spiritual and is very closely aligned with his argument for the existence of God.

            Where does he say that? I have read him contrast the view of Descrates(which he rejects as a good Thomist) which divides the world into material vs spiritual vs the scholastic view which has a third category between the spiritual and material? Animal souls are immaterial but they are not spiritual. Every Thomist knows this or should.

            Well I did put up the very first post on this article predicting people would equate Hylemorphism with Cartusian BS.

            Being right all the time is not good for my already overinflated ego.;-)

            PS Note he does not endorse my insults toward anybody. That is pure me.

          • Chris Morris

            "You should address him directly..." This is his blog so I presume any comment is addressing him directly.

            "Where does he say that?" I don't know how to link to individual posts so you would have to read the whole conversation, if you think it's worth the effort.

            Yes, as I understand it, the Thomist solution to the link between spiritual and material is the soul but it was the logical problems and lack of explanatory power raised by other Scholastics that led to further attempts, including that of Descartes, to suggest different ways of making sense of the problem. Phillip Dent hasn't mentioned Cartesian dualism and I presented my views, such as they are, on dualism to Dennis in other comments.

          • Jim the Scott

            >This is his blog so I presume any comment is addressing him directly.

            Not really Brandon runs things around here. Dr. B is merely the author of this piece and he sends it to Brandon.

            > I don't know how to link to individual posts so you would have to read the whole conversation, if you think it's worth the effort.

            It is in the article "While material things are extended and located in space, sense experience is immaterial in that it is neither extended in space nor physically located. This does not mean that sense experience is spiritual in nature, since spiritual entities are not only not extended in space but also are existentially independent of anything that is extended in space. Still, sense experience depends on material organs for its operation."

            Hope that helps. Anything for a fellow Scot.

            >the Thomist solution to the link between spiritual and material is the soul

            Sounds more like Descrates the dodgy minging bastard......scholastic hate Descrates...well I don't know about all of them but I do. Rather I hate his idiot philosophy. Nothing personal against him.

            > but it was the logical problems and lack of explanatory power raised by other Scholastics that led to further attempts, including that of Descartes, to suggest different ways of making sense of the problem.

            Rather post enlightment philosophy abandoned realism, and substantive forms and adopted Mechanism.

            >Phillip Dent hasn't mentioned Cartesian dualism and I presented my views, such as they are, on dualism to Dennis in other comments.

            I'm taking shots at GHF. Dent as I read him clearly seems to understand that materialism is a philosophy & or metaphysical view not a physical scientific. That is just so refreshing. All the kneejerk Positivism from others (those horse's arses know who they are) around here was getting boring. An Atheist materialist who will argue philosophy in regards to materialism not science? Well I am looking forward to that. I need a challenge you can only have so much fun playing with the stupid.

            Cheers M8.

          • Chris Morris

            "...Brandon runs things around here." While Brandon seems to have started the site and, presumably, still oversees it, the last article he wrote was about two years ago; in the time I've been reading articles here Dennis is the only person writing and, as this comment thread is attached to his article, it is reasonable to see it as 'belonging' to him.

            No, that quotation from the article is not what I had in mind. A quick scan through the comments has failed to locate the one I meant but from the article we have:
            "The human substantial form or soul (life principle) makes us one being by pervading every iota of our being that is truly 'us'..."
            and:
            "Elsewhere on Strange Notions, I have offered proofs for the human soul's spirituality and immortality as well as proofs for God's existence..."

            "Rather I hate his idiot philosophy." Being emotionally invested in any particular philosophical view seems extremely odd to me.

            "Rather post enlightenment philosophy abandoned realism, and substantive forms and adopted Mechanism." I think 'post enlightenment philosophy' has gone in all sorts of directions for all sorts of reasons. Berkeley died in 1753 but he sort of counts as post enlightenment; Schopenhauer and Hegel suggest otherwise. David Chalmers presumably, as he sees 'consciousness' as a hard problem to explain, doesn't think that there's a simple mechanical solution to the problem. There are all sorts of people one could cite, for example Swami Vivekananda, who would undermine your assertion.

          • Jim the Scott

            > Dennis is the only person writing and, as this comment thread is attached to his article, it is reasonable to see it as 'belonging' to him.

            Technically you are wrong...but..does it matter? He doesn't own the site. He just posts a lot of articles & Brandon is a new dad I hear so has other priorities. But it you want to think of the site as "belonging to him" knock yerself out". No biggy. Cheers then. It's not important.

            >No, that quotation from the article is not what I had in mind.....etc..."I have offered proofs for the human soul's spirituality and immortality as well as proofs for God's existence..."...etc....."The human substantial form or soul (life principle) makes us one being by pervading every iota of our being that is truly 'us'..."

            I see. Of course they are "forms" not spiritual substances like Descartes thinks. Just putting that out there.

            > Being emotionally invested in any particular philosophical view seems extremely odd to me.

            Hey I enjoy hating on Hume, Kant , Descartes and Theistic Personalism. I have so few pleasures in life. The difference being I merely hate Descartes's philosophy (at best merely dislike) but I Fuuu........dging ;-) hate Theistic Personalism.

            > I think 'post enlightenment philosophy' has gone in all sorts of directions for all sorts of reasons.

            100% true but I was ratting off a short short short list off the top of my head.

            >There are all sorts of people one could cite, for example Swami Vivekananda, who would undermine your assertion.

            I don't disagree with you so I don't see how it undermine me?

            Cheers.

          • Chris Morris

            "Technically you are wrong..." Yes, I wasn't looking to be 'technically correct', just explaining why I think it's reasonable to see the conversations in this thread, attached to an article written by Dennis, as 'belonging' to Dennis and, therefore, directly addressing him. As you say, it's not that important.

            However, being 'technically correct' about the philosophical concepts under analysis here would seem to be important, to Dennis at least, which is why I questioned your "...that doesn't make it spiritual or magic or whatever freaking woo..." Thus it would seem useful to clarify what you mean, for example, by 'spiritual' and whether Dennis understands it in precisely the same way.
            Clearly, from the quotations, Dennis does see 'form' as something spiritual (it can't be material if it is immortal, presumably) but 'form' for you is not spiritual substance so perhaps you're more Aristotelian than Thomist - hylemorphism, as the "...third category between the spiritual and the material", would be seen as a linguistic construction, as a concept to logically bridge the gap between the two.

            "I don't disagree with you so I don't see how it undermine me?" Well, it would seem to undermine the impression many people have of philosophy as a very narrow, almost 'causal', chain of ideas which academia has found useful (because it's much easier to teach).

          • Jim the Scott

            >which is why I questioned your "...that doesn't make it spiritual or magic or whatever freaking woo..."

            Well we are talking about sense experience her not the human soul.

            >hus it would seem useful to clarify what you mean, for example, by 'spiritual' and whether Dennis understands it in precisely the same way.
            Clearly, from the quotations, Dennis does see 'form' as something spiritual (it can't be material if it is immortal, presumably) but 'form' for you is not spiritual substance so perhaps you're more Aristotelian than Thomist - hylemorphism, as the "...third category between the spiritual and the material", would be seen as a linguistic construction, as a concept to logically bridge the gap between the two.

            No I am pretty much in agreement with Dr B, Feser, Oderberg and the rest of the Scholastics and Essentialist philosophers.

            >"I don't disagree with you so I don't see how it undermine me?" Well, it would seem to undermine the impression many people have of philosophy as a very narrow, almost 'causal', chain of ideas which academia has found useful (because it's much easier to teach).

            Mistrusting philosophy is ironically itself a philosophical view and an incoherent one. Philosophy is the first Science. You cannot do empirical science without the scientific method and that is based on philosophical presuppositions. Philosophy alone cannot decode reality but the science alone neopositive horse crap some people bang around here is as dull as "Scientific" Young Earth Creationism & about half as smart.

            Cheers.

          • Chris Morris

            I suspect, from your reply, that I haven't properly explained the objections I've suggested there so I'll try and make them a bit clearer.

            "Well we are talking about sense experience her not the human soul." Dennis's view of how sense experience works seems to be dependent on his idea of the human soul so, if you and he are using different words to describe the human soul, it would seem that your view of sense experience may be different in some way. Just saying that you are "pretty much in agreement with..." doesn't really support the particular words you've used to describe that view.

            "Mistrusting philosophy..." I tend to forget that not everyone has experience of philosophy both inside and outside academia. They're very different beasts and that difference is philosophically very significant and interesting in my view but it's almost impossible to persuade those who've spent their entire working lives teaching in an academic setting of that. So they tend to be the ones who could be said to be 'mistrusting philosophy' in that quite often they dismiss people like, for example, Slavoj Zizek as not being 'proper' philosophers.

          • Jim the Scott

            Let us get to it shall we?

            >"Well we are talking about sense experience her not the human soul." Dennis's view of how sense experience works seems to be dependent on his idea of the human soul

            Rather the fact that he demonstraits sense experience is immaterial makes belief in the soul more plausible. One could in theory believe the human soul dies with the body as with the souls of animals and we would still call it immaterial thought not spiritual.

            >so, if you and he are using different words to describe the human soul, it would seem that your view of sense experience may be different in some way.

            He is the professional so I would defer to him but I am sufficiently familar with the proper terms and if I slip into the popular I ask forgiveness.

            >Just saying that you are "pretty much in agreement with..." doesn't really support the particular words you've used to describe that view.

            Then I will try to conform more to his terms or clarify my own better.

            >"Mistrusting philosophy..." I tend to forget that not everyone has experience of philosophy both inside and outside academia.

            No argument.

            > They're very different beasts and that difference is philosophically very significant and interesting in my view but it's almost impossible to persuade those who've spent their entire working lives teaching in an academic setting of that.

            I would pay attention to the word "almost" it isn't absolutely impossible. A. G. Flew flipped radically and if I believe Feser's account what started it was a rediscovery of Aristotle. Feser had a similer experience.

            > So they tend to be the ones who could be said to be 'mistrusting philosophy' in that quite often they dismiss people like, for example, Slavoj Zizek as not being 'proper' philosophers.

            I would call someone a proper philosopher if they take it seriously. But that is just me. Cheers M8.

          • Chris Morris

            "Rather the fact that he demonstraits sense experience is immaterial..." I think it's a bit premature to be asserting that.
            "One could in theory believe the human soul dies with the body...and we would still call it immaterial thought not spiritual." OK, so you're still not absolutely sure that a human spiritual soul exists but the idea of immaterial sense experience makes it more plausible. That certainly explains why Dennis is so insistent on his view being correct.

            "He is the professional so I would defer to him..." Believing professionals is generally something I would avoid; trust me, I'm an amateur...

            "I would pay attention to the word 'almost'..." Why it takes me so long to write these posts is because of the time I spend choosing the words I use so that 'almost' is there for exactly that reason although Flew isn't really an example of what I had in mind at that point.
            It was more that, in university philosophy departments, the typical story of philosophy that's perhaps exemplified in Russell's 'History of Western Philosophy' is generally uncritically accepted as the only way of understanding the way philosophy has developed making it rather too easy to make assertions such as "...post enlightenment philosophy abandoned realism, and substantive forms and adopted Mechanism."

          • Jim the Scott

            >Rather the fact that he demonstraits sense experience is immaterial..." I think it's a bit premature to be asserting that.

            The burden of proof is on the materialist. Produce the material.

            >"One could in theory believe the human soul dies with the body...and we would still call it immaterial thought not spiritual." OK, so you're still not absolutely sure that a human spiritual soul exists

            Technically I am as I am Catholic but go on.

            >but the idea of immaterial sense experience makes it more plausible. That certainly explains why Dennis is so insistent on his view being correct.

            I knew a Scotsmen could figure it out. Well done.

            >"He is the professional so I would defer to him..." Believing professionals is generally something I would avoid; trust me, I'm an amateur...

            So I should trust the scientific opinions of some anti-Evolutionist Young Creationist with a 6th grader's knowledge of biology over Stephen Gould or Dawkins? I would rather not......

            >"I would pay attention to the word 'almost'..." Why it takes me so long to write these posts is because of the time I spend choosing the words I use so that 'almost' is there for exactly that reason although Flew isn't really an example of what I had in mind at that point.

            Well going from one of the world's most famous Atheist Philosophers to a Deist is a big change.

            >It was more that, in university philosophy departments, the typical story of philosophy that's perhaps exemplified in Russell's 'History of Western Philosophy' is generally uncritically accepted as the only way of understanding the way philosophy has developed making it rather too easy to make assertions such as "...post enlightenment philosophy abandoned realism, and substantive forms and adopted Mechanism."

            Actually I am channeling what I remember of Feser and of course I am being "tediously brief" to quote The Bard.

            Cheers.

          • Chris Morris

            "The burden of proof is on the materialist." No, there's no burden of proof here. He hasn't "demonstraited" it in a way that convinces me (and presumably some others) so it's simply not a "fact" at the moment. Materialists haven't convinced me of their view, either.

            "Technically I am as I am a Catholic." I must admit, I find the idea of being a 'technical Catholic' intriguing.

            "So I should trust the scientific opinions of some anti-Evolutionist Young Creationist with a 6th grader's knowledge of biology over Steven Gould or Dawkins?" Why not? If they're telling you something that they know more about than Gould or Dawkins then, yes. If Dawkins tells me something about the evolution of snails I'm very happy to take notice of what he's saying but when he starts passing opinions on God, religion and 'scientism', then I'm equally happy to either ignore him or argue with him. The 'argument from authority' fallacy is very easy to slip in to if you only believe what people are saying because of who they are.

            As for Anthony Flew, I don't think any of us know for sure what happened in his last few years. People who knew him well have written that his dementia was badly affecting him by then and that it was Varghese who wrote most of 'There is a God' but, as I say, I wasn't actually thinking about people changing their minds about religion rather, it was the specific idea that the standard academic story of the history of philosophy is one that looks very different from outside of a university department.

          • Jim the Scott

            >The 'argument from authority' fallacy is very easy to slip in to if you only believe what people are saying because of who they are.

            I make the proper differentiations or I try too. Dawkins is an expert on marine biology and popular explanations of Evolution. He is mostly Sh**e on things outside his field specifically philosophy and in that he is in competition with the late Stephen Hawkings who was really terrible in that area. But on evolutuib

            >As for Anthony Flew, I don't think any of us know for sure what happened in his last few years.

            I think the evidence is pretty clear.

            > People who knew him well have written that his dementia was badly affecting him by then and that it was Varghese who wrote most of 'There is a God'

            Feser has looking into that subject and basically it sh**e by a bunch of New Atheist anti-philosophy types who don't know Scientific Theism vs Philosophical Theism vs Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism vs Positivism vs their own arses. People like GHF who can't go beyond their superficial anti-creationist polemics.

            His was clearly an intellectual "conversion" thought he didn't become a Christian and doubted the immortality of the soul and afterlife right up until he entered the afterlife.

            >but, as I say, I wasn't actually thinking about people changing their minds about religion rather, it was the specific idea that the standard academic story of the history of philosophy is one that looks very different from outside of a university department.

            That is a broad subject. I'll leave that to the experts for now. Cheers.

          • Chris Morris

            I'm pleased to see you repeating what I wrote about Dawkins et al but you think that the evidence on Flew is "pretty clear" since Feser has looked in to it. Personally, I remain sceptical but, either way, I don't think Flew had any significance to the points I was making earlier.

            "I'll leave that to the experts for now." If you're serious about philosophy it's a good idea to think about this one for yourself.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well if you are curious of the Flew thing then look into it. If not don't worry about it.

            >"I'll leave that to the experts for now." If you're serious about philosophy it's a good idea to think about this one for yourself.

            Well I am focusing on the philosophical arguments for the existence of God and criticism of Materialism and metaphysical naturalism. So if I get around to it....I'll put it on the list.

      • God Hates Faith

        Great analysis.

        I compare it to the other senses such as the tongue.

        What the tongue tastes is either parts or a whole. Can the brain perceive a whole taste (which is how we experience it), or must something immaterial be involved?

