« Saturday Night at the Oldies: Halloween | Main | The Halloween Dance »

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

What Thomas treats briefly in De Ente is treated at length by Avicenna in 5.1-2 of his Metaphysics of the Shi'fa.

I think you're finding the claim unintelligible because you are, quite understandably, wanting to "place" the absolutely considered nature somewhere. If it isn't existing in the singular, or in the mind, then where is it!?

Well, the simple answer is that it isn't anywhere, because it neither is nor is not; it's an object of consideration, and thus related to the concept whereby it is known, but precisely as an object of consideration it "abstrahit a quolibet esse." This is what it means to be an absolute consideration; we consider the thing apart not only from its categorical accidents, but also from its predicable accidents, including any existential predicates.

The information content of a book is one in a transcendental sense (i.e., undivided); but neither one nor many in its quiddity, i.e., absolutely considered, with respect to number.

Q1 I think Gyula's explanation rather confuses the meaning of the passage it is trying to explain. Aquinas says "Therefore, the nature of man considered absolutely abstracts from every existence, though it does not exclude any." (Ergo patet quod natura hominis absolute considerata abstrahit a quolibet esse, ita tamen quod non fiat praecisio alicuius eorum). The context makes it clear that he does not mean that the common nature has no mode of esse or existence. Rather, it does not have a mode of singular existence. Nor does it have a mode of non-singular existence! " Hence, if it is asked whether this nature, considered in this way, can be said to be one or many, we should concede neither alternative, for both are beyond the concept of humanity, and either may befall the conception of man. If plurality were in the concept of this nature, it could never be one, but nevertheless it is one as it exists in Socrates. Similarly, if unity were in the notion of this nature, then it would be one and the same in Socrates and Plato, and it could not be made many in the many individuals."

Scotus (and Ockham) had more to say about this, as we know. Scotus says that the common nature has a 'less than numerical being'.

Q2 " How can a nature be common and yet not in some sense universal? " Aquinas says that "unity and commonality are in the notion (de ratione) of a universal, and neither of these pertains to human nature considered absolutely. For if commonality were in the concept (de intellectu) of man, then in whatever humanity were found, there would be found commonality, and this is false, because no commonality is found in Socrates, but rather whatever is in him is individuated". This seems self-explanatory.

Q3 " How can a common nature be neither one nor many?" Well, horseness is horseness. Equinitas est tantum equinitas, et non est de se nec una nec multa nec universale nec singulare. Is water one? Is redness one thing? Whatever a mass term signifies is neither one nor many, yet it is something, for all that.

Ed,

Who are you quoting?

In any case, it is not clear what you are driving at. One thing is clear: a common nature is not barred from existence in the mind or existence in things. But that is not to say that the common nature, taken absolutely, has a mode of being.

So what are you saying, Ed?

>>Whatever a mass term signifies is neither one nor many, yet it is something, for all that.<<

That's very interesting, but I am not sure it has anything to do with Aquinas.

If I say that there is too much water in this pot, I am referring to a portion of water, which is one not many. You don't have any furnitures in your house, but you have furniture. Your furniture is one, not many.

There are, I admit, some tricky questions here, but I am not sure they are on-topic.

Kemple,

Thanks for the comment. It is not a question of where, since 'where' is a spatial word. Note also that the 'in' in 'in the mind' is not to be taken spatially. Nor is the 'in' in 'in Socrates.' Note further that these two nonspatial senses of 'in' are distinct from each other. I once cataloged about a dozen different senses of 'in.'

So you haven't solved my problem.

To offer a simplistic solution to your problem:

Aquinas gets his theory more or less from Aristotle. For Aristotle, forms (which gets turned into the notion of essence or quiddity in Thomism) have multiple embodiments. He rails against Plato for saying each form has only one embodiment, for it is plain that the form of table is embodied in many different tables.

To get to the root of the matter, you say that "So considered, the common nature has no mode of esse or existence. Having no mode of existence, the common nature does not exist."

For Aristotle, and likely Aquinas as well, this is not a problem because forms have existence as "knowledges" in your mind. So, when you abstract essence from existence, the essence doesn't disappear because the pure form exists in the intelligible structure apprehended by your mind. Forms are immanent (have active existence) in the objects of which they are the forms, and they have seperable mind-dependent existence in the knowledges of he who contemplates them.

>> Who are you quoting?

Thomas Aquinas, in De Ente et Essentia.

>>So what are you saying, Ed?

