• Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    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.Wayfarer

    Would you argue that I am not human and I do not have a rational intellect? I could not proceed beyond basic arithmetic and geometry in high school math. I tried algebra and trigonometry because other members in my family were very competent in mathematics. However, my mind seems to understand by using a type of imaging system which left me incapable of understanding these abstractions. The abstract correlations were beyond my capacity to imagine, and I could not understand. Rather than taking for granted the principles which the teachers fed me, memorizing them, and moving along with the rest of the class, I tried my best to understand the principles. I could not rapidly make sense of them, I got left behind, and I dropped out of abstract math.

    This is the problem with your stated principle. It's just a matter of defining terms in a way which is simply begging the question, and completely ignoring the actual evidence. The evidence is that all sorts of different animals think, and therefore have some type of mind, But these animals do not seem to apprehend mathematical ideas, therefore you would say that they do not have a rational mind. However, the classification "mathematical ideas" encompasses a huge expanse of conceptual structures, and the majority of human beings are not capable of "discovering" the majority of them.

    So your stated principle "mathematical principles... are discoverable by any rational intellect", requires that we draw an arbitrary boundary (drawn only for the purpose of supporting your principle) between simple math and complicated math, the latter being unintelligible and undiscoverable to many human beings, who appear to be otherwise rational. But then we need to draw another arbitrary boundary at the other end, to ensure that other animals which seem to comprehend the difference between two objects and three objects are excluded from the category of "rational". In other words, we need to completely distort the concept of "rational intellect", as well as completely distort the concept of "mathematical ideas", in a way designed to support your principle, which ends up being nothing other than contriving definitions for the purpose of begging the question.

    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.
    Wayfarer

    I do not deny that we can "see" the reality of the incorporeal, or immaterial. What I deny is that we can grasp the essence of it, "the whatness", of the immaterial. Do you see the way it's described in this passage? "By focusing on... eternity and immutability" "Augustine came to see that certain things... cannot be corporeal." Eternal and immutable refer to things outside of time; time and change being categorized together, as the corporeal.

    The reality of what is outside of time and change, outside of material existence, is what Aristotle's cosmological argument brings our attention to. It shows by logical necessity, that we must conclude an "actual" reality which is outside of material reality, as prior to it. The reason why I say that we are incapable of understanding the essence or "whatness" of the immaterial, is because it appears to us as incomprehensible or unintelligible by way of contradiction. We can "see" it as a logical necessity, but we cannot understand it. The priority described by Aristotle is a temporal priority defined by causation; it is necessary to conclude the immaterial as the cause of the material. The logical demonstration shows an "actuality", as a cause, which is temporally prior to the material realm of time and change. So this appears incoherent to us, because we are now talking about an actuality, as cause (a temporal term) which is temporally prior to time itself. There lies contradiction.

    But when we accept the deficiency of human conception, we see that what this really reveals is the deficiency in the human conception of time. We fix time to material change. Material change is what defines and measures the passing of time for us. When the logic of the cosmological argument shows us an 'actual' cause which is outside of time (by this conception of time), we have no capacity to understand this logically necessary 'activity'. It is impossible for us to say "what" it is, because it is already contradictory to talk about an activity with no time. The only way which I see to rectify this problem is to rebuild the conception of time, such that the passing of time is represented as occurring outside the realm of material existence, rather than as dependent on it. Then we bring that realm of activity, which is outside the realm of material existence, the actual immaterial, into the realm of intelligibility by resolving that contradiction.

    I find it ironic that we have essentially reversed our positions from the last time we approached this issue. Then, I argued that God is fundamentally intelligible, and you said that human beings cannot understand God. Now you are arguing that the immaterial is intelligible to us, and I am arguing that we haven't the capacity to understand it.

    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". What exactly is being "refuted" and how?Apollodorus

    The idea that the active intellect (or mind) is completely immaterial, and directly united with the soul, is what is actually refuted by Aristotle's principles. The active intellect is a higher power of the soul, and the higher powers are dependent on the lower powers, therefore, the lower powers and the material being, are a medium between the active intellect and the soul, and the contrary idea, that the active intellect is completely immaterial and directly united to the soul, is refuted.

    Aquinas actually demonstrates this very well with reference to free will, and the power of self-movement. The active intellect with its power of discernment using immaterial principles cannot ultimately control the will. We often do what we know is wrong. That was an issue for Socrates and Plato, who used this argument to defeat the sophists who claimed virtue is knowledge and therefore could be taught. It was also a significant point of interest for Augustine, the soul's capacity to act contrary the intellect, to do wrong when it was known to be wrong. What is shown is that the soul's power of self-movement, which is a most base power, comes between the soul and the active intellect.

    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.Apollodorus

    That disagreement is made clear in Metaphysics Bk9, what is called the cosmological argument.

    Aristotle asserts the immortality of intellect again later on:Apollodorus

    As I said already, these statements of immortality of the intellect are inconsistent with the logic of Aristotle's overall conceptual structure, and ought to be dismissed as oversight, or mistake.

    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.Apollodorus

    The problem is that we can use Aristotle's own conceptual structure to refute this idea, as Aquinas demonstrated. So the validity of that idea is highly doubtful. And since we cannot perform the reverse, to take this disputed statement and overthrow Aristotle's conceptual structure, because the conceptual structure is well supported by evidence, we ought to dismiss this disputed idea as inconsistent with reality.

    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.Apollodorus

    So far, all that I've seen in this thread, to support the notion that this idea is consistent with Aristotle's overall framework is some quotes by Wayfarer, of secondary sources, bearing extremely poor representations of Aristotle's "overall framework", like Brennan's discussion of "the proper knowledge of the senses".

    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.Apollodorus

    Have you not read "On the Soul"? It's made very clear in the first half of BK2 that the higher powers of the soul are dependent on the lower, despite the fact that he says "...the mind that knows with an immediate intuition presents a different problem." Read it, because I will not explain it again.

    The relevant question is not whether it can be argued that the intellect is dependent on the lower powers. The hierarchy of powers is well described, so the argument is inevitable. The relevant question is whether a mind can know with "an immediate intuition". This is what supports the opposing idea which you hold.
  • Paine
    497

    Your account reflects the distinctions Aristotle is making. But the phrasing of this remark should be reconsidered:"

    In contrast, when separated from the body, it reverts to its essential, contemplative state."

    The intellect as the actuality bringing the potential into being is unchanged during generation and corruption as described in Metaphysics Book Lambda, chapters 6 and 7.
  • Paine
    497
    The relevant question is whether a mind can know with "an immediate intuition"Metaphysician Undercover

    Your account of what Aristotle says the intellect depends upon confuses this question. Yes, a living creature who has the capacity to know is only possible because they also have other capacities needed by other living creatures. Yes, the more advanced forms of life depend upon the structure of the more basic forms. But this is not to say that what is possible for the more advanced form is framed only by the possibilities available to the less advanced. Otherwise, there would be no point in distinguishing between them.

    There is a relationship between the types of soul that conditions what is possible and Aristotle describes this in a manner that addresses your question regarding 'immediate intuition'. From Posterior Analytics:

    We have already said that scientific knowledge through demonstration is impossible unless a man knows the primary immediate premises. But there are questions which might be raised in respect of the apprehension of these immediate premises: one might not only ask whether it is of the same kind as the apprehension of the conclusions, but also whether there is or is not scientific knowledge of both; or scientific knowledge of the latter, and of former a different kind of knowledge; and further, whether the developed states of knowledge are not innate but come to be in us, or are innate but at first unnoticed. Now it is strange if we possess them from birth; for it means that we possess apprehensions more accurate than demonstration and fail to notice them. If on the other hand we acquire them and do not previously possess them, how could we apprehend and learn without a basis of pre-existent knowledge? For that is impossible as we use to find in the case of demonstration. So it emerges that neither can we possess them from birth, nor can they come to be in us if we are without knowledge of them to the extent of having no such developed state at all. Therefore we must possess a capacity of some sort but not such as to rank higher in accuracy than these developed states. And this at least is an obvious characteristic of all animals, for they possess a congenital discriminative capacity which is called sense-perception. But though sense-perception is innate in all animals, in some the sense-perception comes to persist, in others it does not. So animals in which this persistence does not come to be have either no knowledge at all outside the act of perceiving, or no knowledge of objects of which no impression persists; animals in which it does come into being have perception and can continue to retain the sense-impression in the soul: and when such persistence is frequently repeated a further distinction at once arises between those which out of the persistence of such sense-impressions develop a power of systematizing them and those which do not. So out of sense-perception comes to be what we call memory, and out of frequently repeated memories of the same thing develops experience; for a number of memories constitute a single experience. From experience again--i.e. from the universal now stabilized in its entirety within the soul, the one beside the many which is a single identity within them all---originate the skill of the craftsman and the knowledge of the man of science, skill in the sphere of coming to be and science in the sphere of being.