      • BTS

        Phillip, thanks for the note.

        I think we lack info on what conscious perception is so I think this question is unanswered.

        Yes. Agreed. It is unanswered. To suggest otherwise and to think you can prove it with logic is problematic, I think, to say the least.

        My problem with attempting to "solve" these tough questions with philosophy is that at some point, you are just using words, which you can define any way you want, and rearrange in any such juxtaposition, as to make just about any case seem logical and "proven."

        You can set up the argument in such a way that you define your terms to your benefit, structure the premises just so, and "Voila!" your point is proved. That might work for some questions, but for the big ones we need some other methodology to, if nothing else, rule out the bad explanations.

        I am not saying philosophy is useless. No, not at all, but it needs to be kept on track by science, because many assumptions of philosophy over the years have been curtailed by science.

        How else can we get rid of bad and/or dangerous ideas?

        • Phillip Dent

          I think actually Catholics never dispute well established science. See discussions on how Catholics rationalize Genesis with evolution.

          Ithink it is aldo fair to say that in philosophers do this as well, they don't dispute established science.

          What I think is happening here is just an argument from ignorance. Or a presumption that forming an image such as we experience is impossible on Materialism.

          All they have is god of the gaps, church tradition, and maybe the ontological argument. All of which have huge problems.

          • BTS

            I replied to this and my reply has poofed out of existence.
            Sigh. Good points there.

  • God Hates Faith

    Appealing to "mystery" to justify "magic", "the supernatural", or "the non-material" is a HUGE "god of the gaps" type fallacy.

    Sadly the religious don't understand what that fallacy is.

    • Mark

      The same could be said to those that appeal to brute facts. Brute fact, multiverse, and infinite regress are dogmatic attempts to circumvent something from philosophical nothing for the sake of no god. Sadly you don't see your own god of the gaps while you smite others for religious stupidity. I'm not the smartest kid on the block, but I'm also not a religious ignoramus even if there are no gods.

      • God Hates Faith

        How do you define a "brute fact"? I don't claim any facts as absolute. Neither does science.

        The multiverse is a theory, not a "brute fact".
        Infinite regress is claimed by no one that I know. Even if it were claimed, it could not be a "brute fact" since that isn't how deductive epistemologies work.

        Why do you assume a "philosophical nothing" is the default?

        • Jim the Scott

          It appears that GHF's head is stuck in ID theory? We don't do that scientific theism crap here. We are classic theists not theistic personalists. God can only be know to exist by philosophical argument. Any "scientific god" cannot be God as know in Classic Theism.

          Yer tedious at this point. Take yer nonsense over to Dembski's blog. That crap won't fly here.

          >Why do you assume a "philosophical nothing" is the default?

          We don't as we don't do Kalam Cosmological Arguments around here. At least we don't take them seriously. Metaphysical brute facts render reality unintelligible.

        • Mark

          I define brute fact the way any philosopher does. A fact is brute when an explanation for it does not exist (in principle). It's a clear violation of the PSR, the guiding principle of philosophy and science. For example (I actually like this guy) the atheist physicist Sean Carrol once said, "There’s certainly no reason to think that there was something that ‘caused’ it; the universe can just be." That would be a brute fact. Unlike you Carrol understands he is doing it and owns it.

          I don't assume nothingness. Space-time is finite. The moment the singularity of the big bang appeared time and the cosmos began. What existed a priori to the singularity seems to be to be either supernatural, nothing, or "I don't know and an explanation for it may not exist". Pick whichever god of the gap you want. Or don't and make one up like a "flying spaghetti monster" and make fun of my simple minded religiosity.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Remember that for St. Thomas Aquinas, the world could have existed from all eternity, and yet, would still need God's creative act to keep it in existence. The beginning of the world with time (not in time, since time is a measure of motion and began with the motion of the world) is a matter of defined doctrine, not philosophical necessity.

          • God Hates Faith

            A fact is brute when an explanation for it does not exist (in principle).

            So, an axiom or presupposition. Got it.

            Unlike you Carrol understands he is doing it and owns it.

            Please highlight the presuppositions I have made.

            "What existed a priori to the singularity seems to be to be either supernatural, nothing, or "I don't know and an explanation for it may not exist"."

            I go with--I don't know, because without evidence all we can do is speculate.

            If someone wants to claim nothingness or the supernatural, then we need evidence of it. We have no evidence of "nothing" (and I separately argue that "nothing" is inherently contradictory). Likewise we have no evidence of the supernatural. So, I avoid a god of the gaps fallacy by making no claim.

          • Mark

            You also know the difference between an axiom and a brute
            fact, but since you wish to play word games: A first principle axiom is a brute fact. Thus why I said "in principle".

            I, like you, believe nothing is contradictory. As such I don't believe in nothing like I don't believe in married bachelors. But some do.

            We speculate all the time with incomplete evidence, and you believe many many scientific "facts" that are incomplete conclusions based on incomplete evidence. No serious classic theists claims to know but the shadow of God at best.

            When you say we have no evidence of the supernatural, I'd ask what would that evidence look like? What would it take for you to say, "Okay, there is supernatural evidence."

          • God Hates Faith

            but since you wish to play word games

            I was not attempting to play word games. I was attempting to understand what you meant by "brute fact". If I got it wrong, I would appreciate a clarification.

            We speculate all the time with incomplete evidence, and you believe many many scientific "facts" that are incomplete conclusions based on incomplete evidence.

            I think you are viewing knowledge as ontologically absolute. Deductive epistemologies by definition make conclusions based on incomplete evidence. That is why science cannot make ontologically absolute knowledge claims.

            My degree of confidence in a knowledge claim is proportional to the weight of the evidence. For example, I have high confidence that the earth is not flat. I have low confidence in alien abductions. Another way to put this is: everything is speculation but some speculations have a little or a lot of supporting evidence, and some have no supporting evidence.

            No serious classic theists claims to know but the shadow of God at best.

            Perhaps not, but many do claim they are gnostic theists, claiming they KNOW God is real. I know few theist who say, "God could be real".

            What would it take for you to say, "Okay, there is supernatural evidence."

            Great question! I think it is good to ask how a belief (or non-belief) is falsifiable.

            The first problem is defining "supernatural". I honestly don't know what that is, other than--that which we can't explain yet.

            The second problem is that humans are so predictably irrational. We see stuff that isn't real all the time. We have an over-active pattern seeking brain, and agency seeking brain. Additionally our senses can easily deceive us.

            As an analogy, what evidence would it take me to believe in a specific claim of an alien abduction...It would probably take more than an anecdote. It would require some verifiable evidence. Hopefully corroborated or recorded (which would also be verified). I would probably take the position that the more incredible the claim, the greater the evidence needed for me to believe it.

            The supernatural is even more problematic, because it would be like asking what it would take for me to believe an immaterial and invisible dragon lives in my garage...I would look for evidence, but every time I ask for evidence, the lack of it could be explained away.

          • Mark

            An alien abduction or dragon seem to be a coy way of incorporating material fantasy with an analogy of God. If you can't think of immaterial evidence it is because you're submersed in materialism/positivism like Dr. B et all has charged you with. Again, what would immaterial evidence look like for you?

          • God Hates Faith

            What do you think counts as "immaterial evidence"? Must it interact with material reality in some way?

            As a former believer, I can tell you what I used to consider "immaterial evidence." For example feelings, or coincidences, or a book allegedly written by the supernatural. However, in hindsight I now realize that subjective feelings are not evidence of an objective (immaterial) thing.

            To again use the analogy I used above, what would evidence would it take to convince you that there is an immaterial and invisible dragon that lives in my garage? Anecdotes? Feelings?

          • Mark

            You just imagined an immaterial fantasy into a material space-time location and then you asked for evidence. Think about that and get back to me.

            I know exactly what counts as immaterial and supernatural evidence for me. I'll answer that question when you can. So far I see supernatural is just make-believe.

          • God Hates Faith

            You just imagined an immaterial fantasy into a material space-time location and then you asked for evidence.

            Sorta like imagining the immaterial interacts with the eye and/or brain to make us see???

            I definitely see the problem. My example was to highlight this exact issue, including asking what "counts as immaterial evidence".

            I'll answer that question when you can.

            So, you ask what X (immaterial evidence) would look like for me. I ask you to define X (so I can answer your question). Then you say you won't define X until I can define X??? In that case I can't answer your question.

            I already explained when I was a believer what I thought was X.

          • Mark

            Genuinely, I'm not avoiding the question, but I want to avoid the conversation being about my beliefs.

          • God Hates Faith

            I don't know what your beliefs are.

          • Mark

            I'm a Catholic revert and a classic theist.

            As a former believer, I can tell you what I used to consider "immaterial evidence." For example feelings, or coincidences, or a book allegedly written by the supernatural. However, in hindsight I now realize that subjective feelings are not evidence of an objective (immaterial) thing.

            As a classic theist I don't use any of those to arrive at the truth of God. Except for my wife, I'd say subjective feelings as evidence should be dismissed. (Learned my wife's feeling should never be ignored.) Coincidences, could possibly, if the probability of something, say the cosmological constant being random, is infinitely small. Taking my pastor's word that a book was written by God is a funny haha for Catholics.

          • God Hates Faith

            Since you don't want to discuss those beliefs, I am not sure where that leaves us.

          • Mark

            I can discuss any Catholic beliefs, however, what you've displayed so far here is that you don't understand Catholicism well nor how the apostolic church Christ founded has always understood God. You're looking for him in your garage smoking a J with puff the magic dragon. None of us believe in that god either.

          • God Hates Faith

            Different people come to their belief in deities in different ways, even in the same faith community.

            What is your epistemology for believing in your god?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Do you know any history of philosophy? Were Plato and Aristotle religious people? What religion did they belong to? Did they not maintain, for purely intellectual reasons, the existence of non-material entities?

      Your biases are dripping out all over.

      • God Hates Faith

        I never said ONLY the religious engage in this fallacy. Try reading.

        I am happy to discuss a Platonic realm ontologically, as an intellectual exercise. But when you start claiming the Platonic realm interacts with material reality then you need to justify your epistemology, with more than "mystery".

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Plato argued to the existence of the Pure Forms based on our knowledge of universal ideas, but did not offer a good explanation of how the non-material interacted with the physical world (which is a different question).

          Aristotle offered rational arguments based on causality leading to an Unmoved Prime Mover. So he actually gave reasons for how the immaterial affected the material orders.

          And these questions are not about epistemology, but ontology. You raise the notions of "mystery" and "magic." If you studied the classic philosophy of Western history, you would realize that this entire realm of thought is not based on such superstitious concepts, but on careful reasoning about nature and being. No, not empirically verifiable in the sense of modern experimental science, but still empirically verifiable in that it starts with sense experience and follows rational principles, like causality, leading to necessary conclusions about non-material beings. These are not "god of the gaps" nonsense as you allege, since it appears you do not know the history of philosophy to which I refer.

          • God Hates Faith

            And these questions are not about epistemology, but ontology.

            Again, we can discuss ontology all day, but without epistemology, your claims about how invisible fairies telepathically make us see stuff, is moot.

            I have studied classical philosophy of Western history. Unlike you, I know that philosophy is not the best epistemology.

            follows rational principles, like causality, leading to necessary conclusions about non-material beings.

            First, modal logic is simply a tautology. True premises are necessary for logic to be a reliable epistemology. Otherwise logic is only good for determining if there is an internal contradiction.

            Second, it makes huge assumptions. Causality may not apply on the quantum level. Your thinking is stuck in the ancient past. Perhaps you prefer leeches to cure disease still?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Again, we can discuss ontology all day, but without epistemology, your claims about how invisible fairies telepathically make us see stuff, is moot.

            You haven't given us an epistemology outside of yer kneejerk positivism which you refuse to defend or justity. Why is that yer default?

            >I have studied classical philosophy of Western history.

            ROTFLOL! I smell me some Dunning-Kruger effect. You are clearly an ignoramous on matters of philosophy. This is like watching the Creationist with a 6th graders knowledge of biology say he knows more than Dawkins. Sad.......

            >Unlike you, I know that philosophy is not the best epistemology.

            The existence of God in Classic Theism is a philosophical question alone. It is not a scientific question. What part of that confuses you?

            >First, modal logic is simply a tautology.

            We don't use modal logic we are moderate realists. Try yer shite on the anti-realists. Of course if you really had the professional understanding of philosophy you claim you have would know that. But you don't because you are faking it.

            Badly!

            > True premises are necessary for logic to be a reliable epistemology. Otherwise logic is only good for determining if there is an internal contradiction.

            Beg the question much?

            >Second, it makes huge assumptions. Causality may not apply on the quantum level.

            Talk about argument of the gap!

            >Your thinking is stuck in the ancient past. Perhaps you prefer leeches to cure disease still?

            Yer thinking is also from the ancient past. From Democretus to Parmedes to Descartes and it was alway erroneous.

            But if you really did understand the history of classic philosophy you would know that. But you don't.

            Pathetic. Go read some Negal before you really bore me.

    • Jim the Scott

      We are appealuing to mystery and magic?

      Pot-call-the-kettle-black much?.

      >Sadly the religious don't understand what that fallacy is.

      Another uneducated person who thinks mere denial of gods makes them automatically rational and knowledgable. Git yer 'eh out of Richard Dawkins' arse and go learn some philosophy. Please for the love of mike?

  • God Hates Faith

    Jim the Scott are you still responding to me? I blocked you after our first discussion.

    But if it makes you feel better to respond to me...

    • Jim the Scott

      It was a discussion? You can block all you like but others can see me heckling yer appalling lack of reasoning ability. Also you have to be logged in for the block to work. Ya can't stay logged in forever.

  • Jim the Scott

    Wow what an obtuse thoughtless individual is GHF!

    >>A fact is brute when an explanation for it does not exist (in principle).

    >So, an axiom or presupposition. Got it.

    So basically you ignore the working definition of the concept and go on to define the nature of the sentence that explains it?

    So basically you refuse to deal with the concept of a brute fact. You refuse to think or argue which is pretty much what you have been doing & for some reason you call it a "refutation".

  • Jim the Scott

    At last some truth from GHF!, it is because I don't understand his argument.
    Of course GHF's basic problem is he is trying to argue epistimology (without giving us what he considers a valid epistimology as a starting reference)when causality and the Scholastic PSR are ontological in nature and he dogmatically dismisses all arguements from ontology without rational explaination.

    He has nothing to say to us since I believe at this point he hold Positivism like a Baptist holds Sola Scriptura on 100% fideistic grounds.

    • gquenot

      This is a truncated and misrepresenting quote.

      • Jim the Scott

        BS! He doesn't understand and he refuses to learn thus he has nothing intellegent to say on these matters even if there is no God. He has not said one intelligent thing. Not one.

        Also he misrepresent our views by reading into them the nonsense told to him by the last Young Earth Creationist or ID proponent he has debated.
        He is stuck in his positivism and can't/won't look beyond it.

    • gquenot

      I already heard that one with the Bible.

      There is some truth in the Bible: "There is no God" (Psalms 14:1 and 53:1).

      • Jim the Scott

        Well Aquinas said the same thing. He said there is a sense in which we can say God does not exist. The essence and the being of created things are really distinct from one another & in God there is no real distinction between What He is(essence) and That He is (Being) have no real distinction in God. Thus God does not exist (the way creation exists).

        Then there is Paul Tillich "God does not exist. He is Being Itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him."

        He is correct. The existence of God in the Classic Sense is a philosophical question not a scientific one. Causality is an ontological question not an epistomological one. GHF is a willful moron because he insists on arguing scientifically for a Philosophical God. He is like an idiot Archeologist who tells a Physicists he won't believe he found a Higgs Boson in his LHC unless he digs it up in a fossil record and rather then discuss the physics keeps berating the Physicist for not using the proper troul to dig up the Boson.

        GHF is a moron. That is empirically and epistomologically obvious.

        • Ficino

          Then there is Paul Tillich "God does not exist. He is Being Itself beyond essence and existence.

