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Saturday, May 16, 2009

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I tend to think that hylomorphism helps solve SOME interaction issues. Hylomorphism avoids parallelism and the other aforementioned problematic issues. Chiefly, it attempts to avoid a dual-substance doctrine which is thought to undermine substantial unity of a person. Hylomorphism is, at least in my mind, a much more coherent metaphysical account of the human composite person.
On the other hand, hylomorphists, generally, concede that "intellectual affectivity" or "will" is an efficient cause in relation to the body and would thus utilize much of the same argument a stronger dualist might use for interaction (lack of mechanism, etc.). This just goes to show that hylomorphism wasn't created to solve the activity questions, but the existential unification of the mode of activity on a more general level. Thus, Aquinas delineates the formal and efficient question: "But the intellectual soul is united by its very being to the body as a form; and yet it guides and moves the body by its power and virtue." The will immaterially is moved by apprehension of a good in sense appetite and moves the body by its own power to pursue that good. I would personally understand this to be movements in the brain, but that's neither here nor there.

Hi, Bill.

You objected that form is not an agent and so cannot give rise to the efficient causation necessary for the body to operate within spacetime. You also objected that forms are not temporally prior or posterior to the matter they inform, so mental events cannot be related to physical events (i.e., mind-body interaction) as form is to matter. In other words, mind-body interaction requires a temporal context which the form-matter relationship lacks.

In response, I have the following thoughts:

[1] The interaction is the principle of being (form) informing the principle of extension (matter) in a continuous making of substance.

[2] Re your first objection, the rational form of a human being is an agent but what it intends can have no effect within spacetime unless embodied in matter. As a speculative aside, I think there is merit in Wolfgang Smith's application of hylomorphism to quantum mechanics as to how this effect occurs -- i.e., how the agency of the rational form resolves into efficient causation in the body.

[3] Re your second objection, if the union of being and extension is the continuous making of substance, the purpose of which is to give form effect within spacetime, then this constant realization of substance by form and matter puts them in a temporal context. Therefore, if that form is rational, a human soul, then it is an agent whose mental acts translate into physical acts of the body as part and parcel of the ongoing making of the substance called a human being.

Regards,
Bill T

I am afraid I find both of the above comments mostly just gibberish.

>>I tend to think that hylomorphism helps solve SOME interaction issues. Hylomorphism avoids parallelism << There is no interaction on a parallelist approach.

Let me ask a question then, Bill.

Do you agree that, on a hylomorphic view, matter without form lacks the order to give rise to efficient causation? In other words, do only substances, not prime matter, possess the physicality necessary for efficient causation?

Regards,
Bill T

Dr. V.,
"There is no interaction on a parallelist approach." Yes, I know. My point was that hylomorphism isn't, it seems to me, intended to directly solve any interaction issues on the level of efficient causation. Instead, it solves the general metaphysical problem of what a human being is; this is what I mean by solving some interaction issues (indirectly ruling out certain problems which might arise in thinking about interaction, but maybe this is just trivially true). My point being that I think many hylomorphists would agree with the arguments you made against materialist objections and would not substantially differ on the question of efficient causation.

Yours,
StMike


Bill,

Thanks.

I'm not a hylemorhist. (On Mondays.)

Some points.

-- You say: the human soul can't exist on its own, it "... needs matter both to exist and to be individuated."

Cf. Oderberg's "Hylemorphic Dualism" (HD), pp. 93ff, online, where he rather says that the human soul has to be individuated by being embodied in SOME time, not necessarily presently -- which makes the HUMAN soul special.

Why is the human soul special, as opposed to the souls of non-human living organisms?

As G. Klima explains:
"... despite the fact that this one being, the whole human being, is a material substance, if Aquinas's claim that understanding is the act of the soul alone is true, then the form of this being has some act of its own which denominates the whole only through this part to which alone it can belong. But then, since this form has an activity of its own, it is a form which has the being of the whole not only in the sense in which any other form insofar as a form has being, but also in the same sense in which the whole has it. Therefore, it could be destroyed also only in the sense in which the whole is destroyed, namely, by losing its substantial form, but since it is a form, that is precisely the sense in which it cannot be destroyed. Hence, it is incorruptible." Man = Soul + Body, online.

As Aquinas puts it: "If, therefore, there is a form which is a thing that has being, then it is necessary for that form to be incorruptible. For being is not separated from something that has being, except by its form getting separated from it; therefore, if that which has being is the form itself, then it is impossible that being should be separated from it. It is manifest, however, that the principle by which a man understands is a form that has being in itself, and [that it does not have this being] only as that by which something [else] exists. For understanding, as the Philosopher proves in bk. 3. of the De Anima is not an act performed by some bodily organ." (QDA a. 14, co.; transl. by G. Klima.)