I am saying that Aquinas does not mean that the common nature has no mode of esse or existence, and I give this passage (of his) again as evidence:

"Hence, if it is asked whether this nature, considered in this way, can be said to be one or many, we should concede neither alternative, for both are beyond the concept (intellectum) of humanity, and either may befall [i.e. be an accident of] the conception of man. If plurality were in the concept (de intellectu) of this nature, it could never be one, but nevertheless it is one as it exists in Socrates. Similarly, if unity were in the notion (de ratione) of this nature, then it would be one and the same in Socrates and Plato, and it could not be made many (plurificari) in the many individuals."*

He is saying that its mode of existence is neither singular or plural, i.e. in the way that the mode of existence of one man is singular, and the mode of existence of several men is plural. Does the analogy with ‘water’ not hold here? Water can exist as a single drop, and as a single drop it is one, just as humanity is one as it exists in Socrates. But water insofar as it is water does not exist as a single drop, nor as several drops. Water is just water.

I'm sorry, Ed, but you are just wrong about this.

"So, a common nature or essence according to its absolute consideration abstracts from all existence, both in the singulars and in the mind."

Note that the abstraction is from ALL existence, both the existence in singulars and the existence in the mind. The common nature, taken absolutely, has no mode of existence.

This is very important because it is what allows the Thomist theory of intentionality to work. Explanation here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/03/geach-on-the-real-distinction-ii-the-argument-from-intentionality.html

>>I'm sorry, Ed, but you are just wrong about this.

Hmm I've read the passage carefully again, and I'm afraid you may be right. The Latin phrase translated by 'by all existence' is 'de quolibet esse' not 'de quolibet ente'. ('Ens' is an entity, 'esse' is 'being').

But then, as you say, we are left with the incoherent proposal that the common nature abstracts from all being and thus doesn't have being, and yet is something.

Or are we misunderstanding the expression 'abstracts from all being' (abstrahit a quolibet esse)? Note he also says 'the common nature absolutely considered'. He says earlier "The nature, however, or the essence thus understood can be considered in two ways. First, we can consider it according to its proper notion (secundum rationem propriam), and this is to consider it absolutely". Secundum rationem propriam is difficult to translate – is a ratio a concept, a definition, a 'reckoning' or 'account' or something else? Perhap he is saying something along the lines of what Hume (?) says, i.e. that the idea of existence adds nothing to our idea of a man. But then there is a confusion going on. To say that the definition of a man does not include the existence of any man does not mean that the definition itself does not exist. So if the 'common nature absolutely considered' is something like a definition or ratio, the fact that it 'abstracts from all being' does not mean that it does not exist.

In summary, is the inference below valid?

(1) The common nature, absolutely considered, abstracts from all being

(2) Therefore, The common nature, absolutely considered, does not have existence ?

I'll look at the Geach later.

Ed,

Certainly the definition of 'man' exists. But this is consistent with the common nature -- humanity -- having no being when taken absolutely. 'Taken absolutely' means taken apart from existence and from accidents. Thus the humanity of Socrates, taken absolutely, does not include his existence or his snubnosedness, his being married to Xanthippe, etc.

The problem Aquinas has is that he cannot say that common natures are mere products of abstraction, where abstraction is something we do. For then he would be saying that common natures have a merely mental existence. He cannot say that because his fundamental thought is that common natures are 'amphibious' as between mind and matter. In other words, the common nature, in itself, is neither in the mind nor in material singulars.

This is how he solves the problem of intentonality. What makes my thought of a cat a thought of or about a cat is the fact that one and the same common nature, felinity, exists in two different modes. The felinity that exists in the cat in the mode of esse naturale also exists in my mind in the mode of esse intentionale. This solves the 'gap' problem. There is no gap.

Now I have no problem with the notion that there are different modes of esse -- although you ought to if you are a thin theorist -- but I do have a problem with Thomas' Meinongian commitment to a doctrine of Aussersein -- to put it anachronistically.

Is the product of abstraction only a mental existent? Consider "Socrates is running, but Socrates, insofar as he is a man, is not running". Is the subject "Socrates, insofar as he is a man" a mental existent? It is clearly the product of abstraction (it 'abstracts from' running).

Ed,

I don't think we need to go onto this side track. But shouldn't you say that Socrates, insofar as he is a man, is neither running nor not running? But then 'Socrates insofar as he is a man' picks out an incomplete object, one that violates the property form of the Law of Excluded Middle. Do you want to say that?

My point above is that a common nature, taken aboslutely, cannot be a merely mental object.

Ed,

Perhaps Aquinas could be defended as follows. When he says that the CN, taken absolutely, abstracts from all existence, he does not exclude the CN's disjunctive existence. Accordingly, the CN needn't exist mentally, nor materially, but it must exist in one or the other way (or both). For example, felinity can exist in cats if there are no minds, or in minds if there are no cats (the universal cat exterminator, Dr Bradley, goes on a rampage) but must exist in one or the other waqy or both, and so cannot be what it is without some existential realization.

That would solve our problem, right?

But that would imply that before there were cat and minds, felinity was just nothing. And similarly in possible worlds in which at no time are there cats or minds.

I doubt that Aquinas would swallow this consequence.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 10/2008

Categories

Categories

August 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31            
Blog powered by Typepad