          Beyond Being is the One, the "nichtseiende Eine". Why not be consistent and be a neo-Platonist? A first principle that is the thinking of its own thinking is not ultimate. The One is ultimate. Or materialism.

          The halfway house of A-T is a halfway house. Go metaphysically ultimate or go home.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Beyond Being is the One, the "nichtseiende Eine". Why not be consistent and be a neo-Platonist?

            Well Aquinas did except some Platonic principles, and some schools of Thomism are more Platonic. I believe the RIVER FORREST Thomist are such. Still I like to cite Tillich because he is that rare breed. A modernist liberal theologian who is a Classic Theist. That covers a multitude of Theistic Personalist sins.

            I seem to remember Feser saying if he wasn't an Aristotelian Thomist he would be a Neo-Platonist.

            >A first principle that is the thinking of its own thinking is not ultimate. The One is ultimate. Or materialism.

            God in either view is metaphysically ultimate. I would not waste my time worshiping a Magic Guy with a Beard. I don't do Cosmic Gandalf.

            >The halfway house of A-T is a halfway house. Go metaphysically ultimate or go home.

            Well as Feser said it would be my second choice. Glad to see my words aren't ignored. I am pleased.

          • Ficino

            I seem to remember Feser saying if he wasn't an Aristotelian Thomist he would be a Neo-Platonist.

            Yes, I seem to remember this, too, but I don't remember where he wrote it.

            Lloyd Gerson has this interesting view: "Aquinas employs Aristotelianism as he understands it in the service of what in fact is a Christianized version of Platonism."

          • Jim the Scott

            That could be true. I'll put it on the list. Cheers.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    @ gquenot

    This comment was posted today, but deep in the thread. I am just trying to explain the basic argument that physical "receptors" cannot explain sense experience. I know several of you are having a hard time accepting my proof, so this below is simply another attempt to make its logic clear. I hope it helps someone.

    Dennis Bonnette gquenot • 7 hours ago

    "What I do not understand here is why an organized set of interacting parts as a whole could not get the whole?"

    The problem is that to perceive at all (at least in sight) IS to perceive the whole. Otherwise, no sense experience is had at all. That is because physical objects are extended in space. So, what has no extension cannot be seen because it isn’t physically real. But what is seen “as extended” is seen as some sort of whole.

    By now it should also be clear that no single part can “reflect” a complex, physically extended whole as a whole, since all the distinct data would overlay so as to cause indecipherability.

    So, the question remains, “Could the complex of parts somehow perceive the unified whole, when no individual one can do so?”

    If none of the parts can perceive at all, since to perceive is to perceive a whole, then none of the parts has in its nature the ability to perceive. Since nothing can give what it does not have, no part and no collection of parts can account for actual perception. These parts are singularly and collectively an ontological welfare case. Perception is not part of their nature. Adding indigence to indigence does not produce wealth. Neither can adding together things that cannot of their own nature perceive create perception.

    Hence, if perception occurs, neither a single part nor a complex of physical parts can account for it.

    But, let's look at this from a different perspective.

    Yes, acting together the complex of parts CAN represent a whole complex image, but only as first described, by each part reflecting only its own part.

    That is, this WHOLE neural pattern acting as a WHOLE would do so by its different parts reflecting distinct parts of the whole object known. But that is just like the man made recording devices we already know, e.g., computers and TV sets.

    To have all the parts acting together still means that each part is locatable in space and contributing some distinct data to the “whole” image. But no single part “knows” the whole. It only “knows” its own portion of the whole. The only way to avoid this would, again, be to have all the data imposed on a single part, thereby destroying its intelligibility.

    The only remaining alternative is that when all the parts act to reflect a whole, they do so in virtue of some common reality that is NOT LOCATABLE IN SPACE, say, an immaterial principle, like FORM?

    But since no single one of the parts can do this by itself, the only way all can act together to do it is if something is added to them all, some form that is NOT EXTENDED IN SPACE, since what is extended in space has the same problem we started with (parts “knowing” only their own portion of the image).

    But what is not extended in space is not locatable in space, that is, it is not physical or material. Thus the act of sense experience cannot be a purely physical entity.

    Edit: Either what unites all the parts (no matter how small) to "reflect the whole" is itself physical or not. If it is physical, then it, too, must have different parts reflecting different parts of the object known, since being physical gives it extension in space and parts outside of parts. But then, each part merely reflects its own part of the whole and nothing reflects the whole, unless it is by reason of the unity of the parts. But as long as that "unity" is itself physical, the same problem remains ad infinitum, that is, the whole is only the sum of the parts, but the parts as such "know" only their part. So, making the principle of unity of the parts physical solves nothing. Hence, whatever unifies the parts so as to form a whole must not be physical, must not be locatable in space, must not be extended in space.

  • Jim the Scott

    Disqus is down.

  • Ficino

    Aquinas In IV Meta l 9 C653 “And if this man takes nothing to be definitely true, and similarly thinks and does not think, just as he similarly affirms and denies something in speech, he seems to differ in no way from plants; because even brute animals have certain definite/determinate conceptions (determinatas conceptiones).”

    l. 6 C608 “For such a man, in this disputation, who signifies nothing, will be like a plant. For even brute animals signify something through such signs."

    So animals other than man use signs to convey meaning. That's what it is to signify something. And they have conceptions. The bird knows that this berry is good to eat and that one is poisonous. Some cognition of classes.

    Does any non-human animal cognize universals qua universals etc etc? I think not. Do animals have some notion of classes, and can they communicate so? I think, yes.

    It is asserted but not proved that human intellect is "of" objects that are so qualitatively different from the objects of animal intellect, that only an immaterial, spiritual soul can know such objects. Animals perceive and know wondrous things, using their brain/nervous system as instruments. We perceive and know even more wondrous things, and our brains/nervous systems are even more wondrous. Where's the need for a ghost in the machine? There are lots of effects or accidents of extended realities, which themselves do not have extension. Whiteness is not made of matter, but it is an accident of something that is made of matter and is extended. Something composed of matter carries on activities, and the activities are not composed of matter. Necessarily. What is the problem? The brain is the instrument that I love you with. The engine is the instrument that the car moves with. No ghost in the machine.

    The car's motion, and the speed of its motion, are not extended. It's the car that is extended, not its effects or affections. A substance does stuff, and its actions are not made of matter. What is the problem with saying that thoughts are effects of material systems, just as the car's motion is an effect of its material systems? The brain and nervous systems are that by which I love the beings I love, by which I think the thoughts I think. The thought is not made of matter. The instrument is made of matter. As in the animal, so in the human, just more so.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      This comment confuses so many concepts that it is difficult to sort it out briefly. For one thing, my Strange Notions article is a critique of atomistic materialism, not a defense of Cartesian extreme dualism, as implied by such repeated phrases as a “ghost in the machine.” Hence, the arguments against wholistic sense experience were aimed (as explicitly explained in my article) not at proving the spirituality of sense experience, but merely at showing that a mechanistic materialistic account could not explain how the whole of some sense object is known.

      No attempt was made to prove the spirituality of the soul, although I did refer readers to an article in which I explain why the highest forms of animal sense knowledge remain qualitatively inferior to human intellectual knowledge.

      Most recent animal researchers share the same ignorance of the radical distinction between image and concept suffered by even the Scotch skeptic David Hume. They also fail to grasp the role of the common image, which allows animals, such as a sheep, to recognize its enemy, the wolf. This does not show knowledge of universal concepts. Unlike animals, man freely invents conventional signs that he uses in his speech.

      Moreover, even allegedly expert animal researchers, such as Jane Goodall, repeatedly commit the fallacy of anthropomorphism, even though they should know better. Other common errors, such as falling for the Clever Hans effect and failure to fully understand the extent to which association of images can explain animal behavior, are rampant. Finally, key are the four necessary signs of true intellect that are missing in subhuman animals.

      In depth explanation of these and many other critical points are found in my lengthy article on ape-language studies, which, though first published in 1993, is not outdated as to its essential analysis. See: https://www.godandscience.org/evolution/ape-language.html

      While whiteness, considered in the abstract, is not composed of matter, still, it is a natural property of a material thing whose white surface is extended in space. So, too, a car’s motion and speed are natural properties of something extended in space and constitute measurable limits of the various physical states and changes in the car.

      But the problem with the act of sense experience is that it is something of its own nature, which is not fully explainable by physical realities. The point of my proof is that the unity of wholeness of the object as sensed is precisely neither itself extended in space nor the product of a physically extended medium.

      That some physical thing is white or that a motor entails motion is proper to the physical properties of the things mentioned. But, that an extended physical medium should somehow unify the whole of a known object, when its individual parts exhibit no such unity without destroying the intelligibility of the object known is not proper to the physical properties of such an extended physical medium. The force of this claim, of course, lies in the proof given in my article and in my comment immediately below.

      Hylemorphism encompasses many things that are immaterial, but not spiritual – for example, the entire order of sense knowledge and sense appetite, of which the act of sense experience is the most immediately known example. Still, Thomists do not claim that the various types of sense acts are spiritual, since sensation is always under the conditions of matter.

      Those who view the major metaphysical positions as either some form of atomistic materialism, or else, some form of Cartesian extreme dualism, simply do not grasp the sophisticated realism of the Aristotelian-Thomistic hylemorphic doctrine.

      • Ficino

        not a defense of Cartesian extreme dualism, as implied by such repeated phrases as a “ghost in the machine.”

        I am fine with not using the phrase anymore. By now you should know that I do not imagine that hylomorphic (I just can't bear to spell it hylemorphic) dualism and Cartesian are the same.

        ETA: the phrase is not so inept for hylomorphic dualism as it may seem, though, since Thomism holds that the rational soul can be separated from the body and in that separated state can receive infused knowledge from superior substances, understanding without a phantasm, though it doesn't receive sensory data about singular bodies when separated from its body. Ditto with the doctrine that the intellect does not operate via any bodily organ.
        BTW I think Ryle's book makes a lot of sense.

        I'm also surprised that still now you keeping bringing up your 1993 article with its references to Clever Hans and what you see as faulty in the conclusions of Goodall. If your view of evolution allows you to say that humans evolved from earlier primate forms in such a way that the capacities we have now are effects of that process of evolution, then I'm fine with that, too. But I think you want God to have done something special in a first male and a first female to make them the first man and first woman, creating in them by special creation a rational soul, and not by guiding a long process of evolution so as to reach that threshold. And I have had the impression that part of your defense of that position is a claim about the immateriality of intellect - that it can't have evolved from prior primate cognition. This is what I remember of other articles of yours, anyway.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I include the reference to the Clever Hans effect because it is part of the historical literature and some judgments were based on it, even though more recent judgments might be more cautious. My references to Goodall are in my ape-language studies article, but also appear on pp. 156-162 of my book, Origin of the Human Species -- material not in the article. Among what impressed her about her chimps was the fact that they made tools "to a regular and set pattern." But naturalists have long been aware of lower animals widespread tool use. Even Ernst Mayr observes that some anthropologists appear unaware of this fact. (p. 157 of OHS).

          In my book, I am open to several different possible origins of true human beings -- ranging from direct creation from a literal "slime of the earth" (which I doubt) to gradual evolution, but with God at some point creating the first true human beings by creating their spiritual souls. I see no problem with God using an evolutionary process to prepare the human body -- even with respect to development over time of a highly perfected sensory system. But, yes, the first true humans are marked having a spiritual, intellective soul.

          I cannot say the "first man and woman," since that is a theological matter based on Genesis. Philosophically, I would defend that true man is qualitatively different from subhuman animals, but as to how they originated, all that philosophy says is that God had to create their souls.

          In other venues, I have addressed the Genesis question of theological monogenism, but that is based on revelation, not pure reason. There I am melding science, philosophy, and religion -- but one has to distinguish the mode of knowledge.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          By the way, I have seen the word spelled both ways. The primary listing in Wuellner's Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy lists its entry as "hylemorphism." At the end it says it is also spelled "hylomorphism."

          • Ficino

            People who work on Aristotle use "hylomorph-" far more often than "hylemorph-", as word searches of The Philospher's Index and L'Annee Philologique confirm.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            De gustibus non est disputandum.

  • Phil Tanny

    Could I please add that any site which can inspire over 400 comments for an article (awesome!) really needs to be a forum. Blogs are great for giving speeches, forums are far better technology for facilitating ongoing serious conversations.

  • Phil Tanny

    Posting within threads is no longer working in a reliable manner, so I'll try here.

    But what if those hydrogen and oxygen atoms really form an existential bond creating a single substantial unity?

    What if the single substantial unity is reality itself (sometimes called God) and any "parts" or "things" perceived within are conceptual inventions of the human mind? "Things" would depend for their existence on boundaries, and boundaries can pretty easily be shown to be useful but arbitrary human inventions.

    Experiment: Hold your breath for two minutes. Where is the boundary between you and air? How separate from everything else are you really?

    What if sequoias and zebras and Dr. Dawkins really do exist?

    What if the supposed divide between "exists" and "doesn't exist" is also not a property of reality, but rather an illusion generated by the divisive dualistic nature of how thought operates? What if division is just a pattern imposed upon reality by our minds?

    Evidence: space, the vast majority of reality, neither clearly existing or not existing. The vast majority of reality, why are we so determined to ignore it?

    What if you're trying to impose formulas which are sensible at human scale, but become meaningless when applied to the infinite scale you seem to be addressing?

    What if the Catholic doctrine which states that God is ever present everywhere in all times and places is true? Doesn't this doctrine suggest that division is not real?

  • Phil Tanny

    It seems reasonable to at least wonder whether we are overthinking arcane matters to such an extreme degree that any practical value of Christianity is being left behind. Even if the theories offered here could somehow be proven perfectly true, which seems extremely unlikely, what good would that do if only the tiniest fraction of humanity would have the slightest idea what is being discussed?

    Jesus started a major world religion in just a few years by speaking in fairly simple terms to fairly simple people. The example of Jesus, keeps being darn inconvenient, doesn't it?

  • Phil Tanny

    As a thought experiment, we might imagine just for a moment that it was somehow conclusively determined that it's not possible to make meaningful statements about God using logic. What if everyone's analysis, doctrines, theories, counter-theories, and ideas etc about God were somehow shown to be of little use?

    If explanations of every flavor were discredited, what then? In such a case, all that would be left is experience.

    Does the Apostle John offer the best possible explanation in his highly concise formula God=Love?

    If God=Love then what Christianity is referring to would seem to become accessible to all human beings, which presumably is the goal. Religious people could label the experience as God, and secular people could label the experience as love.

    If I'm hungry and someone offers me a piece of fruit, does it really matter what name we assign to the piece of fruit? Whether we call it an apple, or a papple, a kapple, or snapple, doesn't the equation remain the same? Whatever my theories about fruit might be, and however true or false my theories might be, doesn't the equation remain the same?

    If I want to satisfy my hunger I have to eat the fruit, right? Isn't it the experience that matters, and not the explanations?

    --------

    PS: Breaking News: This combox has been officially designated as an agent of Satan by the Congress of Imaginary Cardinals.

  • Phil Tanny

    All I am saying is that the starting point is simply the fact of motion.

    Motion would depend on the existence of things, and things would depend on the existence of boundaries. You face the challenge of demonstrating that boundaries are a fixed property of reality, and not just a useful but ultimately arbitrary human concept.

    Holding your breath for 2 minutes should demonstrate that the boundary between "you" and "everything else" is rather less clear than our database-like minds assume.

  • Hylemorphism In The Quantum Wave?

    http://disq.us/p/24391pc

  • Phil Tanny

    But, you cannot ever make anyone see the force of an argument. You can only present it and hope his own mind will grasp its truth.

    Agreed, and I'm not sure that the reader "grasps" the truth of whatever is being said so much as is triggered by the writer to recall that which they already know, perhaps by a different arrangement of words and ideas.

    That is why the First Vatican Council defined that the existence of God can be known by natural reason, and did not say "can be demonstrated" by natural reason.

    I remain somewhat skeptical that the existence of God can be known through thought, what can be known are ideas about God, which is something else entirely. Further, I'm not sure why everyone keeps talking about existence vs. non-existence. Habit?