Why understanding is the act of the soul alone and the soul has an activity of its own? For conceptual understanding is, in itself, an immaterial activity (though with extrinsic material conditions which are necessary for its normal course) and the principle of immateriality in the material substance (which is a compound of prime matter and form) is the form, not the matter (whereas the soul IS the form). Why conceptual understanding is immaterial? For it is universal (not particular), at least sometimes non-vague and precise, and because conceptual understanding consists in intentional (non-real) reception of forms without necessarily really having (receiving) them (while matter receives forms only really). Cf. Oderberg's HD and E. Feser's The Last Superstition (ch. 3; or The Philosophy of Mind).

Why the soul could perish only by losing substantial form? Why the soul could go out of existence only by separating? Isn't it possible for some entity to go out of existence without being separated? I asked Dr Feser who replied:
"Aquinas's view is that the soul has no natural tendency to go out of existence, so that nothing else in nature can destroy it. Only compounds of form and matter can go out of existence through natural means, because the matter could always in theory lose the form it happens to have at any moment. Rational souls (and angels), being forms without matter, thus have a kind of natural immortality." http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/04/tls-on-radio_21.html

-- You say: "... forms are neither agents nor events." Cf, HD, pp. 96-97, where you are said that your soul (which is a form) exercises your intellectual (conceptual) operation, though it can be also said about you (as opposed to your soul) that you exercise it, too. Klima explains the rationale behind:
"... since the soul is an essential part of this composite substance, any act which belongs to this part alone denominates the whole of which it is a part in accordance with the common rule concerning the denomination of a whole from its part. (In case this "common rule" is not so commonly recognized nowadays as it used to be among medieval logicians dealing with the fallacy of secundum quid et simpliciter, I have to insert a brief explanation here. According to the rule a whole is properly denominated by any attribute of its part which can denominate only the part in question. For example, if Socrates’ hair is blond or curly, then Socrates is properly denominated blond or curly, since the terms ‘blond’ or ‘curly’ can only denominate his hair. By contrast, if his hair is black, Socrates cannot on that account be denominated black, for the attribute ‘black’ could also denominate his whole body. The rule was interpreted as covering all sorts of integral wholes, and was widely used by theologians in explaining what sorts of attributes could apply to Christ on account of his two natures.) Accordingly, if, for example, walking is an action which strictly speaking can only belong to the legs, then we also have to say that, precisely for this reason, when the legs of a person do the walking, then the whole person is walking. (By contrast, if only your arms or legs are swinging, then on that account you cannot be said to be swinging, for that action could belong to the whole of your body as well – for example, if you are hanged; Happy Halloween!) So, if the soul does the thinking, and the soul alone can do it, then, as long as the soul is a part of the whole human being, the whole human being is also denominated by this act. Therefore, if it is true that only the intellective soul thinks and only the intellective soul of a human person can do the thinking, then, since the soul is a part of the human person, indeed, an essential part, it is precisely for this reason that we have to say that the human person thinks, at least, as long as he or she has his or her soul." Reply to D. Burrell, online.

On the other hand, hylemorphists P. Lee and R. George, in their
recent opus on body-self dualism ( http://books.google.cz/books?id=VlUkhrvWwCkC ) sometimes rather suggest that only the whole person (as opposed to the soul), not the soul, is the agent. Maybe they don't know Klima's tradition.

-- There is another, and quite pressing, related difference among different hylomorphists: some say that you can exist apart from your body (Feser, Oderberg), other (Lee, George) that you can't. Cf., e.g., D. Oderberg, HD, p. 96: after my death, "I persist ... as the form that once was the form of the body ..." Lee and George, on the other hand, claim (pp. 66ff and 169) that after your death and before your resurrection you would not and could not exist (not even as a form), though your soul could and would exist. Your soul, existing in you before your death only virtually and really after your death, would be different from you. Here I am not sure that your (or my) non-existence between your death and your resurrection is compatible with NT (Lk 23:43; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23).

Hi Bill,

Do you think the hylomorphist who takes this track is committed to accepting panpsychism? If we accept 1.) "the soul is the form of the human body" it does not necessarily follow that 2.) "everything's form is its soul." Still, if we accept 1.) and deny 2.) some account must be given about why the human form is a soul and other forms are not properly understood as "souls."

V,

You simply ignored the problem I am raising. The problem concerns mental-physical interaction, not immortality, which is a separate topic. Note also that Aristotle, a hylomorphist, does not subscribe to individual immortality.

Don't dump big loads of quotations on my site. Be pithy! Get to the point, assuming you have one.

