It would be pleasant to think that when one is dead one will be wholly out of harm's way. But is that true? Here is some Epicurean reasoning:
1. Death is annihilation. (Materialist assumption) 2. A harm is a harm to someone or something: for there to be a harm, there must be a subject of harm. (Conceptual truth) 3. Nothing is a subject of a harm at a time at which it does not exist. (Plausible principle) Therefore 4. No dead person is a subject of harm. Therefore 5. Death (being dead) cannot be a harm to one who is dead.
Assuming that (1) is accepted, the only way of resisting this argument is by rejecting (3). And it must be admitted that (3), though plausible, can be reasonably rejected. Suppose I promise a dying man that I will take good care of his young and healthy dog after he dies. But I renege on my promise in order to save myself the hassle by having the dog euthanized. Epicurus in hand, I reason, "There is no harm to my friend since he no longer exists, and there is no harm to the dog because its transition to nonexistence will be quick and painless. Caring for the mangy mutt, however, is a harm to me for years to come."
Thomas Nagel would disagree and call my reneging "an injury to the dead man." ("Death" in Mortal Questions, Cambridge UP, 1979, p. 6) For Nagel, "There are goods and evils which are irreducibly relational; they are features of the relations between a person, with spatial and temporal boundaries of the usual sort, and circumstances which may not coincide with him either in space or in time." (p. 6)
Failing to do what I promised a man I would do after his demise is such an evil to the man. Being dead is a circumstance that does not temporally coincide with the life span of the one who will die. In general, a thing can have properties at times at which it does not exist provided it once existed. Frege's posthumous fame is a property he now possesses even though he no longer exists.
A Nagelian rejection of (3) is respectable and plausible as a means of turning aside the Epicurean argument. But it is scarcely compelling. For the Epicurean can simply insist that there are no relational harms. After all, there is something metaphysically murky about maintaining that a person who is nothing is yet the subject of a harm or injury simply on the strength of his having once existed. If you are now nothing, then you are now nothing: why should your once having been something be relevant?
So it looks like a stand-off, an aporetic impasse. The considerations for and against (3) seem to cancel each other.
One consideration in favor of (3) is presentism, the doctrine that the present time and its contents alone exist. If the present alone exists, then past individuals do not exist at all. If so, they cannot be subject to harms. A consideration contrary to (3) is our strong intuition that harms and injuries can indeed be inflicted upon the dead. The dead, if nonexistent, do not have desires, but we are strongly inclined to say that they have interests, interests subject to violation. (The literary executor who burns the manuscripts entrusted to him; the agent of Stalin who deletes references to Trotsky from historical documents, etc.)
But suppose the dead are subject to harms. If so, then they are presumably also subject to missing out on various goods that they would have enjoyed had they lived longer. Suppose a happy, healthy, well-situated 20-year-old full of life and promise dies suddenly and painlessly in a freak accident. Almost all will agree that in cases like this being dead (which we distinguish from both the process and the event of dying) is an evil, and therefore neither good nor axiologically neutral. It is an evil for the person who is dead whether or not it is an evil for anyone else. It is an evil because it deprives him of all the intrinsic goods he would have enjoyed had he not met an untimely end.
This suggests that, contra Epicurus, one can rationally fear being dead. What one rationally fears when one fears one's being dead is a future state of affairs in which one cannot enjoy goods that one would have enjoyed had one lived longer.
This makes sense but is also raises thorny questions. One concerns the oddness of this state of affairs. Not only does it involve a counterfactual; who or what is the subject of this future state of affairs? There won't be one!
A second question concerns whether or not states of affairs can be said to be good or bad if they do not involve living beings. If I understand Philippa Foot, her view is that good and bad are grounded in living organisms and in nothing else where, roughly, goodness is proper functioning, and evil a natural defect or lack of proper functioning. If so, there cannot be any good or bad states of affairs whose subject is a dead animal.
As I often tell you, we all live in our own movies inside our heads. Humans did not evolve with the capability to understand their reality because it was not important to survival. Any illusion that keeps us alive long enough to procreate is good enough.
Adams is telling us either directly or by implication that
a. The ability to understand reality is not important to survival.
b. We don't have this ability because we cannot transcend the "movies inside our heads."
c. Knowledge of truth (understanding of reality) is not necessary for procreation; illusions are good enough for procreation.
d. The foregoing propositions are all true.
I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to show that this is an inconsistent tetrad.
Classical theists hold that God created the world ex nihilo, out of nothing. This phrase carries a privative, not a positive, sense: it means not out of something as opposed to out of something called ‘nothing.’ This much is crystal clear. Less clear is how creation ex nihilo (CEN), comports, if it does comport, with the following hallowed principle:
ENN: Ex nihilo nihit fit. Nothing comes from nothing.
The latter principle seems intuitively obvious. It is not the case that something comes from nothing. Had there been nothing at all, there would not now be anything. (ENN) is not, however, a logical truth. A logical truth is one whose negation is a formal-logical contradiction. Negating (ENN) yields: something comes from nothing. This is logically possible in that no contradiction is involved in the notion that something come to be out of nothing. Logical possibility notwithstanding, that is hard to swallow. Rather than explain why -- a fit topic for yet another post -- I will assume for present purposes that (ENN) is a necessary truth of metaphysics. It is surely plausible. (And if true, then necessarily true.) Had there been nothing at all, there would have been nothing to 'precipitate' the arisal of anything. (But also nothing to prevent the arisal of something.)
You are not philosophizing until you have a problem. My present problem is this: If (ENN) is true, how can (CEN) be true? How can God create out of nothing if nothing can come from nothing? It would seem that our two principles form an inconsistent dyad. How solve it?
It would be unavailing to say that God, being omnipotent, can do anything, including making something come out of nothing. For omnipotence, rightly understood, does not imply that God can do anything, but that God can do anything that it is possible to do. But there are limits on what is possible. For one thing, logic limits possibility, and so limits divine power: not even God can make a contradiction true. There are also non-logical limits on divine power: God cannot restore a virgin. There are past events which possess a necessitas per accidens that puts them beyond the reach of the divine will. Nor can God violate (ENN), given that it is necessarily true. God's will is subject to necessary truths. Necessary truths, like all truths, are accusatives of the divine intellect and so cannot exist unless the divine intellect exists. The divine intellect limits the divine will.
Admittedly, what I just stated, though very plausible, is not obvious. Distinguished philosophers have held that the divine will is not limited in the way I have described. But to enter this can of worms would take us too far afield, to mix a couple of metaphors. So we add to our problem the plausible background assumption that there are logical and non-logical limits on divine power.
So the problem remains: How can God create the world out of nothing if nothing can come from nothing? How can we reconcile (CEN) with (ENN)?
One response to the problem is to say that (CEN), properly understood, states that God creates out of nothing distinct from himself. Thus he does not operate upon any pre-given matter, nor does he bestow existence on pre-given essences, nor create out of pre-given possibles. God does not create out of pre-given matter, essences, or mere possibilia. But if God creates out of nothing distinct from himself, this formulation allows that, in some sense, God creates ex Deo, out of himself. Creating the world out of himself, God creates the world out of nothing distinct from himself. In this way, (CEN) and (ENN) are rendered compatible.
In sum, ‘Creatio ex nihilo’ is ambiguous. It could mean that God creates out of nothing, period, in which case (CEN) collides with (ENN), or that God creates out of nothing ultimately distinct from himself. My proposal is that the Latin phrase be construed in the second of these ways. So construed, it has the sense of ‘creatio ex Deo.’
But what exactly does it mean to say that God creates out of God? A critic once rather uncharitably took me to mean precisely what I do not mean, namely, that God creates out of God in a way that implies that the product of the creative operation (creation in the sense of created entities) is identical to its operator (God) and its operand (God). That would amount to an absurd pantheism in which all distinctions are obliterated, a veritable "night in which all cows are black," to borrow a phrase from Hegel.
When I say that God creates ex Deo what I mean is that God operates on entities that are not external to God in the sense of having existence whether or not God exists. I build a rock cairn to mark the trail by piling up otherwise scattered rocks. These rocks exist whether or not I do. My creation of the cairn is therefore neither out of nothing nor out of me but out of materials external to me. If God created in that way he would not be God as classically conceived, but a Platonic demiurge.
So I say that God creates out of ‘materials’ internal to him in the sense that their existence depends on God’s existence and are therefore in this precise sense internal to him. (I hope it is self-evident that materials need not be made out of matter.) In this sense, God creates ex Deo rather than out of materials that are provided from without. It should be obvious that God, a candidate for the status of an absolute, cannot have anything ‘outside him.’
To flesh this out a bit, suppose properties are concepts in the divine mind. Then properties are necessary beings in that they exist in all metaphysically possible worlds just as God does. The difference, however, is that properties have their necessity from another, namely God, while God has his necessity from himself. (This distinction is in Aquinas.) In other words, properties, though they are necessary beings, depend for their existence on God. If, per impossibile, God were not to exist, then properties, and indeed the entire Platonic menagerie (as Plantinga calls it) would not exist.
Suppose that properties are the ‘materials’ or ontological constituents out of which concrete contingent individuals – thick particulars in Armstrong’s parlance – are constructed. (This diverges somewhat from what I say in A Paradigm Theory of Existence, but no matter: it is a simplification for didactic purposes.) We can then say that the existence of contingent individual C is just the unity or contingent togetherness of C’s ontological constituents. C exists iff C’s constituents are unified. Creating is then unifying. (We have a model for this unifying in our own unification of a sensory manifold in the unity of one consciousness.) Since the constituents are necessary beings, they are uncreated. But since their necessity derives from God, they are not independent of God.
In this sense, God creates out of himself: he creates out of materials that are internal to his own mental life. It is ANALOGOUS to the way we create objects of imagination. (I am not saying that God creates the world by imagining it.) When I construct an object in imagination, I operate upon materials that I myself provide. Thus I create a purple right triangle by combining the concept of being purple with the concept of being a right triangle. I can go on to create a purple cone by rotating the triangle though 360 degrees on the y-axis. The object imagined is wholly dependent on me the imaginer: if I leave off imagining it, it ceases to exist. I am the cause of its beginning to exist as well as the cause of its continuing to exist moment by moment. But the object imagined, as my intentional object, is other than me just as the creature is other than God. The creature is other than God while being wholly dependent on God just as the object imagined is other than me while being wholly dependent on me.
A critic thinks that "The notion of total dependence, dependence in every respect, entails identity, and therefore no dependence at all. If a is dependent on b in all respects, then a ‘collapses’ into b, taking dependency, and difference, with it." So if the creature is dependent on God both for its existence and for its nature, the creature collapses into God. And of course we can’t have that. It is obvious that the manifest plurality of the world, the difference of things from one another and from God, must be maintained. We cannot allow a pantheism according to which God just is the world, nor one on which God swallows up the plural world and its plurality with it.
The principle lately quoted is refuted by every intentional object qua intentional object. The object imagined is totally dependent in its existence on my acts of imagining. After all, I excogitated it: in plain Anglo-Saxon, I thought it up, or out. This excogitatum, to give it a name, is wholly dependent on my cogitationes and on the ego ‘behind’ these cogitationes if there is an ego ‘behind’ them. (Compare Sartre’s critique of Husserl on this score in the former’s Transcendence of the Ego.) But this dependence is entirely consistent with the excogitatum’s being distinct both from me qua ego, and from the intentional acts or cogitationes emanating from the ego and directed upon the excogitatum. To press some Husserlian jargon into service, the object imagined ist kein reeller Inhalt, it is not "really contained" in the act. The object imagined is neither immanent in the act, nor utterly transcendent of the act: it is a transcendence in immanence. It is ‘constituted’ as a transcendence in immanence.
The quoted principle may also be refuted by more mundane examples, examples that I would not use to explain the relation between creator and creature. Consider a wrinkle W in a carpet C. W is distinct from C. This is proven by the fact that they differ property-wise: the wrinkle is located in the Northeast corner of the carpet, but the carpet is not located in the Northeast corner of the carpet. (The principle here is the Indiscernibility of Identicals.) But W is wholly (totally) dependent on C. A wrinkle in a carpet cannot exist without a carpet; indeed, it cannot exist apart from the very carpet of which it is the wrinkle. Thus W cannot ‘migrate’ from carpet C to carpet D. Not only is W dependent for its existence on C, but W is dependent on C for its nature (whatness, quiddity). For W just is a certain modification of the carpet, and the whole truth about W can be told in C-terms. So W is totally dependent on C.
So dependence in both essence and existence does not entail identity.
Somehow the reality of the Many must be upheld. The plural world is no illusion. If Advaita Vedanta maintains that it is an illusion, then it is false. On the other hand, the plural world is continuously dependent for its existence on the One. Making sense of this relation is not easy, and I don't doubt that my analogy to the relation of finite mind and its intentional objects limps in various ways.
In any case, one thing seems clear: there is a problem with reconciling CEN with EEN. The reconciliation sketched here involves reading creatio ex nihilo as creatio ex Deo. The solution is not pantheistic, but panentheistic. It is not that all is God, but that all is in God.
In his Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford UP, 2000), Alvin Plantinga mounts a critique of John Hick's Kantianism in the philosophy of religion. In this entry I will begin an evaluation of Plantinga's critique. I will focus on just two and a half pages, pp. 43-45, and examine only one preliminary argument.
The question, very simply, is whether our concepts apply to the ultimately real. If God is the ultimately real, as he is, then the question is whether or not our concepts apply to God. If they don't, then we cannot refer to or think about God or make true and literal predications of him such as 'God is infinite.' If so, we cannot have any beliefs about God. Now Plantinga's project is to show that Christian belief (which of course includes beliefs about God) is warranted. But a belief about X cannot be warranted unless there is that belief. So there had better be beliefs about God, in which case there had better be true and literal predications about God. This implies that God must have properties and that some of these properties must be such that we can conceive them, i.e., have concepts of them. In brief, it must be possible for some of our concepts to apply to God.
For Hick, God is the ultimately real, or simply 'the Real' but our concepts do not apply to God/the Real. (43) For present purposes, we needn't consider why Hick holds this except to say that it is for broadly Kantian reasons. And we needn't consider all the nuances of Hick's position. At present I am concerned only with Plantinga's refutation of the bald thesis that none of our concepts apply to God. Plantinga writes,
If Hick really means that none of our terms applies literally to the Real, then it isn't possible to make sense of what he says. I take it the term 'tricycle' does not apply to the Real; the Real is not a tricycle. But if the Real is not a tricycle, then 'is not a tricycle' applies literally to it; it is a nontricycle. It could hardly be neither a tricycle nor a nontricycle, nor do I think that Hick would want to suggest that it could. (45)
Here again is what I am calling the Bald Thesis: None of our terms/concepts apply literally and truly to the Real/God. Has Plantinga refuted the Bald Thesis? I am sure London Ed, who got me going on this, will answer affirmatively. Plantinga has given us a simple, clear, and knock-down (i.e. dispositive or decisive) argument that blows the Bald Thesis clean out of the water.
Or Does It?
Here is a response that Ed won't like.
Plantinga assumes that everything that exists is subject to the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC), the Law of Excluded Middle (LEM), and the principle that everything instantiates properties, where if x instantiates property P, then x is distinct from P. Reasonable assumptions! These assumptions articulate (some of) what I will call the Discursive Framework, the framework within which all our discursive thinking takes place. On these assumptions the following tetrad is no tetralemma:
a. My wife is a tricycle b. My wife is not a tricycle. c. My wife is both. d. My wife is neither.
This is no tetralemma since all limbs are false except (b). My wife, delightful as she is, is not so wonderful as to be 'beyond all our concepts.' She does not lie, or stand, beyond the Discursive Framework. She is not a tricycle and therefore she falls under the concept nontricycle. Now the same goes for the Real (or the Absolute, or the Plotinian One, etc.) if the Real (the Absolute, etc.) is relevantly like my wife.
Now that is what Plantinga is assuming. He is assuming that tricycles, and wives, and the Real are all on a par in that each such item is a being among beings that necessarily has properties and has them by instantiating them, where property-instantiation is governed by LNC and LEM. What's more, he assumes that everything that exists exists in the same way, which implies that there are not two or more different ways of existing, say, the way appropriate to a finite item such as my wife and the way appropriate to God. For Aquinas, God is Being itself: Deus est ipsum esse subsistens. Everything else is really distinct from its being. But Plantinga will have none of that, implying as it does the doctrine of divine simplicity. Everything exists in the same way and has properties in the same way. The differences between wife and God are in the properties had, not in they way they are had, or in the way their subjects exist.
Plantinga also assumes that to talk sense one must remain with the confines of the Discursive Framework. This is why he says, of Hick, that "it isn't possible to make sense of what he says." We ought to concede the point in this form: It makes no discursive sense. For discursive sense is governed by the above principles.
If you say that no property can be predicated of the Real, then you predicate of the Real the property of being such that no property can be predicated of it, and you land in incoherence. These quick little arguments come thick and fast to the mentally agile and have been around for ages. But note that they presuppose the absolute and unrestricted validity of the Discursive Framework.
It is not that the Discursive Framework is irrational; you could say it is constitutive of discursive rationality and meaningful speech. But how could someone within the Framework prove in a noncircular way its absolute and unrestricted validity? How prove that it is not restricted to what our finite minds can think? How prove that nothing lies beyond it? Of course, anything that lies beyond it is Unsayable and cannot be thought in terms of the Framework. And if all thought is subject to the strictures of the Framework, then what lies beyond cannot be thought.
How then gain access to what is beyond thought? Nondual awareness is one answer, one that Buddhists will like. The visio beata of Thomas may be another. But I don't need to give an answer for present purposes. I merely have to POINT TO, even if I cannot SAY, the possibility that the Discursive Framework is not absolutely and unrestrictedly valid. This is equivalent to the possibility that the Discursive Framework is but a transcendental presupposition of our thinking without which we cannot think but is not legislative for all of Being. I am using 'transcendental' in the Kantian way.
The Framework cannot rationally ground its hegemony over all Being; it can only presuppose it. We can conclude that Plantinga with his quick little argument has not refuted the Bald Thesis according to which there is a noumenal Reality that lies beyond our concepts and cannot be accessed as it is in itself by conceptual means. He has rationally opposed the thesis, but in a way that begs the question. For he just assumes the absolute and unrestricted validity of the Discursive Framework when the question is precisely whether it is absolutely and unrestrictedly valid.
So I pronounce round one of Plantinga-Hick a draw.
Our problem may be formulated as an antilogism, or aporetic triad:
A. Some sentences are true in virtue of their correspondence with extralinguistic reality.
B. If so, then reality must have a sentence-like structure.
C. Reality does not have a sentence-like structure.
This trio of propositions is inconsistent. And yet one can make a plausible case for each member of the trio.
Ad (A). Consider a true contingent sentence such as 'Tom is sad,' or the proposition expressed by an assertive utterance in appropriate circumstances of such a sentence. Surely, or rather arguably, the sentence or proposition cannot just be true: if true it is true in virtue of something external to the sentence. I should say that I reject all deflationary theories of truth, including Ramsey's redundancy theory, Quine's disquotationalism, and Paul Horwich's minimalism. The external something cannot be another sentence, or, more generally, another truthbearer. Nor can it be someone's say-so: no truth by fiat unless your name is YHWH. So the external something has to be something 'in the world,' i.e., in the realm of primary reference, as opposed to the realm of sense, to invoke a Fregean distinction. The basic idea here is that some truths need ontological grounds: there is a deep connection between truth and being. There is more to a true sentence than the sentence that is true. There is that in the world which makes it true. Call it the truthmaker of the truth. Some truthbearers need truthmakers. As far as I am concerned, this is about as clear as it gets in philosophy. Which type of entity is best suited to play the truthmaker role, however, is a further question.
Ad (B). At a bare minimum, external reality must include Tom, the subject of our sentence. Part of what must exist for 'Tom is sad' to be true is Tom himself. But Tom alone does not suffice since the sentence says, and says truly, that Tom is sad. So it would seem that external reality must also include properties including the property of being sad. How could something be F if there is no F-ness in the world? There are of course extreme nominalists who deny that there are properties. I consign these extremists to the outer darkness where there is much wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Theirs is a lunatic position barely worth discussing. It is a datum that there are properties. One cannot reasonably ask whether they are; the only reasonable question is what they are. Moderate nominalism, however, is a respectable position. The moderate nominalist admits properties, but denies that they are universals. In contemporary jargon, the moderate nominalist holds that properties are tropes. A trope is a property assayed as a particular, as an unrepeatable item. Accordingly, the sadness in Tom is not repeated elsewhere: it is unique to him. Nor is it transferable: it cannot migrate to some other concrete particular. I'll 'turn' back to tropes in a 'moment.' (Get the double pun?)
For now suppose properties are immanent universals and that reality includes Tom and the property of being sad. Could the sum Tom + sadness suffice as the ontological ground of the truth of 'Tom is sad'? I will argue that it cannot. A universal is a repeatable entity. Universals are either transcendent or immanent. An immanent universal is one that cannot exist unless instantiated. A transcendent universal is one that can. Suppose sadness is an immanent universal instantiated by Shlomo. Then sadness exists and Tom exists. But the mere(ological) sum of the two does not suffice to make true 'Tom is sad.' For if the property and the particular each exist, it does not follow that the particular has the property. A tertium quid is required: something that ties the property to the particular, sadness to Tom.
What this suggests is that the truthmaker of a contingent predication of the form a is F must be something that corresponds to the sentence or proposition as a whole. It cannot be a by itself, or F-ness by itself; it must be a's being F. It is the BEING F of Tom that needs accounting. You could call this the problem of copulative Being.
Enter facts or states of affairs. (These are roughly the states of affairs of Armstrong's middle period.) We now have the concrete particular Tom, the property sadness, and the fact of Tom's being sad. This third thing brings together the concrete particular and the property to form a truthmaking fact. Now this fact, though not a proposition or a sentence, is obviously proposition-like or sentence-like. Although it is a truthmaker, not a truthbearer, it is isomorphic with the truthbearer it makes true. Its structure is mirrored in the proposition. It is a unity of constituents that is not a mere mereological sum of parts any more than a sentence-in-use or a proposition is a mere mereological sum of parts. Plato was already in possession of the insight that a declarative sentence is not a list of words. 'Tom is sad' is not the list: 'Tom,' 'sad,' or the list: 'Tom,' 'is,' 'sad.'
This argument to facts as worldly items in addition to their constituents requires the assumption that properties are universals. For this assumption is what makes it possible for the sum Tom + sadness to exist without Tom being sad. To resist this argument for the sentence-like structure of external reality, therefore, one might try insisting that properties are not universals. And here we come to Arianna Betti's proposal which I have discussed in painful detail in a draft the final version of which will soon appear in the journal METAPHYSICA. She suggests that properties are bearer-specific and that relations are relata-specific.
Well, suppose sadness is bearer-specific, or more precisely, bearer-individuated. This means that it cannot exist unless its bearer, Tom, exists. We can depict the property as follows: ____(tom)Sadness. Tom can exist without this property because it is contingent that Tom is sad. But the property cannot exist or be instantiated without Tom. On this scheme there cannot be a difference between the sum Tom + ___(tom)Sadness and the fact of Tom's being sad. Given the particular and the property, the fact 'automatically' exists. Betti takes this to show that some mereological sums can serve as truthmakers. But, as she notes, the bearer-specific property by itself can serve as truthmaker. For if ___(tom)Sadness exists, it follows that 'Tom is sad' is true. This is because it cannot exist without being insdtantiated, and because it is the "nature" (Betti's word) of this property to be of Tom and Tom alone. So if it exists, then it is instantiated by Tom, by Tom alone, and without the services of a tertium quid.
Now the point I want to make is that whether we take properties to be universals or tropes, it seems we have to grant that reality has a proposition-like structure. Either way it has a proposition-like structure. We saw how this works if properties are universals. The mereological sum Tom + the universal sadness does not suffice as truthmaker for 'Tom is sad.' So we need the fact of Tom's being sad. But this fact has a proposition-like structure. To avoid Armstrongian facts, Betti suggests that we construe properties as monadic tropes. But these too have a proposition-like structure. Even if Betti has shown a way to avoid Armstrong's middle period facts or states of affairs, she has not shown that the world is just a collection of things bare of proposition-like or sentence-like structure.
How so? Well, ___(tom)Sadness obviously in some sense involves Tom, if not as a constituent, then in some other way. There has to be something about this property that makes it such that if it is instantiated, it is instantiated by Tom and Tom alone. It is very much like a Fregean proposition about Tom. Such a proposition does not have Tom himself, with skin and hair, as a constituent, but some appropriately abstract representative of him, his individual essence, say, or his Plantingian haecceity.
Ad (C). According to the third limb of our triad reality does not have a sentence-like structure. This will strike many as obvious. Are worldly items syntactically related to one another? Do this make any sense at all? Arianna Betti, Against Facts, MIT Press, 2015, p. 26, italics in original:
Only linguistic entities . . . can strictly speaking have syntax. Facts are neither linguistic nor languagelike, because they are that of which the world is made, and the world is not made of linguistic or languagelike entities at the lowest level of reference. Thus the articulation of a fact cannot be logical in the sense of being syntactical. It is a categorical mismatch to say that there is a syntactical articulation between a lizard and light green or an alto sax and its price.
So how do we solve this bad boy? I say we reject (C).
In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God, and the Logos ex-pressed itself LOG-ically as the world.
I am trying to understand the structure of the problem of dirty hands.
A clear example of a dirty hands situation is one in which a political leader authorizes the intentional slaughter of innocent non-combatants to demoralize the enemy and bring about the end of a war which, if it continues, could be reasonably expected to lead to the destruction of the leader's state. The leader must act, but he cannot authorize the actions necessary for the state's survival without authorizing immoral actions. He must act, but he cannot act without dirtying his hands with the blood of innocents. In its sharpest form, the problem arises if we assume that certain actions are absolutely morally wrong, wrong in and of themselves, always and everywhere and regardless of circumstances or (good) consequences. The problem stands out in sharp relief when cast into the mold of an aporetic triad:
A. Moral reasons for action are dominant: they trump every other reason for action such as 'reasons of state.'
B. Some actions are absolutely morally wrong, morally impermissible always and everywhere, regardless of situation, context, circumstances.
C. Among absolutely morally wrong actions, there are some that are (non-morally) permissible, and indeed (non-morally) necessary: they must be done in a situation in which refusing to act would lead to worse consequences such as the destruction of one's nation or culture.
It is easy to see that this triad is inconsistent. The limbs cannot all be true. (B) and (C) could both be true if one allowed moral reasons to be trumped by non-moral reasons. But that is precisely what (A), quite plausibly, rules out.
The threesome, then, is logically inconsistent. And yet each limb makes a strong claim on our acceptance. To solve the problem one of the limbs must be rejected. Which one?
(A)-Rejection. One might take the line that in some extreme circumstances non-moral considerations take precedence over moral ones. Imagine a ticking-bomb scenario in which the bomb-planter must be tortured in order to find the location of the bomb or bombs. (Suppose a number of dirty nukes have been planted in Manhattan, all scheduled to go off at the same time.) Imagine a perfectly gruesome form of torture in which the wife and children of Ali the jihadi have their fingers and limbs sawn off in the presence of the jihadi, and then the same is done to him until he talks. Would the torture not be justified? Not morally justified of course, but justified non-morally to save Manhattan and its millions of residents and to avert the ensuing disaster for the rest of the country? One type of hard liner will say, yes, of course, even while insisting that torture of the sort envisaged is morally wrong, and indeed absolutely morally wrong. I am in some moods such a hard liner.
But am I not then falling into contradiction? No. I am not maintaining that in every case it is morally wrong to torture, but in this case it is not. That would be a contradiction. I am maintaining that it is always morally impermissible to torture but that in some circumstances moral considerations are trumped by -- what shall I call them? -- survival considerations. These are external to the moral point of view. So while morality is absolute in its own domain, its domain does not coincide with the domain of human action in general. The torture of the jihadi and his wife and children are justified, not morally, but by non-moral reasons.
(B)-Rejection. A second solution to the triad involves rejecting deontology and embracing consequentialism. Consider the following act-type: torturing a person to extract information from him. A deontologist such as Kant would maintain that the tokening of such an act-type is morally wrong just in virtue of the act-type's being the act-type it is. It would then follow for Kant that every such tokening is morally wrong. A consequentialist would say that it all depends on the outcome. Torturing our jihadi above leads or can be reasonably expected to lead to the greatest good of the greatest number in the specific circumstances in question, and those on-balance good consequences morally justify the act of torture. So, contra Kant, one and the same act-type can be morally acceptable/unacceptable depending on circumstances and consequences. Torturing Ali the jihadi is morally justified, but torturing Sammy the jeweler to get him to open his safe is not.
