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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

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If change is evident to the senses, and change is nothing other than the reduction of some potency to act, then the reduction of some potency to act is evident to the senses.

The comments of Parsons and Beversluis don't sit well with me. It seems to me that they're trying to convince people of their position by saying, "Disagreeing with me on this topic is so absurd that I'm not even going to talk about it anymore. It's so crazy that it's not even worthy of being responded to." And that strikes me as an attempt, not to argue, but to get people to agree with them by tactics other than reason. It looks like an attempt to bypass people's reason and bully them into acquiescence. This coming when atheism is becoming less and less popular among philosophers. And of course it leaves them the room to come out of retirement to rebut an especially pernicious argument for theism, i.e. an argument that is convincing a lot of people.

Bill says:

"But I pointed out that it is not evident to the senses that the actualization of potency is a real feature of the world. That change is the reduction of potency to act is a theoretical claim that goes beyond what is given to sense perception."

That is an intellectually unrespectable position. If you knew the meanings of the terms "potency" and "act," their existence and necessary relationship would be self-evident.

Goege R,

You, sir, are an idiot. And disrespectful to boot. Not to mention confused. You speak of the meanings of 'potency' and 'act' and then you confuse them with that in the world to which they refer.

E . R. writes >>If change is evident to the senses, and change is nothing other than the reduction of some potency to act, then the reduction of some potency to act is evident to the senses.<<

You are missing the point, which is that it is not evident to the senses that change is the reduction of potency to act.

"If change is evident to the senses, and change is nothing other than the reduction of some potency to act, then the reduction of some potency to act is evident to the senses."

(i) This isn't exactly the topic of the post.

(ii) Consider this counterexample. If the motion of my arm is evident to the senses, and the motion of my arm is nothing other than the firing of neurons in my brain and a long, complex physiological process taking place, than that my neurons are firing and a long, complex physiological complex is taking place is evident to the senses. Or, if the motion of my arm is evident to the senses, and the motion of my arm is nothing other God's causing me to be in certain mental states over a period of time, then that God is causing me to be in certain mental states over a period of time is evident to the senses.

What I found interesting is the authors John Beversluis cites as those he is tired or trying to convince. I have nothing against Peter Kreeft or others like him, but there are other philosophers who work, I think, is much more rigorous. The most notable example is Bill Craig. Though we come from two different places philosophically, I think is work on the kalam is outstanding and is not easily dismissed. The same can be said of David Oderberg's articles showing why Oppy has not succeeded in dismantling Craig's basic argument. The arguments presented by Craig and Oderberg are not the popular versions presented by Kreeft and others. I guess I'm Just very surprised by these ex-philosophers of religion.

Please forgive my typos in the above post. I still find it difficult to write lengthy comments on an iPhone.

Steven,

As for your point (i), it is interesting how so many will ignore the main point of a post and seize upon some detail.

As for (ii), you are exactly right. Examples are easily multiplied. That there is water is evident to the senses. But Water is H2O. Should we conclude that it is evident to the senses that there are H2O molecules?

What the two dogmatic Thomists who showed up here do not understand is that the pre-analytic fact of change can be analyzed in different ways. That change is the reduction of potency to act is only one way.

Lamar,

I agree with you. There is quite a bit of difference between Peter Kreeft and W . L. Craig when it comes to philosophical rigor and sophistication.

I did not realize that I was a dogmatic Thomist for asking a simple question, please forgive me for asking a philosophical question on your philosophy blog.

I would also ask forgiveness for asking a question not relevant to the main point of the post, but the dogmatic Thomist Edward Feser's comment made me think about it and therefore ask you what you thought about it. It is puzzling why you would become so defensive over this. I thought I was being respectful. For my part, I agree with the main point of your post wholeheartedly.

Actually Steve, your counter-example is exactly why I asked my question. I was unclear about what, precisely, is evident to the senses and what is not. Using you example, we can say that the motion of my arm is nothing but a change. Should we then say that change itself is not evident to the senses?

E.R. Bourne said: "Actually Steve, your counter-example is exactly why I asked my question. I was unclear about what, precisely, is evident to the senses and what is not. Using you example, we can say that the motion of my arm is nothing but a change. Should we then say that change itself is not evident to the senses?"

(i) I don't know how to distinguish between what is evident to the senses and what isn't; I was just pointing out that your inference was invalid.

(ii) Suppose I grant that if motion of my hand is evident to the senses, and that motion of my hand is nothing but a change, then change is evident to the senses. I need not hold that this inference is universally valid. There may be instances in which reasoning from the properties of the part to the properties of the whole isn't obviously fallacious or yields false conclusions (for instance, if every part of my shirt is red, then the whole shirt is red), but that does nothing to show the inference rule is universally valid.

E.R.,

You didn't ask a question, you made a statement. (Scroll up to the top of the thread and see for yourself.) I would like to think you appreciate the difference, but perhaps you don't.

Steve, I was not arguing that it was universally valid, since, as you admit, it need not be for particular instances to be true.

Also, I did make a statement, but it was still a question in the sense that it was submitted to your blog for good faith criticism. If you think it is wrong then just say so. It is rude to lump me in with a man you called an idiot and then imply that I am thread jacking out of some ideological zeal for "dogmatic Thomism." Whether my post ended with a question mark or not is irrelevant to my point, namely, that you were being unnecessarily strident. Your insult at the end of your last statement just shows that I was right.

E.R. Bourne said: "Steve, I was not arguing that it was universally valid, since, as you admit, it need not be for particular instances to be true."

Undoubtedly, however, that instances of reduction of potency to act are evident to the senses is false, which was your original statement! Now I'm not sure what you mean to be asking!

If your whole question is: what is evident to the senses and what isn't?, then my answer is: I don't know where to draw the line. I suppose I am a particularist about this sort of thing--some things are, and some things aren't, and we just have to decide on a case-by-case basis. Thomist metaphysics, however, is arguably no more evident to the senses than Berkeleyan idealist metaphysics is.

I think BV might say the same thing.

Steven,

I like your reference to Berkeley. Berkeley may be wrong about the external world, but if he is, it is not evident to the senses that he is. Kicking a stone barefooted will cause you pain whether or not Berkeley's metaphysics is true.

Another example. Suppose that inherent in a wine glass is the disposition to shatter if suitably struck or dropped. Can I prove that there is that disposition by dropping the wine glass and observing its shattering? The shattering is evident to the senses, but that the shattering is the exercise or realization of a disposition is not evident to the senses. That is not to say that there aren't reasonable arguments for the positing of dispositions.

E. R.,

If you had written your comment as follows then I wouldn't have lumped you in with the cyberpunks and those with whom it is a waste of time to converse.

"While I agree with the main point of your post, I am puzzled by what you say about potency and act. It seems to me that the following argument is sound:
1. Change is evident to the senses
2. Change is the reduction of potency to act
Therefore
3. The reduction of potency to act is evident to the senses.

Why doesn't this refute what you said?"

Had you approached me like that, then I would have spent time explaining things to you, as I am doing now.

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