• Πετροκότσυφας
    975
    Because it's not something describable in physical terms.Wayfarer

    Aristotle, trying to delimit various people's take on nature, writes (emphasis mine):

    If this is so, it is clear that the affections occurring in the soul are logoi in material [...] But the student of nature and the dialectician would define each of the affections differently. For example, what is anger? For the latter, it is the desire to reciprocate pain or some such thing; for the former, it is a boiling of blood or something hot around the heart. The one gives an account of the material, the other of the form and the logos; but, though this is the logos of the thing, it must be in this sort of material if it is going to be at all. Which of these is the student of nature? Is it the one who speaks about the material, ignoring the form, or the one concerned only with the logos? Or is it rather the one combining both? But in that case who is each of the others? Or is no one concerned with the affections of material that are neither separable nor treated as separable? The student of nature is concerned with all the works and affections of a certain sort of body and a certain sort of material, while for other sorts it is someone else. Concerning some it may be a craftsman such as a carpenter or doctor, while the mathematician treats of non-separable things as if they were not occurrences in such a body but abstracted from it, and the practitioner of first philosophy treats of separable things.

    The mathematician treats non-separable (from matter) things as if they were separable. So, interestingly, quite a lot of the stuff that you try to dissociate from matter, Aristotle seems to say are inseparable from matter. Yet, the mathematician treats them as if they were separable. Does he trivialise matter? Well, not necessarily. For Aristotle something can be separable in logos or definition, yet ontologically or existantially it might not be. For example, sense, pleasure and desire are separable in the sense that they are defined differently, yet, for Aristotle, they're inseparable in the sense that in no living thing one exists without the other.

    Of course, Aristotle allows that the soul, or some parts of it, might be separable from the body. Which makes it the subject of the practitioner of first philosophy.

    Not that anything prevents at any rate some parts from being separable, because of their being actualities of no body.

    So, what is, according to Aristotle, separable from the body and how can this be. It is nous and it seems to be because it's not an actuality of a body. That is the case, according to Aristotle, because nous, unlike, say, the nutritive part of the soul or thinking, does not have a body part that corresponds to it (therefore, it's also imperishable), like the other functions of the soul do. Is this factually right? It seems like it isn't, unless you think there's something the mind does which does not have a correlate in the brain or some other body part. So, if you want to invoke Aristotle, you'd have to account for that, because he seems to to think that the functions of the soul which involve some part of the body cannot in fact exist without matter, even if they're separate in logos. You'd have to take into account the different senses of separability and the fact that Aristotle seems to distinguish between nous and dianoia. Nous is not concerned with just any kind of information, with propositions or thinking which involves combining, even though such thinking depends on nous. It depends on it in the sense that nous grasps the first universals, the raw material which dianoia uses. Also, how can you invoke Aristotle's actual nous and at the same say that the universe seems to be non-physical in nature?

    The parts of soul capable of perceiving and knowing are, in potential, these knowable and perceptible things. But they must either be the things themselves or the forms. To be sure, they are not the things themselves: the stone is not in the soul, but rather the form.

    Gone are the things themselves. Gone is Aristotle's attempt to make sense of common sense.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    Thanks, very interesting. I daresay Aristotle’s conception of ‘hyle’ was very different from modern notion of matter, but I am endeavouring to learn more about the subject.

    As for my remark ‘not describable in physical terms’ - what I was referring to, is language generally, or symbolic communication, generally. Even to discuss those, requires introduction of ideas from semiotics and so on, as Apokrisis often points out. I think we make a fairly lazy assumption that ‘science has this worked out’, which I question. That is what Thomas Nagel’s ‘Mind and Cosmos’ addresses.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    975


    In this context, matter is the body. The physical, "flesh and blood" stuff of daily life - so, Aristotle's different conception of hyle (in other respects) does not seem relevant here.

    On your other point... the original quote was this:

    What I'm arguing is that while in each case the representation is physical, the capacity to understand and interpret the meaning of those signs can't be understood in physical terms. What is doing that, what has that capacity, is not itself physical.

