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Monday, April 18, 2016

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You state:

The nature humanity exists really in him [Socrates], and in Plato, but not in the ass. The same nature exists intentionally in a mind that thinks about or knows Socrates.

You have assumed, at least here, that (1) it is one and the same humanity that exists in the two humans, Socrates and Plato, and then asserted that (2) the nature, humanity, “exists intentionally in a mind that thinks about or knows Socrates.”

It is that assumption that the problem of the ontological status of universals, or of common natures, arises. Without it, there is no such problem.

One might adopt the opposite assumption: that the humanity that exists in Socrates is not identical with, but distinct from, the humanity that exists in Plato. That eliminates the ontological problem of universals, or of common natures, though the problem of universal concepts or terms remains.

Perhaps that alternative should have received the honor of a refutation. Or you might have reminded us where you argued against it.

Regarding good articles on deus ex machina objections in philosophy, Lowe (1978) provides a commendable example with respect to the notion, in Liebnizian [Lowe’s spelling] essentialism, of the individual essences: “Obviously, it is true of Socrates, for example, that he is Socrates; and this means that he exemplifies some attribute – the attribute of being identical with Socrates” (177). Unfortunately, however, there is no human way “to identify in nontrival terms the uniquely individuating component in virtue of which the individual essences associated with one and the same lowest level substance-kind differ” (177). Acknowledging this difficulty, Leibnitz “agreed that in any but the trivial sense . . . individual essences are hidden from us. Nonetheless, he insisted that their unique individuating content would be apprehended by an omniscient being” (177). Lowe is not impressed: “I shall not bother to evaluate this very strong claim; for even if individual essences have the richly individuating conceptual content Leibniz [sic] claimed for them, the fact that that content is hidden from us has the consequence that reflection on the individual essences will not contribute much to the ontologist’s understanding of substance” (178).

Watson (1987) would argue, I think, that views (a), (b), and (d) in your list are valid, iff one deletes the word, “only,” in the first few words of view (b): “The CN exists only intentionally in the mind . . . .” Here is a representative comment: “The material thing expresses itself through the medium to cause a material impression upon one of the sense organs of the knower. This impression causes the knower’s Imagination to form sense imagery consisting of a material image or phantasm. The knower’s Active Intellect illumines the sense imagery, abstracting from it to form in the knower’s Possible Intellect the intelligible species, which is the essential form of the thing known; this essential form exists in the Possible Intellect with intentional being, while at the same time it exists in and gives natural being to the thing known. Thus, the thing itself is known through the intelligible species; this amounts to the knower’s having direct knowledge of the thing’s essential form. If, in reflection, the intelligible species itself is made an object of thought, then it is referred to by a mental word, that is, by a concept” (26).

Eric,

I suspect you don't understand the question I am asking which is: what exactly is the status of the common nature which is, of course, precisely common. You can't delete anything from my formulation if you want to understand the problem.

As for Lowe's spelling, that is not a variant spelling but a misspelling. The man's name is 'Leibniz,' not 'Liebniz.'

But I thank you for the Lowe reference -- which book? -- since I have long been fascinated by the problem of haecceity properties, properties such as *identity-with-Socrates.* Such properties cannot be grasped by us as Lowe in effect says. I would adduce this as a further argument -- in addition to the ones I gave in recent posts -- for not admitting haecceity properties at all. If Leibniz says that God grasps them, and that therefore they are bona fide properties, then that certainly does look like an objectionable deus ex machina!


What is wrong with bringing God into the picture? Of the answers you give in your Leibniz Contra Malebranche post, No.5., the best, suffers a terrible obscurity in its last clause the agent's intervention in nature is miraculous in the sense in that it takes over a job that ought to be done by a natural entity, since the proponents of D will claim that to say another entity (what is meant by a 'natural entity'? Does it amount to 'anything other than God')ought to play that rule is to beg the question. At the very least we ought to have some reason why that other will be preferred, and if the costs of those alternatives are too high, we should opt for D.

Might we not flip Deus Ex Machina criticisms round? If we have good (though not coercive) reasons to hold God exists and is ontological ultimate isn’t only to be expected that a fair share of explanatory burden will fall to Him/It? If we have such a being in our ontology let’s put it to work.

Richard,

I am not advocating the Thomistic doctrine of common natures, but merely reporting on it and asking what exactly it comes to.

