• Apollodorus
    3.3k
    ... we cannot equate "the soul" with "the intellect", as is demonstrated by Aristotle and accepted by Aquinas ... "the soul" is understood to be at the base, prior to the material body, and the material body is constructed by the soul in a bottom-up manner.Metaphysician Undercover

    I think the issue starts with how we define “soul”, “intellect”, and the way they relate to one another.

    If we separate the intellect from the soul, for example, we run the risk of falling into a similar trap to when we say that the soul has "separate" parts.

    Equally problematic are the hypotheses that the soul constructs the body, that the body is a medium between soul and intellect, etc.

    We would need to explain how the soul “constructs” the body, etc.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    If we separate the intellect from the soul, for example, we run the risk of falling into a similar trap to when we say that the soul has "separate" parts.Apollodorus

    The soul does have separate parts, that is well explained by Aristotle. That is why one soul has many different powers, what we might call different faculties. One soul cannot have distinct powers if it doesn't have distinct parts. So a living body is a composite of parts and I think it would be impossible for one soul to be the principle of actuality for many different material parts, if it did not have corresponding immaterial parts itself.

    Equally problematic are the hypotheses that the soul constructs the body, that the body is a medium between soul and intellect, etc.

    We would need to explain how the soul “constructs” the body, etc.
    Apollodorus

    This is exactly the problem which the science of biology has yet to resolve. Yes, "we need to explain" it, but we do not have the capacity, just like we do not have the capacity to explain how the universe was "constructed". Of course the biological problem ought to be easier to resolve than the cosmological problem, being nearer to us in space and time, but we can't even figure that one out yet.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    The soul does have separate parts, that is well explained by Aristotle. That is why one soul has many different powers, what we might call different faculties.Metaphysician Undercover

    Aristotle does explain, but I think what is essential is how we read "parts" (mere or moria).

    For example, he says:

    Some hold that the soul is divisible, and that one part thinks, another desires. If, then, its nature admits of its being divided, what can it be that holds the parts together? Surely not the body; on the contrary it seems rather to be the soul that holds the body together; at any rate when the soul departs the body disintegrates and decays (De Anima 411b24)

    Basically, Aristotle holds that the soul is divisible into many souls, as can be seen, for example, from plants and certain living creatures that carry on living after being cut into segments, but that each soul is not divisible into soul-parts.

    In other words, each soul would retain its three aspects described by Plato in the Republic, i.e., reasoning (logismos), emotive (thymos), and sensual (epthymetikon or eros).

    The difficulty arises when we separate the intellect or intelligent spirit (nous) from the soul (psyche).

    If, pure, unaffected intelligence (nous) is separable from the soul (psyche) on the death of the physical body, then there is no possibility of divine judgement.

    Moreover, if experience or state is impersonal and identical in all cases after death, then Philosophy or spiritual practice during embodied life becomes redundant.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    The difficulty arises when we separate the intellect or intelligent spirit (nous) from the soul (psyche).Apollodorus

    Clearly, this separation is possible, warranted and not a difficulty, because plants have a soul, but no intellect. Therefore intellect is not an essential part of the soul, and it is not necessary that the intellect be a part of the soul. So we must allow a separation between the intellect and the soul. This is explained by the hierarchy of powers. The intellectual power is dependent on the sensitive power, which is dependent on the nutritive power. The nutritive power is not dependent on anything but the soul itself. Therefore those other lower powers can be seen as a medium between the intellect and the soul.

    We can see a similar description in Kant. Knowledge is dependent on the a priori intuitions of space and time. Those intuitions are a medium between the soul, as knower, and knowledge, as property of the mind. The soul knows through the medium of those intuitions, it does not have direct access to the thing known.

    If, pure, unaffected intelligence (nous) is separable from the soul (psyche) on the death of the physical body, then there is no possibility of divine judgement.Apollodorus

    The point being, that there is no such thing as "pure, unaffected intelligence" in human beings. Human beings do not make divine judgements. The evidence is clear, intelligence is "affected". So setting up a model in which human intelligence is not separable from the soul, for the purpose of supporting the concept of "pure, unaffected intelligence" in human beings, is a mistaken intention, therefore a mistaken representation.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    The intellectual power is dependent on the sensitive power, which is dependent on the nutritive power.Metaphysician Undercover

    To be quite honest, the idea of the higher depending on the lower sounds a bit strange to me. Either the soul has powers or it has not. If it has, then it has them by virtue of being a soul, i.e., a living intelligent being endowed with powers.

    If the intellect depends on the soul, how does it survive becoming separated from the soul?

    Aristotle’s division of the soul into “parts” seems to be theoretical because he also divides the rational part into two as he does with the irrational part.

    So I think it is perfectly possible, in fact likely, for the “intellect” (nous) and “soul” (psyche) to be one indivisible entity.

    The difference between souls may consist in one part or aspect of a soul being more dominant than the others. Among humans, for example, one in whom the nous is dominant would be “spiritual”, one in whom reason is dominant would be “intellectual”, one in whom emotions are dominant would be “emotional”, etc.

    The fact that one aspect is dominant does not necessarily mean that the others are absent. They can be less active or dormant.

    There is no such thing as "pure, unaffected intelligence" in human beings.Metaphysician Undercover

    In that case, humans can never attain higher states of consciousness either through Philosophy or by any other means.

    Moreover, if the “intellect” continues to be affected even after being separated from the soul, what is the difference between an “intellect” with and an “intellect” without soul?

    What is the purpose of Philosophy or spiritual practice?

    How does the soul “construct the body”?

    etc. ....

    Human beings do not make divine judgements.Metaphysician Undercover

    By "divine judgement" I meant that on Plato's account, as in Christianity, souls are judged after death - by some divine authority, not by other humans.

    If the "intellect" is all that remains after death, this poses a problem for those systems that believe in after-death judgement.
  • Athena
    2k
    By "divine judgement" I meant that on Plato's account, as in Christianity, souls are judged after death - by some divine authority, not by other humans.Apollodorus

    This is not what I expected this thread to be about but I have some thoughts on this idea so I will verbalize them.

    I have decided if there is life after death it will be the result of what we have done in our present incarnation and the accumulation of past incarnations. That is not a judgment of any being, but more directly the result of our earthly actions and thoughts. Either we learn math or we do not. We learn to manage our anger without being destructive or we do not. We become enlightened through the effort of doing so, or we do not. The essence of our being is what we make it and we are the one who decides what will follow, just as we decide which books to read.

    I think I was a prostitute and a crimal who shared life with another woman and two men who were most certainly criminals. Stealing and killing was just a way of life. As the wolves also have their way of life.
    My consciousness in this incarnation is different, so are my opportunities different. Like if there were a god in control and one who judges us, certainly if He gives us lives that bring out the best in us, instead of lives that will surely bring out the worst in us, we would do much better. What we experience is not just a matter of free will. It is also a matter of circumstances that we can not control. Granted I am may have never had that incarnation, but what seems like a memory of it very strongly influences all of my thinking and notions of justice.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    That is not a judgment of any being, but more directly the result of our earthly actions and thoughts.Athena

    Well, I for one can see nothing wrong with that.

    If humans have a conscience, it seems probable that in the after life when they no longer are distracted by mundane matters, conscience will play a larger role.

    In which case, those who have committed wrong actions will be "punished" by their own feelings of guilt, etc. and will thereby be prevented from being happy, which would be equivalent to "hell".

    In contrast, those whose conscience is clear will be able to enjoy the soul's natural state of happiness, which would be equivalent to "heaven".