    And I pointed out that if you are going to draw from Aristotle for any of that, you have to take into account that he seems to deny what you're arguing here. To the extent that any sort of interpretation involves combinational thinking, then it can be understood in physical terms, since this function of the soul is inextricably linked to the body.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    The motivation for a physical act is not the act. Some physical acts are intentionally motivated, others are not. The difference is that intentional acts is characterized by "aboutness." They are about something beyond themselves -- a goal to be attained or hoped for, something we know or believe and so on. Physical acts are characterized by motion and change: parts moving and transforming into other parts.Dfpolis

    Could you give me an example of a human physical act which is not about something else? I don't think there is such a thing, because it seems like this would be a completely random act with no reason for it.

    By not involving change in any essential way.Dfpolis

    If there is an "act" which does not involve change in any essential way, how can this be said to be an "act" without contradiction? To act is to do something, and this implies change. "Act" requires change, and therefore "change" is essential to the definition of "act".

    Take your example, "I know pi is an irrational number". Unless there is a change between the state of not knowing that pi is an irrational number, and knowing that pi is an irrational number, which is essential to the difference between these two, we cannot say that knowing pi as an irrational number, is an act. If there is no change which is essential to this so-called "act", then it is not an act at all, but something passive.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    And I pointed out that if you are going to draw from Aristotle for any of that, you have to take into account that he seems to deny what you're arguing here. To the extent that any sort of interpretation involves combinational thinking, then it can be understood in physical terms, since this function of the soul is inextricably linked to the body.Πετροκότσυφας

    'Linked to' is not 'the same as'. And I don't recall having appealed to Aristotle as such. I mentioned a forum post on hylomorphic dualism which I will mention again, below.

    '[Aristotle] seems to to think that the functions of the soul which involve some part of the body cannot in fact exist without matter, even if they're separate in logos.Πετροκότσυφας

    I'm interested in Aristotle's idea of 'the active intellect' which is where he speaks of 'nous'. I'm not claiming great knowledge of Aristotle but I notice the wikipedia entry on it says that Aristotle's passage on the 'active intellect' is one of the most highly-studied passages in all philosophy. In any case, what 'the soul' perceives are 'the forms'; individuals are a combination of matter and form (hyle-morphe) where 'the matter' is received by the sensory aspect, and 'the form' perceived by 'the rational intellect' which is made explicit in later Thomist philosophy (as per this blog post.) So what interests me in this, is the way that it suggests that the intellect brings together or synthesises the intellectual (category, kind, number and so on) and the perceptual or sensible, in the act of knowing. It is that synthesizing capability which I believe is transcendent to the physical (and which might also be the subject of the well-known issue of the 'binding problem' and not co-incidentally Kant's 'transcendental unity of apperception'.)

    Do you think it would occur to Aristotle to say that the Universe was 'self-organising' in the way that us moderns think? As I understand it, and again granted my knowledge of Aristotle is scanty, he nevertheless believed that there was a 'prime mover' which was the source of the being of all creatures. This was, of course, to be much later incorporated with Christian theology by Aquinas and others in the form of the Christian doctrine of God - whether Aristotle himself would have thought about it in those terms is obviously impossible to say, as he preceded it. But I think it is safe to say that his overall view is worlds apart from contemporary materialism. Yes, he was more robustly empirical than his teacher - of that there is no doubt - but he nevertheless believed that 'the forms' were in some sense transcendent, even if they were only ever known when they were manifested in concrete individuals.

    As for the ‘stuff that I am trying to dissociate from matter’ - my argument is simply for the real nature of abstracts. I'm arguing that they’re not a product of the individual mind, but can only be perceived by a mind - so, they're ‘mental objects’. This is a generally ‘platonist’ [small p] argument, as platonist philosophy maintains the reality of abstract objects. So the basic point I’m making is that (for instance) 'the number seven' is not a physical object, but is nevertheless real and invariant for any intelligence capable of counting. The numeral or symbol 7 is a physical thing - you can carve it, draw it, write it or whatever - but what is being denoted by the symbol is a quantity which is only perceptible by a mind. Hence, an 'intellectual object'. As I have pointed out in many posts, this fact about mathematical platonism is an acknowledged problem for materialism (as the SEP article on mathematical platonism says), because it shows there are is a whole class of entities - such as real numbers - that are real but not corporeal. I say that they comprise the elements or constituents of rational thought, so they are constitutive of our understanding of reality. But they're not objectively real - they transcend the division of subject and object, in some important sense. But we don't notice that, because we're always 'looking through them' rather than at them. They are, in some fundamental sense, 'too near for us to grasp.'

