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Thursday, June 24, 2010

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Good post (old but good, anyway).

I discuss it here. http://ocham.blogspot.com/2010/06/god-and-allah.html

Clearly we can make sense of long narrative structures like the Koran and the Old Testament, and clearly these narratives have the same sense whether or not their subjects (God, Allah) exist or not. We cannot resolve the question of whether God exists by examining the semantics of the Old Testament.

But there are many convincing arguments showing that names are not descriptions. They have a simple signification. 'God' means God, whether or not God exists. Names are not descriptions, they do not signify properties. Ergo, haecceity is a predicate.

On Black's example of the iron spheres (which Gareth Evans also borrowed), Duns Scotus uses the example of sunbeams in a similar context. Sunbeams are all qualitatively identical to our perception, yet each sunbeam is a 'this', different from 'that' sunbeam. There is nothing new in philosophy.

Scotus actually says

...sensus non cognoscit obiectum in quantum est distinctum a quolibet quod non est unum ista unitate numerali; quod patet, quia nullus sensus distinguit hunc radium Solis differre numeraliter ab illo radio, cum tamen sint diversi per motum Solis, si circumscribantur omnia sensibilia communia, puta diversitas loci vel situs; et si ponerentur duo quanta simul omnino per potentiam divinam, quae essent omnino similia et aequalia in albedine et quantitate, visus non distingueret ibi esse duo alba; si tamen cognosceret alterum istorum, in quantum est unum unitate numerali, cognosceret ipsum in quantum distinctum numeraliter a quolibet alio

"...sense does not know an object insofar as it is distinct from whatever is not one by that numerical unity, which is clear, because no sense distinguishes this ray of the sun to differ numerically from that ray, even though they are diverse through the motion of the sun, if all common sensibilia are set aside (such as diversity of place or position). And if two quanta were supposed to be exactly together by divine power, which were entirely similar and equal in whiteness and quantity, sight would not distinguish two white things to be there. If nevertheless it were to know one or the other of those, insofar as it is one by numerical unity, it would know it insofar as [it is] distinct numerically from any other". (Super distinctione III. libri II. sententiarum
quaestio i)

I think haecceities are best construed along the simple, unanalysable lines you mentioned rather than the composite of indentity + Socrates.

One problem it seems to me is that you are moving from

1) I can't see what content haeceities could have that would serve to individuate them,

to

2) So there cannot be any such content.

But the other conclusion you could draw (as I think you realise) is that their content is hidden or somehow cognitively inaccessible.

Against such a coneption you write this: 'But on this suggestion haecceities seem wholly ungraspable or inconceivable or ineffable, and this militates against thinking of them as properties.'

I don't see why this is true. I take it we posit haecceities not because they are present in our experience (although this might be true), but because they perform a useful theoretical function: grounding necessary truths about contingent existents.

There is an analogy with alien properties here (alien properties being natural properties that aren't actually exemplified). Now I don't know what the heck such properties are like, but I believe they exist because I find it an unlikely coincidence that the acutal world should exemplify every possible natural property. I think one can come to believe in haecceities in a similar way.

Also, your claim that haecceities are ungraspable might be challenged. Take two disembodied Cartesian egos with identical mental lives. Intuitively, one is nevertheless aware of something the other isn't: what it is like to be himself. I suppose this awareness could be construed as an awareness of himself as a bare particular, but I don't think it needs to be so construed. It could be taken as an awareness of his haecceity.

Finally, here is another argument for haecceities. If there are none, then prior to the creation of the world it looks like God cannot decide to create you instead of me, since what would serve to individuate me from you could only be bare particulars, and there are none around. So it looks like while God can decide to create people, he doesn't know who he is creating, which seems to detract somewhat from the divine majesty.

Hi Matt,

I seem to recall Plantinga saying something along the same lines. So your suggestion is that Socrateity, e.g., is a simple and unanalyzable property that is "cognitively inaccessible." Accordingly, Socrateity and Platonity differ, but it would be a sort of brute, inexplicable, and ineffable (inexpressible) difference not unlike the bare difference between two bare particulars. I am tempted to say that haecceities are bare particulars transposed to the level of abstract properties.