    We conclude that these states of knowledge are nether innate in a determinate form, nor developed from higher states of knowledge but from sense-perception. It is like a rout in battle stopped by first one man making a stand and then another, until the original formation has been restored. The soul is so constituted to capable of this process.
    — Posterior Analytics, 99,20, translated by GRG Mure
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    the contrary idea, that the active intellect is completely immaterial and directly united to the soul, is refuted.Metaphysician Undercover

    The active intellect's immateriality, immortality, and independence in relation to the body-soul is not refuted at all, it is affirmed as the passages I quoted clearly show, and as acknowledged by scholars like Gerson.

    You said that “there is no such thing as "pure, unaffected intelligence" in human beings.”
    Yet Aristotle says that the intellect is “pure (unmixed) and unaffected”.

    You said “it is impossible for an intellect to exist without a soul”.
    Yet Aristotle says that the intellect is separable from body and soul, and immortal.

    You said that “the higher intellect depends on the lower intellect”.
    Yet Aristotle says that it is the lower (thinking or reasoning) intellect that depends on the higher intellect (that only “thinks” or “contemplates” itself).

    You said that you "do not deny the postexistence of intellect".
    Yet you say that Aristotle refutes it.

    Etc., etc.

    Aristotle clearly says that the intellect is truly itself only when separated from the body and that man must “put on immortality” by self-identifying with the immortal intellect, for the obvious reason that there is no other way of becoming immortal and supremely happy.

    The very definition of intellect according to Aristotle is “that which thinks itself” as stated at Meta. 12.1074b and as quoted earlier.

    So there can be no question of the intellect “depending” on anything other than itself.

    This is precisely why Aristotle refers to the first principle of all as an intellect.

    You said yourself that you are dismissing Aristotle's own statements:

    So I would dismiss this point as inconsistent with his overall logical structure.Metaphysician Undercover

    And it looks like you are also dismissing the views of respected scholars.

    So the question seems to be whether you are dismissing a point as inconsistent with Aristotle’s overall logical structure or as inconsistent with your interpretation of it ....
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Your account reflects the distinctions Aristotle is making. But the phrasing of this remark should be reconsidered:

    "In contrast, when separated from the body, it reverts to its essential, contemplative state."
    Paine

    "Reverts" in the sense of no longer being a "higher", non-discursive and a "lower", discursive intellect, but just intellect itself as it really is when separated from the body-soul composite.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    Would you argue that I am not human and I do not have a rational intellect?Metaphysician Undercover

    No, only that I disagree with your understanding of hylomorphic dualism and Platonic realism. I was looking through a scrapbook from the old forum, 2011, we were having the exact same argument then, so there's no point thrashing over it again and again.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    I was looking through a scrapbook from the old forum, 2011, we were having the exact same argument then, so there's no point thrashing over it again and again.Wayfarer

    I was beginning to suspect something on those lines, but I think that clarifies everything .... :smile:
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    Your account of what Aristotle says the intellect depends upon confuses this question. Yes, a living creature who has the capacity to know is only possible because they also have other capacities needed by other living creatures. Yes, the more advanced forms of life depend upon the structure of the more basic forms. But this is not to say that what is possible for the more advanced form is framed only by the possibilities available to the less advanced. Otherwise, there would be no point in distinguishing between them.Paine

    Yes, I completely agree with this. And if you think that what I said confuses the issue, I apologize for that, it was not my intention.

    There is a relationship between the types of soul that conditions what is possible and Aristotle describes this in a manner that addresses your question regarding 'immediate intuition'. From Posterior Analytics:Paine

    Thanks for the reference Paine. He also addresses the issue of intuitive knowledge in Nichomachean Ethics. He places it at the highest level, then questions whether it is innate or acquired. There appears to be intuition which is proper to theoretical knowledge, and also intuition in practical knowledge. His conclusion here is consistent with what you've quoted. He seems to say it is a combination of both innate and learned.

    I must admit that I do not agree with how Aristotle has characterized this type of knowledge. Notice that he says this is how "man knows the primary immediate premises". And he assigns to this the highest form of knowledge. So he will later claim that the logical process leads us from the more certain, to the less certain. But I think that he has this backward. The primary immediate premises, grasped by intuition only, are not proven, and cannot adequately be proven. So this inability to know with certainty, the truth or falsity of primary premises, is what really brings uncertainty into our knowledge. It is not the source of certainty. The logical process provides us with a very high degree of certainty, and we can know without a doubt, the validity of the conclusion. So uncertainty in the conclusion is primarily the result of uncertainty in the premises.

    Therefore I believe that Aristotle has this all backward. Direct intuition does not give us the highest level of knowledge, with the highest degree of certainty, it gives us the base for our knowledge, the lowest level, and the base has the lowest level of certainty. To understand this, all you need to do is look at the hypotheses of modern science. These are derived from intuition. However, they are unproven, therefore the hypotheses, as hypotheses, have a very low degree of certainty. Then we take the hypotheses and find practical ways to test them. If an hypothesis proves useful we keep using it, because nothing has falsified it, and it has passed the test of usefulness. As we use it more and more, we build logical structures on it, and it becomes a "primary premise". But just because it has not yet been falsified, doesn't necessarily mean that its status, as having a relatively low degree of certainty, has changed significantly. Then it becomes built into our structure of knowledge, and since it is a base premise for all sorts of different procedures, we suffer from the illusion that it has a high degree of certainty, when actually the opposite is the case. Because of this deficiency at the base, problems arise. Only when the problems from unsound conclusions become so unbearable, that people are inclined to revisit the base premises, is the uncertainty exposed, and the primary "intuitive" premises are dismissed. Kuhn described this phenomenon as the paradigm shift.

    The active intellect's immateriality, immortality, and independence in relation to the body-soul is not refuted at all, it is affirmed as the passages I quoted clearly show, and as acknowledged by scholars likeApollodorus

    Right, it is "affirmed" in those specific passages, but it is refuted by the principles and the logic laid out in the rest of the book. This is common in philosophy, that what is proven in a particular piece of work, differs from what is asserted in it. As part of the discipline, we learn to differentiate between these two.

    The very definition of intellect according to Aristotle is “that which thinks itself” as stated at Meta. 12.1074b and as quoted earlier.Apollodorus

    This is wrong. That is not the definition of "intellect", it is the definition of "divine thought". And your earlier quote says " 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". The whole point of this discussion between Wayfarer and I, for me, was to stress the difference between the human intellect, and the divine. Such misquotes, and misrepresentation of what the quoted passage actually says, and your conflating of the divine and the human, do nothing for your purpose .
  • Paine
    497
    Yes, I completely agree with this. And if you think that what I said confuses the issue, I apologize for that, it was not my intention.Metaphysician Undercover

    I was putting forth an alternative view. Neither of us should apologize for saying what we think.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    I was putting forth an alternative view.Paine

    It doesn't really seem to be an alternative, because it's completely consistent with what I was saying. You simply proceeded to turn around, looking ahead at the possibilities, rather than looking backward at the actuality, as I was. But this opens a completely different subject not addressed by Aristotle, and that is the question of how possibility is directed by the soul.

    Consider these points. The higher power is dependent on the lower power. Each power is a development of potential, which opens possibilities to the soul, as the principle of activity. So the question is, what does it mean to develop potential. We don't want to say that it means to give oneself possibilities, because then we go in a circle. So we must answer by looking in the other direction. What does the soul do to develop potential? And here, we must turn to the material body, matter being the principle of potential for Aristotle.

