• Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k
    If one accepts Essentialism - that every object has a metaphysical 'essence' which is what it really 'is', and which is only accidentally and unreliably associated with its sensible properties.andrewk

    It's not quite essentialism which is at play here, because it is the concept of substance which the Church latches on to. The reason why there has been so much to debate on the subject is that "substance" is left rather ambiguous by Aristotle. It is introduced to "substantiate" logic. But Aristotle discusses "substance" in a primary sense, as well as "substance" in a secondary sense. In the secondary sense, it appears to substantiate "what a thing is", referring to its species (and this might be what you refer to with essentialism). But in the primary sense "substance" substantiates "that a thing is", referring to its material existence.

    Here's my question then: Is there any more to it than that?andrewk

    The varying worldviews here are fundamentally different, and a worldview provides the basis for any epistemology, so the potential ramifications with respect to human knowledge are broad. Consider, as I said earlier in the thread, that one could adopt the premise of process philosophy, and deny the need for substance altogether. This would completely avoid the need to consider the reality of substance.

    However, as the most influential process philosophers have found out, there is an aspect of reality which I would describe as a temporal continuity of sameness, which needs to be accounted for. If we do not have "substance" as Aristotle suggests, or God as the theologians suggest, to account for this, we'll just end up turning to some other mystical principle. How we account for this continuity will influence our knowledge concerning the world. For instance, Newton's laws of motion take this temporal continuity for granted, as inertia, in the first law. If it can be demonstrated that the temporal continuity of massive (substantial) existence ought not be taken for granted, then Newton's first law is undermined as unsound.
  • andrewk
    1.4k
    Consider, as I said earlier in the thread, that one could adopt the premise of process philosophy, and deny the need for substance altogether.Metaphysician Undercover
    If by process philosophy you have in mind the sort of thing proposed by Whitehead, then that would be my approach. Was it him or somebody else that said an object is just a slow event?

    A similar (seemingly, to me) approach that comes from a very different heritage is that of Nagarjuna, who makes intricate quadrilemmic arguments that the notion of substance is incoherent. I don't agree with his arguments, finding them logically flawed, although I agree with his conclusion. Nagarjuna was not arguing against Aristotle. I expect he had never come across his writings. He was arguing against the prevailing Indian philosophies of his time. But those philosophies seem to have similarities with Aristotle.

    A Nagarjunan phrase I really like (heavily paraphrased) is that each object, living or not, is just what the universe is doing at that time and place. Alan Watts says it is the universe waving (to whom? to itself, would be my guess).
    we'll just end up turning to some other mystical principleMetaphysician Undercover
    Yes, we need to turn to something mystical. 'Principle' sounds a bit too concrete for me - as if a 'mystical principle' might be an oxymoron. I would think that we just turn towards (contemplate, meditate upon) 'the fundamental incomprehensibility of the universe', which is a lovely phrase I picked up from a fictional philosophical book written by the Abbé something-or-other, that was being read by the heroine Flora Poste in 'Cold Comfort Farm'.

    I would say that Newton's laws, and any other scientific theory, are rules of thumb that have worked well for us. Like the Hong Kong Dollar exchange rate, it is something that remains very stable until it stops doing so. So it seems to make sense to proceed on the basis that the stability will continue, while the more philosophical will bear in mind that the stability could cease at any instant.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k
    A similar (seemingly, to me) approach that comes from a very different heritage is that of Nagarjuna, who makes intricate quadrilemmic arguments that the notion of substance is incoherent. I don't agree with his arguments, finding them logically flawed, although I agree with his conclusion.andrewk

    I agree that the concept of substance is fundamentally incoherent. It's just like the concept of God in that way, it is something assumed because we apprehend a need to assume it. Then it ends up being just an assumption which stands in place of real knowledge, and this is why it is fundamentally incoherent, it is not real knowledge.