I am assuming that "properties are made for the mind," that a property that could not be conceived, or a property whose difference from another property could not be conceived, is no property at all. You are not making that assumption. So our difference becomes a dispute over the nature of properties.

Your analogy is not helpful because unexemplifiable properties are easily conceivable. 'Travelling faster than the speed of light' picks out a property that is not exemplified in the actual world. But there is nothing cognitivelyinaccessible or ineffable about it. I just 'effed' it.

I have Plantinga's theory of haecceities in my sights, and I believe his theory of properties is similar to that of Chisholm's according to which "Every property is possibly such that there is someone who conceives it." (The First Person, p. 7)In other words, conceivability is essential to the notion of a property.

So my argument is that on such a theory of properties, there are no haecceity properties.

Matt,

Your second comment also contains some very interesting ideas.

Please note first of all that I am not denying that there are haecceities, or even that haecceities are properties; I am denying that there could be haecceity properties on a Chisholmian-Plantingian theory of properties as necessary abstracta.

As for your two indiscernible disembodied Cartesian egos, you could make it more graphic by adding that if A or B learns that either he or his twin must be destroyed, each will think to himself 'Let it be my twin' but each will be referring to a different ego. So, arguably, there is some sort of primitive unanalyzable awareness of one's thisness and ipseity. But it doesn't follow that there is a property of being A, a haecceity property.

As for your second point, note first that what cannot, logically speaking, be done is also something that God cannot do, and that that fact implies no insult to the divine power or majesty. Since I deny haeecceity properties, I also deny that before a thing comes into existnece, that there is a nonexistent individual that will come into existence. Thus, before Socrates came into existence, there was no individual essence of Socrates that was to come into existence. Socrates' acquisition of existence was also his acquisition of individuality. Before he came on the scene there was no de re possibility that that very philosopher come on the scene; there was only the general possibility that a human being having such and such pure properties come on the scene.

So in deciding between Socrates and Schmocrates, God was not decifing between two fully determinate but nonexistent individual essences.

William writes, >>But there are many convincing arguments showing that names are not descriptions. They have a simple signification. 'God' means God, whether or not God exists.<<

Let us suppose that a name's reference is not routed through, or mediated by, a definite description, but is direct. Still, how could 'God' mean God if God does not exist? If the meaning of a name is identical to its referent -- if the meaning is pure Bedeutung with no Sinn) -- and there is no referent, then there is no meaning either. Nicht wahr?

Bill,

>>I am assuming that "properties are made for the mind," that a property that could not be conceived, or a property whose difference from another property could not be conceived, is no property at all.<<

I think what I argued is compatible with this: I could grant that we human beings can't give content to haecceities, while nevertheless claiming that God can.

Re alien properties: Sorry, I omitted to mention that the alien properties I had in view are supposed to be simple, and 'moving faster that light' looks like a property built up from simpler ones (temporal intervals, distance, etc.) that are actually instantiated. (Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds, pg. 91): "an alien natural property [is] one that is not instantiated by any part of this world, and that is not definable as a conjunctive or structural property built up from constituents that are all instantiated by parts of this world." I think there are such things but I do not claim to know what they are like. But again, I think God will know.

>>So, arguably, there is some sort of primitive unanalyzable awareness of one's thisness and ipseity. But it doesn't follow that there is a property of being A, a haecceity property.<<

I agree. But I introduced the thought experiment as a rebuttal of your claim that we can't give any content to haecceities. So it is open to the haecceity-theorist to claim that our experience of thisness is what gives content to haecceities. He doesn't have to claim that that is the only interpretation of the data. (Presumably we cannot tell just by looking at the experience whether or not it is an experience of a haecceity or a bare particular.)

>>As for your second point, note first that what cannot, logically speaking, be done is also something that God cannot do, and that that fact implies no insult to the divine power or majesty.<<

I don't agree with this. Take the case of open theism: I think we don't just have an intuition to the effect that God is all-knowing, I think we also have a further intuition that God, qua all-knowing being, would know the future. The open theist claim that "Sure, God knows everything it is logically possible for him to know, it just isn't logically possible to know the future." I view as inadequate for that reason.