On this second solution to the triad, we accept (A), we accept that moral considerations reign supreme over the entire sphere of human action and cannot be trumped by any non-moral considerations. But we adopt a consequentialist moral doctrine that allows the moral justification of torture and the targeting of non-combatants in certain circumstances.
Now we must ask: Do the consequentialist torturers of the jihadi and their consequentialist superiors who order the torture have dirty hands? Suppose the hands of the torturers are literally bloody. Are they dirty? I am tempted to say No. They haven't done anything wrong; they have the done the right thing, and let us assume, at great psychological and emotional cost to themselves. Imagine snapping off the digits of a fellow human being with bolt cutters or high-torque pruning shears. Could you do that to a child in the presence of his father and do it efficiently and with equanimity? Could you do your job, your duty, despite your contrary inclination? (I am turning Kant's phraseology against him here.) But you must do it because the orders you have been given are morally correct by the consequentialist theory.
Do the torturers have dirty hands? It depends on what exactly it is to have dirty hands whch, of course, is part of the problem of dirty hands. On a narrow understanding, a dirty hands situation is one in which the agent acts, and must act, while both accepting all three limbs of our inconsistent triad and appreciating that they are inconsistent. A dirty hands situation in the narrow and strict sense is an aporetic bind. You must act and you must act immorally in violation of absolute moral prohibitions, and you cannot justify your actions by any non-moral considerations that trump moral ones. That's one hell of a bind to be in! Some will be tempted to say that there cannot ever occur such a bind. But if so, then there cannot ever occur a dirty hands situation. So maybe talk of 'dirty hands' is incoherent.
If this is what it is to be in a dirty hands situation, then a consequnetialisdt cannot be in a dirty hands situation. He is not in an aporetic bind since he rejects (B). And the same goes for those who reject (A) or (C).
(C)-Rejection. A third solution to the problem involves holding that there is no necessity to act: one can abstain from acting. A political leader faaced with a terrible choice can simply abdicate, or simply refuse to choose. He does not order the torture of the jihadi and and hence does not act to save Manhattan; but by not acting he willy-nilly aids and abets the terrorist.
I have the strong sense that I will be writing a number of posts on this fascinating topic. For now I will conclude that if we leave God and the soul out of it, if we think in purely immanent or secular terms, then we are in a genuine aporetic bind, and the problem of dirty hands, narrowly construed, is a genuine one, but also an insoluble one. For rejecting any of the limbs will get us into grave trouble. That needs to be argued, of course. One entry leads to another, and another . . . .
The Trump phenomenon provides excellent fodder for the study of political reasoning. Herewith, some thoughts on the cogency of the 'Hillary is Worse' defense for voting for Trump. I'll start with some assumptions.
A1. We are conservatives.
A2. It is Trump versus Hillary in the general: Sanders will not get the Democrat Party nod, nor will there be a conservative third-party candidate. (To be be blunt, Bill Kristol's ruminations on the latter possibility strike me as delusional.)
A3. Donald Trump is a deeply-flawed candidate who in more normal circumstances could not be considered fit for the presidency.
A4. Hillary Clinton is at least as deeply-flawed, character-wise, as Trump but also a disaster policy-wise: she will continue and augment the destructive leftist tendencies of Barack Hussein Obama. Hillary, then, is worse than Trump. For while Trump is in some ways not conservative, it is likely he will actually get some conservative things done, unlike the typical Republican who will talk endlessly about illegal immigration, etc., but never actually accomplish anything conservative.
With ordinary Republicans it is always only talk, followed by concession after concession. They lack courage, they love their power and perquisites, and they do not understand that we are in the age of post-consensus politics, an age in which politics is more like war than like gentlemanly debate on the common ground of shared principles.
My Challenge to the NeverTrump Crowd
To quote from an earlier entry:
In this age of post-consensus politics we need fighters not gentlemen. We need people who will use the Left's Alinskyite tactics against them. Civility is for the civil, not for destructive leftists who will employ any means to their end of a "fundamental transformation of America." For 'fundamental transformation' read: destruction.
It's a war, and no war is civil, especially not a civil war. To prosecute a war you need warriors. Trump is all we have. Time to face reality, you so-called conservatives. Time to man up, come clean, and get behind the 'presumptive nominee.'
Don't write another article telling us what a sorry specimen he is. We already know that. We are a nation in decline and our choices are lousy ones. Hillary is worse, far worse.
Consider just three issues: The Supreme Court, gun rights, and the southern border. We know where Hillary stands. We also know where Trump stands. Suppose he accomplishes only one thing: he nominates conservatives for SCOTUS. (You are aware, of course, that he has gone to the trouble of compiling a list of conservative candidates. That is a good indication that he is serious.) The appointment of even one conservative would retroactively justify your support for him over the destructive and crooked Hillary.
[. . .]
The alternative [to voting for Trump] is to aid and abet Hillary.
The False Priests are the columnists, media pundits, public intellectuals, and politicians who have presented themselves as principled conservatives or libertarians but now have announced they will vote for a man who, by multiple measures, represents the opposite of the beliefs they have been espousing throughout their careers. We’ve already heard you say “Hillary is even worse.” Tell us, please, without using the words “Hillary Clinton” even once, your assessment of Donald Trump, using as a template your published or broadcast positions about right policy and requisite character for a president of the United States. Put yourself on the record: Are you voting for a man whom your principles require you to despise, or have you modified your principles? In what ways were you wrong before? We require explanation beyond “Hillary is even worse.”
Now one thing that is unclear is whether Murray would accept (A4), in particular, the bit about Hillary being worse. He doesn't clearly state that they are equally bad. He says, "I am saying that Clinton may be unfit to be president, but she’s unfit within normal parameters. Donald Trump is unfit outside normal parameters." Unfortunately, it is not clear what this comes to; Murray promises a book on the topic.
Well, if you think Trump and Hillary are equally bad, then you reject (A4) and we have a different discussion. So let me now evaluate the above Murray quotation on the assumption that (A4) is true.
The Underlying Issue: Principles Versus Pragmatism
It is good to be principled, but not good to be doctrinaire. At what point do the principled become doctrinaire? It's not clear! Some say that principles are like farts: one holds on to them as long as possible, but 'in the end' one lets them go. The kernel of truth in this crude saying is that in the collision of principles with the data of experience sometimes principles need to be modified or set aside for a time. One must consider changing circumstances and the particularities of the precise situation one is in. In fact, attention to empirical details and conceptually recalcitrant facts is a deeply conservative attitude.
For example, would I support Trump if he were running against Joe Lieberman? No, I would support Lieberman. There are any number of moderate or 'conservative' Democrats that I would support over Trump. But the vile and destructive Hillary is the candidate to beat! And only Trump can do the dirty job. This is the exact situation we are in. If you are a doctrinaire conservative, say a neocon like Bill Kristol, then, holding fast to all of your principles -- and being held fast by them in turn -- you will deduce therefrom the refusal to support either Trump or Hillary. Like Kristol you may sally forth on a quixotic quest for a third conservative candidate. Just as one can be muscle-bound to the detriment of flexible and free movement, one can be principle-bound to the detriment of dealing correctly and flexibly with reality as it presents itself here and now in all its recalcitrant and gnarly details.
Conclusion: The 'Hillary is Worse' Defense is Cogent
Part of being a conservative is being skeptical about high-flying principles. Our system is the best the world has seen and it works for us. It has made us the greatest nation on the face of the earth -- which is why almost everyone wants to come here, and why we need walls to keep them out while commie shit holes like East Germany needed walls to keep them in. (The intelligent, industrious Germans were kept in poverty and misery by a political system when their countrymen to the west prospered and enjoyed the fabled Wirtschaftswunder. Think about that!) But from the fact that our system works for us, it does not follow that it will work for backward Muslims riven by ancient tribal hatreds and infected with a violent, inferior religion. The neocon principle of nation-building collides with gnarly reality and needs adjustment.
Murray's point seems to be that no principled conservative could possibly vote for Trump, and this regardless of how bad Hillary is. His reasoning is based on a false assumption, namely, that blind adherence to principles is to be preferred to the truly conservative attitude of adjusting principles to reality. Murray's view is a foolish one: he is prepared to see the country further led down the path to "fundamental transformation," i.e., destruction, as long as his precious principles remain unsullied.
Our behavior ought to be guided by principles; but that is not to say that it ought to be dictated by them.
Rather than say that principles are like farts as my old colleague Xavier Monasterio used to say, I will try this comparison: principles are like your lunch; keep it down if you can, but if it makes you sick, heave it up.
This entry continues the discussion of prime matter begun here. That post is a prerequisite for this one.
Similarities between Bare Particulars and Prime Matter
S1. Bare particulars in themselves are property-less while prime matter in itself is formless. The bare particular in a thing is that which exemplifies the thing's properties. But in itself it is a pure particular and thus 'bare.' The prime matter of a thing is the thing's ultimate matter and while supporting forms is itself formless.
S2. Bare particulars, though property-less in themselves, exemplify properties; prime matter, though formless in itself, is formed.
S3. There is nothing in the nature of a bare particular to dictate which properties it will exemplify. This is because bare particulars do not have natures. Correspondingly, there is nothing in the nature of prime matter to dictate which substantial forms it will take. This is because prime matter, in itself, is without form.
S4. Bare particulars, being bare, are promiscuously combinable with any and all first-level properties. Thus any bare particular can stand in the exemplification nexus with any first-level property. Similarly, prime matter is promiscuously receptive to any and all forms, having no form in itself.
S5. Promiscuous combinability entails the contingency of the exemplification nexus. Promiscuous receptivity entails the contingency of prime matter's being informed thus and so.
S6. Bare particulars are never directly encountered in sense experience. The same holds for prime matter. What we encounter are always propertied particulars and formed matter.
S7. A bare particular combines with properties to make an ordinary, 'thick' particular. Prime matter combines with substantial form to make a primary (sublunary) substance.
S8. The dialectic that leads to bare particulars and prime matter respectively is similar, a form of analysis that is neither logical nor physical but ontological. It is based on the idea that things have ontological constituents or 'principles' which, incapable of existing on their own, yet combine to from independent existents. Hylomorphic analysis leads ultimately to prime matter, and ontological analysis in the style of Bergmann and fellow travellers leads to bare or thin particulars as ultimate substrata.
Differences Between Bare Particulars and Prime Matter
D1. There are many bare particulars each numerically different from every other one. In themselves, bare particulars are many. It is not the case that, in itself, prime matter is many. It is not, in itself, parceled out into numerically distinct bits.
D2. Bare particulars are actual; prime matter is purely potential.
D3. Bare particulars account for numerical difference. But prime matter does not account for numerical difference. (See Feser's manual, p. 199) Prime matter is common and wholly indeterminate. Designated matter (materia signata) is the principle of individuation, i.e., differentiation.
There is no change without a substrate of change which, in respect of its existence and identity, does not change during the interval of the change. In a slogan: no change without unchange. No becoming other (alter-ation, Ver-aenderung) without something remaining the same. In the case of accidental change, the substrate is materia secunda, in one of its two senses, a piece of paper, say, as opposed to paper as a kind of material stuff. It is a piece of paper that becomes yellow with age, not paper as a kind of stuff. In the case of substantial change the substrate is said to be prime matter, materia prima. On the scholastic view, prime matter must exist if we are to explain substantial change. (See Edward Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics, pp. 171 ff.) Thus to the problems with substantial change already mentioned (in an earlier portion of this text not yet 'blogged') we may add the problems that are specific to prime matter. Besides the route to prime matter via substantial change, there is the route via the very procedure of hylomorphic analysis. Traversing these routes will give us a good idea of why the positing of prime matter has seemed compelling to scholastics.
Given that thought sometimes makes contact with reality, one can ask: what must real things be like if thought is to be able to make contact with them? What must these things be like if they are to be intelligible to us? A realist answer is that these mind-independent things must be conformable to our thought, and our thought to them. There must be some sort of isomorphism between thought and thing. Since we cannot grasp anything unstructured, reality must have structure. So there have to be principles of form and organization in things. But reality is not exhausted by forms and structures; there is also that which supports form and structure. In this way matter comes into the picture. Forms are determinations. Matter, in a sense that embraces both primary and secondary matter, is the determinable as such.
Proximate matter can be encountered in experience, at least in typical cases. The proximate matter of a chair consists of its legs, seat, back. But this proximate matter itself has form. A leg, for example, has a shape and thus a form. (Form is not identical to shape, since there are forms that are not shapes; but shapes are forms.) Suppose the leg has the geometrical form of a cylinder. (Of course it will have other forms as well, the forms of smoothness and brownness, say.) The cylindrical form is the form of some matter. The matter of this cylindrical form is wood, say. But a piece of wood is a partite entity the parts of which have form and matter. For example, the complex carbohydrate cellulose is found in wood. It has a form and a proximate matter. But cellulose is made of beta-glucose molecules. Molecules are made of atoms, atoms of subatomic particles like electrons, and these of quarks, and so it goes.
Hylomorphic analysis is thus iterable. The iteration cannot be infinite: the material world cannot be hylomorphic compounds 'all the way down,' or 'all the way up' for that matter. The iteration has a lower limit in prime or primordial or ultimate matter (materia prima), just as it has an upper limit in pure form, and ultimately in the forma formarum, God, the purely actual being. Must hylomorphic analysis proceed all the way to prime matter, or can it coherently stop one step shy of it at the lowest level of materia secunda? I think that if one starts down the hylomorphic road one must drive to its bitter end in prime matter. (Cf. Feser's manual, p. 173 for what I read as an argument to this conclusion.) Ultimate matter, precisely because it is ultimate, has no form of its own. As John Haldane describes it, it is "stuff of no kind." (“A Return to Form in the Philosophy of Mind” in Form and Matter, ed. Oderberg, p. 50) We could say that prime matter is the wholly indeterminate determinable. As wholly indeterminate, it is wholly determinable.
(Question: if prime matter is wholly indeterminate, is it also indeterminate with respect to being either determinate or indeterminate? Presumably not. Is there a problem lurking here?)
The Antinomy of the Existence of Prime Matter
While it is easy to appreciate the logic that leads to the positing of prime matter, it is difficult to see that what is posited is coherently thinkable. Here is one consideration among several. Call it the Antinomy of the Existence of Prime Matter. It may be compressed into the following aporetic dyad:
Prime matter exists.
Prime matter does not exist.
Argument for limb (1). There is real substantial change and it cannot be reduced to accidental change. All change is reduction of potency to act, and all change requires an underlying substrate of change that remains self-same and secures the diachronic identity of that which changes. The substrate of a change is the matter of the change. What changes in a change are forms, whether accidental or substantial. Without the potency-act and matter-form distinctions we cannot accommodate the fact of change and avoid both the Heraclitean doctrine of radical flux and the Eleatic denial of change. Or so say the scholastics. In the case of accidental change, the subject or substrate is secondary matter (materia secunda). But substantial change is change too, and so it also requires a substrate which cannot be secondary matter and so must be prime matter. Given what we must assume to make sense of the plain fact of both accidental and substantial change, “prime matter must exist.” (Feser's manual, p. 172) It must exist in reality as the common basis of every substantial change.
Argument for limb (2). Prime matter is pure potency. It has to be, given the exigencies of accounting for substantial as opposed to accidental change. As pure potency, prime matter is wholly indeterminate and wholly formless. In itself, then, prime matter does not exist. It does not exist actually, as is obvious. But it also does not exist potentially: prime matter does not have potential Being. This is because the principle of the metaphysical priority of act over potency requires that every existing potency (e.g., the never actualized potency of a sugar cube to dissolve in water) be grounded in something actual (e.g., the sugar cube). The pure potency which is prime matter is not, however, grounded in anything actual. (Note that one cannot say that prime matter is a pure potency grounded in each primary substance. Prime matter is the ultimate stuff of each primary substance; it is not potency possessed by these substances.) Therefore, prime matter does not exist. It does not exist actually and it does not exist potentially. This is also evident from the first of the twenty-four Thomistic theses:
Potency and act are a complete division of being. Hence whatever is must be either pure act or a unit composed of potency and act as its primary and intrinsic principles. (Quoted by Feser, Schol. Metaph., p. 31)
If so, prime matter does not exist. For prime matter is neither pure act nor composed of potency and act. It is interesting to observe that while purely actual Being can itself be by being something actual, purely potential Being cannot itself be by being something potential (or actual). God is actual Being (Sein, esse) and an actual being (Seiendes, ens). But prime matter is neither potential nor actual. So prime matter neither is actually nor is potentially.
It thus appears that we have cogent arguments for both limbs of a contradiction. If the contradiction is real and not merely apparent, and the arguments for the dyad's limbs are cogent, then either there is no prime matter, the very concept thereof being self-contradictory, or there is prime matter but it is is unintelligible to us. One could, I suppose, be a mysterian about prime matter: it exists but we, given our cognitive limitations, cannot understand how it could exist. (Analogy with Colin McGinn's mysterianism: consciousness is a brain process, but our cognitive limitations bar us from understanding how it could be.) But I mention mysterianism only to set it aside.
But perhaps we can avoid contradiction in the time-honored way, by drawing a distinction. A likely candidate is the distinction between prime matter in itself versus prime matter together with substantial forms. So I expect the following scholastic response to my antinomy:
Prime matter exists as a real (extramental) factor only in primary substances such as Socrates and Plato. It exists only in hylomorphic compounds of prime matter and substantial form. But it does not exist when considered in abstraction from every primary substance. So considered, it is nothing at all. It is not some formless stuff that awaits formation: it is always already formed. It is always already parcelled out among individual material substances. Once this distinction is made, the distinction between prime matter in itself and prime matter together with substantial forms, one can readily see that the 'contradiction' in the above dyad is merely apparent and rests on an equivocation on 'exist(s).' The word is being used in two different senses. In (1) 'exists' means: exists together with substantial form. In (2), 'exist' means: exist in itself. Thus the aporetic dyad reduces to the logically innocuous dyad:
1*. Prime matter exists together with substantial forms.
2*. Prime matter does not exist in itself in abstraction from substantial forms.
Unfortunately, this initially plausible response gives rise to a problem of its own. If prime matter really exists only in primary substances, then prime matter in reality is not a common stuff but is parcelled out among all the primary substances: it exists only as a manifold of designated matters, the matter of Socrates, of Plato, etc. But this conflicts with the requirement that prime matter be the substratum of substantial change. Let me explain.
If a new substance S2 comes into existence from another already existing substance S1 (parthenogenesis may be an example) then prime matter is what underlies and remains the same through this change. Now this substratum of substantial change that remains the same must be something real, but it cannot be identical to S2 or to S1 or to any other substance. For if the substratum of substantial change is identical to S1, then S1 survives, in which case S2 is not a new substance generated from S1 but a mere alteration of S1. Don't forget that substantial change cannot be reduced to an accidental change in some already existing substance or substances. In substantial change a new substance comes to be from one or more already existing substances. (I will assume that creation or 'exnihilation' does not count as substantial change.)
If, on the other hand, the substratum of change is identical to S2, then S2 exists before it comes to exist. And it seems obvious that the substratum of substantial change underlying S2's coming to be from S1 cannot be some other substance. Nor can the substratum be an accident of S2 or S1. For an accident can exist only in a substance. If the substratum is an accident of S1, then S1 must exist after it has ceased to exist. If the substratum is an accident of S2, then S2 must exist before it comes to exist.
The argumentative punchline is that prime matter cannot exist only in primary substances as a co-principle tied in every case to a substantial form. If prime matter is the substratum of substantial change, then prime matter must be a really existent, purely potential, wholly indeterminate, stuff on its own.
The Problem of the Substrate
The problem just presented, call it the Problem of the Substrate or the Problem of the Continuant, may be pressed into the mold of an aporetic tetrad:
1. Prime matter is the substrate of substantial change.
2. Prime matter does not exist in reality except as divided among individual material substances.
3. The substratum of a substantial change cannot be identified with any of the substances involved in the change, or with any other substance, or with any accident of any substance. (For example, the substratum of the substantial change which is Socrates' coming into existence from gametes G1 and G2 cannot be identified with Socrates, with G1, with G2, with any other substance, or with any accident of any substance.)
4. There is substantial change and it requires a really existent substrate.
The tetrad is inconsistent issuing as it does in the contradiction: Prime matter does and does not exist only in individual material substances.
The obvious solution is to deny (2). But if we deny (2) to solve the Problem of the Substrate, then we reignite the Antinomy of the Existence of Prime Matter. We solved the Antinomy by making a distinction, but that distinction gave rise to the Problem of the Substrate/Continuant. We appear to be in quite a pickle. (For more on the Substrate/Continuant problem, see John D. Kronen, Sandra Menssen and Thomas D. Sullivan, “The Problem of the Continuant: Aquinas and Suárez on Prime Matter and Substantial Generation,” The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 53, No. 4 (Jun., 2000), pp. 863-885.)
The Problem of Individuation
Finally a glance at the related ontological, not epistemological, problem of individuation. This problem is actually two problems. There is the problem of individuation proper, namely, the problem of what makes an individual substance individual as opposed to universal, and there is the connected problem of differentiation, namely, the problem of what makes numerically different individual substances numerically different. It is clear that prime matter cannot be the principle of differentiation. For one thing, prime matter is common to all material substances. For another, prime matter as pure potency is indeterminate, hence not intrinsically divided into parcels. Moreover, pace Feser, prime matter cannot “bring universals down to earth” in his phrase: it cannot be the principle of individuation, narrowly construed. (Schol. Metaph., p. 199) For what makes Socrates an individual substance rather than the substantial form he shares with Plato cannot be common, indeterminate, amorphous, matter.
Prime matter is not up to the job of individuation/differentiation. It is designated matter (materia signata quantitate) that is said to function as the ontological ground or 'principle' of individuation and numerical difference. Unfortunately, appeal to designated matter involves us in an explanatory circle. Designated matter is invoked to explain why Socrates and Plato are individual substances and why they are numerically different individual substances. But designated matter cannot be that which individuates/differentiates them since it presupposes for its individuation and differentiation the logically (not temporally) antecedent existence of individual material substances. Why are Socrates and Plato different? Because their designated matters are different. Why are their designated matters different? Because they are the matters of different substances. The explanation moves in a circle of rather short diameter.
Feser considers something like this objection but dismisses it as resting on a confusion of formal with efficient causality. But there is no such confusion in the objection as I have presented it. Efficient causality does not come into it at all. No one thinks that there is an agent who in a temporal process imposes substantial form on prime matter in the way that a potter in a temporal process imposes accidental form upon a lump of clay. I can grant Feser's point that prime matter and substantial form are related as material cause to formal cause. I can also grant that prime matter and substantial form are mutually implicative co-principles neither of which can exist without the other. Granting all this, my objection remains. Prime matter in itself is undifferentiated. It it differentiated and dimensive only in combination with substantial forms. But this is equivalent to saying that prime matter is differentiated and dimensive only as the designated matter of particular individual substances. But then designated matter cannot non-circularly explain why numerically different substances are numerically different. For the numerical difference of these matters presupposes the numerical difference of the substances.
Eric P. Levy, an emeritus professor of English at the University of British Columbia, has been much exercised of late by trope theory and other questions in ontology. He has been sharing his enthusiasm with me. He espies
. . . an apparent antinomy at the heart of trope theory. On the one hand, tropes are logically prior to objects. But on the other hand, objects (or, more precisely, the trope-bundles constituting objects) are logically prior to tropes, because without objects tropes have nowhere to be – without objects (or the trope-bundles constituting objects) tropes cannot be. Moreover, as has I hope been shown, a trope cannot be in (or constitute) any object or trope-bundle other than that in which it already is.
How might a trope theorist plausibly respond to this? Can she?
What are tropes?
It is a 'Moorean fact,' a pre-analytic datum, that things have properties. This is a pre-philosophical observation. In making it we are not yet doing philosophy. If things have properties, then there are properties. This is a related pre-philosophical observation. We begin to do philosophy when we ask: given that there are properties, what exactly are they? What is their nature? How are we to understand them? This is not the question, what properties are there, but the question, what are properties? The philosophical question, then, is not whether there are properties, but what properties are.
On trope theory, properties are assayed not as universals but as particulars: the redness of a tomato is as particular, as unrepeatable, as the tomato. Thus a tomato is red, not in virtue of exemplifying a universal, but by having a redness trope as one of its constituents (on the standard bundle version of trope theory) or by being a substratum in which a redness trope inheres (on a nonstandard theory which I will not further discuss). A trope is a simple entity in that there is no distinction between it and the property it ‘has.’ 'Has' and cognates are words of ordinary English: they do not commit us to ontological theories of what the having consists in. So don't confuse 'a has F-ness' with 'a instantiates F-ness.' Instantiation is a term of art, a terminus technicus in ontology. Or at least that is what it is in my book. More on instantiation in a moment.
Thus a redness trope is red, but it is not red by instantiating redness, or by having redness as a constituent, but by being (a bit of) redness. So a trope is what it has. It has redness by being identical to (a bit of) redness.
It is therefore inaccurate to speak of tropes as property instances. A trope is not a property instance on one clear understanding of the latter. First-order instantiation is a dyadic asymmetrical relation: if a instantiates F-ness, then it is not the case that F-ness instantiates a. (Higher order instantiation is not asymmetrical but nonsymmetrical. Exercise for the reader: prove it!) Suppose the instantiation relation connects the individual Socrates here below to the universal wisdom in the realm of platonica. Then a further item comes into consideration, namely, the wisdom of Socrates. This is a property instance. It is a particular, an unrepeatable, since it is the wisdom of Socrates and of no one else. This distinguishes it from the universal, wisdom, which is repeated in each wise individual. On the other side, the wisdom of Socrates is distinct from Socrates since there is more to Socrates that his being wise. There is his being snubnosed, etc. Now why do I maintain that a trope is not a property instance? Two arguments.
Tropes are simple, not complex. (See Maurin, here.) They are not further analyzable. Property instances, however, are complex, not simple. 'The F-ness of a' -- 'the wisdom of Socrates,' e.g. -- picks out a complex item that is analyzable into F-ness, a, and the referent of 'of.' Therefore, tropes are not property instances.
A second, related, argument. Tropes are in no way proposition-like. Property instances are proposition-like as can be gathered from the phrases we use to refer to them. Ergo, tropes are not property instances.
One can see from this that tropes on standard trope theory, as ably presented by Maurin in her SEP entry, are very strange items, so strange indeed that one can wonder whether they are coherently conceivable at all by minds of our discursive constitution. Here is one problem.
How could anything be both predicable and impredicable?
Properties are predicable items. So if tropes are properties, then tropes are predicable items. If the redness of my tomato, call it 'Tom,' is a trope, then this trope is predicable of Tom. Suppose I assertively utter a token of 'Tom is red.' On one way of parsing this we have a subject term 'Tom' and a predicate term '___ is red.' Thus the parsing: Tom/is red. But then the trope would appear to have a proposition-like structure, the structure of what Russell calls a propositional function. Clearly, '___ is red' does not pick out a proposition, but it does pick out something proposition-like and thus something complex. But now we have trouble since tropes are supposed to be simple. Expressed as an aporetic triad or antilogism:
a. Tropes are simple. b. Tropes are predicable. c. Predicable items are complex.
The limbs of the antilogism are each of them rationally supportable, but they cannot all be true. The conjunction of any two limbs entails the negation of the remaining one. Thus the conjunction of (b) and (c) entails ~(a).
We might try to get around this difficulty by parsing 'Tom is red' differently, as: Tom/is/red. On this scheme, 'Tom' and 'red' are both names. 'Tom' names a concrete particular whereas 'red' names an abstract particular. ('Abstract' is here being used in the classical, not the Quinean, sense.) As Maurin relates, D. C. Williams, who introduced the term 'trope' in its present usage back in the '50s, thinks of the designators of tropes as akin to names and demonstratives, not as definite descriptions. But then it becomes difficult to see how tropes could be predicable entities.
A tomato is not a predicable entity. One cannot predicate a tomato of anything. The same goes for the parts of a tomato; the seeds, e.g., are not predicable of anything. Now if a tomato is a bundle of tropes, then it is a whole of ontological parts, these latter being tropes. If we think of the tomato as a (full-fledged) substance, then the tropes constituting it are "junior substances." (See D. M. Armstrong, 1989, 115) But now the problem is: how can one and the same item -- a trope -- be both a substance and a property, both an object and a concept (in Fregean jargon), both impredicable and predicable? Expressed as an aporetic dyad or antinomy:
d. Tropes are predicable items. e. Tropes are not predicable items.
Maurin seems to think that the limbs of the dyad can both be true: ". . . tropes are by their nature such that they can be adequately categorized both as a kind of property and as a kind of substance." If the limbs can both be true, then they are not contradictory despite appearances.
How can we defuse the apparent contradiction in the d-e dyad? Consider again Tom and the redness trope R. To say that R is predicable of Tom is to say that Tom is a trope bundle having R as an ontological (proper) part. To say that R us impredicable or a substance is to say that R is capable of independent existence.. Recall that Armstrong plausibly defines a substance as anything logically capable of independent existence.
