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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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In the following:
"1’. For any one-natured substance s, if N is a nature of s, then s cannot exist without having N.",

should the sentence read "if N is THE nature of s"?

Hi Bill,

You asked:

<< How can any substance have a nature accidentally? >>

It seems to me Prof. Pawl's proposed distinction between one- and two-natured substances can help us in formulating an answer to your objection.

In the case of one-natured substances, there is no way for it to have a nature accidentally, since its very identity is defined through the nature it has. I am a one-natured substance, and more specifically, a human. I couldn't be otherwise than human, i.e. I couldn't have my human nature accidentally, since my being and my identity is defined precisely through my human nature.

Things are different in the case of a two-natured substance, or more specifically, in the case of the Incarnation. The Logos does not have his divine nature contigently, and he is defined by it; he remains God forever and in every possible world. But in the Incarnation, he is adding to his being a further definition: he becomes Man, too, in addition to being God. In this case, the Logos remains identifiable by his divine nature across possible worlds, but in some possible worlds, by a free choice he has chosen to incorporate a human nature into his identity, as well.

My proposal, then, is something like this: in the case of one-natured substances, they cannot have their natures accidentally because there would be no way to identify the substance apart from its particular nature. Its one nature is essential to its definition, and so cannot be accidental to it. But it is possible for the Logos to have his human nature accidentally, since it is not an essential part of his identity, but is rather a freely chosen augment or addition to his identity. The Logos obviously could not divest himself of his divine nature and remain Logos, but he can add a human nature, because his identity is not compromised or undone in doing so.

If we concede that a substance CAN 'have' two natures, then perhaps the argument holds.
But the coherency of what we concede is still the issue. We are explaining Chalcedon using the terms from Chalcedon, which terms we are questioning.
(Let me share a line from another forum where I've raised this issue - a fella named Sherman said (in substance (no pun)) "I can't think poorly of someone who misunderstands God's nature in a different way that I misunderstand God's nature." A great line.)

Dave,

There is nothing wrong with Tim's formulation of (1'). *A* nature of s is *the* nature of s if s is a single-natured substance.

Dave,

Clarity will be served if we distinguish two different questions:

Q1. Is it possible for a substance to have two distinct individual natures?

Q2. Is it possible for a substance s to have two distinct individual natures such that one of them is had essentially by s and the other accidentally?

An affirmative answer to (Q2) entails an affirmative answer to (Q1)but not vice versa.

So it is not enough to concede (Q1).

That Sherman uncorked a good one! 'Sherman' sounds like a *Seinfeld* name: Newman, Feldman, Kramer . . .

Steven writes,

>> in the case of one-natured substances, they cannot have their natures accidentally because there would be no way to identify the substance apart from its particular nature.<<

Our question is severely ontological, not epistemological, so there is no question here of how we identify substances.

>> But it is possible for the Logos to have his human nature accidentally, since it is not an essential part of his identity, but is rather a freely chosen augment or addition to his identity.<<

What you are doing here is merely restating the doctrine. (There is no question but that you have a precise understanding of it.) But you are not solving the precise problem that I posed, which is to explain how it is coherently conceivable that an Aristotelian substance have an Aristotelian nature accidentally.

It just makes no sense to say that a substance has a nature accidentally even if sense could be made of one substance having two different individual natures. That violates both the concept of substance and the concept of nature. It shows a failure to understand what a nature is. I think I explained this very clearly in my post.

It is the nature of a nature to be had essentially by a substance that has it.

Bill - I wondered if Tim's use of *the* and *a* was intentional. I didn't think so but that's why I asked. It wasn't just a fly poop in the pepper question. :-)
I understand Q1/Q2.

Hi Bill,

Thanks for this long and careful post in response to my comment! I enjoyed reading it.

You claim that my modification of 1 to 1’ doesn’t extend or enrich the Aristotelian framework, but rather destroys it. I wonder why that is. In the preliminaries you argue that, since the nature is the what-it-is of a thing, the nature is not accidental to the thing. I’d want to push the distinction I draw in (1’) down into this reasoning, too. I grant the nearby claim that at least one nature needs to be necessary to the thing (call it the primary nature) but the second nature, if a thing has a second nature, need not be necessary to the thing. Now, since every case Aristotle would have considered is a one-nature case, it stands to reason that he’d give his framework in terms that assume one-nature cases. But if we broaden the cases in consideration, I don’t see why we’d have to give up on a broadly Aristotelian framework to say what I say here and in (1’).