    In other words, the "divine judgement" as described in some religious traditions may be metaphorical.
    But even then, the suffering or happiness as a result of wrong or right actions, remains real ....
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    To be quite honest, the idea of the higher depending on the lower sounds a bit strange to me. Either the soul has powers or it has not. If it has, then it has them by virtue of being a soul, i.e., a living intelligent being endowed with powers.Apollodorus

    I don't see why this is difficult for you, it is simply a statement by Aristotle of what has been observed. We cannot think without some kind of images which are derived from sensation. And without nutrition we lose the capacity to sense. Therefore the intellectual power is dependent on the sensitive power which is dependent on the nutritive. It's very consistent with the evidence of evolutionary development, so unless you reject evolution I don't see why it sounds strange to you.

    n that case, humans can never attain higher states of consciousness either through Philosophy or by any other means.

    Moreover, if the “intellect” continues to be affected even after being separated from the soul, what is the difference between an “intellect” with and an “intellect” without soul?

    What is the purpose of Philosophy or spiritual practice?
    Apollodorus

    The fact that people can obtain different levels of consciousness does not imply that a person can obtain "pure unaffected intelligence". It's like you are arguing that if a person cannot obtain the status of 'the biggest thing possible', people cannot differ in size. That there is a limit to the human intellect which makes it impossible for a human being to obtain pure unaffected intelligence, does not imply that there is not different levels of intelligence within human beings.

    The point is that it is impossible for an intellect to exist without a soul, but not impossible for a soul to exist without an intellect. So the intellect is dependent on the soul but the soul is not dependent on the intellect. The mode of dependency is what is described above; intellectual capacity is dependent on sense capacity which is dependent on the nutritive capacity which is dependent on soul. Therefore there is a medium of separation between the intellect and the soul, i.e. the intellect is not directly dependent on the soul, it is dependent on what lies between it and the soul, and this in turn is dependent on the soul.

    .
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    I don't see why this is difficult for you, it is simply a statement by Aristotle of what has been observed.Metaphysician Undercover

    You are saying that "it is not necessary that the intellect be a part of the soul". But some souls apparently do have an intellect. In their case, the intellect is part of the soul. The intellect cannot be at once part of the soul and separate from the soul.

    This means that the parts of the soul have no separate existence from each other . The "separation" is only hypothetical.

    The fact that people can obtain different levels of consciousness does not imply that a person can obtain "pure unaffected intelligence".Metaphysician Undercover

    It doesn't exclude the possibility, though. Who decides that "humans cannot obtain pure unaffected intelligence" and on what basis?

    the intellect is not directly dependent on the soul, it is dependent on what lies between it and the soul, and this in turn is dependent on the soul.Metaphysician Undercover

    This only means that the intellect is dependent on the soul. And the soul is a form of intelligence, as is the intellect. So it boils down to intelligence depending on intelligence, i.e., on itself.

    Therefore the intellectual power is dependent on the sensitive power which is dependent on the nutritive. It's very consistent with the evidence of evolutionary developmentMetaphysician Undercover

    The theory of evolution states that intelligence evolved from physical matter. Yet you are saying that "the soul constructs the physical body". How does the soul do that?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    You are saying that "it is not necessary that the intellect be a part of the soul". But some souls apparently do have an intellect. In their case, the intellect is part of the soul. The intellect cannot be at once part of the soul and separate from the soul.

    This means that the parts of the soul have no separate existence from each other . The "separation" is only hypothetical.
    Apollodorus

    Sure, but if we go in this way, then as Aristotle shows, the separation of the soul from the body is only hypothetical.

    However, the hypothetical separation is shown to be consistent with the evidence of temporal priority. The sensitive power is prior to the intellectual power, in time, therefore it exists independently of the intellectual power, at that time, so the hypothetical separation is scientifically proven by evidence. Likewise, the hypothetical separation between the nutritive and the sensitive power are proven by evidence.

    There is no evidence though, to support the reverse separation. At no time does the intellectual power exist separately from the sensitive. And at no time does the sensitive power exist separately from the nutritive.

    Therefore the hypothetical separation is very real, proven and true, when taken in one direction, but it is disproven in the other direction. The separation is evidently time dependent, and only the base powers exist separately from the higher powers, not vise versa.

    It doesn't exclude the possibility, though. Who decides that "humans cannot obtain pure unaffected intelligence" and on what basis?Apollodorus

    This is the exact point of the discussion I was having with Wayfarer. This is what Aquinas explains, through reference to Aristotle's principles. The fact that the human intellect is dependent on the material body (by the principles described above) renders the human intellect as deficient. Human beings will never obtain pure unaffected intelligence because their intellectual power is dependent on the material body.

    The theory of evolution states that intelligence evolved from physical matter. Yet you are saying that "the soul constructs the physical body". How does the soul do that?Apollodorus

    No one knows how the soul produces the living body. But the same principle which is derived from the hierarchy of powers, along with the principle of the cosmological argument, demonstrate that the soul is necessarily prior to the material body (being an organized body), as cause of it.

    The powers are demonstrated by Aristotle, to be potentials, because they are not always active and potential is the feature of matter. Since there must be an actuality which gives actual existence to any potential which is actualized(the cosmological argument), there must be an actuality which is prior to the material living body, giving it existence as an actual organized body with powers. This actuality is the soul. So the cause of the material body having actual organized existence with powers, is the soul. Since it is prior to the material body as cause of it, (therefore separable by the principles above), it is immaterial.
  • ajar
    65

    [T]he essences of human cognitive processes and structures are semantic networks, webs of meaning held together by ordered sequence of analogies. Metaphor and simile are the characteristic tropes of scientific thought, not formal validity of argument...

    "Scientific rationality" may be no better, indeed it may be even worse as a general ideology for regulating the relations of people one to another and to the natural world than lay rationality.'



    — Harr
    I find the centrality of metaphor highly plausible, so no issue there. But what exactly is 'lay rationality'? If not less disciplined serious rationality? Is science something like refined common sense
    partnered with specialization?

    To me anyway, statistics just makes sense. Controlled experiments, p-values, etc. Can someone show me a more convincing way to establish trust in an empirical thesis?

    Let's also consider a group of specialists all trying to impress and compete with another. A consensus among them could still be wrong, but what's the better alternative?

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect that anti-scientific feeling is primarily generated by the threat that a scientific worldview poses toward traditional forms of spirituality. Darwin's idea of the blind watchmaker ( as Dawkins calls it) is particularly offensive. Recently I've been reading the strange and mostly forgotten Back to Methuselah by Shaw.

    This superstition of a continual capricious disorder in nature, of a lawgiver who was also a lawbreaker, made atheists in all directions among clever and lightminded people. But atheism did not account for Paley's watch. Atheism accounted for nothing; and it was the business of science to account for everything that was plainly accountable. Science had no use for mere negation: what was desired by it above all things just then was a demonstration that the evidences of design could be explained without resort to the hypothesis of a personal designer. If only some genius, whilst admitting Paley's facts, could knock the brains out of Paley by the discovery of a method whereby watches could happen without watchmakers, that genius was assured of such a welcome from the thought of his day as no natural philosopher had ever enjoyed before.

    The time being thus ripe, the genius appeared; and his name was Charles Darwin. And now, what did Darwin really discover?