    So it seems to make sense to proceed on the basis that the stability will continue, while the more philosophical will bear in mind that the stability could cease at any instant.andrewk

    That the stability which we've known in the past, (what was), will continue indefinitely into the future (what will be), is precisely that fundamentally incoherent concept, which stands in place of real knowledge. So if we want real knowledge we need to approach this issue.
  • Sapientia
    5.6k
    Right, back to business. Now, where were we?

    Wrong. I was looking for the difference that makes this bread and wine different from normal bread and wine, as the doctrine claims. Without this difference, the doctrine would be internally inconsistent, claiming that bread and wine is different in this case, when it really isn't. But you've already told me you don't have any internal criticism, so I hope you don't start running back with the goal posts now. We established that this difference must not physical. So what kind of difference must it be then?Agustino

    Your original question makes no sense to me in this context, if I interpreted it correctly. When you asked me what I would see, I took that literally, as in, asking what it is that I would observe. I would observe no difference in the bread and wine.

    The purported difference is that the substance has changed, and that the elements of the Eucharist which were formerly bread and wine are now the body and blood of Christ. But that isn't something I'd expect to see, and I don't know how I could know that to be the case.

    And I didn't say that I had no internal criticism. I do. The internal criticism is epistemological: how can we know this? Even under the assumption that it is true, that question remains. What I did was emphasise the distinction between external and internal criticism, because the absence of that distinction seemed to be the cause of some confusion.

    Supernatural doesn't entail being against the laws of physics. Someone coming back from the dead is not against the laws of physics either. Time moving backwards is not against the laws of physics either (just extremely unlikely). So the laws of physics don't actually preclude any of these miracles to begin with.Agustino

    I don't recall mentioning the laws of physics.

    You have an erroneous notion of what a miracle is. Walking on water is not against the laws of nature. It may just be that all of a sudden, all the particles of the water find that their velocity is directed to the surface, and so I am maintained floating above it. Now that probability is very very very very super tiny. But it's still there.Agustino

    I disagree, but I think that this is semantic. I'd call that a miracle, as would countless others. In fact, I think that if you put it to the general public in the form of a survey, then the vast majority would agree that it's a miracle. So you're just not speaking the same language as the rest of us.

    Coming to the example with the girl, why isn't it supernatural? You know of a certain law of nature that dictates that the girl will suddenly start meaning something different to you? Not really. So the only reason why it's not supernatural, is because it's become a habit as old Hume says - you're used to it.Agustino

    You agree that it's not supernatural, which is all I require.

    Nope. Independent accounts of a phenomenon are not sufficient by themselves to establish it happens. In the case of Christ we have collective examples, with many people having seen the risen Christ all at once, and then being willing to die, all of them, for this belief. Are those peeps who claim to have seen a ghost willing to die for that?Agustino

    There are no doubt collective accounts of ghosts too. And what you are or are not willing to die for is irrelevant as a proposed criterion. I wouldn't be willing to die for most of what I'd testify to having witnessed, but that doesn't discount my testimony.

    Yes, you can add mystical experience and metaphysics to that list. Anecdotal evidence BY ITSELF may be weak and insufficient. As may an appeal to the masses. But combined, all those form a solid case.Agustino

    No, I can't add metaphysics to the list. That's far too vague and unexplained. And if you think that you've got a solid case, then you must have much lower evidential standards than me - at least when it comes to what we're talking about here. Elsewhere you raise the standards, creating a double standard. The stuff that we're talking about here gets special treatment, because it's your religion. But that isn't a reasonable, objective stance to take, and you should admit that.

    You don't seem to be understanding Christianity. The ethics are absolutely NOT the centre of it. Christianity claims precisely that man cannot save himself, so the ethics, by themselves, are useless. Commit them to the flames. What matters is Christ - it is only through faith in Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit that one may uphold the Law. Now seeking to maintain the Law, but taking out the central role of Christ is against the teachings of Christ.Agustino

    No, it's not that I don't understand it, it's just that I have a different take on it. Can't you appreciate that? I certainly didn't suggest taking out the central role of Christ or that Christ is not what matters or that faith in Christ is not essential. These would just mean different things to me. We would be abiding by different interpretations.