Does making the changes I suggest turn a broadly aristotelian framework into a non-aristotelian framework? I suppose it depends on where we draw the line demarcating necessary from non-necessary aspects of an aristotelian framework. I don’t have the knowledge to draw such a line. In my own usage of the term, I’d think that Aquinas gets to count as “broadly Aristotelian.” But I don’t think he gets to in your usage, given what you say in this post, since he thought of Christ’s human nature as not necessary to the Word, though the Word is necessary and has that nature in the actual world.

Thanks again for this fun conversation.

Best,
Tim

Hi Dave,

I did intentionally use "a", since I was trying to keep as close to Bill's wording as I could in my revision. I think Bill is right about "a" and "the" in his short comment above.

Best,
Tim

Hi Bill,

I think you misunderstood the logic of my response; that is certainly my fault, because it was not very clearly formulated.

You said,

<< Our question is severely ontological, not epistemological, so there is no question here of how we identify substances. . . . But you are not solving the precise problem that I posed, which is to explain how it is coherently conceivable that an Aristotelian substance have an Aristotelian nature accidentally. >>

I took myself to be proposing a solution to the problem, and the epistemological considerations were relevant. My suggestion was as follows.

First I proposed that there was a specific process of reasoning that lead us to the conviction that a substance cannot have a nature accidentally. This principle of the non-accidentality of nature has its basis in a certain line of reasoning.

Second, I proposed that this line of reasoning was this: a substance is ordinarily defined by its nature, and we couldn't identify it across possible worlds without reference to its nature. But if we cannot identify it across possible worlds apart from its nature, then we would not be able to identify it in other possible worlds where it had a different nature. From this we infer that no substance has its nature accidentally.

Third, I suggested that the reasoning outlined above which led to the conclusion of the non-accidentality of nature simpliciter does not apply in the case of the Incarnation. That is because the Logos does not lose his divine nature but adds a human nature. There is no problem identifying the Logos across possible worlds, since it never loses its defining nature, and since obviously as divine he is unique.

My argument, then, was this:

1. The principle of the non-accidentality of nature is grounded in a particular line of reasoning.
2. This line of reasoning does not apply in the case of the Logos taking on human nature.
3. Therefore the principle of the non-accidentality of nature is not universally valid; etc.

Another way of stating the point is this: I am proposing a distinction between first and second natures. The first nature of a thing is what we define it by: this dog, that horse, the Logos, etc. First natures are non-accidental; they define the substance in question. The second nature of a thing is an augment to its previous definition; e.g., the Logos becomes the theanthropos, the Godman. The Incarnation is a unique case of something's taking on a second nature.

It may be that I am committing a dialectical error somewhere, but I think that this is a way of approaching the problem you pose in your post that is more than merely a restatement of the doctrine of the Incarnation. I think I've made the same proposal as Prof. Pawl in his comment on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 07:19 PM.

Steven,

Interesting proposal.

Tim's 'epicycle' was to distinguish between single-natured and multi-natured substances; yours is to distinguish between first natures and second natures. But again, nothing that counts as a nature can be had accidentally by a substance that has it.

It seems that if you want to remain within an Aristotelian framework, what you must say is that the Logos with its divine nature has in some possible worlds and at some but not all times in the actual world the ACCIDENT *being human.*

It would be interesting to hear from you why you think this was never (to my knowledge) proposed. I think I know why, but you're the theology student.

Tim,

Thanks very much for the response.

>> I suppose it depends on where we draw the line demarcating necessary from non-necessary aspects of an aristotelian framework.<<

Right. I should think that, as I said above, "It is the nature of a nature to be had essentially by a substance that has it."

That would be on a par with:

1. Change is the conversion of potency into act.

2. There are no unexemplified universals.

If the accommodation of a new datum required the rejection of either of these, then I would say that one had not accommodated the new datum within an Aristotelian framework. I.e., one had not rendered the new datum coherently conceivable within that framework.

