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Friday, May 30, 2014

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Bill,

If one is a Thomist-animalist holding that the animal is a soul-body compound, wouldn't that (prima facie) get around the unity of consciousness/intentionality objection? As well, perhaps I could exist as a bodily-animal and (upon dying) as (merely) a soul. One could then hold (a) by embracing relative identity. (Or maybe one could hold that being an animal is like being a teenager--it's a stage in one's existence but it's not essential to always be in that stage. I'm identical with the animal in the chair as well as the teenager in the chair.)

But then [on the animalist view] the only diachronic continuity as between the live body and the corpse is prime (not proximate) matter.

One could also hold that there are no corpses; perhaps "corpse" doesn't pick out a substance. Same thing with my "body". There is me existing as a material animal and then--upon dying--either me not existing, or existing as an immaterial animal, or me existing as an immaterial non-animal (in this last case I wouldn't be a rational animal essentially).

Thanks, Tully.

>>If one is a Thomist-animalist holding that the animal is a soul-body compound, wouldn't that (prima facie) get around the unity of consciousness/intentionality objection?<<

Are you suggesting that if the thinking animal is a unity of form (soul) and matter (body), that this unity suffices for the unity of consciousness? If you are, then I don't understand.

For one thing, if something material thinks when I think, this material thing is not my entire body but a proper part thereof, the best candidate being my brain. But thinking (in the broad Cartesian sense) often involves synthesis. I see a bird on a branch; I hear it tweet. The unified perception involves the synthesis of visual and auditory data. As explained above the unity of consciousness cannot be located in the brain due to the partite nature of the brain.

Bill,

No, I'm not suggesting that that unity suffices for the unity of consciousness.

As I'm sure you know, Aquinas (e.g.) holds that Socrates is an animal. But Socrates has an immaterial soul; the intellect is also immaterial. The activity of the intellect isn't activity of the brain.

It sounds like you're assuming that animalists must be full-on materialists about human persons. There are some (Aristotelians,Thomists,etc.) who hold that a human person is an animal (at least for part of its existence) but that animal has an immaterial intellect.

Of course, there may be plenty of problems with such a view, but I'm having trouble seeing how your particular objection applies.

So here is my question: why couldn't an animalist hold that one is an animal but that no material part grounds consciousness/intentionality?

Tully,

Your question is a good one. I think I have an answer but it would take a separate post to develop it. But for now I will concede this much to you: it does not straightaway follow from animalism that one must be a materialist about human persons.

Dear Bill,

Thanks very much for the discussion of my paper! Here's an effort at a reply. I'm not sure how coherent it is, though I've done my best to try to make it make sense. (Sense-making, for me, is generally a very long-term matter, involving many layers of edits. That's one of the main reasons--along with sheer technical incompetence--that I do not have a blog of my own.) On previewing the post, I see that my painstaking attempts at marking out quotations, and adding italics and such, have failed. I hope it remains somewhat readable.

[quote]…I don't see that (c) is 'nutty' and I don't see that (a) is "positively common-sensical." Common sense has nothing to say about abstruse metaphysical topics such as this one.[/quote]

Guilty. That was an abuse of the term “common sense.” I won’t try to offer an apologia for that abuse here, since it would take us off the more substantive issues.

[quote] One question is whether, assuming that I am just this living animal body, my dying is an accidental change or a substantial change. […] What this suggests is that dying is an accidental change, not a substantial change. It is an accidental change in the proximate matter of a human body. But if so, then the Corpse Objection holds and animalism is untenable.[/quote]

If death is an accidental change, then (as you point out in some of the text I’ve snipped) that implies that the same body can exist at one time as alive, and at another time as dead. If so, then I wonder if you believe in substantial change at all. If [i]death[/i] doesn’t make the cut, then what [i]would[/i] count as a substantial change?