    Yeah, if you told me the story about the giant fire-breathing sea lion, I'd want to see some evidence for it, including testimony, and I'd also be interested in the significance of the event. If he just came to say hello, it's probably not very significant, even if it was a giant fire-breathing sea lion. I still cannot see any similarity between the solid testimony of the Bible across many different generations, the fulfillment of the prophecies in the person of Jesus Christ, and ample historical evidence for the Resurrection, the unique significance of the event, etc. etc. and your little monster story.Agustino

    Yes, I know that you'd want to see some evidence for it. That's why I asked what it would take. How much testimony? What if it was a central tenet of your religion? What if people reported mystical experiences which they attributed to the sea lion? These were not rhetorical questions.

    This is where your double standard becomes evident. You are hesitant to bite the bullet because it strikes you as so ridiculous, but it isn't all that different from the claims of religion, and if you were able to stand back and assess the situation from an objective viewpoint, then I think that you'd agree.
  • andrewk
    1.4k
    So if we want real knowledge we need to approach this issue.Metaphysician Undercover
    Do you feel that real knowledge is achievable? Do you think anybody has achieved it? Perhaps some might say that Lao Tzu, Jesus of Nazareth, the Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith or Zoroaster achieved it, although I feel that Enlightenment - impossible to pin down as it is - sounds very different in concept to knowledge.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k

    I believe that real knowledge with respect to this subject is a noble goal. Whether or not it will ever be obtained by anyone, in any absolute sense is not really relevant. I think it is only by having a belief like this, that it is to some extent achievable, that we can be inspired to broaden our horizons and uncover principles previously unknown. By previously unknown, I mean unknown to any human being. I think that enlightenment involves getting a glimpse of what is unknown to everyone, somehow seeing that it is there. By getting a glimpse of the unknown, we realize how vast the realm of the unknown actually is, and in some instances how and where it relates to the known. We can then proceed to develop strategies to approach it.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k
    This discussion was created with comments split from The ShoutboxMichael

    Just out of curiosity Michael, how did you separate all these transubstantiation related comments from the non-transubstantiation related comments in The Shoutbox thread?
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    739


    He obviously got rid of the accidentals while keeping substance intact. Transaccidentation!
  • Michael
    6.8k
    I read though 20-odd pages and individually selected the appropriate ones (ignoring any joke comments that only belong in the shoutbox). Took some time.
  • Hanover
    3.7k
    The problem is that transubstantiation is no different than any other faith based belief, where followers just accept the impossible as a tenet of their faith. Some might have studied the underlying justifications for the beliefs, most not. The basis presented for it seems to be a biblical passage or two then supported by some Aristotelian philosophy then in vogue, which draws upon distinctions not really supportable.

    We would need to split off into another thread if we wanted to really break down Aristotle's theory of substances. It's not clear why my substance isn't one of my properties, but I grew tired of reading about it online last night, so I gave up for now.

    My point is that I don't agree that the path to enlightenment is paved with being open to the legitimacy of all other beliefs, but more often the opposite: rejecting nonsense and moving on. So , coming to the party with no preconceived notions about the legitimacy of the Church, these beliefs strike me as no more or less valid than a faith based system I could create on the spot.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k
    I read though 20-odd pages and individually selected the appropriate ones (ignoring any joke comments that only belong in the shoutbox). Took some time.Michael

    Wow, that's a lot of work, it takes me fifteen minutes just to find a particular post sometimes.

    The problem is that transubstantiation is no different than any other faith based belief, where followers just accept the impossible as a tenant of their faith.Hanover


    Isn't any type of word use essentially the same type of "faith based belief"? So if you reject transubstantiation, you make the statement, "I have no faith in the way that they use words". But you cannot make any valid statement about whether what is expressed by transubstantiation is true or false, without addressing the nature of substance. And if you do, you'll most likely realize that there is nothing there to prevent the validity of the concept of transubstantiation.