    Here, I am afraid, I shall require once more the assistance of the giraffe...How did he come by his long neck? Lamarck would have said, by wanting to get at the tender leaves high up on the tree, and trying until he succeeded in wishing the necessary length of neck into existence... Darwin pointed out—and this and no more was Darwin's famous discovery—that [another] explanation, involving neither will nor purpose nor design either in the animal or anyone else, was on the cards. If your neck is too short to reach your food, you die. That may be the simple explanation of the fact that all the surviving animals that feed on foliage have necks or trunks long enough to reach it...Consider the effect on the giraffes of the natural multiplication of their numbers, as insisted on by Malthus. Suppose the average height of the foliage-eating animals is four feet, and that they increase in numbers until a time comes when all the trees are eaten away to within four feet of the ground. Then the animals who happen to be an inch or two short of the average will die of starvation. All the animals who happen to be an inch or so above the average will be better fed and stronger than the others. They will secure the strongest and tallest mates; and their progeny will survive whilst the average ones and the sub-average ones will die out. This process, by which the species gains, say, an inch in reach, will repeat itself until the giraffe's neck is so long that he can always find food enough within his reach, at which point, of course, the selective process stops and the length of the giraffe's neck stops with it. Otherwise, he would grow until he could browse off the trees in the moon. And this, mark you, without the intervention of any stockbreeder, human or divine...

    There is a hideous fatalism about it, a ghastly and damnable reduction of beauty and intelligence, of strength and purpose, of honor and aspiration, to such casually picturesque changes as an avalanche may make in a mountain landscape, or a railway accident in a human figure. To call this Natural Selection is a blasphemy, possible to many for whom Nature is nothing but a casual aggregation of inert and dead matter, but eternally impossible to the spirits and souls of the righteous. If it be no blasphemy, but a truth of science, then the stars of heaven, the showers and dew, the winter and summer, the fire and heat, the mountains and hills, may no longer be called to exalt the Lord with us by praise; their work is to modify all things by blindly starving and murdering everything that is not lucky enough to survive in the universal struggle for hogwash...

    [T]he explorer who opened up this gulf of despair, far from being stoned or crucified as the destroyer of the honor of the race and the purpose of the world, was hailed as Deliverer, Savior, Prophet, Redeemer, Enlightener, Rescuer, Hope Giver, and Epoch Maker; whilst poor Lamarck was swept aside as a crude and exploded guesser hardly worthy to be named as his erroneous forerunner. In the light of my anecdote, the explanation is obvious. The first thing the gulf did was to swallow up Paley, and the Disorderly Designer, and Shelley's Almighty Fiend, and all the rest of the pseudo-religious rubbish that had blocked every upward and onward path since the hopes of men had turned to Science as their true Savior. It seemed such a convenient grave that nobody at first noticed that it was nothing less than the bottomless pit, now become a very real terror.
    https://www.gutenberg.org/files/13084/13084-h/13084-h.htm#link2H_4_0003

    As you might sniff out, Shaw is trying to get around Darwin, and his play presents the religion of 'Creative Evolution.' The problem is that the 'willful' creativity Shaw wants to read into nature seems to be as easily explained by Darwin's Blind Watchmaker. Given all this, I'm tempted to understand 'lay' rationality as traditional religious claims, horoscopes, conspiracy theories, etc. Why not 'lay' plumbing? Or the 'lay' version of any specialization that doesn't touch on sacred matters? Because, perhaps, it's easier to think more clearly on such matters.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Sure, but if we go in this way, then as Aristotle shows, the separation of the soul from the body is only hypothetical.Metaphysician Undercover

    The way I read Aristotle, he believes that the soul depends on the body, belongs to the body, and therefore it perishes with the death of the body (De Anima 414a20ff.)

    If we are saying that the intellect depends on the soul, then there can be no intellect after the death of the body-soul compound.

    On the other hand, Aristotle refers to the intellect as “divine” and as the “true self” of man.

    He also implies that the intellect is immortal, when he says that man must put on immortality and live in conformity with the highest within him (Nic. Eth. 1177b30).

    However, his position on the intellect is ultimately not entirely clear.

    He is equally evasive on the divisibility of the soul. In discussing the soul as having a rational part and an irrational part, he says:

    Whether these are separate like the parts of the body or anything else that is physically divisible, or whether like the convex and concave aspects of the circumference of a circle they are distinguishable as two only in definition and thought, and are by nature inseparable, makes no difference for our present purpose … Probably we should believe nevertheless that the soul too contains an irrational element which opposes and runs counter to reason – in what sense it is a separate element does not matter at all … (Nic. Eth. 1102a30-1102b25)

    So it isn't just a matter of the intellect being "deficient". Aristotle himself does not seem the most reliable writer on this topic. If Aquinas accepts everything Aristotle says, he may find himself in conflict with his own Christian views.

    I think it would be more consistent to see reality as a hierarchy of intelligences and both soul and body as created by a higher intelligence, as in Platonism and similar systems.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    Here, I am afraid, I shall require once more the assistance of the giraffe...How did he come by his long neck? Lamarck would have said, by wanting to get at the tender leaves high up on the tree, and trying until he succeeded in wishing the necessary length of neck into existence... Darwin pointed out—and this and no more was Darwin's famous discovery—that [another] explanation, involving neither will nor purpose nor design either in the animal or anyone else, was on the cards. If your neck is too short to reach your food, you die. That may be the simple explanation of the fact that all the surviving animals that feed on foliage have necks or trunks long enough to reach it...Consider the effect on the giraffes of the natural multiplication of their numbers, as insisted on by Malthus. Suppose the average height of the foliage-eating animals is four feet, and that they increase in numbers until a time comes when all the trees are eaten away to within four feet of the ground. Then the animals who happen to be an inch or two short of the average will die of starvation. All the animals who happen to be an inch or so above the average will be better fed and stronger than the others. They will secure the strongest and tallest mates; and their progeny will survive whilst the average ones and the sub-average ones will die out. This process, by which the species gains, say, an inch in reach, will repeat itself until the giraffe's neck is so long that he can always find food enough within his reach, at which point, of course, the selective process stops and the length of the giraffe's neck stops with it. Otherwise, he would grow until he could browse off the trees in the moon. And this, mark you, without the intervention of any stockbreeder, human or divine...

    Darwin's so-called "explanation" is incomplete. It is explained here how the animals which survive are the ones which happen to have longer necks, but it does not explain why they happen to have longer necks. Therefore it does not account for the "cause" of giraffes having longer necks. Lamarck's theory on the other hand addresses the issue of "causation". He says that a being's inclination to repeatedly act in a specific way affects its material body in a way which may be passed on to its offspring. Here, we can see that Lamarck accounts for the cause of existence of "animals who happen to be an inch or so above the average". Darwin simply takes this condition for granted, and produces an evolutionary theory based on the evidence of this reality.

    So there is no fundamental and significant incompatibility between Lamarck's theory, and Darwin's theory, until we get to the idea of "chance", "accidental", or "spontaneous variations". Lamarck attributed such variations to the desires of the individual beings (notice that "desire" also includes sexual orientation).

    But I think we ought to consider that Darwin has posited the cause of variation as unknown, not as "chance", or "random". This idea of chance or random variation might be an interpretive fallacy. The problem with Lamarck's view, which Darwin exposed, is that variations appear to be as likely to have a negative affect as they are to have a positive effect.