It looks as if we have just rid ourselves of the contradiction. The sense in which tropes are predicable is not the sense in which they are impredicable. They are predicable as constituents of trope bundles; they are impredicable in themselves. Equivalently, tropes are properties when they are compresent with sufficiently many other tropes to form trope bundles (concrete particulars); but they are substances in themselves apart from trope bundles as the 'building blocks' out of which such bundles are (logically or rather ontologically) constructed.
Which came first: the whole or the parts?
But wait! This solution appears to have all the advantages of jumping from the fying pan into the fire, or from the toilet into the cesspool. (I apologize to the good professor for the mixture and crudity of my metaphors.) For now we bang up against Levy's Antinomy, or something like it, to wit:
f. Tropes as substances, as ontological building blocks, are logically prior to concrete particulars. g. Tropes as properties, as predicable items, are not logically prior to concrete particulars.
This looks like a genuine aporia. The limbs cannot both be true. And yet each is an entailment of standard trope theory. If tropes are the "alphabet of being" in a phrase from Williams, then they are are logically prior to what they spell out. But if tropes are unrepeatable properties, properties as particulars, then a trope cannot exist except as a proper ontological part of a trope bundle, the very one of which it is a part. For if a trope were not tied to the very bundle of which it is a part, it would be a universal, perhaps only an immanent universal, but a universal all the same.
Furthermore, what makes a trope abstract in the classical sense of the term is that it is abstracted from a concretum. But then the concretum comes first, ontologically speaking, and (g) is true.
Interim conclusion: Trope theory, pace Anna-Sofia [what a beautiful aptronym!] Maurin, is incoherent. But of course we have only scratched the surface.
Picture below, left-to-right: Anna-Sofia Maurin, your humble correspondent, Arianna Betti, Jan Willem Wieland. Geneva, Switzerland, December 2008. It was a cold night.
I will try to explain it as clearly and succinctly as I can. I will explain the simplest version of the puzzle, the 'monoglot' version. We shall cleave to English as to our dear mother.
The puzzle is generated by the collision of two principles, one concerning reference, the other concerning disquotation. Call them MILL and DISQ.
MILL: The reference of a proper name is direct: not routed through sense as in Frege. The meaning of a name is exhausted by its reference. The semantic value of a name is just the object to which it refers. (Gareth Evans plausibly recommends 'semantic value' as the best translation of Frege's Bedeutung.)
DISQ: If a normal English speaker S sincerely assents, upon reflection, to 'p,' and 'p' is a sentence in English free of indexical elements, pronominal devices, and ambiguities, then S believes that p.
The puzzle is interesting, and not easily solved, because there are good reasons for accepting both principles. The puzzle is puzzling because the collision of the two principles takes the form of a flat-out logical contradiction.
And as we all know, philosophers, while they love paradoxes, hate contradictions.
(DISQ) strikes this philosopher as a principle than which no more luminous can be conceived. How could one who is competent in English and familiar with current events sincerely and reflectively assent to 'Hillary is a liar' and not believe that Hillary is a liar? The intellectual luminosity of (MILL), however, leaves something to be desired. And yet it is plausible, and to many experts, extremely plausible. Brevity being the soul of blog, I cannot now trot out the arguments in support of (MILL).
The collision of (MILL) and (DISQ) occurs at the intersection of Mind and World. It comes about like this. S may assent to
a. Cicero was a Roman
while failing to assent to
b. Tully was a Roman
c. Cicero = Tully.
Given (DISQ), S believes that Cicero was a Roman, but may or may not believe that Tully was a Roman. But how is this possible given the truth of (c)? Given (c), there is no semantic difference between (a) and (b): the predicates are the same, and the names are semantically the same under (MILL). For on the latter principle, the meaning of a name is its referent. So sameness of referent entails sameness of meaning, which is to say: the semantic content of (a) and (b) is the same given the truth of (c).
How can S believe that Cicero was a Roman while neither believing nor disbelieving that Tully was a Roman when the sentences express the very same proposition? This is (an instance of) the puzzle. Here is another form of it. Suppose S assents to (a) but also assents to
d. Tully was not a Roman.
On (DISQ), S believes that Tully is not a Roman. So S believes both that Cicero was a Roman and that Tully was not a Roman. But Cicero = Tully. Therefore, S believes that Cicero was a Roman and S believes that Cicero was not a Roman. This certainly looks like a contradiction.
It seems that our governing principles, (MILL) and (DISQ), when applied to an ordinary example, generate a contradiction, the worst sort of intellectual collision one can have.
The Paderewski case is similar. On different occasions, Peter assents to 'Paderewski is musical' and 'Paderewski is not musical.' He has no qualms about assenting to both since he supposes that this is a case of two men with the same name. But in reality he is referring to one and the same man. By (DISQ), Peter believes both that Paderewski is musical and that Paderewski is not musical. Given (MILL), Peter believes contradictory propositions. How is this possible given that Peter is rational?
Given the luminosity of (DISQ), one might think the solution to Kripke's puzzle about belief is simply to jettison (MILL).
Not so fast. There are powerful arguments for (MILL).
Saul Kripke's Paderewski puzzle put me in mind of a rather similar puzzle -- call it the Ortcutt puzzle -- from W.V. Quine's seminal 1956 J. Phil. paper, "Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes" (in The Ways of Paradox, Harvard UP, 1976, pp. 185-196). Back to Ortcutt!
The ordinary language 'Ralph believes that someone is a spy' is ambiguous as between the de dicto
a. Ralph believes that (∃x)(x is a spy)
and the de re
b. (∃x)(Ralph believes that x is a spy).
To believe that someone is a spy is very different from believing, of a particular person, that he is a spy. Most of us believe the former, but few of us believe the latter.
Despite Quine's queasiness about quantifying into belief contexts, and intensional contexts generally, (b) is intelligible. Suppose (b) is true: someone is believed by Ralph to be a spy. This existentially general sentence cannot be true unless some particular person is believed by Ralph to be a spy. Let that person be Bernard J. Ortcutt.
Now suppose Ralph has several times seen a man in a brown hat hanging around dubious venues, a man Ralph takes to be a spy. There is also a man that Ralph has seen once on the beach, an elderly gray-haired gent who Ralph takes to be a pillar of the community. (Assume that, in Ralph's mind at least, no pillar of a community is a spy.) Unbeknownst to Ralph, the 'two' men are one and the same man, Ortcutt.
Does Ralph believe, of Ortcutt, that he is a spy or not?
Suppose de re belief is irreducible to de dicto belief. What we then have is a relation (possibly triadic) that connects Ralph to the concrete individual Ortcutt himself and not to a name or description or a Fregean sense or any doxastic intermediary in the mind of Ralph such as a concept or idea, or to any incomplete object that is an ontological constituent of Ralph such as one of Hector-Neri Castaneda's ontological guises, or to anything else other than Ortcutt himself, that completely determinate chunk of extramental and extralinguistic reality.
It would seem to follow on the above supposition that Ralph believes, of Ortcutt, that he is both a spy and not a spy. It seems to follow that Ralph has contradictory beliefs. How so? Well, if there is de re belief, and it is irreducible to de dicto belief, then there is a genuine relation, not merely an intentional 'relation' or a notional 'relation' that connects Ralph to Ortcutt himself who exists. (A relation is genuine just in case its holding between or among its relata entails that each relatum exists.) Under the description 'the man in the brown hat,' Ralph believes, of Ortcutt, that he is a spy. But under the description 'the man on the beach,' he believes, of Ortcutt, that he is not a spy. So Ralph believes, of one and the same man, that he is a spy and not a spy. Of course, Ralph does not know or suspect that the 'two' men are the same man. But he doesn't need to know or suspect that for the de re belief relation to hold.
The above seems to amount to a reductio ad absurdum of the notion of irreducible de re belief. For if we accept it, then it seems we must accept the possibility of a rational person's having contradictory beliefs about one and the same item. Why not then try to reduce de re belief to de dicto belief? Roderick Chisholm, following Quine, attempts a reduction in Appendix C of Person and Object (Open Court, 1976, pp. 168-172)
A Reductio ad Absurdum Argument Against a Millian Theory of Proper Names
c. If a normal English speaker S, on reflection, sincerely assents to a sentence 'a is F,' then S believes that a is F. (Kripke's disquotational principle) d. If a Millian theory of proper names is correct, then the linguistic function of a name is exhausted by the fact that it names its bearer. e. Peter sincerely assents to both 'Paderewski is musical' and 'Paderewski is not musical.' (Kripke's Paderewski example) Therefore f. Peter believes both that Paderewsi is musical and that Paderewski is not musical. (From c) Therefore g. Peter believes, of one and the same man, Paderewski, that he is both musical and not musical. (From f, d) h. Peter believes a contradiction. (From g) i. Peter is rational, and no rational person believes a contradiction. Therefore j. Peter is rational and Peter is not rational. (From h,i) Therefore k. (d) is false: Millianism about proper names is incorrect.
Interim Tentative Conclusion
Millianism about proper names entails that there are cases of de re belief that are irreducible to cases of de dicto belief. This is turn entails contradictions, as in Paderewski-type cases. Therefore, Millianism about proper names entails contradictions. So we have here a powerful argument against Millianism. But there are also poweful arguments against the alternatives to Millianism. So I conjecture that we are in the presence of a genuine aporia, an insoluble problem (insoluble by us), that is yet genuine, i.e., not a pseudo-problem.
London Ed propounds a difficulty for our delectation and possible solution:
Clearly the difficulty with the intralinguistic theory is its apparent absurdity, but I am trying to turn this around. What can we say about extralinguistic reference? What actually is the extralinguistic theory? You argue that the pronoun ‘he’ inherits a reference from its antecedent, so that the pronoun does refer extralinguistically, but only per alium, not per se.
Mark 14:51 And there followed him [Jesus] a certain young man (νεανίσκος τις) , having a linen cloth (σινδόνα) cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him. 14:52 And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.
So the pronoun ‘he’ inherits its reference through its antecedent. But the antecedent is the noun phrase ‘a certain young man’. On your theory, does this refer extralinguistically? That’s a problem, because indefinite noun phrases traditionally do not refer, indeed that’s the whole point of them. ‘a certain young man’ translates the Latin ‘adulescens quidam’ which in turn translates the Greek ‘νεανίσκος τις’. Here ‘certain’ (Latin quidam, Greek τις) signifies that the speaker knows who he is talking about, but declines to tell the audience who this is. Many commentators have speculated that the man was Mark himself, the author of the gospel, which if true means that ‘a certain young man’ and the pronouns, could be replaced with ‘I’, salva veritate. But Mark deliberately does not tell us.
So, question 1, in what sense does the indefinite noun phrase refer, given that, on the extralinguistic theory, it has to be the primary referring phrase, from which all subsequent back-reference inherits its reference?
A. First of all, it is not clear why Ed says, ". . . indefinite noun phrases traditionally do not refer, indeed that’s the whole point of them." Following Fred Sommers, in traditional formal logic (TFL) as opposed to modern predicate logic (MPL), indefinite noun phrases do refer. (See Chapter 3, "Indefinite Reference" of The Logic of Natural Language.) Thus the subject terms in 'Some senator is a physician' and 'A physician is running for president' refer, traditionally, to some senator and to a physician. This may be logically objectionable by Fregean lights but it is surely traditional. That's one quibble. A second is that it is not clear why Ed says "that's the whole point of them."
So the whole point of a tokening of 'a certain young man' is to avoid making an extralinguistic reference? I don't understand.
B. Ed says there is a problem on my view. A lover of aporetic polyads, I shall try to massage it into one. I submit for your solution the following inconsistent pentad:
a. There are only two kinds of extralinguistic reference: via logically proper names, including demonstratives and indexicals, and via definite descriptions. b. The extralinguistic reference of a grammatical pronoun used pronominally (as opposed to quantificationally or indexically) piggy-backs on the extralinguistic reference of its antecedent. It is per alium not per se. c. 'His,' 'him,' and 'he' in the verse from Mark are pronouns used pronominally the antecedent of which is 'a certain young man.' d. 'A certain young man' in the verse from Mark is neither a logically proper name nor a definite description. e. 'A certain young man' in the verse from Mark refers extralinguistically on pain of the sentence of which it is a part being not true.
The pentad is inconsistent.
The middle three limbs strike me as datanic. So there are two possible solutions.
One is (a)-rejection. Maintain as Sommers does that indefinite descriptions can refer. This 'solution' bangs up against the critique of Peter Geach and other Fregeans.
The other is (e)-rejection. Deny that there is any extralinguistic reference at all. This, I think, is Ed's line. Makes no sense to me, though.
I wonder: could Ed be toying with the idea of using the first four limbs as premises in an argument to the conclusion that all reference is intralinguistic? I hope not.
Are the Christian and Muslim Gods the same? Why not settle this in short order with a nice, crisp, Indiscernibility argument? To wit,
a. If x = y, then x, y share all intrinsic properties. (A version of the Indiscernibility of Identicals) b. The God of the Christians and that of the Muslims do not share all intrinsic properties: the former is triune while the latter is not. Therefore c. The God of the Christians is not identical to that of the Muslims.
Not so fast!
With no breach of formal-logical propriety one could just as easily run the argument in reverse, arguing from the negation of (c) to the negation of (b). They are the same God, so they do share all intrinsic properties!
But then what about triunity? One could claim that triunity is not an intrinsic property. A Muslim might claim that triunity is a relational property, a property that involves a relation to the false beliefs of Christians. In other words, triunity is the relational property of being believed falsely by Christians to be a Trinity.
Clearly, a relational property of this sort cannot be used to show numerical diversity. Otherwise, one could 'show' that the morning and evening 'stars' are not the same because Shlomo of Brooklyn believes of one that it is a planet but of the other than it is a star.
Now consider a 'mind' argument.
a. If x = y, then x, y share all intrinsic properties. (A version of the Indiscernibility of Identicals) b*. This occurrent thinking of Venus and its associated brain state do not share all intrinsic properties: my mental state is intentional (object-directed) whereas my brain state is not. Therefore c*. This occurrent thinking of Venus is not identical to its associated brain state.
Not so fast! A resolute token-token mind-brain identity theorist will run the argument in reverse, arguing from the negation of (c*) to the negation of (b*).
But then what about intentionality? The materialist could claim that intentionality is not an intrinsic property, but a relational one. Taking a page from Daniel Dennett, he might argue that intentionality is a matter of ascription: nothing is intrinsically intentional. We ascribe intentionality to what, in itself, is non-intentional. So in reality all there is is the brain state. The intentionality is our addition.
Now Dennett's ascriptivist theory of intentionality strikes me as absurd: it is either viciously infinitely regressive, or else viciously circular. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the infinite regress is benign. Can I show that it is not without begging the question?
Question for the distinguished MavPhil commentariat: Are there good grounds here for solubility-skepticism when it comes to philosophical problems?
Each of the following three propositions strikes me as very reasonably maintained. But they cannot all be true.
A. Worship Entails Reference: If S worships x, then S refers to x. B. Reference Entails Existence: If S refers to x, then x exists. C. Worship Does Not Entail Existence: It is not the case that if S worships x, then x exists.
It is easy to see that the triad is inconsistent. The conjunction of any two limbs entails the negation of the remaining one. For example, (A) and (B), taken in conjunction, entail the negation of (C).
What makes the triad a very interesting philosophical problem, however, is the fact that each of the constituent propositions issues a very strong claim on our acceptance. I am inclined to say that each is true. But of course they cannot all be true if they are logically inconsistent, which they obviously are.
Why think that each limb is true?
Ad (A): While there is much more to worship than reference, and while reference to a god or God can take place without worship, it is surely the case that whatever one worships one refers to, whether publicly or privately, whether in overt speech or in wordless thought.
Ad (B): Unless we make a move into Meinong's jungle, it would seem that reference is reference to what exists. There are different ways for reference to fail, but one way is if the referent does not exist. Suppose I think Scollay Square still exists. Trying to say something true, I say, 'Scollay Square is in Boston.' Well, I fail to say something true because of the failure of reference of 'Scollay Square.' My sentence is either false or lacks a truth-value. Now if one way for a reference to fail is when the referent does not exist, then reference entails existence.
Here is a second consideration. Philosophers often speak of reference as a word-world relation. Better: it is a relation between a word of phrase thoughtfully deployed by a person and something that exists extralinguistically. But surely if a genuine relation R holds, then each of R's relata exists. In the dyadic case, if x stands in R to y, then both x and y exist. A weaker principle is that of existence-symmetry: if x stands in R to y, then either both relata exist or neither exists. Both principles rule out the situation in which one relatum of the reference relation exists and the other doesn't.
So if reference is a genuine relation, and a person uses a word or phrase to refer to something, then the thing in question, the referent, exists. So again it seems that (B) is true and that reference entails existence. If the referent does not exist, then the reference relation does not hold in this case and there is no reference in this case. No referent, no reference. If reference, then referent.
Ad (C): Some say that the Christian God and the Muslim God are the same. But no one this side of the lunatic asylum says that all gods are the same. So at least one of these gods does not exist. But presumably all gods have been worshipped by someone; ergo, being worshipped does not entail existence.
So how do we solve this aporetic bad boy? We have three very plausible propositions that cannot all be true. So it seems we must reject one of them. But which one?
(A) is above reproach. Surely one cannot worship anything without referring to it. And I should think that (C) is obviously true. The idolater worships a false god, something that does not exist. As Peter Geach points out, the idolater does not worship a hunk of gold, say, but a hunk of gold as God, or God as a hunk of gold. But then he worships something that does not exist and indeed cannot exist. The only hope for solving the triad is by rejecting (B). For (B) does not share in the obviousness of (A) and (C). (B) is very plausible but not as plausible as the other two limbs.
London Ed will presumably endorse (B)-rejection as the solution since he is already on record as saying that one can successfully refer to purely fictional (and thus nonexistent) individuals and that one also be confident that it is numerically the same fictional individual to which different people are referring in different ways. Thus if London Ed brings up in conversation the fictional detective who lives on Baker Street, has an assistant named 'Watson,' etc. , then I know he is referring to Sherlock Holmes. And referring successfully. We are talking about one and the same individual. Successful reference thus seems not to require the existence of the referent.
But notice. If there is successful reference to nonexistent individuals, then it would seem that reference is an intentional state just like worshiping is. Or to put the point in formal mode: it would seem that 'refers' is an intentional verb just like 'worship' is. What one worships may or may not exist without prejudice to one's being in a state of worship. On (B)-rejection, what one refers to may or may not exist without prejudice to one's being in the state of referring.
By the way, it is not words that refer, but people using words. Of course, one can say that 'cat' in English refers to furry, four-legged mammals, but that is elliptical for saying that competent English speakers who are using 'cat' in a standard, non-metaphorical, way refer by the use of this word to furry, four-legged mammals. Linguistic reference is grounded in and parasitic upon thinking reference, intentional reference. And not the other way around. Not everyone agrees, of course. (Chisholm and Sellars famously disagreed about this.) This is yet another bone of contention at the base of the Same God? controversy. And one more reason why it is not easily resolved.
Well, suppose that linguistic reference is like mental reference (intentionality) in this respect: just as the intentio is what it is whether or not the intentum exists, the reference is what it is whether or not the referent exists. This makes sense and it solves the above aporetic triad. We simply reject (B).
Now where does my solution to the above triad leave us with respect to the question, Does the Christian and the Muslim worship the same God? My solution implies that they do not worship the same God. For it implies that reference to an individual or particular is not direct but mediated by properties. Let's consider private, unverbalized worship in the form of discursive prayer. Suppose I pray the Jesus Prayer, or some such prayer as 'Lord, grant me light in my moral and intellectual darkness.' Such prayer is on the discursive plane. It is not a matter of infused contemplation or any state of mystical intuition or mystical union. On the discursive plane I have no knowledge of God by acquaintance, and certainly not by sensory acquaintance. My knowledge, if knowledge it is, is by description. I refer to God mentally via properties as that which satisfies, uniquely, a certain identifying description. Obviously, I cannot have God before my mind as a pure, unpropertied particular; I can have God before my mind only as 'clothed' in certain properties, only as an instantiation of those properties.
Now if the properties in terms of which I prayerfully think of God include the property of being triune, and the properties in terms of which a Muslim thinks of God include the property of not being triune, then no one thing can be our common mental referent. For in reality outside the mind nothing can be both triune and not triune.
If you object that there is a common God but that the Muslim has false beliefs about it, then I say you are either begging the question or assuming a causal theory of reference. It is certainly true that different people can have contradictory beliefs about one and the same thing. But if you say that this is the case with respect to the Muslim and Christian Gods, then you assume that there is one God about whom there are contradictory beliefs -- and that is precisely to beg the question. This is the very mistake that Beckwith and Tuggy and others make.
If, on the other hand, you are assuming a casual theory of reference, then how will you solve my triad above? Besides, you take on board all the problems of the casual theory. The notion that reference can be explained by causation is a very questionable one, about which I will have more to say later.
Peter Lupu called me last night to report that it had occurred to him that the famous Euthyphro Dilemma, first bruited in the eponymous early Platonic dialog, reflects a difference between two conceptions of God. One is the God-as-Being-itself conception; the other is the God-as-supreme-being conception. After he hung up, I recalled that in June, 2009 I had written a substantial entry on the Euthyphro Problem. I reproduce it here with some edits and additions in the expectation that it will help Peter think the matter through. I look forward to his comments. The ComBox is open.
The Euthyphro Problem
The locus classicus is Stephanus 9-10 in the early Platonic dialog, Euthyphro. This aporetic dialog is about the nature of piety, and Socrates, as usual, is in quest of a definition. Euthyphro proposes three definitions, with each of which Socrates has no trouble finding fault. According to the second, "piety is what all the gods love, and impiety is what all the gods hate." To this Socrates famously responds, "Do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?" In clearer terms, do the gods love pious acts because they are pious, or are pious acts pious because the gods love them?
But leaving piety and its definition aside, let us grapple with the deepest underlying issue as it affects the foundations of morality. As I see it, the Euthyphro problem assumes its full trenchancy and interest in the following generalized form of an aporetic dyad:
1. The obligatory is obligatory in virtue of its being commanded by an entity with the power to enforce its commands.
2. The obligatoriness of the obligatory cannot derive from some powerful entity's commanding of it.
It is clear that these propositions are inconsistent: they cannot both be true. What's more, they are contradictories: each entails the negation of the other. And yet each limb of the dyad is quite reasonably accepted, or so I shall argue. Thus the problem is an aporia: a set of propositions that are individually plausible but jointly inconsistent. Specifically, the problem is an antinomy: the limbs are logical contradictories and yet each limb make a strong claim on our acceptance.
Ad (1). The obligatory comprises what one ought to do, what one must, morally speaking, do. Now one might think that (1) is obviously false. If I am obliged to do X or refrain from doing Y, then one might think that the obligatoriness would be independent of any command, and thus independent of any person or group of persons who issues a command. The obligatory might be commanded, but being commanded is not what makes it obligatory on this way of thinking; it is rightly commanded because it is obligatory, rather than obligatory because it is commanded. And if one acts in accordance with a command to do something obligatory the obligatoriness of which does not derive from its being commanded, then, strictly speaking, one has not obeyed the command. To obey a command to do X is to do X because one is so commanded; to act in accordance with a command need not be to obey it. So if I obey a divine command to do X, I do X precisely and only because God has commanded it, and not because I discern X to be in itself obligatory, or both in itself obligatory and commanded by God.
There is a difference between obeying a command and acting in accordance with one. One can do the latter without doing the former, but not vice versa. Or if you insist, 'obey' is ambiguous: it has a strict and a loose sense. I propose using the term in the strict sense. Accordingly, I have not obeyed a command simply because I have acted in accordance with it; I have obeyed it only if I have so acted because it was commanded.
Consider an example. If one is obliged to feed one's children, if this is what one ought to do, there is a strong tendency to say that one ought to do it whether anyone or anything (God, the law, the state) commands it, and regardless of any consequences that might accrue if one were to fail to do it. One ought to do it because it is the right thing to do, the morally obligatory thing to do, something one (morally) must do. Thinking along these lines, one supposes that the oughtness or obligatoriness of what we are obliged to do as it were 'hangs in the air' unsupported by a conscious being such as God or some non-divine commander. Or to change the metaphor, the obligatory is 'laid up in Plato's heaven.' William James, however, reckons this a superstition:
But the moment we take a steady look at the question, we see not only that without a claim actually made by some concrete person there can be no obligation, but that there is some obligation wherever there is a claim. Claim and obligation are, in fact, coextensive terms; they cover each other exactly. Our ordinary attitude of regarding ourselves as subject to an overarching system of moral relations, true "in themselves," is therefore either an out‑and‑out superstition, or else it must be treated as a merely provisional abstraction from that real Thinker in whose actual demand upon us to think as he does our obligation must be ultimately based. In a theistic ethical philosophy that thinker in question is, of course, the Deity to whom the existence of the universe is due. "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life" in The Will to Believe, p. 194.
James' point is that there is no abstract moral 'nature of things' existing independently of conscious beings. Thus the obligatoriness of an action we deem obligatory is not a property it has intrinsically apart from any relation to a subject who has desires and makes demands. The obligatoriness of an act must be traced back to the "de facto constitution of some existing consciousness."
Building on James' point, one could argue persuasively that if there is anything objectively obligatory, obligatory for all moral agents, then obligatoriness must be derivable from the will of an existing consciousness possessing the power to enforce its commands with respect to all who are commanded. A theist will naturally identify this existing consciousness with God.
Ad (2). In contradiction to the foregoing, however, it seems that (2) is true. To derive the obligatoriness of acts we deem obligatory from the actual commands of some de facto existing consciousness involves deriving the normative from the non-normative — and this seems clearly to be a mistake. If X commands Y, that is just a fact; how can X's commanding Y establish that Y ought to be done? Suppose I command you to do something. (Suppose further that you have not entered into a prior agreement with me to do as I say.) How can the mere fact of my issuing a command induce in you any obligation to act as commanded? Of course, I may threaten you with dire consequences if you fail to do as I say. If you then act in accordance with my command, you have simply submitted to my will in order to avoid the dire consequences — and not because you have perceived any obligation to act as commanded.
The Problem Applied to Islam
Now it seems clear that there is nothing meritorious in mere obedience, in mere submission to the will of another, even if the Other is the omnipotent lord of the universe. Surely, the mere fact that the most powerful person in existence commands me to do something does not morally oblige me to do it. Not even unlimited Might makes Right. It is no different from the situation in which a totalitarian state such as the Evil Empire of recent memory commands one to do something. Surely Uncle Joe's command to do X on pain of the gulag if one refuses to submit does not confer moral obligatoriness on the action commanded. In fact, mere obedience is the opposite of meritorious: it is a contemptible abdication of one's autonomy and grovelling acceptance of heteronomy.
And here is where Islam comes into the picture. The root meaning of 'Islam' is not 'peace' but submission to the will of Allah. But a rational, self-respecting, autonomous agent cannot submit to the will of Allah, or to the will of any power, unless the commands of said power are as it were 'independently certifiable.' In other words, only if Allah commands what is intrinsically morally obligatory could a self-respecting, autonomous agent act in accordance with his commands. In fact, one could take it a step further: a self-respecting, autonomous agent is morally obliged to act in accordance with Allah's commands only if what is commanded is intrinsically obligatory.
Of course, this way of thinking makes God or Allah subject to the moral law, as to something beyond divine control. But if there is anything beyond divine control, whether the laws of morality or the laws of logic, then it would seem that the divine aseity and sovereignty is compromised. For perhaps the best recent defense of absolute divine sovereignty, see Hugh J. McCann, Creation and the Sovereignty of God, Indiana UP, 2012. For my critique, see "Hugh McCann and the Implications of Divine Sovereignty," American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 88, no. 1, Winter 2014, pp. 149-161.
God is the absolute, and no absolute can be subject to anything 'outside' it. (If you say that God is not the absolute, then there is something greater than God, namely the absolute, and we should worship THAT. Presumably this is one of Anselm's reasons for describing God as "that than which no greater can be conceived.") Otherwise it would be relative to this 'outside' factor and hence not be ab solus and a se.
The antinomy, therefore, seems quite real and is not easily evaded. The divine aseity demands that God or Allah not be subject to anything external to him. A god so subject would not be God. On the other hand, the unlimited voluntarism of the Muslim view (see Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges for documentation here and here) is also unacceptable. A god who, at ontological bottom, was Absolute Whim and Arbitrary Power, would not be worthy of our worship but of our defiance. I am reminded of the late Christopher Hitchens who thought of God as an all-seeing, absolute despot.
The Muslim view is quite 'chilling' if one thinks about it. If God is not constrained by anything, not logic, not morality, then to use the words but reverse the sense of the famous BrothersKaramazov passage, "everything is permitted." In other words, if the Muslim god exists then "everything is permitted" just as surely as "everything is permitted" if the Christian god does not exist. In the former case, everything is permitted because morality has no foundation. In the former case, everything is permitted because morality's foundation is in Absolute Whim.
