• Wayfarer
    6.6k
    First Things review.

    Notre Dame review.

    I prefer the first. Gives an excellent potted history and also explains how Kripke's 'naming and necessity' fits into the picture. I have discovered that I myself am obliged to accept the reality of Platonic forms, essences and substantial being, so am rather pleased that it's making a comeback.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    898
    I have discovered that I myself am obliged to accept the reality of Platonic forms, essences and substantial being, so am rather pleased that it's making a comebackWayfarer

    The book is about neo-aristotelians, not neo-platonists.
  • gurugeorge
    517
    The book is about neo-aristotelians, not neo-platonistsΠετροκότσυφας
    I think in the broader context, they're closer to each other than either of them are to modern philosophy.

    I too cheer on the signs of revival of - let's call them "classical" - philosophical ideas.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    898
    I think in the broader context, they're closer to each other than either of them are to modern philosophy.gurugeorge

    Which is irrelevant. The book does differentiate between aristotelianism and platonism.

    Finally, Neo-Aristotelians reject extreme realism or Platonism. NeoAristotelian accounts of nature include no appeal to non-immanent, nonnatural universals; they instead hold that mathematical models of the physical world should be regarded as idealizations that invariably involve an empirical loss of scientifically relevant information.
  • gurugeorge
    517
    The book does differentiate between aristotelianism and platonism.Πετροκότσυφας

    One can't exactly avoid differentiating between Aristotelianism and Platonism, but the difference between Aristotelianism and Platonism is less than the difference between both of them and modern philosophy - Aristotle saw himself as developing and revising ideas in Platonism and earlier philosophies.

    I took Wayfarer's comment in that sense, as cheering on the general revival of interest in classical philosophical ideas that's been building some momentum in recent years.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    898


    I took Wayfarer's comment as an(other) intentional equivocation between the two, so I just pointed out that the book does no such thing.
  • tim wood
    1.2k
    Something I have not resolved is whether the folks who take up these theories do so because they are persuaded the world is actually as the respective theories describe insofar as the theories go, or because they find within the theories an adequately self-consistent model of the world that they find congenial. I suspect it's both, but that many of those who insist on the accuracy of these models apply them beyond their scope. Happiest those who take pleasure in them for what they are within their limitations; miserable who think they're effective tools for modern applications.

    I take it that for a scientist (which I am not), theories are mere tools that have value only as they serve to cut at the wall where knowledge is mined. In as much as neither Aristotle nor Plato are especially useful there, it remains to account for just where they are useful.

    It would seem that both attempted to answer basic questions about the world by investigating what was at hand, namely the world as they encountered it, thinking such as they did it, language such a they used it, and their modes of understanding such as they had them. In this, the verdict of history is that they were successful.

    Some people like, value, cherish old cars. They will even argue that some old cars are manifestations of excellent thinking and design in terms of their aesthetics and functioning, even in some some cases "ahead of their time." All well and good, well to recognize and acknowledge and even take pleasure in, and good to retain as instructive the lessons from successes and failures. But they're old cars, and no old car will ever compete with a new car as a car. With very few exceptions - failures - it's progress all the way. The old car is frozen in the matrix of the possibilities of its time; it cannot be more than it was. So with old philosophies and metaphysics. They are of historical interest. In themselves they no longer serve at the edge where new knowledge is wrested from the void
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Something I have not resolved is whether the folks who take up these theories do so because they are persuaded the world is actually as the respective theories describe insofar as the theories go, or because they find within the theories an adequately self-consistent model of the world that they find congenial. I suspect it's both, but that many of those who insist on the accuracy of these models apply them beyond their scope. Happiest those who take pleasure in them for what they are within their limitations; miserable who think they're effective tools for modern applications.tim wood

    Well said. Nietzsche said the same thing. Carnap portrayed metaphysics as failed art. It certainly does feel anachronistic for someone to call themselves a "Platonist". Philosophy lost that role a long time ago, the prestige is gone. Only in a philosophy department will you hear someone call themselves a "Neo-Aristotelian". When this is said outside the department, it's met with either mocking laughter or naive reverential awe. Nowadays metaphysics seems to be a punching bag for the left and a sacred cow for the right.