Spencer,

An interesting question which could be formulated as follows. If the soul is the substantial form of the human body, why aren't the substantial forms of inanimate things souls of them? I suppose a hylomorphist would say: souls are life-principles; inanimate things lack life-principles; ergo, inanimate things lack souls; ergo, their substantial forms are not souls. It seems coherent to say that some forms are souls and some are not.

But if the soul is not merely a life principle but also that which thinks, then I do not understand how a form could be a soul.

Bill T asks, "Do you agree that, on a hylomorphic view, matter without form lacks the order to give rise to efficient causation? In other words, do only substances, not prime matter, possess the physicality necessary for efficient causation?"

Yes, I agree. Matter without form cannot function as an efficient cause.

St Mike writes "My point was that hylomorphism isn't, it seems to me, intended to directly solve any interaction issues on the level of efficient causation. Instead, it solves the general metaphysical problem of what a human being is;"

That's right, but irrelevant to the topic of the post.

Bill,

You wrote:

“If interactionist dualism is true, then there are cases of causation that do not operate by physical contact. One cannot refute this by saying, or implying, that all cases of causation operate by physical contact. At this point I will be told that dualist interaction is unintelligible. But why? If you say that it is because dualist interaction does not fit the physical-physical pattern, then again you beg the question. If you say that every case of causation involves an intervening mechanism, but there isn't one in the dualist case, then you beg the question in a slightly more subtle way. For what the dualist holds is that there are cases of direct causation. It is not clear that all physical-physical causation is indirect, but even if it were, this putative fact is not a reason to think that all cases of causation are indirect.”

I find it unintelligible ( or, rather, incoherent), but not for the reasons you have given.

The problem for me with interactive dualism is that there are no criteria of identity for immaterial substances. (As per our earlier discussion, I am using the term ‘substance’ in the sense of a kind of thing, not a kind of stuff.) I don’t know what counts as an immaterial substance. How can we distinguish one immaterial substance from another or tell whether or not a particular immaterial substance has changed or is still the same?

Until those criteria of identity can be formulated, it seems pointless to me to speculate about causal mechanisms or the differences between direct and indirect causation.

Hal asks, "How can we distinguish one immaterial substance from another or tell whether or not a particular immaterial substance has changed or is still the same?"

It's a fair question. I don't have time now to be very clear or complete, but I would first of all reject the notion that the subject of mental states is an object among objects. Thus I will question your tacit assumption that we need criteria of identity in the case of Cartesian egos, for that seems to presuppose that Cartesians egos are objects among objects. Recall my quotation from Sprigge on the un-object-like nature of the self.

If one takes seriously the irreducibility of the first-person POV, then what makes my immaterial self distinct from yours is the fact that mine is the referent of my tokenings of the first-person singular pronoun 'I' whereas your immaterial self is the referent of your tokenings of 'I.'

Bill,
" I don't have time now to be very clear or complete,"

Fair enough. You've raised some pretty deep issues here. Perhaps I'm being a little pessimistic, but I think if we can just reach a slightly better understanding of each other's respective positions we would be doing very well.


" but I would first of all reject the notion that the subject of mental states is an object among objects. Thus I will question your tacit assumption that we need criteria of identity in the case of Cartesian egos, for that seems to presuppose that Cartesians egos are objects among objects. "

If terms like 'cause' and 'causation' are being used as commonly understood, then I don't see how you can avoid presupposing that a Cartesian ego is some sort of object if it is an individual cause producing effects in the physical realm. Otherwise, it seems to me that you still run into a problem of intelligibility.


"If one takes seriously the irreducibility of the first-person POV, then what makes my immaterial self distinct from yours is the fact that mine is the referent of my tokenings of the first-person singular pronoun 'I' whereas your immaterial self is the referent of your tokenings of 'I.'"

I'm sorry, but that appears to me to be question begging. I think we agree that if you were to use the term 'I' you would be referring to yourself. And that if I used the term 'I' I would be referring to someone else. There are plenty of criteria by which we could identify and differentiate each other.
But we would part company over whether or not it refers to some sort of inner self.

Bill,

OK. Here is a pithy version.

First, you say: the human soul can't exist on its own, without matter, for it "... needs matter both to exist and to be individuated."

Now, cf. Oderberg's "Hylemorphic Dualism" (HD), pp. 93ff, online, where he rather says that the human soul has to be individuated by being embodied in SOME time, not necessarily presently. So, the human soul can exist on its own. (Then I explained why for I supposed you would ask why.)

Second, you say: "... forms are neither agents nor events." Cf., again, HD, pp. 96-97, where you are said that your soul (which is a form) exercises your intellectual (conceptual) operation, though it can be also said about you (as opposed to your soul) that you exercise it, too. (Then I explained why for I supposed you would ask why. I use quotations rather than my own formulations for I have two small children -- hope you get the connection.)