    Have a listen to about 3 minutes of this lecture.



    Aristotle, in De Anima, argued that thinking in general (which includes knowledge as one kind of thinking) cannot be a property of a body; it cannot, as he put it, 'be blended with a body'. This is because in thinking, the intelligible object or form is present in the intellect, and thinking itself is the identification of the intellect with this intelligible. Among other things, this means that you could not think if materialism is true… . Thinking is not something that is, in principle, like sensing or perceiving; this is because thinking is a universalising activity. This is what this means: when you think, you see - mentally see - a form which could not, in principle, be identical with a particular - including a particular neurological element, a circuit, or a state of a circuit, or a synapse, and so on. This is so because the object of thinking is universal, or the mind is operating universally.

    ….the fact that in thinking, your mind is identical with the form that it thinks, means (for Aristotle and for all Platonists) that since the form 'thought' is detached from matter, 'mind' is immaterial too.

    That's it, in a nutshell. I'm basically just arguing this.
  • Dfpolis
    546
    Could you give me an example of a human physical act which is not about something else?Metaphysician Undercover

    Moving my leg is a physical act. It may or may not serve a purpose It may doe example be the result of a spasm. Bit, even if it did serve a purpose, that would not make it an intentional act in the sense Im using the term. Why? Because there is no need to include the purpose served in defining the act. It is the local motion of a lower extremity -- perhaps specified by the time and place of occurrence. On the other hand, you cannot define a belief or a hope without saying what is believed or hoped for..

    If there is an "act" which does not involve change in any essential way, how can this be said to be an "act" without contradiction? To act is to do something, and this implies change.Metaphysician Undercover

    No, in general act does not imply change. My thinking <pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to is diameter> involves no intrinsic change. Neither does my acting like a statute. Indeed, to the extent that I am moving, I'm not acting like a statue.

    Take your example, "I know pi is an irrational number". Unless there is a change between the state of not knowing that pi is an irrational number, and knowing that pi is an irrational number, which is essential to the difference between these two, we cannot say that knowing pi as an irrational number, is an act.Metaphysician Undercover

    Note that you had to add something the was not only outside of the act of knowing, but its contrary to knowing in trying to make your point. Nothing intrinsically includes its contrary. So, your argument fails. Being aware is an act that involves no intrinsic change.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    For some aspect of reality to be independent of matter (for me to call it "spiritual"), it must have at least one function that it can perform without matter. For example, if humans can know something independently of matter, they have a spiritual aspect. If everything we can do depends on matter, we have no spiritual aspect.Dfpolis

    This crystalline text calved off the larger movement of your thinking. I'm looking at what seems to refract through it. Setting reality = real(?). A rock is real (aspect of reality?). It endures (a function performed without matter?). So you call the rock spiritual?

    The rock is real. But it doesn't seem right to reckon the rock an "aspect" of reality. Perhaps the rock at best is an arbitrary choice of a vehicle that carries aspects of reality. I think endurance is an aspect of reality. Is endurance independent of matter? As an abstract idea, sure. In itself, I'm not so sure. If an abstract idea, then it's just an idea of endurance, and not endurance itself.

    Let's assume endurance inhere's in matter. No matter, no endurance. Matter, then endurance, the endurance of that matter being in the particular way that matter endures. That implies that endurance is not independent of matter, not even independent of the particular matter that the endurance endures in. Hmm. My wife, bless her, notes that endurance endures beyond the matter it endures in - not merely as idea, but arguably as an aspect of reality. Is (the) endurance spiritual?

    Alternatively, there is no such thing as endurance beyond the idea of it.

    Or does all this pivot on definitions of matter?

    And then, is spirituality as aspect of reality?

    Aporia!

    Do you have a corrective lens or prism that will separate and sort out, clarify and focus, all this incident light?
  • Dfpolis
    546
    his crystalline text calved off the larger movement of your thinking.tim wood

    I take no credit for it. It is a standard Scholastic/Thomist position.

    It endures (a function performed without matter?). So you call the rock spiritual?tim wood

    No, the rock could not endure absent its matter. If you destroyed its matter, the rock would no longer endure.

    The rock is real. But it doesn't seem right to reckon the rock an "aspect" of reality.tim wood

    I would call it "a substance" or "a thing" because it is an ostensible unity. I generally say "aspect" when I'm talking about realities that are not things.