If universals exist mind-independently, then a common nature is not a universal. So I would avoid talk of >>the problem of the ontological status of universals, or of common natures.<<

But you are right that there is no problem about the status of common natures if there is no one and the same item -- the natura absoluta -- that is many in things but one in a mind that grasps those things.

What I am doing in the post is expounding a problem about the exact status of the natura absoluta. No doubt: no natura absoluta, no problem!

>>One might adopt the opposite assumption: that the humanity that exists in Socrates is not identical with, but distinct from, the humanity that exists in Plato.<<

But that is exactly what the Thomist says. So it is not an "opposite assumption." The humanity in Socrates is as particular as Socrates, and the same goes for Plato. These are to distinct 'humanities.'

>> That eliminates the ontological problem of universals, or of common natures, though the problem of universal concepts or terms remains. <<

This shows misunderstanding on your part. You are not grasping that the common nature, the nature considered absolutely, is common to both the universal concept in the mind that exists with esse intentionale and the particular 'humanities' that exists in particular men with esse naturale/reale.

Yes, when I try to follow you fellows, I suffer the fate of Icarus.

The Lowe reference: Substance and Attribute: A Study in Ontology.

But, good sir, you began by saying, on behalf, I willingly grant, of the Thomist, that “The nature humanity exists really in him [Socrates], and in Plato, but not in the ass.” I took the use of the definite article and the singular verb as indicating the view that there is, still on the Thomist view, one and the same nature, that of humanity, existing in both Socrates and Plato. I further willingly grant that the Thomist also says that “The humanity in Socrates is as particular as Socrates, and the same goes for Plato. These are two distinct ‘humanities.’” But then we have on hand two propositions, the one that the humanity in Socrates is identical with the humanity in Plato and the other that the humanity in Socrates is not identical with, but distinct from, the humanity in Plato. That is awkward, as contradictions generally are.

I do grasp that, for the Thomist, “the common nature, the nature considered absolutely, is common to both the universal concept in the mind that exists with esse intentionale and the particular 'humanities' that exists in particular men with esse naturale/reale.” I just don’t accept as true the thesis that that which exists in the mind is identical either with that which exists in Socrates or with that which exists in Plato.

Bill,

I think one trouble with Kenny's four choices as you've presented them is that (D) is ambiguous. For intentionality in God cannot be identical to ours, but of a higher order. What God thinks of is not merely intentional in our sense. For one thing, when I think of a mountain of gold (another stock example), my intention need not have any consequences for its reality. When God thinks up squirrel, lo, squirrels. (I'd reject any fiction or unrealized possibilities in God, as actus purus; our own minds can be the handlers of all that.)

CKS

CKS,

You appreciate the consequence of what you are saying, the consequence being that God cannot contemplate a world of merely possible individuals. Whatever is an object of his thought, an intentional object, is eo ipso really existent. This has a number of unpalatable consequences.

Richard writes,

>>But then we have on hand two propositions, the one that the humanity in Socrates is identical with the humanity in Plato and the other that the humanity in Socrates is not identical with, but distinct from, the humanity in Plato. That is awkward, as contradictions generally are.<<

Those two propositions are indeed contradictory. But our Thomist will not admit to embracing a contradiction. In the time-honored manner, he will attempt to avoid contradiction by making a distinction. He will distinguish between two ways a common nature (CN)can exist or have being. A CN can exist intentionally with esse intentionale or in reality (extramentally) with esse naturale/reale.

And then our Thomist can say something like this:

(P1) The humanity in Socrates and the humanity in Plato are identical when humanity exists in the mode of esse intentionale; (P2)The humanity in Socrates and the humanity in Plato are distinct, i.e., not identical, when humanity exists in the mode of esse reale, i.e., in extramental singulars.

(P1) and (P2) are not contradictory. One and the same item, the common nature, is one in the mind and many in things. How can it be both one and many? By being one and many in different ways.

This is a very clever solution to what is loosely called the 'problem of universals.' One avoids both really existent universals, whether transcendent or immanent, and also a nominalism that cannot account for the commonality of things.

But the price you must pay is in the coin of (a) a distinction between modes of esse, and (b) the positing of a natura absoluta or common nature that, in itself, is existentially neutral as between intentional existence and real existence.

What my critque above focused on was the exact status of this natura absoluta which I find problematic.

DanielCC writes,

>>Might we not flip Deus Ex Machina criticisms round? If we have good (though not coercive) reasons to hold God exists and is ontological ultimate isn’t only to be expected that a fair share of explanatory burden will fall to Him/It? If we have such a being in our ontology let’s put it to work.<<

Yes. If we have independent reasons to posit the existence of God, then we can put God to work at various tasks. The hard part is to decide in which cases we have an objectionable DEM and which cases we do not.