    Then the question becomes how does the soul use matter to open up possibilities for itself, and this is how we can approach the reality of the vast variety in living beings which we observe, and evolutionary theory in general. The beauty of life is not found in the sameness which constitutes "a species", but in the difference which constitutes an individual. Each material difference constitutes a difference in possibilities.

    Neither of us should apologize for saying what we think.Paine

    The apology was not for saying what I think, but for what this caused, confusion. That was not the intended consequence, so there must have been a mistake made.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    This is wrong. That is not the definition of "intellect", it is the definition of "divine thought".Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, that's where you are wrong again. The intellect is the divine element in man as Aristotle clearly says! And what is divine has divine thoughts.

    Right, it is "affirmed" in those specific passages, but it is refuted by the principles and the logic laid out in the rest of the book.Metaphysician Undercover

    I disagree. Aristotle affirms it because that is his position. He doesn't say anywhere that he refutes it. And it is not inconsistent with the rest of the book at all. As I said, it may be inconsistent with your interpretation of Aristotle, but that is a totally different issue.

    If you think about it, if you make for yourself a pair of shoes and use them for walking, you might be right in saying that you depend on your shoes for walking, but it would be wrong to say that you depend on them in an absolute sense.

    The same goes for the “intellect” or “nous”. It may partly depend on the body-mind or body-soul compound in everyday life. For example, the soul’s sense-faculties will depend on the physical sense-organs for sensory input from the surrounding environment, and the soul’s reasoning faculty will depend on the data supplied by the sense-faculties.

    However, the intellect or nous does NOT depend on either soul or body to exist as intellect. At the most, the soul’s reasoning faculty depends on the intellect, and the intellect depends on the reasoning faculty, etc., in the performance of certain functions in the embodied state (in the same way you depend on your shoes to walk on the street or on your car to drive from one place to another).

    But the intellect does not depend on either soul or body in an absolute sense, being separable from the body-soul compound and being its true, eternal and unaffected self when so separated, as Aristotle clearly says.

    Unlike the body-soul compound (syntheton) which is destructible, the intellect is indestructible and unaffected:

    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).

    Unlike the body which is destructible and the parts of the soul which are inseparable from one another and destructible, the intellect is separable from body and soul and eternal:

    But as regards intellect and the speculative faculty the case is not yet clear. It would seem, however, to be a distinct species of soul, and it alone is capable of separation from the body, as that which is eternal from that which is perishable. The remaining parts of the soul are, as the foregoing consideration shows, not separable in the way that some allege them to be: at the same time it is clear that they are logically distinct (De Anima 413b24-29).

    The intellect is separable, unmixed, impassive, immortal and eternal:

    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 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).

    The intellect is divine and superior to the body-mind compound, and so is its activity and its happiness:

    In proportion as this divine element is superior to the composite being, so will its activity be superior to that of the other kind of virtue (Nicomachean Ethics 1177b25).

    The intellect being divine, its happiness is divine and separate from the moral happiness of the composite person (body-soul compound):

    These moral virtues, being bound up with the feelings too, will also belong to the composite person. But the virtues of the composite person are human. Therefore the life that conforms with these virtues, and the happiness that belongs to it, are also human. But the happiness of the intellect is separate [i.e., not human but divine] (Nicomachean Ethics 1178a20).

    Therefore the philosopher must strive to become immortal (in this life) by acting in conformity with the intellect which is immortal and divine:

    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 [which is immortal and divine] (Nicomachean Ethics 1177b30).

    Clearly, these statements and many others are not isolated “mistakes” or “inconsistencies”, they form a consistent and coherent whole with the rest of the book - and with Plato's own position.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    Well, that's where you are wrong again. The intellect is the divine element in man as Aristotle clearly says! And what is divine has divine thoughts.Apollodorus

    I won't bother with this, it's so blatantly inaccurate. Plato clearly held a distinction between the earthly, and the divine, and so did Aristotle. And they both said that we ought to try to approach the divine as much as humanly possible, as evidenced by the quote I just gave you, from your own reference: " 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".

    If you think about it, if you make for yourself a pair of shoes and use them for walking, you might be right in saying that you depend on your shoes for walking, but it would be wrong to say that you depend on them in an absolute sense.Apollodorus

    This is an unacceptable analogy. Aristotle is talking about how one power, for its actual existence as a power, depends on another, more base, or lower power. So if the higher power of walking depends on the lower power of muscles, it would be wrong to say that one could walk without muscles.

    The same goes for the “intellect” or “nous”. It may partly depend on the body-mind or body-soul compound in everyday life. For example, the soul’s sense-faculties will depend on the physical sense-organs for sensory input from the surrounding environment, and the soul’s reasoning faculty will depend on the data supplied by the sense-faculties.Apollodorus

    It's not a matter of "partly depend on". That doesn't even make sense. You are not considering the difference between contingent and sufficient. If A, B, and C are all required for X, then X is fully dependent on A. There is no X without A. And X is not partly dependent on A, it is fully dependent on A, as it is fully dependent on B, and fully dependent on C. Notice that "partly" and "fully" are qualifiers of "dependent", and there is no such thing as "partly dependent", that is incoherent. Either A is required (X is dependent on A) or it is not. You appear to be trying to give "depend" an incoherent meaning.

    Clearly, these statements and many others are not isolated “mistakes” or “inconsistencies”, they form a consistent and coherent whole with the rest of the book - and with Plato's own position.Apollodorus

    Thanks for all the quotes, I see now where the problem lies. Aristotle proposed a first principle of physical (material) existence. This was the eternal circular motion. Motion in a perfect circle can have no beginning nor end. And the orbits of the planets were supposed to be those eternal circular motions.

    But this fundamental "first principle" of actual physical existence, the eternal circular motions, is demonstrably wrong. The orbits of the planets are not eternal circles. And there is no such thing as a perfect circular motion which would continue in perpetuity forever. Also, the divine thinking which is a thinking on thinking, which Aristotle proposed as the immaterial support for the eternal circular motions, is equally wrong, being derived from that faulty principle. So the idea of a divine intellectual activity, as a thinking, thinking on thinking, which was devised by Aristotle to support the eternal circular motions of the planets, is fundamentally flawed.

    The divine thinking on thinking, was an intuitive principle which Aristotle came up with, because he was under the false impression that the orbits of the planets were eternal and perfect circles, and this was proposed as a matching circular thinking. The passages you have quoted are derived from these faulty descriptions of "eternal activity", the circular motion, and the thinking on thinking.

    The logical necessity for the existence of "eternal activity" is derived from his cosmological argument. But these descriptions demonstrate a misunderstanding of what is implied by the cosmological argument. What is implied is an actuality which is "outside time", as is consistent with the Christian understanding of "eternal", and this is very distinct from "eternal" in the sense of infinite extension of time. So Aristotle's intuition as to how to describe something which is actually eternal, was wrong. And some statements he made which are related directly to this intuition are also wrong. Therefore these passages you have quoted, which were derived from that intuition, ought to be dismissed as misguided.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Therefore these passages you have quoted, which were derived from that intuition, ought to be dismissed as misguided.Metaphysician Undercover

    It looks like you are dismissing a lot of passages there. In fact, far too many for your argument to hold. :smile:

    And they both said that we ought to try to approach the divine as much as humanly possible, as evidenced by the quote I just gave you, from your own referenceMetaphysician Undercover

    Of course both Plato and Aristotle say that the philosopher ought to try to approach the divine as much as humanly possible, this is precisely why I quoted Aristotle on it!

    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 [which is immortal and divine] (Nicomachean Ethics 1177b30).Apollodorus

    How do you reckon the philosopher is supposed to "approach the divine"? Surely, not with the body or mind that according to Aristotle perish at death? He can approach the divine only with the intellect or nous which Aristotle clearly says is immortal, eternal, pure, and divine.

    This is exactly what Plato states in the Phaedo and elsewhere when he says that only what is pure can approach the pure.

    So, I would suggest you stop "dismissing" passage after passage that contradicts your interpretation and try to look at the contradictions in your own statements.