I would be interested in hearing why you think that the humanity of the Logos could not be understood as an Aristotelian accident.

Thanks, Bill.

I know that you think that the denial of your original (1) is on par with the denial of your examples 1. and 2. from the preceding post. What I'd like to know is WHY we should think that the denial of (1) is on par with 1. and 2.

Do you agree that, on your understanding of "broadly Aristotelian framework", St. Thomas doesn't count as broadly Aristotelian? On your view, anyone who thinks that "the Logos contingently has a human nature of the very same type as my human nature" would be precluded from having a broadly Aristotelian framework. But, so far as I know, all the Christian big hitters in the medieval era thought that. Cross gives a long list of folk who think that in his book on the metaphysics of the incarnation, and Stump and Freddoso comment on the wide acceptance of that view, too.

You ask why the humanity of the Logos cannot be understood as an Aristotelian accident. Here are a few reasons, based on the conciliar texts.
Leo says in the Tome that the human nature hung on the cross, bleeding. But no accident is the right sort of thing to hang on a cross bleeding. So the human nature of the Son is not an accident.
Cyril speaks of a union between the human and the divine in Christ. And he paraphrases in other passages that non-divine relatum of the relation as "flesh enlivened with a rational soul." But no accident is flesh enlivened with a rational soul. So the human in Christ is not an accident.

Best,
Tim

Bill and All,

As Bill noted in his Assumptions section, a “nature” is the essential properties that make a thing what it is (i.e., the “what-it-is” of the thing). But we also seem to be assuming that “embodiment” is an essential property for being human. Can we question that assumption?

Is “embodiment” an essential property for being human? On an Aristotelian ontology, is the answer yes? On another framework, say Platonic ontology, is the answer no?

If the human mind can exist in an unembodied state and continue to be human (i.e., to possess a human nature) while in that state, then it seems “embodiment” is not an essential property for being human, although a human being is possibly embodied and perhaps normally is so. But there is an argument using the Indiscernibility of Identicals that has been claimed to show the possibility of the human mind existing in an unembodied state.

If “embodiment” is not an essential property of being human, then that property is not part of human nature.

If “embodiment” is a non-essential property of being human, what would be the implications for considering how the Logos possesses a human nature?

Let me understand the dialectical dynamics.

1. Let "Narrow Aristotelian Framework" (NAF) be characterized such that no nature can be had accidentally.

2. Let "Extended Aristotelian Framework" (EAF) be characterized so that, under certain clearly specified circumstances, a nature can be had accidentally.

(One such circumstance let's say is that the thing with an "accidental nature" must feature a non-accidental nature as well; this condition is required by Steven's proposal and maybe even Tim's (I do not know about the later)).

Now, I assume that everyone agrees that Bill's reductio argument holds within NAF. So we can agree on that. We can also agree that if EAF is cogent, then Bill's reductio argument is avoided.

The disagreement, it seems to me, is about whether EAF can be rationally motivated independently of the problem of Incarnation. How is that?

Well, clearly, within NAF, the concept of *accidental nature* makes no sense; within EAF it is alleged (by Tim and Steven and perhaps others) it does. Therefore, the concept of *nature* within EAF is different from the concept of *nature* within NAF. Both Tim and Steven should agree with the above.

I will now propose a consideration which Bill gave some time ago (I believe in a paper he presented in some conference). Are there any cases, other than the case of Incarnation in Christology) where the concept of "accidental nature" posited in EAF is required? If not, then EAF is ad-hoc, introduced for the sole purpose of reconciling Incarnation with a broadly Aristotelian conception. If yes, then EAF may have some merit and so will the (tortured) concept of "accidental nature".

Thanks, Peter, for this very clear exposition of the dialectic. In the conference paper you mention I did make much of the ad hoc nature of modifications like that of Tim. but I avoided any mention of 'ad-hocery' above to avoid being drawn into a discussion of what exactly an ad hoc objection is, and what exactly is wrong with being ad hoc.

Elliot,

You raise some excellent and penetrating questions.

Is being embodied an essential property of a thing that is human, or can something be human but lack a body?

