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Friday, November 20, 2020

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The cat seems to be a normal cat, one that can be described, in all of its needs, by biology. Unless its needs are met, it will perish. Let's call it the scientific cat. We could imagine a metaphysical cat that has no needs, but rather than doing so, let's turn to the iron sphere.

You say it will continue to exist because nothing else exists in this world of the iron sphere. There is no oxygen, so no rust. This is, as was the cat, a scientific object, specifically a sphere. It might have no needs, but it is internally unstable, for it is composed not of iron through and through, but of protons, neutrons, and electrons. A level lower down, one enters the quantum realm, with quarks of various types.

There is a degree of scientific instability, in that there is a chance of decay on various levels. A photon might suddenly be lost, never to return. These losses can pile up. The iron sphere becomes some other stuff than iron. So the scientific sphere fails as an analogy, I think, much as does the scientific cat. We need a metaphysical iron sphere, one of iron through and through, at every level, ironically.

Jeffery Hodges

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Hi Dr. Vallicella,

I read Nemes' article earlier yesterday, and I had a thought that you could bring some insight into. I think his article is actually an implicit example of Nemes' desire to synthesize Husserlian phenomenology with Thomism, which I have read you express doubts about. You note here in your article that Nemes' explains that existence cannot be one of the properties of the cat among its other properties, because unlike the rest of the cat's properties, the cat's existence is not given within experience, and so the cat's real existence is unexperienceable. But, if this is the case, then I don't see what justifies the jump from that to the metaphysics of the cat's existence. Wouldn't a proper phenomenology take the unexperienceable to be meaningless due to its unaccessibility? I do not know much about phenomenology at all, but it seems like his jump from phenomenology to his metaphysics seems unwarranted. I'd love your thoughts!

Bill,

Thanks for the comments!

For the sake of clarity: in my view, the whole cat is an intuitable object. More specifically, the cat is a complex or composite object that is in principle intuitable in every respect. It is in principle something that can show itself to consciousness with nothing left over. But because its existence does not appear in any intuition, therefore it does enter into its constitution.

Jeff,

Good comments! I neglected the scientific points you make, so I must concede that the iron sphere is not much of an improvement over the cat when it comes to explaining existential inertia. But you may be missing the thrust of the doctrine of existential inertia (EI).

EI claims that once a thing exists, it will continue to exist on its own unless something acts to destroy it whether that be external such as a lightning bolt or something internal like cancer. There is more than one way to 'skin' a cat! EI is not the claim that once a thing exists it will never cease to exist. EI is the claim that, once a thing exists, nothing apart from its empirical needs is needed to keep it in existence. As opposed to what? As opposed to the claim that, at each moment, a thing that exists needs, in addition to its empirical needs, a metaphysical cause of its continuing to exist.

Alles klar?

Steven,

You can't possibly mean that the whole cat (front, back, outer features, internal organs, etc, with all properties and relations, etc.) is intuitable by you at one blow on one occasion. That would certainly be above the paygrade of an intellectus ectypus!

You want to say that 'in principle,' over time a finite consciousness can become directly (intuitively) aware of everything about your cat. Quantum indeterminacy poses a problem, but leave that aside. And so you want to say that, because existence cannot be intuited, existence does not enter into the constituion of the cat.

I argue in reverse:

1. The existence of a cat is quite obviously the cat's existence, unique to it and belonging to it.

2. The existence of a cat is not intuitable. (For example, it is not sense-perceivable like the furriness of the cat.)

Therefore

3. A cat is not a complex intuitable in every respect.

Jacob,

Thanks for the comments. You ask, >>Wouldn't a proper phenomenology take the unexperienceable to be meaningless due to its unaccessibility?<

Nemes and I agree that the real existence of a concrete particular such as a cat is not phenomenologically given. I can see that the cat is white, but not that it exists. This leaves us with three possibilities.

A. There is no real existence; there is only existence as the coherence of appearances. This is what a strict phenomenologist would have to say, It leads to transc, idealism.

B. There is real existence, but it is inaccessible and hidden within the thing.

C. There is real existence, but it not the existence of any concrete particular such as a cat; it is outside the cat as Nemes says.

Bill,

The existence can still belong to the cat without being constitutive of it if the existence of the cat is an external "existentializing" relation, i.e. its being caused to exist by God. Consider the example of an image being protected onto a screen: the being-projected is not itself a part of the content of the image. In my view, the cat is the image, which can be projected onto the screen or not, and its existence is the being-projected.

You say that the existence of the cat is something hidden. I say: there is nothing hidden about the cat. If there were, I could have no reason for positing it, since it wouldn't show itself.