    Just because I do not grasp the force of a proof you offer to me does not mean the proof itself if faulty.

    But even if you do grasp the force of the proof, and do then come to agree with some idea, what you have obtained is still just an idea. Symbols are not that which they point to, the word is not the thing.

  • Phil Tanny

    But merely pointing to the immediate sense experience of motion, to me, merely means to notice that "this becomes that."

    If as Catholics claim God is ever present everywhere, then it seem reasonable to wonder whether "this" and "that" are properties of reality, or instead properties of the observer. That is, is division real, or only perceived?

    I have not read all of your work, or even fully understood that which I have read, but my impression so far, which could very well be incorrect, is that you have limited interest in exploring what bias, if any, the medium of thought may be bringing to the inquiry. Corrections to this impression are of course welcome.

    Both the thinker and his thoughts are made of thought, so if the medium of thought does introduce distortions, they are likely to be experienced as very compelling illusions. And of course we can add to this that all humans are thought using thought, meaning that any illusions which may be generated by thought are universally experienced and thus likely to be taken as obvious givens by the group consensus, thus reinforcing any possible illusions.

  • Phil Tanny

    Quoting the "majority" of professional philosophers hardly impresses me

    A point of agreement! There is philosophy, and the philosophy business, two different things often in conflict.

    One that I find most interesting is that you cannot get something from absolutely nothing.

    I find it interesting that you think you know that.

    I cannot find, or even imagine, any sane and honest and sober person suggesting that being in any form can come from absolutely nothing at all.

    Um, well, the vast majority of all beings in fact consist of nothing at all, or at least a phenomena, space, which appears to have none of the properties we typically use to define existence. So that's a start at least.

    We can dance around the words, but the mind absolutely refuses to allow that reality can come from absolute nothingness.

    Well, your mind, to be more precise.

    Yet the universal certitude remains.

    Well, it remains in your mind.

    Someday, I hope you figure out he is still there before you meet him.

    This is a fine sentiment, but troubling theology. Given how many billions of people won't figure that out, we are left with an unjust tragedy, or we could instead believe that all roads lead back to God, so nothing too much to worry about. Sometimes one wonders if Catholics actually believe in the loving God they are always talking about.

  • Phil Tanny

    Sometimes it can help to back out of the detailed arguments to examine a discussion from a greater distance. It seems that so often we, atheists, theists and others, are attempting to map concepts which make sense at human scale on to the very largest of scales. An example....

    Did you know that time runs at different speeds depending on one's location? As example, time runs at a different speed on a mountain top than at sea level. This isn't a theory, but is proven by science.

    At human scale it doesn't really matter because the difference in time speed from one place to another on Earth is measured in billionths of a second, so the difference has no practical impact. And so we understandably assume that time is a fixed measure, because for us it typically is, practically speaking.

    This "time as fixed measure" paradigm falls apart as we move to larger scales, such as for example, proximity to a black hole. But if one didn't know that one might base one's infinite scale theories on the assumption that time is a fixed measure.

    The question of existence is another example. At human scale it makes sense to say that something exists or not, yes or no. There is a pencil on my desk, or not, one or the other. But when one zooms out to examine most of reality, space, this simplistic "exists or not" formula falls apart, as space does not fall neatly in to either category.

    This is not rocket science. We can learn such things on Netflix. And yet it seems some of the brightest and most famous thinkers among us simply ignore such inconvenient facts. And given that most of us are just repeating what we've heard some famous people say, the error is often multiplied on to a large scale, becoming the group consensus, the most powerful form of authority.

  • Phil Tanny

    Just back from Feser's site. His comment technology is even worse than here. I had no idea such a thing was possible.

    • Phil Tanny

      Ok, sorry, a constructive suggestion is needed here. Merge this site with Feser's, and put the new site in forum software, technology specifically designed for extensive conversation.

    • Jim the Scott

      Yeh at least Disqus gives you follow up. OTOH Feser's comments boxes are for those truely interested in the topic they want to do follow up and search to see if they have a reply.

      Cheers.

  • Matter and energy is the same thing, since there are the laws of conservation of energy and mass. Ideology and materialism also are the same thing, but they meet each other in a very thin line of existence, the definition of the concept.
    We exist in Terahertz frequency and visible light (matter), but at the same time we experience other frequencies like the hearing and the thoughts which create ideas in lower frequencies.
    Our existence is what we know whether there is other existence in different frequencies is not known to us, the same way they weren't the radio frequencies 150 years ago.

  • Pandurang Shastri

    Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
    Information is not knowledge.
    Imagination is more important than knowledge.

    --- Albert Einstein

  • Dennis Bonnette

    There is a tendency to assume that modern logic must be superior to Aristotelian logic because it is, well, “modern.” This is not the case, and it leads to gross misunderstandings of the validity of Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy.
    Modern logic is no legitimate threat to A-T philosophy, and especially, to metaphysics.

    An excellent online article by philosopher, Kelley Ross, Ph.D., exposes the philosophical bias of modern logic in great detail, and I strongly suggest that anyone wanting to really understand the difference between traditional and modern logic read it. Some mention the implications of changes in the Square of Opposition found in modern logic, and this article exposes the weakness of the modern interpretation, which erroneously ignores the meaning of concepts.

    The modern acceptance of the Empty Set would be understandably rejected by Aristotle, since he insisted that we talk about real things. This article points out, with respect to the Square of Opposition, that “…there is nothing wrong with the four "invalid" syllogisms except when a new interpretation of meaning introduces the possibility of the Empty Set.”

    But the worst critique of modern logic is simply that it incorporates materialist presuppositions which lead to conclusions of the sort which make many illicitly reject traditional metaphysics.

    “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. … Since the Positivist logicians could simply build their assumptions, semantic, epistemological, and metaphysical, into their logic, it is not surprising that they felt vindicated in their conclusions. Symbolic logic as it exists today still reflects many of those assumptions….”

    http://www.friesian.com/syl...

    Careful reading of this solid article reveals why no Thomistic philosopher should be fearful of criticisms of Thomistic philosophy made in the name of modern logic, and this, especially in the case of primary metaphysical insights, which would remain virtually untouched by applications of the Square of Opposition anyway.

    •Edit•Reply•Share ›

    • Ficino

      Thanks for posting. Ross's article is too far out of my area for me to make any substantive pronouncements about it. I only point out that it is not only modern philosophers who bring metaphysical commitments into areas that are not metaphysics. Plato and Aristotle themselves never questioned the existence of gods or the immortality of at least intellectual soul. There is too much "philosophy went downhill after the 13th century, and opponents of scholasticism work from presuppositions." Who DOESN'T work from presuppositions?

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Well, it is just that, if someone's position is supposed to be fully logical, then it seems a bit odd that the logical system being used to judge his logic should itself be based on philosophical presuppositions that appear to contradict the position being judged.

        I hope you can untangle that convoluted sentence. :)

        Perhaps, more clearly, if you are going to say that Thomas's metaphysics violates logic, then the logic used to come to that conclusion should not itself be based on materialist assumptions, which is what Ross tells us modern symbolic logic entails.

        Moreover, Ross is saying that traditional Aristotelian logic is not actually defective -- as long as you are talking about classes of real things.

        • Ficino

          Moreover, Ross is saying that traditional Aristotelian logic is not actually defective -- as long as you are talking about classes of real things.

          I shall give attention to Ross's article but not right away. If his thesis is that modern logic is bad because Frege and Russell et al were guilty of materialist assumptions, I would first think this might be like saying that Newtonian and later physics is bad because it doesn't consider final and formal causes. Meanwhile I suspend judgment about your apparent claim that modern logic is vitiated by metaphysical assumptions but the post-Aristotelian syllogistic is not vitiated by metaphysical assumptions.

          My colleague, who works on Aristotelian and scholastic logic, said that a sign of the flaws in the Square of Opposition is that it generates such questions as "can a unicorn be a fish" as though they pose meaningful problems.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do not find Ross is saying either form of logic is bad, but rather that one must be aware of the philosophical assumptions underlying a logical system. This comports with my earlier stated position that one's metaphysics is prior to one's logic.

            It also means that a logic with materialist presuppositions ought not be used to critique a dualist metaphysical system. And yes, this means that modern formal logic should not be used to critique A-T metaphysics.

            The point also is that Aristotelian logic takes into account the meaning of the terms employed, which might mean why it has no real problem with unicorns being fish, since it knows that unicorns are not real.

            It also suggests that maybe Aristotle was not so dumb after all -- despite the attitude of many moderns that no reasonable person today would take seriously such an "archaic" philosophy.

          • Ficino

            You are exemplifying what I said a while ago, that A-T insulates itself in principle against any disconfirmation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Depends on what you mean by "disconfirmation."

            If you demand empirical verification, that is an inappropriate requirement for a science that is not experimentally based. A-T is empirically based, since it begins in experience, but it does not require experimental confirmation since it never leaves its empirical starting point, but rather merely follows the rational implications of that starting point.

            But, any metaphysical claim can be "disconfirmed," simply by showing that the steps taken in any demonstration are illogical.

            Now, if you deny the fundamental truths about being which any sane man is forced to affirm as self-evident, then we have a problem -- but I don't think it is with Thomism.

            What fundamental truths? That being is; non-being is not; a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect; and that you cannot get being from non-being.

            I don't think you have to assume act and potency as such, since they are merely shorthand for longer expressions in terms of being.

            I don't know exactly how far into metaphysics you can get with those above first principles, but I am confident they will get you to a first mover unmoved and a first cause uncaused.

            I am not insisting that we attempt the process described above, since I doubt either of us has the time -- but this is the outline of my response to your claim that A-T is totally insulated against disconfirmation.

          • Phil Tanny

            But, any metaphysical claim can be "disconfirmed," simply by showing that the steps taken in any demonstration are illogical.

            First it would have to be shown that the rules of human reason are binding on the issue being discussed. If you don't see that necessity, you are essentially validating atheism.

            Now, if you deny the fundamental truths about being which any sane man is forced to affirm as self-evident, then we have a problem -- but I don't think it is with Thomism.

            So, it is assumed that a "sane man" would be in a position to "affirm fundamental truths about being?" Is this the same "sane man" with a hydrogen bomb in his mouth?

            That being is; non-being is not; a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect; and that you cannot get being from non-being.

            How in the world could you possibly know all this??? And why do you persistently ignore the vast majority of reality, space, which arguably both exists and not, at the same time.

            You seem intent on making the same mistake atheists make, trying to map human scale experience and logic on to everything everywhere. Please recall, we are very very very very very very small in relation to everything everywhere, the realm you seem to be making claims about.

          • Ficino

            It's empirically based, but it is not subject to empirical verification. Its deductions can in principle be found invalid, but it rejects modern logic and affirms modes of the Aristotelian syllogistic by which a particular is drawn from universal premises. Anyone who disagrees with what its proponents claim are fundamental truths of Being is an insane man. Principles that include assertions like "you cannot get being from non-being," which are literally meaningless.

            Well, maybe some women, if there are any left on here, may be motivated to keep up the disputation. I am done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Sorry if I am not sufficiently politically correct to suit you, but the online Merriam-Webster defines "man" as "an individual human." I would think a classicist would appreciate the traditional usage.
            https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/man

            Perhaps the reference to these first principles being a test for sanity is a bit strong, but it merely underlines the fact that you will look long and hard to find anyone who will actually deny any of these principles in an actual situation, such as when you actually pull an actual rabbit out of an actually empty hat.

            Philosophy can be an empirical science since all its knowledge begins in sense experience. You should know that it need not be an experimental science, like physics or chemistry, where empirical verification of hypotheses is necessary. I thought I made that distinction sufficiently clear.
            If you are assuming that every science must conform to the experimental method, isn't that called scientism? Or, isn't that a politically acceptable term?

            And, if you read the article I cited on modern logic, it does not disparage modern logic, but merely points out that it has positivistic presuppositions.

            I don't think one needs to apologize for Aristotelian logic. Perhaps, in modern formal logic you cannot derive a particular conclusion using universal premises, but I remain confident that the logical steps used in the proofs for God are licit when they start with a particular datum, such as the reality of motion, apply universal metaphysical principles to that datum, and from it conclude to the existence of an individual first mover unmoved. The proof of the pudding is in going through and testing each sequential step.

            I hope you will forgive my forthright defense of what I think to be true, but that is what this forum is all about, is it not? Thank you for engaging with me in this discussion.

  • Ficino

    A useful distinction between procedural requirements of history and science vs. metaphysical naturalism is made by Gregory W. Dawes. See his "In defense of naturalism," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 70.1 (August 2011), 3-25. His abstract:

    " History and the modern sciences are characterized by what is sometimes
    called a "methodological naturalism" that disregards talk of divine agency. Some religious thinkers argue that this reflects a dogmatic materialism: a non-negotiable and a priori commitment to a materialist metaphysics. In response to this charge, I make a sharp distinction between procedural requirements and metaphysical commitments. The procedural requirement of history and the sciences - that proposed explanations appeal to publicly-accessible bodies of evidence - is non-negotiable, but has no metaphysical implications. The metaphysical commitment is naturalistic, but is both a posteriori and provisional, arising from the fact that for more than 400 years no proposed theistic explanation has been shown capable of meeting the procedural requirement. I argue that there is nothing to prevent religious thinkers from seeking to overturn this metaphysically naturalistic stance. But in order to do so they would need to show that their proposed theistic explanations are the best available explanations of a range of phenomena. Until this has been done, the metaphysical naturalism of history and the sciences remains defensible."

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      The distinction between the procedural requirements and metaphysical commitments of naturalism seems perfectly valid (even uncontroversial, in my estimation). But:

      1. An argument such as the argument from contingency does conform to the procedural requirement of naturalism, by appealing to the publicly accessible evidence that there is something and not nothing.
      2. Some of our non-ontological inferences about God, e.g. that God is in some sense personal, are a priori not evaluable within any procedural framework that prescinds from consideration of first-person experience. If naturalistic methodology is understood to be restricted to third-person verifiable evidence, then of course any inferences relating to first-person experience are going to be unprovable within that framework!

      Elaborating further on my second point: the valid distinction between procedural requirements and metaphysical commitments evaporates in the moment when one metaphysically commits (however provisionally) to rejection any truth that can't be affirmed within that procedural framework.

      • Ficino

        An argument such as the argument from contingency does conform to the procedural requirement of naturalism

        Dawes is OK with saying that Aquinas meets the procedural requirements in that he begins from facts that are accessible to any observer and uses a logic common to Christian, Muslim and pagan. I'm not prepared to follow Dawes fully on that point, but I'm not opening up arguments that I think went as far as they can go in this thread. (Unless you see something new.) Anyway, Dawes agrees w/ you and he does not, as far as I understand him, apply the strong rejection phrased in your last sentence to domains outside of science or history. He just doesn't think theism as such has provided what is needed for properly theistic conclusions that touch on those domains.

        ETA: Dawes can speak for himself: "It [sc. tension between "a historical and a theological perspective on history"] would be resolved, in favour of religion, if theologians were to produce adequate theistic explanations of a range of phenomena and show that these were preferable to any proposed natural explanations," p. 6. Dawes goes on to develop his distinction between the non-negotiable procedural requirement of history and the sciences and "their (provisional) metaphysical commitment to natural explanations." The procedural requirement is "the demand that any claims about human beings or the world they inhabit should be supported by reference to some publicly-accessible body of evidence." That requirement, Dawes says, does not in principle exclude reference to divine agency, but the evidence for that would need to be publicly accessible.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I am curious about the bit in your ETA paragraph. Historical testimony is publicly accessible in the trivial sense that the existence of the testimony is a matter of public record. However, that which is affirmed by the testimony is generally not (or never?) universally publicly accessible. And yet, that which is affirmed by the testimony is the substrate from which history is derived, albeit through a lens of critical reflection, triangulation using various sources, etc. So I am wondering: does Dawes count that which is affirmed by historical testimony as something that is "publicly accessible"?