To put it in another way, a foundation of morality in unconstrained and unlimited will is no foundation at all.
To 'feel the chill,' couple the Muslim doctrine about God with the Muslim literalist/fundamentalist doctrine that his will is plain to discern in the pages of the Koran. Now murder can easily be justified, the murder of 'infidels' namely, on the ground that it is the will of God.
In the West, however, we have a safeguard absent in the Islamic world, namely reason. (That there is little or no reason in the Islamic world is proven by the fact that there is little or no genuine philosophy there, with the possible slight exception of Turkey; all genuine philosophy -- not to be confused with historical scholarship -- in the last 400 or so years comes from the West including Israel; I am being only slightly tendentious.) God is not above logic, nor is he above morality. It simply cannot be the case that God commands what is obviously evil. We in the West don't allow any credibility to such a god. In the West, reason acts as a 'check' and a 'balance' on the usurpatious claims of faith and inspiration.
A Thomist Solution?
But this still leaves us with the Euthyphro Problem. (1) and (2) are contradictories, and yet there are reasons to accept both. The unconditionally obligatory cannot exist in an ontological void: the 'ought' must be grounded in an 'is.' The only 'is' available is the will of an existing conscious being. But how can the actual commands of any being, even God, the supreme being, ground the obligatoriness of an act we deem obligatory?
Suppose God exists and God commands in accordance with a moral code that is logically antecedent to the divine will. Then the obligatory would not be obligatory because God commands it; it would be obligatory independently of divine commands. But that would leave us with the problem of explaining what makes the obligatory obligatory. It would leave us with prescriptions and proscriptions 'hanging in the air.' If, on the other hand, the obligatory is obligatory precisely because God commands it, then we have the illicit slide from 'is' to 'ought.' Surely the oughtness of what one ought to do cannot be inferred from the mere factuality of some command.
But if God is ontologically simple in the manner explained in my SEP article, then perhaps we can avoid both horns of the dilemma. For if God is simple, as Sts. Augustine and Aquinas maintained, then it is neither the case that God legislates morality, nor the case that he commands a moral code that exists independently of him. It is neither the case that obligatoriness derives from commands or that commands are in accordance with a pre-existing obligatoriness. The two are somehow one. God is neither an arbitrary despot, nor a set of abstract prescriptions. He is not a good being, but Goodness itself. He is self-existent concrete normativity as such.
But as you can see, the doctrine of divine simplicity tapers of into the mystical. You will be forgiven if you take my last formulations as gobbledy-gook. Perhaps they are and must remain nonsensical to the discursive intellect. But then we have reason to think the problem intractable. (1) and (2) cannot both be true, and yet we have good reason to accept both. To relieve the tension via the simplicity doctrine involves a shift into the transdiscursive — which is to say that the problem cannot be solved discursively.
One thing does seem very clear to me: the Muslim solution in terms of unlimited divine voluntarism is a disaster, and dangerous to boot. It would be better to accept a Platonic solution in which normativity 'floats free' of "the de facto constitution of some existing consciousness," to revert to the formulation of William James.
My friend Peter Lupu sees clearly that there is a connection between the horns of the Euthyphro Dilemma and the competing conceptions of God. The first horn -- The obligatory is obligatory in virtue of its being commanded by an entity with the power to enforce its commands -- aligns naturally with the conception of God as Being itself, as ipsum esse subsistens, as self-subsistent Being. God is not a norm enforcer, but ethical Normativity Itself. The second horn -- The obligatoriness of the obligatory cannot derive from some powerful entity's commanding of it -- aligns naturally with the conception of God as a being among beings, albeit a being supreme among beings. Supreme, but still subject to the moral order.
But of course there is trouble, and the alignment is not as smooth as we schematizers would like. For on either horn, God is a supreme commander, and this makes little sense if God is self-subsistent Being itself. One feels tempted to say that on either horn God is a being among beings.
Concluding Aporetic Postscript
We cannot genuinely solve the Euthyphro Dilemma by affirming either limb. Our only hope is to make an ascensive move to a higher standpoint, that of the divine simplicity according to which God is self-subsistent Being and Ethical Requiredness Itself. But this ascension is into the Transdiscursive, a region in which all our propositions are nonsensical in Wittgenstein's Tractarian sense. We are in the Tractarian predicament of trying to say the Unsayable.
So I submit that the problem is a genuine a-poria. There is no way forward, leastways, not here below. Both horns are impasses, to mix some metaphors. But here below is where we languish. The problem is absolutely insoluble for the Cave dweller.
Philosophers who simply must, at any cost, have a solution to every problem will of course disagree. These 'aporetically challenged' individuals need to take care they don't end up as ideologues.
I just started reading Philosophy for Understanding Theology by Diogenes Allen. The first chapter is devoted to the doctrine of creation. These two sentences jumped out at me: "The world plus God is not more than God alone. God less the world is not less than God alone." Do you agree? How would you unpack them?
These are hard sayings indeed. Herewith, some rough notes on the aporetics of the situation.
By 'world' here is meant the totality of creatures, the totality of beings brought into existence by God from nothing. Now if God is a being among beings, it would make no sense at all to say that "The world plus God is not more than God alone." For if we add the uncreated being (God) to the created beings, then we have more beings. We have a totality T that is larger than T minus God. If God is a being among beings, then there is a totality of beings that all exist in the same way and in the same sense, and this totality includes both God and creatures such that subtracting God or subtracting creatures would affect the 'cardinality' of this totality.
But if God is not a being among beings, but Being itself in its absolute fullness, as per the metaphysics of Exodus 3:14 (Ego sum qui sum, "I am who am") then there is no totality of beings all existing in the same way having both God and creatures as members. When we speak of God and creatures,
. . . we are dealing with two orders of being not to be added together or subtracted; they are, in all rigour, incommensurable, and that is also why they are compossible. God added nothing to Himself by the creation of the world, nor would anything be taken away from Him by its annihilation -- events which would be of capital importance for the created things concerned, but null for Being Who would be in no wise concerned qua being. (Etienne Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy, Scribners 1936, p. 96. Gilson's Gifford lectures, 1931-1932.)
Here, I am afraid, I will end up supplying some 'ammo' to Tuggy, Rhoda, and Anderson. For the Gilson passage teeters on the brink of incoherence. We are told that there are two orders of being but that they are incommensurable. This can't be right, at least not without qualification. If there are two orders of being, then they are commensurable in respect of being. There has to be some sense in which God and Socrates both are. Otherwise, God and creatures are totally disconnected, with the consequence that creatures fall away into nothingness. For if God is Being itself, and there is no common measure, no commensurability whatsoever, between God and creatures, then creatures are nothing. God is all in all. God alone is. Gilson is well aware of the dialectical pressure in this monistic direction: "As soon as we identify God with Being it becomes clear that there is a sense in which God alone is." (65) If we emphasize the plenitude and transcendence of God, then this sensible world of matter and change is "banished at one stroke into the penumbra of mere appearance, relegated to the inferior status of a quasi-unreality." (64) But of course Christian metaphysics is not a strict monism; so a way must be found to assign the proper degree of reality to the plural world.
Here is the problem in a nutshell. God cannot be a being among beings. "But if God is Being, how can there be anything other than Himself?" (84) We need to find a way to avoid both radical ontological pluralism and radical ontological monism.
It's a variation on the old problem of the One and the Many.
A. If Being itself alone is, then beings are not. But then the One lacks the many. Not good: the manifold is evident to the senses and the intellect.
B. If beings alone are, then Being is not. But then the many lacks the One. Not good: the many is the many of the One. A sheer manifold with no real unity would not a cosmos make. The world is one, really one.
C. If Being and beings both are in the same way and and the same sense, then either Being is itself just another being among beings and we are back with radical pluralism, or Being alone is and we are back with radical monism.
Gilson's Thomist solution invokes the notions of participation and analogy. God is Being itself in its purity and plenitude and infinity. Creatures exist by participation in the divine Being: they are limited participators in unlimited Being. So both God and creatures exist, but in different ways. God exists simply and 'unparticipatedly.' Creatures exist by participation. God and creatures do not form a totality in which each member exists in the same way. We can thus avoid each of (A), (B), and (C).
But the notion of participation is a difficult one as Gilson realizes. It appears "repugnant to logical thought" (96): ". . . every participation supposes that the participator both is, and is not, that in which it participates." (96) How so?
I exist, but contingently. My Being is not my own, but received from another, from God, who is Being itself. So my Being is God's Being. But I am not God or anything else. So I have my own Being that distinguishes me numerically from everything else. So I am and am not that in which I participate.
Gilson does not show a convincing way around this contradiction.
The One of the many is not one of the many: as the source of the many, the One cannot be just one more member of the many. Nor can the One of the many be the same as the many: it cannot divide without remainder into the many. The One is transcendent of the many. But while transcendent, it cannot be wholly other than the many. For, as Plotinus says, "It is by the One that all beings are beings." The One, as the principle by which each member of the many exists, cannot be something indifferent to the many or external to the many, or other than the many, or merely related to the many. The One is immanent to the many. The One is immanent to the many without being the same as the many. The One is neither the same as the many nor other than the many. The One is both transcendent of the many and immanent in the many. Theologically, God is said to be both transcendent and omnipresent.
What should we conclude from these affronts to the discursive intellect? That there is just nothing to talk about here, or that there is but it is beyond the grasp of our paltry intellects? If what I have written above is logical nonsense, yet it seems to be important, well-motivated, rigorously articulated nonsense.
The following entry draws heavily upon W. Matthews Grant, "Divine Simplicity, Contingent Truths, and Extrinsic Models of Divine Knowing," Faith and Philosophy, vol. 29, no. 3, July 2012, pp. 254-274.
It also bears upon my discussion with Professor Dale Tuggy. He holds that God is a being among beings. I deny that God is a being among beings, holding instead that God is Being itself. This is not to deny that God is; but it does entail affirming that God is in a radically unique way distinct from the way creatures are. We can call this radically unique way or mode of Being, simplicity. So my denial, and Dale's affirmation, that God is a being among beings is logically equivalent to my affirming, and Dale's denying, the doctrine of divine simplicity.
A particularly vexing problem for defenders of the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) is to explain how an ontologically simple God could know contingent truths.
The problem may be cast in the mold of an aporetic tetrad:
1. God is simple: there is nothing intrinsic to God that is distinct from God.
2. God knows some contingent truths.
3. Necessarily, if God knows some truth t, then (i) there an item intrinsic to God such as a mental act or a belief state (ii) whereby God knows t.
4. God exists necessarily.
The plausibility of (3) may be appreciated as follows. Whatever else knowledge is, it is plausibly regarded as a species of true belief. A belief is an intrinsic state of a subject. Moreover, beliefs are individuated by their contents: beliefs or believings with different contents are different beliefs or believings. It cannot be that one and the same act of believing has different contents at different times or in different possible worlds.
That the tetrad is inconsistent can be seen as follows. Suppose God, who knows everything there is to be known, knows some contingent truth t. He knows, for example, that I have two cats. It follows from (3) that there is some item intrinsic to God such as a belief state whereby God knows t. Given (1), this state, as intrinsic to God, is not distinct from God. Given (4), the state whereby God knows t exists necessarily. But then t is necessarily true. This contradicts (2) according to which t is contingent.
Opponents of the divine simplicity will turn the tetrad into an argument against (1). They will argue from the conjunction of (2) & (3) & (4) to the negation of (1). The classical theist, however, accepts (1), (2), and (4). If he is to solve the tetrad, he needs to find a way to reject (3). He needs to find a way to reject the idea that when a knower knows something, there is, intrinsic to the knower, some mediating item that is individuated by the object known.
So consider an externalist conception of knowledge. I see a cat and seeing it I know it -- that it is and what it is. Now the cat is not in my head; but it could be in my mind on an externalist theory of mind. My awareness of the cat somehow 'bodily' includes the cat, the whole cat, all 25 lbs of him, fur, dander, and all. Knowledge is immediate, not mediated by sense data, representations, mental acts, occurrent believings, or any other sort of epistemic intermediary or deputy. Seeing a cat, I see the cat itself directly, not indirectly via some other items that I see directly such as an Husserlian noema, a Castanedan ontological guise, a Meinongian incomplete object, or any other sort of merely intentional object. On this sort of scheme, the mind is not a container, hence has no contents in the strict sense of this term. The mind is directly at the things themselves.
If this externalism is coherent, then then we can say of God's knowledge that it does not involve any intrinsic states of God that would be different were God to know different things than he does know. For example, God knows that I have two cats. That I have two cats is an actual, but contingent fact. If God's knowledge of this fact were mediated by an item intrinsic to God, a mental act say, an item individuated by its accusative, then given the divine simplicity, this item could not be distinct from God with the consequence that the act and its accusative would be necessary. This consequence is blocked if there is nothing intrinsic to God whereby he knows that I have two cats.
We will have to take a closer look at externalism. But if it is coherent, then the aporetic tetrad can be solved by rejecting (3).
Peter Lupu wrote me yesterday about baptism, I responded online, and today he is back at me again:
In your response you say:
" As for the change in metaphysical status wrought by baptism, the main change is the forgiveness of all sins, whether original or individual (personal). The baptism of infants removes or rather forgives original sin only . . . ."
" The change in metaphysical status wrought by baptism would be better described as a change in soteriological status."
I am puzzled. Why isn't conception (or even natural birth) sufficient for a salvational (soteriological) status? After all, according to all Monotheistic views, conception marks man's metaphysical status as having a spiritual soul that would animate his natural existence post birth and determine man's metaphysical status as a vital, organic, yet spiritual, being. Granting the soul at conception and rendering it a vital, active, animating force upon natural birth should suffice to grant man salvational status. Moreover, according to the creation, the soul represents God's spirit that was transferred from God to man ('spirit' in Hebrew also means 'ruah ' or 'wind' and God's spirit is translated as 'ruah Hashem' or "God's wind or breath"). Hence, bestowing a soul upon man at conception, and rendering it a vital force that animates his life at birth and thereafter, should suffice to bestow upon man salvational metaphysical status; for the soul represents God's determination, not man's. Baptism as a determinant of soteriological metaphysical status trumps the prior decision of God to grant salvational status and, since, Baptism is an act of man, it represents man's overreaching into the divine sphere where only God may act.
Hence, I am puzzled.
Peter asked me yesterday about baptism in Christianity, and so I took my task as one of explaining concisely what the sacrament of Baptism does for the one baptized according to Christians. What I said was correct, though I left a lot out. Now I will say some more in trying to relieve Peter's puzzlement. I will not give my own view of baptism, but merely explain what I take to be the Christian view.
Peter's puzzlement concerns the necessity of baptism. Why do we need it? After all, man is made in the image and likeness of God. This likeness, of course, is spiritual, not physical. Like God, man is a spiritual being. Unlike God, he is an animal. Man, then, has a dual nature: he is a spiritual animal. This sets him above every other type of animal, metaphysically speaking. He has a special metaphysical status: he is the god-like animal. As god-like, he equipped to share in the divine life. Every creature has a divine origin, but only man has a divine destiny.
If so, if man was created to be a spiritual being, and to share in the divine life, then his special metaphysical status should suffice for his salvation. Or so Peter reasons. Why then is there any need for baptism? The Christian answer, I think, is because of Original Sin.
Man is a fallen being. Somehow he fell from the metaphysical height he originally possessed. This is not to say that he ceased to be a spiritual animal and became a mere animal. It is not as if he was metaphysically demoted. Both pre- and post-lapsarian man has the special metaphysical status. But after the fall, Man's relation to God was disturbed in such a way that he was no longer fit to participate in the divine life. I would put it like this: Man the spirit became man the ego. Overcome by the power to say 'I' and mean it, a power that derives from his being a spirit, man separated from God to go it alone. The power went to his head and he fell into the illusion of self-sufficiency. He used the God-given power to defy God. He became a law unto himself.
In short, man fell out of right relation to God. Thus the necessity of a restoration of that right relation. This is where the Incarnation comes into the picture. Only God can bring man back into right relation with God. God becomes one of us, suffers and dies and rises from the dead. Having entered fully into death and rising again, God the Son secures the redemption of man for those who believe in him. The immersion in water and the re-emergence from it signify the entry into death and the resurrection in which death is conquered.
So why do we need baptism if we already enjoy the special metaphysical status of being spiritual beings? We need it because of the fall of man, his original sin. In baptism, each individual human being appropriates the inner transformation that Christ won for humanity in general by his death and resurrection.
Peter says that baptism is an act of man. That is not the way a Christian would understand it. Baptism is a sacrament: an outward sign of an inward (spiritual) transformation. The physical rite is of course an act of man, but the inner transformation is due to divine agency.
The Peter Puzzle Potentiated
Suppose Peter accepts the foregoing. He can still raise a difficulty. "OK, I see how Original Sin comes into the picture, along with Incarnation, Resurrection, Redemption and Atonement. But if Christ died for our sins and restored humanity to right relation with God, why do we need baptism? What additional job does this do? Didn't Christ do the work for us?"
Here I suppose an answer might be: "Yes, Christ did the heavy lifting, but each of us must accept Christ as savior by faith. Baptism is the faithful acceptance whereby the individual joins the Mystical Body of Christ wherein he reaps the salvific benefits of Christ's passion."
At this point Peter might reasonably object: "But how is such a thing possible for an infant? How can an infant accept Jesus Christ as lord and savior?" Here we arrive at the vexing question of infant baptism.
There are obviously many difficult questions here, and equally difficult answers.
London Ed sends his thoughts on language and reality. My comments are in blue.
Still mulling over the relation between language and reality. Train of thought below. I tried to convert it to an aporetic polyad, but failed. The tension is between the idea that propositions are (1) mind-dependent and (2) have parts and so (3) have parts that are mind-dependent. Yet (if direct reference is true) some of the parts (namely the parts corresponding to genuinely singular terms) cannot be mind-dependent.
How about this aporetic hexad:
1. Propositions are mind-dependent entities. 2. Atomic (molecular) propositions are composed of sub-propositional (propositional) parts. 3. If propositions are mind-dependent, then so are its parts. 4. In the case of genuine singular terms (paradigm examples of which are pure indexicals), reference is direct and not mediated by sense. 5. If reference is direct, then the meaning of the singular referring term is exhausted by the term's denotatum so that a proposition expressed by the tokening of a sentence containing the singular referring term (e.g, the sentence 'I am hungry') has the denotatum itself as a constituent. 6. In typical cases, the denotatum is a mind-independent item.
Note that (3) is not an instance of the Fallacy of Division since (3) is not a telescoped argument but merely a conditional statement. London Ed, however, may have succumbed to the fallacy above. Or maybe not.
Our aporetic hexad is a nice little puzzle since each limb is plausible even apart from the arguments that can be given for each of them.
And yet the limbs of this hexad cannot all be true. Consider the proposition BV expresses when he utters, thoughtfully and sincerely, a token of 'I am hungry' or 'Ich bin hungrig.' By (4) in conjunction with (5), BV himself, all 190 lbs of him, is a proper part of the proposition. By (6), BV is mind-independent. But by (1) & (2) & (3), BV is not mind-independent. Contradiction.
Which limb should we reject? We could reject (1). One way would be by maintaining that propositions are abstract (non-spatiotemporal) mind-independent objects (the Frege line). A second way is by maintaining that propositions are concrete (non-abstract) mind-independent objects (the Russell line). Both of these solutions are deeply problematic, however.
Or we could reject (3) and hold that propositions are mental constructions out of mind-independent elements. Not promising!
Or we could reject (4) and hold that reference is always sense-mediated. Not promising either. What on earth or in heaven is the sense that BV expresses when BV utters 'I'? BV has no idea. He may have an haecceity but he cannot grasp it! So what good is it for purposes of reference? BV does not pick himself out via a sense that his uses of 'I' have, that his uses alone have, and that no other uses could have. His haecceity, if he has one, is ineffable.
So pick your poison.
By the way, I have just illustrated the utility of the aporetic style. Whereas what Ed says above is somewhat mushy, what I have said is razor-sharp. All of the cards are on the table and you can see what they are. We seem to agree that there is a genuine problem here.
There is spoken and written language, and language has composition with varying degrees of granularity. Written language has books, chapters, paragraphs, sentences and words. The sentence is an important unit, which is used to express true and false statements. [The declarative sentence, leastways.]
Spoken and written language has meaning. Meaning is also compositional, and mirrors the composition of the language at least at the level of the sentence and above. There is no complete agreement about compositionality below the level of the sentence. E.g. Aristotelian logic analyses 'every man is mortal' differently from modern predicate logic. [Well, there is agreement that there is compositionality of meaning; but not what the parsing ought to be.]
The meaning of a sentence is sometimes called a 'proposition' or a 'statement'. [Yes, except that 'statement' picks out either a speech act or the product of a speech act, not the meaning (Fregean Sinn) of a sentence. Frege thought, bizarrely, that sentences have referents in addition to sense, and that these referents are the truth-values.]
There are also thoughts. It is generally agreed that the structure of the thought mirrors the structure of the proposition. The difference is that the thought is a mental item, and private, whereas the proposition is publicly accessible, and so can be used for communication. [It is true that acts of thinking are private: you have yours and I have mine. But it doesn't follow that the thought is private. We can think the same thought, e.g., that Sharia is incompatible with the values of the English. You are blurring or eliding the distinction between act and accusative.]
There is also reality. When a sentence expresses a true proposition, we say it corresponds to reality. Otherwise it corresponds to nothing. So there are three things: language, propositions, reality. The problem is to explain the relation between them. [This is basically right. But you shouldnt say that a sentence expresses a proposition; you should say that a person, using a declarative sentence, in a definite context, expresses a proposition. For example, the perfectly grammatical English sentence 'I am here now' expresses no proposition until (i) the contextual features have been fixed, which (ii) is accomplished by some person's producing in speech or writing or whatever a token of the sentence.]
In particular, what is it that language signifies or means? Is it the proposition? Or the reality? If the latter, we have the problem of explaining propositions that are false. Nothing in reality corresponds to 'the moon is made of green cheese'. So if the meaning of that sentence, i.e. the proposition it expresses, exists at all, then it cannot exist in mind-independent reality. [This is a non sequitur. It can exist in mind-independent reality if it is a Fregean proposition! But you are right that if I say that the Moon is made of green cheese I am talking about the natural satellite of Earth and not about some abstract object.]
But if a false proposition suddenly becomes true, e.g. "Al is thin" after Al goes on a diet, and if when false it did not correspond to anything in external reality, how can it become identical with the reality? And we say that such a proposition was false, but is now true, i.e. the same thing that was false, is true. But if the reality is identical with the proposition that is now true, and if the same proposition was once false, it follows that the proposition, whether true or false, is not identical with anything in external reality. [One issue here is whether a proposition can change its truth-value. Suppose we say that a sentence like 'Al is fat' is elliptical for 'Al is fat on Jan 1, 2015.' The latter sentence expresses a Fregean proposition whose TV does not change. Fregean propositions are context-free: free of indexical elements including tenses of verbs. And who ever said that correspondence is identity?]
It follows that the relation between language and reality is indirect, i.e. always mediated by a proposition. A sentence, to be meaningful at all, signifies or expresses a proposition, and a relation between the proposition and reality exists if the proposition is true, but not when the proposition is false. [I'll buy that.]
But what sort of thing is a proposition? It is a publicly available object, i.e. available to the common mind, not a single mind only, but not part of external mind-independent reality either. [You are asking a key question: What is a proposition? It is a bitch for sure. But look: both Fregean and Russellian propositions are parts of external mind-independent reality. Do you think those gentlemen were completely out to lunch? Can you refute them? Will you maintain that propositions are intentional objects?]
We also have the problem of singular propositions, i.e. propositions expressed by sentences with an unquantified subject, e.g. a proper name. It is generally agreed that the composition of singular sentences mirrors the structure of the corresponding proposition. In particular the singular subject in language has a corresponding item in the proposition. Thus the proposition expressed by 'Socrates is bald' contains an item exactly corresponding to the word 'Socrates'.
But if propositions are always separate from external reality, i.e. if the propositional item corresponding to 'Socrates' is not identical with Socrates himself, what is it? [You could say that it is a Fregean sense. But this is problematic indeed for reasons I already alluded to anent haecceity.]
Russell's answer was that singular sentences, where the subject is apparently unquantified, really express quantified propositions. If so, this easily explains how the proposition contains no components identical with some component of reality. [Right.]
But it is now generally agreed that Russell was wrong about proper name sentences. Proper names are not descriptions in disguise, and so proper name propositions are not quantified. So there is some propositional item corresponding to the linguistic item 'Socrates'. [And that item is Socrates himself! And that is very hard to swallow.]
But if the proper name is not descriptive, it seems to follow that the singular proposition cannot correspond to anything mental, either to a single mind or the group mind. Therefore it must be something non-mental, perhaps Socrates himself. [Or rather, as some maintain, the ordered pair consisting of Socrates and the property of being bald. You see the problem but you are not formulating it precisely enough. When I think the thought: Socrates is bald, I cannot possibly have S. himself before my mind. My mind is finite whereas he is infintely propertied.]
This means that sentences containing empty names cannot be meaningful, i.e. cannot express propositions capable of truth or falsity. [I think so.]
This is counter-intuitive. It is intuitively true that the sentence "Frodo is a hobbit" expresses or means something, and that the meaning is composed of parts corresponding to 'Frodo' and 'is a hobbit'. But the part corresponding to 'Frodo' cannot correspond to or signify anything in external reality, i.e. mind-independent reality. [Yes]
So what does 'Frodo' mean? [You could try an 'asymmetrical' theory: in the case of true singular sentences, the proposition expressed is Russellian, while in the case of false singular sentences the proposition expressed is Fregean. Of course that is hopeless.]
As I see it, the central problem in the philosophy of fiction is to find a solution to the following aporetic dyad:
1. There are no purely fictional items.
2. There are some purely fictional items.
The problem is that while the limbs of the dyad cannot both be true, there is reason to think that each is true.
(1) looks to be an analytic truth: by definition, what is purely fictional is not, i.e., does not exist. George Harvey Bone, the main character in Patrick Hamilton's 1941 booze novel Hangover Square, does not now and never did exist. He is not a real alcoholic like his creator, Patrick Hamilton, who was a real alcoholic. What is true is that
3. Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic.
That (3) is true is clear from the fact that if a student wrote on a test that Bone was a teetotaler, his answer would be marked wrong. But if (3) is true, then, given that nothing can satisfy a predicate unless it exists, it follows that
4. Bone exists
and, given the validity of Existential Generalization, it follows that
5. There is a purely fictional alcoholic.
But if (5) is true, then so is (2).
It should now be spectacularly obvious what the problem is. There are two propositions, each the logical contradictory of the other, which implies that they cannot both be true, and yet we have excellent reason to think that both are true.
Now what are all the possible ways of solving this problem? I need a list. London Ed et al. can help me construct it. Right now all I want is a list, a complete list if possible, not arguments for or against any item on the list. Not all of the following are serious contenders, but I am aiming at completeness.
A. Dialetheism. Accept dialetheism, which amounts to the claim that there are true contradictions and that the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC) is false.
B. Paraphrasticism. Reject (2) by attempting to show that sentences such as (3) can be paraphrased in such a way that the apparent reference to ficta is eliminated. For example, one might offer the following paraphrase of (3): 'Hamilton wrote a story implying that here is an alcoholic named Bone.' The paraphrastic approach works only if every reference to a fictional item, whether it be a person or place or event or fiction, can be paraphrased away. (As Kripke and others have noted, there are fictional fictions, fictional plays for example, such as a fictional play referenced within a play.)
C. Logic Reform. Reject Existential Generalization (off load existence from the particular quantifier) and reject the anti-Meinongian principle that nothing can satisfy a predicate (or exemplify a property) unless it exists. One could then block the inference from (3) to (2).
D. Ontology Reform. Reject (1) by arguing that fictional items, without prejudice to their being purely fictional, do exist. Saul Kripke, for example, maintains that a fictional character is an abstract entity that "exists in virtue of more concrete activities of telling stories, writing plays, writing novels, and so on . . . the same way that a nation is an abstract entity which exists in virtue of concrete relations between people." (Reference and Existence: The John Locke Lectures, Oxford UP, 2013, p. 73.) Or one might hold that fictional items are abstract items that exist necessarily like numbers.
E. Dissolutionism. Somehow argue that the problem as posed above is a pseudoproblem that doesn't need solving but dissolving. One might perhaps argue that one or the other of the dyad's limbs has not even a prima facie claim on our acceptance.
F. Neitherism. Reject both limbs. Strategy (A) rejects LNC. This strategy rejects the Law of Excluded Middle. (Not promising, but I'm aiming for completeness.)