    You said that “there is no such thing as "pure, unaffected intelligence" in human beings.”

    Yet Aristotle says that the intellect is “pure (unmixed) and unaffected”:

    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 that it is its true self, and this, its essential nature, alone is immortal and eternal (De Anima 430a23).

    When we are in deep, dreamless sleep, for example, our intelligence is pure and unaffected by thoughts, emotions, or sense perceptions.

    Moreover, as can be seen, Aristotle himself defines active intellect here as an “activity”, which is “uninterrupted thinking”.

    And since the active intellect, when separated from the body-soul compound (syntheton), is its true self and nothing else, the only thing it can “think” about is itself in an act of self-reflexive awareness. Self-reflexivity is a defining property of intellect or consciousness. There is no self-reflexivity in any other part of the soul, be it sense-perceptions, emotions, or thoughts.

    Incidentally, this self-reflexive awareness is to some extent present even in deep sleep, i.e., it is ever-present and ever-active, as Aristotle says.

    In any case, it is clear that the whole discussion is about thinking in the human soul – the whole book is entitled “On the Soul” (Peri Psyches) – and that Aristotle uses the intellect’s self-reflexivity to argue for its incorporeality and immortality. He does NOT "refute" this anywhere.

    Of course, God or the Prime Mover is also intellect or consciousness but he is Universal Consciousness whilst a human being's “active intellect” is individual consciousness.

    However, the two are essentially identical and the recognition of this identity leads to the self-realization of individual intellect or consciousness.

    This is achieved "as far as humanly possible" during embodied existence and more fully after death when, as Aristotle says, the intellect, nous, or spirit is separated from the body-mind compound and therefore free to unite with the divine.

    "Approaching the divine" is nothing but "unity with the divine" when once all factors that separate the two divine elements, the individual and the universal, have been removed.

    Pretty simple and easy to understand IMO. And it doesn't require dismissing any passages either from Aristotle or Plato ....
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    //Footnote: Let’s not forget that Aristotelian geocentric/Ptolemaic cosmological principles were demolished by Galileo and the advent of the scientific revolution. We can’t turn a blind eye to that. What is of value in their corpus needs to be re-interpreted in light of modern science. On the other hand, modern philosophy errs in restricting philosophy to what can be known by the empiricism only. That is why I keep returning to Platonic realism and platonist theosophical ideas (small t) that have resonances in many traditions beyond their own. There is a core of the perennial philosophy in their works but it has to be carefully interpreted, neither rejected or accepted outright. Which is what hermeneutics is for.//end footnote.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    Of course both Plato and Aristotle say that the philosopher ought to try to approach the divine as much as humanly possible, this is precisely why I quoted Aristotle on it!Apollodorus

    OK, now approaching the divine is quite distinct from being the divine. Do you agree that before we can say how a philosopher might "approach the divine", we need an idea as to what the divine is. Otherwise we could send the philosopher in any random direction, and claim that is the way "to approach the divine".

    How do you reckon the philosopher is supposed to "approach the divine"? Surely, not with the body or mind that according to Aristotle perish at death? He can approach the divine only with the intellect or nous which Aristotle clearly says is immortal, eternal, and divine.Apollodorus

    Such a statement is completely unsupported. In order to say how we are supposed to approach the divine, we must first determine what the divine is. And that's where Aristotle's intuition fails us. He had an incorrect idea of what it means to be divine, and this is obvious. So he sent us in the wrong direction. His divinity was an eternal circular motion. So he proposed a type of circular thinking, a thinking on thinking, as the way for human beings to approach the divine. This type of thinking would be an eternal circular thinking activity. But circular thinking is vicious.

    So, I would suggest you stop "dismissing" passage after passage that contradicts your interpretation and try to look at the contradictions in your own statements.Apollodorus

    Sorry Apollodorus, I do not mean to offend you, but if the principle expressed is based in some ridiculous nonsense like eternal circular motion, I will dismiss it. That is how Aristotle described the "divine", and it is clearly mistaken. Likewise, his circular thinking, as the way human beings might engage in an activity which would approach the divine eternal circular motion, possibly providing the basis for an immortal intellect, is also mistaken. Therefore you, and every other rational human being ought to dismiss it as well.

    Pretty simple and easy to understand IMO. And it doesn't require dismissing any passages either from Aristotle or Plato ....Apollodorus

    You can't be saying this in seriousness. You've spent this whole discussion with me trying to find ways to dismiss the principal part of On the Soul, the dependencies of the powers of the soul, because this is not consistent with what you preach.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    You've spent this whole discussion with me trying to find ways to dismiss the principal part of On the Soul, the dependencies of the powers of the soul, because this is not consistent with what you preach.Metaphysician Undercover

    I think it’s the other way round. I am reminding you of the points Aristotle is making throughout the book and that you choose to dismiss. Here is your own statement:

    Therefore these passages you have quoted, which were derived from that intuition, ought to be dismissed as misguided.Metaphysician Undercover

    And I am definitely not “preaching” any more than you are. In fact, I am not preaching anything, I am simply pointing out the inconsistencies in your position.

    You said “there is no such thing as "pure, unaffected intelligence" in human beings.”

    But I have demonstrated to you that your claim is contradicted by Aristotle and by observable facts.

    You admitted that both Plato and Aristotle said we ought to try to approach the divine. Here is your own statement:

    And they both said that we ought to try to approach the divine as much as humanly possibleMetaphysician Undercover

    Yet you are now trying to dismiss Plato and Aristotle by claiming that they “don’t understand the word divine” whilst you of course do. :smile:

    As a matter of fact, the term “divine” (theios) as used by Ancient Greek authors has a number of meanings including “super-human”, “extraordinary”, “excellent”, “perfect”, “pure”, “immortal”, etc., without necessarily having any “religious” connotations.

    What Aristotle is trying to convey by his description of “God” or highest reality is eternity, perfection, etc.

    Far more important, and what you apparently choose to ignore or deny, is his description of God as an intellect, i.e., as intelligence or consciousness or, otherwise put, his description of intellect, intelligence, or consciousness as “divine” and as the supreme goal of philosophic life.

    No one can deny that man himself has intelligence or consciousness, which is precisely why man can approach God. or a higher intelligence or consciousness.

    Man approaches the divine by first approaching the divine in himself and by self-identifying with it. In other words, by elevating himself to a higher mode of experience or state of consciousness. It is only from that higher state that an even higher state can be approached.

    You cannot stay at the foot of a mountain and have an all-round perspective from the top of the mountain at the same time.

    If you start from the premise that there is nothing higher in you, it is the same as saying that you have no ability to climb the mountain. And if you haven’t got the ability, or believe not to have it, there is no point trying or even thinking about it. In which case, there is no point reading Plato and Aristotle!

    As they say, where there is a will, there is a way. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle are merely pointing in the right direction. Higher states of consciousness or modes of experience can be attained only through that faculty or power of consciousness, the nous, that has the capacity to experience those higher states.

    Obviously, this faculty or power is more developed in some individuals than in others, in the same way some have a natural ability to experience lucid dreams, for example, i.e., states of consciousness in which the subject is aware of both the dream and of themselves as a consciously dreaming subject. If in that state you focus on the awareness itself, then you will be very close to the “pure unaffected intellect” described by Aristotle.

    The fact is that most people on this planet do not read Plato and Aristotle and even if they did, they wouldn’t understand a thing in the same way they wouldn’t understand a book on advanced higher math or formal logic without some previous training.

    So it all comes down to (a) natural ability and (b) training, both of which are the reader’s problem, not the writer’s.

    My own position is that humans cannot know what a higher reality is unless and until they have actually experienced it or at least they have had an inkling of it. If humans are conscious, intelligent beings, then it makes sense to try to find out if there is a higher intelligence “out there” or, indeed, within us.

    This is why Plato and Aristotle are not “misguided” at all, their intuition is spot-on.

    Knowledge is essentially self-reflexive. A knowing subject cannot know unless it is aware that it is in a state of knowing. On a higher level, when the intellect or consciousness is separate from all other things, consciousness is at once object and subject.