          • Ficino

            Dawes means by "publicly-accessible," not "accessible to the public" but something like "available in principle for study to any specialist." Any specialist in, say, Greek paleography of the Hellenistic period should be able to transcribe the same text from a given scrap of papyrus. If there are missing letters, as there often are, any specialist should be able to make intelligent conjectures about what letters have disappeared, but some papyrologists will make better conjectures than others. But the average person with no professional training will not be admitted by the owning institution to study the papyrus at all. Dawes' point is that, no matter the ideological commitments etc of the papyrologists, they all share a methodology acknowledged world-wide, so that they can come to consensus about most of the fragment and can state why they may differ about obscurities in the fragment.

            BUT... if one papyrologist should say that the ancient author appeared to him/her in a vision and revealed the original text intact, so as to supply in the vision the missing letters, THAT alleged evidence should not be considered evidence on the procedural requirements of papyrology.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    @ Ficino
    The claim has been frequently advanced that you cannot get a particular conclusion from universal premises. Note the following from a site on logic:

    "Existential Import"

    "The distinguishing feature of propositions that assert the existence of something. In traditional interpretations of categorical logic, all propositions are taken to have existential import, but on a modern interpretation, only the particular propositions, (I and O) have existential import."
    http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/e9.htm#exif

    The claim that you cannot get a valid particular conclusion from universal premises is peculiar to modern logic. It does not apply to traditional Aristotelian logic, since Aristotle does not permit the use of the Empty Class.

    Therefore, as long as we are talking about classes of real things, as in the premises used in the Five Ways of St. Thomas Aquinas, you CAN validly deduce a particular conclusion from universal premises.

    • Ficino

      Click on the blued phrase.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        If you are referring to the link, I did. I know the top paragraph refers to this being a fallacy. But I was quoting the third paragraph down, which explains the reason why modern logic considers it a fallacy, whereas in Aristotelian logic it is not a fallacy -- specifically as when the classes are not empty as in the quinque viae.

        Edit: Incidentally, lest there be any confusion here, this does not mean that this specific inference is valid only in Aristotle's logic. It means that, given the fact that Aristotle and St. Thomas are not using empty classes in their arguments (and especially in the quinque viae), this argument is objectively valid in the relevant context, meaning that its conclusion does in reality follow from its premises.

        • Phil Tanny

          We've yet to establish that something as small as human reason is qualified to generate meaningful useful statements on subjects the enormous scale of gods. It seems we may be blindly assuming it is so qualified, for the simple reason that we enjoy logic equations.

          What if philosophy/theology/analysis etc is not the path to God, but instead a key obstacle, given that it directs our attention in to a symbolic realm of our own invention, and out of the real world where presumably a real God would reside?

          As example, what is the logic of looking for God inside of a church building that men built, when the infinitely larger "church" that God built lies outside those walls?

          • Jim the Scott

            Phili You are clueless I am afraid.

            >We've yet to establish that something as small as human reason is qualified to generate meaningful useful statements on subjects the enormous scale of gods.

            Yet to try to answer this question we need to use human reason? We have nothing else. You are full of crap Phil. You managed to write something more empty headed then Michael. No mean feat. We can use human reason to learn some truth & that is a nessecary first principle. If you reject it then any dispute with you is futile as both Aristotle and Aquinas taught because we have absolutely no basic for rational discussion if you questiont the use of reason.

            Enought of yer sophistical crap. You have already bored me.

          • Phil Tanny

            Phili You are clueless I am afraid.

            Yes, I know, you say this to every poster in almost every post. You're clogging the discussions with your emotional needs, and undermining your credibility by doing so.

            That's all I'm going to say about it.

          • Jim the Scott

            You will note Phil that Dr. B upvoted my criticism of yer cluelessness. I gave reasons why but I suspected you reject reason. Now we have proof.

          • Phil Tanny

            Well, only Dr. B can speak for Dr. B. Should he think me clueless he can always come out of hiding and explain why, that would be fine with me.

            Don't know if this applies to Dr. B, only he can say so, but many professional philosophers find me problematic as I have a knack for undermining what they've spent their careers doing, at least in regards to theological topics.

            So go ahead, no problem, call me clueless, cause after all that's all you know how to do.

          • Jim the Scott

            You really are clueless. Here is a thought process for ya. I called you clueless. I gave some good reasons why and Dr. B upvoted me. He is already having a rigorous discussion with Fucino who is a fellow academic(& better at it than you). Why does he need to talk to weirdo who treats philosophy like mystical woo and rejects rational argument and reason in general as the basis for said argument?
            Aquinas and Aristotle both said toward those who reject First Principles dispute not with them for such dispute is futile. Go stare at yer navel elsewhere yer boring to everyone with an IQ larger than 2. Maybe Michael will find yer airhead nonsense impressive?

        • Ficino

          Well, I wrote that "I am done" with our recent discussion, and I am not sure we will get on profitably if we reopen the Ways. Your contention, Aristotle and St. Thomas are not using empty classes in their arguments, is itself a contentious claim, so therefore question begging.

          Take the Fifth. We talked about this before. From the universal premise, “all x’s that are inanimate and operate from natural inclination are directed by some intelligent y,” it does not follow that there exist such x’s, directed by an intelligent y. Thus, it does not follow that the intelligent y exists. One is not entitled to assume that the class over which a universal predicate is quantified has members. You have not demonstrated that there can't be classes with no members; you've only said that there's an old version of the syllogistic, on which this holds, and on which Thomas' Ways emerge as valid. But that's the point at issue. We can’t deduce from universal propositions about x's that operate from natural inclination that there exist such x's, and therefore, that there exists the intelligent y. The notion of natural bodies that seek an end by natural inclination is already contentious and theory-embedded. Aquinas is only entitled to deduce that it is possible that there exists at least one intelligent being that guides at least one natural thing toward an end.

          ETA: having written the above it occurs to me that we will get once again into the quagmire, can there be an empirical argument that also deduces a necessarily true conclusion that can be known with certainty? An appeal to the generality of philosophers is not conclusive - most of them could be wrong - but I bow to the expertise of the majority of specialists. As we don't hold to Aristotelian physics to account for the locomotion of bodies that are not accelerating, so we, i.e. most philosophers today, do not bracket off God arguments as impervious to the logic that is applied to everything else.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Frankly, I hate to "take the Fifth," but recall that as I presented it in the Strange Notions article, I do not recall claiming that the proof worked as stated.

            Certainly, one must prove that there are natural bodies that seek an end by natural inclination before making the claim that they do so via an intelligent agent. If the class IS empty, then the argument will not work. St. Thomas is arguing that the class is not empty. You are saying he is wrong. But if he can sustain the claim that there are such natural bodies, then the logic is correct. I think your argument is not against the logic, but the claim that the class is not empty.

            Or, you may be arguing against the truth of a claimed principle. That again is licit. As, for example, if you argue that not everything in motion must be moved by another.

            I have never focused excessive attention on the Fifth Way anyway. Most of my work has been on the first three Ways, and especially the first and second ones.

            You can contend that the premises are false at any point, of course. But we were talking about the logic of the arguments. Since Aristotle, and St. Thomas, following Aristotle, do not allow that we can apply our logic to empty classes, it is safe to say that the premises they propose in the first viae especially are intended to not contain empty classes.

            I understand why modern logicians claim that you cannot get a particular conclusion from universal premises. The reason is that they view universal premises as having no existential content. And from a premise that asserts nothing about existence, you cannot deduce an actual existent in the conclusion.

            But Aristotle and St. Thomas at least allege that they are making existential affirmations in their premises. Now you can deny that they are right about that, but that is not to attack their logic, but their existential claims. Given that the statements do make an existential claim, on the assumption that such a claim is true, then one can properly deduce the actual existence of what is affirmed in the conclusion.

            We don't have to argue our way through all Five Ways to understand that much, do we?

            Addendum: Maybe it would help to suggest that the problem with universal premises is not that they are universal, but rather that they contain empty classes, that is nominal classes of "things" that don't actually exist, such as unicorns.

            Clearly from non-existing "things" you can deduce nothing about real existence. But Aristotle and St. Thomas never intentionally use such classes.

            Thus all their universal premises are intended to have existential content from which a conclusion about something real can be drawn.

            You can then claim that they have unintentionally included empty classes in their premises, but that is to attack the premise, not because it is universal, but because they are mistaken in thinking the classes have existential content.

          • Ficino

            Take a Thomistic argument that an opponent might say commits the Existential Fallacy. Can you regiment that argument in standard logical notation used today, showing universal and existential quantifiers? Then we can look at it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you suggest is analogous to asking me to play Russian Roulette with you supplying the gun, which I have no intention of doing.

            This is not rocket science. The claim is that you cannot validly deduce a particular conclusion from universal premises.

            This is evidently untrue in terms anyone can understand, although I will put it into the form of an Aristotelian syllogism:
            If every B is C, and every A is B, then every A is C. But if every A is C, then clearly, some A is C. (I am well aware that this last is precisely the move in the Square of Opposition that modern logicians forbid.)

            Now let us fill in the terms: If every mammal is an animal, and if every cow is a mammal, then every cow is an animal. But, if every cow is an animal, then clearly some cows are animals.

            The validity of this reasoning is evident to anyone who understands that we are dealing with real things: cows, mammals, and animals.

            Thus the claim that you simply cannot validly derive a particular conclusion from universal premises is plainly false.

            If you read carefully the article the article by philosopher Kelley Ross (who is certainly not a Thomist!), you know that this entire claim against Aristotelian logic is based on assumptions made in modern symbolic logic that themselves are based on a positivistic philosophical worldview -- and which are improperly applied to classical logic. http://www.friesian.com/syllog.htm

            As Ross demonstrates, "So there is nothing wrong with the four "invalid" syllogisms except when a new interpretation of meaning introduces the possibility of the Empty Set."

            As Ross more broadly points out: "Since the Positivist logicians could simply build their assumptions, semantic, epistemological, and metaphysical, into their logic, it is not surprising that they felt vindicated in their conclusions. Symbolic logic as it exists today still reflects many of those assumptions, probably, as I have said, because there is no obvious or consensus alternative to Positivist principles, however unsatisfactory those clearly are."

            You may have valid claims to make against the quinquae viae. But this claim about them "invalidly" inferring a particular conclusion from universal premises cannot be one of them -- unless you have not really read through Ross's very clear and demonstrative article.

          • Ficino

            The claim is that you cannot validly deduce a particular conclusion from universal premises.

            No, the claim is that you cannot validly deduce the existence of a particular from universal premises. An argument that does so commits the Existential Fallacy.

            If every mammal is an animal, and if every cow is a mammal, then every cow is an animal. But, if every cow is an animal, then clearly some cows are animals.

            Your conclusion is analytic. But what your deductive system does not establish is the existence of cows. Our knowledge that there exist some cows is not established by the above deduction, and I don't think you aimed to establish an existence claim. We are agreed that knowledge of the existence of cows rests on a foundation other than this deductive system.

            You have perhaps unwittingly changed the terms of the discussion. In your lead-off above, you said this:

            The claim has been frequently advanced that you cannot get a particular conclusion from universal premises. Note the following from a site on logic:

            "Existential Import"

            "The distinguishing feature of propositions that assert the existence of something. In traditional interpretations of categorical logic, all propositions are taken to have existential import, but on a modern interpretation, only the particular propositions, (I and O) have existential import."

            The section of the site that you linked was about propositions that assert the existence of something. But in your commentary, you have weakened this qualifier so that you're discussing merely "a particular conclusion." I don't care about deductive systems that purport to establish from universal claims about unicorns a conclusion that, if there exists an x that is a unicorn, then "one horn" is quantified over it. The rub is, does the existence of at least one unicorn follow from this deductive system:

            1. every animal whose nature is such that it will die is mortal
            2. every unicorn is an animal whose nature is such that it will die
            3. therefore every unicorn is mortal
            so....
            4. some unicorn is mortal = there exists a mortal unicorn

            Non sequitur. That the conclusion is simply false is obvious when the argument is regimented as we learn in Logic 101, since it is not the case that there exists an x such that x is a unicorn and x is mortal.

            I think all this is familiar territory. So if you are insisting that Thomism gets accorded a logic by which particular existence claims can be validly deduced from universal premises, then again, I am done.

            I am no expert on the history of logic, but what I have read indicates that the motivation for Fregean/Whiteheadian/Russellian logic came from their work in trying to solve certain problems in mathematics - not from a desire to discover a logic that would support positivism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are not really saying anything that I find new. Yes, you are right. I am not merely affirming the valid deduction of a particular, but of the actual existence of that particular. And yes, that means no unicorns are allowed. I thought that was already evident from previous discussion.

            I am not really sure what you are disputing here, since we both know that St. Thomas must establish the existence of the terms in the premises. That is always the understanding of classical logic -- especially, since Aristotle specifically refused to allow empty classes.

            The dispute about the quinque viae is not in its logic, but regarding the correctness of each step. The issues are really ontological in my opinion, not logical. For the prima via, it is as simple as the following types of issues: Are there things in motion? Do things in motion require a mover? Can you go to infinity among moved movers?

            I realize that some people want to debate until the cows come home about some of those steps, but it isn't the logic that is the problem from what I can determine.

          • Ficino

            I am not merely affirming the valid deduction of a particular, but of the actual existence of that particular.

            Sorry, I don't understand the above sentence in its context. Is there a typo? The above sentence, esp. the words I bolded, seems to conflict with the one that follows it, for that denies the actual existence of the particular:

            And yes, that means no unicorns are allowed.

            We agree on keeping unicorns out of the pen!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            In order to conclude to a particular that has actual existence, you cannot have previous premises based on empty sets, such as those filled by unicorns.

          • Ficino

            we both know that St. Thomas must establish the existence of the terms in the premises.

            We are going around the mulberry bush. If the existence of the terms in the premises is established by the deductive system and affirmed in its conclusion, then the argument will be circular. If the existence of the terms in the premises is established logically prior to the deductive system, then it is reasonable for the observer to ask, where and by what evidence their existence was established--since as far as we know, the existence of particulars must be established from evidence. But if the existence of the terms in the premises is posited through inductive or abductive reasoning, then the conclusion will not be a necessary truth known with certainty. It doesn't help to say that Aristotle in demonstrations did not admit classes with no members, since the existence of the members is the point in question. I don't know, for example, that there exist in reality things being reduced from existing potentially to existing actually.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is why sometimes it is better to just look at the argument, rather than trying to make an a priori analysis that excludes its possibility.

            "I don't know, for example, that there exist in reality things being reduced from existing potentially to existing actually."

            That is, after all, the really existing starting point of the argument. And we have to be careful about how the argument is stated. St. Thomas says "... some things are in motion....." This is adequate for most people, since that is what they believe they experience (and for good reasons).

            But it is not necessary to make that claim so specifically. I would say you could make the argument work merely from subjective experience of any difference between before and after at all. The reason is that some new quality of being would be manifest and since you cannot get being from non-being, something else would have to supply that new quality that was not there before. This reasoning is along the lines of my earlier article on "new existence:" https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

            Moreover, you say you don't know whether there exist in reality things being reduced from potentiality to existing actually. That may be the case. But that is not a logical problem. Rather, it is a doubt about the nature and existence of the given of the proof. If the proponent of the proof can make the case that such things exist, then you have really existing members of the class being discussed. They cannot be ruled out a priori.

            By applying universal metaphysical principles to this class of real beings, such as the principle that everything in motion requires a mover, the argument can then proceed to a universal analysis of whether intermediate movers can regress to infinity. If it can be demonstrated that such a regress is impossible, then the existence of an unmoved first mover is established.

            Where is the logical fallacy in this line of reasoning? Appealing to a general claimed fallacy is irrelevant if the reasoning actually employed works, step by step.

            I am not asking that you concede the truth of each claimed step in the proof. That is to be hashed out at each step. But the logic of the steps can entail universal premises, once the existence of a real starting point is established. And then from that grounded in experience starting point, combined with the force of the reasoned steps therefrom, it becomes possible to reach a conclusion, namely, that a first mover must exist, that is a really existing particular entity.