    I think endurance is an aspect of reality. Is endurance independent of matter?tim wood

    The concept <endurance> abstracts away matter, but instances of endurance depend on matter, because it is the contrary of inconstancy -- which implies the possibility of change and change entails matter.

    Is (the) endurance spiritual?tim wood

    One can have spiritual endurance. Still, that is because of trials found in the material world. It is maintaining one's spiritual commitments in the face of trial.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    The rock is real. But it doesn't seem right to reckon the rock an "aspect" of reality. Perhaps the rock at best is an arbitrary choice of a vehicle that carries aspects of reality. I think endurance is an aspect of reality. Is endurance independent of matter?tim wood

    According to the traditional metaphysics, rocks (etc) are the lowest link in the chain of being, i.e. possess the lowest 'degree of reality'. They're real, but only in an inferior, derivative or secondary sense. Not that I think there was a lot of thought given to the question - there might have been, but again I'm no classics scholar - but it was just assumed that the sensible or material domain was the furthest removed from the Source (whether conceived as the Neoplatonic One or the biblical Creator).

    This is quaintly depicted in a medieval woodcut:

    Steps.gif

    What I believe happened in late medieval and early modern thinking was that this underlying hierarchical cosmology was overturned (or 'flattened out') by various developments in Western culture - principally by the ascendancy of the medieval nominalists (Bacon and Ockham notable among them) who were among the forerunners of modern scientific method. The other, related development was Duns Scotus' declaration of the 'univocity of being', which undermined the notion that there could be, in fact, 'degrees of reality', or that the way in which 'God' existed, was different to the way in which 'creatures' existed. (This development has been documented at length by a philosophical/historical school called Radical Orthodoxy 1.)

    So the upshot was that the hierarchical cosmology of the so-called 'great chain of being' more or less died out in Western thought or at any rate, was assumed to have been superseded (although in my view, it was often not deeply understood by those who rejected it. These ideas are discussed at length in books including The Theological Origins of Modernity M A Gillespie 2 and A Secular Age, Charles Taylor, among others. But it's a deep study. )

    So to answer the original question as to the sense in which stones exist: I think the pre-modern view can be summed up with reference to an aphorism from the medieval theologian Meister Eckhardt, who said that 'creatures' (meaning, 'created things') are 'mere nothings'. That means, they have no intrinsic reality - they are created and sustained in being by God who at this point in history, was not the remote clockwork engineer of later deism but remained omnipresent. (There's an echo of this idea in Bishop Berkeley for whom 'esse est percipe' - things were real by virtue of being perceived, with the principal perceiver being the Divine Intellect.) However, beings (specifically, human beings) are of a higher order than things, as per the ladder analogy, situated somewhere between beasts and angels, owing to their status as 'imago dei' (although in the absence of belief we are generally now generally relegated to the animal kingdom which again is a consequence of the 'flattening' of our worldview.)

    Whereas with the Enlightenment and the ascendancy of science, not only was the hierarchical cosmology (which had been symbolically represented in the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian cosmology) abandoned but what had been regarded as the least real aspect of the entire hierarchy (namely, matter) was promoted to being the only real substance in a clockwork Universe - although that too has now arguably fallen out of favour.
  • Janus
    6.1k
    abandoned but what had been regarded as the least real aspect of the entire hierarchy (namely, matter) was promoted to being the only real substance in a clockwork Universe - although that too has now arguably fallen out of favour.Wayfarer

    Firstly that is explicitly the ladder of intellect, not the ladder of reality, and secondly the fact that a stone is at the bottom of the hierarchy does not necessarily entail that matter would be; you will need additional evidence to support that contention.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    Moving my leg is a physical act. It may or may not serve a purpose It may doe example be the result of a spasm. Bit, even if it did serve a purpose, that would not make it an intentional act in the sense Im using the term. Why? Because there is no need to include the purpose served in defining the act. It is the local motion of a lower extremity -- perhaps specified by the time and place of occurrence. On the other hand, you cannot define a belief or a hope without saying what is believed or hoped for..Dfpolis

    You already said, you are using the word "intention" to refer to an act which is "about" something else. even the spasm in your leg is about something else, and is therefore intentional. Just because you can describe the action as a "local motion of a lower extremity" without referring to what the motion was about, doesn't mean that it wasn't an intentional act.

