• Mitchell
    134
    Addendum:
    The problem I have is with Feser's (Aristotle's and Aquinas's) view of causality. I'd like to think that it is not just a disagreement about the meaning of the term 'cause', but rather about what account we can give of the causal relation, viz., what makes the proposition ^A causes B^ to be true?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5k
    3. His claim that the existence of anything is the result of the actualizing of the potential to exist by something already actualized as existent.


    ...

    #3 seems to treat existence as a property that something may have as either potentially or actually, similar to the potential for hotness. And that just as something that is actually hot "activates" the potential for hotness in another object, so to something that exists activates the potential for existence in another.
    Mitchell

    What is meant by #3 is that the existence of things are contingent, and that they are temporal, meaning that they have a beginning and ending in time. So for example. let's say that a particular thing came into existence at some time. Prior to that time, this particular thing did not exist. But in order for that thing to have come into existence, the potential for it to exist must have been there at that time. The potential for the thing does not necessitate the thing's existence though, because when there is the potential for something, it may or may not come into existence. So we need to assume something actual which necessitates (actualizes) the thing's existence, to account for the fact that it actually did come into existence.
  • Andrew M
    498
    Indeed, that is one of the arguments that is often given. I was trying to steer us away from that particular line of thought because it takes us pretty deep into epistemology. In scholastic terms, phoenixes do not have "subjective" existence - that is, they are not mind-independent subjects of existence. However, they do exist "objectively" - that is, mind-dependently. Qua objects of thought, phoenixes have a form all their own. Indeed, it is via such forms that we classify imaginary creatures into "this" or "that" type. When I imagine a particular phoenix, I am objectively instantiating the form "phoenix".
    [...]
    Yes, all formal distinctions trace their ultimate genesis in subjective reality as appropriated by the senses. A more metaphorical way to put it is to say that all distinctions are woven from the raw materials provided by the senses. That doesn't imply that every formal distinction is a real distinction, and I believe that Aristotle recognized that distinction to some extent.
    Aaron R

    The crucial distinction that Aristotle recognized here was between perception and imagination. Mythological writings and pictures exist (and can be perceived) and so we can classify the various ideas people had about phoenixes (e.g., Ezekiel the Dramatist said the phoenix had striking yellow eyes and Lactantius said that its eyes were blue like sapphires). That is, what we're actually investigating are people's (sometimes contradictory) ideas about mythical creatures, not the nature of mythical creatures.

    "Mind-dependent objects" is really a metaphor that derives its meaning from the concrete (natural) particulars that can be investigated. But a metaphor doesn't imply anything about the literal notions of existence and nature as applied to concrete particulars.

    If a particular's form (essential nature) does not exist in its own right, then a particular's existence cannot be identical with its form (essential nature) and there must be a real distinction between a particular's essential nature and its existence. This is exactly what Aquinas is arguing for.Aaron R

    A particular's existence is itself a formal notion (a universal). We distinguish in language between existence and form, but there is no such distinction in the particular. There isn't an apple that has form but does not exist, nor an apple that exists but lacks form.
  • Forgottenticket
    132
    Are you going to make a thread for the second proof soon? I think I have more to contribute to that. I've nearly finished the book, and it has some interesting ideas.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Go ahead and make one, if you want to discuss it.
  • Walter Pound
    121
    Can someone please define what potentiality and actuality are?
  • Walter Pound
    121
    1.) Change occurs (and this cannot be coherently denied - the denial of change is itself a form of change, for example)

    Premise one can be coherently denied though; eternalism is such a philosophical view of time that denies the existence of change.

    2.) Material objects that change can only do so because they have potentials that have been actualized
    3.) A potential cannot be actualized except by something already actual.
    It seems like what premise 2 and 3 are saying is that change exists only if "actuality" and "potentiality" exist, but this does not seem obvious at all; consider this alternative: change is the inherent nature of the universe and that for every event there is a temporally precedent event that is its cause.