    I suspect a common motivation to think "metaphysically" is from prior religious commitments. It does seem as though many Christians, for example, use theology as a substitute for faith. Theology is the sophisticated and gold-plated "science of God". At least certain forms of theology, I don't want to generalize here. But certainly the sort of "public theology" or "public metaphysics" that is really just apologetics. It's disingenuous, I think, to pretend (this sort) metaphysics isn't secretly apologetics.

    However may this psychologizing be accurate, it nonetheless does not replace the argument itself. A metaphysical theory can be assessed and judged true or false. These conservatives may very well think that much is to be gained by bringing metaphysics back. A re-awakening of sorts.

    But the reality is, I think, that any "importance" this sort of metaphysics has is inherently going to be political. It doesn't really supplement the natural sciences and it seems to at least sometimes even contradict the social sciences. Metaphysics is the smokescreen for a political ideology, in particular a conservative nostalgia for a more hierarchical society.
  • tim wood
    1.2k
    But the reality is, I think, that any "importance" this sort of metaphysics has is inherently going to be political.darthbarracuda
    There's a school of thought that holds that metaphysics is properly an historical science*. As such, and improperly understood, it certainly can be a tool of politics.

    *The identification and study of the absolute presuppositions held by various groups at different times.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    The book is about neo-aristotelians, not neo-platonists.
    7 hours ago
    Πετροκότσυφας

    No kidding. Aristotle was a ‘moderate realist’, believing that the intelligible forms of things constituted their real essence. Where he differed with his teacher was with the latter’s belief that these were real independent of their instantiation in particulars. But it was the belief in the reality of the intelligible forms that was the baby that was thrown out with the bathwater by the medieval nominalists.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    Something I have not resolved is whether the folks who take up these theories do so because they are persuaded the world is actually as the respective theories describe insofar as the theories go, or because they find within the theories an adequately self-consistent model of the world that they find congenial. I suspect it's both, but that many of those who insist on the accuracy of these models apply them beyond their scope.tim wood

    My deep conviction is that there are elements of Platonism (broadly defined) which are essential to the Western intellectual culture, and the loss of which imperils the continued existence of that unique cultural form. I don't think there's any prospect of reviving it, but I don't think what has been lost is even understood; we've forgotten what it is that we've forgotten. And I have yet to encounter more than one or two people, in ten years of debating on forums, who understand this point. (Jehu was one, on the old forum. Nobody else comes to mind.)

    Thomists and other critics of Ockham have tended to present traditional realism, with its forms or natures, as the solution to the modern problem of knowledge. It seems to me that it does not quite get to the heart of the matter. A genuine realist should see “forms” not merely as a solution to a distinctly modern problem of knowledge, but as part of an alternative conception of knowledge, a conception that is not so much desired and awaiting defense, as forgotten and so no longer desired. Characterized by forms, reality had an intrinsic intelligibility, not just in each of its parts but as a whole. With forms as causes, there are interconnections between different parts of an intelligible world, indeed there are overlapping matrices of intelligibility in the world, making possible an ascent from the more particular, posterior, and mundane to the more universal, primary, and noble.

    In short, the appeal to forms or natures does not just help account for the possibility of trustworthy access to facts, it makes possible a notion of wisdom, traditionally conceived as an ordering grasp of reality. 1

    Whereas what I see writ large in almost all the debates on this forum, is this:

    Cartesian anxiety refers to the notion that, since René Descartes posited his influential form of body-mind dualism, Western civilization has suffered from a longing for ontological certainty, or feeling that scientific methods, and especially the study of the world as a thing separate from ourselves, should be able to lead us to a firm and unchanging knowledge of ourselves and the world around us. The term is named after Descartes because of his well-known emphasis on "mind" as different from "body", "self" as different from "other".