    This is why I think your distinction between intentional act and physical act is meaningless. We can describe any intentional act as a physical act, simply by excluding the aboutness from the description. This is what physicalists, materialist, and determinists do, they exclude intention from the description of the act, and from that description without intention, they claim intention is irrelevant to the act. Because they can describe the act without referring to the intention behind the act, they say intention is irrelevant to the act. So your position is a little more advanced than this, recognizing the importance of intention. But your division between intentional act and physical act is completely arbitrary, depending on how one chooses to describe any particular act. One might not recognize that there is intention behind an act and so leave it out of the description. One might not know the particular intention behind a specific act, and so leave it out of the description. Or, a person like a physicalist might simply choose to leave intention out of the description. In all these cases, intention is left out of the description, so it is called a "physical act", but that's a meaningless misnomer because each of these acts were intentional acts, described as physical acts. Without any hard principles whereby one could distinguish a physical act from an intentional act in the first place, and then describe the act accordingly, the distinction is meaningless.

    No, in general act does not imply change. My thinking <pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to is diameter> involves no intrinsic change. Neither does my acting like a statute. Indeed, to the extent that I am moving, I'm not acting like a statue.Dfpolis

    I don't see how you can make this claim. To go from not thinking "pi" to thinking "pi", involves a change. You cannot say that thinking pi involves no change, unless you've been always thinking pi, forever, in eternity. The same thing for acting like a statue. To go from not acting like a statue to acting like a statue involves a change, so you cannot say that you acting like a statue involves no change, unless you've always, eternally been acting like a statue.

    Note that you had to add something the was not only outside of the act of knowing, but its contrary to knowing in trying to make your point. Nothing intrinsically includes its contrary. So, your argument fails. Being aware is an act that involves no intrinsic change.Dfpolis

    Of course I had to add something contrary, because that's what change is, what was, now is not. You cannot have change without this contrariety. Nor can you describe an act by describing a state. "Night" doesn't imply any change, but it's not an act. If we add its contrary, "day", we can talk about an act which is the changing between night and day. So it's not my argument which fails, your argument is only successful if your so-called "act" involves a state remaining the same forever. Since remaining the same forever is clearly not a case of doing something, it cannot be an act.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    975
    'Linked to' is not 'the same as'. And I don't recall having appealed to Aristotle as such. I mentioned a forum post on hylomorphic dualism which I will mention again, below.Wayfarer

    Yes, it does not mean "the same as". That's why their definitions are different. What it means is "inseparable". It can't exist without it.

    This is what I'm referring to: "But the faculty which does this, is not itself physical - in fact, it seems closely related to Aristotle's intuition of the 'active intellect'". To me it seems like an appeal to Aristotle.

    I'm interested in Aristotle's idea of 'the active intellect' which is where he speaks of 'nous'. I'm not claiming great knowledge of Aristotle but I notice the wikipedia entry on it says that Aristotle's passage on the 'active intellect' is one of the most highly-studied passages in all philosophy. In any case, what 'the soul' perceives are 'the forms'; individuals are a combination of matter and form (hyle-morphe) where 'the matter' is received by the sensory aspect, and 'the form' perceived by 'the rational intellect' which is made explicit in later Thomist philosophy (as per this blog post.) So what interests me in this, is the way that it suggests that the intellect brings together or synthesises the intellectual (category, kind, number and so on) and the perceptual or sensible, in the act of knowing. It is that synthesizing capability which I believe is transcendent to the physical (and which might also be the subject of the well-known issue of the 'binding problem' and not co-incidentally Kant's 'transcendental unity of apperception'.)Wayfarer

    That does not seem like Aristotle to me. As I wrote earlier, the "active intellect" is not responsible for that thinking. It's knowledge in act, which is quite different. And it might also be quite closer to Plato's notion of knowledge as recollection (although, in very important ways it's also different), but you just don't realise that. You're attributing to the immaterial things and functions which are not properly its. That's the error Aristotle believed was correcting in Plato. He believed that Plato was talking of the immaterial but in truth he wasn't that different from Democritus.