    This is what Aristotle is pointing to when he speaks of “two intellects”. There is a discursive intellect (dianoesis) and a higher, non-discursive intellect (noesis). And the two are further reducible to one. Similarly, the individual intellect and a higher intellect can be united into one.

    Plato doesn’t just say “to approach the divine” but to become like the divine or be assimilated to the divine.

    If Philosophy (in the Ancient Greek sense) is love of and quest for truth, and the truth is a higher form of consciousness, intelligence, or knowledge, then this is what man ought to assimilate himself to.

    When we really want to achieve something, we want to make that achievement ours which implies a degree of identity with that which has been achieved. For consciousness to desire to experience a higher state of itself is entirely natural and logical.

    Some people claim that God is an old man sitting on a throne in the sky. How exactly is that any better or more logical?! If “circular movement” makes no sense to you, I would focus on the intellect bit and see what can be discovered in the process. If you choose to not even try, that is a different matter. But then you can’t say that Plato and Aristotle don’t know what they are talking about.

    It seems to me that you are taking a dogmatic and not very philosophical position, which is why you are “dismissing” the whole Platonic tradition, as well as the opinion of top scholars, and even of Aristotle himself. If, as @Wayfarer says, you have been doing this since 2011, then perhaps it is time for you to take a fresh look at things. The choice, of course, is entirely yours.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    You said “there is no such thing as "pure, unaffected intelligence" in human beings.”

    But I have demonstrated to you that your claim is contradicted by Aristotle and by observable facts.
    Apollodorus

    I've addressed this. I think Aristotle is wrong on this point, for the reasons I've already expressed. And I don't believe you've provided any observational evidence of "pure unaffected intelligence".

    Yet you are now trying to dismiss Plato and Aristotle by claiming that they “don’t understand the word divine” whilst you of course do.Apollodorus

    Did I say I know what the divine is? Just because I claim to know what the divine is not, i.e. eternal circular motions, because such a thing is known to be impossible, doesn't mean that I claim to know what the divine is.

    What Aristotle is trying to convey by his description of “God” or highest reality is eternity, perfection, etc.Apollodorus

    Obviously, eternal circular motion, and a thinking, which is thinking on thinking, serves as a very poor description of "eternity and perfection", if that's what "divine" is supposed to mean. So if one might be inclined to accept eternal and perfect as the features of divinity, they also ought to be inclined to reject Aristotle's proposal, as a failure to properly represent "eternal and perfect".

    Man approaches the divine by first approaching the divine in himself and by self-identifying with it. In other words, by elevating himself to a higher mode of experience or state of consciousness. It is only from that higher state that an even higher state can be approached.Apollodorus

    I don't believe this at all. The closest we can get to the divine within ourselves, is the soul itself, as the first principle of activity of a living body. But we cannot "self-identify with it" by elevating to a higher mode of existence, because it is at the base, providing for the lowest mode of living. Therefore the closest we can get to self-identifying with it would be to lower ourselves to the most basic, most humble form of living. And you have this all backward.

    My own position is that humans cannot know what a higher reality is unless and until they have actually experienced it or at least they have had an inkling of it. If humans are conscious, intelligent beings, then it makes sense to try to find out if there is a higher intelligence “out there” or, indeed, within us.Apollodorus

    It's actually very easy to understand the concept of a higher reality. All one has to do is look at lower beings, to understand the principles of hierarchy. When we know those steps well, (where we came from), then we might be able to figure out how to construct the steps to go higher. But this implies that we do not get knowledge of any higher reality simply by imagining it with the mind (thinking on thinking), we get it by understanding the different levels of the lower being. And to grasp these lower realities we must allow our minds to unite with, and become one with the lower beings, in order that we might understand them, and the levels. Until we unite ourselves with the lower beings, as the source of our own being, any talk about a higher reality is just pie in the sky.

    If Philosophy (in the Ancient Greek sense) is love of and quest for truth, and the truth is a higher form of consciousness, intelligence, or knowledge, then this is what man ought to assimilate himself to.Apollodorus

    Again, you have this backward. The closest the human intellect can get to the divine is through understanding the soul itself, which is the source of our being. And the way toward understanding the soul is to accept the reality that we are all dependent on all those lesser beings who are responsible for bringing us into existence. Therefore we must assimilate ourselves with them, not with some imaginary pie in the sky "higher form of consciousness".
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    All one has to do is look at lower beings, to understand the principles of hierarchy.Metaphysician Undercover

    For example? Do you mean other primates? Other animals? Fish? And that would put us the top of the hierarchy would it not?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    or example? Do you mean other primates? Other animals? Fish? And that would put us the top of the hierarchy would it not?Wayfarer

    Yes, all other life forms, because "soul" refers to the first principle of life in general, and as Aristotle explains it is an active principle. That active principle has caused the existence of a vast array of different individual things. To me, the ability to create a seemingly endless quantity of different things, each one active in its own way, is incredibly awesome. Consider the beauty in a garden of different coloured flowers on a summer day. Just the number of different colours which living beings can create is phenomenal.

    But within this example, we have also the influence of artificial (human) manipulation (domestication). That human beings have the capacity to, and freely do, manipulate the differences, and have been doing this for thousands of years, is evidence that we may be at the top of the hierarchy. But here's the problem I see with constructing such a hierarchy. And notice that I say "constructing", because any such hierarchical structure will be based in values, and is going to be created on values which we impose, from our human minds.

    This is the problem we cannot get beyond. Any proposed value principle, from which we might create a hierarchy, is going to be derived from an individual person who proposes it, and so it will be as unique and idiosyncratic as a colour is to a flower. And just like we gather flowers of the same type, and say that their colour is "the same", we gather a bunch of humans with the same value principle, and say that their value system is "the same". What we really do is say that human beings are equal. Now, since we have agreement amongst a sect of human beings who say that they are each equal, they can proceed to say that they have an "objective" value principle. The problem is, that in doing this, they place the conformity which is created by "the agreement", and is therefore artificial, as higher than the fundamental and most base capacity of the soul, which is difference, as mentioned above.

    So, we have to look at this artificial, created value structure, which is produced through agreement, and which we tend to call "objective", as actually backwards, upside down. It holds agreement and conformity as the highest principle, because that's what it sees as required for our release from the subjective idiosyncrasies of the individual, allowing us to obtain an independent objectivity. But this "objectivity" is not a true objectivity because the independence is not a true independence, it is still a feature of the subjects. So we're forced right back to the observed highest principle of the soul itself, in a search of true objectivity, and this is the capacity for variance, variation, which is a feature of true independence. I'll note that this is consistent with Plato's description of "just" in The Republic, where each an every individual has a unique role to play in society.

    So the question of whether we are highest or not, has nothing to do with whether we have rational intellectual capacity or not. That's just outer fluff, a general feature, like the chaff which blows to the wind. The significant thing is the unique individual seed, which lies within. This is why Aristotle places "intuition" as the highest feature of intellect, because this is where we find individuality. So a society which forces human beings to conform to some so-called 'objective principles of rationality' does not put them higher in the hierarchy, it lowers them by restricting what is the natural highest principle, variation. While a society which allows freedom of individuality provides a higher place in the hierarchy for human beings.

    Therefore we cannot say that "human beings" as a whole, or a species in general, is highest, because what is highest is a principle which negates the value of a "species" in general, making species themselves as something lower, which we need not consider.in producing the hierarchy. Providing for the capacity of freedom, variation, and difference within the unique capacities of individual beings is the highest principle. So a group of human beings may either be high in the hierarchy, or low on the hierarchy, depending on how they restrict themselves. That this is true is evident from the very real possibility that if human beings attempt to restrict themselves (the entire species) to rigorous rules of conformity, dictated by some supposed principle of "rationality", they are likely to bring extinction upon themselves. So that cannot be how we base our value structure, allowing that a species which is likely to go extinct to be high in the hierarchy.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    And to grasp these lower realities we must allow our minds to unite with, and become one with the lower beings, in order that we might understand them, and the levels.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, it looks like you may have surpassed even yourself there. :smile:

    I think we already are at a higher level than most other creatures. If you seriously believe that man can elevate himself to higher levels of consciousness by identifying with earthworms and snails, then perhaps your real difficulty is not metaphysics but psychology.