I'm sceptical of your view on similar grounds. Deciding between Socrates and Schmocrates is something that God cannot do on your view. I take it that Socrates and Schmocrates have identical life histories. But the difference between Socrates and Schmocrates nevertheless strikes me as a massive difference - it's the difference that makes me me and not anyone else! On your view it looks like God cannot decide to create me, merely someone with my life history. That seems to miss out something important.

Matt sez: >>I think what I argued is compatible with this: I could grant that we human beings can't give content to haecceities, while nevertheless claiming that God can.<<

But philosophical problems arise only for us, not for God. Now suppose you have a philosophical problem, say the problem of negative existentials for the solution of which haecceity properties (as defined above) are introduced. If their content is "cognitively inaccessible" to us, then that is just to say that we have not solved our problem. You cannot solve a problemn with a posit that eludes understanding.

You seem to be ignoring what I said above in my second reply to you, second paragraph.

>> how could 'God' mean God if God does not exist?

Well, if 'Helen prayed to Zeus' can be true, or 'Helen said that Zeus would send a messenger', or 'there is no such being as Zeus', why not '"Zeus" means Zeus'?

I.e. does the grammatical predicate 'N means --' have to be satisfied by an existing object. Why? Given that we can easily construct many other predicates that don't require this?

>>Finally, here is another argument for haecceities. If there are none, then prior to the creation of the world it looks like God cannot decide to create you instead of me, since what would serve to individuate me from you could only be bare particulars, and there are none around. So it looks like while God can decide to create people, he doesn't know who he is creating, which seems to detract somewhat from the divine majesty.

An interesting argument.

>>Well, if 'Helen prayed to Zeus' can be true, or 'Helen said that Zeus would send a messenger', or 'there is no such being as Zeus', why not '"Zeus" means Zeus'?<<

Because, for you, meaning is exhausted by reference. Ergo, no referent, no meaning.

Matt's argument is interesting, but easily countered. Before I decide to build a book shelf there needn't be before my mind an haecceity of that very book shelf. That book shelf as an individual does not preexist its construction. But I have to have before my mind some specifications in general terms: a book shelf, made of pine, ten feet tall, etc etc. Now God's conception of what he will create, unlike mine, will be perfectly determinate. But that is not to say that there is an haecceity property before the divine mind. To understand this, you must appreciate that the haecceity properties under discussion here are nonqualitative: they cannot be constructed from multiply exemplifiable properties.

The intuitions we have with respect to the identity conditions of bookshelves are rather different from those we have with respect to persons. It is because of our own introspective experience that we feel pushed to posit a thisness about ourselves, but bookshelves lack such experience.

Accordingly, the argument has most bite in the case of persons. If there are no haecceitites before the divine mind, God can do no more than decide to create someone with my complete, fully determinate, life-history. But that isn't sufficient for a decision to create me. Ergo, God lacks a power we intuitively want to ascribe to him.

Also, I took my third reply fifth paragraph to be a response to your point in your second paragraph. But never mind.

>> Because, for you, meaning is exhausted by reference. Ergo, no referent, no meaning.
No not at all, I would never have said that. That is the direct referentialist view to which I am absolutely opposed. I hold that a proper name signifies a ‘singular concept’. This is a concept which (unlike general or property concepts) corresponds to no existing attribute or property. In the mind alone, a ‘being of reason’. A singular concept corresponds to the individual as conceived, as understood, and is such that (unlike the concept ‘man’) we cannot conceive it as applying to many things. Nor (unlike the concept ‘prime minister of Britain’) can we suppose that it applies to anything other than the same individual.

>> Now God's conception of what he will create, unlike mine, will be perfectly determinate. But that is not to say that there is an haecceity property before the divine mind.

But how can God’s foreknowledge be all-perfect and all-complete, and yet he not know that he is going to create *this* individual? If God thinks ‘I am going to create Socrates’, how can the meaning of ‘Socrates’ in that thought be any different to the thought that people, in seeing Socrates run, think ‘Socrates is running’. If you allow the possibility of singular thoughts, and you allow the possibility of God thinking he will create X, then you have the problem that Matt is talking about.

W,

So you think that there are singular concepts and that names express them whether or not the names have referents. And I take it you think these singular concepts are irreducibly singular: they cannot be analyzed in terms of general concepts. Fine, but then I would modify my arguments against haecceity properties to fit your singular concepts.