Your brief remarks (again, including some I’ve snipped) suggest that you’re taking ‘body’ to mean something like ‘parcel of proximate matter.’ Is that correct? If so, what is its relationship to the animal that matter constitutes/composes/is? It sounds to me like you’re saying the relationship is one of numerical identity. But then, the animal currently in my chair shares no matter whatsoever with the animal born lo these many years ago of this animal’s mother, dubbed with this animal’s name, etc. So the proximate matter here now shares no matter with the proximate matter that was present when I was born (I use “I” for convenience’s sake here, and don’t mean to load it with any metaphysical significance). Are those parcels of proximate matter nevertheless numerically identical? Given the transitivity of identity, I take it you can see how my concern here shapes up.

Let me change the case a bit. I apologize for the gruesomeness of the example to follow, but the material at hand seems to demand this sort of thing. So imagine a human animal executed via hanging. This leaves a corpse that is more or less intact. And on your view, I take it, that corpse (or the matter that composes it?—either way, I’ll call this “The Matter”) is identical with the animal that died via hanging. Now imagine the corpse is quartered. No one of these pieces, obviously, is numerically identical with The Matter. Are they all, taken together, identical with The Matter?

(a) Yes. If so, then I wonder whether you believe in substantial change at all. (Or, at least, do you believe in substantial change in the material world at all?) And if you don’t believe in substantial change in the material world, then I think you have no motivation for asserting that The Matter is a substance. You’d be better off either accepting radical atomism, or else accepting monism (again, just at the level of matter, along Cartesian lines). Either way, I would think you’d lose the ability to take any shots at the notion of prime matter on the grounds that it is a very questionable posit! :-)

(b) No. But if not, then I would pose for you the problem you posed for me: what makes these pieces of matter parts of The Matter? Imagine two animals hanged, drawn and quartered this same day. Some of the resulting chunks presumably have some continuity with The Matter, and some have continuity with the other animal’s matter. But which?

I think you can avoid facing your own objection simply by saying the parcels are marked out in virtue of their parts. So one of the final parcels belonged to The Matter in virtue of that final parcel having atomic parts A,B, C and D—where The Matter also had atomic parts A, B, C and D. But another of the final parts did not belong to The Matter, because that final part has atomic parts E, F, G and H, while The Matter had none of these parts. Etc. But if you avail yourself of this, then this seems to lead straight back to the trouble I mentioned earlier about transitivity of identity. If a particular parcel of matter is individuated through the identity of its constituent parts, then the parcel of matter here in my chair now is simply not identical with the parcel of matter that composed this animal ten years ago. (Or five minutes ago, for that matter.)

So although I’m afraid that was rather unclear, my first response is to simply say things are tough all over. There are no easy solutions to these matters, and even if it’s granted that your first question about hylemorphic animalism leads to difficulties, I think the same is true no matter what view on human beings one turns to.

But, with that said, I don’t think there’s a particular problem with your first question. What makes it the case that my corpse is my corpse, and not someone else’s? Continuity of matter. Your challenge seems to suppose that since my corpse’s continuity with me is based solely on continuity of prime matter, that this leads to trouble: your corpse’s continuity with you is also based merely on continuity of prime matter, and hence we’d have no way to distinguish the two corpses (not epistemologically, perhaps, but metaphysically). Am I understanding the objection right? If so, I just deny the fundamental supposition. There is at least this difference: the matter in question is [i]designated[/i] matter, and I don’t share that matter with you. Yes, in order to get this view to work out one would need to buy into the whole Thomistic notion of matter and form. I do. That’s the main difference between hylemorphic animalism and latter-day animalism. I’ve tried to make the benefits of hylemorphic animalism over latter-day animalism clear, precisely because the need to accept form and matter is generally seen as, shall we say, a liability. But if form and matter make themselves philosophically invaluable, then this liability is overcome.

[quote]My second main question concerns how animalism is compatible with such phenomena as the unity of consciousness and intentionality. On animalism I am just a living human animal. The thinker of my thoughts is this hairy critter occupying my blogging chair. Is it the whole of me that is the [i]res cogitans[/i]? Or only a proper part of me? Presumably the latter. If an animal thinks, then presumably it thinks in virtue of its brain thinking.[/quote]

