• Janus
    15.8k
    I agree.
  • tim wood
    8.9k
    Or at least we do not have a method that does not rely heavily upon self-identified methods of interpretation.Paine

    Sure we do. called science, its method the scientific method, here concerned with replication and verification of results. Achieved accidentally by people without science, badly by people bad at it, and done well by those who know what science is, and how to do it in their own fields. And while history so-called includes a lot of bad history, it is also - can be - a science.

    "Historians nowadays think that history should be (a) a science, or an answering of questions; (b) concerned with human actions in the past; (c) pursued by interpretation of evidence ; and (d) for the sake of human self-knowledge." (The Idea of History, Collingwood, p.10)
  • tim wood
    8.9k

    In a PM, MU has made a distinction I think worth noting here, new to me even if everyone else already knows it. And MU can clarify.

    Very simply the distinction between a "logical" and a material subject. In terms of our earlier discussion in this thread, a house. And the confusion possible when it is not clear which house is spoken of. We agree a material house does not exist until it exists, but existence inherent in the concept of a logical house - just not material existence.

    Now to stir the ashes and perhaps add new fuel, with respect to Aristotelian action and passion, I'll amend my claim. That is, that corresponding to the activity, the action, of the builder building, is the passivity, the passion, of the logical house's being built. Or, that is, the builder is doing something and it must be to something, the one active, the other passive, and that the exact meaning of Aristotle's action and passion, passion here having nothing to do with anything affective.

    One may argue that it is the material subject to the passion, that to be subject-to implies change and the logical house itself does not change. But one being the material cause and the other the formal, both causes, both alike as causes subject-to. The one subject-to as material, the other subject-to as plan. Hmm.
  • Paine
    2.1k

    How will the "pursual by interpretation of evidence" ever be independent of specific methods of interpreting ancient texts? This is a particularly pertinent question when the matter is the 'lost wisdom' topic Wayfinder puts forward. The idea of replication seems out of the question.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Do you accept that a claim of ancient wisdom is largely dependent upon a description of what those old people were saying?Paine

    Another way to put the same sort of point is as follows. There is a relationship between claims about the forest and claims about the trees, and claims about the forest depend on knowledge of the trees in the forest. Because of this, disputes about one or more trees can and do have an effect on theses about the forest in which those trees reside. Forest-theses are not immune to tree-theses. ...at the same time, theses about the forest often involve much more than mere tree data (i.e. overarching theses can pull together philosophy, history, economics, religion, etc.).

    -

    - Sounds good.
  • tim wood
    8.9k
    Going back I see reference to lost and forgotten wisdom, oxymoronic locutions, if lost, not found, if forgotten, not remembered. But maybe in a sentence or two you can clarify.

    How will the "pursual by interpretation of evidence" ever be independent of specific methods of interpreting ancient texts?Paine
    Collingwood in a bunch of very readable pages gave exhaustive answer to this, first by defining and describing, and then detailing how. As I have not read it in multiple dog's lives, I'll limit myself to, to simply doing it the best you can, and referring you to the book or online summaries for details. And we might ask you what you mean by "independent," the depth of which issue I hope you will give thought to before you skate over it.

    But even with the difficulty of these, still I can agree in part. Axiomatic for me is that many even simple things cannot have meant for them, then, what they mean for us now. Example, the ancient Greek τὸ βιβλίον, usually translated "book." Well, whatever a biblion was (a small scroll), it wasn't a book in any modern sense of the word.

    Still, though, we can make sense of it and its uses and purposes. Just not through our own instantly available understandings and points of reference, but with work, research, and application and specialized understanding, all pretty much characteristics of science and the work of scientists.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.6k
    Very simply the distinction between a "logical" and a material subject.tim wood

    The distinction is between a logical subject, and a material object. A material object necessarily exists, as an essential aspect of what it means to be a material object, is to have existence. The logical subject on the other hand has no necessity of existence, and this is what allows us to talk about fictional things. So when someone talks about "the house" they may be talking about a material object which stands over there, or they may be using "the house" as a logical subject, in which case it doesn't necessarily correspond with a material object. When we judge for truth, in the sense of correspondence, we look for correspondence between the subject and the object.

    Now to stir the ashes and perhaps add new fuel, with respect to Aristotelian action and passion, I'll amend my claim. That is, that corresponding to the activity, the action, of the builder building, is the passivity, the passion, of the logical house's being built. Or, that is, the builder is doing something and it must be to something, the one active, the other passive, and that the exact meaning of Aristotle's action and passion, passion here having nothing to do with anything affective.tim wood

    The builder is doing something with the raw materials, wood, concrete, whatever. That is the action of the builder, working with materials, and the passive aspect is the materials which are being worked with.