    From the perspective of a modern scientific viewpoint, substance is taken for granted. And what is taken for granted cannot change or else that would contradict "taken for granted". In religions, substance is not taken for granted, it relies on the will of God. So "taken for granted" is not absolute, it is relative to God as "granted by God"; therefore substance can change by the will of God. How can we ever make a judgement about which of these perspectives is "true", when they are probably equally false, just different ways of representing the unknown?

    My point is that I don't agree that the path to enlightenment is paved with being open to the legitimacy of all other beliefs, but more often the opposite: rejecting nonsense and moving on. So , coming to the party with no preconceived notions about the legitimacy of the Church, these beliefs strike me as no more or less valid than a faith based system I could create on the spot.Hanover

    I see a big problem with this perspective. Very few things persist through time, the ones which do are massive objects like the earth, sun and stars. An "idea" or "belief" is not at all massive, it's very fleeting, and as we grow older they slip away to failing memory, until we die, and they're gone. To have a belief which may persist for generation after generation of human beings requires a very structured system of communication, word use. Ever play the game "Whisper Down the Valley"? Your decision to reject as "nonsense" a system which has allowed ideas to persist for hundreds, even thousands of years, is not a rational decision.
  • Hanover
    3.7k
    Isn't any type of word use essentially the same type of "faith based belief"? So if you reject transubstantiation, you make the statement, "I have no faith in the way that they use words".Metaphysician Undercover

    This is the part of the discussion I disagree with you the most I suppose, which I'll get back to in a second.

    As it relates to transubstantiation and the references to arcane Aristotlian philosophy, I'll acknowledge you simply wore me down. I don't really think anyone truly adheres to those views and his various categories and so it seemed an exercise in learning a purely historical system for academic purposes. I couldn't really sort out all the distinctions, and so when I began reading up on it online, it became clear that the issues of concern for me were concerns for everyone.

    One thought I did have, for example, from a Cartesian perspective, is that I am composed of two substances: mind and body. It would make sense to say therefore that the properties of the person-object are that it is composed of those two things. That would make a substance a property, and while the identification of the mind substance/property could not be empirically shown by putting it under the microscope and seeing it, it could certainly be identified behaviorally in the person through the display of consciousness. This whole issue made me question your claim that the interjection of the body of Jesus into the wafer could not be known by the person except by faith because it is not the case that substance changes are per se undetectable.

    In fact, the way I saw it is that you simply divided the world into two sorts of properties: those that were detectable and those that were not. A wafer therefore has things you can know about it and things you can't. In fact, I'd go as far to say that the real words one should use instead of essential versus accidental properties is undetectable versus detectable, at as it relates to this discussion.

    Whether I'm a better person for having thought about this, I really don't know.

    But to your over-riding point that this is all some sort of language game and that I am just rejecting their word usage, I'm really not. I'm being offered no evidence whatsoever of the claim they're making, and when I ask, I'm being given an explanation based upon a thousands year old antiquated logic system that no one really adheres to. What happened was that the Church arrived at a notion based upon biblical passages and then used the contemporary logic to try to explain how it could be.
    Your decision to reject as "nonsense" a system which has allowed ideas to persist for hundreds, even thousands of years, is not a rational decision.Metaphysician Undercover

    And so the difference between a system that I make up on the spot and the Catholic one is simply they came up with theirs first? We can pretend its longevity is based upon its validity, but that would simply overlook certain political and historical realities.
  • unenlightened
    2.4k
    Your decision to reject as "nonsense" a system which has allowed ideas to persist for hundreds, even thousands of years, is not a rational decision.Metaphysician Undercover

    That's interesting. It does have some force against the comparisons some people have made with things they have made up on the spot and that have no meaning or function. But I think ideas can be persistent because they are functional without being true.

    And so the difference between a system that I make up on the spot and the Catholic one is simply they came up with theirs first?Hanover

    No, stuff you make up on the spot is likely to be functionless. The stuff that L Ron Hubbard made up on the other hand, clearly functions psychologically as a cohesive force, and has attraction to outsiders looking for answers and meaning in their lives. But longevity does have its own attraction too, as advertisers know. 'Transubstantiation - tried and trusted for 2000 years. Recommended by your ancestors.' As against 'New improved religion, with added science and no nasty morals. Scientology, the only religion designed for the modern age'.