With respect to the question of the properly "phenomenological" nature of my argumentation: being a philosopher means thinking for yourself. I certainly don't claim to be a philosopher, but in the end I am more interested in making sense of things as they seem to me than in sticking steadfast to one or another intellectual tradition. I would also note that in the present case, it would not even be a matter of sticking to the phenomenological tradition, since this is diverse and many later figures go in different directions, but to Husserl, at least as interpreted by Bill -- and why would that matter? It is no argument against what I am doing that Husserl wouldn't approve.

BV

Please try to clarify: is the notion of existence in the expression "the real existence of a concrete particular such as a cat is not phenomenologically given" comparable to the notion of one in "the fact that there is only one cat" in the identical context is not phenomenologically given? Is one outside the cat just like existence?

Dmitri,

It is not quite clear what you are asking. But here goes.

When I look at my cat Max Black, I see the cat and I see his blackness, but I don't see (or otherwise sense-perceive) his existing. His blackness is given, but not his existing.

You may be asking this: Is the fact that there is/exists exactly one cat before me given?

My answer is No. For this equivalence holds: Max exists iff there exists an x such that x = Max. So if it is not given that Max exists, then it is not given that there exists an x such that x = Max.

You understood my question better that I was able to word it BV. I did wonder whether, in your reply in this discussion, the notion of existence is not given in sense perception in the same way in which the number of cats (one) is not given. If I understood your clarification, one and existence (and I guess blackness as a property and cat as a class) are not given (perceived) in the act of sense perception of Max Black the particular cat at a particular time. Right?

The blackness of the cat is given. I know that the cat is black by seeing black/blackness at the cat. But how do I know that the cat exists given that I do not see (or otherwise sense-perceive) the existence of the cat? That is one of the problems in the vicinity.

Steven sez:

>>The existence can still belong to the cat without being constitutive of it if the existence of the cat is an external "existentializing" relation, i.e. its being caused to exist by God. Consider the example of an image being protected onto a screen: the being-projected is not itself a part of the content of the image. In my view, the cat is the image, which can be projected onto the screen or not, and its existence is the being-projected.<<

But then each concrete particular would have the same existence -- which doesn't do justify to the fact that each such particular has its own existence. Your suggestion leads to monism

Bill,

That is a good objection.

In a paper I wrote on divine simplicity and modal collapse, -- you have read it, I think, -- I argue that the primary object of God's causality is the entire possible world and only secondarily the particular thing. The projection metaphor can accommodate that point. The world is like a movie whose existence is its being-projected by God. Not everything in the movie is identical to everything else, although it is a single act of projection which is responsible for the being-projected of each part.

Fast alles. I think I understand existential inertia. It reminds me somehow of Lavoisier's Law of Conservation of Mass. But that's just another bad example.

I suppose only stuff that is simple stuff through and through would possess existential inertia. Any compound stuff would have a tendency to break down to simpler stuff.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Jeff,

I don't think you understand what is meant by 'existential inertia.'

Suppose God creates ex nihilo a cat. He brings it into existence. Now the question concerns the way it exists. Does it exist in such a way that it will continue to exist on its own without divine assistance? Or does it exist in such a way that it needs God's creative activity to sustain it in existence at every moment subsequent to the moment of its creation?

Do you understand that there is a difference between these two conceptions of creation? The first is deistic; the second is classically theistic.

On the first, we have existential inertia of creatures; on the second we do not have existential inertia of creatures.

>>I suppose only stuff that is simple stuff through and through would possess existential inertia. Any compound stuff would have a tendency to break down to simpler stuff.<<

No.

Suppose you have a non-partite item. One that is simple, not compound. Suppose that, having come into existence, it lasts for ever more. There remains the question whether it exists inertially or whether it need's divine sustenance moment by moment.

Now consider a partite entity, a house of cards say. It lasts for let's say one minute until a blast of air blows it apart and brings about its nonexistence. There remains the question whether, during the short time it existed, it existed inertially or non-inertially, i.e., in such a way that moment by moment it needed divine sustenance.

The inertial-non-inertial issue cuts perpendicular to the simple-compound issue.

Let me know whether you find this clear. I think my earlier expositions were less than clear.

Bill, I think that I understand, but something puzzles me. The God of Deism brings a thing into existence.That thing continues to exist by existential inertia. Some time later, another created thing annihilates it.

The act of creation was a metaphysical act. Existential inertia is a metaphysical concept. The event of annihilation has a physical cause.

Here is my puzzlement: some thing with a metaphysical cause is annihilated in a physical event.

Jeffery Hodges

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