The example Eric adduced above does seem to be an objectionable DEM.

Would Berkeley's DEM be categorized as objectionable?

In Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, we find the contrary of a deus ex machina: namely, a god who does not exist, because he is too selfish to do so. After participating in a prayer session that fails to yield immediate results, Hamm expostulates: “The bastard! He doesn’t exist!” According to Hamm’s illogical theology, the first principle of being is not the existence of God, as in traditional Christian ontology, but the non-existence of God, which expresses God’s indifference and lack of compassion.

On the subject of common nature, might I repeat Politis’ question? “Does Aristotle think that the essence and the form of each particular thing (e.g. Socrates) is a universal, a particular, or both?” (2004, 253).

Owens formulates our problem as follows: “But Aristotelian form is the cause of the individual unity in the singular – that was the fundamental argument why it could not be a universal. It is likewise the basis of the universal definition. Apparently, though neither singular nor universal, it is the cause of both individuality in the singular thing, and universality in the definition” (1963, 374).

In a slightly later study, Woods introduces the problem thus: “It is the species-form man which supplies us with a principle for individuation for man: it is only in virtue of possessing the form man that bits of matter which constitute men are marked off from one another” (1967, 237). But, according to Woods, determination of plurality is posterior to determination of individuality: “I must already regard things as possessing the form before I can think of objects as a genuine plurality (1967, 237).” Hence Woods insists: “Aristotle refused to say that ανθρωπος [man] was καθολου λεγομενον [universally predicable] because that would suggest that you could distinguish men independently of their possession of the form – as if you could first distinguish individual substances and then notice that the predicate applied to them which supplied a basis for distinguishing them in the first place (1967, 237-38).

The conundrum in question appears in Metaphysics VII. 13, 1038b8–12, as glossed by Politis (2004): “For, first, the primary being of each thing is peculiar to each thing, but the universal is common; for that thing is called a universal which by its nature is capable of holding good of [i.e. being true of] several things.” Politis isolates two opposing interpretations: “For Aristotle, the essence and form of a changing, material thing is a particular. It is true, however, that there is a very different interpretation, which argues that, for Aristotle, the essence and form of a changing, material thing is a universal, namely, the species to which the thing belongs” (2004, 253). Politis attempts to resolve the polarity thus: “In this sense, the essence and the form of a particular material thing is primarily a particular, but also, as a consequence, a universal. The essence and the form is a universal in the sense that it explains universally, i.e. the mode of explanation provided by the essence and the form is the exact same for any number of particulars. Of course, if we say that the essence and the form of a particular material thing is, in this sense, a universal, i.e. in the sense that it explains universally, then we must take special care not to confuse this with the original sense of ‘a universal’, i.e. the sense in which a universal is something different from and true of many particulars” (2004, 255). He adroitly adds: “It is worth emphasizing that Aristotle’s view that, if something explains why a particular material thing (e.g. Socrates) is the very particular it is by explaining why it is the determinate and well-defined particular it is (e.g. a human being), then this identical mode of explanation is indefinitely repeatable, i.e. it introduces the possibility of indefinitely many particulars that are determinate and defined in exactly the same way (e.g. are human beings). This view implies that is impossible to define a single particular without thereby defining an indefinite number of essentially similar particulars— defining a species. In other words, it is impossible that a definition of a particular should be such that it cannot in principle apply to more than one particular” (2004, 255-56).

What exactly is the problem here?

S is a man; P is a man. S and P are two not one: they are numerically distinct. And yet they are both men. Now the question, presumably, is whether the substantial form *man* is a universal and therefore repeated in S and P and A et al. or whether it is particular and unrepeatable such that S's being a man is distinct from P's being a man, and so on.

I take it that Aristotle rejects the first disjunct: the substantial form is not a universal, strictly speaking, whether transcendent or immanent. And yet there is a loose sense of 'universal' according to which *man* is a universal in that *man* is predicable of both S and P without equivocation and without analogy either. These dudes are men in the same sense of 'man.' And if we want to 'explain' (Politis) these two primary substances, S and P, by saying that they are men, then this same explanation applies to all primary substances of this substance kind.

And so the universal in the loose sense would seem to have to be something merely conceptual or intramental or intentional and not something extramentally existent as on realist theories of the universal.