G. Mysterianism. Accept both limbs but deny that they are mutually contradictory. Maintain that our cognitive limitations make it either presently or permanently impossible for us to understand how the limbs can be both true and non-contradictory. "They are both true; reality is non-contradictory; but it is a mystery how!"
H. Buddhism. Reject the tetralemma: neither (1) nor (2), nor both, nor neither.
I. Hegelianism. Propose a grand synthesis in which thesis (1) and antithesis (2) are aufgehoben, simultaneously cancelled and preserved. (I have no idea what this would look like -- again, I want a complete list of options.)
First question: Have I covered all the bases? Or are there solution strategies that cannot be brought under one of the above heads? If you think there are, tell me what you think they are. But don't mention something that is subsumable under one of (A)-(I).
Second question (for London Ed): under which head would you book your solution? Do you favor the paraphrastic approach sketched in (B) or not?Or maybe Ed thinks that the problem as I have formulated it is a pseudoproblem (option (E)).
Be a good sport, Ed, play along and answer my questions.
UPDATE (7/31): The following entry is deeply confused. But I will leave it up for the sake of the commenters, David Gordon and AJ, who refuted it. In my defense I will say something Roderick Chisholm once said about himself in a similar connection, namely, that I wrote something clear enough to be mistaken.
The following two sentences are in the active and passive voices, respectively:
1. Tom said that someone was in the vicinity.
2. Someone was said by Tom to be in the vicinity.
Both sentences 'say the same thing,' i.e., express the same proposition, the same thought, the same Fregean Gedanke. Aren't active-to-passive and passive-to-active transformations in general truth- and sense-preserving? But the two sentences have different entailments.
(2), which is de re, entails that someone was in the vicinity. (1), which is de dicto, does not entail that someone was in the vicinity. But if the two sentences have different entailments, then they cannot express one and the same proposition.
The puzzle expressed as an aporetic triad:
A. (1) and (2) express the same proposition.
B. (2) entails a proposition -- Someone was in the vicinity -- that is not entailed by (1).
C. If p, q are the same proposition, then for any proposition x, p entails x iff q entails x.
The limbs of the triad are individually plausible but collectively inconsistent.
How do we solve, or perhaps dissolve, this puzzle?
Let me attack yesterday's puzzle from a different angle. The puzzle in one sentence: we think about things that do not exist; but how is this possible given that they do not exist?
Here is the problem set forth as an aporetic hexad:
1. When I think about Frodo, as I am doing right now, I am thinking about, precisely, Frodo: not about some semantic or epistemic intermediary or surrogate or representative. I am thinking about a concrete, albeit nonexistent, item. I am not thinking about an idea in my mind, or a mental image, or any mental content; nor am I thinking about an abstract entity of any kind such as a property; nor am I thinking of a word or a phrase or anything linguistic.
2. Thinking about (thinking of) is a relation the relata of which are a subject who thinks and an object thought of. Thinking is triadic: ego-cogito-cogitatum.
3. Every relation is such that if it obtains, then all its relata exist/are.
4. There are no different modes of existence/being. This is the ontological counterpart of the semantic thesis of the univocity of 'exists' and 'is' and cognates.
5. To exist is to exist extramentally and extralinguistically, where the minds in question are finite.
6. Frodo, a purely fictional item, does not exist.
The limbs of the hexad are individually plausible but jointly inconsistent. To solve the problem we must reject one of the limbs. But which one? (6) is a datum, and (5) is an unproblematic definition. So the the candidates for rejection are (1)-(4). I'll take these in reverse order.
Deny (4): There are two modes of being, esse reale and esse intentionale. When we say, with truth, that Frodo does not exist, we mean that he lacks esse reale. But we can still think about him in a manner to satisfy (1)-(3) since he has merely intentional being.
Deny (3): Twardowski-Meinong-Grossmann Solution. There are items that have no being at all, and there are genuine relations that connect existents such as minds to beingless items in the realm of Aussersein.
Deny (2): Thinking-of is not relational, whether or not the obtaining of a relation requires that all its relata exist. This can be developed in different ways. Adverbial theories, Brentano's theory, Butchvarov's theory.
Deny (1): One way to deny (1) is via abstract artifactualism. A number of philosophers, including van Inwagen, have been putting forth some version of this view. The idea is that purely fictional items such as Frodo are created by the authors of works of fiction in which they figure. They are a peculiar species of abstract object since they come into being, unlike 'standard' abstract objects. They exist, but they are abstract. Meinong, by contrast, held that they are concrete but do not exist or have any being at all. Here is a paper that defends artifactualism against some objections by Sainsbury.
Now, gentlemen, pick your poison! Which limb will you deny? I claim, though this is but a promissory note, that no theory works and that the problem, though genuine, is insoluble.
How much time should one spend on philosophy? "A good chunk of the day," you say; assuming that one is above all else interested in truth (about ultimate issues) and/or in the Absolute. But should one be interested in either of these? That's a philosophical problem. And I guess that in your view philosophy can't settle it: philosophically, it is as reasonable to be interested as not to be.
Even assuming that kind of interest, why do philosophy a good chunk of the day? Once one has toiled through the central apories of philosophy, something like glancing at their concise list may be sufficient. I mean sufficient for what you want from philosophy: intellectual humility and appreciation of the question what, if anything, lies beyond the limits of the discursive intellect and how one may gain access to it.
Thank you for your comments which are both penetrating and very useful to me.
Response 1. Philosophers (the real ones, not mere academic functionaries) seek the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. I take it we agree on that. But should one seek the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters? You rightly point out that whether one should or shouldn't (or neither) is itself a philosophical problem. And you also clearly see that if the problems of philosophy are insoluble, then this particular problem is insoluble. And if it is insoluble, then philosophy is no more reasonable to pursue than to eschew.
Well, I accept the consequence. But it is reasonable to pursue philosophy, and that suffices to justify my pursuit of it. And who knows? Perhaps I will definitively solve one or more philosophical problems to the satisfaction of all competent practioners. You understand that I do not claim to know (with certainty) that the insolubility thesis is true. My claim is merely that it is a reasonable conjecture based on some two and a half millenia of philosophical experience. It is reasonable to conjecture that no problem has ever been solved by us because no problem is soluble by us. I expect the future to be like the past. (But then so did Russell's chicken who expected to be fed on the day the farmer wrung his neck.)
Response 2. Let's assume that the pursuit of philosophy is reasonable and worthwhile for some of us as an end in itself (and not because we are paid to do it, or teach it.) But why continue with it day after day for many hours each day? As you put it so well, why does it not suffice to glance from time to time at a concise list of the central apories to gain the promised benefits of intellectual humility and the motivation to look beyond philosophy for routes to truth?
There are several considerations.
1. There is the sheer intellectual pleasure that people like us derive from thinking and writing about the problems of philosophy. The strangeness of the ordinary entrances us and we find disciplined wondering about it deeply satisfying. We humans like doing well what we have the power to do, and those of us who like thinking and writing and entering into dialog with the like-minded are made happy by these pursuits even if solutions are out of the reach of mortals. What Siegbert Tarrasch said of chess is also true of philosophy, "Like love, like music, it has the power to make men happy."
2. Then there is the humanizing effect of the study of the great problems. Bear in mind that for me the problems are genuine and deep and some of them are of great human importance. They are not artifacts of non-workaday uses of language, nor are they sired by erroneous empirical assumptions or remediable logical errors. I firmly reject their Wittgensteinian and 'Wittgenfreudian' dismissal, or any other sort of anti-philosophical dismissal or denigration. (Morris Lazerowitz was a 'Wittgenfreudian,' or, if you prefer, 'Freudensteinian.') So it is deeply humanizing to wrestle with the problems of philosophy. We are brought face to face with our predicament in this life. To change the metaphor, we are driven deep into it.
3. It is also important to grapple with the problems of philosophy and plumb their depths so that we can mount effective critiques against the scientistic junk solutions that are constantly being put forth in once good but now crappy publications such as Scientific American and peddled by sophists and philosophical know-nothings like Lawrence Krauss.
4. Since it is not the case that all solutions are equally good or equally bad, it is useful to know which are better and which worse. Even if the mind-body problem is ultimately insoluble, some 'solutions' can be known to be either worthless or highly unlikely to be true. Eliminative materialism is a prime candidate for the office of nonsense theory.
5. Since the insolubility thesis as I intend it is put forth tentatively and non-dogmatically, it must be continually tested. This is done by trying to solve the problems. The insolubility thesis is not an excuse for intellectual laziness.
6. But perhaps the most important point is that philosophy, pursued in the manner of the radical aporetician, can itself be a spiritual practice. This is a large topic, and brevity is the soul of blog; so I'll content myself with a brief indication.
The insolubilia of Western philosophy, if insoluble they are, could be likened to the koans of the Zen Buddhists. The point of working on a koan is to precipitate a break-through to satori or kensho by a transcending of the discursive intellect.
If you said to the Zen man that he is wasting his time puzzling over insoluble koans, he would reply that you are missing the point. "The point is not to solve them, but to break on through to the other side, to open the doors of perception beyond the discursive to the nondual."
I thank Tully Borland for pushing the discussion in this fascinating direction.
Affirming the Consequent is an invalid argument form. Ergo One ought not (it is obligatory that one not) give arguments having that form.
Modus Ponens is valid Ergo One may (it is permissible to) give arguments having that form.
Correct deductive reasoning is in every instance truth-preserving. Ergo One ought to reason correctly as far as possible.
An argument form is valid just in case no (actual or possible) argument of that form has true premises and a false conclusion. An argument form is invalid just in case some (actual or possible) argument of that form has true premises and a false conclusion. Deductive reasoning is correct just in case it proceeds in accordance with a valid argument form. 'Just in case' is but a stylistic variant of 'if and only if.'
Now given these explanations of key terms, it seems that validity, invalidity, and correctness are purely factual, and thus purely non-normative, properties of arguments/reasonings. If so, how the devil do we get to the conclusions of the three arguments above?
View One: We don't. A, B, and C are each illicit is-ought slides.
View Two: Each of the above arguments is valid. Each of the key terms in the premises is normatively loaded from the proverbial 'git-go,' in addition to bearing a descriptive load.. Therefore, there is no illict slide. The move is from the normative to the normative. Validity, invalidity, and correctness can be defined only in terms of truth and falsity which are normative notions.
View Three: We have no compelling reason to prefer one of the foregoing views to the other. Each can be argued for and each can be argued against. Thus spoke the Aporetician.
Fr. Robert Barron here fruitfully compares the Catholic Church's rigoristic teaching on matters sexual, with its prohibitions of masturbation, artificial contraception, and extramarital sex, with the rigorism of the Church's teaching with respect to just war. An excellent article.
Although Fr. Barron doesn't say it explicitly, he implies that the two topics are on a par. Given that "the Catholic Church's job is to call people to sanctity and to equip them for living saintly lives," one who accepts just war rigorism ought also to accept sexual rigorism. Or at least that is what I read him as saying.
I have no in-principle objection to the sexual teaching, but I waffle when it comes to the rigorous demands of just war theory. I confess to being 'at sea' on this topic.
On the one hand, I am quite sensitive to the moral force of 'The killing of noncombatants is intrinsically evil and cannot be justified under any circumstances' which is one of the entailments of Catholic just war doctrine. Having pored over many a page of Kant, I am strongly inclined to say that certain actions are intrinsically wrong, wrong by their very nature, wrong regardless of consequences and circumstances. But what would have been the likely upshot had the Allies not used unspeakably brutal methods against the Germans and the Japanese in WWII? Leery as one ought to be of counterfactual history, I think the Axis Powers would have acquired nukes first and used them against us. But we don't have to speculate about might-have-beens. The Catholic doctrine implies that if Truman had a crystal ball and knew the future with certainty and saw that the Allies would have lost had they not used the methods they used, and that the whole world would have been been plunged into a Dark Age for two centuries -- he still would not have been justified in ordering the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Indeed, if the killing of noncombatants is intrinsically evil and unjustifiable under any circumstances and regardless of any consequences, then it is better that the earth be blown to pieces than that evil be done. This, I suppose, is one reading of fiat iustitia pereat mundus, "Let justice be done though the world perish."
This extreme anti-consequentialism would make sense if the metaphysics of the Catholic Church or even the metaphysics of Kant were true. If God is real then this world is relatively unreal and relatively unimportant. If the soul is real, then its salvation is our paramount concern, and every worldly concern is relatively insignificant.
But then a moral doctrine that is supposed to govern our behavior in this world rests on an other-worldly metaphysics. No problem with that -- if the metaphysics is true. For then one's flourishing in this world cannot amount to much as compared to one's flourishing in the next. But how do we know it is true? Classical theistic metaphysics is reasonably believed, but then so are certain versions of naturalism. (Not every naturalist is an eliminativist loon.)
If the buck stops with you and the fate of civilization itself depends on your decision, will you act according to a moral doctrine that rests on a questionable metaphysics or will you act in accordance with worldly wisdom, a wisdom that dictates that one absolutely must resist the evildoer, and absolutely must not turn the other cheek to a Hitler?
An isolated individual, responsible for no one but himself, is free to allow himself to be slaughtered. But a leader of a nation is in a much different position. Anscombe's case against Truman does not convince me. Let the philosophy professor change places with the head of state and then see if her rigorism remains tenable.
To sum up these ruminations in a nice, neat antilogism:
1. Some acts, such as the intentional killing of noncombatants, are intrinsically wrong. 2. If an act is intrinsically wrong, then no possible circumstance in which it occurs or consequence of its being performed can substract one iota from its moral wrongness. 3. No act is such that its moral evaluation can be conducted without any consideration of any possible circumstance in which it occurs or possible consequence of its being performed.
The limbs of the antilogism are collectively inconsistent but individually extremely plausible.
Nicholas Rescher cites this example from Buridan. The proposition is false, but not self-refuting. If every proposition is affirmative, then of course *Every proposition is affirmative* is affirmative. The self-reference seems innocuous, a case of self-instantiation. But *Every proposition is affirmative* has as a logical consequence *No proposition is negative.* This follows by Obversion, assuming that a proposition is negative if and only if it is not affirmative.
Paradoxically, however, the negative proposition, unlike its obverse, is self-refuting. For if no proposition is negative then *No proposition is negative* is not negative. So if it is, it isn't. Plainly it is. Ergo, it isn't.
Rescher leaves the matter here, and I'm not sure I have anything useful to add.
It is strange, though, that here we have two logically equivalent propositions one of which is self-refuting and the other of which is not. The second is necessarily false. If true, then false; if false, then false; ergo, necessarily false. But then the first must also be necessarily false. After all, they are logically equivalent: each entails the other across all logically possible worlds.
What is curious, though, is that the ground of the logical necessity seems different in the two cases. In the second case, the necessity is grounded in logical self-contradiction. In the first case, there does not appear to be any self-contradiction.
It is impossible that every proposition be affirmative. And it is impossible that no proposition be negative. But whereas the impossibility of the second is the impossibility of self-referential inconsistency, the impossibility of the first is not. (That is the 'of' of apposition.)
Can I make an aporetic polyad out of this? Why not?
1. Logically equivalent logically impossible propositions have the same ground of their logical impossibility.
2. The ground of the logical impossibility of *Every proposition is affirmative* is not in self-reference.
3. The ground of the logical impossibility of *No proposition is negative* is in self-reference.
The limbs of this antilogism are individually plausible but collectively inconsistent.
Nicholas Rescher, Paradoxes: Their Roots, Range, and Resolution, Open Court, 2001, pp. 21-22.
G. E. Hughes, John Buridan on Self-Reference, Cambidge UP, 1982, p. 34. Cited by Rescher.
Philosophy is its problems, and they are best represented as aporetic polyads. One sort of aporetic polyad is the antilogism. An antilogism is an inconsistent triad: a set of three propositions that cannot all be true. The most interesting antilogisms are those in which the constitutent propositions are each of them plausible. If they are more than plausible, if they are self-evident or undeniable, then we are in the presence of an aporia in the strict sense. (From the Greek a-poros, no way.) Aporiai are intellectual impasses, or, to change the metaphor, intellectual knots that we cannot untie. Here is a candidate:
1. God is a perfect being.
2. A perfect being is one that exists necessarily if it exists at all.
3. Whatever exists exists contingently.
It is easy to see that the members of this trio are collectively inconsistent. So the trio is an antilogism. Now corresponding to every antilogism there are three valid syllogisms. (A syllogism is deductive argument having exactly two premises.) Thus one can argue validly from any two of the propositions to the negation of the remaining one. Thus there are three ways of solving the antilogism:
A. Reject (1). The price of rejection is high since (1) merely unpacks the meaning of 'God' if we think of God along Anselmian lines as "that than which no greater can be conceived," or as the greatest conceivable being. It seems intuitively clearly that an imperfect being could not have divine status. In particular, nothing imperfect could be an appropriate object of worship. To worship an imperfect being would be idolatry.
B. Reject (2). The price of rejection is steep here too since (2) seems merely to unpack the meaning of 'perfect being.' Intuitively, contingent existence is an imperfection.
C. Reject (3). This is a more palatable option, and many will solve the antilogism in this way. If ~(3), then there are noncontingent beings. A noncontingent being is either necessary or impossible. So if God is noncontingent, it does not follow that God is necessary. He could be impossible.
Unfortunately, the rejection of (3) is not without its problems.
According to David Hume, "Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent." (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) I would put it this way, trading Latin for plain Anglo-Saxon: no matter what we think of as existing, we can just as easily think of as not existing. This includes God.
Try it for yourself. Think of God together with all his omni-attributes and then think of God as not existing. Our atheist pals have no trouble on this score. The nonexistence of God is thinkable without logical contradiction.
The Humean reasoning in defense of (3) rests on the assumption that conceivability entails possibility. To turn aside this reasoning one must reject this assumption. One could then maintain that the conceivability by us of the nonexistence of God is consistent with the necessity of God's existence.
The price of rejecting (3) is that one must deny that conceivability entails possibility.
Is our antilogism an aporia in the strict sense? I don't know.
An antilogism is an inconsistent triad: a set of three propositions that cannot all be true. The most interesting antilogisms are those in which the constitutent propositions are each of them plausible. If they are not merely plausible but self-evident or undeniable, then we are in the presence of an aporia in the strict sense. (From the Greek a-poros, no way.) Aporiai are intellectual impasses, or, to change the metaphor, intellectual knots that we cannot untie. Here is a candidate:
1. Being is independent of knowledge: what is or is the case is not made so by anyone's knowledge of it.
2. Knowledge is knowledge of being: we cannot know what is not or what is not the case.
3. Knowledge requires an internally available criterion or justification.
Each of the limbs of this aporetic triad is exceedingly plausible if not self-evident.
Ad (1). If a thing exists, its existence is not dependent on someone's knowledge of it. It is rather the other around: knowledge of thing presupposes the logically antecedent existence of the thing. And if a proposition is true, it not true because someone knows it. It is the other way around: the proposition's being true is a logically antecedent condition of anyone's knowing it.
Ad (2). 'Knows' is a verb of success: what one knows cannot be nonexistent or false. There is no false knowledge. What one 'knows' that ain't so, as the saying goes, one does not know. Necessarily, if S knows x, then x exists; necessarily, if S knows that p, then p is true. The necessity is broadly logical.
Ad (3). If I believe that p, p a proposition, and p happens to be true, it does not follow that I know that p. There is more to knowledge than true belief. If I believe that Jack is at home, and he is, it does not follow that I know that he is. Justification is needed, and this must be internalist rather than externalist. If I see a cat, it does not follow that I know a cat exists or that the cat I see exists. For I might be dreaming or I might be a brain in a vat. There are dreams so vivid that one literally sees (not imagines, or anything else) what does not exist. If I know a cat just in virtue of seeing one, then I need justification, and this justification must be available to me internally, in a way that does not beg the question by presupposing that there exist things external to my consciousness. Note that 'I see a cat' and 'No cat exists' express logically consistent propositions. They both can (logically) be true. For in the epistemologically primary sense of 'see,' seeing is not existence-entailing. In its epistemologically primary sense, 'see' is not a verb of success in the way 'know' is. 'False knowledge' is a contradictio in adiecto; 'nonexistent visual object' is not.
The limbs of our antilogism, then, are highly plausible and for some of us undeniable. Speaking autobiographically, I find each of the propositions irresistable. But I think most philosophers today would reject (3) by rejecting internalist as opposed to externalist justification.
The propositions cannot all be true. Any two, taken together, entails the negation of the remaining one. Thus, corresponding to this one antilogism, there are three valid syllogisms. That is true in general: every antilogism* sires three valid syllogisms.
The first takes us from (1) & (2) to ~(3). If what exists is independent of knowledge, and knowledge is of what exists, then it is not the case that knowledge requires an internally available criterion.
The second syllogism takes us from (1) & (3) to ~(2). If being is independent of knowledge, and knowledge requires a purely internal criterion, then being is inaccessible to knowledge: what we know are not things themselves, but things as they appear to us. To solve the antilogism by rejecting (2) would put us in the vicinity of Kant's epistemology according to which there are things in themselves but we know only phenomena.
The third syllogism takes us from (2) & (3) to ~(1). If knowledge is of what exists, and knowledge is knowledge only if justified internally, then being is not independent of knowledge, and we arrive at a form of idealism.
Is our antilogism insoluble? In one sense, no aporetic polyad is insoluble: just deny one of the limbs. In the above case, one could deny (3). To justify that denial one would have to work out an externalist theory of epistemic justification. An aporetically inclined philosopher, however, will expect that the resulting theory will give rise to aporetic polyads of its own.
And so we descend into a labyrinth from which there is no exit except perhaps by a confession of the infirmity of reason, a humble admission of the incapacity of the discursive intellect to solve problems that it inevitably and naturally poses to itself.
I appreciate that in discussing these epistemological issues we must use the non-question-begging, existence-neutral sense of 'see'. My point is that for the distinction between 'complete' and 'incomplete' to make any sense, the epistemological question as to whether seeing is existence-entailing has to have already been settled favourably, though with the caveat that mistakes occur sometimes. In the context of your latest aporetic tetrad,
1. If S sees x, then x exists 2. Seeing is an intentional state 3. Every intentional state is such that its intentional object is incomplete 4. Nothing that exists is incomplete,
this would rule out the escape of denying (1). Indeed, can we not replace 'see' with 'veridically see' in (1) and (2) and obtain a rather more vexing aporia?
If I understand David's point, it is that the very sense of the distinction between an incomplete and a complete object requires that in at least some (if not the vast majority) of cases, the intentional objects of (outer) perceptual experience really exist. Equivalently, if there were no really existent (finite-mind-independent) material meso-particulars (e.g., trees and rocks and stars), then not only would the predicate 'complete' not apply to anything, but also would be bereft of sense or meaning, and with it the distinction between incomplete and complete.
I am afraid I don't agree.
Suppose one were to argue that the very sense of the distinction between God and creatures logically requires that God exist. Surely that person would be wrong. At most, the concept creature logically requires the concept God. But while the concept God is a concept, God is not a concept, and the God concept may or may not be instantiated without prejudice to its being the very concept it is. (Don't confuse this with the very different thesis that the essence of God may or may not be exemplified without prejudice to its being the very essence it is.)
I say, contra David, that it is is the same with incomplete and complete objects. The sense of the distinction does not logically require that there be any complete objects of outer perception; it requires only the concept complete object. This is a concept we form quite easily by extrapolation from the concept incomplete object.
As I always say, the more vexatious an aporetic polyad, the better. I am ever on the hunt for insolubilia. So I thank David for suggesting the following beefed-up tetrad:
1. If S veridically sees x, then x exists 2. Veridical seeing is an intentional state 3. Every intentional state is such that its intentional object is incomplete 4. Nothing that exists is incomplete.
This is more vexing than the original tetrad, but I think it falls short of a genuine aporia (a polyad in which the limbs are individually undeniable but jointly inconsistent). For why can't I deny (1) by claiming that veridical seeing does not logically require the real (extramental) existence of the thing seen but only that the incomplete intentional objects cohere? Coherence versus correspondence as the nature of truth.
WARNING! Scholastic hairsplitting up ahead! If you are allergic to this sort of thing, head elsewhere. My old post, On Hairsplitting, may be of interest.
My Czech colleague Lukas Novak seems to hold that there is no mode of being that is the mode of being of purely or merely intentional objects:
. . . no problem to say that a merely
intentional object O has an esse intentionale; but what is this esse?
There are reasons to think that it is nothing within O: for objects have
intentional being in virtue of being conceived (known, etc. . . ), and cognition in
general is an immanent operation, i.e., its effects remain within its subject. It
would be absurd to assume that by conceiving of Obama just now (and so imparting to
him an esse intentionale) I cause a change in him! So intentional being
seems to be a mere extrinsic denomination from the cognitive act, a merely
extrinsic property. Consequently, objects which have only intentional
being, are in themselves nothing. They do not represent an item in the
complete inventory of what there is. It seems to me that it is an error (yes, I
believe there are philosophical errors:-)) to assume that objects must be
something in themselves in order to be capable of being conceived (or referred
While agreeing with much of what Novak says, I think it is reasonable to maintain that merely intentional objects enjoy intentional being, esse intentionale, a mode of being all their own, despite the obvious fact that merely intentional objects are 'existentially heteronomous,' a phrase to be defined shortly. But to discuss this with any rigor we need to make some distinctions. I will be drawing upon the work of Roman Ingarden, student of Edmund Husserl and a distinguished philosopher in his own right. I will be defending what I take to be something in the vicinity of Ingarden's position.
1. An example of a purely intentional object is a table that does not exist in reality, but is created by me in imagination with all and only the properties I freely ascribe to it. In a series of mental acts (intentional experiences) I imagine a table. The table is the intentional object of the series of acts. It is one to their many, and for this reason alone distinct from them. Act is not object, and object is not act, even though they are correlated necessarily. In virtue of its intentionality, an act is necessarily an act of an object, the italicized phrase to be read as an objective genitive, and the object, being purely or merely intentional, is dependent for its existence on the act. But although the object cannot exist without the act, the object is no part of the act, kein reeller Inhalt as Husserl would say. So, given that the act is a mental or psychic reality, it does not follow that the object, even though purely intentional, is a mental or psychic reality. Indeed, it is fairly obvious that the imagined table is not a mental or psychic reality. The object, not being immanent to the act, is in a certain sense transcendent, enjoying a sort of transcendence-in-immanence, if I remember my Husserl correctly. Of course it is not transcendent in the sense of existing on its own independently of consciousness. Now consider a really existent table. It may or may not become my intentional object. If it does, it is not a purely intentional object. A purely intentional object, then, is one whose entire being is exhausted in being an object or accusative of a conscious intending. For finite minds such as ours, nothing real is such that its being is wholly exhaustible by its being an intentional object.
My merely imagined table does not exist in reality, 'outside' my mind. But it also does not exist 'in' my mind as identical to the act of imagining it or as a proper part of the act of imagining it, or as any sort of mental content, as Twardowski clearly saw. Otherwise, (i) the merely imagined table would have the nature of an experience, which it does not have, and (ii) it would exist in reality, when it doesn't, and (iii) it would have properties that cannot be properties of mental acts or contents such as the property of being spatially extended.
2. The problem posed by purely intentional objects can be framed as the problem of logically reconciling the following propositions:
A. Some mental acts are directed upon nonexistent, purely intentional, objects. B. Anti-Psychologism: These purely intentional objects typically do not exist intramentally, for the Twardowskian reasons above cited. C. These purely intentional objects do not exist extramentally, else they wouldn't be purely intentional. D. These purely intentional objects are not nothing: they have some mode of being. E. Existential Monism: everything that exists or has being exists or has being in the same way or mode.
The pentad is logically inconsistent. One solution is to reject (D): Purely intentional objects do not exist at all, or have any sort of being, but we are
nonetheless able to stand in the intentional relation to them. To this
Twardowski-Meinong-Grossmann view I have two objections. First, what does
not exist at all is nothing, hence no definite object. Second, if
intentionality is a relation, then all its relata must exist. A better solution, that of Ingarden, is to reject (E).
3. Ingarden rejects Existential Monism, maintaining that there are different modes of being. (TMB, 48) Here are four modes Ingarden distinguishes:
a. Existential Autonomy. The self-existent is existentially autonomous. It "has its existential foundation in istelf." (Time and Modes of Being, p. 43)
b. Existential Heteronomy. The non-self-existent is the existentially heteronomous. Purely intentional objects are existentially heteronomous: they have their existential foundation not in themselves, but in another. Now if existential heteronomy is a mode of being, and purely intentional objects enjoy this mode of being, then it follows straightaway that purely intentional objects have being, and indeed their own heteronomous being. If Novak denies this, then this is where our disagreement is located.
c. Existential Originality. The existentially original, by its very nature, cannot be produced by anything else. If it exists, it cannot not exist. (52) It is therefore permanent and indestructible. God, if he exists, would be an example of a being that is existentially original. But matter, as conceived by dialectical materialists, would also be an example, if it exists. (79)
d. Existential Derivativeness. The existentially derivative is such that it can exist only as produced by another. The existentially derivative may be either existentially autonomous or existentially heteronomous. Thus purely intentional objects are both existentially derivative and existentially heteronomous.