    Under domestication we see much variability, caused, or at least excited, by changed conditions of life; but often in so obscure a manner, that we are tempted to consider the variations as spontaneous.
    ...Variability is not actually caused by man; he only unintentionally exposes organic beings to new conditions of life, and then nature acts on the organisation and causes it to vary.
    ... As geology plainly proclaims that each land has undergone great physical changes, we might have expected to find that organic beings have varied under nature, in the same way as they have varied under domestication. And if there has been any variability under nature, it would be an unaccountable fact if natural selection had not come into play. It has often been asserted, but the assertion is incapable of proof, that the amount of variation under nature is a strictly limited quantity. Man, though acting on external characters alone and often capriciously, can produce within a short period a great result by adding up mere individual differences in his domestic productions; and every one admits that species present individual differences.
    ...Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms.
    — Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapter XV: Recapitulation and Conclusion
    https://infidels.org/library/historical/charles-darwin-origin-of-species-chapter15/
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    The way I read Aristotle, he believes that the soul depends on the body, belongs to the body, and therefore it perishes with the death of the body (De Anima 414a20ff.)Apollodorus

    The problem with this interpretation is that you are not accounting for the order of dependence of "the parts" which Aristotle clearly explains.
    From this it indubitably follows that the soul is inseparable from its body, or at any rate certain parts of it are (if it has parts) --- for the actuality of some of them is nothing but the actualities of their bodily parts. Yet some may be separable because they are not the actualities of any body at all. — Aristotle On the Soul 413a,3-6

    The higher powers, sensitive and intellectual, are very clearly not separable from the material body, being dependent on it. But when we get down to the very basic powers, self-nutrition, and self-movement, these may be separable. And the soul itself is clearly separable, in the way I described. As cause of the material body it is prior to the material body, therefore it existed independently from the material body at that time.
    The soul is the cause or source of the living body. The terms cause and source have many senses. But the soul is the cause of its body alike in all three senses which we explicitly recognize. It is (a) the source or origin of movement, it is (b) the end, it is (c) the essence of the whole living body. — 415b, 7-12
    It appears to me like you are not respecting the temporal order, and priority explained by Aristotle. So you say, that a soul cannot exist after the death of a living body, therefore a soul has no existence independent from the body. However, Aristotle clearly explains how the soul has existence independent from the body prior in time to the body. Therefore we cannot conclude that "the soul depends on the body". The "parts" of the living being which are prior are not dependent on the parts which are posterior. The soul itself, is the first in temporal priority, and as the cause of the material body, its existence is temporally prior to the material body, so it is separate and immaterial. However, the parts which are posterior are dependent on the parts which are prior, so no posterior part can have independent existence.

    If we are saying that the intellect depends on the soul, then there can be no intellect after the death of the body-soul compound.Apollodorus

    Correct, and this is why I disagreed with you in the other thread, when you discussed independent intelligence. I believe that independent immaterial existences, such as God and the angels in Aquinas, which account for the necessity of assuming immaterial and separate Forms, ought not be called "intellects" or "intelligences". These immaterial existences are prior to material existence whereas the human intellect is posterior to material existence. That is why there is a huge separation (the medium of matter) between human intelligible objects (concepts and ideas) and independent Forms. So I conclude that referring to these independent Forms as intelligences is very misleading because the immaterial Forms are temporally prior to matter while intelligible objects are posterior to, and dependent on matter.

    If Aquinas accepts everything Aristotle says, he may find himself in conflict with his own Christian views.Apollodorus

    That's what I said already:

    So Aquinas had a fine line to walk here, between two completely incompatible doctrines, personal immortality, as a traditional tenet of the Church, and the immateriality of the soul according to Aristotelian principles (science?). Aristotelian immateriality is based in the concept of "prior to matter", and assigns particular, individual, and personal identity to an object's material presence, posteriority. This directly conflicts with the classic Christian teaching of personal resurrection. What is prior, the immaterial soul, cannot be postulated as posterior, to support personal resurrection.

    If you look closely into Aquinas' metaphysics and theology, you'll see that ultimately he chooses the Aristotelian doctrine, as it is more scientific, and consistent with the evidence. Take a look at the first line from your quoted passage. "I answer that, It must necessarily be allowed that the principle of intellectual operation which we call the soul, is a principle both incorporeal and subsistent." This is consistent with Aristotle. The soul, as the source of activity, actuality, is the first principle of intellectual operation. This is the very same for all the powers of the soul. The soul is the first principle, as the source of activity, for self-nutrition, sensation, and self-movement, each and every power of a living being.
    Metaphysician Undercover

    The point being that the Aristotelian view was more scientific, and consistent with the evidence. So Aquinas lead his church in that direction, with his metaphysics, saying just enough concerning personal resurrection and immortality, to appease those with the ancient religious views, and maintain good standing relative to the authorities of the Church. His work of thoroughly analyzing the metaphysical perspective of Aristotle did very much to lead western society out of the dark ages of ancient tenets, into the scientific era.

    I think it would be more consistent to see reality as a hierarchy of intelligences and both soul and body as created by a higher intelligence, as in Platonism and similar systems.Apollodorus

    The problem though is that this is not scientific, i.e. not consistent with the evidence. Which do you think is better for metaphysics, to try and twist around the meaning of words like "intelligence" and "soul", to produce consistency with advancements in science, or to change fundamental principles of metaphysics to maintain consistency with new collections of evidence?

    Plato laid out, exposed and explained all sorts of ancient (ancient to him) metaphysical principles concerning soul and mind and their relations with matter and human intentions. Many of these were inconsistent with the science of the time. So there was a great project to determine the fallacies of the ancient metaphysics, as well as the fallacies of the contemporary science. When there is such incompatibility, it is not a matter of choosing one side or the other. So we need to take the evidence from the scientific side and the theories from the metaphysical side, which make a match.

    The evidence shows that intelligence is a product of the living body, dependent on it, therefore posterior to the body, while the theory shows that the immaterial soul is prior to the living body. So we have that temporal separation between soul and intellect. It makes no sense to bring the posterior (intellect) around to the prior (soul), and start talking about prior immaterial existences as if they are intellects, just for the sake of appeasing some ancient ideas. This only creates an inability for proper education of the subject matter, and consequently confusion. Therefore we must establish new, distinct terms for the immaterial existences, Forms, which are prior to matter, rather than calling them intelligences.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Therefore we must establish new, distinct terms for the immaterial existences, Forms, which are prior to matter, rather than calling them intelligences.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, this is why I said from the beginning that it is necessary to properly define the terms used like "soul", "intellect", etc.

    If we are saying that intelligence is a product of the body, then we will need to define "intellect" (nous) as something other than intelligence, not just the Forms. And the problem with that is that nous is used in the general sense of "intelligence" as much as in the sense of "intellect", "reason", or "mind".

    But I think the main problem with Aristotle is the vague language he is using. Presumably, he largely agrees with Plato, as otherwise he would indicate disagreement. But the way he puts things tends to leave a lot of room for doubt.

    Regarding the soul, Aristotle says that its powers are infinite in number, and that the division into “parts” is only for the sake of convenience.

    If a soul were to be divided into two halves, each half would contain all the parts of the soul, a fact which implies that, whilst the soul is divisible, its parts are inseparable from one another (De Anima 411b26).

    As to the part of the soul with which it knows and understands, whether such a part be separable spatially, or not separable spatially, but only in thought, we have to consider what is its distinctive character and how thinking comes about (De Anima 429b1).

    Regarding the intellect, Aristotle says:

    And he [the good man] does it for his own sake for he does it on account of the intellectual part of him, which is held to be the self of the individual (Nic. Eth. 1166a15).

    And it would seem that the thinking part is, or most nearly is, the individual self (Nic. Eth. 1166a20).

    A person is called continent or incontinent according as his reason is or is not in control, which implies that this part is the individual (Nic. Eth. 1168b35ff).

    Contemplation is the highest form of activity since the intellect is the highest thing in us (Nic. Eth. 1177a20).

    So if the intellect is divine compared with man, the life of the intellect must be divine compared with the life of a human being. And we ought not to listen to those who warn us that ‘man should think the thoughts of man’, or ‘mortal thoughts fit mortal minds’; but we ought, so far as in us lies, to put on immortality, and do all that we can to live in conformity with the highest that is in us [i.e., the intellect]. Indeed it would seem that this is the true self of the individual (Nic. Eth. 1177b30-1178a).

    The answer seems to be that Aristotle posits a “material intellect” and an “active intellect”. The material intellect is the soul’s faculty of thinking. It is capable of being affected and perishable. In contrast, the active intellect is not a part or faculty of the soul but is independent of it. As such it is immaterial, eternal, imperishable, and self-existent, and it makes thinking possible. Aristotle also calls this intellect “divine” and “impassible” (De Anima 408b13, 430b5).