    In Aristotle's teleological ontology, "the house", as subject, is the end, the goal, therefore final cause. As the final cause it is active, not passive. The goal, or end, represented as "the house", moves the builder to act, to build, as an active cause, the final cause. "The good" represented by Aristotle as "that for the sake of which", is the desired end, and it acts as final cause to move the person to act in a way apprehended as the means to the end. These actions of the person are efficient causation. Efficient cause is the immediate cause of the effect, and final cause is prior, as the cause of the efficient cause.
  • tim wood
    8.9k
    I was thinking of logical house as formal cause - or maybe the plan for the house more accurate. And ideas as existing, even fictions, just not in any usual material sense.
  • Paine
    2.1k
    But maybe in a sentence or two you can clarify.

    How will the "pursual by interpretation of evidence" ever be independent of specific methods of interpreting ancient texts?
    — Paine
    tim wood

    Take, for example, the debates over how Plato understood the ontology of Forms. I (and others) have challenged Cornford's interpretation that there is a monolithic Theory of Forms that is higher and prior to texts that do not fit into that view.

    Some of those references are to Cornford's opinions and others are to his translations. I propose that they are integrally connected.

    I used three sentences.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.6k

    I think we have to distinguish between the means and the end. The end is the goal itself, and that is final cause. What happens with the plans, is that they consist of individual ends subordinate to the final end, parts required for the whole. So each aspect of the plan is an end in itself, but in carrying out that particular aspect it is actually a means to the final end. In Aristotelian philosophy there is a distinction between the end as final cause, and the formula, or formal cause, as designated means to the end.

    And ideas as existing, even fictions, just not in any usual material sense.tim wood

    Ideas exist, sure. But the idea of a house does not imply that there is a corresponding existing material object. In other words, the idea of a house, exists as an idea, not as a house.
  • tim wood
    8.9k
    You are a gracious respondent; I appreciate it! And three is good.

    The "evidence" must be the original text (setting aside problems with such). Interpretation must mean what someone thinks the original text means. Debates on interpretation can only mean that some interpretations are at odds with others. Properly identified as such, the debates, then, are not about the evidence, but about interpretations of the evidence. As to the evidence itself, it is either clear - no debates, or it is unclear. If unclear, then the interpretations that claim to make it clear are properly identified as being outside of or beyond the text. The winner(s) perhaps appended as conjectural clarification - which by best lights may actually be.

    Aristotle observes that it is a mistake to ask for more precision than subject matter can provide. As such, it may be that the original text must remain incomplete or vague or imprecise. But it's useful also to return to Collingwood's four points about history as science, "(d) for the sake of human self-knowledge." Thus the practice of history a kind of Midrash, discovered ever anew, even if the thing discovered is old.

    Which implies that original meaning is akin to a thing-in-itself, unknowable, although very plausibly reproducible.
  • Paine
    2.1k
    For Aristotle the specific matter in question must be receptive to the form it holds, and an undue emphasis on form will tend to neglect this thesis. Is it something like that?Leontiskos

    I don't quite understand how the quote from Plotinus fits in. Presumably it highlights a Platonic critique of Aristotle, in which the formal principle(s) is clearly seen to overpower the material principle(s)? That for the pure Platonist Aristotle's matter will not be sufficiently determinate or explanatory?Leontiskos

    I will start by noting that both Aristotle and Plotinus make use of Plato's text in ways that shape what a 'Platonist' is said to be. Plato did not have a chance to challenge their interpretations. A central train station of departures in these matters is the Timaeus, where many of the discussions began. The bit I quoted above is Plotinus comparing Metaphysics Book Lambda with the Timaeus account. Before comparing with Aristotle, let's listen to some of what Plotinus says about matter:

    Mirrors and transparent objects, even more, offer a close parallel; they are quite unaffected by what is seen in or through them: material things are reflections, and the Matter on which they appear is further from being affected than is a mirror. Heat and cold are present in Matter, but the Matter itself suffers no change of temperature: growing hot and growing cold have to do only with quality; a quality enters and brings the impassible Substance under a new state- though, by the way, research into nature may show that cold is nothing positive but an absence, a mere negation. The qualities come together into Matter, but in most cases they can have no action upon each other; certainly there can be none between those of unlike scope: what effect, for example, could fragrance have on sweetness or the colour-quality on the quality of form, any quality on another of some unrelated order? The illustration of the mirror may well indicate to us that a given substratum may contain something quite distinct from itself- even something standing to it as a direct contrary- and yet remain entirely unaffected by what is thus present to it or merged into it.Plotinus, III. 6. 9