4. Now let me see if I can focus my rather subtle difference from Novak. I am sure we can agree on this much: purely intentional objects are neither existentially original nor existentially autonomous. They are existentially derivative, though not in the way a divinely created substance is existentially derivative: such substances, though derivative, are autonomous. So I think we can agree that purely intentional objects are existentially heteronomous. The issue that divides us is whether they have their own, albeit heteronomous, being. Or is it rather the case that their being reduces to the being of something else? I say that purely intentional objects have a very weak mode of being, existential heteronomy, in Ingarden's jargon. Novak denies this. Novak cites his master, the doctor subtilis, Duns Scotus:
And if you are looking for some “true being” of this object as
such [viz. of the object qua conceived], there is none to be found over and
above that “being in a qualified sense”, except that this “being in a
qualified sense” can be reduced to some “being in an unqualified sense”,
which is the being of the respective intellection. But this being in an
unqualified sense does not belong to that which is said to “be in a qualified
sense” formally, but only terminatively or principiatively — which means that
to this “true being” that “being in a qualified sense” is reduced, so that
without the true being of this [intellection] there would be no “being in a
qualified sense” of that [object qua conceived]. - Ord. I, dist. 36, q. un.,
n. 46 (ed. Vat. VI, 289)
The idea seems to be that the being of the purely intentional object reduces to the being of the act, and that it therefore has no 'true being' of its own. The purely intentional object has being only in a qualified sense. This qualified being, however, reduces to the being of the intellection. I think this reduction opens Scotus and Novak up to the charge of psychologism, against which Ingarden, good student of Husserl that he was, rails on pp. 48-49 of TMB. For if the being of the purely intentional object reduces to the being of the act, then the purely intentional object has mental or psychic being -- which is not the case. The object is not a psychic content. It is not the act or a part of the act; not is it any other sort of psychic reality.
Psychologism is avoided, however, if purely intentional objects are granted their own mode of being, that of existential heteronomy. Although they derive their being from the the being of mental acts, their being is not the being of mental acts, but their own mode of being. Analogy: Though created substance derive their being from God, their mode of being is their own and not the same as God's mode of being.
This post continues my discussion with Lukas Novak who, so far, as been wiping the floor with me, refuting my arguments for the distinctio realis. Now I take a different tack. I want to see if we have a genuine problem here, but one that is simply insoluble. Such a result would be consistent with my preferred yet provisionally held metaphilosophy according to which the problems of philosophy are most of them genuine, some of them humanly important, but all of them insoluble.
I would like to uphold both of the following propositions, but they appear logically inconsistent (with each other). I will call the first the Metaphysical Primacy of Individual Existence (MPIE), and the second, the Real Distiction between Essence and Existence in Contingent Beings (RD). These are the two limbs of the dyad. I will make a case that they are each exceedingly plausible, but cannot both be true.
1. The Metaphysical Primacy of Individual Existence
MPIE includes a subthesis that I will call the Metaphysical Primacy of Existence (MPE). MPE's slogan is 'No essence without existence.' There are no nonexisting individual essences, no nonexistent items in Meinong's sense, no merely possible individuals. MPE, then, is a rejection of possibililism and an affirmation of actualism, the view that everything (actually) exists. Actualism, however, allows for Plantinga-style haecceity properties capable of unexemplified existence. These abstract and necessary properties actually exist; they are not mere possibilia. But they too must be rejected if we are to affirm the metaphysical primacy of individual existence. The idea is that the individual essence of a concrete individual cannot exist apart from the individual. Individual essences or quiddities there may be, but none of them float free from existence. Peter, for example, is a concrete existing individual. But there is no such haecceity property as identity-with-Peter (Petereity), a property that can exist unexemplified (and does exist unexemplified at times at which Peter does not exist and in possible worlds in which Peter does not exist) . This putative property is an haecceity property of Peter in that, if exemplified, it is exemplified by Peter, by Peter alone, and not possibly by any individual distinct from Peter. If there are such properties, they nail down, or rather are, the nonqualitative thisnesses of concrete individuals. (See here for arguments against haecceity properties.)
MPIE, then, amounts to the rejection of nonexistent and nonsubsistent items, together with Meinongian items having Aussersein status -- whatever exactly that is! -- as well as actually existing haecceity properties. Consider the golden mountain. On MPIE, there exists no golden mountain; there subsists no golden mountain; and it is not the case that some item is a golden mountain. (Each of these clauses makes a different claim, by the way.) Furthermore, on MPIE, nothing's identity or nonqualitative thisness is a property that can exist at times and in worlds when and where the indivdual whose nonqualitative thisness it is does not exist.
But MPIE is not anti-Platonic: it allows for multiply exemplifiable properties (universals). Thus MPIE is not to be confused with nominalism.
2. The Real Distinction between Essence and Existence
In each concrete, contingent individual there is a real distinction between individual essence and existence. To say that the distinction is real is to say that it is not merely conceptual or notional: the distinction subsists independently of us and our mental operations. Thus the distinction is not like the distinction between the morning star and the evening star, which is presumably a distinction between two ways one and the same physical thing, the planet Venus, appears to us. But the reality of the real distinction does not imply that essence and existence are capable of separate existence. Thus the distinction is not real in the way the distinction between Venus and Mars is real, or in the way the distinction between my glasses and my head is real. If Giles of Rome thought otherwise, then he was mistaken. The real distinction is more like the distinction between the convexity and concavity of a lens. Neither can exist without the other, but the distinction is in the lens, and is not a matter of how we view the lens. This analogy, however, limps badly inasmuch as we can empirically detect the difference between the convex and concave surfaces of a lens, but we cannot empirically detect the existence of a thing. But then every analogy limps, else it would not be an analogy.
3. Are the Limbs of the Dyad Logically Consistent?
I'm having doubts. It would be easy to argue for (RD) if (MPIE) is false. Suppose there are merely possible individual essences that subsist necessarily whether or not they exist contingently. Then we can argue as follows. Peter is possibly nonexistent, but not possibly non-human. His existing cannot therefore be reduced to his being the particular human he is. Existence cannot be reduced to essence because Peter's essence subsists in possible worlds in which Peter does not exist. (It also exists at times at which Peter does not exist.) Essence and existence differ extensionally: for every contingent being, there are possible worlds in which the essence of the individual subsists but the individual does not exist. In the case of Plantinga the actualist, abstract and necessary haecceities exist just as robustly as the concrete and contingent individuals whose haecceities they are; so there is no call in his case for a distinction between subsistence and existence.
But if (MPIE) is true, then the extensional difference disappears: in all and only the possible worlds in which Peter exists does his essence subsist/exist. But then we have no good reason to maintain that there is a real difference between essence and existence. This is the brunt of Novak's point against me.
4. Neither Limb is Easily Rejected
Now if the limbs of the dyad are logically inconsistent, we can solve the dyad by rejecting one of the limbs. But which one? I find both to be very plausible.
MPIE is plausible. Something that has no being is nothing at all. So if essences have no being, they are nothing at all. Kein Sosein ohne Dasein. A merely possible individual is one that is not actual, hence nonexistent, hence, in itself, nothing at all. Haecceity properties, though existent, are objectionable for the reasons given here. To put it very simple: the identity of a thing is nothing apart from the thing whose identity it is! In short, there are no individual essences apart from the existing individuals whose essences they are.
Why is RD plausible? When I say that Peter, or any contingent thing, exists, I am saying that he is not nothing, that he is, that he is 'there,' that he is 'outside' his causes and 'outside' my mind and indeed 'outside' any mind. But the dude might not have existed, i.e., there is no logical or metaphysical necessity that he exist. There is nothing in his nature or individual essence to require that he exist, whence it seems to follow that he cannot be identical to his existence. But if Peter is not identical to his existence, then he is distinct from his existence. And if he is distinct from his existence, then that is equivalent to saying that Peter qua individual essence is distinct from Peter qua existing.
But is this distinction real? Or is perhaps merely notional? Is it a distinction we make, or one we find and record? Well, Peter's existence is real, and his essence is real, and his contingency is real, so I say the distinction is real. It is in Peter intrinsically and not supplied by us.
5. Contingency Merely Epistemic?
But wait! How do I know that Peter is really contingent, really possibly such as not to exist though in fact he does exist? Might this contingency be merely epistemic, merely a matter of my ignorance as to why he must exist? His nonexistence is thinkable without contradiction. But does that suffice to show that his nonexistence is really possible? Peter's nonexistence is conceivable, i.e., thinkable without logical contradiction. But there is a logical gap between conceivability and (real) possibility. On the other hand, if conceivability is no guide to possibility, what guide do we have? So I'll set this problem aside for now.
6. Where Does This Leave Us?
I think it is reasonable to hold that the problem is genuine but insoluble. Both limbs are plausibly maintained, but they cannot both be true. It could be that our cognitive architecture is such as to allow us to formulate the problem, but also such as to disallow a solution. This is not to say that there are contradictions in reality. I assume that there are none. It is to suggest that discursive reason is dialectical in roughly Kant's sense: it comes into conflict with itself when it attempts to grasp the Unconditioned. Existence, after all, is the unconditioned or absolute 'aspect' of things. Better: it is the absolute or uncinditioned depth dimension in things. For a thing to exist is for it to exist outside its causes, outside minds, and outside relations to other things (a thing is not constituted by its relations, but must exist apart from them if it is to stand in them).
This goes together with the fact that existence is what confers uniqueness upon a thing. To the conceptualizing mind, nothing is strictly unique. For every concept is repeatable even if not repeated. Existence, however, cannot be conceptualized. As the absoluteness and uniqueness in things, it is perhaps no surprise that the difference between existence and essence cannot show up extensionally.
But this won't convince many. They will insist that there has to be a solution. Well, then, let's hear what it is.
There is a problem that has occupied me on and off for years. Mikael Stenmark's Prague paper, "Competing Conceptions of God: The Personal God versus the God beyond Being" got me thinking about it again. What follows, however, is not intended as commentary on Stenmark's paper.
One way into the problem as I conceive it is via the following aporetic triad:
1. There are things other than God that exist, and they all depend on God for their existence.
2. For any x, y, if x depends for its existence on y, and x exists, then y exists. (This implies that nothing can depend on God for its existence unless God exists.)
3. God is not one of the many things that exist, and so God does not exist.
It is easy to see that the limbs of the triad cannot all be true. And yet each has some plausibility, at least 'in-house,' i.e., among theists.
(1) or something like it must be accepted by both ontic theists and alterity theists. Roughly, an ontic theist is a theist who maintains that God is a being among beings while an alterity theist is one who maintains that God is radically transcendent, radically other, to such an extent that he cannot be identified with any being.
(2) won't be accepted by the alterity theists, but it is to my mind exceedingly plausible!
(3) won't be accepted by the ontic theist, but many find it plausible.
But since the limbs cannot all be true, one of them must be rejected. (I am assuming, of course, that there cannot be true contradictions.) There are therefore three main ways of solving the problem.
A. The quickest solution, call it Blanket Atheism, is by rejecting (1). There is no God in any sense of the term. No being is God, and there is no God 'beyond being.' There is just the natural world (and perhaps abstracta) but nature is not God.
B. The alterity theist rejects (2) while accepting (3).
C. The ontic theist accepts (2) while rejecting (3).
But there are two other C-options, two other options involving the acceptance of (2) and the rejection of (3).
One could take a monistic tack, roughly along the lines of Spinoza. Accordingly, (i) there is a sense in which God exists -- God is not natura naturata, but natura naturans -- ; (ii) God exists in the primary sense of 'exists'; (iii) God alone exists, hence is not one of many existents, and so does not exist in the sense in which Spinozistic modes exist.
This is what I used to think, back in the '80s. See my "Two Faces of Theism," Idealistic Studies, vol. xx, no. 3 (September 1990), pp. 238-257. But I moved away from this position in the '90s and took an onto-theological turn that found expression in my existence book.
That is the other C-option. Accordingly, God is not an existent among existents as the ontic theist maintains. Nor is God somehow real but nonexistent as the alterity theist maintains. Nor is God the one and only existent as the monist maintains. Rather, God is self-existent Existence, yet transcendent, pace monism. This is roughly akin to the position of Aquinas. Deus est ipsum esse subsistens. So God is Being (esse) but God also is. God is Being but also the prime 'case' -- not instance! -- of Being. But God is in a mode of Being unlike the mode of Being of anything else. So God is not a being among beings, nor does he have properties in the way Socrates has properties.
But this too has its difficulties. So now I am contemplating the final step: Into the Mystic.
Roughly, the above triad is an aporia, an insolubilium. One has to blast through it, as through a koan, into the Transdiscursive. The philosopher, however, hovers at the boundary of the Unsayable, marking it without overstepping it, incapable qua philosopher of effing the Ineffable, but able -- and this is his office -- to point to it while refuting both denials of it and bad theories about it.
0. I wanted to explore supposita in their difference from primary substances, but John the Commenter sidetracked me into the aporetics of primary substance. But it is a sidetrack worth exploring even if it doesn't loop back to the mainline. For it provides me more grist for my aporetic mill.
1. Metaphysics is a quest for the ultimately real, the fundamentally real, the ontologically basic. Aristotle, unlike his master Plato, held that such things as this man and that horse are ontologically basic. What is ontologically basic (o-basic) is tode ti, hoc aliquid, this something, e.g., this concrete individual man, Socrates, and that concrete individual donkey. Such individuals are being, ousia, in the primary sense. And so Socrates and his donkey can be called primary beings, or primary substances. Asinity there may be, but it can't be ontologically basic.
This is clearly the drift of Aristotle's thinking despite the numerous complications and embarrassments that arise when one enters into the details.
(If you think that there is 'substance' abuse in Aristotelian and scholastic precincts, I sympathize with you. You have to realize that 'substance' is used in different senses, and that these senses are technical and thus divergent from the senses of 'substance' in ordinary language.)
2. But of course every this something is a this-such: it has features, attributes, properties. This is a datum, not a theory. Socrates is a man and is excited by the turn the dialectic has taken, and this while seated on his donkey. Man is a substance-kind, while being excited and being seated are accidents. (Let us not worry about relations, a particularly vexing topic when approached within an Aristotelian-scholastic purview.) Setting aside also the difficult question of how a secondary substance such as the substance-kind man is related to Socrates, it is safe to say that for Aristotle such properties as being excited and being seated are theoretically viewed as accidents. So conceptualized, properties are not primary beings as they would be if they were conceptualized as mind-independent universals capable of existing unexemplified. Accidents by definition are not o-basic: If A is an accident of S, then A exists only 'in' S and not in itself. A depends on S for its existence, a mode of existence we can call inherence, while S does not depend for its existence on A.
3. So much for background. Now to the problem. Which is ontologically basic: Socrates together with his accidents, or Socrates taken in abstraction from his accidents?
What I want to argue is that a dilemma arises if we assume, as John the Commenter does, that Socrates taken together with his accidents is an accidental unity or accidental compound. A simple example of an accidental compound is seated-Socrates. Now I won't go into the reasons for positing these objects; I will just go along with John in assuming that they are there to be referred to.
Seated-socrates is a hylomorphic compound having Socrates as its matter and being seated as its form. But of course the matter of the accidental compound is itself a compound of prime matter and substantial form, while the form of the accidental compound is not a substantial form but a mere accident. The accidental compound is accidental because seated-Socrates does not exist at all the same times and all the same worlds as Socrates. So we make a tripartite distinction: there is a compound of prime matter and substantial form; there is an accident; and there is the inhering of the accident in the substance, e.g., Socrates' being seated, or seated-Socrates.
As Frank A. Lewis points out, accidental compounds are "cross-categorical hybrids." Thus seated-Socrates belongs neither to the category of substance nor to any non-substance category. One of its constituents is a substance and the other is an accident, but it itself is neither, which is why it is a cross-categorical hybrid entity.
The dilemma arises on the assumption that Socrates together with his accidents is an accidental compound or accidental unity, and the dilemma dissolves if this assumption is false.
a. Either (i) Socrates together with his accidents is a primary substance or (ii) Socrates taken in abstraction from his accidents is a primary substance.
b. If (i), then Socrates is an accidental compound and thus a "cross-categorical hybrid" (F. A. Lewis) belonging neither to the category of substance nor to any non-substance category. Therefore, if (i), then Socrates is not a primary substance.
c. If (ii), then Socrates is not a concretum, but an abstractum, i.e., a product of abstraction inasmuch as one considers him in abstraction from his accidents. Therefore, if (ii), then Socrates is not a primary substance. For a primary substance must be both concrete and completely determinate. (These, I take it. are equivalent properties.) Primary substances enjoy full ontological status in Aristotle's metaphysics. They alone count as ontologically basic. They are his answer to the question, What is most fundamentally real? Clearly, Socrates taken in abstraction from his accidents is incompletely determinate and thus not fully real.
d. On either horn, Socrates is not primary substance.
3. There are items of knowledge that are not essentially tied to action.
Daniel K comments and I respond in blue:
First, as to your aporetic triad: I would like to reject (3) in one sense that I describe below, and reject (1) absolutely. Not sure where that leaves the triad. But I'd be interested in whether you think I've clarified or merely muddied the waters.
In one sense I think all knowledge is action guiding. In another sense I think it is not essentially action guiding. All pure water is drinkable (at the right temperature etc.), but drinkability is not an essential feature of water (I wonder if this works).
BV: I don't think it works. I should think that in every possible world in which there is water, it is potable by humans. Therefore, drinkability is an essential feature of water. (An essential property of x is a property x has in every possible world in which x exists.) Of course, there are worlds in which there is water but no human beings. In those worlds, none of the water is drunk by humans. But in those worlds too water is drinkable. Compare the temporal case. Before humans evolved, there was water on earth. That water, some of it anyway, was potable by humans even though there were no humans. Water did not become potable when the first humans arose.
Rejecting (3): The having of knowledge always contributes to how one acts. You give examples of a priori knowledge as counterexamples. My response: it seems to me a priori knowledge is "hinge" knowledge that opens the door for action and cannot possibly not inform action. In other words we won't find circumstances where such knowledge is not action guiding in the presuppositional sense. So, I disagree that we will find knowledge that doesn't inform action. A priori knowledge is presuppositionally necessary and occasionally practically useful (math for engineering). Empirical knowledge will be used when it is available. So, I don't think defending (3) is necessary to defend (2).
BV: Willard maintains that one can have propositional knowledge without belief, and that belief is essentially tied to action. The conjunction of these two claims suggests to me that there can be knowledge that is not essentially tied to action. And so I looked for examples of items of knowledge that are not essentially tied to action, either by not being tied to action at all, or by not being essentially tied to action. If there are such items, then we can say that the difference between belief and knowledge is that every belief, by its very nature, can be acted upon, while it is not the case that every item of knowledge can be acted upon.
Much depends on what exactly is meant by 'acting upon a proposition,' and I confess to not having a really clear notion of this.
While I grant that much a priori knowledge is 'hinge' knowledge in your sense, consider the proposition that there is no transfinite cardinal lying between aleph-nought and 2 raised to the power, alepth-nought. Does that have any engineering application? (This is not a rhetorical question.)
Now consider philosophical knowledge (assuming there is some). If I know that there are no bare particulars (in Gustav Bergmann's sense), this is a piece of knowledge that would seem to have no behavioral consequences. The overt, nonlinguistic, behavior of a man who maintains a bundle-theoretic position with respect to ordinary partiulars will be no different from that of a man who maintains that ordinary particulars have bare particulars at their ontological cores. They could grow, handle, slice, and eat tomatoes in the very same way.
(Anecdote that I am pretty sure is not apocryphal: when Rudolf Carnap heard that fellow Vienna Circle member Gustav Bergmann had published a book under the title, The Metaphysics of Logical Positivism, he refused to speak to Bergmann ever again.)
It seems we should say that some, though not all, philosophical knowledge (assuming there is philosophical knowledge) consists of propositions upon which we cannot act. Here is another example. Suppose I know that the properties of ordinary particulars are tropes. Thus I know that the redness of a tomato is not a universal but a particular. Is that knowledge action-guiding? How would it guide action differently than the knowledge that properties are universals? Is the difference in ontological views a difference that could show up at the level of overt, nonlinguistic, behavior?
Admittedly, some philosophical knowledge is action-guiding. If I know that the soul is immortal, then I will behave differently than one who lacks this knowledge.
Now consider the knowledge of insignificant contingent facts. I know from my journal that on 27 April 1977 I ate hummus. Is that item of knowledge action-guiding? I think not. Suppose you learn the boring fact and infer that I like hummus. You might then make me a present of some. But if I am the only one privy to the information, it is difficult to see how that item of knowledge could be action-guiding for me. Recall that by action I mean overt, nonlinguistic behavior.
There is also modal knowledge to consider. I might have been sleeping now. I might not have been alive now. I might never have existed at all. These are modal truths that, arguably, I know. Suppose I know them. How could I act upon them? I am not sleeping now, and nothing I do could bring it about that I am sleeping now. Some modal knowledge would seem to without behavioral consequences. Of course, some modal knowledge does have such consequences, e.g. the knowledge that it is possible to grow tomatoes in Arizona.
It seemed to me in your post that you took the truth of (2) as giving support to (3). If belief is essentially action guiding and knowledge is not essentially believing, then there should be knowledge that is not action guiding.
But again, I would like to affirm that in the sense you mean it in the post all knowledge is action guiding: either presuppositionally or consciously/empirically. For instance, the law of noncontradiction is action guiding in the sense that I cannot act if essential to that action is that the object has characteristic X, but I affirm that the object is both X and not-X. [. . .]
BV: Consider an example. I cannot eat a bananna unless it is peeled. My affirming that it is both peeled and unpeeled (at the same time, all over, and in the same sense of 'peeled') would not, however, seem to stand in the way of my performing the action. Clearly, I know that nothing is both peeled and unpeeled. It is not clear to me how one could act upon that proposition. If I want to eat the bananna, I can act upon the proposition that it is unpeeled by peeling the bananna. But how do I act upon the proposition that the bananna is either peeled or unpeeled? What do I do?
Rejecting (1): So, what if both knowledge and belief are in one sense "action guiding" (rejecting 3)? Does it imply that we have no reason to think that belief is not an essential component of knowledge (accepting 2 and rejecting 1)? I think we still do have a good reason for thinking belief is not essentially a component of knowledge. When Willard says that belief is not essential to knowledge I take him to be distinguishing between the irrelevance of being concerned with action in the act of knowing and the universal appeal of knowledge for action.
Forget the terms "knowledge" and "belief" for a moment. Distinguish between the following states:
One is in a state (intentional?) (Y) to object (X) iff one has a true representation of X that was achieved in an appropriate way (Willard's account of knowledge). Notice that there is nothing in the description that essentially involves a readiness to act. That is not a part of its intentional character or directedness of state (Y). It is directed purely at unity, period.
Alternatively, one is in an intentional state (Z) to object (X) iff one has a representation of reality that is essentially identified by its being a ground for action. Here, essential to (Z) is its providing a ground for action.
(Y) is not a state that essentially involves action guidance but (Z) is. So, the achievement of (Y) does not involve essentially the achievement of (Z). That is, the achievement of (Y) is the achievement of a kind of theoretical unity with (X) while the achievement of (Z) is the achievement of a motivator for acting in certain ways regarding (X). Response: but Daniel, you've already said that all knowledge is action guiding! Yes, but it is not an essential feature of the state of knowing. Analogy: all water is drinkable. But drinkability is not an essential feature of water.
I'm going to stop there. I'd appreciate any comments you have. That is my effort, thus far, to make sense of both Willard's suggestion and your aporetic triad.
BV: I do appreciate the comments and discussion. Let's see if I understand you. You reject (1), the orthodox view that knowledge entails belief. Your reason seems to be that, while belief is essentially action-guiding, knowledge is not essentially action-guiding, but only accidentally action-guiding. You deny what I maintain, namely, that some items of knowledge (some known propositions qua known) are not action-guiding. You maintain that all such items are action-guiding, but only accidentally so. Perhaps your argument is this:
4. Every believing-that-p is essentially action-guiding.
5. No knowing-that-p is essentially action-guiding.
6. It is not the case that, necessarily, every knowing-that-p is a believing-that-p.
But (6) -- the negation of (1) -- doesn't follow from (4) and (5). (6) is equivalent to
6*. Possibly, some knowings-that-p are not believings-that-p.
What follows from (4) and (5) is
7. No knowing-that-p is a believing-that-p.
(7) is the thesis I am tentatively proposing.
This is a very difficult topic and we may be falling into de dicto/de re confusion.
Well, at least I am in the state that Plato says is characteristic of the philosopher: perplexity!
Here is a trio of propositions that are jointly inconsistent but individually plausible:
1. Knowledge entails belief.
2. Belief is essentially tied to action.
3. There are items of knowledge that are not essentially tied to action.
Clearly, any two of these propositions is logically inconsistent with the remaining one. Thus the conjunction of (1) and (2) entails the negation of (3).
And yet each limb of the triad is very plausible, though perhaps not equally plausible.
(1) is part of the classical definition of knowledge as justified true belief, an analysis traceable to Plato's Theaetetus. (1) says that, necessarily, if a person S knows that p, then S believes that p. Knowledge logically includes belief. What one knows one believes, though not conversely. For example, if I know that my wife is sitting across from me, then I believe that she is sitting across from me. (At issue here is propositional knowledge, not know-how, or carnal knowledge, or knowledge by acquaintance.)
(2) is perhaps the least plausible of the three, but it is still plausible and accepted by (a minority of) distinguished thinkers. According to Dallas Willard,
Belief I understand to be some degree of readiness to act as if such and such (the content believed) were the case. Everyone concedes that one can believe where one does not know. But it is now widely assumed that you cannot know what you do not believe. Hence the well known analysis of knowledge as "justified, true belief." But this seems to me, as it has to numerous others, to be a mistake. Belief is, as Hume correctly held, a passion. It is something that happens to us. Thought, observation and testing, even knowledge itself, can be sources of belief, and indeed should be. But one may actually know (dispositionally, occurrently) without believing what one knows.
[. . .] belief has an essential tie to action . . . .
Although I am not exactly sure what Willard's thesis is, he seems to be maintaining that the propositions one believes are precisely those one is prepared to act upon. S believes that p iff S is prepared to act upon p. Beliefs are manifested in actions, and actions are evidence of beliefs. To determine what a person really believes, we look to his actions, not to his words, although the words provide context for understanding the actions. If I want to get to the roof, and tell you that the ladder is stable, but refuse to ascend it, then that is very good evidence that I don't really believe that the ladder is stable. I don't believe it because I am not prepared to act upon it. So far, so good.
But if belief is essentially tied to action, as Willard maintains, then it is not possible that one believe a proposition one cannot act upon. Is this right? Consider the proposition *Everything is self-identical.* This is an item of knowledge. But is it also an item of belief? We can show that this item of knowledge is not an item of belief if we can show that one cannot act upon it. But what is it to act upon a proposition? I don't know precisely, but here's an idea:
A proposition p is such that it can be acted upon iff there is some subject S and some circumstances C such that S's acceptance of p in C makes a difference to S's overt, nonlinguistic behavior.
For example, *It is raining* can be acted upon because there are circumstances in which my acceptance of it versus my nonacceptance of it (either by rejecting it or just entertaining it) makes a difference to what I do such as going for a run. Accepting the proposition, and not wanting to get wet, I postpone the run. Rjecting the proposition, I go for the run as planned.
In the case of *Everything is self-identical,* is there any behavior that could count as a manifestation of an agent's acceptance/nonacceptance of the proposition in question? Suppose I come to know (occurrently) for the first time that everything is self-identical. Suppose I had never thought of this before, never 'realized it.' Would the realization or 'epiphany' make a difference to my overt, nonlingusitic behavior? It seems not. Would I do anything differently?
Consider characteristic truths of transfinite set theory. They are items of knowledge that have no bearing on any actual or possible action. For example, I know that, while the natural numbers and the reals are both infinite sets, the cardinality of the latter is strictly greater than that of the former. Can I take that to the streets?
(3) therefore seems true: there are items of knowledge that are not items of belief because not essentially tied to action.
I have shown that each limb of our inconsistent triad has some plausibility. So it is an interesting problem. How solve it? Reject one of the limbs! But which one? And how do you show that the rejection of one is more reasonable than the rejection of one of the other two? And why is it more reasonable to hold that the problem has a solution than to hold that it is insoluble and thus a genuine aporia?