    The exact relation of the immortal intellect to man is not entirely clear, though. Also unclear is whether it is individual or collective/universal.

    In any case, the only intellect available after the death of the body-soul compound seems to be something that is impassible and unaffected, and has no faculties of thinking, feeling, memory, etc.

    This would make the surviving element of man (if this is what Aristotle's "immortal intellect" is) quite incapable of being judged in the afterlife and of experiencing pleasure or pain as a result, as I said. So yes, this is definitely one thing that renders attempts to harmonize Aristotle with Platonism and Christianity problematic.

    Another thing we need to bear in mind is that many of Aristotle's works are lost. If all of his writings were available to us, we would perhaps have a more complete account of his views.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    But I think the main problem with Aristotle is the vague language he is using.Apollodorus

    I don't think his language is very vague. It just requires a very thorough reading of much material, to get a good grasp of how he is using the words. He was very careful in his attempt to maintain an interdisciplinary consistency through all the fields he discussed. This is a type of consistency which is quite lacking in modern science.

    The answer seems to be that Aristotle posits a “material intellect” and an “active intellect”. The material intellect is the soul’s faculty of thinking. It is capable of being affected and perishable. In contrast, the active intellect is not a part or faculty of the soul but is independent of it. As such it is immaterial, eternal, imperishable, and self-existent, and it makes thinking possible. Aristotle also calls this intellect “divine” and “impassible” (De Anima 408b13, 430b5).Apollodorus

    The active intellect, for Aristotle, is not separable in the way you describe, from the passive intellect. The active and passive parts are united as one intellect, both being required for intellection. The two parts are described in Bk3, On the Soul, as being active, and being act on. The human intellect requires both, to be active in discernment and judgement, and also to be acted upon by sense images.

    So there are two parts to the human intellect, and if we were to separate a lower power from a higher power, the lower part would be the passive, in its relation with the senses. By the principles already stated, a higher power (the active intellect) cannot be separated from a lower one (the passive intellect) which it depends on. So for instance, if the active is portrayed as top-down causation, and the passive is portrayed as being acted on from the bottom-up, the top-down activity is fundamentally dependent on the bottom-up, and cannot be separated from it. However, the bottom-up is separable because the soul is positioned at the bottom. It's counter-intuitive because we want to believe that the conscious mind has control over the material body, in the Platonic way, because that is the illusion we get from the perspective of the conscious mind. But in reality the material body has a fundamental grip on the mind. This is evident in certain chemical imbalances which affect one's capacity for rational thought.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    in reality the material body has a fundamental grip on the mind.Metaphysician Undercover

    So despite your voluminous posts about metaphysics, you're actually materialist?

    The statement of Metaphysician Undercover's that I took issue with was this:

    it is not the case that a human being, through the use of reason, has any more participatory capacity in the realm of the immaterial, then any other creatureMetaphysician Undercover

    Whereas, as I see it, the whole point of the scholastic 'doctrine of the rational soul', was that it was the power of reason to see the forms that represents the incorporeal soul, the very capacity that differentiates humans from animals.

    Of course it's true I've only read synopses, extracts, essays, etc, I haven't read Aristotle and Aquinas in totality. But I think as a synoptic view that what I'm saying is consistent with the texts.

    I found a passage from a textbook on Aquinas which is relevant, it can be read here:

    if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality.

    I'm interested in the view in ancient and medieval philosophy of reason as both a faculty of the mind, and an ordering principle of the cosmos.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    So despite your voluminous posts about metaphysics, you're actually materialist?Wayfarer

    Haha. How many times have I said, that the soul is immaterial, in this thread? I simply recognize the reality of a material separation between the soul and the intellect. It's what Aquinas taught, and fundamental to most reasonable philosophies of the mind. Otherwise we]d have no way to account for material existence prior to the human mind, and we get mired in panpsychism.

    if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality.

    It's a mistake to separate "intellectual knowledge" from "sense knowledge" in this way. As Aristotle explained, intellectual knowledge requires images received from the senses. And the images received from the senses are already distinct and fundamentally different from the form of the thing itself (as per Kant). The "accidents" inhere within the material thing. So the separation is properly represented as existing between the senses and the objects sensed, while the intellect and the senses are united in the activity of producing knowledge, as described by Aristotle.

    I'm interested in the view in ancient and medieval philosophy of reason as both a faculty of the mind, and an ordering principle of the cosmos.Wayfarer

    This is an ancient idea which was outdated and archaic any time posterior to Plato. Plato laid the foundation for the proper separation between "the mind" as a feature of the human being, and "the ordering principle of the cosmos", as the reason why there is inherent order within all material existence. Understanding this separation is crucial to understanding the full extent, and incredible magnitude, of the fallibility of the human mind, and human knowledge in general, that is including the so-called objective sciences. This is why many follows of Plato appropriately turned to skepticism.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    It's counter-intuitive because we want to believe that the conscious mind has control over the material body, in the Platonic way, because that is the illusion we get from the perspective of the conscious mind. But in reality the material body has a fundamental grip on the mind.Metaphysician Undercover

    If it is an “illusion”, then Aristotle himself contributes to it in no small measure by making frequent references to the mind being controlled by the intellect which is the “divine” and “guiding” principle in man.

    Unfortunately, the effect of chemical imbalance on the human brain does not seem to throw much light on the subject.

    I think more important is the question of whether the intellect, soul, or any other part of man survives the death of the physical body.

    There may well be two aspects of the intellect, one active and one passive. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be.

    But the point is that according to Aristotle one aspect is perishable and another is not.

    So we have one aspect of man, the “active intellect”, that is immortal and survives the death of the body-soul compound. Thus far Aristotle is in agreement with Plato. It is generally accepted that Plato posits a part of the soul, the intellect or nous that is immortal. There is some disagreement on whether the whole soul is immortal, as in the Phaedrus, or only the intellect, as in the Timaeus. But there is no dispute that at least the intellect in Plato is immortal.

    So I think it is safe to say that Aristotle and Plato agree on the intellect being immortal. A question that would remain to be answered as I said before is whether the immortal intellect is personal or impersonal.

    For Plato, immortality is clearly personal. The intellect that survives the death of the physical body has distinctive personal traits including memory, etc. In fact, there is some indication that this is what led later Platonists to introduce the concept of an “astral body” (ochema) that the soul uses as a vehicle during disembodied states and that serves as a link between the soul and the physical body during embodied states.

    In contrast, Aristotle seems to favor an impersonal conception of immortality.

    Therefore:

    1. If Aristotle agrees with Plato that the intellect is immortal, as he seems to be doing, it is difficult to argue that the intellect is dependent on the body as this is clearly contradicted by the intellect’s ability to exist without the body.

    2. If Aristotle thinks that the surviving intellect is impersonal, its only activity is the contemplation of eternal intelligible objects (such as Forms etc.).
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    as I see it, the whole point of the scholastic 'doctrine of the rational soul', was that it was the power of reason to see the forms that represents the incorporeal soul, the very capacity that differentiates humans from animals.Wayfarer

    On the Platonic model, which Aristotle seems to agree with, it may be said that man has five basic aspects:

    1. Intuitive-Contemplative (Nous a.k.a. “Intellect”)

    2. Reasoning or Thinking (Logismos)

    3. Emotive (Thymos)

    4. Desiderative (Epithymetykon or Eros)

    5. Physical or Somatic (Soma)

    The intuitive-contemplative aspect or nous is that which contemplates or “sees” eternal intelligibles (noeta) like itself, this being its defining function.

    Aspects one and two can also be described as "active" and "passive" intellect, respectively.