And now, Eric, you may understand why I jumped ahead a few centuries to Thomas. His position develops the Aristotelian position very nicely, although it does add new elements, chiefly, the stress on ESSE which gets into philosophy via the Judeo-Xian revelation. See Exodus 3:14: "I am who am."

Does this make sense to you, Eric?

I'm looking at Thomas' Commentary on the Posterior Analytics, Book 1, Lectio 2. He is discussing what sorts of pre-knowledge is necessary for obtaining knowledge. And he asserts that it is necessary to know "that it is" before one seeks "what it is", because

non entium enim non sunt definitiones

Of non-beings there are not definitions.

And then he goes on to speak about "what a name signifies", which he distinguishes from definitions. One could talk about the meaning of the word "man", but as it corresponds to no being, so it is not the subject of a definition.

I would answer, then, that at time t, there is no common nature of man. To what would it be common? If there is some such "common nature", then "CN" would not be a good name for it, for it is common to nothing.

Now I would certainly admit that the truth of human nature (at t) exists in the mind of God, inasmuch as he knows what it is in his power to create, but to call this a CN is a misnomer.

Another thought (again at t): One could say "God could make man," but "man" would here have a signification and not be an actual definition, and certainly not refer to a nature that is common to any beings. It would be just as true that "God could make elves." Inasmuch as the statements are about beings, they are about God and his power, or about the possible being of men and elves, but not about actual natures.

Also a note on the Aquinas quote from Kenny: He says that something will still be true of man even if Plato and Socrates do not exist. Does he say that is the case even if no man exists?

Once I saw through a glass darkly, but now face to face, thanks to that explanation.

Gilson explicates the contribution of the Thomistic doctrine of esse to the problem of universals:

…each actually existing individual is, qua existing, a thing distinct from its own essence. This thesis should be understood as the properly Thomistic answer to the classic problem of universals. The question was: “How can the essence of the species be both one in itself and many in the plurality of individuals?” And philosophers had vainly looked at the essence of the species for an answer. What is new in Thomas Aquinas’ answer is that he finds the answer in the order of existence. Actually existing individual beings are “beings” because of their own existing (esse). In other words, they are “beings” because of their own “to be,” and this is why, within one species whose quiddity is the same for all, each “being” is a distinct individuality. It is distinct, first, from any other being that belongs in the same species, and next it is distinct from its own quiddity, since its own being belongs to itself alone, while its own quiddity is the same for all members of the same species. Thus, the composition is “real,” because its result is a res (a thing), and the distinction also is “real,” because its act of existing is what makes the thing to be, not a mere quiddity, but an actually real “being.” In short, what “real” composition or distinction seems to mean in the texts in which Thomas Aquinas himself uses such expressions, is that the existential actuality which a subsisting being owes to its own “to be” is radically other than what, in the substance itself, makes it to be “such a thing.” (1952, 171-71)

Yet in this passage, so lucid and concise, Gilson does appear, at least to my untutored mind, to denote species (the kind-universal) as real, not merely intentional or mental: “its own quiddity is the same for all members of the same species.” So, in the Thomistic schema, does the species or kind-universal exist extra-mentum? But you have already said that it doesn't.

As the question of divine intentionality arose in these comments, I offer Gilson’s explication of the matter. It will turn out, I think, that God does not have a mental Midas touch which turns every divine thought of something into a reality. However, according to Gilson, divine knowledge does include what CKS terms “unrealized possibilities,” though by thinking of them God does not, in Gilson’s account, thereby actualize them. Herewith some quotations from Gilson (1937):

(a) God sees Himself in Himself, for He sees Himself in His essence. As regards the other things, however, He sees them not in themselves, but in Himself, inasmuch as His essence contains in itself the image of all that is not He. Knowledge, in God, owes its specification to nothing but the very essence of God. Accordingly the real difficulty does not lie here; it is rather to determine under what aspect God sees other things. Is the knowledge which He has of them general or particular? Is it limited to the real or does it extend to the possible? Are we to include in it even future contingencies? (117)

(b) The nature proper to each thing consists in a certain mode of participation in the perfection of the Divine essence. God accordingly would not know Himself, unless He knew distinctly all the modes under which His own perfection could be imitated. He would not even know perfectly the nature of being unless He knew perfectly all the modes of being. The knowledge by God of things is therefore a proper and determinate knowledge. Are we then to say that this knowledge extends to the particular? (117)