Well, in an Aristotelian framework, man is a rational animal. So everything human is animal, and since nothing is an animal that does not have a physical body, I should think that being embodied is essential to anything that is human. So if the Logos is fully human, then it has a human body, a real body, not a phantom body as some heretics (Docetists?) maintained, but a gen-u-ine blood and guts body.

I assume that our minds can exist unembodied, though currently they are 'attached' to human bodies. When they are unembodied they are no longer human though they remain ectypal (as opposed to archetypal), discursive, limited, finite, object-directed, etc.

What is a human being after all? A member of H. sapiens, a zoological species. Is that right? If yes, then there is no necessity that a mind be human. After all are extraterrestrial minds conceivable and perhaps possible? And what about angels and demons and the 1st and 3rd persons of the Trinity?

Tim,

Thank you for answering my question as to why the humanity of the Logos cannot be thought of as an Aristotelian accident inhering in the Logos as substance. I of course agree with those answers.

And so the humanity of the Logos, though accidental to the Logos -- because not essential to the Logos -- is not an accident of the Logos. An accident is not the sort of thing that can hang from a cross and bleed. Hence the humanity of the Logos is an individual substance.

But this substance is not a substance with its own supposit. It is a substance with an alien supposit (this phrase from Marilyn McC Adams). The alien supposit is the Logos itself.

Now if an accident is not the sort of item that can be crucified and bleed, how is it that an individual substance can be the sort of item that is not its own supposit or support, that is not BL-possibly independent, but is rather dependent for its existence on another substance?

That is tantamount to saying that here we have a substance that is not a substance.

So now we have yet another epicycle . . . .

Without opening up an 'other minds' sort of thing - ("how do I know that you have a mind?" which I think is basically epistemological) - which of the following could we confidently say 'has a human nature':

1. A dead human body?
2. A human brain in a big jar with tubes and such for nourishment, that shows electrical activity?
3. Same as #2 except NO electrical activity?
4. A human body, without a brain, kept alive by artificial means?

I'm inclined to say: 'None of the above'. It seems at first blush that there is some necessary condition for us to say that X 'has a human nature' - mainly, that X is a live embodied human being.

At second blush we might ask whether a living alien organism with a perfectly functioning human brain replacing the alien creatures' brain, has a 'human nature'.(Again, I'm not raising the epistemological question specifically, though it may be unavoidable.)
Well, MY brain is starting to reel just thinking about that; in any case by saying 'alien' I THINK we are already saying: not human?

The word 'organism' bears on this - I think we attribute 'human nature' to a 'human being' and that a 'human being' is an organism that is not thinkable without embodiment. We might of course get fooled by a freshly-washed and trimmed, properly clothed, non-lurching zombie - haven't well all? :-) - but that is of no consequence, really.

I'm not thinking that I've proven a case here, but these considerations alone are keeping me from taking too seriously any consideration of thinking "human being" or "human nature" abstractly, apart from, to put it inelegantly, the 'meat'.

$.02

Sorry - I posted my last comment without noticing that BV had commented already.

Thanks for considering the questions, Bill. I agree there is no necessity that a mind be human. And you’ve addressed a key question: Would an unembodied human mind continue to be human in the unembodied state?

On an Aristotelian framework, the answer is no. As you wrote, for Aristotle a human is a “rational animal” and thus by definition an animal. But perhaps on a different ontology, a human mind could be unembodied and continue to be human. (What else would it be? A potential human person but actual non-human person? How would such a being maintain identity if it changed from human to non-human or vice versa?) If a human mind could be unembodied and still human, then the Logos could have a human nature but contingently a body.

You closed with the hope of exploring non-Aristotelian approaches in a separate post. I look forward to that possibility. (By the way, I also look forward to reading more on the meaning of human life and the “argument from desire” – other favorite topics of mine!)

Just for clarity - are you saying that 'human mind' = 'human nature'?

Hey guys,

I’m enjoying this conversation a lot.

Peter - I don’t take the disagreement to be about whether EAF can be rationally motivated independently of the doctrine of the incarnation. I don’t find it unlikely that there will be some data that we receive from only one type of source, and that the data will be philosophically relevant. In such a case, we won’t be able to motivate the data from another source, but it will influence our philosophy. I don’t view that as a bad thing. I think the metaphysical tweaks made in light of the conciliar data concerning the incarnation may well be one such case.