    Richard J. Bernstein coined the term in his 1983 book Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    898
    No kidding.Wayfarer

    I take this as an agreement that it's not the reality of "platonic forms" that neo-aristotelians accept.

    . Where he differed with his teacher was with the latter’s belief that these were real independent of their instantiation in particulars.Wayfarer

    Which are the philosophical consequences of this?
  • Janus
    5.9k
    A metaphysical theory can be assessed and judged true or false.darthbarracuda

    I can't see how any metaphysical "theory" can be judged to be true or false unless it is simply not consistent with its own premises.. A metaphysical "theory" can be judged consistent or inconsistent, both internally (insofar as its overall argument and constituting arguments are not invalid) and 'externally', more or less, in relation to other domains of human investigation: the natural sciences, phenomenology, psychology, sociology and so on, but the idea of being able to definitively judge whether a metaphysical "theory" is true or false just seems plain wrong, both logically and empirically (the latter insofar as there don't seem to be any examples of metaphysical systems that have been shown to be wrong).

    I would agree that some metaphysical "theories" could seem to be so absurd and inconsistent with our modern world-view as to be rejected on the grounds that there would seem to be no good reason to think they are worthy of consideration. If that is what you mean by saying that they are "assessed and judged true or false", then I would agree. But as i argued in the other thread, I think metaphysical systems are better assessed according to their consistency with the whole of human experience, their conceptual richness and their usefulness in inspiring new ways to think about the world, than worrying about whether they are true or false in some incoherent propositional sense. In other words, when it comes to metaphysics it's more art than science, and more a matter of relevance than of "truth".
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Agreed. The truth of a metaphysical theory is not its most important feature. It doesn't matter if it's true or false, what matters is what it inspires.

    But to judge a metaphysical theory to be true or false is not so different from any other theory. If it's internally consistent and coheres with the rest of the human sciences than it qualifies as a respectable position, one that may even be "true".
  • tim wood
    1.2k
    Who else! I don't know where he sits on the all-time list of philosophers, but he turns up in my thinking quite a lot - and I like his writing. i actually think, after I've read some, that I understand. Of course that is an error, but over time I return, re-read, and do a little better.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    And I have yet to encounter more than one or two people, in ten years of debating on forums, who understand this point.Wayfarer

    Understanding the point, which is not difficult, is one thing: agreeing with it is another. I think it's a rather insubstantial, ill-founded point, so I don't think you should be surprised that you have found few to agree with it.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Any particular texts you recommend? I read about Collingwood in A. W. Moore's The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics, but haven't read anything primary.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    I think it's a rather insubstantial, ill-founded point,Janus

    And I think you're among the majority.

    Where he differed with his teacher was with the latter’s belief that these were real independent of their instantiation in particulars.
    — Wayfarer

    Which are the philosophical consequences of this?
    Πετροκότσυφας

    That would be a very good question for a term paper on Aristotle 101! My knowledge of classical literature is sketchy, but there's an interesting Aeon essay, Jim Franklin, Aristotle was right about mathematics after all, which talks about it.
  • tim wood
    1.2k
    An Essay on Metaphysics, R.G. Collingwood

    https://www.amazon.com/Essay-Metaphysics-R-G-Collingwood/dp/1614276153/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1531622937&sr=1-1&keywords=an+essay+on+metaphysics&dpID=41g4OA5gDFL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

    Good luck finding it in your local library system. The amazon copy, at under $20, seems a good buy. It's what I have and it's entirely satisfactory.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    And I think you're among the majority.Wayfarer

    Oh my God, I hate being among the majority; but I guess I already ackmowledged that I am in relation to this particular point, right?

    In any case my main point is that it's a case of disagreement, not a case of misunderstanding or lacking some special understanding.