(c) The human intellect . . . is an immaterial faculty, whence we see that its proper object is the general. But the Divine intellect is evidently much more immaterial than the human intellect; His knowledge must consequently be still further removed than human knowledge from all particular objects. But the principles of this argument are incompatible with the conclusion to be drawn from them. It is true that they allow us to assert the he who knows a determinate matter and the individualized form in this matter, knows the particular object constituted by this form and this matter. But the Divine knowledge extends to the forms, the individual accidents and to the mater of each being. Since His intelligence is identical with His essence, God inevitably knows everything that is, in any manner whatever, in His essence. Now everything that possesses being in any way or degree is in the Divine essence as in its first source; but matter is a certain mode of being, since it is potential being; accident too is a certain mode of being, as it is ens in alio; matter and accidents accordingly, as well as form, are within the essence of God and, therefore, within His knowledge. This means that the knowledge of particulars cannot be denied Him. (118).

(d) God then knows all real beings, not only as distinct from each other, but also in their very individuality, with the accidents and the matter which make them into particular beings. Does He also know possible beings? There is reasonably no room for doubt. That which does not actually exist, but can exist, possesses already a certain degree of existence, without which it would be undistinguishable [sic] from nothingness. Now, it has been shown that God knows all that exists, whatever the kind of existence; God, therefore, knows possible beings. If it is a question of possible things which, though not existing actually, either have existed or will exist, God is said to know them because He has in respect of them the knowledge of vision. If it is a question of possible things which might be, but are not, have not been and will not be, God is said to know then by the knowledge of simple intelligence. But, in any case, they do not escape the perfect understanding of God. Moreover, our conclusion extends even to that class of possible things of which it is impossible to say whether they should or should not be, the so-called future contingents. (119)

(e) But God knows all future contingents, both in their causes and in themselves as actually realized. For, although future contingents are realized successively, God knows them not successively. (119)

(f) To deny God the knowledge of future contingents is tantamount to rendering Providence impossible. (120)

Eric,

The 1952 Gilson quotation is from Being and Some Philosophers (as you of course know).

>>Yet in this passage, so lucid and concise, Gilson does appear, at least to my untutored mind, to denote species (the kind-universal) as real, not merely intentional or mental: “its own quiddity is the same for all members of the same species.” So, in the Thomistic schema, does the species or kind-universal exist extra-mentum? But you have already said that it doesn't.<<

I see the difficulty you are having, and I am not sure I have a good response, but suppose we view the kind-universal, the quiddity, as a common nature. Then it is neutral as between existing in things and existing in minds. Accordingly it exists neither in the mind nor outside the mind. Does this help?

Eric,

Humanity in individual humans is particular and many; humanity in a mind is universal and one. Humanity in itself, absolutely considered, is neither particular nor universal, neither many nor one.

The point is that Aquinas is a conceptualist, not a realist, when it comes to universals.

Your last post superbly explicates the conundrum. You are a lapidary lover of wisdom: a true philosopher.

Before retrieving your most recent pronouncement, I was thinking of the aptness of its predecessor, regarding the common nature: “Then it is neutral as between existing in things and existing in minds. Accordingly it exists neither in the mind nor outside the mind.” Just as prime matter is neither something nor nothing, but instead what Owens terms a “not-something,” so the common nature exists neither in re nor in mentem (1957, rpt. 1963, 202).

Surely one of the greatest highlights in the history of metaphysics is the Aristotelian doctrine of substance. Every aspect of it has been subjected to intense reconsideration and debate. For example, in the conventional account, which Watson well represents, “[a]ll material substances . . . are composed of a union of form, which is a principle of organization, and of matter, which has a capacity to be organized” (1987, 25). Denkel concurs: “For Aristotle, primary substance and matter are coextentional: matter is an analytic component in the notion of primary substance, any individual object being the union of it with form” (1996, 188). But Politis vigourously disagrees: “ . . . he [Aristotle] does not mean that a material thing is a compound of two parts, its form and its matter. Indeed, neither the form nor the matter of a thing are parts of or constituents in that thing. The form is evidently not a part of or constituent in the thing whose form it is; it is rather that which explains why the thing is the very thing that it is and why the matter constitutes the very thing that it does. But the matter can be said to be part of the thing whose matter it is only in the sense that it is ‘that out of which’ (to ex hou) the thing is generated” (2004,228).

I would look forward to investigating these and related matters (wrong word in this context!) further, as your spirit prompts.

