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Wednesday, July 18, 2012


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I'm thinking about this (rather tied up with matters of making an honest dollar at the moment). I think that what you call 'metaphysical circularity' is what Aristotle (somewhere) calls 'explaining what is prior in terms of what is posterior'. I.e. mistaking cause for effect. This fallacy is not one of circularity, I believe.

More later.

Thanks for responding, Ed. First things first: Philosophia post nummos. (My Latin may be bad.)

Aristotle is relevant.

If you try to explain existence in terms of instantiation, then you are trying to explain what is prior in terms of what is posterior.

What I am trying to do, however, is clarify the exact senses of 'prior' and 'posterior.' We are not talking about causation as currently understood, but about metaphysical grounding. I believe I have given a clear example of that above.

I take it you do not accept any such sui generis relation.

Bill, you write:

"The 'because' in (Q) cannot be taken in a causal sense if causation is understood as a relation that connects physical events, states, or changes with other physical events, states, or changes."

This definition of causation entails God can never be the cause of anything in the physical world. Is that a consequence you are willing to accept?

Now here is my confusion. I accept your argument above, if only because I accept a distinction between the causal 'because' and what the Latins call a 'ratio', a 'reason' something is true. This may not be the same as your 'metaphysical grounding', but it is a reason for accepting your (2) and (3).

But I am still puzzled about the connection with your point on existence. Do you accept a difference in meaning between 'some A is B' and 'An A-B exists'? I'm thinking you must do, because I think you would regard it as an intelligible question whether some A is B because some AB exists, just as the question of whether God commands X because it is morally obligatory, or not, is intelligible.

I am puzzled because elsewhere you seem to concede that 'some A is B' and 'An A-B exists' are equivalent in meaning. I'm thinking of your remarks about Kant, and so forth. I'm thinking that those who have thought they are different in meaning are precisely those who have argued that existence is a predicate. But you seem to reject that position, as I understand it. For example, you reject Meinongianism. But I am puzzled as to exactly why you reject it. Do you reject 'some things do not exist' (a) because it is contingently false, or necessarily false? If the latter, do you think it is necessarily false for logical reasons (as I do)? I suspect you don't, for reasons already discussed. In which case, why do you think 'some things do not exist' is false?

Or is it this. One could accept that 'some A is B' and 'An A-B exists' are semantically equivalent. But there is still the question of why e.g. 'some man is white' is true or not. One could say that it just is true, or not true, and that is the end of the matter. We can't analyse this existential statement any further, for to say that 'some white man exists' is simply to express exactly the same thing. That would be the London position. Or one could say that something makes it true, and this something is the existence of something. This question is connected with your remark in an earlier post about truthmakers. The existence of a truthmaker for 'some man is white' is what is prior to some man being white, perhaps.

Sorry for the rambling. I didn't have the time to write anything shorter.


Yes, that is a consequence I accept. If causation is a relation between events, then of course God cannot be a cause for the simple reason that he is not an event.

In a separate post I may argue that the relation between creator and created is one more example of metaphysical grounding.

Thanks for the pithy comment/question.


1. Is a reason the same as a proposition? We will agree that the premises of a syllogism are not causes of its conclusion. They are, however, reasons for its conclusion --- which suggests that rationes are propositions.

2. We agree that 'Some politician is honest' and 'An honest politician exists' are logically equivalent. And yes, I think one can intelligibly ask whether some politician is honest because an honest politician exists or the other way around. My answer is: Some F is a G because an FG exists, and not vice versa.

3. I reject 'Some things do not exist.' Furthermore I consider it to be a necessarily true 'law of meaphysics' that everything exists, ie., that it is not the case that somethings do not exist. But I don't think that it is logically contradictory to hold that some things do not exist. In other words, Meinong and his followers are not embracing a narrowly logical (formal) contradiction when they hold that some items are nonexistent items, "jenseits von Sein und Nichtsein."

Not every necessary truth is a logically necessarily truth.

'Some' taken by itself expresses logical quantity only (particular as opposed to universal); hence there is no formal contradiction in 'Some item is a nonexistent item.'

Still, I don't understand how there could be items that have no being whatsoever. An item that is a pure Sosein with no Dasein and yet is mind-indpendent makes no sense to me But this is not to say tat there is a formal contradiction in the notion.

So, while everything exists, nothing is such that its existence can be reduced to any merely logical notion such as someness, instantiation, etc. That'sw my view. It is a via media between the Scylla of Fresselianism and the Charybdis of Meinongianism.

4. Here is a question for you: Why do you think the Brentano equivalences sanction the freduction of existentialsnetneces to nonexstential one, rather than vice versa? After all, as biconditional they can be read either way.

I suppose at the end of the day I'm some sort of crypto-Thomist: I believe in the irreducibilty and metaphysical primacy of esse. It is because things EXIST that we can quantifiy over them; hence, quantification and all such thin logical notions give us no insight at all into existence itself.

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