You and Matt are not getting my point. Suppose some one said that, because God cannot know false propositions, he is not omniscient. "If he were omniscient, then he would know every proposition!" That would be silly since the inability to know what cannot be known is no argument against divine omniscience.

I am claiming that it is impossible that a thing have an haecceity before it comes into existence. If that is right, then it is no insult to the divine foreknowledge that God cannot know what cannot be known, e.g., Socrates' haecceity before S. exists. God can foreknow that a philosopher will come along who has a shrewish wife, who is fond of dialectic, courageously questions powerful men on ticklish topics, get himself condemned to death, etc. etc. But in knowing this God has no singular concept (in your sense) in his mind. What he has is a general concept in his mind, albeit one that will be instantiated by only one dude.

Before Socrates comes into existence God does not think to himself 'I will create Socrates' for there is no Socrates and no pre-existent individual essence (haecceity, individual concept, singular concept, pick your jargon) before our man comes into existence.

This is a very deep topic and I should write a separate post about it.

Matt comments, "If there are no haecceitites before the divine mind, God can do no more than decide to create someone with my complete, fully determinate, life-history. But that isn't sufficient for a decision to create me. Ergo, God lacks a power we intuitively want to ascribe to him."

I agree with the first two sentences. But the ergo is a non sequitur. You will grant, I hope, that God cannot do just anything, e.g., he cannot actualize a contradictory state of affairs, and that this inability is no slam against the divine omnipotence. Well, I claim that it is BL-impossible that a thing that does not exist, or does not yet exist, has a nonqualitative thisness, an haecceity.

Bill,

I understand your position. You are saying: the power you are claiming God should have is an impossible one [according to my theory], and God cannot have impossible powers. It is then no 'slam' against his omnipotence to say that he lacks this power.

But intuitions don't just get started when we accept a theory, they also (rightly) influence our choice of theory.

P) If Bill's theory is true, then the power I describe is impossible.

You affirm the ante. and I deny the consequent. I deny it because I find it intuitive that God has that power. If he lacks it, he is ignorant in a significant way.

Analogy: suppose someone proposed that presentism & divine timelessness are both true. Arguably, if they are then God cannot know tensed propositions - he cannot know what time it is (what is happening now). It is no good for the proposer to claim "That's no problem. On my account it is logically impossible for God to know what time it is, and so it cannot be an affront to his knowledge or power." This response is inadequate because we find it strongly intuitive that God shouldn't be ignorant of such a significant fact as which moment is the present one. This provides us with a good reason to reject any theory which implies such, and so either or both of the members of the proposed conjunction should be rejected.

PS: Are you keen to reject haecceties because they conflict in some way with divine simplicity? I want to hold to divine simplicity.

>>[Bill] affirm[s] the ante. and I deny the consequent. I deny it because I find it intuitive that God has that power.

Quite! Why exactly is the power impossible? If you believe in the present existence of truthmakers for future events (which I don’t, so this argument is rather a blind alley for me), and if ‘Socrates will run’ it is true before God has created the world, and let ‘now’ be before the creation of the world, it follows that something now makes ‘Socrates will run’ true. If a proper name signifies a haecceity rather than a set of properties, and if a truthmaker includes everything that a proposition signifies to be true, it follows that the truth now of ‘Socrates will run’ requires the present existence of a haecceity.

>>[Bill] I am claiming that it is impossible that a thing have an haecceity before it comes into existence

Well of course it is, for if any x has a haecceity, x exists. The claim is that the haecceity exists (in some sense) before anything ‘has’ it.

Gentlemen,

As we say in the trade, "One man's modus ponens is another man's modu tollens."

>>One man's modus ponens is another man's modu[s] tollens."

Another of those Latin expressions that is difficult to find in the high scholastic literature. What they sometimes said was ‘I deny the consequent’ (nego consequens), and therefore the antecedent. “Consequens est falsum, ergo et antecedens”. Assuming of course that the inference is valid (valet consequentia). For we may deny the consequent and still accept the antecedent, while denying that the consequent follows from the antecedent (non valet consequentia). The Latin neuter ‘consequens’ refers to the consequent, the feminine ‘consequentia’ refers to the whole inference.

Schopenhauer has something on this here http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Controversy#The_Basis_of_All_Dialectic .

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