>>Just as prime matter is neither something nor nothing, but instead what Owens terms a “not-something,” so the common nature exists neither in re nor in mentem (1957, rpt. 1963, 202).<<

Is this your comparison, or Owens'?

So far I am not that impressed with Politis. Most commentators would agree that primary substances -- this statue, that horse -- are hylomorphic compounds, which of course implies that in some not-very-clear sense morphe and hyle are constituents of material primary substances.

By the way, I see nothing in the concept of prote ousia to require that a primary substance be material. Isn't God a primary substance? He's not a secondary substance, nor an accident of any substance . . . .

In Aquinas, Deus est forma formarum, the form of all forms, without matter or potency, but still a primary substance even though he doesn't fall under a genus.

Bill, you state most recently:

(P1) The humanity in Socrates and the humanity in Plato are identical when humanity exists in the mode of esse intentionale; (P2) The humanity in Socrates and the humanity in Plato are distinct, i.e., not identical, when humanity exists in the mode of esse reale, i.e., in extramental singulars.

At the risk of convicting myself of perseveration and thus being truly obnoxious, let me recall that your Thomist holds that, as you put it in your post, “The nature humanity exists really in him [Socrates], and in Plato, but not in the ass. The same nature exists intentionally in a mind that thinks about or knows Socrates.”

Let us now assume that, say, Aristotle is thinking about or knowing Socrates, as similar or identical in nature to or with Plato. The nature or humanity that exists in Aristotle’s mind mind when he is thinking about or knowing Socrates is then the same nature or humanity that exists in Socrates. Let us also assume that Aristotle is thinking about or knowing Plato, as similar or identical in nature to or with Socrates. The nature or humanity that exists in Aristotle’s mind when he is thinking about or knowing Plato is then the same nature or humanity that exists in Plato.

But the nature or humanity that exists in Aristotle’s mind when he is thinking about or knowing Socrates and the nature or humanity that exists in Aristotle’s mind when he is thinking about or knowing Plato are identical; as you put it, “The humanity in Socrates and the humanity in Plato are identical when humanity exists in the mode of esse intentionale,” i.e., in the intending mind.

Now, let us use “a” to refer to the humanity existing in the mind of Aristotle, “b” to refer to the humanity in Socrates, and “c” to refer to the humanity in Plato. But it follows from the logic of identity that:

If a is identical with b and a is identical with c, then b is identical with c.

That is, the humanity in Socrates is identical with humanity in Plato. This is in contradiction with your point P2.

Did I get that right?

Eric sez: >>You are a lapidary lover of wisdom: a true philosopher.<<

It takes one to know one. Like alone knows like.

Richard,

A Thomist will say that your a, b, and c are identical with one another since these terms refer to a common nature, a nature absolutely considered, a nature that is existentially neutral, i.e., neither intentionally existent nor really existent.

But a is not the same as a-in-Aristotle's mind; b is not the same as b-in-Socrates; c is not c-in-Plato. The hyphenated phrases pick out three different items. The first phrase picks out the CN existing in the mode of esse intentionale; the second the CN existing in the mode of esse reale; and the same goes for the third phrase.

But then what distinguishes the humanity-in-Socrates from the humanity-in-Plato? The different esse-s in the two men. For Aquinas, esse is a principle of diversification: each thing has its own existence, as you can see from the above quotation from Gilson.

Once these distinctions are made there is no contradiction that I can see. The hard part, of course, is the doctrine of the common natures itself.

What makes the humanity in Socrates different from the humanity in Plato is not the common nature, which is precisely common across men, across minds grasping men, and also across the gap between minds grasping men and men grasped -- How is that for a politically correct formulation? -- but the CN in composition with a mode of esse.

So there is no contradiction with (P2).

Oh my, I have fallen far behind. I just noticed that you have posted an article on prime matter, which I have not yet had a chance to read. Anyway, beginning with point #3 below, I offer the following remarks on – or relating to – the subject of common nature.

(1) The idea expressed by the words not in quotation marks in the sentence that you cite is mine.

(2) Later, I shall try to let Politis, by means of further quotation, substantiate his controversial claim.

(3) The Aristotelian doctrine of substance, as Owens notes, has provoked much consternation: “One is standing before the feature of Aristotelian thought that has exasperated certain commentators. Only singular things exist in the sensible world, it is phrased; only universals are knowable” (1963, 389-90). Yet neither matter nor form, the two components of composite substance, is individual or universal. Moreover, neither form nor matter (in sensible substance) exists separately from the other, with the result that applying the term, “individual” to the “form as separate from matter” entrains “perhaps the most fundamental and most fecund distinction in Aristotelian thought “ (1963, 389). I shall draw on two of Owens’ masterful publications in assembling the following passages.