    Anyway, all I’m saying is that Aristotle can be interpreted in more ways than just according to Aquinas or Marx.

    The fact is that Aristotle has a lot in common with his teacher Plato, which is only natural. He even got the idea of the “Unmoved Mover” from Plato who says that the soul is a principle of self-motion.

    In respect of the soul, Plato and Aristotle have very similar views.

    Essentially, what Plato is saying is that the embodied person is an image of its own disembodied self, and the disembodied self is an image of Creative Intelligence or Creator-God.

    The first step in the ascent of the soul to Creative Intelligence (Nous Poietikos) is self-identification with the disembodied self which is the intellect or nous. As true knowledge is available only to the nous, it is easy to see why.

    I have already given lucid dreams as a clear illustration of how man can consciously ascend to higher cognitive states by transcending lower ones. And in exactly the same way the subject can stay awake and conscious during a lucid dream, it can also do so during deep, dreamless sleep, the result being pure unaffected awareness.

    In fact, with some practice, this can be achieved even during the waking state. Awareness is always there, that’s why we are conscious, intelligent living beings. All is needed is to pay attention to it instead of focusing on thoughts, emotions, and sense-perceptions. Admittedly, it does take some practice but it is absurd to claim that consciousness or intelligence is incapable of self-reflexive awareness.

    What we need is not to experience the consciousness of a mollusc but a consciousness that is higher than the one we already have. As I said, consciousness is always there. The only thing that changes, like changing images on a screen, are objects and states of consciousness. And they all depend on two factors, (1) attention and (2) identification. These in turn depend on the will-power of the subject. Any conscious subject has the power to choose between objects of attention and self-identification, and by doing so, to move up and down on the awareness scale.

    If by ascending to the level of non-discursive consciousness man attains true knowledge, or at the very least he knows more than before, it is nonsense to claim that philosophy in Plato’s and Aristotle’s tradition “sends people in the wrong direction”.

    IMO such claims are an expression of the prevalent prejudice against Classical philosophy that is part of the growing international effort to deconstruct, cancel, and erase Western culture.

    There seems to be a general perception that ancient philosophers didn’t properly understand the concept of knowledge, so they couldn’t possibly have conceived of anything like self-reflexive thought, consciousness, awareness, or truth.

    The truth of the matter is that philosophy begins with consciousness or awareness. Socrates himself tells us that:

    I am aware that I am wise neither in great things nor in small things (Apology 21b)

    Nihilists and other anti-philosophers choose to see nothing here but an admission of ignorance. But they do nothing but demonstrate their own ignorance and lack of understanding. For in reality, the key words are not the denial of knowledge but the affirmation of awareness: “I am aware” (synoida emauto). What matters is awareness. Awareness that there are limits to our knowledge implies awareness of the existence of some things that we have no knowledge of.

    This is the beginning of philosophy in the original sense. The awareness that there are realities “out there”, i.e., outside our everyday experience and knowledge, that we don’t know and don’t understand and that it is our task, as intelligent beings endowed with awareness and understanding, to inquire into these realities.

    Though some claim that consciousness is a modern concept, Ancient Greek philosophers had several terms that expressed the idea of consciousness or awareness and of being conscious or aware, which shows that they knew far more than is commonly assumed. Aristotle himself uses terms like aisthanomai (“to have cognitive awareness or consciousness”) and by the time of Plotinus many related words were in use in the Greek language, e.g., synaesthesis, synesis, syneidesis.

    What most of these words, including Socrates’ synoida have in common is the particle syn (“with”, “together”) – that later appears as con in Latin conscius and its modern European derivatives – which expresses the union or bringing together of separate cognitive elements as to produce consciousness or awareness and understanding.

    It is thanks to this unifying property of consciousness that man seeks to unify, organize, and expand his knowledge of himself and of the world around him. Self-knowledge or self-awareness is the core around which consciousness establishes its entire field or sphere of awareness and knowledge. This applies to human consciousness as much as to divine consciousness.

    Aristotle’s logic is as follows:

    (A). God is thinking what is best.
    (B). God is best.
    (C). Therefore God is thinking himself.

    And, as above, so below. Substitute "higher consciousness" for "God" and you get the idea.

    Consciousness, therefore, and in particular self-reflexive awareness, is absolutely central to all intellectual effort and particularly to philosophy as a practical, spiritual endeavor.

    Self-knowledge, i.e., knowledge of one’s true identity is, after all, the ultimate goal or telos of philosophy - as per the Delphic maxim that was universally acknowledged throughout the Greek world. And the means to achieve self-knowledge is self-reflexive thinking which is an introspective activity of consciousness.

    This is why it is imperative to look beyond appearances and, in particular, beyond later propaganda and disinformation and understand the true meaning of ancient philosophical works like those of Plato and Aristotle.

    My personal view is that every philosophical work can be, and should be, interpreted on more than one level according to each reader’s intellectual and spiritual capacity.

    However, as I said before, those who choose to see nothing in Aristotle aside from superficial and irrelevant things like “circular motion” are free to do so.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    That human beings have the capacity to, and freely do, manipulate the differences, and have been doing this for thousands of years, is evidence that we may be at the top of the hierarchy.Metaphysician Undercover

    There's no room in your rambling account for what Aristotle would call the 'prime mover' or first cause, later understood to be God. In other words, your account is entirely naturalist. It is utterly devoid of metaphysics.

    But if happiness [εὐδαιμονία] consists in activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be activity in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be the virtue of the best part of us. Whether then this be the Intellect [νοῦς], or whatever else it be that is thought to rule and lead us by nature, and to have cognizance of what is noble and divine, either as being itself also actually divine, or as being relatively the divinest part of us, it is the activity of this part of us in accordance with the virtue proper to it that will constitute perfect happiness; and it has been stated already* that this activity is the activity of contemplation [θεωρητική]. — Nichomachean Ethics

    It's all hot air to you, ain't it?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    I think we already are at a higher level than most other creatures. If you seriously believe that man can elevate himself to higher levels of consciousness by identifying with earthworms and snails, then perhaps your real difficulty is not metaphysics but psychology.Apollodorus

    The goal of "higher levels of consciousness" is your principle, not mine. It's the one I dismissed as unacceptable. So this statement is not at all relevant. I do not seriously belief that man can, or ought to try, to elevate himself to higher levels of consciousness.

    Essentially, what Plato is saying is that the embodied person is an image of its own disembodied self, and the disembodied self is an image of Creative Intelligence or Creator-God.Apollodorus

    I really don't see how an embodied person be can an image of a disembodied self. Embodied and disembodied do not at all resemble each other, so one cannot be an "image" of the other. Think of a physical sign, like a word, or a numeral "2'' for example. The physical symbol is in no way an image of the immaterial idea. That the material is an image of the immaterial is a misunderstanding. Yes there is a relation between the material and the immaterial, and we may say it's a type of representation, but it is not a relation of imaging. This is just a continuation of your backward way of looking at things.

    I have already given lucid dreams as a clear illustration of how man can consciously ascend to higher cognitive states by transcending lower ones. And in exactly the same way the subject can stay awake and conscious during a lucid dream, it can also do so during deep, dreamless sleep, the result being pure unaffected awareness.Apollodorus

    Your phrase was "pure unaffected intelligence". Lucid dreaming is simply a matter of a person having some conscious control over one's dreams. How is this even related to "intelligence"?

    Awareness is always there, that’s why we are conscious, intelligent living beings.Apollodorus

    There's a big difference between being conscious and being intelligent. Not all cases of being conscious involve being intelligent. That's the difference between other animals and human beings, which Wayfarer refers to. I don't deny the reality of this difference, I just deny the significance which Wayfarer assigns to the difference. If you want to make being conscious the same as being intelligent, then on what basis would you even start to talk about different levels of consciousness?

    What we need is not to experience the consciousness of a mollusc but a consciousness that is higher than the one we already have. As I said, consciousness is always there.Apollodorus

    This doesn't make any sense to me. If consciousness is always there, as a property, how can you assume a higher consciousness and a lower consciousness? Suppose green is always there, there are things which are always green. What would constitute a higher green and a lower green?