    It's eady to protect cherished beliefs by claiming that those who do not agree with them really do not understand. I say the tendency to think this, which I believe most of us possess in one way or another is precisely what calls the most for examination and critique.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    the difference between Aristotelianism and Platonism is less than the difference between both of them and modern philosophy - Aristotle saw himself as developing and revising ideas in Platonism and earlier philosophies.

    I took Wayfarer's comment in that sense, as cheering on the general revival of interest in classical philosophical ideas that's been building some momentum in recent years.
    gurugeorge

    :up:
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    Mm, its much easier to wax nostalgic for 'lost knowledge' than it is to actually engage in argument. A favorite strategy of facists everywhere.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    Franklin (article cited above) says that:

    Platonism proposes a philosophy of mathematics ...that mathematics is about a realm of non-physical objects such as numbers and sets, abstracta that exist in a mysterious realm of forms beyond space and time.

    I think the Platonist rebuttal to that is, that 'the domain of form' is not beyond space and time, but ontologically prior to it; that the 'domain of form' represents the necessary forms that things must take in order to exist. As Kelly Ross puts it 'Universals exist precisely where possibilities exist'. So the rational mind is able to infer the nature of mathematical and ideal possibilities, but in so doing, is not simply inventing ideas from within itself; 'Gödel wrote that [through mathematics] we're not seeing things that just happen to be true, we're seeing things that must be true. The world of abstract entities is a necessary world—that's why we can deduce our descriptions of it through pure reason.'2 Frege said that number is real in the sense that it is quite independent of thought: 'thought content exists independently of thinking "in the same way", he says "that a pencil exists independently of grasping it. Thought contents are true and bear their relations to one another (and presumably to what they are about) independently of anyone's thinking these thought contents - "just as a planet, even before anyone saw it, was in interaction with other planets 3." All of those are statements of Platonic realism. And I think their cogency is demonstrated by the 'unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences 4'.

    Franklin says that Aristotle believed, in contrast to Plato, 'that the properties of things are real and in the things themselves, not in another world of abstracta'. However, Aristotle's 'hylomorphic dualism' doesn't give matter primacy over form, in other words, individual particulars comprise the union of form and matter. Whereas in the modern view of things, matter is primary and form is derivative. So while Aristotelian realism differs from Platonic realism, it still upholds the reality of universals and forms. The forms of things are what the intellect, nous, actually sees, which makes judgement, abstraction, and indeed logic, possible.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    898


    Well, the problem, as I see it, is that, when it suits your anti-modern agenda, you're willing to ignore any difference between "ancient" doctrines, as if they were one and the same. When someone challenges this, you'll cite some dude (e.g. Ross) that you feel can do the trick in that particular time. Then, at another time, the same thing will happen and you'll cite a different dude (e.g. Gerson), feeling that he can do the trick in that particular time. The fact that one disagrees with the other remains hidden. When you want to appropriate both Plato and Aristotle, you'll of course make Aristotle a platonist (inspite of himself). Gerson will do for that. This, despite the fact that according to Gerson Aristotle ultimately got reality wrong (unlike Plato and the neo-platonists), platonic forms are not the same thing as Aristotle's universals etc. When you want to explain away Plato's other realm, Ross or Russell might do. Do they agree with each other? Not really important. Do they agree with Gerson's Plato or Plato himself? Well, maybe not, but they will do for now. When you feel like defending you dualist (or idealist, depending on the context?) presuppositions, Aristotle becomes a dualist. Matter is not prior to form, after all! A basic plausible reading according to which universals are dependent on particulars, that is to say - on primary substances (not matter), is brushed away. The subject has turned into a matter/form debate and Ross comes in handy. It is not just that matter is not prior to form, forms (i.e. universals) are "ontologically prior". Forms are really possibilities! Real possibilities. And they're prior to matter! The good thing about being all over the place is that criticism becomes difficult. What to criticise when there's no cohesive claim but an amagalm of different claims, the presuppositions of which are never spelled out?
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    What to criticise when there's no cohesive claim but an amagalm of different claims, the presuppositions of which are never spelled out?Πετροκότσυφας