    In this alternative explanation of change, change needs no explanation outside of itself since the existence of change is due to it being the inherent nature of the universe.
  • Walter Pound
    121

    #3 seems to treat existence as a property that something may have as either potentially or actually, similar to the potential for hotness. And that just as something that is actually hot "activates" the potential for hotness in another object, so to something that exists activates the potential for existence in another.Mitchell

    Yes, you are correct in your suspicion.

    Aquinas, who Prof. Feser has been influenced by, also thought that essence and existence were two different things and that while everything not-God was a composite of these two things, God was non-composite and that his essence was identical to his existence. Thus, the argument is stating that there is pure existence (God) and that this pure existence bequeathed to the material world its existence.

    I think that, since the time of Kant and Frege, we have good reason to doubt that existence is a property.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5k
    It seems like what premise 2 and 3 are saying is that change exists only if "actuality" and "potentiality" exist, but this does not seem obvious at all; consider this alternative: change is the inherent nature of the universe and that for every event there is a temporally precedent event that is its cause.

    In this alternative explanation of change, change needs no explanation outside of itself since the existence of change is due to it being the inherent nature of the universe.
    Walter Pound

    But this explanation does not describe "change", as the word is commonly used. "Change" refers to the difference between two states. If your two states are two different events, one following the other in time, as you describe, then to explain change requires that you explain why the two events are different from each other. To say that one is the cause of the other does not explain the change from one to the other, i.e. why the one is different from the other.

    That is why "potentiality" and "actuality" are introduced. At the time of the prior event, when the prior event is actual, there is the potential for the latter event. The latter event only potentially exists at this time, because even if the prior event is known to cause the latter event, something could interfere, and prevent this from occurring. So the nature of "change" is much more complicated than just a series of events.
  • Walter Pound
    121
    What is meant by #3 is that the existence of things are contingent, and that they are temporal, meaning that they have a beginning and ending in time.

    I don't think that is correct. Feser has stated that his argument is unaffected by whether the universe has always existed or not. If the universe is eternal or has existed for all time, then it had no beginning, but Feser believes that his argument still is sound.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5k

    If the universe is a "thing" then we conclude that it has a beginning in time, (requiring the potential for that thing to precede the actual thing) like all things do, as #6 of the op states;
    6.) Things can only exist, however, if it has the potential to exist which is actualized.darthbarracuda

    .
  • Walter Pound
    121
    If the universe is a "thing" then we conclude that it has a beginning in time

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl3uoCi9VjI

    @15:02 Prof. Feser argues otherwise.
  • HiSpex
    4
    20.) But these are the characteristics of what we call God - therefore God exists.darthbarracuda

    Yes, belleiver like me aggree with conclusion but also no-believer say they charaterisic of reality. It demonsrate absoluttenes of any name and open 2 many conclusson. Me believe in God but have no seen propper argument, only own coclusion and is no fair to others.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5k
    15:02 Prof. Feser argues otherwise.Walter Pound

    I don't agree with Feser's argument on that point. Notice he refers to multiple universes, which implies that this universe, as a thing, does have a beginning, coming into existence from a previous universe. So instead of actually addressing the issue, that it is impossible that our universe, as a particular thing, doesn't have a beginning, he obscures it in "many universes", dismisses it, and proceeds to talk about his preferred way of understanding the relationship between potential and actual.
  • Terrapin Station
    6k
    2.) Material objects that change can only do so because they have potentials that have been actualized;darthbarracuda

    I already have a problem when we get to #2. (I'm fine with #1.)

    I don't necessarily disagree with #2, but we need to be very careful re just what we're saying when we claim that potentials or possibilities "exist." We need to be careful not to reify potentials or possibilities as if they are "somethings that obtain." I'm fine with saying that "there are" potentials or possibilities, but only in the sense of it being a fact that particular things are not precluded from occurring ontologically. In other words, it's another way of saying, "No facts amount to x (some potential or possible) not being able to happen."