    In any case, the nous is the real self of man. It is associated with the four lower aspects in different states of embodiment or disembodiment.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    It's a mistake to separate "intellectual knowledge" from "sense knowledge" in this way.Metaphysician Undercover

    So in one sentence you're basically dismissing Aquinas' hylomorphism.

    Hylomorphism is a dualist philosophy, the duality not being Descartes matter and mind, but Aristotle's matter and form. (In another thread yesterday I posted an excellent bibliography of contemporary hylomorphism. I'm intending to try and access some of these texts this year so as to understand it better.)

    As Aristotle explained, intellectual knowledge requires images received from the senses.Metaphysician Undercover

    But, the ability of the intellect to discern the forms is a separate faculty to the sensory. In the Aristotelian scheme, nous is the basic understanding or awareness that allows human beings to think rationally. For Aristotle, this was distinct from the processing of sensory perception, including the use of imagination and memory, which animals possess. Nous is what grasps the universals, which is what endows the human with rationality and what enables them to grasp philosophy. But this has also been already denied by you. In fact you're dismissing the tenets of hylomorphic dualism whenever you mention it.

    So the separation is properly represented as existing between the senses and the objects sensed, while the intellect and the senses are united in the activity of producing knowledge, as described by Aristotle.Metaphysician Undercover

    Notice that is the opposite of what is stated in that textbook I quoted.

    Understanding this separation is crucial to understanding the full extent, and incredible magnitude, of the fallibility of the human mind, and human knowledge in general, that is including the so-called objective sciencesMetaphysician Undercover

    :chin: I think I finally understand, but don't agree.

    I think more important is the question of whether the intellect, soul, or any other part of man survives the death of the physical body.Apollodorus

    I am sceptical of the use of the term 'survives' in this context, for the same reason that I'm sceptical of the use of the term 'exists' in respect of any purported higher intelligence. The kind of reality that the soul has, and the kind of reality that a higher intelligence might possess, are of a different order to what we understand as existence. Existence pertains to what is separated from its true being, to exist is to 'stand apart'. Within the finite realm issues of conflict between, for example, autonomy (Greek: 'autos' - self, 'nomos' - law) and heteronomy (Greek: 'heteros' - other, 'nomos' - law) abound (there are also conflicts between the formal/emotional and static/dynamic). Resolution of these conflicts lies in the causal realm (the Ground of Meaning/the Ground of Being) which humans are at once separated from but also dependent upon. Plato's anamnesis is of the 'recollection' of the 'fall' from that state of unity to the state of separate self-hood which constitutes being born.

    Because of the way modernity is oriented, only 'what exists' in an objective sense is taken to be real (which is entailed by naturalism.) There is no equivalent in naturalism to the 'uncreated ground of being', because the primordial distinction between creator and created has been obliterated; modernity believes that 'nature creates', which would have been an absurd suggestion to Plato. Conversely, from the perspective of naturalism, it is absurd to suggest that there can be anything that 'survives death' as we are defined as natural beings. Many big questions and aporia here, I acknowledge, but I wanted to start spelling it out.
  • ajar
    65
    Darwin's so-called "explanation" is incomplete. It is explained here how the animals which survive are the ones which happen to have longer necks, but it does not explain why they happen to have longer necks.Metaphysician Undercover

    Darwin stopped at what he didn't know. I read his bio lately, and he was exceedingly careful when making claims. His Origin is a fraction of the book he wanted to write.

    Lamark's explanation belongs a pre-Darwinian style of evolutionary theory that tended to be mixed with mysticism. For Shaw, something like God is creating itself through various biological forms, climbing from the lower to the higher animals where 'higher' means toward omniscience, omnipotence, and (perhaps) dematerialization.

    Since the discovery of Evolution as the method of the Life Force the religion of metaphysical Vitalism has been gaining the definiteness and concreteness needed to make it assimilable by the educated critical man. But it has always been with us. The popular religions, disgraced by their Opportunist cardinals and bishops, have been kept in credit by canonized saints whose secret was their conception of themselves as the instruments and vehicles of divine power and aspiration: a conception which at moments becomes an actual experience of ecstatic possession by that power. And above and below all have been millions of humble and obscure persons, sometimes totally illiterate, sometimes unconscious of having any religion at all, sometimes believing in their simplicity that the gods and temples and priests of their district stood for their instinctive righteousness, who have kept sweet the tradition that good people follow a light that shines within and above and ahead of them, that bad people care only for themselves, and that the good are saved and blessed and the bad damned and miserable. Protestantism was a movement towards the pursuit of a light called an inner light because every man must see it with his own eyes and not take any priest's word for it or any Church's account of it. In short, there is no question of a new religion, but rather of redistilling the eternal spirit of religion and thus extricating it from the sludgy residue of temporalities and legends that are making belief impossible, though they are the stock-in-trade of all the Churches and all the Schools. — Shaw
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    The kind of reality that the soul has, and the kind of reality that a higher intelligence might possess, are of a different order to what we understand as existence.Wayfarer

    Correct. But the sense in which terms like "survives" and "exists" are used becomes clear from the context.

    Intellect or Nous is self-reflexive intelligence or consciousness.

    At the highest level, i.e., at the level of God (or Aristotle's Unmoved Mover), the activity of intellect is one in which subject and object or knower and known are identical. In other words, intellect “contemplates” or “thinks” itself.

    As Aristotle says:

    If Nous (Intellect) thinks nothing, where is its dignity? It is in just the same state as a man who is asleep. If it thinks, but something else determines its thinking, then since that which is its essence is not thinking but potentiality, it cannot be the best reality … Therefore Nous (Intellect) thinks itself, if it is that which is best; and its thinking is a thinking of thinking (Metaphysics 12.1074b).

    At the individual, human level, the intellect has two aspects:

    1. A higher, non-discursive, intuitive-contemplative one which directly “contemplates” or “sees” eternal intelligible realities (noeta) that are like itself, divine entities, or God.

    2. A lower, discursive, reasoning one that grasps reality indirectly, by means of thoughts, images, and memory (memory being a function of the lower intellect’s image-generating faculty).

    Aspect 2 is the intellect as reasoning faculty as it normally operates as part of an embodied soul.

    Aspect 1 operates to full capacity outside the embodied soul, but it is also active in the embodied state, e.g., by illumining or inspiring the lower aspect, during moments of intuition or insight, or when contemplating higher realities.

    This is why Aristotle urges self-identification with the higher intellect as the only way to experience higher realities and enjoy the happiness associated with that experience.

    Basically, despite “disagreements about Forms” there is substantial agreement on core teachings between Aristotle and Plato.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    If it is an “illusion”, then Aristotle himself contributes to it in no small measure by making frequent references to the mind being controlled by the intellect which is the “divine” and “guiding” principle in man.Apollodorus

    I agree that Aristotle is inconsistent on this point, as he sometimes is. This is probably why the Scholastics had so much disagreement concerning the active and passive intellect. However, I find that Aristotle is for the most part very consistent and logical. So I think the best way to understand him is to adhere to the principles and logic which he has laid down in an overarching structure, and when points arise which are inconsistent with the overall logical structure, to simply dismiss them as oversight on his part.

    So we have one aspect of man, the “active intellect”, that is immortal and survives the death of the body-soul compound.Apollodorus

    So I would dismiss this point as inconsistent with his overall logical structure. Clearly, the higher powers of the soul are dependent on the lower, and the active intellect is described as a higher power than the passive intellect. So if he happened to mention at a couple places that the active intellect might exist separately from the body, I would simply dismiss these mentions as inconsistent, and therefore mistaken. Notice his use of "it seems" at your referenced paragraph: "The case of mind is different; it seems to be an independent substance implanted within the soul and to be incapable of being destroyed. If it could be destroyed at all it would be under the blunting influence of old age." 408b 18.