            You claim that such an argument starting point cannot produce certitude, but that is exactly what happens if you can show that beings in motion require a mover, that such mover or movers cannot regress to infinity, and that, therefore, there must exist a first mover.

            It does no good to argue a priori that this line of reasoning cannot be logically correct if it actually gets you to a particular, but really existing, first mover. Recall, too, that this argument has been examined by many Thomistic commentators down through history. That may not be a proof in itself, but it sure beats it being merely my personal claim! :)

          • Ficino

            A few days ago you posted to me about getting "a particular conclusion from universal premises." I pointed out that the issue is, whether we can deduce the existence of particular/singulars from universal premises. I take it we are agreed that the so-called Existential Fallacy is the matter here.

            It will be a big job to go beyond this to start once again analyzing the Ways. I'm loath to take discussion further in that direction unless we agree on whether we're using Aristotelian syllogistic or today's now-traditional predicate logic. Phrases such as this of yours

            The reason is that some new quality of being would be manifest and since you cannot get being from non-being

            make me very suspicious. I do not know that there is a determinate referent of the term "being."

            You declined a day or two ago to reformulate any of the Ways by standardizing it in premises expressed with universal and the existential quantifiers. Are you willing to do that?

            Another caveat: there seems to be more troll activity on here of late.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have tried to point out that there is no Existential Fallacy in Aristotelian logic for the simple reason that it does not permit empty sets as does modern logic. There is actually no contradiction between the two systems of logic because they have different rules regarding the existential import of universal propositions -- and those different rules flow from their distinct positions regarding empty classes.

            Since, for example, the prima via begins with really existing motion, it is dealing with something that is not an empty class. I have argued before that applying universal premises to that really existing given can make the logic work. Perhaps you challenge whether any of those premises entail empty classes themselves. What I am saying is that as long as no empty classes are allowed at any step in the logic, you can licitly get a conclusion that has existential import.

            No, I am not desiring to restate the prima via in terms of modern logic, since even if I did so, I suspect we would still be debating the truth of each premise to the point of exhaustion -- which neither of us probably has the time or inclination to do. Besides, I maintain it does very well in classical logic and there is no legitimate need to restate it in a logical system that has as among its own assumptions a denial of existential import for universal propositions which Aristotle himself denies because he does not employ empty classes.

            I suspect we both know that trying to restate the arguments in terms of non-being and being would be an exercise in futility, sing you already voice your skepticism about there being a determinate referent for "being." In Thomistic metaphysics, being is such an immediately given starting point that beginning a discussion about whether we can even know it seems like begging the question in reverse. That is, it would be like trying to prove that which must be assumed -- BUT in this case, what I would say has to be accepted as immediately evident, and hence, is not an assumption at all.

            Since we do appear to still disagree about which logic should be employed, I share your "loathing" about trying to carry the discussion of the viae any further.

          • Ficino

            There is actually no contradiction between the two systems of logic because they have different rules regarding the existential import of universal propositions -- and those different rules flow from their distinct positions regarding empty classes.

            So then why not just use today's predicate logic? The Ways should stand up if they are valid. And I haven't seen strong reasons to think that today's predicate logic is flawed but the Aristotelian syllogistic is not so.

            But in fact, the empty classes problem spotlights why logicians (who aren't trying to salvage Thomism?) don't use the Aristotelian syllogistic. It fails to provide the tools needed to solve certain problems. Bertrand Russell could show why the sentence, "The present king of France is bald," is simply false and not meaningless. But on presuppositions of the Aristotelian tradition, you have to debar that sentence from the sphere of meaningful utterances, since it invokes a class with no members. Yet, each term in it signifies something. Present-day predicate logic does a better job and leaves us fewer unfathomable formulations.

            So it smacks of special pleading to turn around and say that a system of logic that has been exposed as lacking is nevertheless the system we must use when trying to analyze arguments of thinkers from before 1880 or whenever, as though its limitations don't arise when we're tackling older texts. This is a bit as though an astronomer were to insist on using a Ptolemaic framework for calculating motions of the planets, for which he doesn't need a heliocentric model because epicycles give him enough for the job. Away with epicycles! We should not be in the position of taking Aristotle's or Aquinas' word for it that they are not admitting empty classes.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am sorry, but I simply do not buy that re-expressing the Five Ways into modern symbolic logic is not prejudicial to the truth of the arguments. Symbolic logic may be consistent with its own rules, but that does not mean that it is best suited to make the logic of the Five Ways fit reality. Here is where we part company. Ross's explanation of the whole matter explains why the "old theory" is not wrong and why the "new theory" makes unnecessary and misleading demands on the "old theory.":

            "Sometimes it is simply said that the old theory was wrong. But what has happened instead is that a new interpretation of meaning has been imposed on the propositions, and this interpretation comes from Set Theory: A set is defined by its members. This is called "extensionality," and it determines the present construction of most systems of symbolic logic: Predicates are taken to refer, not to concepts, as in traditional logic, but to sets; and sets are both defined by their members and may or may not have members. A set without members is the Empty Set, and it is always possible that a set is to be identified with the Empty Set. On this interpretation, universal propositions are interpreted to be denials of existence, i.e. the identifications of certain sets that are the Empty Set; and particular propositions are taken to be affirmations of existence, i.e. identifications of certain sets as non-empty. Particular propositions, which traditionally were thought of as reports about meaning, not about existence, are therefore now typically called "existential" rather than "particular" propositions. The possibility of an Empty Set simply did not exist in Aristotelian logic, since the equivalent would be a term without meaning; but then a term without meaning would not occur or be used." http://www.friesian.com/syllog.htm

            This is a sufficient warning to me not to attempt to express the Five Ways into a logic that presupposes set theory and alters the meaning of Aristotelian arguments into making its use of concepts as being "terms without meaning," as Ross warns.

            I will not buy the modern symbolic logic claim that universal propositions are denials of existence. See Ross's above explanation of how this occurs in modern logic and why is it not necessary. "The possibility of an Empty Set simply did not exist in Aristotelian logic,"

            Therefore I see no reason to force the Five Ways into a logical form that would merely, in turn, require extensive explanation as to why it does not actually invalidate the arguments. This is a waste of time and much effort for nothing.

            And this especially since I can follow the entire arguments (especially the first two ways) from the starting points of actually existing data through the application of universal first principles which I am familiar with, to a final conclusion of a particular that is actually existing. Thought through carefully, there will be no violations of a logic that conforms to reality.

            That means going through each detail of the Five Ways, which is a project I suspect neither of us wishes to pursue, since it is badly suited to a comment thread.

          • Phil Tanny

            What if the fundamental human problem that religion is trying to address doesn't arise from the content of thought, but from the nature of thought?

            If the problem is bad thought content, then philosophy as a methodology makes sense.

            If the problem arises from the nature of thought, shouldn't that cause us to question whether philosophy (ie. more thought) is the appropriate solution?

            Are we supposed to accept the usefulness of philosophy on such topics as a matter of faith?

          • Ficino

            I am sorry, but I simply do not buy that re-expressing the Five Ways into modern symbolic logic is not prejudicial to the truth of the arguments. Symbolic logic may be consistent with its own rules, but that does not mean that it is best suited to make the logic of the Five Ways fit reality.

            This is very disappointing, though you've said the same before. I don't know why any philosopher who is not already a Thomist (or other adherent of an ancient system - maybe a neo-Platonist) will want to endorse your refusal to allow that Thomistic arguments can be standardized into modern predicate logic. They have been so standardized in the literature.

            "To decline to explain oneself in terms of quantification, or in terms of those special idioms of ordinary language by which quantification is directly explained, is simply to decline to disclose one's referential intent." ~ W. V. Quine, Word and Object 243.

            I agree that it will go beyond combox capacity to try to dissect one or more of the Ways, though we did discuss the Fifth a while ago. As to the First, I am not convinced that its major premise should be taken to be "some things are in motion." Holding that a demonstration needs to be constructed as a syllogism, from whose premises the conclusion follows necessarily, Aristotle usually provides as the major a universal premise. As i said before, since Aquinas straight off declares that every thing that is in motion is moved by another, I should think that that is his major premise. So also Fr. Joseph Bochenski, O.P., in his famous article on the logic of the Ways.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have already shown you why the claim that you cannot deduce an existent particular from universal affirmative propositions is peculiar to modern symbolic logic and why, as Ross points out, for example, the syllogism, Barantip, is perfectly valid (even though it allegedly "violates” that claim), given the Aristotelian insistence that the terms not represent empty sets.

            “In Bramantip the premises (All P is M, and All M is S) blank out all of P except where S, P, and M overlap. If there are any P's, then a P can only be an S and a P also, which makes the conclusion follow (Some S is P). So only if P is the Empty Set, which is meaningless in Aristotelian logic, would Bramantip be invalid.”
            http://www.friesian.com/syllog.htm

            Moreover, if you look at most all of the Thomistic presentations of, say, the prima via of St. Thomas, you will virtually never find them presented using a symbolic logic – mostly, I suspect, because it really would add nothing to the argument.

            As to the logic of, say, the prima via itself, here are the main premises:

            1. It is evident that something is in motion.
            2. Whatever is in motion must be here and now be being moved by another.
            3. If that which is the mover is itself in motion, then it must be moved by another, and so forth.
            4. But this cannot regress to infinity among a per se series of movers.
            5. Therefore, there must be a first mover, unmoved – which is called God.

            This is not rocket science as far as the logic is concerned. Since we start with something actually in motion, we are grounded in existence from the outset. The rest is a matter of carefully applying first principles to the given, which leads to the actually existing first mover unmoved as a conclusion.

            Since in the argument itself it can be shown that all the terms are intended to refer to really existing things, the argument works for Aristotle and for us.

            I am sure you would wish to contest the truth of each premise, but that is a matter of the truth value of the propositions, not the validity of the inference.

            And, as I have maintained previously, one need not presume the terminology of potency and act in order to make the argument work, since the concept of “being” is at the root of the act/potency concept.

            Again, I realize you will challenge the use of the term “being,” since it appears you accept nothing of the Thomistic metaphysics anyway – which underlines that our problem is not primarily one of divergent logic, but of primary metaphysical insights – insights, which I would suggest, are presupposed by even naturalistic science as well as the functioning of the human mind in its relation to the real world.

          • Ficino

            So only if P is the Empty Set, which is meaningless in Aristotelian logic, would Bramantip be invalid.”

            As I said earlier, an advantage of modern predicate logic of quantification is that one can show up as false some utterances that can only be bracketed as meaningless under the Aristotelian syllogistic.

            If you're not familiar with Bochenski's article, which finds fault with the logic of the Ways of his Dominican forebear, you might find it interesting: "The Five Ways," Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 73 (2000) 61-92. It received a book-length rebuttal by Paul Weingartner, God’s Existence. Can it be Proven? A Logical Commentary on the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas. Piscataway: Transaction Books, 2010. I was too lazy to work through all of Weingartner, but I did find that in his defense of the Fifth, some of his translations of Aquinas' Latin seemed wrong. FWIW e.g.: his translation merely drops “aliqua.” And he construes “cognitio” as though a synonym of “intellectus,” so where Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics talks about purposive behavior of animals, Weingartner thinks this implies that they lack “cognitio” but nevertheless act for an end. That is false, since Aquinas all over says that animals have “cognitio”; cf. e.g De An a. 1 co., Super Isaiam cap. 1 l. 2, In III Sent. d. 26 q. 1 a. 1 ad 4, d. 27 q. 1 a. 4 co, ST 1a 2ae q. 11 a. 2. Animals react to weather/heavenly phenomena such that we can foretell rain, etc. from their movements, ST 1a 86 a.4 ad 3. But again, I haven't invested the time into Weingartner to evaluate his rebuttal carefully, except to note that, like others, Weingartner thinks the Fifth needs a supplement in order to be valid.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It isn't only the Fifth Way that may have some textual anomalies. In my own book, I point out that Sillem found that one of the main lines was botched in the most of the printed editions. Namely, what was rendered as Impossibile est autem omnia quae sunt talia, semper esse is found in the best uncials rather as Impossibile est autem omnia quae sunt, talia (sc. possibilia esse et non esse). This changes the meaning of the text so significantly that several major contemporary Thomists simply ignore the botched text and resort to giving a better sense to the text.

            These, and the fact that St. Thomas never intended the Five Ways to be complete and definitive proofs in themselves, are among the reasons that I do not follow the arguments slavishly myself. Recall, that neither of us thought that the Fifth Way, as it stands, is sufficient.

            I am not surprised either that Bochenski's article would find the Five Ways wanting, and this is one further reason that I choose not to wander off into what is ultimately a logical muddle that does not illuminate the most effective interpretations of the Ways anyway.

            Bochenski is an interesting character. He came to Notre Dame once when I was there, studying under the noted Polish logician, Boleslaw Sobocinski (no longer sure of the spelling). Sobocinski (a refugee from Polish Communism) did not know how to drive a car. So Bochenski appeared with an old nearly-worthless vehicle that embarrassed Sobocinski, who was the most perfect of European gentlemen, into ceding to Bochenski's "generosity." I don't know if Sobo (as we all called him) ever learned to drive.

          • Ficino

            So Bochenski appeared with an old nearly-worthless vehicle that embarrassed Sobocinski, who was the most perfect of European gentlemen, into ceding to Bochenski's "generosity."

            I gather that Sobo survived Bochenski's generosity. (:

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, but Bochenski also let a secret out of the bag. We always thought that Sobo's English was defective because it was not his native tongue. He pronounced words so badly that "besides" notoriously came out sounding like "beschieds!"

            Bochenski revealed to us that Sobo had a serious speech defect -- and that his Polish was just as horrendous!

          • Phil Tanny

            We are going around the mulberry bush.

            No kidding! We could also put it a bit more colorfully. You are riding the children's merry-go-round to nowhere that is the God debate. There are many blinking lights and fun house carnival music which generate the illusion of movement, but really you're just going endlessly round and round in the same little circle.

            But, it seems that's what you enjoy, so ok, have fun.

          • Phil Tanny

            Could one of you please prove that the rules of human reason are binding upon all of reality, the scope of God claims?

            What I see is that both of you are very knowledgeable about philosophy, and thus perhaps have a built-in bias for an assumption that philosophy is useful and relevant to any and all issues, including claims and counter claims about the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere.

            Could it be that an assumption that the rules of human reason are binding on everything everywhere and thus any gods contained within, is an attempt to make us God, ie. the highest ranking authority?

            Is it possible that the highly sophisticated conversation you're having is built upon a foundation of sand?

          • Ficino

            What I quoted two days ago from the abstract of Gregory Dawes' paper, "In Defense of Naturalism," gets at what you are asking:

            "The metaphysical commitment is naturalistic, but is both a posteriori and provisional, arising from the fact that for more than 400 years no proposed theistic explanation has been shown capable of meeting the procedural requirement. I argue that there is nothing to prevent religious thinkers from seeking to overturn this metaphysically naturalistic stance. But in order to do so they would need to show that their proposed theistic explanations are the best available explanations of a range of phenomena. Until this has been done, the metaphysical naturalism of history and the
            sciences remains defensible."

          • Phil Tanny

            Thanks for your reply Ficino, much appreciated.

            Respectfully, I don't read the quote you provided as proof that human reason is qualified to meaningfully analyze issues the scale of god claims, but rather just a restatement of the atheist assumption that it is.

            Please note, this challenge goes equally to both you and Dennis, to both atheist and theist, and to the driving theme of this website (and many others like it).

            As your conversation with Dennis illustrates, there is often a great passion on both sides to dive right in to the logic calculations, and often great skill involved in doing so. But none of that matters unless reason is first shown to be qualified for the job to which it is being aimed.

            I'm claiming it's pretty reasonable, indeed essential, to question whether a creature as small as human beings has the ability to generate useful statements on issues the scale of the God topic, various claims and counter claims regarding the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere.