Bill - you ask: “Now if an accident is not the sort of item that can be crucified and bleed, how is it that an individual substance can be the sort of item that is not its own supposit or support, that is not BL-possibly independent, but is rather dependent for its existence on another substance?”

You then say: “That is tantamount to saying that here we have a substance that is not a substance.”
I don’t see that it is tantamount to… And I don’t see the force of the analogy from accidents to individual substances. Could you spell out the reasoning a bit more, if you are inclined?

Also, perhaps you’ve answered and I’ve missed it, but I still wonder whether you think that Aquinas can count as broadly Aristotelian in your understanding of the term. I asked the question above and gave some reasoning for why, on your view, he shouldn’t count as broadly Aristotelian.

A general question for you guys: Suppose I find myself believing that I have good reason to think that some group of people, the Xs, are an authority on a certain topic when they fulfill certain conditions. And suppose the Xs come together at a council or summit and say that p is true. I learn that the Xs came together and announced p, I think that their meeting meets the criteria for their speaking authoritatively (e.g., it wasn’t a gathering at a kid’s birthday party, or a binge drinking contest, etc), and I think that p, were it true, would have some philosophical implications. I thus revise my philosophical views so that they are consistent with the philosophical implications of p. Have I done anything unmotivated or ad hoc? I don’t think so.

If someone takes himself to have reason to believe that the bishops are authoritative when speaking about the doctrine of the faith in unison at an ecumenical council, and then learns that, at one such council, they say p, is he unmotivated or ad hoc in aligning his other beliefs so that they are consistent with p and the implications of p? I’d think not. But if you agree that such a move is not unmotivated, why charge the tweaking of the Aristotelian framework so as to accommodate the conciliar statements as being unmotivated or ad hoc?

Best,
Tim

Tim et al.,

I too am enjoying the discussion. Your latest points are ones I need to say something about. I'm a bit under the gun now with both philosophical deadlines and 'holiday' tasks, so maybe tomorrow I'll start a new thread as this one scrolls into archival oblivion.

What would be wrong with stating the following?

(1) Prior to the Incarnation the Logos has only the divine nature essentially.
(2) After the Incarnation the Logos has both the divine nature and the human nature essentially.

Julian,

No problem with (1). The problem with (2) is that if a thing has a nature essentially, then it has that nature at every time at which it exists, and in every possible world in which it exists. But God (or rather the Logos) was not incarnate, and thus not human, at every time or in every world.

Or, without the 'possible worlds' jargon, if x has N essentially, then x has N at every time at which x exists. But God was not incarnate when Socrates and Plato were alive.

And if x has N essentially, and x exists necessarily, then x has N necessarily. But the Incarnation might never have occurred. Had Adam not sinned, there would have been no need for it.

I hope the following isn't heretical. If it is, I repent of it ahead of time.

My understanding is that prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus, He was one person with two natures, But after the resurrection, He is one person with just one entirely new nature. As a analogy, it would be like the difference between a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen and the chemical bonding of the two elements to make an entirely new substance - water.

Now that He has this new nature, there is no undoing it. It is His essence for the rest of eternity.

I asked a theologian if I said something heretical. His reply:

"Yeah, that would be considered heretical, for it would make Christ into a tertium quid (i.e. a "third thing") neither fully human nor fully divine. The Church's teaching is that Christ assumed a human nature whilst maintaining the divine nature. And that didn't change at the resurrection. (As Paul says in Timothy, we have one mediator, the man Christ Jesus. And as Thomas said (post-resurrection), my Lord and my God. So he is properly both a human and a divine being."

Bummer. I repent in dust and ashes. Or as they say, scrap that idea.

I don't pretend to understand the theology; but I do give you, Julian, kudos for the concept of 'pre-repentance' !!! I will totally be using that...:-)

And a happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

Julian,

I second your theologian.

I think it is also important not to conflate 'substance' as it figures in this discussion and 'substance' in the sense of a stuff like water.

I also second Dave's wishes for a happy Thanksgiving. We all have a lot to be thankful for.

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