    Whereas 'Truth - you probably won't like it, and it'll do you no good.' is not a great advert.
  • Hanover
    3.7k
    That's interesting. It does have some force against the comparisons some people have made with things they have made up on the spot and that have no meaning or function. But I think ideas can be persistent because they are functional without being true.unenlightened

    Longevity can be the result of all sorts of things, from it being true, to it being functional, to it being a way to manipulate the masses, to it being just something that stuck and became local legend, to whatever. The point being that longevity offers us nothing in terms of proof of value or whether it'd be better to finally abandon it and move on.

    This all seems an argument for tradition for tradition's sake. And they call me conservative.
  • unenlightened
    2.4k
    The point being that longevity offers us nothing in terms of proof of value or whether it'd be better to finally abandon it and move on.Hanover

    I quite agree. But moving on does not come with a guarantee either. Seems like there's nothing for it but to think things over and discuss them back and forth and make the best choices we can. Sounds like hard work.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k
    One thought I did have, for example, from a Cartesian perspective, is that I am composed of two substances: mind and body. It would make sense to say therefore that the properties of the person-object are that it is composed of those two things. That would make a substance a property, and while the identification of the mind substance/property could not be empirically shown by putting it under the microscope and seeing it, it could certainly be identified behaviorally in the person through the display of consciousness. This whole issue made me question your claim that the interjection of the body of Jesus into the wafer could not be known by the person except by faith because it is not the case that substance changes are per se undetectable.Hanover

    I think you still misunderstand the nature of substance. If a person is composed of two substances, then the person is two individual objects. To say that one thing is two substances would really be contradictory because substance is what validates the existence of the thing, so this would be like saying one thing has two existences. So substance dualism says that the human person is composed of two distinct things, body and soul, and this is why the soul can persist as a thing even without the body. It is usually argued that Aristotle's system is not consistent with substance dualism.

    You're really just turning things around, saying that there is one thing (person) with two substances mind and body. This allows you to say that the one thing, person, has two properties, body and mind. The proper understanding of substance dualism would be more like two things, body and soul, each with properties. Each of these would be an individual substance.

    If you check Aristotle's "Categories" Ch. 5, "Substance in the truest and primary and most definite sense of the word, is that which is neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject; for instance the individual man or horse." In no way can primary substance be a property, this is what is explicitly excluded from the definition. "Substance" refers to the individual thing itself, not a property of the thing.

    In fact, the way I saw it is that you simply divided the world into two sorts of properties: those that were detectable and those that were not. A wafer therefore has things you can know about it and things you can't. In fact, I'd go as far to say that the real words one should use instead of essential versus accidental properties is undetectable versus detectable, at as it relates to this discussion.Hanover

    It's really not a matter of dividing the world into two sorts of properties, it's a matter of dividing the world into properties and the particular thing (substance), which has the properties. This is sometimes explained as "what the thing is" (properties), and "that the thing is" (substance). In any case, the substance is the existing thing which is said to have the properties. In the case of transubstantiation the existing thing, substance, changes from being the substance called "bread", to being the substance called "body of Christ", while all the sensible properties stay the same. So at this time all those sensible properties, which were prior to this, attributed to the substance that was known as bread, are now attributed to the substance known as body of Christ.

    But to your over-riding point that this is all some sort of language game and that I am just rejecting their word usage, I'm really not.Hanover

    Yes that is exactly what you are doing, rejecting their word usage. When you accuse someone of saying something untrue, you are rejecting their word usage. The Church has said, that for the purpose of our ceremony, we are not going to call this object "bread" we are going to call it "body of Christ". You object, saying that it shouldn't be called body of Christ unless it really is body of Christ, so they are engaged in some sort of deception. They say it really is the body of Christ, God ensures this, so there is no deception. It's just a matter of you rejecting the way that they use words, and how they turn to God to justify this usage.