Nope, it’s the whole of me, and don’t forget that this whole includes the [i]morphe[/i]—in this case, the rational soul. Some objections from David Hershenov led me to see that I was too quick on this issue in “Hylemorphic Animalism,” and I revisited the material in a piece in the Modern Schoolman called “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Too Many Thinkers,” where I stressed the point that thinking really is a unitary act of the organism, and not the action of the soul (or, for that matter, of the brain). In fact, latter-day animalists such as Olson simply deny that there is such a thing as a brain, in part because they want to avoid precisely what you suggest here: that it’s the brain that’s doing my thinking. If it’s the brain that does my thinking, then by all modern Lockean standards, I [i]am[/i] the brain. Which animalists, of course, reject. Therefore, etc. (Olson points out—and this is important—that the denial of the existence of brains is not some desperate ad hoc maneuver, but is independently motivated along well-known lines as developed by Peter van Inwagen and my Master, Trenton Merricks. I would also point out that hylemorphic animalists [i]do[/i] believe in the existence of brains, which is another lovely advantage of hylemorphism over latter-day animalism.)

The unity of consciousness business is addressed by Aristotle and St. Thomas by way of the vis cogitativa (or in non-human animals, the vis aestimativa), and I will confess to not having done any real thinking about it. (Although in “Emergent Substance,” one of my arguments in favor of my view is that it solves the unity of consciousness problem, at least as that problem is presented by Hasker.) One of the most serious weaknesses in my published work to this date is that I’ve never addressed such fundamental matters as, say, the nature of the soul. To this point, I’ve simply tried to present a kind of basic defense of the Thomistic metaphysic, within the context of contemporary analytic philosophy. I’ve had no reason to delve too deeply into the details of the view, since I’ve been so occupied with just trying to give some reasons for people to take the view seriously enough to maybe start to care a little bit about the details. However, I think I’ve now done more or less all I can do along those lines. And I’ve just gone on leave, during which I mean to write a book on hylemorphism, wherein I plan to address such fundamental questions. I pray it will be a fruitful endeavor, and I thank you for the stimulating questions!

Patrick,

Thanks for the detailed response. You realize, of course, that my post was merely an attempt to work my way into your paper and understand the issues. My remarks were more questions than criticisms. You know this subject much better than I do.

>>If death is an accidental change, then (as you point out in some of the text I’ve snipped) that implies that the same body can exist at one time as alive, and at another time as dead. If so, then I wonder if you believe in substantial change at all. If [i]death[/i] doesn’t make the cut, then what [i]would[/i] count as a substantial change?<<

Well, annihilation would count as substantial change and so would creation ex nihilo (exnihilation) even if an animal's being born and dying did not. I am pretty sure a scholastic would agree with what I just wrote, though a scholastic would insist that being born and dying are substantial changes.

The problem of change is insanely difficult as I'm sure you would agree. Prima facie there are existential changes and alterational changes. Making coffee versus the coffee that's been made cooling.
But working out the details of a theory of change is not easy.

I was arguing for a very modest proposition, namely, that (a) is not obviously preferable to (c), and together with that, that the Corpse Objection is not obviously mistaken.

(c) is not "nutty" and if we consult common sense it won't help us decide between (a) and (c). So I think we agree since you conceded this point.

Is it reasonable for you to be a hylomorphic animalist? I would say yes, just as it is reasonable for me to have serious doubts about it.

On the question of common sense, I have heard it said by prominent presentists that presentism is the common sense position, where presentism, roughtly, is the view that the present alone exists. More precisely, abstract objects apart, only that which is temporally present exists: past and future times and events and individuals wholly at those times do not exist at all.

Now while presentism is plausible, the claim that it is common sense strikes me as preposterous. For it implies that wholly past individuals and events do not exist at all, that Kierkegaard's break-up with Regine Olsen and his marriage to her are equally unreal.

More later.

Patrick writes,

>>But, with that said, I don’t think there’s a particular problem with your first question. What makes it the case that my corpse is my corpse, and not someone else’s? Continuity of matter. Your challenge seems to suppose that since my corpse’s continuity with me is based solely on continuity of prime matter, that this leads to trouble: your corpse’s continuity with you is also based merely on continuity of prime matter, and hence we’d have no way to distinguish the two corpses (not epistemologically, perhaps, but metaphysically). Am I understanding the objection right? If so, I just deny the fundamental supposition. There is at least this difference: the matter in question is [i]designated[/i] matter, and I don’t share that matter with you.<<

I think one of us is laboring under a serious misunderstanding of Aristotelian-scholastic doctrine. It could easily be me. I don't claim to be an expert in A-S doctrine. But I have assiduously studied quite a lot of it. Would you count Ed Feser as an expert? In his latest book, *Scholastic Metaphysics,* he explains the matter as follows. I will paraphrase closely rather than quote exactly.