    Aristotle, in De Anima, argued that thinking in general (which includes knowledge as one kind of thinking) cannot be a property of a body; it cannot, as he put it, 'be blended with a body'. This is because in thinking, the intelligible object or form is present in the intellect, and thinking itself is the identification of the intellect with this intelligible. Among other things, this means that you could not think if materialism is true… . Thinking is not something that is, in principle, like sensing or perceiving; this is because thinking is a universalising activity. This is what this means: when you think, you see - mentally see - a form which could not, in principle, be identical with a particular - including a particular neurological element, a circuit, or a state of a circuit, or a synapse, and so on. This is so because the object of thinking is universal, or the mind is operating universally.

    ….the fact that in thinking, your mind is identical with the form that it thinks, means (for Aristotle and for all Platonists) that since the form 'thought' is detached from matter, 'mind' is immaterial too.

    That doesn't seem like Aristotle either. It's confused. Here are quotes from De Anima where Aristotle seemingly claims the opposite of the phrase that thinking in general cannot be blended with a body.

    For, even if it is as true as can be that to be pained or to rejoice or to be thoughtful are motions; and that each of them is a being-moved; and that it is by the soul that their motion is imparted (for example, being angry or being afraid is a particular motion of the heart, andbeing thoughtful is either the same kind of thing or, perhaps, something else);

    But since there is no thing that exists as separate apart from the perceptible magnitudes (or so it seems), it is in the perceptible forms that one finds the intelligible things—both the things said to exist in abstraction and any active dispositions and passive attributes of the perceptible things. On account of this, without perceiving one would not be able to learn or comprehend anything; and whenever one contemplates, it is necessary to contemplate some image at the same time (for images are like perceptions, except without material).

    You need to distinguish between thinking in general and the kind of "thinking" that the active intellect does. For Aristotle these two are just not the same.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    That doesn't seem like Aristotle either. It's confused.Πετροκότσυφας

    That is from Loyd Gerson, and I'm sure he's not confused, as he has published numerous text books on Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy (his web-page).

    And thanks for those quotes, but I still can't see how they contradict the point that Gerson is making.

    There's an SEP entry on Active Intellect (or active mind, nous poiêtikos) here. It makes the point again that the very brief passage on the active intellect is a minefield for interpreters, saying 'So varied are their approaches, in fact, that it is tempting to regard De Anima iii 5 as a sort of Rorschach Test for Aristotelians: it is hard to avoid the conclusion that readers discover in this chapter the Aristotle they hope to admire.'

    However, the whole chapter (which is brief) is then provided, and I note the following excerpt:

    And this mind is separate and unaffected and unmixed, being in its essence actuality. For what produces is always superior to what is affected, as too the first principle is to the matter.

    [Actual knowledge is the same as the thing known, though in an individual potential knowledge is prior in time, though it is not prior in time generally.][4]

    But it is not the case that sometimes it thinks and sometimes it does not. And having been separated, this alone is just as it is, and this alone is deathless and everlasting, though we do not remember, because this is unaffected, whereas passive mind is perishable. And without this, nothing thinks.

    Emphasis added. So - my understanding is that 'this alone [which] is deathless and everlasting' is what became incorporated into later Christian theology as 'the rational soul', a web definition of which is 'the soul that in the scholastic tradition has independent existence apart from the body and that is the characteristic animating principle of human life'. And that, indeed, is not physical, as it is by definition, 'immortal'. Granted, Aristotelian and Thomistic dualism doesn't depict 'body and soul' as separate substances in the way that Descartes was later to do, but surely it can't be disputed that Thomas Aquinas accepts the immortality of the soul; he is a Doctor of the Church, after all.

    You need to distinguish between thinking in general and the kind of "thinking" that the active intellect does. For Aristotle these two are just not the same.Πετροκότσυφας

    Indeed, that is precisely what I am attempting to articulate. That is why I referred to the passage from Father Brennan on Thomistic philosophy, to whit:

    if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality.

    That is as succinct a statement of the notion of hylomorphic dualism, which was derived from the 'active intellect' of Aristotle, as I have found.

    So the general idea is that - as Gerson says - the ability to perceive the essence of the thing is the 'proper knowledge of the intellect' while the 'proper knowledge' of the senses is 'accidents, through forms that are individualised'. And those 'essences' or 'forms' are indeed 'universals' - this is what the expression 'universal' refers to. And the point about knowledge of these essences (forms, ideas) is that (as Gerson says):

    This is because in thinking, the intelligible object or form is present in the intellect, and thinking itself is the identification of the intellect with this intelligible.