    So in one sentence you're basically dismissing Aquinas' hylomorphism.Wayfarer

    Aristotelian "hylomorphism" refers to the duality of matter and form in a material object. Each particular material object consists of matter (the potential to be or not be what it is), and form (what the particular object actually is). In the existence of a material object, as present, the two are not separable. But the form of the object is necessarily prior to its material existence, just like the soul is prior to the material body. So I do not see why you think my statement denies hylomorphism.

    By Aristotelean principles, when a human mind abstracts the form of a material object, it does not take the very same form which exists in the object. The form in the object has inherent accidents and the form in the mind does not grasp those accidents. This marks the separation between two senses of "form". First, the sense of what exists within the human mind, as formula and essence, and "form' in the sense of independent Forms, which are responsible, as cause, for 'what the particular, material, object is'. The latter being the form of the particular. Since the mind doesn't actually receive the forms of the material objects, we can conclude that the forms which the mind has are created by the mind. This leaves an open question of what exactly do the senses and mind receive from the material object, when these powers are "acted on". That's the passive part of the intellect, being acted on, and the active part is the creation of the forms, formulae and essences.

    But, the ability of the intellect to discern the forms is a separate faculty to the sensory. In the Aristotelian scheme, nous is the basic understanding or awareness that allows human beings to think rationally. For Aristotle, this was distinct from the processing of sensory perception, including the use of imagination and memory, which animals possess. Nous is what grasps the universals, which is what endows the human with rationality and what enables them to grasp philosophy. But this has also been already denied by you. In fact you're dismissing the tenets of hylomorphic dualism whenever you mention it.Wayfarer

    Grasping universals, by the active intellect, is what Aristotle calls "actualizing" them. This is the process whereby the formulae and essences receive actual existence. Prior to this they only exist potentially. We might say that the intellect creates them, Aristotle calls them "constructions". This is very clear in Metaphysics Bk9. And, it is here, where Aristotle distances himself from the Pythagoreans and Platonists.

    I really don't understand why you think I deny hylomorphism. It seems like you might not have a clear understanding of it.

    Notice that is the opposite of what is stated in that textbook I quoted.Wayfarer

    I'm not fond of philosophy textbooks. They are generally the lowest level of secondary source, very unreliable.

    I think I finally understand you, but I think you're mistaken.Wayfarer

    Take your time. Continue with your studies. It took me probably twenty years of studying philosophy before this reality set in. The biggest piece for me was understanding Aristotle's so-called cosmological argument. This really put the actual/potential relation in perspective, revealing the need for two completely distinct types of actualities (forms). Consequently I'm a true dualist.

    Thanks.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    :up: Great quote. 'George Bernard', I presume.

    Agree, with the caveat that how we nowadays understand 'existence' is very different to how it is understood in those texts, which is animated by the sense of there being levels or a hierarchy of being. In the absense of that 'vertical dimension', nothing about those quotes makes any sense. Take a look at Eirugena's 'Five Modes of Being and Non-Being'. (Also noteworthy that Eirugena's theology is suspected as being too near to pantheism for the authorities - New Advent says 'the errors into which Eriugena fell both in theology and in philosophy were many and serious'.)

    I really don't understand why you think I deny hylomorphism. It seems like you might not have a clear understanding of it.Metaphysician Undercover

    Because of statements such as this. You quote this passage:

    "if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality". This is from Thomistic Psychology: A Philosophical Analysis of the Nature of Man, by Robert E. Brennan S.J., which I take to be a reputable source.

    But you repudiate that:

    It's a mistake to separate "intellectual knowledge" from "sense knowledge" in this way.Metaphysician Undercover

    So, you're saying that Brennan and therefore Aquinas are 'mistaken' in this analysis, are you not?

    Previously, you also say:

    Consider, that reasoning and abstract thinking are the way that we apprehend the immaterial, but this does not mean that reasoning and abstract thinking are themselves immaterial.Metaphysician Undercover

    When the 'rational soul' is precisely said to be 'incorporeal' in nature, as I've already demonstrated with references, and which the quotations from @Apollodorus also support.

    This is the process whereby the formulae and essences receive actual existence. Prior to this they only exist potentially. We might say that the intellect creates them, Aristotle calls them "constructions".Metaphysician Undercover

    Your basic conflict is that you adopt the modern (for most here, the superior) point of view, that the mind is the product of evolution. There is no way in your view to understand how 'ideas' or anything of that nature could pre-exist evolutionary development. So ideas are 'a product of' that evolutionary process - which is where we started this debate. You can't see (quite logically, I suppose) how there could be ideas before there were any people around to have them.

    This shows, basically, the sense in which evolutionary naturalism and Platonist idealism are basically incommensurable - as Lloyd Gerson says. You're trying to accomodate Platonism from a point of view which assumes that naturalism really has displaced Platonic idealism, and then re-interpreting it through that naturalistic perspective. That's how I interpret your interpretation.

    Whereas I am trying to re-interpret the Platonic doctrine of ideas in such a way that it is not incommensurable with the facts of evolution (which I do not dispute).
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Clearly, the higher powers of the soul are dependent on the lower, and the active intellect is described as a higher power than the passive intellect. So if he happened to mention at a couple places that the active intellect might exist separately from the body, I would simply dismiss these mentions as inconsistent, and therefore mistaken. Notice his use of "it seems" at your referenced paragraph: "The case of mind is different; it seems to be an independent substance implanted within the soul and to be incapable of being destroyed. If it could be destroyed at all it would be under the blunting influence of old age." 408b 18.Metaphysician Undercover

    It is not clear at all to me that the higher powers of the soul are dependent on the lower.

    If the soul or any other part of man preexists the body then it can equally well postexist it.

    Aristotle’s frequent use of phrases like “it seems” is one of the reasons why I said that I find some of his statements “vague” or “evasive”. If they are “inconsistent” that makes it even worse, not better.

    In this particular case, I can see no reason why he would have suddenly decided to “contradict” himself. If the statement was obscure it would be a different matter. But it is quite clear.

    So I think it would be better to ignore the “it seems” bit and take the rest of the sentence as it stands.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    All the commentaries I read say that the famous passage in De Anima concerning 'active intellect' is one of the most contested and controversial in the Aristotelian corpus. A translation and commentary can be found here. Note the concluding remark 'And without this [i.e. active intellect], nothing thinks.' cf the statement in the Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad: 'Everything other than the ātman is stupid; it is useless; it is good for nothing; it has no value; it is lifeless. Everything assumes a meaning because of the operation of this ātman in everything.'
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    But you repudiate that:Wayfarer

    Yes I repudiate it. It's a nonsensical passage. It starts with ""if the proper knowledge of the senses is...". Knowledge is not proper to the senses. The senses have no knowledge so there is no knowledge proper to the senses. This is described in Bk3 On the Soul, where he discusses whether there is a sixth sense. Knowledge is proper to the thinking part of the being, not the sense-organs. The phrase "sense knowledge" is used numerous times in the passage, and it really has no intelligible meaning. That's what I mean about textbook type quotes. They tend to be of the lowest level of reliability.

    So, you're saying that Brennan and therefore Aquinas are 'mistaken' in this analysis, are you not?Wayfarer

    No, I am just saying Brennan is mistaken. The passage shows a complete lack of understanding.

    Anyway, I don't see how that passage relates to hylomorphism.