Hylomorphism is necessary if we are to account for the reality of change. There are two kinds of change, substantial and accidental, corresponding to the difference between substantial and accidental forms. There is substantial change where there is generation and corruption. In both kinds of change there is an underlying matter. Prime matter underlies substantial change; secondary matter underlies accidental change. Prime matter is matter lacking both substantial forms and accidental forms. It is indeterminate, the pure potency for form. Now the money quote: "It is the subject of substantial change."

Now this seems to contradict what you say above. You said that designated matter underlies the substantial change which is the dying of an animal. But designated matter is secondary matter. I said, consistently with Feser's explanation, that it is prime matter that underlies the substantial change which is the dying of an animal.

Now unless I am badly mistaken, you are misrepresenting the A-S doctrine.

Such a good discussion! Good to see this getting the attention it deserves.

Hi Adam,

I have you to thank for sending me Patrick's paper.

It was good meeting you back in March.

Bill,

A quick response on matter: I have Ed's new book right near the top of my pile, but I haven't read it yet. I'm glad to say I'll be reviewing it for the ACPQ, and I'm looking forward to that! I just took a quick look at the relevant section, and I think it looks like an excellent discussion of the matter. So to speak. Let me add here--along those lines I mentioned before, about my not having gone into some of the fundamental ideas of the Thomistic view with sufficient rigor yet--that I am an analytic metaphysician trying to figure out St. Thomas, and there's an awful lot I misunderstand or am simply ignorant of. This may be one of those areas.

That said, I have found Bobik's commentary on the De Ente to be just incredibly helpful. The notion of "designated matter" that I deployed above was drawn from Bobik, though bear in mind I may well simply be misunderstanding him. I will quote at some length:

"When we talk about quantified matter ... we are not talking about anything other than the matter which is part of the intrinsic constitution of an individual composed substance, that matter which can also be described as prime, as designated, and as nondesignated... Thus, to talk about prime matter, quantified matter, nondesignated matter, and designated matter is to talk about the same thing, but to say four different things about it, to describe it in four different ways. To speak of quantified matter, or perhaps better of matter as quantified, is to speak of what the matters of all individual composed substances have in common, namely, that in their matters which accounts for the possibility of their matter's being divided from the matters of other individual substances; it is to speak of that which makes it possible for individual composed substances to have matter in common as part of their essence. Matter as designated presupposes, and adds to, matter as quantified; and what it adds is actual circumscription so as to be just so much. To say that matter is quantified is to say that it is three-dimensionally spread out, and nothing else. To say that matter is designated is to say that it is three-dimensionally spread out and circumscribed to be just so much, just so much as is in Jack or Paul or any given individual composed substance." (148)

So my quick take would be that I completely agree with Ed, since he speaks of prime matter and as Bobik says, when we speak of prime matter and designated matter, we're speaking of the same thing. It looks like Ed leaves out some of the layers of complexity that Bobik includes, but that is the only sensible thing to do in an introductory book like Ed's.

My thought is quite simple: if my matter is considered as designated, then it is being considered as three-dimensionally spread out and just so much. In a peaceful death, that same parcel of three-dimensionally spread out matter--and the same 'just so much' amount--remains present. But the designated matter three-dimensionally spread out and circumscribed here (mine) is quite different from the designated matter three-dimensionally spread out and circumscribed over there (yours).

Put five Thomists in a room, you'll get five different takes on all this, of course. :-) Sorry to be so quick. I can't write much tonight, but wanted to give at least a brief reply. Perhaps this will serve as a reply to the new post on matter, too.

Patrick,

Thank you for the Bobik quotation which I will mull over later in the day. It advances the discussion, at least for me.

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