            What 500 years of evidence seems to show is that the God debate never produces anything but more of the same. This longstanding pattern of failure suggests that maybe we are working with a bad question, or maybe we have no idea what we're talking about, and because we don't, we don't realize that.

            Anyway, it seems there should be a place for challenging the methodology being used in the God debate, and on this site overall.

            We shouldn't just assume that philosophy/theology is taking us where we wish to go because we enjoy philosophy/theology. I enjoy it myself! That doesn't automatically equal it working.

          • Ficino

            So you are an agnostic? OK, cool.

          • Phil Tanny

            So you are going to dodge everything I said? Ok, cool.

            I'm not an agnostic in the normal sense of the word as that would put me within the God debate realm. I'm better described as an atheist, not to positions within the God debate, but to the God debate itself. As a good atheist might say, there is no evidence the God debate process is ever going to lead to anything but more of the same.

            So, I'm inviting you and Dr. B to become impatient with a 500 year old repetitive loop, and look for new territory to explore.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Critiques like yours are sometimes described as "atheological" rather than "atheist". I just offer that as an option to "try on" if you are searching for a concise way to describe your position. Also, I'm sure you are aware that some of your doubts about reason fit within the long tradition of backlash against rationalism that we loosely call "romanticism". So, "atheological romanticist" might be to your liking.

            I have some congenital tendencies toward atheological romanticism myself, so I am sympathetic to what your are saying, but I think it's a hard path to follow stringently. The heart may recognize something true in the affirmation that "God is love", but it seems unavoidable that one's brain will try to parse that: "Does that mean anything at all? What is love, then? And if love is willing the good of the other, then what is good? And in what sense does 'willing the good of the other' sustain the universe in existence?, etc". In other words, you can try to simply fall in love with reality and leave it at that, but I suspect your brain will come back and pester you, and I suspect it is not healthy to ignore that.

            Finally, it's not entirely true that philosophy and theology are causally impotent. The conceptual furniture and the "social imaginary" (to use a Charles Taylor term) that we use to encounter reality is *very* different from the social imaginary of the medievals, and that in turn is very different from the social imaginary of the Roman Empire, for example. Of course, the ongoing development of philosophy and theology is only one factor among many (a minor factor perhaps) that has contributed to these historical changes in the way we encounter reality, but it doesn't seem to have been totally inconsequential.

          • Sample1

            Well received. In addition to what you’ve said about philosophy and theology not being totally inconsequential I’d add that the scientific revolution has afforded, generally, breathing space for the atheist to exist without persecution, so not inconsequential there either.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks Mike. I agree that atheists in the modern era have more freedom to express their views, and I agree that that is a good thing. My only point of disagreement is that it seems to me that political progress owes very little to the scientific revolution. I would attribute it more to theological, cultural and political trends that were well on their way long before the scientific revolution.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi Phil -

            I was able to read your response before Disqus ate it. I'm very sorry to see that go down the drain after you clearly put a lot of thought into it.

            Anyway here is my reply to your now-evaporated comment:

            ====

            Well good! I'm glad we have found some degree of connection in this discussion.

            I'm a big fan of walks in the woods as well, but I have to say that for me, a walk in the woods is a sort of respite that allows me to re-calibrate and re-align with certain natural rhythms, so that finally I am prepared for ... something. The question is: what is that something?

            Dante sets the stage nicely with this bit:

            The glory of the One who moves all things
            permeates the universe and glows
            in one part more and in another less.

            And that seems true. The glory of the One who moves all things may permeate all things, but it seems to glow more in the dappled light on my favorite hikes than it does in the parking lot at the local shopping mall, for example.

            I think what you are asking, or in any case what I am asking, is: where does it glow most brightly? Wherever that is, that's what I want to participate in. That's what I'm seeking when I follow my "religious" impulse.

            For my part, I've been sold on the outrageous proposition of Christian theology that says, more or less, that the glory of the One who moves all things glowed most brightly when a certain man, alleged by his followers to have been heralding a new union of heaven and earth, hung in agony on a cross and cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And to make it even more bizarre, Catholic theology claims that we can somehow participate in that reality when we consume the Eucharist.

            Say what you want about the rightness or wrongness of that proposition, it certainly doesn't lack for intrigue and originality!

            ====

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi Jim,

            Honestly, the fact that all of us are here wasting time in the Disqus system really seems to bring our rationality in to question. The fact that I'm still here is shining too bright a light on my typoholic addictions. Ouch. If I thought it would work I'd suggest that we stop discussing anything but where to move these conversations. If anyone would like to suggest a suitable forum, please do.

            You ask, what is that something? Ok, but your next question may be the better one. Where does it (whatever it is) shine most brightly?

            What I'm attempting to propose is that to the degree we can find our way in to "the sunlight" the question of "what is the sun?" tends to resolve itself.

            A resolution doesn't have to take the form of The Answer, which I would argue is a weak resolution whatever the answer is, because any answer is just a symbolic object. And as you've surely noticed, answers of any kind tend to generate more division and conflict.

            A resolution can also take the form of fulfilling the need that caused us to be interested in religion in the first place. What is that need?

            We are made of thought. Thought operates by a process of division. Thus we feel divided from everything and everybody. We are even divided inside of our own heads, as is illustrated by the phrase "I am thinking X" which suggests "I" is one thing and "my thought" is another. It's this process of division which is the wellspring of fear, which in turn is the source of most human suffering.

            I think Jesus very wisely speaks to this fundamental human problem with his advice to love and "die to be reborn". The experience of love is a surrender of the "me", the primary product of division created by thought. To the degree the symbolic division we call "me" is let go of, the unity of all things which has always been there tends to come in to sharper focus. Die, to be reborn.

            And now I have a favor to ask. If Disqus eats this post too, and I still come back here to type more hour long posts in to the void, would you mind taking a moment to shoot me? I'll pay for the bullet! :-) Well, I guess I'll have to pay in advance.

            Let's find a better place for these conversations, or talk this site owner in to obtaining working technology, what say you?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            One thing I have noticed is that if I try to edit a message shortly after posting it, it then seems much more likely to be flagged as spam. So, if that is something you are doing as well, you might try avoiding it and see if that helps.

            It's true that many (most? all?) of our most durable religious traditions involve surrender of the self in some sense. In the Christian tradition, or example, Saint Paul said: "It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me".

            But, in what sense exactly is the self to be transcended? Is there nothing distinctively good and true about the idiosyncratic you and the idiosyncratic me? that we would want to affirm?

            Rather than advocating a total dissolution of the self into the unity of all things, I commend to you the idea of communion as developed in Christian theology. There is obviously union in communion, but it is a union that is not understood to abnegate what is good and true in the participants in that union. You could also think of it as being a matter of connection, of all of us submitting to some nexus that joins us, without obliterating the participants that share that nexus.

            And, to the extent that you buy into that vision of communion and connection, I would argue that it is not thought per se that inhibits our participation in communion. On the contrary, it is very often by dint of rational reflection that we come to see our connectedness to the rest of reality. Whatever it is in us that rejects that point of connection, that which we traditionally call "sin", that resides at a far deeper level in us than the level of thought and cognition, or so I believe.

          • Phil Tanny

            Jim, hope you get this. All my posts to you are being deleted as spam. Perhaps the mods are trying to get rid of me? Don't know, but that does happen to me on every Catholic site sooner or later.

            Maybe you'll get this via email? Happy to talk further with you elsewhere should that interest you. Not sure I see the point of continuing to feed this site's spam filter.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            So, good news / bad news: your response from two days ago has been restored, but your most recent response (prior to the one above) has been zapped.

            However, I was again able to view it before it disappeared.
            I don't remember your words exactly, but I can address some of the themes you raised:

            If you prefer to think in terms of "illusion" rather than "sin", I get that, though it may be important to recognize that sometimes we suffer from "illusions" that arise from willful (if subconscious) self-delusion. I understand that an obsessive preoccupation with culpability can be unhelpful, but I don't think it is wise to dispense entirely with the notion of culpability. In any case, "sin" traditionally just means "missing the mark"; it isn't necessarily intended to convey a strong sense of personal culpability.

            The notion that we are never separated from God is of course true in some sense, and is consonant with the Christian claim that God's love gratuitously precedes our response to that love, and abides even when we reject it. Moreover, the notion that our apparent separation from God is illusory can be correlated with the Biblical evocations of "The Slanderer", and "The Deceiver" (a.k.a. "Satan"). I think when we speak of "separation from God" we mean something like: "intentionally dwelling in the illusion that we are separated from God".

            I don't sign up for the idea that the self is just a creation of our minds, nor do I sign up for the broader claim that all distinctions reside only in our minds. I have more realist tendencies, preferring to believe that what seems real is real, unless and until I'm presented with compelling evidence to the contrary.

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi again Jim,

            I think the most constructive thing I can do at this point is look for a site more suited to my taste technically. When I find something suitable I'll return here and let you know, just in case you might be interested.

            Ok spam filter, do your thing! :-)

          • Phil Tanny

            Does this interest you? Traditional Catholic forum. Saw the owner post on Reddit, sounded reasonable.

            http://www.suscipedomine.com/forum/index.php

            A more progressive Catholic forum might be better, but not easy to find.

            Or if you prefer we can drop this subject. That's ok, no problem.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hey Phil -

            I appreciate the offer, but even engagement in just this one site dissipates my life more than I would like. I am going to shy away from becoming entangled in a whole new community.

            Thanks,
            Jim

          • Phil Tanny

            Ok Jim, thanks for letting me know. Well, to me, typing is typing is typing where ever I do it, and typing is more fun when one's posts actually get published. :-) See ya round, good luck to you!

          • Sample1

            Yikes. Forums over there include what foods to be prepared with for the impending Apocalypse, mostly Lord of The Rings fare like salted pork, limiting vegetables (because the UN is favoring a more plant based diet) and increasing saturated fats. Additionally no moderation about posters actively discouraging others from trusting local and worldwide scientific nutrition agencies.

            Such nonsense has no place in science friendly philosophies. I feel sorry for them, they’ve been lied to and don’t have an environment that will help them.

            Mike

          • and what will help them? total obedience to your ego?

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi Jim, I'm back from the Dark Tomb of the Catholic Taliban.

            It was an interesting adventure for sure, but not the solution I was looking for. This site has great conversations but horrible technology, that site has the reverse. You were wise not to waste time on the experiment.

          • Phil Tanny

            Testing a forum now to see if they can accommodate the kind of conversations available on this site. Might take a bit to determine the answer.

            http://suscipedomine.com/forum/index.php?topic=22677

          • Phil Tanny

            I think when we speak of "separation from God" we mean something like:
            "intentionally dwelling in the illusion that we are separated from God".

            Well, at the moment that we create the noun "God" we enter the realm of intentionally dwelling in the illusion of division, as that is the function of all nouns.

            If it is true that we are not separate, but only suffer from the illusion of separation, the most direct question would seem to be, what is causing this illusion?

            I would argue the illusion arises from the inherently divisive nature of what we're made of psychologically, thought. That's why we're all immersed in the illusion, whatever our time and place, culture or philosophy etc.

            If this is true, then it follows the most direct path to managing the illusion is to better manage thought. Not the content of thought, thought itself.

            The good news is that such management is a simple mechanical matter. Not always easy, but simple.

            The bad news is that philosophers tend to hate simple solutions which threaten the primacy of philosophy.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, at the moment that we create the noun "God" we enter the realm of intentionally dwelling in the illusion of division, as that is the function of all nouns.

            I wouldn't go that far, but I would readily grant that in the moment that we name and conceptualize , we are at risk of idolatry. To the extent that that is what you are getting at, you fit within a long tradition of iconoclasm, which has to rank as one of the oldest and longest running internal critiques in the Judeo-Christian tradition. There is a reason why YHWH wasn't (and isn't) pronounced out loud in certain Jewish traditions.

            I don't intend to argue you out of your "iconoclasm", but I'd invite you to consider the alternative of what some have called the "Catholic Imagination" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_imagination ). Symbols aren't all bad, as long as you remember that they are sign-posts that point to a deeper reality and don't fall in love with the symbols for their own sake.

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi Jim,

            Well, isn't falling in love with symbols for their own sake what this site (and very many others) is all about? Where is any discussion of experience outside of symbols?

            I agree symbols aren't evil, and that they have their uses. They are of course an inherent part of the human condition which can't be avoided. I'm just attempting, however clumsily, to bring some balance to the relationship between symbols and direct experience.

            As example, consider the person who spends so much time on Facebook that they no longer have time for face to face contact. They're so invested in a symbolic realm that the real world beyond symbols has been largely discarded. Facebook is not evil, but surely such a situation is out of balance and unhealthy. right?

            That's what I see happening here and on philosophy/theology sites in general. There is so much focus on beliefs, doctrines, theology, philosophy, analysis etc that direct experience seems to be considered largely irrelevant to religion. To me, this is a strong bias for a particular methodology which trumps interest in the subject itself.

            Everybody wants to appear so sophisticated, but isn't this actually something quite simple? Isn't it just common sense?

            If one wishes to connect with a real God, or investigate whether a real God exists, wouldn't the real world be the obvious place to conduct such an inquiry? Can theologian philosophers really be so sophisticated if such common sense has to be explained to them over and over and over again??

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, isn't falling in love with symbols for their own sake what this site (and very many others) is all about?

            No, I don't think that is the case at all.

            Where is any discussion of experience outside of symbols?

            1. It is not possible to convey direct experience from one person to another in an unmediated fashion. When we communicate, both online and in person, we do so symbolically.
            2. In any case, attempts to convey experience to another person are not the only ways to foster the experiences of that other person. It is also valuable to help others "prepare their soil", e.g. by removing conceptual roadblocks that close them off to a certain dimension of experience, just as one would remove rocks from a field so that plants can grow. Doctor Bonnette can correct me if I am wrong, but I think that is the best way to understand most of his posts. He isn't trying to induce the beatific vision in you. He is simply removing the rocks in the field, painstakingly, one at a time, so that God comes to plant something there, there is nothing in the way to prevent it from growing.

            Isn't it just common sense?

            I think the best philosophy probably is just elaborated common sense, but I think you underestimate the sophistication of the questions you are asking. If you ask a sophisticated question, you can't then complain when the answer involves subtle distinctions and the like.

          • Phil Tanny

            It is not possible to convey direct experience from one person to another in an unmediated fashion. When we communicate, both online andin person, we do so symbolically.

            Yes, agreed. It is however possible to convey in symbols that direct experience is not made of symbols. So, the truly rational question is, how do we have experience? And not, what does the experience mean?

            He is simply removing the rocks in the field, painstakingly, one at a time, so that God comes to plant something there, there is nothing in the way to prevent it from growing.

            He's not removing the rocks, he's creating more rocks. As am I in my postings, as are we all. The "rocks in the field" are all the symbols racing around our minds, or more precisely, our relationship with these symbols.

            It's the simplest thing. We're so busy talking to ourselves 24/7 that God has a hard time getting a word in edgewise. Perhaps God is a polite fellow who waits for a pause in our inner conversation before speaking himself, and that pause never comes.

            This isn't complicated. Just 2 minutes ago my wife walked in to the room and said something to me in the real world, but I didn't quite catch it all as I was distracted by this pile of symbols.

            It's just a matter of what we focus our attention on.

            1) If we want the idea of God, focus on symbols.

            2) If we want the real world God, focus on the real world.

            It's not complicated, sophisticated, subtle, obscure, advanced and all of that. It's common sense.

            If you ask a sophisticated question, you can't then complain when the answer involves subtle distinctions and the like.

            Yes, I can, and I will. The point of philosophy is not to build an ever higher more complex pile of symbols (that's the philosophy business) but to make one's way to the bottom line as efficiently as possible.

            That's what I've done above.

            What do I want? An idea of God? Or a real God?

            Bottom line. Common sense. Philosophy stripped of all the crap.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But Phil, if you want to stop talking about it and go out there and live it, go for it man.