For present purposes, an aporia is a set of propositions each member of which has a strong claim on our acceptance, but whose members are collectively inconsistent. Like many a philosophical problem, the philosophical problem of the meaning of life is usefully approached from an aporetic angle. So consider the following aporetic tetrad:
A. If life has a meaning, then it cannot be subjective.
B. The meaning of life must be subjectively appropriable by all.
C. There is no meaning that is both nonsubjective and subjectively appropriable by all.
D. Life has a meaning.
Good though not absolutely compelling reasons have been given for both (A) and (B). But they are in tension with one another, a tension recorded in (C), the third limb of our aporetic tetrad. One who inclines towards compatibilism with respect to existential meaning inclines toward the rejection of (C). Unfortunately, (C) is not easily rejected, as I will try to show in this post. The main difficulty concerns the subjective appropriability of an objective purpose by all even if it is granted that there is an objective purpose applicable to all.
First of all, one cannot appropriate an objective purpose unless one knows or at least has good reasons for believing that there is one. More importantly, one must know what the purpose is and what one must do to live in accordance with it. Three different questions: Is there an objective purpose? What is it? How do I live in accordance with it? Countless millions of people, however, have lived who lacked the abilities or the opportunities to form reasonable beliefs about these matters, let alone to come to have knowledge about them. It is not enough that the objective purpose be knowable by some; it must be knowable by all. This was argued earlier. But for the countless millions just mentioned there was no real possibility of appropriating the objective purpose. By ‘real possibility’ is meant something far stronger than a mere logical possibility or even a nomological possibility. It is logically and nomologically possible for a human being to run a four-minute mile. But it is not possible for me and plenty of others to run that fast. So even if it is logically and nomologically possible for all human beings to know the objective purpose of life, it does not follow that all have any serious possibility of knowing it. It is as impossible for the countless millions just mentioned to know the objective purpose of life, supposing there is one, as it is for people like me to run a four-minute mile. It follows that the objective purpose of life, supposing there is one, is not subjectively appropriable by all, which is to say that it is not subjectively appropriable in the way it would have to be for life to be objectively meaningful. Again, if life has a meaning, it has a purpose, and the purpose must be the same for all and appropriable by all. Redemption from absurdity must be possible for all if it is be possible for any. If the world is so arranged that you are barred from redemption through no fault of your own, then my redemption is not a redemption from absurdity.
Those with the abilities and opportunities to investigate the three questions just mentioned are not in a much better position. For they are confronted with a welter of conflicting doctrines. The fortunate have the leisure to inquire and the intellect with which to inquire, but our intellects are weak and the problems stare us down with a face of seeming intractability. If all we have to rely on are ourselves and the resources of this world, then the conclusion to draw is that human life has no meaning that is both nonsubjective and subjectively appropriable.
Some will reply that what we cannot supply has been supplied by divine revelation. But this is no real solution. Even if God has revealed the purpose of human existence to us, together with the means of achieving that purpose, and in a way that respects our freedom and dignity, this will not do us any good if we do not know the purpose and how to achieve it. That, however, is precisely what we do not know as is clear from the conflicting accounts of the content of revelation, not to mention conflict over whether revelation is actual or even possible. All of these are ‘up for grabs’: the existence of God, the possibility of divine revelation, the actuality of divine revelation, not to mention its content and interpretation. If I merely believe in the content of a particular (putative) revelation, the Christian revelation for example, as interpreted in a certain way by a certain ecclesiastical authority such as the Roman Catholic magisterium, that is not good enough for it leaves me with reasonable doubts. But as long as I doubt the meaning of life and must continue to inquire, I have not yet subjectively appropriated the objective meaning of life. The subjective certainty of faith is not enough. What is needed is the objective certainty of knowledge. And it must be available to all – which is not the case for those who lived before the time of the historical revelation.
D. Life Has a Meaning
A case has been made for each of the first three limbs. Should we therefore conclude that life has no meaning? That would be hasty. It is arguable, though not compellingly arguable, that the living of a life presupposes the objective meaningfulness of life. E. M Adams writes,
Just as belief in the intelligibility of the world is presupposed by our quest for understanding, the meaningfulness of life is presupposed in living a life. We have to believe that life is not absurd, that it is not a tale told by an idiot, that it makes sense, in order to keep on with the struggles of life. (“The Meaning of Life,” International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion 51, 2002, pp. 71-81.)
I take Adams’ point to be that we cannot live without presupposing that our lives have meaning, objective meaning, a meaning whose source is external to us. One who believes, not just in his study, but throughout the activities of his life, that his life and its activities have only the meaning that he gives them must suffer a loss of motivation. If he does not, he is simply fooling himself about what he really believes and lives in a state of self-deception, or else he conveniently forgets his theoretical conviction when it comes time to act. He maintains at the level of theory that his life has only the meaning he confers upon it, but he ‘contradicts’ this theoretical belief by the energy and passion with which he pursues his projects and perhaps also by the passion with which he tries to convince the rest of us that nothing matters except what we make matter. For if he fully appreciated what his subjectivism amounts to he would see that his acts of meaning-bestowal are as meaningless as everything else in his life. You could say that such a person has not subjectively appropriated his subjectivism. This is true whether the subjectivism is extreme or moderate.
Living our lives with zest and vigor and passion and commitment, we presuppose that they are objectively meaningful. One who denies this I would suspect of self-deception or a lack of intelligence or spiritual superficiality. One who responds, “I live a rich and full life despite my conviction that life has no objective meaning applicable to all” simply does not appreciate the existential implications of what he believes. This is a bold assertion, many will disagree with it, some will be offended by it, and I cannot prove it; but it is reasonable to maintain it. It must also be conceded that, even if we cannot live full lives without the presupposition of objective meaningfulness, it does not follow that there is an objective meaning. It is not easy to exclude the possibility that what we must presuppose does not hold in fact. We must presuppose the intelligibility of the world if we are to embark seriously upon the arduous quest for understanding, but it is logically and epistemically possible that the world is unintelligible in itself. Likewise, we must presuppose the objective meaningfulness of life if we are to live rich and full and committed lives, but it is logically and epistemically possible that our lives are objectively meaningless nonetheless.
But if these possibilities are actual, then all the more are our lives meaningless, for then the way things are thwarts us: there is a ‘disconnect’ between what we need and must presuppose and what is true. Given that we cannot know that this is the case, we are entitled to believe that it is not the case. It may be that the ultimate nature of the world is such as to frustrate our purposes. But we cannot know this and there is no point in believing it, while there is every point in believing that the presupposition of meaning is true. Our very lives are the ‘proof’ of it. When it comes to life and its living it is reasonable to hold that the ‘proofs’ will be vital and pragmatic rather than theoretical. We are participants first and spectators second. We are parts of the world-whole and we are beings of meaning; it is reasonable to extrapolate that the world-whole of which we are parts is also a world of meaning and intelligibility. If we are wrong and the truth thwarts us, then why should we value truth? With this I conclude my case that life has meaning, whatever that meaning might be. It has some objective meaning or other and part of what contributes to the zest and passion and subjective meaningfulness of a life is the quest for that objective meaning.
The limbs of the aporetic tetrad are all of them defensible, yet they cannot all be true. I leave it to the reader to find his way forward if he can. If nothing else, I have elucidated the philosophical problem of the meaning of human existence and have blocked some facile (non)solutions.
For the actualist, the actual alone exists: the unactual, whether merely possible or impossible, does not exist. The actualist is not pushing platitudes: he is not telling us that the actual alone is actual or that the merely possible is not actual. 'Merely possible' just means 'possible but not actual.' The actualist is saying something non-platitudinous, something that may be reasonably controverted, namely, that only the actual exists: the merely possible and the impossible do not exist.
Analogously for the presentist. For the presentist, the (temporally) present alone exists: the nonpresent, whether past or future, does not exist. The presentist is not pushing the platitude that the past is no longer. He is saying something stronger: the past is not at all.
For the actualist, then, the merely possible does not exist. There just is no such item as the merely possible fat man in my doorway. Nevertheless, it is true, actually true, that there might have been a fat man in my doorway. (My neighbor Ted from across the street is a corpulent fellow; surely he might have come over to pay me a visit. 'Might' as lately tokened is not to be read epistemically.) The just-mentioned truth cannot 'hang in the air'; it must be grounded in some reality. To put it another way, the merely possible -- whether a merely possible individual or a merely possible state of affairs -- has a 'reality' that we need somehow to accommodate. The merely possible is not nothing. That is a datum, a Moorean fact.
Similarly, it is true now that I hiked yesterday, even if presentism is true and the past does not exist. So there has to be some 'reality' to the past, and we need to find a way to accommodate it. Yesterday's gone, as Chad and Jeremy told us back in '64. Gone but not forgotten: veridically remembered (in part) hence not a mere nothing. That too is a datum.
The data I have just reviewed are expressed in the following two parallel aporetic tetrads, the first modal, the second temporal.
1. The merely possible is not actual. 2. The merely possible is not nothing. 3. To exist = to be actual. 4. To exist = not to be nothing.
1t. The merely past is not present. 2t. The merely past is not nothing. 3t. To exist = to be present. 4. To exist = not to be nothing.
Each tetrad has limbs that are jointly inconsistent but individually plausible. Philosophical problems arise when plausibilities come into logical conflict. The tetrads motivate ersatzism since the first can be solved by adopting actualist ersatzism (also known simply as actualism) and the second by adopting presentist ersatzism. (Note that one could be a presentist without being an ersatzer.)
The ersatzer solution is to deny the first limb of each tetrad by introducing substitute items that 'go proxy' for the items which, on actualism and presentism, do not exist. These substitute items must of course exist while satisfying the strictures of actualism and presentism, respectively. The substitute items must actually exist and presently exist, respectively. So how does it work?
The actualist maintains, most plausibly, that everything is actual. But the merely possible must be accommodated: it is not nothing. The merely possible can be accommodated by introducing actually existent abstract states of affairs and abstract properties. Merely possible concrete states of affairs are actual abstract states of affairs that do not obtain. Merely possible concrete individuals are abstract properties that are not instantiated. Suppose there are n cats. There might have been n +1. The possibility of there being in concrete reality n + 1 cats is an abstract state of affairs that does not obtain, but might have obtained. Suppose you believe that before Socrates came into existence there was the de re possibility that Socrates, that very individual, come into existence. Then, if you are an actualist, you could accommodate the reality of this possibility by identifying the de re possibility of Socrates with an actually existent haecceity property, Socrateity. The actual existence in concrete reality of Socrates would then be the being-instantiated of this haecceity property.
Possible worlds can be accommodated by identifying them with maximal abstract states of affairs or maximal abstract propositions. Some identify worlds with maximally consistent abstract sets, but this proposal faces, I believe, Cantorian difficulties. The main idea, however, is that possible worlds for the actualist ersatzer are maximal abstract objects. Now one of the possible worlds is of course the actual world. It follows immediately that the actual world must not be confused with the concrete universe. It may sound strange, but for the actualist ersatzer, the actual world is an abstract object, a maximal proposition.
The actualist, then, rejects (1) and replaces it with
1*. A merely possible concrete item is an actual abstract object that possibly obtains or possibly is instantiated or possibly is true.
The presentist ersatzer does something similar with (1t). He replaces it with
1t*. A merely past concrete item is a temporally present abstract object that did obtain or was instantiated or was true or had a member.
An Argument Against Actualist Ersatzism
Let's examine the view that possible worlds are maximal abstract propositions. If so, the actual world is the true maximal proposition, and actuality is truth. Given that there is a plurality of worlds, whichever world is actual is contingently actual. So our world, call it 'Charley,' being the one and only (absolutely) actual world, is contingently actual, i.e., contingently true. Contingent affirmative truths, however, need truth-makers. So Charley needs a truth-maker. The truth-maker of Charley is the concrete universe as we know it and love it. Since actuality is truth, the concrete universe is not and cannot be actual.
So the concrete universe exists but is not actual! But this contradicts (3) above, according to which existence is actuality. The actualist ersatzer is committed to all of the following, but they cannot all be true:
5. Actuality is truth. 6. Truth is a property of propositions, not of concreta or merelogical sums of concreta. 7. The concrete universe is a concretum or a sum of concreta. 8. Everything that exists is actual: there are no mere possibilia or impossibilia. 9. The concrete universe exists.
This is an inconsistent pentad because any four of the limbs, taken together, entails the negation of the remaining one. For example, the conjunction of the first four limbs entails the negation of (9).
Curiously, in attempting to solve the modal tetrad, the actualist embraces an inconsistent pentad. Not good!
An Argument Against Presentist Ersatzism
A parallel inconsistent pentad is easily constructed. The target here is the view that times are maximal propositions.
5t. Temporal presentness is truth. 6. Truth is a property of propositions, not of concreta or merelogical sums of concreta. 7. The concrete universe is a concretum or a sum of concreta. 8t. Everything that exists is present: there are no merely past or merely future items. 9. The concrete universe exists.
One sort of presentist erstazer is committed to all five propositions, but they obviously cannot all be true.
John of the MavPhil commentariat drew our attention to the analogy between presentism and actualism. An exfoliation of the analogy may prove fruitful. Rough formulations of the two doctrines are as follows:
P. Only the (temporally) present exists.
A. Only the actual exists.
Now one of the problems that has been worrying us is how to avoid triviality and tautology. After all, (P) is a miserable tautology if 'exists' is present-tensed. It is clear that no presentist thinks his thesis is a tautology. It is also clear that there is a difference, albeit one hard to articulate, between presentism and the the various types of anti-presentism. There is a substantive metaphysical dispute here, and our task is to formulate the dispute in precise terms. This will involve clarifying the exact force of 'exists' in (P). If not present-tensed, then what?
A similar problem arises for the actualist. One is very strongly tempted to say that to exist is to be actual. If 'exists' in (A) means 'is actual,' however, then (A) is a tautology. But if 'exists' in (A) does not mean 'is actual,' what does it mean?
We seem to have agreed that Disjunctive Presentism is a nonstarter:
DP. Only the present existed or exists now or will exist.
That is equivalent to saying that if x existed or exists or will exists, then x presently exists. And that is plainly false. Now corresponding to the temporal modi past, present, and future, we have the modal modi necessary, actual, and merely possible. This suggests Disjunctive Actualism:
DA. Only the actual necessarily exists or actually exists or merely-possibly exists.
This too is false since the merely possible is not actual. It is no more actual than the wholly future is present.
We must also bear in the mind that neither the presentist nor the actualist intends to say something either temporally or modally 'solipsistic.' Thus the presentist is not making the crazy claim that all that every happened or will happen is happening right now. He is not saying that all past-tensed and future-tensed propositions are either false or meaningless and that the only true propositions are present-tensed and true right now. The presentist, in other words, is not a solipsist of the present moment.
Similarly wth the actualist. He is not a solipsist of this world. He is not saying that everything possible is actual and everything actual necessary. The actualist is not a modal monist or a modal Spinozist who maintains that there is exactly one possible world, the actual world which, in virtue of being actual and the only one possible, is necessary. The actualist is not a necessitarian.
There is no person like me, but I am not the only person. There is no place like here, but here is not the only place. There is no time like now, but now is not the only time.
In sum, for both presentism and actualism, tautologism, disjunctivism, and solipsism are out! What's left?
To formulate presentism it seems we need a notion of tenseless existence, and to formulate actualism we need a notion of amodal existence (my coinage).
We can't say that only the present presently exists, and of course we cannot say that only the present pastly or futurally exists. So the presentist has to say that only the present tenselessly exists. I will say more about tenseless existence in a later post.
What do I mean by amodal existence? Consider the following 'possible worlds' definitions of modal terms:
Necessary being: one that exists in all possible worlds Impossible being: one that exists in no possible world Possible being: one that exists in some and perhaps all possible worlds Contingent being: one that exists in some but not all possible worlds Merely possible being: one that exists in some possible worlds but not in the actual world Actual being: one that exists in the actual world Unactual being: one that exists either in no possible world or not in the actual world.
In each of these definitions, the occurrence of 'exists' is modally neutral analogously as 'exists' is temporally neutral in the following sentences:
It was the case that Tom exists It is now the case that Tom exists It will be the case that Tom exists.
My point, then, is that the proper formulation of actualism (as opposed to possibilism) requires an amodal notion of existence just as the proper formulation of presentism requires an atemporal (tenseless) notion of existence.
But are the atemporal and amodal notions of existence free of difficulty? This is what we need to examine. Can the requisite logical wedges be driven between existence and the temporal determinations and between existence and the modal determinations? If not then presentism and actualism cannot even be formulated and the respective problems threaten to be pseudoproblems.
Here is London Ed's most recent version of his argument in his own words except for one word I added in brackets:
1. There is no such thing as Caesar any more.
2. The predicate 'there is no such thing as -- any more' is satisfied by Caesar.
3. If a relation obtains [between] x and y, then there is such a thing as y.
4. (From 2) the relation 'is satisfied by' obtains between the predicate '-- is not a thing any more' and Caesar.
5. (3, 4) There is such a thing as Caesar.
6. (1, 5) contradiction.
Premiss (1) is Moorean. There is no longer any such thing or person as Caesar. (Or if you dispute that for reason of immortality of Caesar, choose some mortal or perishable object). (2) is a theoretical. (3) is a logical truth, and the rest is also logic. You must choose between (1) and (2), i.e. choose between a Moorean truth, and a dubious theoretical assumption.
(1) is indeed 'Moorean,' i.e., beyond the reach of reasonable controversy. (2) is indeed theoretical inasmuch as it involves an optional albeit plausible parsing in the Fregean manner of the Moorean sentence.
Ed tells us that (3) is a logical truth. I deny that it is. A logical truth is a proposition true in virtue of its logical form alone. 'Every cat is a cat' is an example of a logical truth as are 'No cat is a non-cat' and 'Either Max is a cat or Max is not a cat.' One can test for logical truth by negating the proposition to be tested. If the result is a logical contradiction, then the proposition is a logical truth. For example, if we negate 'Every cat is a cat' we get 'Some cat is not a cat.' The latter sentence is a logical contradiction, so the former sentence is a logical truth. The latter is a logical contradiction because its logical form -- Some F is not an F -- has only false substitution-instances.
Negating (3) yields 'A relation obtains between x and y, but there is no such thing as y.' But this is not a logical contradiction in the strict and narrow sense defined above. Suppose I am thinking about the Boston Common which, unbeknownst to me, ceases to exist while I am thinking about it. I stand in the 'thinking about' relation to the Common during the whole period of my thinking despite the fact that at the end of the period there is no such thing as the Boston Common. There are philosophers who hold that the intentional relation is a genuine relation and not merely relation-like as Brentano thought, and that in some cases it relates an existing thinker to a nonexisting object.
Now there are good reasons to reject this view as false, but surely it is not false as a matter of formal logic. If it is false, it is false as a matter of metaphysics. A philosopher such as Reinhardt Grossmann who holds that the intentional relation is a genuine relation that sometimes relates an existent thinker to a nonexistent object is not contradicting himself.
Since (3) is not a logical truth, one way to solve Ed's problem is by rejecting (3) and holding that there are genuine relations that relate the existent to the nonexistent. One could hold that the relation of satisfaction is such a genuine relation: it relates the existing predicate to the nonexistent emperor: Caesar satisfies the predicate despite his nonexistence.
Note that I am not advocating this solution to the puzzle; I am dismissing Ed's dismissal of this putative solution. I am rejecting Ed's claim that one is forced to choose between (1) and (2). One can avoid the contradiction by denying (3), and one is not barred from doing so by logic alone.
Ed claims that (1) and (5) are logical contradictories. But they are not. Just look carefully at both propositions and you will see. Ed thinks they are contradictories because he assumes that 'There is no such thing as y any more' is logically equivalent to 'There is no such thing as y.' But to make that assumption is to to assume the substantive metaphysical thesis known in the trade as
Presentism: Necessarily, only temporally present concrete objects exist.
Given Presentism, (1) and (5) are indeed contradictory. This is why I said earlier that Ed's argument cannot get off the ground without Presentism. For suppose we reject Presentism in favor of the plausible view that both past and present concreta exist, i.e., are within the range of our unrestricted quantifiers. Then Ed's puzzle dissolves. For then there is such a thing as Caesar, it is just that he is past. The relation of satisfaction connects a present item with a past item both of which exist. Or, since Ed is allergic to 'exist': both of which are such that there such things as them.
So a second way to solves Ed's puzzle is by rejecting the Presentism that he presupposes.
So I count at least three ways of solving Ed's puzzle: reject (2), reject (3), reject the tacit assumption of Presentism which is needed for (1) and (5) to be contradictory.
My inclination is to say that the puzzle is genuine, but insoluble. And this because the putative solutions sire puzzles as bad as the one we started with. Of course, I haven't proven this. But this is what my metaphilosophy tells me must be the case.
1. Existence is self-identity 2. My existence is contingent: (∃x)(x = I) & Poss ~(∃x) (x = I) Therefore 3. My self-identity is contingent: I = I & Poss ~ (I = I)
Argument A may be supplemented by the following consideration. Since I am contingent, there are possible worlds in which I do not exist. Not being in those worlds, I cannot have properties in them, including the property of self-identity. So it is not the case that I am necessarily self-identical; I am self-identical only in those worlds in which I exist, which is to say: I am contingently self-identical. I am self-identical in some but not all worlds.
The argument can be rationally resisted.
Consider a possible world w in which I do not exist. In w, the proposition expressed by an utterance by me of 'I am not self-identical' is true. But if it is true in w, then the proposition exists in w. Now if the proposition exists in w, then so do its constituents. On a Russellian view of propositions, I am one of the proposition's constituents. So for the proposition *I am not self-identical* to be true in w, I must exist in w. But if I exist in w, then of course I am self-identical in w, and the proposition is false in w. But the same goes for every world in which I do not exist. It follows that I am self-identical in every world and I exist in every world.
Of course, one needn't take a Russellian line on propositions. One could take a Fregean view according to which propositions about me do not have me as a constituent but an abstract representative of me, a sense or mode of presentation. But the first-person singular pronoun 'I' has the peculiarity that it cannot be replaced salva significatione by any description; so even if there is an abstract representative of me in the Fregean proposition expressed by my utterance of 'I am not self-identical,' there still has to be a referent of the representative external to the proposition. So I have to exist in w for the proposition *I am not self-identical* to be true in w. But if I exist in w then I am self-identical in w. This in turn implies that the proposition is not true.
The cognoscenti will appreciate that what I have been doing in a rough and dirty way is reproducing some of the thoughts in Timothy Williamson's paper Necessary Existents. I am doing so to show that Argument A is not convincing. Making use of materials from Williamson's paper, we can 'throw Argument A into reverse':
1. Existence is self-identity ~3. My self-identity is necessary: Nec (I = I) Therefore ~2. My existence is necessary.
In point of validity, there is nothing to choose between A and B: both are valid. And both, I submit, have counterintuitive conclusions. It seems to me that the arguments cancel each other out. So I propose that we think very skeptically about the common premise that existence is self-identity, and the Quinean thin theory that commits us to it.
'Horses exist' is an example of an affirmative general existential sentence. What is the status of the predicate '___ exist' in such a sentence? One might maintain that 'exist(s)' is a second-level predicate; one might maintain that it is a first-level distributive predicate; one might maintain that it is a first-level non-distributive (collective) predicate.
1. Frege famously maintained that 'exist(s)' is a second-level predicate, a predicate of concepts only, and never a first-level predicate, a predicate of objects. Russell followed him in this. A consequence of this view is that 'Horses exist' is not about what it seems to be about, and does not say what it seems to say. It seems to be about horses, and seems to say of them that they exist. But on Frege's analysis the sentence is about the concept horse and says of it, not that it exists, but that it has one or more instances.
Paradoxically, the sentence ''Horses exist' on Frege's analysis says about a non-horse something that cannot be true of a horse or of any concrete thing!
For an interesting comparison, consider 'Horses surround my house.' Since no horse could surround my house, it is clear that the sentence is not about each of the horses that surround my house. What then is it about? One will be tempted to reach for some such singularist analysis as: 'A set of horses surrounds my house.' But this won't do since no such abstract object as a set could surround anything. So if the sentence is really about a set of horses then it cannot say what it appears to say. It must be taken to say something different from what it appears to say. So what does 'Horses surround my house' say about a set if it is about a set?
One might be tempted to offer this translation: 'A set of horses is such that its members are surrounding my house.' But this moves us in a circle, presupposing as it does that we already understand the irreducibly plural predication 'Horses surround my house.' After all, if the members of a set of horses surround my house that is no different from horses surrounding my house.
The circularity here is structurally similar to that of the Fregean analysis. If 'Horses exist' is about a concept, and says of that concept that it has instances, then of course those instances are horses that exist. So the attempt to remove existence from individuals and make of it a property of concepts ends up reinstating existence as a 'property' of individuals.
Pursuing the analogy a bit further, the refusal to grant that there are irreducibly plural predications such as 'Horses surround my house' is like the refusal to grant that there are irreducibly first-level existence sentences.
2. Pursuing the analogy still further, is it possible to construe the predicate in 'Horses exist' as a non-distributive first-level predicate like the predicate in 'Horses surround my house'? First some definitions.
A predicate F is distributive just in case it is analytic that whenever some things are F, then each is F. Thus a distributive predicate is one the very meaning of which dictates that if it applies to some things, then it applies to each of them. 'Blue' is an example. If some things are blue, then each of them is blue.
If a predicate is not distributive, then it is non-distributive (collective). If some Occupy-X nimrods have the building surrounded, it does not follow that each such nimrod has the building surrounded. If some students moved a grand piano into my living room, it does not follow that each student did. If bald eagles are becoming extinct, it does not follow that each bald eagle is becoming extinct. Individual animals die, but no individual animal ever becomes extinct. If the students come from many different countries, it does not follow that each comes from many different countries. If horses have an interesting evolutionary history, it does not follow that each horse has an interesting evolutionary history.
I will assume for the purposes of this post that 'Horses surround my house' and 'Horses have an interesting evolutionary history' are irreducibly plural predications. (That they are plural is obvious; that they are irreducibly plural is not. For arguments see Thomas McKay, Plural Predication.) And of course they are first-level as well: they are about horses, not about concepts or properties or propositional functions. Now is 'Horses exist' assimilable to 'Horses surround my house' or is it assimilable to 'Horses are four-legged'? The predicate in the later is a distributive first-level predicate, whereas the predicate in 'Horses surround my house' is a non-distributive first-level predicate.
I am assuming that the 'Fressellian' second-level analysis is out, but I won't repeat the arguments I have given ad nauseam elsewhere.
I do not understand how 'exist(s)' could be construed as a non-distributive predicate. For if it is non-distributive, then it is possible that some things exist without it being the case that each of them exists. And that I do not understand. If horses exist, then each horse exsts.
Peter van Inwagen seems (though it not clear to me) to be saying that 'exists(s)' is a non-distributive first-level predicate. He compares 'Horses exist' to 'Horses have an interesting evolutionary history.' 'Horses exist,' he tells us, is equivalent to 'The number of horses is not zero.' ("Being, Existence, and Ontological Commitment," p. 483) But he denies that 'exists(s)' is second-level. To say that the number of horses is not zero is to predicate of horses that they number more than zero. (483) It is not to predicate of the concept horse that the cardinality of its extension is more than zero.
Now we cannot say of a horse that it surrounds a house or has an interesting evolutionary history. We can say that of horses, but not of a horse. Can we say of a horse that it numbers more than zero? We can of course say of horses that they number more than zero. But I don't see how we can sensibly say of an individual horse that it numbers more than zero. Perhaps Frege was wrong to think that number words can only be predicates of concepts which are ones-over-many. Perhaps all one needs is the many, the plurality. But it seems one needs at least that to swerve as logical subject. If this is right, and to exist is to number more than zero, then we cannot sensibly say of an individual that it exists. We can say this of individuals but not of an individual. But surely we can say of an individual horse that it exists. So I conclude that 'exist(s)' cannot be a first-level non-distributive predicate.
3. And so one is driven to the conclusion that 'exist(s)' is a first-level distributive predicate. 'Horses exist' says of each individual horse that it exists. But isn't this equally objectionable? The vast majority of horses are such that I have no acquaintance with them at all. So how can my use of 'Horses exist' be about each horse?
It is at this juncture that Frege gets his revenge:
We must not think that I mean to assert something of an African chieftain from darkest Africa who is wholly unknown to me, when I say 'All men are mortal.' I am not saying anything about either this man or that man, but I am subordinating the concept man to the concept of what is mortal. In the sentence 'Plato is mortal' we have an instance of subsumption, in the sentence 'All men are mortal' one of subordination. What is being spoken about here is a concept, not an individual thing. (Posthumous Writings, p. 213)
Plato falls under the concept man; he does not fall within it. The concept mortal does not fall under the concept man -- no concept is a man -- but falls within it. When I say that all men are mortal I am not talking about individual men, but about the concept man, and I am saying that this concept has as part of its content the subconcept mortal.
Similarly, my utterance of 'Horses exist' cannot be about each horse; it is about the concept horse, and says that it has instances -- which is the view I began by rejecting and for god reason.