Matter: “Such matter [i.e. prime matter] is not individual, like any of the materials of which a house is composed. Still less is it something universal, for the universal is subsequent to the individual in Aristotelian doctrine. Rather, it is below the level at which individuality and universality appear. Considered just in itself, it has nothing to distinguish it as found in one thing from itself as found in another" (1967, 198, n. 6).

Form: “The form cannot be a singular, because it is knowable and definable, and is the principle by which the composite is known and defined. It cannot be universal, because it is Entity, and the primary instance of Entity. It has to be characterized in some way that will bring out its relations to universality and singularity. The term “a this,” once it has been shown in this use to be properly Aristotelian, serves the purpose quite conveniently” (1963, 389).

With this background, we turn now to the problem of the “common nature.” In my opinion, Owens offers a penetrating account of issues underlying it – one that avoids the over-compression involved in the Thomistic taxonomy. We'll get to our topic after some preamble:

“The form is an Entity and a ‘this,’ without being of itself either singular or actually universal. Because it not singular, it can be knowable and can be the principle of knowability for the singular thing. Knowledge of the form will be knowledge of the singular individual, because the form is identified per se with that singular thing as its act, and the form contains all the knowability found in the singular. At the same time the form can be Entity, because it is not actually universal. How is such a form to be conceived? It must be understood as something ‘separate in notion,’ but not ‘separate without qualification.’ It is to be conceived as a physical constituent of a sensible thing, and not able to be found without its sensible matter except in thought. It is the actual and formal principle and cause of a singular thing, without being of itself a singular. As the act of sensible matter, the form is the cause of Being to the sensible Entity, which is singular. In the passive mind, the same form is without its physical matter. It is the act of that passive mind. In the logical order, it is as Entity the act of the other differences plus the basic genus. In this intelligible matter it forms the logos or definition of the sensible thing, and as such can be applied universally to all the individual s that are the same in form. In this way it is able to constitute the species (1963, 391).

“In the Greek, the same term is used for ‘species’ and for ‘form.’ The one term seems to enable Aristotle to express strongly the identity of both. But, as with all Aristotelian equivocals, unless the differences are also kept clearly in mind, confusion of thought will result. In Z the logos is said to be of the form alone and of the ‘universal.’ The definition is ‘of the universal and the form.’ The form without matter is looked upon as the universal. Yet in the context of these passages the Stagirite explains that the actual cognition is of the singular. The universal logos remains after the actual cognition has passed. Cognition of the form is such that it is cognition of the universal. But cognition of the singular is cognition of the form; for to know a thing is to know its what-IS-Being. To know the form, consequently, is to know the singular and to know the universal. The form makes possible cognition of both, and accordingly is prior to both” (1963, 391-92).

Now Owens addresses the common nature of Duns Scotus:

“The priority of form to both singular and universal cannot be understood as the common nature of Duns Scotus. The Scotistic common nature is found equally in matter, form, and composite. The Aristotelian form, as prior to both singular and universal, has to be taken as separate (in notion) from matter. Nor is there anything mysterious or ‘transcendental’ about a form considered in this priority. It is rather what first and most immediately confronts the intelligence in the singular thing. ‘Two-footed animal’ is the form or logos of a man. The intellect, as a matter of fact, sees that form in this man and hen in that man in numbers of other such singulars. It sees also, by the fact of predication, that the same logos can be applied universally to all those singulars. Form, singulars, and universals are all facts that confront the intellect. None has to be deduced from the others. Their interrelation is what has to be explained. Analysis shows that the form is most immediately known. Through it the different singulars are known. An explanation has to be given of how that same form is found in a plurality of singulars, without the least addition to its knowability. Form this situation the presence of unknowable matter is deduced. By means of that matter the singulars are the same in form, but different in matter, specifically the same but numerically different, and the same form can be in different things. In the actual cognition of a thing that form is known as it is in the one singular, but after the actual cognition has passed it can still be used to know all the other such singulars universally. The singular and the universal, accordingly, are to be explained in terms of form, and not vice-versa. All three are given as facts, with form prior in knowability. If the problem is posed in two terms only, singularity and universality, it becomes utterly insoluble. If the premises are ‘only the singular exists, only the universal is known,’ how can the Aristotelian notion of eidos, which is both physical form and logical species, ever be grasped? It will have to be fixed as either singular or universal, or else merely cataloged as a hopeless union of the two contradictory alternatives. The form must be kept as prior to and act of both composite Entity and logical universal. The two latter have to be explained in terms of form” (1963, 392-33).