            This is just like the locker room where huddle up after the game and recover a bit and reflect on how we did and what we can do better next time. Of course this isn't the game itself. Yes, by all means, go out there and get in the game! No one is stopping you.

          • Phil Tanny

            I already am going for it. Four hours in the woods today, one on the computer. I'm sorry you no longer feel you can keep up, but ok, that's normal.

  • michael

    If God is all-happy and immutable, and impassible, how can he be "offended" so to speak by our sins or "served" by our worship and works? Please answer.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      While the terms appear to refer to changes in God, they actually depict changes in man's relationship to God which affect our condition of perversion or perfection as measured by God's creative will.

      • michael

        So it means offending oneself instead of God? If "loving GOd' means willing his good, then how is grave sin incompatible with loving him if it doesn't even affect him?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          No, grave sin does offend God, since it is an offense against His intention in creating creatures with an inherent natural law. But the fact that it is an act against God's intention for the creature does not mean that it affects God in Himself. Rather, it affects the relationship of the creature to God as well as "wounds" the nature which the creature has misused.

          Grave sin is opposed to willing God's good since it is a deliberate attack on the order God has created. How can you love someone if you interfere with his plans? But remember that the damage is to the plans, which are the good of the creature, not God.

          • michael

            The Book of Job says "No plan of God can be thwarted" and Thomas Aquinas pointed out psalms says God ha s accomplished all things how he would please. He said sin only affects God's "Kinda" will, not his "Absolute will".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            So? Do you know what God's actual plan of creation is?

            Is it not possible that part of that plan is to create free beings that can choose their own destiny and thus fulfill God's plan either by reaching their last end or by receiving their just punishment for refusing to do so? Either way, God's plan is enacted as intended.

          • michael

            That's what I described Aquinas saying.

  • michael

    "o determine whether A conforms to B entails knowing both A and B. Just to know A, but not B – and still make any judgment at all about A conforming to B – is obviously impossible." Don't you mean B conforming to A? Otherwise you make no sense. Is "A conforming to B" a typo?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      If two things conform to each other, the order of the terms in a description of that conformity is irrelevant.

  • michael

    When you look at a tree, you don't see it all at once. Try reading a paragraph or book page, and try reading it all at once without moving your eyes. You cannot, everything outside a very narrow field of vision is blurry stuff from your brain doing "guesswork". https://www.cracked.com/blog/5-surprising-ways-your-senses-are-lying-to-you/

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Blurry or clear, you are experiencing some extended sense object all at once.

      • michael

        No, the rest is your brain filling in the details that the receptors in your eyes don't even pick up. that's why sometimes if you see seething move and look away rapidly your brain might put something other than what you just saw in the corner fo your vision, since you didn't have time to process what it actually was.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Read my answer above about the need to pay attention to your actual experience. All your statements about what the brain does is based on science which is based primarily on judgments made from sense experience. I am describing the sense experience accurately when I say it is of wholes. The problem is that often people do not understand the sense in which their experience is of a "whole." If you are experiencing even an extended patch of blurry color all at once, that is experience of a whole in a unified manner. Stop reading books and pay attention to your actual experience. Just now you are seeing your whole computer screen at once. Maybe not all equally clearly, but that is not the point. The point is you see it in some fashion all at once -- as a spatially extended surface.

  • michael

    I don't experience my sense data as a hole My sigh is not my hearing, and comes form a different direction (In front) than my hearing (Which comes from the sides) and both are different from me feeling the keyboard with my fingers or my socks with my feet.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      The very fact that you can describe getting experience from so many diverse sources all at once shows that your experience is wholistic.

      • michael

        No, it means it is composed of parts. And focus more attention to one and you'll get a little less of the others. Your brain does a lot of work filtering out useless background noise that your conscious mind does'nt even notice unless you play it back on a recording.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You are not paying attention to your actual experience of multiple kinds of sense objects simultaneously. Forget about what you "brain" is doing and focus on your actual experience. That is everybody's actual starting point and most certain evidence. If it is not primarily trusted, then no secondary reasoning has any greater or even equal value.

          • michael

            I am experiencing multiple things at once because my material brain has multiple parts with which to sense them.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Do you even realize what you just wrote?

            You said you are "experiencing multiple things at once." That means experiencing a whole, which is what you initially asked about.

            My whole article is an explanation as to why something, like a brain, which is extended in space with many parts outside of parts is unable to account for such unified experience of a whole. You did not ask for this part, but just go read the article and some of my further explanations to others on the thread. I have no intention of repeating myself endlessly.

          • michael

            I did read it. If the brain has multiple parts then it shouldn't have a probable receding data form multiple senses and not being just 1 little pinprick of light at a time. That doesn't prove the soul at all. In fact Thomas Jefferson said that when we think of immaterial things, we think of nothings and that he couldn't think of any way to show otherwise.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you read it, you did not understand it.

            Again, the immediate experience of whole sense objects, especially as simultaneously experienced from multiple diverse senses, shows the unity of sense perception. Extended in space physical organs with parts outside of parts, in which each part "handles" a different part of the data, cannot explain the unity of the wholistic sense experience. Read the article.

            You are still just assuming that somehow the physical complexity of the brain can do what careful logical analysis shows it cannot do. But I doubt you will figure that out, since you say you have already read the article. I have discussed this at length with other commenters and , frankly, don't have time to do it again.

            Thomas Jefferson was good at writing the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. I don't know if he took responsibility for the part that says that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. But, if he did, that "Creator" would appear to be one of those "immaterial things" you tell us Jefferson thought was a "nothing."

          • michael

            Jefferson actually called belief in the supernatural "atheism in disguise".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Perhaps, Jefferson was a better politician than philosopher?

          • michael

            He was a logician, far superior to a philosopher.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you fail to grasp is that one does philosophy before doing logic. That is, we make judgments about reality before we notice what rules we followed in order to make those judgments correctly. Aristotle virtually invented classical logic, but his philosophical insights had to be prior to his elaborating the rules employed to make those insights conform to valid inferences.

          • michael

            Even children find stories such as a man being made from dirt, the whole world coming from just one lone couple (Which DNA has physically proven to be false, the total human population has never dropped below tens of thousands of breeding pairs) a talking snake, a global flood, everything in Exodus, and Herod Antipas being eaten alive by worms to be silly stories.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It would really help if you had a better informed understanding of what you are talking about.

            If God exists, He surely could create man "from the slime of the earth," if He so chose. Even little children would realize that much.

            But that explanation may not be needed, since, in another area where you appear uninformed, recent computer studies show that a population "bottleneck" of just two individuals is possible if you go back more than 500,000 years -- which is compatible with a realistic melding of evolution science, philosophy, and theology. See this:
            https://strangenotions.com/the-scientific-possibility-of-adam-and-eve/

            No one is required to take literally the talking serpent or that the Flood was global. You need to check out some of your alleged "facts."

          • michael

            To say that the flood wasn't worldwide explicitly contradicts both the old and new testaments. And while DNA shows a "Y chromosomal Adam" rose Y chromosomal NDA survives in all men, and a "mitochondrial Eve" who's mitochondria survives one everyone, it DOES NOT show that we all came from one lone couple with nobody else around. It shows the total human population has NEVER dropped below tens out thousands of breeding pairs and that there are other human lineages whose Y chromosomal and mitochondrial trace was wiped out. That does not mean the total breeding population was brought down to just one lone couple, which would inevitably lead to massive birth defects. And philosophy? Philosophy ha nothing to do with genetics.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I should not even bother to reply to you, since you have clearly not read my article in Strange Notions. You are making a lot of very novice mistakes here which I do not intend to take the time to correct. Read my article and then come back if you wish.

            As for the global flood, you are playing amateur Scripture scholar again. From the perspective of Noah, the entire world appeared to be covered with water. That does not preclude a regional flood -- and most competent Scripture scholars concur with what I just said.

          • michael

            Then those scholars ignore common sense, semantics, The New Testament, and that Christians attribute authorship of Genesis to Moses, not Noah. You are embarrassing yourself.

          • michael

            I read that article months ago.

          • michael

            I've read your article on how free will supposedly match sup with sufficient reason multiple times since months ago. It's totally counterintuitive. Writing "But this is a complex issue" near the end fo the article doesn't solve that.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            One of the problems you may be encountering is that that article presupposes a lot of previous metaphysics and other philosophical insights, just to get the article off the ground.

            Moreover, there are several factors that have to be included in the analysis: the role of the will as a secondary cause, God's omnipotence with respect to every creature's acts, how God moves the will to choose the good, the lack of a necessitating sufficient reason why one finite good would be chosen rather than another, the movement of grace in the soul, the natural motion of the will in conforming to God's movement of it toward a good, the fact that a defective act does not need an efficient cause, but only a deficient cause, which is not God, and so forth.

            Complex? You bet!

          • michael

            EVERYTHING needs a sufficient cause. I've heard all that before. There is no such thing as stuff that just, poof, magically happens.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I notice you like to dismiss any religious belief or religiously compatible philosophy without even really doing the work to understand it.

            First, if you knew anything about metaphysics -- which you obviously do not, you would know that we don't say "everything needs a sufficient cause." The correct expression is "everything needs a sufficient reason." A cause is an extrinsic sufficient reason. If a thing is its own reason for being or acting, then it does not need an extrinsic reason or cause.

            Clearly, the exercise of free will entails a complex interaction between God and the human intellectual appetite or will. God must create, sustain, and move the will toward the good that is chosen. But the will has its own proper activity based on the indifference it necessarily has with respect to alternative finite goods as well as its own natural action when moved by God to act.

            When you are willing to do the work needed to investigate this complex interaction, I might take your criticism seriously. But as long as you compare it to "magic," it is evident you are not even taking the time to try to understand it -- thereby not making it worth my time to try to explain it to you.

          • michael

            Look up "supernatural" and "magic" in the dictionary. they are the same thing. And something created (Unlike God, who would be his own explanation for being, just as "A married bachelor cannot exist" is self-explanatory) cannot be its own sufficient reason, since then it would have to exist prior to itself, which is impossible. Therefore the outcome of a choice cannot be its own sufficient reason. That'd be a time paradox. It can't cause itself at the same that it occurs either, side that would be a concurrent time paradox.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Dictionaries tell us how words are used -- sometimes. But I cannot believe you actually rely on a dictionary definition to try to prove supernatural and magic are identical. While authentic magic would entail preternatural powers, that does not mean all supernatural events are mere magic. Do a little more research!

            Of course the outcome of a choice cannot be its own sufficient reason, but the power that produces the choice may still do so freely if that is the nature of its operation. It is not a matter of time, but of nature. By the time the will has made its choice, the choice is determined -- determined by the free will that made the choice. The question is not one of time sequence, but one of whether the intellectual appetite acts without prior determination. If it does, that is the meaning of freedom. The "free choice" is not really free, but rather flows from the will acting without being forced to act this way or that. This does not mean that God does not move the will to make a choice, but he determines that it shall make its choice freely, After the choice is made, of course it is then determined because it was determined by the free act of the will.

            As I said this is complex because many factors are involved. But that does not mean that the will is self-causing either as to its nature or its operation, since God must create and sustain all secondary causes in their being and in their operation. But God wills that the nature of the human will be such that its operations take place freely. The article is still there.

          • michael

            If it is determined by free will instead of by the person, it is not free since it IS determined. Everything in that second paragraph is one inconsistancy after another,.Each sentence in it contradicts the previous one. "A choice's outcome is determined by free will without prior determination". "it is not free because it is determined". But what determines which outcome the will determines? Itself? What accounts for why Itself goes one way instead of another? Itself again and so on? That's the same paradox. There is no sufficient explanation and nothing within time can explain itself.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "If it is determined by free will instead of by the person, it is not free since it IS determined."

            That is plain silly. It is the person determining his own course of action by means of exercising his free will -- not "instead of by the person!"

            I do not deny that the exercise of free will is difficult to understand, but so is relativity theory. That does not mean relativity theory is false.

            Many conditions affect the will as I have said repeatedly. God must create and sustain in existence the will as a faculty of the person. God must sustain the will in its act of choosing freely, and God moves the will to choose by giving it a nature that must seek the good. But finite goods do not so overwhelm the will as to force it to the "greater good," since finite goods always entail both perfection and limitation, and the will can reject any finite good because of its limitation. God sustains the will as a secondary cause which must operate in accord with its own nature by freely determining itself to which good it chooses. I have tried to explain the way this can occur while still respecting both the PSR and human freedom as detailed in my article. I never said it was an easy topic. But, if you read my objections to free will in the earlier part of the article, you will see that they are as forceful as anything you have contrived against genuine freedom. Nonetheless, the will can operate according to its own nature in consonance with God's grace so as to freely choose its object -- while still respecting the principle of sufficient reason.

          • michael

            You should've typed "the person determines the outcome of the choice' instead of "free will determines the outcome".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But the free will DOES determine the outcome. The free choice is not itself actually free, since, by the time you have made the choice, it is done -- and what is done is done.

            Properly speaking it is the free will that determines that choice, and the freedom describes the manner of exercise of the free will as being free in its operation producing its choice. So, what I typed is correct. The free will does determine the outcome, which is called the "free choice." The choice is called "free" because it proceeds from the free exercise of a free power of will.

          • michael

            *buzzzing tv static sound

          • michael

            Human wills are within time and cannot cause their own actions, that would create a time paradox. and even if they did, "itself" is not a sufficient explanation for why one choice is made over another.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There is no time paradox about a human being exercising his free will within time. When we choose does not determine the mode of causality entailed in the act of choosing. If we choose something freely, that is how it is done. Are you presupposing that the prior state of the human must determine his choice? If so, you are merely assuming that the will is not free. It is not the time paradox that is the problem; it is your deterministic assumption that is.

            Again, I readily concede the complexity of the free choice. "itself" is not the total explanation of the choice. You are ignoring other factors I have already introduced, such as God sustaining and moving the will to choose, the radical indeterminacy of the will with respect to two or more finite alternatives, and so forth.

          • michael

            indeterminacy can't explain anything. indeterminacy = brute fact.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You do not understand the meaning of "indeterminacy" here. It certainly has nothing to do with Heisenberg. All it means is that the will is not determined to one finite good compared to another finite good. Hence, it is free to choose either.

            I can choose a cordial or a caramel or no candy at all.

          • michael

            That's exactly what I t through it meant. No Heisenburg reference at all.

          • michael

            No, your environment/appetite force your choice.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is just another instance of you assuming that free will does not exist.

            A mere assertion is not a proof.

          • michael

            No, it is direct everyday experience.

          • michael

            Why does being "Subsistent being itself' make God "That which no greater can be conceived"?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Why are you dragging in here elements of the Ontological Argument -- a proof for God that does not even work?

          • michael

            Edward Feser once used the term in one of his article's criticizing William Paley. He said Paley doesn't describe "that which no greater can be conceived, the I AM of Exodus 3."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Okay. I think I see how you got there.

            Essentially, subsistent being would be the only being which is its own reason for being. This is possible solely if its essence is one with its act of existence. But that would make it essentially existence, without any limit on its existential perfection, since existence would then be received into no limiting potential principle. Bottom line: such a Being would be infinite.

            Since nothing greater than Infinite Being can be conceived, it would make sense to say that such a being is that than which none greater can be conceived.

            I am not trying to support all the steps required to make this line of reasoning impervious to logical attack, but simply trying to show why subsistent being itself would equate to that than which none greater can be conceived.

          • michael

            I can imagine greater; A being that doesn't allow damnation to occur.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I gave you a metaphysical explanation of what was essentially a metaphysical question.

            As to your rhetorical response, I would point out that to know whether your claim is true or not you must know what the nature of the Infinite Being actually requires. Since you do not, you cannot be so sure of your claim. You are saying what you would do if you were God. But you are not God and you do not know what infinite justice demands. Perhaps, failure to allow some very evil beings to send themselves to hell would be evidence of a less than perfect God. Since heaven is eternal union with God, what do you do with those who hate God so much that being with Him would be hell for them?

          • michael

            I'd have never made them in the firs talc or get rid of them.

          • Dennis Bonnette