Please, derive yourself the conclusions for your argument (if any) given the assumption that Oderberg is right.

Third, my last para was really unnecessary, though its issue is ultimate.

Bill,

I'm wondering if a criticism of interactionist dualism can be mounted on the other half of the question? I'm thinking here of how "physicalism" is defined - Hempel's Dilemma and the panpsychism question do a good job of illustrating some of what I'd argue. Henry Stapp has made similar criticisms, since he believes that most materialist philosophers (and perhaps philosophers in general) still imagine and model the physical world to operate according to a kind pre-20th century newtonian scheme that he maintains quantum physics has shown to be radically mistaken. So maybe a problem here isn't just specifying what one means by the immaterial, but what is meant by the physical as well?

I think this may be relevant to hylomorphism, since my (amateur) understanding is that Aquinas and Aristotle don't just differ from Cartesian dualists on their understanding of the mind, but of nature as a whole. Even a wholly "physical" system (David S. Oderberg uses the example of the rock cycle in nature) could be given a different explanation by Thomists - one that employs formal and final causes as necessary for a proper explanation, and which rejects a mechanistic materialist view of the world implicitly. So maybe Spencer is on to something when he talks about panpsychism and Thomism/Aristotle - not that T/As are panpsychists, but that they view nature at the ground level in a fundamentally different way than a mechanistic materialist would, even before human minds are brought into the picture.

Bill,

You replied: "Yes, I agree. Matter without form cannot function as an efficient cause."

If so, then necessary to efficient causation by a substance is a formal cause. I propose that:

[1] Every chain of efficient causation originates with a formal cause;

[2] The form of the human substance possesses agency;

[3] The mental-physical interaction occurs when form orders matter into the necessary arrangement of substance for its intention to have physical effect;

[4] The brain is the organ of this interaction because it is its matter that form orders into a substance that translates its intention into a chain of efficient causation;

[5] An intention of the human form, the origin of each efficient cause of its human substance, is privatively causa sui;

[6] Which explains why giving an intention effect is experienced as libertarian free will.

From this I understand how the human form -- the soul -- is not a mechanism but categorically different from the physical, why I experience free will as I do, and, with my limited capacity for self-cause, how God made me in His image. There is much I need to work out on this yet (an argument for instance), but I just don't see the interaction hole in hylomorphism you do, Bill. Does the difference lie in assigning agency to the human form? Please advise.

Regards,
Bill T

Hal,

My point was that a dualist would take the referent of 'I' to be a Cartesian ego. I get a whiff of Wittgenstein from what you say. Is that where you are coming from?

Bill,

Yes, your smell detector is working correctly. I do share the Wittgensteinian view that the mind is not an entity or object. Nor is it an agent with causal powers. Nor is it to be identified with the self.

Of course this conception of the mind is quite distinct from the dualist's conception. Or, for that matter, the physicalist's conception. Although, I think most physicalist's are really dualists - they've replaced the mind/body dualism with a brain/body dualism.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding you. But your point about the subject of consciousness not being an object among objects strikes me as bearing at least a slight resemblance to the view that the mind is not an entity.

Bill,

Perhaps there is a sense in which a formal cause can also be an efficient cause? Think of the software running on a digital computer equipped with sensors and actuators comprising a robot. I think we can fairly say that the program, considered as an abstract computation linking sensory inputs to motor outputs, is the 'organising principle' of the robot's behaviour, and thus its formal cause. But this formal cause is instantiated or embodied into patterns of charge distributed over the computer's memory. Changes in charge patterns in specific locations in the memory ('control registers') cause changes in the actuators that drive the robot's limbs. So the embodied program is the efficient cause of the robot's behaviour. Similarly, changes in the sensors are reflected in changes to charge patterns in other memory locations ('input registers'). So there is two-way causation between the embodied program and the robotic body. The formal cause and the efficient cause may not be identical---one is abstract, the other physical---but they are isomorphic, and the efficient cause is the embodiment of the formal cause.

V,

Again you are ignoring the issue, which is mental causation not immortality. That's a separate problem.

Hal,

Have you read Arthur W. Collins, *The Nature of Mental Things*?

Bill,
Yes. I did. Still have a copy of that book.
I thought it was very good. It is too bad it is no longer in print. Even if one disagrees with his views, he at least has the virtue of writing clearly and concisely.

But the book that originally kickstarted my move away from physicalism was Bede Rundle's "Mind in Action".

Have you read John Dupre's "The Disorder of Things"?

Bill,

I don't understand.

I've reacted directly to your two sentences which I CITED.

Maybe they are irrelevant or not central to the issue; but they ARE in the thread. Isn't that enough for a comment?

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