    It's having consciousness plus something else, intelligence for example, which produces something higher. So if we want something higher than consciousness plus intelligence, it's not a higher level of either one of these that we are looking for, but another power, a new power, to add on to these.

    It is thanks to this unifying property of consciousness that man seeks to unify, organize, and expand his knowledge of himself and of the world around him. Self-knowledge or self-awareness is the core around which consciousness establishes its entire field or sphere of awareness and knowledge. This applies to human consciousness as much as to divine consciousness.Apollodorus

    It appears like you do not even distinguish between consciousness and self-consciousness. Perhaps if you did, you would see that these two are not different "levels of consciousness", but self-consciousness is just a special type of consciousness. You have stated no value principle to show that self-consciousness (being conscious of oneself) is higher than consciousness of any other type of object. A bird is conscious of the twigs it builds a nest out of, a beaver is conscious of the logs it builds a dam of. Why would being conscious of oneself be a higher type of consciousness? What purpose does this serve?

    Aristotle’s logic is as follows:

    (A). God is thinking what is best.
    (B). God is best.
    (C). Therefore God is thinking himself.

    And, as above, so below. Substitute "higher consciousness" for "God" and you get the idea.
    Apollodorus

    Obviously, that's a vicious circle created by begging the question. The higher consciousness only thinks about what is best. The higher consciousness is best. Therefore the higher consciousness only thinks about itself. Notice the premise which begs the question "the higher consciousness is best". You've presented selfishness as if it were good.

    My personal view is that every philosophical work can be, and should be, interpreted on more than one level according to each reader’s intellectual and spiritual capacity.

    However, as I said before, those who choose to see nothing in Aristotle aside from superficial and irrelevant things like “circular motion” are free to do so.
    Apollodorus

    The problem with your position is, that you reject the volumes of intelligent, logical, scientific, and philosophical principles Aristotle put forward, because they are inconsistent with the principles you accept, principles derived from the irrelevant and faulty intuitions of circular motion and circular thinking.

    There's no room in your rambling account for what Aristotle would call the 'prime mover' or first cause, later understood to be God. In other words, your account is entirely naturalist. It is utterly devoid of metaphysics.Wayfarer

    As I explained, Aristotle's "prime mover", as eternal circular motions, is a faulty intuition. And my account is not devoid of metaphysics, it is a naturalist metaphysics, just like Aristotle's is if you dismiss the nonsense of the unmoved movers. Since the natural is prior to the artificial, and the artificial is dependent on the natural, as a feature of it, (according to what has been already explained), then any good metaphysics must be based in the natural rather than the artificial. But this does not mean that we cannot take principles learned from the nature of the artificial, like final cause, free will, and intention, and apply then toward understanding the natural. Afterall, the artificial is a feature of the natural.

    It's all hot air to you, ain't it?Wayfarer

    Yes it is all hot air, because there is a faulty premise in this passage, and that is that the intellect is the divinest part of us. It's not, the soul is the divinest part. And, as I've argued in this thread, by Aristotle\s own principles there is a material separation between the soul and the intellect. The soul is prior to the material body, the intellect posterior. Once we recognize that this premise is faulty, then we cannot say that the virtue proper to the divinest part is contemplation, because the intellect is not the divinest part. And when we look at the soul as the divinest part, we see that the virtue proper to it is the creation of potential, as the vast array of possibilities which we observe to inhere in all the different life forms as their various powers.

    So when we look at the human being, we see that contemplation contributes to the creation of potential, but it does not fulfill this on its own. The human being must act on its thoughts, through the means of its material body, to actual produce any potentials which are thought about. Therefore contemplation itself, cannot be the highest virtue.
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    I have found Dennett's 2017 writing good in some ways, but it is here that he does come up with the idea that consciousness is an illusion.Jack Cummins

    I could never understand this claim. What does it actually mean? The mirage of a pool of water in the scorching sun of the Sahara is an illusion (there's no pool of water).

    So, if consciousness is an illusion, it's like the mirage i.e. there's no such thing as consciousness. If so, what we believe is consciousness is either not consciousness as defined (whatever way it's defined) or that consciousness is simply a word with an empty extension no matter how we define it.

    Plus, consciousness is wholly subjective i.e. your experience may differ radically from mine and others'. In that case consciousness is an empty word, it refers not. Illusion?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k


    Designating the intellect as the part of the human being nearest the divine, rather than assuming the soul as nearest the divine, is a very good example of the mistake described by the classic saying of "putting the cart before the horse".
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    The higher consciousness is best. Therefore the higher consciousness only thinks about itself. Notice the premise which begs the question "the higher consciousness is best". You've presented selfishness as if it were good.Metaphysician Undercover

    I think you are deliberately misinterpreting my statement, as well as ignoring the arguments presented by Aristotle in the relevant sections of the text.

    It appears like you do not even distinguish between consciousness and self-consciousness. Perhaps if you did, you would see that these two are not different "levels of consciousness", but self-consciousness is just a special type of consciousness.Metaphysician Undercover

    Of course self-consciousness is a type of consciousness. But self-reflexive consciousness or consciousness being aware of itself is on a higher level than objective consciousness or consciousness being aware of things other than itself. Aristotle himself distinguishes between "active" and "passive" consciousness and clearly classifies the former as higher than the latter.

    Anyway, a major plank in the anti-Western and anti-Classical disinformation campaign is the supposed opposition between Plato and Aristotle, Aristotle being variously styled an anti-Platonist champion of Christianity, Islam, and “progress”.

    Among the claims made on behalf of Aristotle is that he rejects Plato’s key teachings, the immortality of the soul and the Theory of Forms.

    These claims have long been refuted by scholars like Fine (On Ideas) and Gerson (Aristotle and Other Platonists) yet they are still being recycled and promoted by the anti-Platonist brigade.

    As Gerson has pointed out, this has reached such absurd dimensions that views clearly espoused by Plato in his works are dismissed as “Aristotelian” or, even worse, as “Neoplatonist”.

    The truth of the matter is that none of these claims are correct. Aristotle does seem to reject the immortality of the lower part of the soul (psyche), but not of the higher part called “intellect” (nous). On this point he is in agreement with Plato who holds that less evolved souls are subject to rebirth but that in evolved souls what remains after the death of the physical body is the intellectual or spiritual part which is the seat of consciousness.

    Similarly, Aristotle does not seem to reject the Forms as such but only certain interpretations of the Theory of Forms, several versions of which were discussed within the Platonic Academy. In fact, Aristotle does not reject eternal intelligibles and he posits a “Prime Unmoved Mover” whose eternal thinking is of eternal intelligible objects which are similar or identical with Plato’s Forms. He certainly treats the terms “intelligible object” (noeton) and “Form” (eidos) as synonymous:

    Now, if thinking is analogous to perceiving, it will consist in a being acted upon by the object of thought (noeton) or in something else of this kind. This part of the soul [the nous], then, must be impassive, but receptive of the Form (eidos) and potentially like this Form, though not identical with it … Therefore it has been well said that the soul is a place of Forms (eide): except that this is not true of the whole soul, but only of the soul which can think, and again that the Forms (eide) are there not in actuality, but potentiality … But the intellect, when it has been thinking on an object of intense thought, is not less, but even more, able to think of inferior objects. For the perceptive faculty is not independent of body, whereas intellect is separable. But when the intellect has thus become everything in the sense in which one who actually is a scholar is said to be so (which happens so soon as he can exercise his power of himself), even then it is still in one sense but a capacity: not, however, a capacity in the same sense as before it learned or discovered. And, moreover, at this stage intellect is capable of thinking itself (De Anima 429a15 ff.).

    The intellect’s capacity to “think itself” identifies it as a form of consciousness and highlights the similarity between Plato’s and Aristotle’s conception of intellect or nous. It is this close similarity that enables those familiar with Plato to correctly understand Aristotle.

    In the Republic, Socrates gives examples of hierarchies of beauty and knowledge (or truth).