    Your basic conflict is that you adopt the modern (for most here, the superior) point of view, that the mind is the product of evolution. There is no way in your view to understand how 'ideas' or anything of that nature could pre-exist evolutionary development. So ideas are 'a product of' that evolutionary process - which is where we started this debate. You can't see (quite logically, I suppose) how there could be ideas before there were any people around to have them.Wayfarer

    Right, human ideas are a product of human minds, which are a product of evolution. But this is a very small part of reality remember. We still have the soul, which is prior to evolution, and prior to the material body as cause of it, therefore immaterial, to try to understand. And, we still have what some refer to as Divine Ideas, or separate Forms, or God and the angels, which are the cause of all material existence in general, therefore prior to it, and just like the soul, immaterial, to try to understand. So life on earth, evolution, human minds, and the ideas which they have, is just a small part of reality .

    So, all I request is that you respect this separation, between the ideas produced by human minds which are posterior to, and dependent on the material body of the human being (therefore imperfect), and the truly immaterial things, (separate Forms, God and the angels), which are prior to material existence, as cause of it. Is this too much to ask for? Can you apprehend the truth of this principle, that if there was some sort of Divine Ideas, which were here before there were any people to have them, they were most likely radically different from the ideas which people have? The ideas that people have are a feature of the human condition, just like the ideas that other animals have are a feature of their conditions.

    Plato demonstrated this to us. Think of The Republic where he asked for the definition of "just". The different human beings asked, each have a different idea of what "just" means, but it is implied that there ought to be a divine idea, the true idea of "just". But no human being knows it. You are quite fond of numbers, and you probably think there is a difference between ideas like "just" and ideas like "2". But how many different types of numbering systems do you know of? Natural, rational, real, imaginary, complex, how many more are there? If there are so many different ways to conceptualize numbers, what is the true, divine way?

    So Aristotle and Aquinas just built upon this basic fact which Plato exposed. We approach ideas as if they are some sort of immaterial entities. But when we examine them very closely we see that they fail in bringing to us the true immaterial existence which we seek. However, they do demonstrate to us, through the use of logical reasoning (cosmological argument for example) the reality of the true immaterial existence. The problem is that being only human, we haven't determined a way to get our minds into that true immaterial existence.

    It is not clear at all to me that the higher powers of the soul are dependent on the lower.Apollodorus

    This is what Wayfarer and I discussed to some length in this thread already. It's fundamental to Aristotle's treatise On the Soul. The power of sensation is dependent on the power of self-nutrition, and the power of intellection is dependent on the power of sensation.

    If the soul or any other part of man preexists the body then it can equally well postexist it.Apollodorus

    I do not deny that, I haven't discussed the soul after the body, at all.

    n this particular case, I can see no reason why he would have suddenly decided to “contradict” himself. So I think it would be better to ignore the “it seems” bit and take the rest of the sentence as it stands.Apollodorus

    The problem is that taking the sentence as it stands is what is inconsistent with the conceptual structure he has laid out in the book. That's why It's better to recognize the "it seems", and notice that this might be an idea which is actually being refuted.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    I am just saying Brennan is mistaken.Metaphysician Undercover

    I said he was S J, Jesuit, but actually he was a Dominican. But again, I favour his interpretation, I think it's accurate, and is from a standard textbook used at Catholic universities.

    all I request is that you respect this separation, between the ideas produced by human minds which are posterior to, and dependent on the material body of the human being (therefore imperfect), and the truly immaterial things, (separate Forms, God and the angels), which are prior to material existence, as cause of it. Is this too much to ask for?Metaphysician Undercover

    I can't agree with it, because I think it's mistaken. Ideas such as mathematical ideas and scientific principles are not the possession of the human mind, but are discoverable by any rational intellect.

    The problem is that being only human, we haven't determined a way to get our minds into that true immaterial existence.Metaphysician Undercover

    You're speaking from your own perspective, not that of others. I've previously referred to the passage on Augustine on Intelligible Objects. Note this comment:

    In the Confessions Augustine reports that his inability to conceive of anything incorporeal was the “most important and virtually the only cause” of his errors. The argument from De libero arbitrio shows how Augustine managed, with the aid of Platonist direction and argument, to overcome this cognitive limitation. By focusing on objects perceptible by the mind alone and by observing their nature, in particular their eternity and immutability, Augustine came to see that certain things that clearly exist, namely, the objects of the intelligible realm, cannot be corporeal. When he cries out in the midst of his vision of the divine nature, “Is truth nothing just because it is not diffused through space, either finite or infinite?” (FVP 13–14), he is acknowledging that it is the discovery of intelligible truth that first frees him to comprehend incorporeal reality.

    That’s pretty well what happened in my case when I realised the truth of mathematical Platonism.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    The problem is that taking the sentence as it stands is what is inconsistent with the conceptual structure he has laid out in the book. That's why It's better to recognize the "it seems", and notice that this might be an idea which is actually being refuted.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, you are saying that you "do not deny it" but you are also saying that it is an "idea which is actually being refuted". So what exactly is being "refuted" and how?

    It is generally accepted in the literature that Aristotle believes in some form of immortality. He seems to reject the immortality of the whole soul but accepts the immortality of that part of the soul referred to as "intellect" or nous.

    Gerson says:

    The claim that Aristotle rejects the immortality of the ‘whole’ soul is, I think, as much beyond dispute as the claim that he accepts the immortality of intellect … If the only question here regards the immortality of intellect, the evidence, viewed without prejudice, is overwhelming that Aristotle, like Plato, affirms it

    - L. Gerson, Aristotle and Other Platonists, pp. 54, 286

    We must bear in mind that the immortality of the nous was central to Plato’s teachings and that Aristotle was Plato’s long-time pupil. If Aristotle had disagreed with Plato on such an important point, he would have made this clear in no uncertain terms. But nowhere does he do so.

    On the contrary, at De Anima 408b18-29 he clearly says that the intellect “seems not to be destructible” and he gives a reason for it:

    For if it [intellect] were destructible, it would be particularly owing to the enfeeblement that comes in old age, but as it is what occurs is just as in the case of the sense organs … Old age is owing not to something experienced by the soul, but occurs in the body … thinking and speculating deteriorate when something in the body is being destroyed, but it [intellect] itself is unaffected. Discursive thinking and loving and hating are not affections of that [intellect], but of the one who has that [intellect], in so far as he has that. Therefore, when he [the person] is destroyed, he does not remember or love. For it was not the intellect that [remembers and loves], but that which has [body and intellect] in common that was destroyed. Intellect is perhaps something that is more divine and is unaffected (De Anima 408b18-29).

    What he is saying here is that in the same way old age is experienced by the body and not by the soul, the destruction at death is of the body-mind person, not of the intellect which remains unaffected.

    And because the mind that remembered and loved is destroyed with the body-mind person, the sole remaining element in man, the intellect, “does not remember or love”, memory and affection belonging to the mind that has been destroyed.

    Aristotle asserts the immortality of intellect again later on:

    And it is this [active] intellect which is separable and impassive and unmixed, being in its essential nature an activity. For that which acts is always superior to that which is acted upon, the cause or principle to the matter … But this intellect has no intermittence in its thought. It is, however, only when separated [from the body-mind compound] that it is its true self, and this, its essential nature, alone is immortal and eternal. But we do not remember because this is impassive, while the [passive] intellect which can be affected is perishable and without this does not think at all (De Anima 430a23).

    He does not say "it seems" here. Clearly, the active intellect is an uninterrupted contemplative activity that is immortal and eternal and that endows the passive or thinking intellect (a.k.a. reasoning faculty or logos) with the power to think when in the embodied state. In contrast, when separated from the body, it reverts to its essential, contemplative state.

    These are not some obscure and random remarks that we can lightly dismiss. On the contrary, the more we look into it, the more we see that they are consistent with Aristotle’s overall framework.

    In any case, since the intellect according to Aristotle is capable of existence in separation from the body, I don't think it can be argued that it is dependent on the body in an Aristotelian context.
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