    What indeed? When you come up with something original, I shall return the favour.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    898


    Or maybe when you'll seriously read what you cite and not just pick out of anyone what seems tempting, ignoring the rest.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    I do make an effort, but on the other hand, this is a public forum. The last time I did any degree work, 2011 - 12, in a different but related subject, my academic results were satisfactory. But on this forum, I'm exploring a theme - I read various articles and books along this theme, and I cite them. And I think I present a reasonably coherent argument.

    My pre-suppositions ought to be abundantly clear, but in case they aren't, I will spell them out - that scientific materialism, and therefore a great deal of what goes under the name of 'philosophy' in current culture, is based on a mistaken premise, namely, that what is real is material. The basic Platonist premise that I often start from, is that number is real, but not material; that, therefore, there is something real that is not material, and that this therefore falsifies materialism. And as science itself is inextricably bound to mathematics, this is something of an 'inconvenient truth' for naturalism (as Jim Franklin points out in that essay.)

    And that is also why I am saying that something has been forgotten, or fallen into neglect, to the extent that what it is that has been forgotten can't even be discerned any more. This is the traditional (or traditionalist) understanding of idea of the intellect (actually, 'nous') as corresponding with the immaterial aspect of the human being. And it's not difficult to make the case that this is what has happened in the transition to modernity. There are many books and articles about it, some of which I cite.

    So, I know there are all kinds of ways in which Plato and Arisotle differ, I've even borrowed Gerson from the library and tried to familiarise myself with it. I have a backlog of books on hand on this very topic, which I am intending to try and tackle. But the argument I'm making is a general one, and I shall continue to make it.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    898
    Oh, your presuppositions are abundantly clear, indeed. There should be no mistake about that. Your presupposition is that the version of materialism you despise is representative of all materialism and it's wrong and the world is on the wrong track because it accepts it, while back in the day they didn't, so they were more or less on the right track. To push that agenda you'll draw from everywhere, no matter how irreconcilable. And it is the pressupositions of those you draw from that are not clear. So, someday you'll be a dualist, some other day an idealist, someday a platonist of this sort, the other day of that sort, some other day an aristotelian, etc.

    And, to be honest, it's not surprising that you treat the "classical tradition" in such a manner. You don't seem to want to understand what Plato says or Aristotle says, you're interested in them only insofar as they can be seen as invalidating "modern materialism". This is the way you treat interpreters too. It doesn't really matter what they say, if their interpretations can be reconciled, as long as they make specific points which seem to go against materialism. And this thread is not really about the book of the title, is it? You don't want to discuss this aristotelian conception of quantum mechanics or that aristotelian conception of biological organisms. It's just another way of saying "materialism sucks, fortunately some start to take notice". Isn't it?

    And it's not difficult to make the case that this is what has happened in the transition to modernity.Wayfarer

    Sure, for someone willing to ignore the actual (theoritical and empirical) work needed to be done in order to show this, it's easy.
  • Marchesk
    2.2k
    As Kelly Ross puts it 'Universals exist precisely where possibilities exist'. So the rational mind is able to infer the nature of mathematical and ideal possibilities,Wayfarer

    This sounds like a form of modal realism.
  • Janus
    5.9k


    I think we're on the same page pretty much; although I would like to add that in the case of scientific theories their purported truth is backed up by observations, which introduces the extra notion, apart from consistency and cohesion, of correspondence with the facts. We may not ever be able to infallibly know that any scientific theory is true, but at least we are able to deduce what kinds of phenomena we would expect to observe if the theory were true. I don't think anything analogous with this obtains in the context of metaphysical "theories".
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