    Just as the Ideal Principles stand immutably in their essence- which consists precisely in their permanence- so, since the essence of Matter consists in its being Matter [the substratum to all material things] it must be permanent in this character; because it is Matter, it is immutable. In the Intellectual realm we have the immutable Idea; here we have Matter, itself similarly immutable.ibid. III. 6. 10

    We conclude that Matter's participation in Idea is not by way of modification within itself: the process is very different; it is a bare seeming. Perhaps we have here the solution of the difficulty as to how Matter, essentially evil, can be reaching towards The Good: there would be no such participation as would destroy its essential nature. Given this mode of pseudo-participation- in which Matter would, as we say, retain its nature, unchanged, always being what it has essentially been- there is no longer any reason to wonder as to how while essentially evil, it yet participates in Idea: for, by this mode, it does not abandon its own character: participation is the law, but it participates only just so far as its essence allows. Under a mode of participation which allows it to remain on its own footing, its essential nature stands none the less, whatsoever the Idea, within that limit, may communicate to it: it is by no means the less evil for remaining immutably in its own order. If it had authentic participation in The Good and were veritably changed, it would not be essentially evil.ibid. III. 6. 11

    Several conditions pop out immediately from these accounts.
    The experience of a body is different from 'matter as itself' and so belongs within the 'intelligible realm'. That could be expressed, as you said, as "formal principle(s) clearly seen to overpower the material principle(s) but the more consequential difference is that the composition of a particular individual, joining υ̋λη and μορΦή, no longer represents a unity standing as the whole being from which to ascertain its parts.

    I will stop here before saying more.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Several conditions pop out immediately from these accounts.
    The experience of a body is different from 'matter as itself' and so belongs within the 'intelligible realm'. That could be expressed, as you said, as "formal principle(s) clearly seen to overpower the material principle(s) but the more consequential difference is that the composition of a particular individual, joining υ̋λη and μορΦή, no longer represents a unity standing as the whole being from which to ascertain its parts.

    I will stop here before saying more.
    Paine

    Okay, I can see your point. There is here a very strong opposition from Plotinus to Aristotle's "hylemorphism."
  • Paine
    2.1k

    I am responding to your comment in the Griffin thread in this one because it concerns the current discussion of how "matter" is to be understood in the works of Aristotle and Plotinus.

    In the Gerson review of Johansen, Aristotle's treatment of the "receptacle of creation", introduced at Timaeus 49A, is said to be:

    In the sixth chapter, Johansen turns to an analysis of the receptacle of creation, arguing that its function is to be understood in the light of Plato’s conception of what coming into being actually is. The receptacle constitutes space (or place) because Plato needs to postulate a condition for something’s coming into or going out of existence. These are construed as “a certain kind of movement in and out of space (122).” Consideration of such movement abstracts from the mathematical conceptualization of nature. Thus coming into existence and going out of existence are really cases of the locomotion of the solid triangles out of which bodies are constructed. This is in contrast to the pre- kosmos where the coming into and going out of existence of the phenomenal bodies does not involve the movement of triangles. Both in the pre- kosmos and in the kosmos itself, movement is intrinsic to the phenomenal bodies or elements and is only derivatively attributable to the receptacle. Johansen goes on to argue that, in addition to the receptacle’s representing space or place, Aristotle was basically correct to identify it with matter. So, “place and matter coincide in that both are to be understood as the product of abstracting the formal characteristics of a body (133).” Space or place becomes mere extension. The receptacle thus becomes the continuant in change, which in the context of Timaeus is essentially locomotion. By contrast, Aristotle wants to distinguish fundamentally locomotion from other types of change — especially generation and destruction — and so he makes a sharper distinction between space or place and matter than does Plato. — Gerson, review of Plato's Natural Philosophy

    I don't know if this account corresponds to Johansen's text but it leaves out a critical context in the dialogue. The "receptacle" is introduced at the start of a new beginning:

    Clearly we should now begin again, once we have called upon 48E the god, our saviour, at the very outset of our deliberations to see us safely out of an unusual and unaccustomed exposition, to the doctrine of things probable. In any case, our fresh start concerning the universe should be more elaborate than before, for we distinguished two entities then, but now we must present a third factor. Two were sufficient for our previous descriptions, one designated as a sort of a model discernible by Nous and ever the same, while the second was a copy of the model 49A involved in becoming and visible. We did not distinguish a third entity at the time as we thought it enough to have these two, but now the argument seems to compel us to try to manifest a difficult and obscure form in words. What should we understand its capacity and nature to be? This in particular: it is the receptacle of all coming into being, like its nurse. Now although the truth has been spoken, a clearer statement about it is still required but it is difficult to do so, particularly 49B because it is necessary for the sake of this to raise a preliminary problem about fire and its accompaniments. It is difficult in the case of each of these to state what sort should actually be called water rather than fire, and what sort should be referred to as anything in particular rather than as everything individually, in such a manner as to employ language which is trustworthy and certain. How then, may we speak about them in a likely manner and in what way, and what can we say about them when faced with this problem?Plato, Timaeus, translated by Horan

    I take Gerson's point that a "likely account" does not refer to its "probabilistic" sense. The difficulty described by Timaeus is that the language of correspondence does not serve us as readily as it did in the other two models. The other difficulty is that third entity is prior to the other entities as fundamental ground of natural being. The new beginning is in that sense a second sailing as taken in the Phaedo (to which Fooloso4 often refers to.

    A scholar who takes that perspective seriously is John Sallis. He takes exception to how χώρα is referred to as "space" in the sense of extension in (as expressed in Gerson's review) and even greater exception to Aristotle equating χώρα with "place" (τόπος):

    For, according to Aristotle, this is what Plato declared the receptacle to be: “a substratum [ύποκείμενον] prior to the so-called elements, just as gold is the substratum of works made of gold.” Though in this context Aristotle refers to one other image of the χώρα, that of nurse (τιθήνη), he forgoes drawing on the content of that image and, instead, moves immediately to identify the receptacle with “primary matter” (329a). Yet the passage that is, at once, both most decisive and most puzzling occurs in Book 4 of the Physics: “This is why Plato says in the Timaeus that matter and the χώρα are the same; for the receptive and the χώρα are one and the same. Although the manner in which he speaks about the receptive in the Timaeus differs from that in the so-called unwritten teachings, nevertheless he declares that place [τόπος] and the χώρα are the same” (209b).

    One cannot but be struck by the lack of correspondence between this passage and the text of the Timaeus. The passage declares three identifications: that of the receptive (μεταληπτικόν) with the χώρα, that of matter (ύλη) with the χώρα, and that of place (τόπος) with the χώρα. Only the first of these identifications has any basis in the text of the Timaeus, and then only if one disregards any difference that might distinguish μεταληπτικόν from the Platonic words δεχόμενον and ύποδοχή.

    For the identification of ύλη with the χώρα, there is no basis in the Timaeus. Plato never uses the word ύλη in Aristotle’s sense, a sense that, one suspects, comes to be constituted and delimited only in and through the work of Aristotle. When Plato does, on a few occasions, use the word, it has the common, everyday sense of building material such as wood, earth, or stone. Following Aristotle’s own strategy in On Generation and Corruption, one could refer to the image of the constantly remodeled gold as providing support for the identification. But reference to this image could be decisive only if one privileged it over most of the others, disregarding, for instance, the image of the nurse, which represents the relation between the χώρα and the sensible in a way quite irreducible to that between matter and the things formed from it. What is perhaps even more decisive is that all these are images of the χώρα, images declared in an είκώς λόγος (likely account}, which is to be distinguished from the bastardly discourse in which one would venture to say the χώρα.
    — John Sallis, Chorology: On Beginning in Plato's Timaeus
  • Paine
    2.1k

    Thank you for considering the matter. (I apologize for the pun).
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    John SallisPaine

    A careful reader who needs to be read carefully. Not for the casual reader but highly recommended. His "Chorology" was helpful in my attempt to understand the Timaeus. Results of that attempt can be found in the thread Shaken to the Chora

    A bit more from that thread on the "bastardly discourse" that Sallis refers to:

    The chora, to the extent it is understood, is grasped by:

    … some bastard reasoning with the aid of insensibility, hardly to be trusted, the very thing we look to when we dream and affirm that it’s somehow necessary for everything that is to be in some region [topos] and occupy some space [chora] and that what is neither on earth nor somewhere in heaven is nothing (Timaeus 52b-c).

    To be clear, it is not that the chora is posited as the result of bastard reasoning. It is the attempt to understand it that relies on bastard reasoning. We cannot understand the chora itself. We rely on images of space and place. In dreams we mistake images for their originals (Republic 476c), but the chora is not some thing with its own properties and identity. Reasoning about it cannot make use of the image/original distinction. It is indeterminate and something thought of only in terms of images.
    The image of chora as mother and the father as that “from which” the offspring come raises the problem of paternity. Both the divine craftsman and the Forms have been identified as the father of what comes to be.
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