    So then we'd need to also be careful with something like this:

    3.) A potential cannot be actualized except by something already actual.darthbarracuda

    So that we make sure that we're not saying that something actual can do something to a possible or potential, as if the possible or potential is somehow a "thing in itself." Possibles and potentials are not things in themselves. They're simply the fact that some state isn't prohibited from obtaining given ontological facts. Possibles and potentials are only "actualized" in the sense that the nonprohibited state at time T0 (not a thing-in-itself) is the obtaining state at time T1. The idea of something needing to "act on potentials or possibles" thus doesn't make sense, which makes the argument not work.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5k

    I think this forum has rules against soliciting.
  • andrewk
    1.8k
    I watched the bit at 15 mins in the video where Feser talked about 'hierarchical ordering of causes'. The only thing I can infer from that is that either he never studied physics or he didn't understand it. He speaks of a cup on a table on Earth as being an ordered sequence of actualisers of potential - the Earth actualises the potential of the table to be where it is and the table actualises the potential of the cup to be where it is.

    What he doesn't understand is that in physics there is no such ordering. It is a three-body problem in Statics. In such problems, every body in the problem depends on every other body in the problem. There is no ordering or hierarchy. Remove any one of the bodies and the equilibrium is disturbed so that all bodies move until they find a new equilibrium. So in his example, the cup actualises the potential of the table and the Earth to be where they are, just as much as the table actualises the potential of the cup. There can be no ordered sequence of causes.

    What is ironic about this is that in a sense Feser, as a representative of the Roman Catholic orthodoxy, is less spiritual in regard to this example than is physics. The physical analysis, which is that 'everything depends on everything else' is essentially similar to the Mādhyamaka notion of Emptiness and Dependent Origination.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5k
    What is ironic about this is that in a sense Feser, as a representative of the Roman Catholic orthodoxy, is less spiritual in regard to this example than is physics. The physical analysis, which is that 'everything depends on everything else' is essentially similar to the Mādhyamaka notion of Emptiness and Dependent Origination.andrewk

    it's debatable whether Feser is "less spiritual", but what he does do is remove the temporal connotations from the concepts of "potential" and "actual", allowing that what is actual, and what is potential, are equal in relation to reality, at the present moment. Classically, what is actual at the present moment is what is real, and potential, referring to future possibilities does not share equally in reality. In classical Christian theology, actuality is given priority, precedence over potentiality. It is only by removing this precedence, and assuming actual and potential to have equal status at the present, that Feser is able to transpose the temporal hierarchy of temporal order, to a physical hierarchy, an order of things.

    The problem is that the precedence, or priority, of actual over potential is given, validated, or justified by the nature of time. Past existence is actual (real) while future existence is potential (requiring actualization to become real). When "actual" and "potential" are removed from this context, the validity of any order, and consequently the validity of Fesesr's hierarchy, is also removed. So Feser creates his hierarchy by referring to the priority of actual over potential, but by removing actual and potential from the temporal context he negates the validity of that priority.
  • Walter Pound
    121
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A48zsMFodG4

    Here is a debate between Prof. Ahmed and Prof. Feser over two different arguments for God. The first half of the debate goes over the argument of change; can anyone tell me what the definition of "actuality" and "potentiality" are? In the first half of the debate, time is spent trying to answer that question and it was still hard for me to grasp the definition.
  • Terrapin Station
    6k
    Here is a debate between Prof. Ahmed and Prof. Feser over two different arguments for God. The first half of the debate goes over the argument of change; can anyone tell me what the definition of "actuality" and "potentiality" are? In the first half of the debate, time is spent trying to answer that question and it was still hard for me to grasp the definition.Walter Pound

    Feser (after Aristotle) isn't using the terms "potential" and "actual" in any novel manner. The sticking point is that there are some unclear metaphysical claims going on re just what the reality of potentials is prior to them being actualized. It's basically the same question as whether unrealized possibilities exist and in what sense do they exist--what sorts of things are they supposed to be, exactly?
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