We seem to have painted ourselves into an aporetic corner. No exit. Kein Ausgang. A-poria.
Over lunch Friday the topic of moksha (release or liberation from samsara; enlightenment) came up in the context of Advaita Vedanta. Moksha is attained when the identity of Atman and Brahman is realized. My interlocutor wanted to know how such realization is possible. If I realize my identity with the Absolute, then I cease to exist as something separate from the Absolute. In that case, however, there is nothing left to realize anything. How could the state of enlightenment be anything for me if there is no 'me' left after enlightenment? How is moksha different from deep dreamless sleep or from utter nonexistence? A form of salvation that amounts to personal annihilation seems not to be a salvation worth wanting.
Any soteriology worth its salt must answer three questions: Salvation of what? To what? From what? Brahman does not need salvation. It is this indigent samsaric entity that I take myself to be that needs salvation. But if what is saved is destroyed in being saved, by being merged into Brahman, then it is at best paradoxical to call this salvation.
Ramanuja is supposed to have said to Shankara, "I don't want to be sugar; I want to taste sugar."
If I were taking Shankara's side of the argument, I might say something like the following to Ramanuja and my friend:
If I am right and you really are sugar/Brahman in your innermost essence, and you merely taste it, then you are removed from it and haven't yet attained the goal. It is just one more object over against you as subject. Your inquiry into the self, into who or what you really are, has not yet come to an end. The goal is to realize or become aware of your true self. To do that you must ruthlessly disengage from everything that is not-self. If Brahman is your true self, and you realize your identity with it, then you haven't lost your self, but found your self. You cannot be said to dissolve into the ocean of Brahman if Brahman is the true you. To think that you you lose your self when you merge with Brahman presupposes a false identification of the self with something finite. The self you lose is merely an object that you have wrongly identified as your true self; the self you gain is your true self.
This response is not quite satisfactory. Consider the following aporetic triad:
1. Brahman does not need salvation. 2. I am Brahman. 3. My need for salvation is a real (not merely a samsaric, illusory) need.
The first two limbs are parts of the doctrine (Advaita Vedanta) that is the context of our soteriological discussion. So they are nonnegotiable unless we shift out of this context. But (3) also seems true. The three propositions cannot, however, all be true: the conjunction of the first two limbs entails the negation of the third.
So it looks as if the advaitin has to bite the bullet and reject (3). He has to say something like: the very need for release from this hell of an existence itself belongs to maya, the realm of illusion. So both the need for moksha and the one who seeks it are illusory. But this seems to conflict with the starting point of this whole soteriological scheme, namely, that the suffering and unsatisfactoriness of this life are real.
Here is another puzzle.
Using the method of Neti, Neti (not this, not this), we end up with the result that the subject who is seeking is no object, no thing, nothing. Pursuing the question: Who or what am I? I come to the insight that I cannot be identical to any object, whether my car, my house, my clothes, my curriculum vitae, my body, any part of my body, my memories, thoughts, feelings, etc. Any and all objects -- inner, outer, concrete, abstract -- are to be disengaged from the subject for whom they are objects. The upshot seems to be that any self or subject so disengaged from every object is nothing at all.
On the other hand, I cannot be nothing at all since I am pursuing this investigation. Coming to realize that I am not this, that, or the other thing, I must be something, not nothing. So we bang into a logical contradiction: I am nothing and I am not nothing.
As long as we remain on the discursive/dualistic plane we will get tangled up like this. So one could take these insolubilia as pointing us beyond the discursive intellect. This is what I suggested to my friend. I want him to take up meditation so as to explore the non-dual source of duality. But meditation is insanely hard, and the fruits are few and far between. It can seem like an utter waste of time. Pointless navel-gazing! (But see my plea for omphaloscopy .)
Besides, one can take the insolubilia -- if insolubilia they are -- as referring us, not into the transdiscursive, but back into Plato's Cave, in particular, into that especially dark corner wherein the Wittgensteinian therapists ply their trade.
Earlier, I presented the following, which looks to be an antilogism. An antilogism, by definition, is an inconsistent triad. This post considers whether the triad really is logically inconsistent, and so really is an antilogism.
1. Temporally Unrestricted Excluded Middle: The principle that every declarative sentence is either true, or if not true, then false applies unrestrictedly to all declarative sentences, whatever their tense. 2. Presentism: Only what exists at present exists. 3. Temporally Unrestricted Truth-Maker Principle: Every contingent truth has a truth-maker.
Edward objects: "First, I don't see why the three statements are logically inconsistent. Why can't the truthmaker for a future tense statement exist now, in the present?"
Objection sustained. The triad as it stands is not logically inconsistent.
'Miss Creant will die by lethal injection in five minutes.' Let this be our example. It is a future-tensed contingent declarative. By (1) it is either true or, if not true, then false. By (3), our sample sentence has a truth-maker, an existing truth-maker obviously, if it is true. By (2), the truth-maker exists only at present. Edward is right: there is no inconsistency unless we add something like:
4. If a sentence predicts a contingent event which lies wholly in the future, and the sentence is true, then the truth-maker of the sentence, if it has one, cannot exist at any time prior to the time of the event.
(4) is extremely plausible. Suppose it is true now that Miss Creant will die in five minutes. The only item that could make this true is the event of her dying. But this event does not now exist and cannot exist at any time prior to her dying.
So our antilogism, under Edwardian pummeling, transmogrifies into an aporetic tetrad which, he will agree, is logically inconsistent.
The solution, for Edward, is obvious: Deny the Temporally Unrestricted Truth-Maker Principle as stated in (3). Of course, that is a solution. But can Edward show that it must be preferred to the other three solutions? After all, one could deny Presentism, and many distinguished philosophers do. I would hazard the observation that the majority of the heavy-hitters in the 20th century Anglosphere were B-theorists, and thus deniers of Presentism. Or one could deny Unrestricted LEM, or even (4).
Although I said that (4) is extremely plausible, one could conceivably deny it by maintaining that the truth-makers of future-tensed sentences are tendencies in the present. For example, I say to wifey, "Watch it! The pot is going to boil over!" Assuming that that's a true prediction, one might claim that it is the present tendencies of the agitated pasta-rich water that is the truth-maker.
Please note also that I too could solve the tetrad by denying Unrestricted T-maker. Not by rejecting T-makers tout court in the Edwardian manner, but by restricting T-makers to contingent past- and present-tensed declaratives. I hope Edward appreciates that the above problem does not give aid and comfort to his wholesale rejection of T-makers.
One can always solve an aporetic polyad by denying one of its limbs. Sure. But then you face other daunting tasks. One is to show in a compelling way that your preferred solution should be preferred by all competent practitioners. You have to show that your solution is THE solution and not merely a solution relative to your background assumptions and cognitive values. A school-immanent solution is no final and absolute solution. Another task is to show that your solution can be embedded in a theory that does not itself give rise to insoluble problems.
Do you remember the prediction, made in 1999, that the DOW would reach 36,000 in a few years? Since that didn't happen, I am inclined to say that Glassman and Hasset's prediction was wrong and was wrong at the time the prediction was made. I take that to mean that the content of their prediction was false at the time the prediction was made. Subsequent events merely made it evident that the content of the prediction was false; said events did not first bring it about that the content of the prediction have a truth-value.
And so I am not inclined to say that the content of their irrationally exuberant prediction was neither true nor false at the time of the prediction. It had a truth-value at the time of the prediction; it was simply not evident at that time what that truth-value was. By 'the content of the prediction' I mean the proposition expressed by 'The DOW will reach 36,000 in a few years.'
I am also inclined to say that the contents of some predictions are true at the time the predictions are made, and thus true in advance of the events predicted. I am not inclined to say that these predictions were neither true nor false at the time they were made. Suppose I predict some event E and E comes to pass. You might say to me, "You were right to predict the occurrence of E." You would not say to me, "Although the content of your prediction was neither true nor false at the time of your prediction, said content has now acquired the truth-value, true."
It is worth noting that the expression 'come true' is ambiguous. It could mean 'come to be known to be true' or it could mean 'come to have the truth-value, true.' I am inclined to read it the first way. Accordingly, when a prediction 'comes true,' what that means is that the prediction which all along was true, and thus true in advance of the contingent event predicted, is now known to be true.
So far, then, I am inclined to say that the Law of Excluded Middle applies to future-tensed sentences. If we assume Bivalence (that there are exactly two truth-values), then the Law of Excluded Middle (LEM)can be formulated as follows. For any proposition p, either p is true or p is false. Now consider a future-tensed sentence that refers to some event that is neither impossible nor necessary. An example is the DOW sentence above or 'Tom will get tenure in 2014.' Someone who assertively utters a sentence such as this makes a prediction. What I am currently puzzling over is whether any predictions, at the time that they are made, have a truth-value, i.e., (assuming Bivalence), are either true or false.
Why should I be puzzling over this? Well, despite the strong linguistic inclinations recorded above, there is something strange in regarding a contingent proposition about a future event as either true or false in advance of the event's occurrence or nonoccurrence. How could a contingent proposition be true before the event occurs that alone could make it true?
Our problem can be set forth as an antilogism or aporetic triad:
1. U-LEM: LEM applies unrestrictedly to all declarative sentences, whatever their tense. 2. Presentism: Only what exists at present exists. 3. Truth-Maker Principle: Every contingent truth has a truth-maker.
Each limb of the triad is plausible. But they can't all be true. The conjunction of any two entails the negation of the third. Corresponding to our (inconsistent) antilogism there are three (valid) syllogisms each of which is an argument to the negation of one of the limbs from the other two limbs.
If there is no compelling reason to adopt one ofthese syllogisms over the other two, then I would say that the problem is a genuine aporia, an insoluble problem.
People don't like to admit that there are insolubilia. That may merely reflect their dogmatism and overpowering need for doxastic security. Man is a proud critter loathe to confess the infirmity of reason.
This post takes up where Butchvarov Against Facts left off. See the latter post for bibliographical data concerning the essay "Facts" which I presently have under my logical microscope. And if you are a fan of Butch's work, all of my Butchvarov posts are collected in the aptly entitled Butchvarov category.
(The following is also highly relevant to the discussion currently in progress with the Londonistas, David Brightly and Edward the Ockhamist in the combox to this post.)
Butch's position is a nuanced one as one would expect. He appreciates the strengths and weaknesses of both realism and anti-realism. For the realist, there are facts. For the anti-realist, there are no facts. Let us briefly review why both positions are both attractive yet problematic. We will then turn to semi-realism as to a via media between Scylla and Charybdis.
1. Take some such contingently true affirmative singular sentence as 'Al is fat.' Surely with respect to such sentences there is more to truth than the sentences that are true. There must be something external to the sentence that contributes to its being true, and this external something is not plausibly taken to be another sentence or the say-so of some person, or anything like that. 'Al is fat' is true because there is something in extralinguistic and extramental reality that 'makes' it true. There is this short slacker dude, Al, and the guy weighs 250 lbs. There is nothing linguistic or mental about that. Here is the sound core of correspondence theories of truth. Our sample sentence is not just true; it is true because of the way the world outside the mind and outside the sentence is configured. The 'because' is not a causal 'because.' The question is not the empirical-causal one as to why Al is fat. He is fat because he eats too much. The question concerns the ontological ground of the truth of the sentential representation, 'Al is fat.' Since it is obvious that the sentence cannot just be true -- given that it is not true in virtue of its logical form or ex vi terminorum -- we must posit something external to the sentence that 'makes' it true. I don't see how this can be avoided even though I admit that 'makes true' is not perfectly clear.
2. Now what is the nature of this external truth-maker? It can't be Al by himself, and it can't be fatness by itself. Nor can it be the pair of the two. For it could be that Al exists and fatness exists, but the first does not instantiate the second. What's needed, apparently, is the fact of Al's being fat. So it seems we must add the category of fact to our ontology, to our categorial inventory. Veritas sequitur esse is not enough. It is not enough that 'Al' and 'Fat' have worldly referents; the sentence as a whole needs a worldly referent. Truth-makers cannot be 'things' or collections of same, but must be entities of a different categorial sort. (Or at least this is so for the simple predications we are now considering.)
3. The argument I have just sketched, the truth-maker argument for facts, is very powerful, but it gives rises to puzzles and protests. There is the Strawsonian protest that facts are merely hypostatized sentences, shadows genuine sentences cast upon the world. Butchvarov quotes Strawson's seminal 1950 discussion: "If you prise the sentences off the world, you prise the facts off it too. . . ." ("Facts," 73-74) Strawson again: "The only plausible candidate for what (in the world) makes a sentence true is the fact it states; but the fact it states is not something in the world."
Why aren't facts in the world? Consider the putative fact of my table's being two inches from the wall. Obviously, this fact is not itself two inches from the wall or in any spatial position. The table and the wall are in space; the fact is not. One can drive a nail into the table or into the wall, but not into the fact, etc. Considerations such as these suggest to the anti-realist that facts are not in the world and that they are but sentences reified. After all, to distinguish a fact from a non-fact (whether a particular or a universal) we must have recourse to a sentence: a fact is introduced as the worldly correlate of a true sentence. If there is no access to facts except via sentences, as the correlates of true sentences, then this will suggest to those of an anti-realist bent that facts are hypostatizations of true declarative sentences.
One might also cite the unperceivability of facts as a reason to deny their existence. I see the table, and I see the wall. It may also be granted that I see that the desk is about two inches from the wall. But does it follow that I see a relational fact? Not obviously. If I see a relational fact, then presumably I see the relation two inches from. But I don't see this relation. And so, Butchvarov argues (84-85), one does not see the relational fact either. Their invisibility is a strike against them. A careful examination of this argument would make a nice separate post. And indeed it did.
Another of the puzzles about facts concerns how a fact is related to its constituents. Obviously a fact is not identical to its constituents. This is because the constituents can exist without the fact existing. Nor can a fact be an entity in addition to its constituents, something over and above them, for the simple reason that it is composed of them. We can put this by saying that no fact is wholly distinct from its constituents. The fact is more than its constituents, but apart from them it is nothing. A third possibility is that a fact is the togetherness of its constituents, where this togetherness is grounded in a a special unifying constituent. Thus the fact of a's being F consists of a, F-ness, and a nexus of exemplification. But this leads to Bradley's regress.
A fact is not something over and above its constituents but their contingent unity. This unity, however, cannot be explained by positing a special unifying constituent, on pain of Bradley's regress. which is, pace Richard Gaskin, vicious. So if a fact has a unifier, that unifier must be external to the fact. But what could that be? It would have to be something like Kant's transcendental unity of apperception. I push this notion in an onto-theological direction in my book, A Paradigm Theory of Existence: Onto-Theology Vindicated. But by taking this line, I move away from the realism that the positing of facts was supposed to secure. Facts are supposed to be ontological grounds, extramental and extralinguistic. If mind or Mind is brought in in any form to secure the unity of a truth-making fact, then we end up with some form of idealism, whether transcendental or onto-theological, or what have you.
4. So we are in an aporetic pickle. We have good reason to be realists and we have good reason to be anti-realists. (The arguments above on both sides were mere sketches; they are stronger than they might appear. ) Since we cannot be both realists and anti-realists, we might try to mediate the positions and achieve a synthesis. My book was one attempt at a synthesis. Butchvarov's semi-realism is another. I am having a hard time, though, understanding what exactly Butchvarov's semi-realism is supposed to be.
If the realist says that there are facts, and that anti-realist says that there aren't, the semi-realist maintains that 'There are facts' is an "Improper proposition" (87) so that both asserting it and denying it are improper.
Butchvarov relies crucially on Wittgenstein's distinction between formal and material concepts and his related distinction between saying and showing. Object is an example of a formal concept, while book is an example of a material concept. That there are books can be said. That there are objects cannot be said. Instead, it is shown by the use of names.
'This is an object,' unlike 'This is white,' is a pseudo-proposition. This is because it attempts to say what can only be shown. 'This is an object' does not say anything. "It shows the logical category to which the item belongs." (75)
Fact, like object, is a formal concept. It follows that 'There are facts' and 'A sentence expresses a fact' are pseudo-propositions. They are pseudo because they attempt to say what can only be shown. But why , exactly, does 'A sentence expresses a fact' not say or state anything? Presumably because ". . . it presupposes what it purports to say because 'fact' is the philosophical term for what sentences express." (76)
The following cannot be said: 'This page is white is a fact.' It cannot be said because it is ill-formed. (88) We can of course say, 'That this page is white is a fact.' But 'that this page is white' is not a sentence, but a noun phrase. We cannot use this noun phrase to refer to the fact because what we end up referring to is an object, not a fact. Though a fact is not a sentence or a proposition, it is proposition-like: it has astructure that mirrors the structure of a proposition. No object, however, is proposition-like. To express the fact we must use the sentence. Using the sentence, we show what cannot be said.
Butchvarov's discussion from p. 88 to the end of his article is extremely murky and unsatisfactory. His semi-realism is not a clear alternative to realism and anti-realism. Butch sees the problem with crystal clarity, but I cannot see what exactly his solution is.
He tells us that semi-realism with respect to facts differs from anti-realism by acknowledging that there is more to the truth of true sentences than the sentences that are true. (88) Excellent! This is a non-negotiable 'datanic' point. If it is true that Jack loves Jill, then there must be something in the world that makes this true, and it cannot be Jack, or Jill, or loves, or the set or sum of all three. If these three items are what the sentence 'Jack loves Jill' are about, then the truth-maker has to be distinct from each and from the set or sum of all. (88)
But Butch also tells us that semi-realism about facts differs from realism by refusing to countenance a special category of entity, the category of fact, the members of which are the referents of declarative sentences. What bothers Butchvarov is that "facts cannot be referred to or described independently of the sentences expressing them" (88) a consideration which renders antirealim about facts plausible and the correspondence theory of truth implausible. (88)
So what is Butch's third way? How does he get between realism and anti-realism. He seems to be saying that there are facts but that they cannot be said, only shown. But of course this cannot be what he is saying if one cannot say that there are facts!
If there is something that cannot be said but only shown, and what is shown are the referents of sentences, then he is saying that there are the referents of sentences in which case he is saying that there is what he says can only be shown.
This is highly unsatisfactory and barely coherent if coherent at all. I am tempted to say to Butch, "Look, either there are facts or there aren't. Which is it? Bringing in Wittgenstein's saying v. showing distinction only muddies already troubled waters."
So I don't see that semi-realism about facts is a viable position. I suggest we admit that we are stuck with a genuine aporia.
I tend to the view that all philosophical problems can be represented as aporetic polyads. What's more, I maintain that philosophical problems ought to be so represented. You haven't begun to philosophize until you have a well-defined puzzle, a putative inconsistency of plausibilities. When you have an aporetic polyad on the table you have something to think your teeth into. (An interesting and auspicious typo, that; I shall let it stand.)
Consider the problem of the existence of consciousness. Nicholas Maxwell formulates it as follows: "Why does sentience or consciousness exist at all?" The trouble with this formulation is that it invites the retort: Why not? The question smacks of gratuitousness. Why raise it? To remove the felt gratuitiousness a motive has to be supplied for posing the question. Now a most excellent motive is contradiction-avoidance. If a set of plausibilities form an inconsistent set, then we have a problem. For we cannot abide a contradiction. Philosophers love a paradox, but they hate a contradiction. So I suggest we put the problem of the existence of consciousness as follows:
1. Consciousness (sentience) exists. 2. Consciousness is contingent: given that it exists it might not have. 3. If x contingently exists, then x has an explanation of its existence in terms of a y distinct from x. 4. Consciousness has no explanation in terms of anything distinct from it.
A tetrad of plausibilities. Each limb makes a strong claim on our acceptance. Unfortunately, this foursome is logically inconsistent: the conjunction of any three limbs entails the negation of the remaining one. Thus the conjunction of (1) and (2) and (3) entails the negation of (4). So the limbs cannot all be true. But they are all very plausible. Therein lies the problem. Which one ought we reject to remove the contradiction?
Note the superiority of my aporetic formulation to Maxwell's formulation. On my formulation we have a very clear problem that cries out for a solution. But if I merely ask, 'Why does consciousness exist?' there is no clear problem. You could retort, 'Why shouldn't it exist?' 'What's the problem?' There is a problem because the existence of conbsciousness conflicts with other things we take for granted.
(1) is absolutely datanic and so undeniable. If some crazy eliminativist were to deny (1) I would show him the door and give him the boot. (Life is too short for discussions with lunatics.)
(4) is exceedingly plausible. To explain consciousness in terms of itself would be circular, hence no explanation. So it has to be explained, if it can be explained, in terms of something distinct from it. Since abstract objects cannot be invoked to explain concrete consciousness, consciousness, if it can be explained, must be explained in physical and physiological and chemical and biological terms. But this is also impossible as Maxwell makes clear using a version of the 'knowledge argument' made popular by T. Nagel and F. Jackson:
But physics, and that part of natural science in principle re-ducible to physics, cannot conceivably predict and explain fully the mental, or experiential, aspect of brain processes. Being blind from birth—or being deprived of ever having oneself experienced visual sensations—cannot in itself prevent one from understanding any part of physics. It cannot prevent one from understanding the physics of colour, light, physiology of colour perception and discrimination, just as well as any nor-mally sighted person. In order to understand physical concepts, such as mass, force, wavelength, energy, spin, charge, it is not necessary to have had the experience of any particular kind of sensation, such as the visual sensation of colour. All predictions of physics must also have this feature. In order to understand what it is for a poppy to be red, however, it is necessary to have experienced a special kind of sensation at some time in one’s life, namely the visual sensation of redness. A person blind from birth, who has never experienced any visual sensation, cannot know what redness is, where redness is the perceptual property, what we (normally sighted) see and experience, and not some physical correlate of this, light of such and wave-lengths, or the molecular structure of the surface of an object which causes it to absorb and reflect light of such and such wavelengths. It follows that no set of physical statements, however comprehensive, can predict that a poppy is red, or that a person has the visual experience of redness. Associated with neurological processes going on in our brains, there are mental or experiential features which lie irredeemably beyond the scope of physical description and explanation.
(2) is also exceedingly plausible: how could consciousness (sentience) exist necessarily? But (3), whichis a versionof the principle of sufficient reason, is also very plausible despite the glib asseverations of those who think quantum mechanics provides counterexamples to it.
So what will it be? Which of the four limbs will you reject?
I am tempted to say that the problem is genuine but insoluble, that the problem is an aporia in the strongest sense of the term: a conceptual impasse, an intellectual knot that our paltry minds cannot untie.
But this invites the metaphilosophical response that all genuine problems are soluble. Thus arises a metaphilosophical puzzle that can be set forth as an aporetic triad:
5. Only soluble problems are genuine. 6. The problem of the existence of consciousness is not soluble. 7. The problem of the existence of consciousness is genuine.
This too is an inconsistent set. But each limb is plausible. Which will you reject?
There are good reasons to introduce facts as truth-makers for contingently true atomic sentences. (Some supporting reasoning here.) But if there are facts, and they make-true contingent atomic sentences, then what is the semantic relation between these declarative sentences and their truth-makers? It seems we should say that such sentences name facts. But some remarks of Leo Mollica suggest that this will lead to trouble. Consider this aporetic triad:
1. 'Al is fat' is the name of the fact of Al's being fat. 2. 'Al is fat' has a referent only if it is true. 3. Names are essentially names: a name names whether or not it has a referent.
Each limb of the triad is very plausible, but they can't all be true. The conjunction of (1) and (3) entails the negation of (2). Which limb should we abandon? It cannot be (1) given the cogency of the Truth Maker Argument and the plausible assumption that the only semantic relation between a sentence and the corresponding fact is one of naming.
(2) also seems 'ungiveupable.' There are false sentences, and there may be false (Fregean) propositions: but a fact is not a truth-bearer but a truth-maker. It is very hard to swallow the notion that there are 'false' or nonobtaining facts. If 'Al is fat' is false it is because Al and fatness do not form a fact. The existence of a fact is the unity of its constituents. Where there is the unity of the right sort of constituents you have a fact; where there is not, you don't.
As for (3), suppose that names are only accidentally names, than a name names only on condition that it have a referent. We would then have to conclude that if the bearer of a name ceases to exist, that the name ceases to be a name. And that seems wrong. When Le Verrier put forth the hypothesis of an intra-Mercurial planent that came to be called 'Vulcan,' he did not know whether there was indeed such a planet, but he thought he had good evidence of its existence. When it was later decided that there was no good evidence of the planet in question, 'Vulcan' did not cease to be a name. If we now say, truly, that Vlucan does not exist we employ a name whose naming is not exhausted by its having a referent.
So it seems that names name essentially. This is the linguistic analog of intentionality: one cannot just think; if one thinks, then necessarily one thinks of something, something that may or may not exist. If I am thinking of something, and it ceases to exist, my thinking does not cease to be object-directed. Thinking is essentially object-directed. Analogously, names are essentially names.
So far, then, today's triad looks to be another addition the list of insolubilia. The limbs of the triad are more reasonably accepted than rejected, but they cannot all be true. A pretty pickle.
'The table is against the wall.' This is a true contingent sentence. How do I know that it is true except by seeing (or otherwise sense perceiving) that the table is against the wall? And what is this seeing if not the seeing of a fact, where a fact is not a true proposition but the truth-maker of a true proposition? This seeing of a fact is not the seeing of a table (by itself), nor of a wall (by itself), nor of the pair of these two physical objects, nor of a relation (by itself). It is the seeing of a table's standing in the relation of being against a wall. It is the seeing of a truth-making fact. (So it seems we must add facts to the categorial inventory.) The relation, however, is not visible, as are the table and the wall. So how can the fact be visible, as it apparently must be if I am to be able to see (literally, with my eyes) that the table is against the wall? That is our problem.
Let 'Rab' symbolize a contingent relational truth about observables such as 'The table is against the wall.' We can then set up the problem as an aporetic pentad:
1. If one knows that Rab, then one knows this by seeing that Rab (or by otherwise sense-perceiving it). 2. To see that Rab is to see a fact. 3. To see a fact is to see all its constituents. 4. The relation R is a constituent of the fact that Rab 5. The relation R is not visible (or otherwise sense-perceivable).
The pentad is inconsistent: the conjunction of any four limbs entails the negation of the remaining one. To solve the problem, then, we must reject one of the propositions. But which one?
(1) is well-nigh undeniable: I sometimes know that the cat is on the mat, and I know that the cat is on the mat by seeing that she is. How else would I know that the cat is on the mat? I could know it on the basis of the testimony of a reliable witness, but then how would the witness know it? Sooner or later there must be an appeal to direct seeing. (5) is also undeniable: I see the cat; I see the mat; but I don't see the relation picked out by 'x is on y.' And it doesn't matter whether whether you assay relations as relation-instances or as universals. Either way, no relation appears to the senses.
Butchvarov denies (2), thereby converting our pentad into an argument against facts, or rather an argument against facts about observable things. (See his "Facts" in Javier Cumpa ed., Studies in the Ontology of Reinhardt Grossmann, Ontos Verlag 2010, pp. 71-93, esp. pp. 84-85.) But if there are no facts about observable things, then it is reasonable to hold that there are no facts at all.
So one solution to our problem is the 'No Fact Theory.' One problem I have with Butchvarov's denial of facts is that (1) seems to entail (2). Now Butch grants (1). (That is a loose way of saying that Butch says things in his "Facts' article that can be reasonably interpreted to mean that if (1) were presented to him, then would grant it.) So why doesn't he grant (2)? In other words, if I can see (with my eyes) that the cat is on the mat, is not that excellent evidence that I am seeing a fact and not just a cat and a mat? If you grant me that I sometimes see that such-and-such, must you not also grant me that I sometimes see facts?
And if there are no facts,then how do we explain the truth of contingently true sentences such as 'The cat is on the mat'? There is more to the truth of this sentence than the sentence that is true. The sentence is not just true; it is true because of something external to it. And what could that be? It can't be the cat by itself, or the mat by itself, or the pair of the two. For the pair would exist if the sentence were false. 'The cat is not on the mat' is about the cat and the mat and requires their existence just as much as 'The cat is on the mat.' The truth-maker, then, must have a proposition-like structure, and the natural candidate is the fact of the cat''s being on the mat. This is a powerful argument for the admission of facts into the categorial inventory.
Another theory arises by denying (3). But this denial is not plausible. If I see the cat and the mat, why can't I see the relation -- assuming that I am seeing a fact and that a fact is composed of its constituents, one of them being a relation? As Butch asks, rhetorically, "If you supposed that the relational fact is visible, but the relation is not, is the relation hidden? Or too small to see?" (85)
A third theory comes of denying (4). One might think to deny that R is a constituent of the fact of a's standing in R to b. But surely this theory is a nonstarter. If there are relational facts, then relations must be constituents of some facts.
Our problem seems to be insoluble. Each limb makes a very strong claim on our acceptance. But they cannot all be true.