    As examples of different kinds of beauty he lists a beautiful girl, a beautiful horse, and a beautiful lyre (Hippias Major 287e-289d).

    “Beautiful” in this particular context means pleasing to the eye. Obviously, one may argue that in addition to her pleasant looks, a girl can be pleasing to other sensory faculties such as touch, or she may have a beautiful voice. A horse lover might say that the horse, in addition to beautiful shape and color, also possesses power, speed, and a pleasant grassy-earthy scent. The music lover might insist that in addition to being beautifully crafted, the lyre produces beautiful sounds, etc. But for our present purposes, we will limit ourselves to sight and say that all three are equally beautiful.

    Having shown that there are different kinds of beauty, Socrates next proceeds to show that there are different degrees of beauty, saying that even a beautiful girl would be “ugly” compared to a Goddess. So, basically, the beautiful girl is more beautiful than the average girl, the Goddess is more beautiful than the beautiful girl, and Beauty itself is the most beautiful of all.

    The same applies to knowledge. There are different kinds (e.g., astronomy, mathematics, logic) and different degrees:

    1. Illusion (eikasia)
    2. Right belief (pistis or right opinion doxa)
    3. Knowledge based on reason (dianoia)
    4. Intuition or insight (noesis).

    Similarly, as stated before, there are different states of consciousness and degrees of wakefulness such as waking, dreaming, deep sleep, etc., and different substates within each of them that may be classified according to the prominence of different elements of cognition.

    As Plato says:

    “This reality, then, that gives their truth to the objects of knowledge and the power of knowing to the knower, you must say is the Form of the Good, and you must consider it as being the cause of knowledge and truth, and an object of knowledge“ (Rep. 508e1-4).

    Here we have all basic elements of cognition:

    (1) Object of knowledge
    (2) Power or means of knowledge
    (3) The knowing subject or knower
    (4) Knowledge or awareness itself.

    1. WAKING STATE. If we take visual perception in the waking state as an example, the cognitive element in the first stage is the object of sight, when objective consciousness predominates.

    But if we defocus our vision from the object (as when gazing into midair) and mentally focus on the act of seeing, the object becomes less clear and instrumental consciousness takes over, giving rise to a second stage analogous to the dream state (as in daydreaming).

    As we draw our attention further inward, the object of perception becomes even less clear and subjective consciousness becomes more prominent.

    Finally, the object of perception fades into a barely perceptible, indeterminate mass of color, and knowledge or awareness itself becomes the dominant element. It is at this point that we get a first glimpse of Aristotle’s “pure and unaffected intellect” followed in descending order by cognizing subject, means of cognition, and object of sensory cognition.

    The "pure and unaffected intellect" is consciousness in itself prior to the emergence of cognizing subject and other elements of sensory cognition.

    2. DREAM STATE. The next-higher state is the dream state proper, where instrumental consciousness is the dominant element and takes the place of the objective consciousness of the waking state. In this first stage, consciousness of the physical world is dormant and memory and imagination take over, creating a dream world in which subjective consciousness is completely submerged.

    In the next stages of the dream state, as the instrumental and subjective aspects of cognition take over, the subject can become aware of the fact that it is dreaming. It is at this point that lucid dreams and precognitive dreams occur.

    It now becomes clear that the “intellect” or nous, i.e., consciousness itself, generates or projects the subjective, instrumental, and objective elements of cognition.

    It is only when we have reached this stage that we become aware of the true power of consciousness and we begin to understand statements to the effect that “intellect thinks itself”, “intellect (nous) and intelligible object (noeton) are identical”, etc. (Metaphysics.1072b21).

    Though mostly ignored by scholars of Classical philosophy, dreams played an important role in Ancient Greece and in later Hellenistic culture, and prominent Platonists like Proclus are known to have experienced visionary dreams.

    I have no idea if any of this can be corroborated by strict scientific methods, but Classical philosophy is about practice and personal experience and IMO those who take the time to find out for themselves are likely to know more about these matters than those who don’t.

    So we'll just have to agree to disagree. No big deal. I'm sure @Jack wants his thread back, anyway, and I've got other things to do .... :smile:
  • javra
    1.7k
    [...] Aristotle does seem to reject the immortality of the lower part of the soul (psyche), but not of the higher part called “intellect” (nous). On this point he is in agreement with Plato who holds that less evolved souls are subject to rebirth but that in evolved souls what remains after the death of the physical body is the intellectual or spiritual part which is the seat of consciousness.Apollodorus

    [...] and we begin to understand statements to the effect that “intellect thinks itself”, “intellect (nous) and intelligible object (noeton) are identical”, etc. (Metaphysics.1072b21).Apollodorus

    Before you take off, I’d be grateful if you could to whatever extent confer or else repudiate this interpretation of Ancient Greek thought:

    Regarding contexts such as those just quoted: We nowadays best interpret nous as intellect. Intellect to us most always connotes thought as reasoning, which by its nature ratios givens into differences. I associate this with Ancient Greek logos. However, in the context of “an intellect/nous holding its very self as the object of focus”, intellect/nous seems to me to be more primarily addressing what we nowadays would call the faculty of understanding - rather than the faculty of rational thinking - such that, while we humans gain most of our understandings through reasoning/logos, there yet remains a fundamental difference between “a reasoning” and “an understanding”, the latter for example being the aim of the former. Hence, in the context of God is a thinker thinking him/her/itself, instead of translating Aristotle to say that God is a reasoner reasoning him/her/itself, I’m currently persuaded to think it more accurate to translate this as God is an understander understanding him/her/itself. Knowledge of self in the sense of gnosis rather than JTB … gnosis being more akin to our understanding of “understanding” rather than JTB which, due to having justification as part of it, will always in part address reasoning/ratio-ing/logos (something not necessitated of gnosis).

    In this same vein, all animals use reasoning/ratio-ing/logos to some extent so as to live their lives but humans are worlds apart from all other animals in our qualitative magnitude regarding the capacity of understanding/nous. Here again, "intellect" in the sense of "understanding".
  • Paine
    497
    Aristotle does seem to reject the immortality of the lower part of the soul (psyche), but not of the higher part called “intellect” (nous). On this point he is in agreement with Plato who holds that less evolved souls are subject to rebirth but that in evolved souls what remains after the death of the physical body is the intellectual or spiritual part which is the seat of consciousness.Apollodorus

    Where do you see support for this interpretation in Aristotle? It sounds like you are saying the Nous, as a principle, is a substance of some kind.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    read this excerpt I often refer to https://thomasofaquino.blogspot.com/2013/12/sensible-form-and-intelligible-form.html

    Also do a search for the term union of knower and known for a smorgasbord of references, many to Thomism. The first ref is quite useful if sketchy.

    The basic idea behind all of this is that of hylomorphic dualism - that the psyche (soul) has two aspects, sensory and intellectual. Intellect is what sees the forms/essence/ideas and it does that by in some sense becoming one with it. Obviously there is no such union on the level of sensory interaction but there is on the level of the intellect.

    This is actually a remnant of non-dualism that is preserved in classical philosophy, although it has died out everywhere but in neo-Thomism.
  • javra
    1.7k
    The basic idea behind all of this is that of hylomorphic dualism - that the psyche (soul) has two aspects, sensory and intellectual. Intellect is what sees the forms/essence/ideas and it does that by in some sense becoming one with it. Obviously there is no such union on the level of sensory interaction but there is on the level of the intellect.Wayfarer

    Thanks for the references. I'll check them out. I'm familiar with hylomorphic dualism. I do prefer the term "anima" to "soul" due their differing connotations, thought they can end up meaning the same thing. But yes, I'm in agreement with this perspective.

    Still, I grant that I haven't familiarized myself with Thomism very well.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    me neither. I’ve been joining the dots between Plato>Aristotle>Thomism. It’s a painstaking process and I’m constantly aware of how much I haven’t read and don’t know; going back and doing the reading seems incredibly daunting, although I’m getting through some. (And even if I manage to do all that, then so what?)

    Anyway, what I suspect at back of all this, is that ‘nous’ has a meaning which modernity, generally, literally can’t understand. It’s something that was lost in the transition to modernity, to understand it requires a shift in perspective.
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