Owens sums up the issue in this pithy note: “The form, as the primary Entity, is prior to the singular composite of matter and form. The singular composite is in turn prior to the universal species and to the accidents. The universal is form the logical viewpoint a secondary Entity, in comparison to the singular, which in that context (i.e. the logical) is the primary Entity. There is in Aristotle, therefore, no problem of reconciling the this and the what. The two notions are originally one, the τοδε τι, namely the form which is prior to both singular and universal. This form is in the thing. It cannot be conceived as an intermediate between the cognitional and the real orders. So it corresponds even less to the 'datum' or 'essence' of the American Critical Realists than it does to the Scotistic common nature” (1963, 393, n. 74).

>>There is in Aristotle, therefore, no problem of reconciling the this and the what. The two notions are originally one, the τοδε τι, namely the form which is prior to both singular and universal. This form is in the thing.<<

Now Eric, do you find this clear? I don't.

Re: Owens: “There is in Aristotle, therefore, no problem of reconciling the this and the what. The two notions are originally one, the τοδε τι, namely the form which is prior to both singular and universal. This form is in the thing” (1963, 393, n. 74).

I can make a preliminary attempt to clarify.

We start with “[t]his form is in the thing.” “[A]s a physical constituent of a sensible thing,” form is obviously in the thing (1963, 391). And it is in there “[a]s the act of sensible matter” – the act which is “the cause of Being to the sensible Entity, which is singular” (1963, 391). Owens elaborates: “Entity has already been established as the form within the singular sensible composite, and as identified in per se things with each individual thing itself” (1963, 367).

We proceed to the “what” of the thing. Owens does not hesitate to explicate: “The Aristotelian Entity, on the other hand, is predicated of the matter. It makes the matter a what” (1963, 355). Owens expatiates: “The form alone defines the thing, without being dependent on anything else in the thing. The form, because of this primacy, expresses all the Being in the singular thing, and expresses it as knowable and definite. The definition of the form, therefore, expresses what the singular thing is. Since this form is seen to be the same in all the singulars, the definition is universal” (361-62).

We proceed now to the “this” of the thing. The “thisness” of the thing derives from the form construed as act. Owens clarifies: “The sensible form has seemed to be identified with act. As an act it is a ‘this,’ and so is something individual” (1963, 399). He continues: “The Aristotelian form is the individual in itself, and is the cause of the individuality in the singular thing of which it is the act. In this two-fold way form and individual coincide. Form and singular thing are respectively the primary and secondary senses of a ‘this’” (398-99). Moreover, in the comment whose conclusion you query, it was already recalled that the form is neither singular nor universal, but instead characterized as a “this.”

Did my attempt to clarify succeed?

Bill, I am still troubled. You state:

But a is not the same as a-in-Aristotle's mind; b is not the same as b-in-Socrates; c is not c-in-Plato. The hyphenated phrases pick out three different items. The first phrase picks out the CN existing in the mode of esse intentionale; the second the CN existing in the mode of esse reale; and the same goes for the third phrase.

Now I see the difference our Thomist needs to underline between the common nature existing in the mode of esse intentionale and the common nature existing in the mode of esse reale. But it remains that it is one and the same common nature which exists in the two modes.

How about this? Why don’t we withdraw to our respective studies until one of us comes up with the brilliant flash of insight that will arouse the other’s lagging intellectual intuition? Or, alternatively, I’ll let you have the last word (unless the word expresses that brilliant flash, in which case I will say to you, “Cedo.” Or, "Uncle."

>>But it remains that it is one and the same common nature which exists in the two modes.<<

That's right. Apparently, you find something deeply problematic about that -- which is what you need to explain.

Why not say something like this -- if I may put words in your mouth:

The doctrine of common natures is contradictory. For it is committed to the proposition that one and the same item, the CN, exists both intentionally and really, while it is also committed to the proposition that the CN is neither one nor many, which implies that the CN is both one and not one, which is a contradiction.

Is that what you want to say?

Richard,

See this entry of mine from 2012: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/10/gyula-klima-on-common-natures.html

It may be that what troubles you is similar to one of the objections I raise in it.

In his SEP entry, Klima refers to my post and tries to respond to it.

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