    I'm being offered no evidence whatsoever of the claim they're making..Hanover

    The only claim they're making is that they are authorized to call this object "body of Christ". What you're failing to grasp, is that anyone is allowed to use any words they want to refer to any object. We don't need evidence to support our usage when we refer to objects with words, but if someone thinks that the word usage is wrong, then they'll point this out. If people are ok with the usage, they'll go along with it.

    And so the difference between a system that I make up on the spot and the Catholic one is simply they came up with theirs first? We can pretend its longevity is based upon its validity, but that would simply overlook certain political and historical realities.Hanover

    This is pure, unabashed, conceited vanity. Do you really believe that you could come up with a ceremonial practise which would be in use two thousand years from now? Come on. Not only is it a "system", but it is a practise. That's where I think the root of your misunderstanding lies. You are looking at this as if it were a logical system or something like that, which is reducible to a set of claims. It's not, it's a practise. And that's why "word usage" is the proper representation of transubstantiation rather than "assertion", or "claim". So if you look at it for what it is, a practise, (not instinctual, but learned practise), which has persisted for that long, then you might start to grasp the gravity of it.

    But I think ideas can be persistent because they are functional without being true.unenlightened

    You may have noticed that I have been purposely staying away from "truth" here. My argument from the beginning has been that transubstantiation is a valid verbal practise, this would most likely base its validity in its functionality. Only when Michael pressured me on the fact that my position is inconsistent with that of the Church, did I turn to truth. I agree that there's a claim of truth, as it's God who makes the spoken words true. But I believe that without God we do not have real objective truth to any words, as truth and objectivity are based in inter-subjectivity without God. At this point, without God, I don't think there's a real line between true and functional, as true appears to be a special type of functionality.

    The point being that longevity offers us nothing in terms of proof of value or whether it'd be better to finally abandon it and move on.Hanover

    This is false though, longevity is proof of value. For human beings to preserve something, it must be of value to them, so if it is preserved it has value. Value though is inherently subjective, what I value is not necessarily what you value. Longevity is proof of a value which is passed from one generation to the next. Because it is not of value to you, you can refuse the practise. But if the practise still continues, you cannot deny that it has any value, just because it has no value to you, because the fact that it continues demonstrates that it has value.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k

    Here's another way of demonstrating how your way of looking at this issue is completely backward. We can designate names to objects for any purpose, whether its for a logical proceeding, or any other proceeding, we name objects. Wittgenstein explains this at the beginning of the Philosophical Investigations, the tradesperson names the object, the apprentice learns the name. So for example in a trial court there may be an object labeled "exhibit A". What this says, is that for the following intent and purpose, i.e. the following trial procedure, this object will be known as exhibit A. And in a logical proceeding we'll say "let X be...", so that the object described is known as X.

    In a similar way, the Church stipulates that for the intent and purpose of the following sacrament, the objects will be known as body and blood of Christ. Furthermore, the Church insists that for all intents and purposes these items will be known as such. What this stipulates is that there cannot be a practise in which these objects are known as anything other than body and blood of Christ. Therefore in relation to any practise, these objects must always be known as body and blood of Christ, so it is impossible that the objects might be known by any other name. What the Church has claimed, is nothing more than ownership of these objects; it has claimed all rights of usage for these objects, as well as naming rights with respect to that usage. Would you deny them these rights?
  • Michael
    6.8k
    But this isn't just a case of stipulating the referent of a term.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k

    I have yet to see a demonstration otherwise. Hanover was trying to make a distinction between reporting what is the case, and decreeing what is the case, but failed to substantiate this distinction.

    As far as I see, there are objects of the sacrament which are named, and the objection is to the naming of these objects.
  • Michael
    6.8k


    There's a difference between naming and predication. When I claim that the 45th President of the United States is Barack Obama I'm not simply stipulating that the 45th President of the United States is to be named "Barack Obama"; I'm claiming that the thing referred to by the name "the 45th President of the United States" and the thing referred to by the name "Barack Obama" are the same thing. And, of course, my claim is false.

    Claims of transubstantiation are of the latter kind (where it is said to be literal and not just a metaphor).
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