    Which clearly is not the case, and could not be the case, with 'sensible objects' which are by definition separate from the perceiver.

    Also notice this first sentence:

    For what produces is always superior to what is affected, as too the first principle is to the matter.

    Again, here, there is an implied or explicit hierarchy - that 'what produces' is 'superior' to 'what is affected' as 'the first principle' is 'superior' to 'matter' - all of which is stock-in-trade for scholastic realism.

    (There's a useful primer by Ed Feser on just this point on his blog, Think, McFly, Think.)

    Also, as a long-time student of comparative religion, I can't help but see the similarity between the top passage, from Aristotle, and the second, from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad:

    But it is not the case that sometimes it thinks and sometimes it does not. And having been separated, this alone is just as it is, and this alone is deathless and everlasting, though we do not remember, because this is unaffected, whereas passive mind is perishable. And without this, nothing thinks.

    Everything other than the ātman is stupid; it is useless; it is good for nothing; it has no value; it is lifeless. Everything assumes a meaning because of the operation of this ātman in everything. Minus that, nothing has any sense 1.
    -------

    4. The bracketed text recurs in its entirety at DA iii 7, 431a1–4. It seems likely that they were inserted by a scribe seeking to provide an explanation of the way in which the active is prior to the passive.
  • Dfpolis
    546
    We can describe any intentional act as a physical act, simply by excluding the aboutness from the description.Metaphysician Undercover

    Really? How would you describe my knowing that God exists physically? Note that if you remove what my knowledge is about, you fail to specify what knowledge you are discussing. If I say moving my leg is local motion of a lower extremity, I have lost no content.

    Also, I have no idea what you think a leg spasm is "about"?

    This is what physicalists, materialist, and determinists do, they exclude intention from the description of the act, and from that description without intention, they claim intention is irrelevant to the act.Metaphysician Undercover

    As I said, some acts are intentionally done, others not. Or are you thinking that all acts reflect Divine Intent?

    Without any hard principles whereby one could distinguish a physical act from an intentional act in the first place, and then describe the act accordingly, the distinction is meaningless.Metaphysician Undercover

    But I have specified the defining characteristics. Intentional acts are characterized by being about something. Physical acts are characterized by change.

    I don't see how you can make this claim. To go from not thinking "pi" to thinking "pi", involves a change.Metaphysician Undercover

    I have addressed this already. Not thinking of pi is not an aspect of thinking of pi.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    975
    And thanks for those quotes, but I still can't see how they contradict the point that Gerson is making.Wayfarer

    Gerson's point: Thinking in general cannot be blended with a body.

    Aristotle's first point: Thinking is a being moved. Bodies and composites are moved, the active intellect on the other hand can't be moved. So, thinking is indeed connected to the body (it is so, because thinking requires memory and imagery and these in turn are related to perception and perception requires bodily organs). That's contradictory with Gerson's point that thinking can't be blended with a body.

    Aristotle's second point: You can't have thinking without perception. And since you can't have perception without bodily organs, you can't have thinking without bodily organs. So, thinking can and is blended with the body. That's contradictory with Gerson's point that thinking in general can't be blended with a body.

    There's an SEP entry on Active Intellect (or active mind, nous poiêtikos) here. It makes the point again that the very brief passage on the active intellect is a minefield for interpreters, saying 'So varied are their approaches, in fact, that it is tempting to regard De Anima iii 5 as a sort of Rorschach Test for Aristotelians: it is hard to avoid the conclusion that readers discover in this chapter the Aristotle they hope to admire.'Wayfarer

    I can't see the link right now, but what's mainly in dispute, as far as I know, is whether by "this" (in the phrase "And having been separated, this alone is just as it is, and this alone is deathless and everlasting") Aristotle refers to the universal nous or to ours. I believe it's the latter, but that's beside the point. You can see yourself that it being unaffected and complete and in action, it can't be in motion. But, as I said, if thinking is a being moved, thinking does not belong to it, even if it is the principle responsible for motion (and thinking).

    Emphasis added. So - my understanding is that 'this alone [which] is deathless and everlasting' is what became incorporated into later Christian theology as 'the rational soul', a web definition of which is 'the soul that in the scholastic tradition has independent existence apart from the body and that is the characteristic animating principle of human life'. And that, indeed, is not physical, as it is by definition, 'immortal'. Granted, Aristotelian and Thomistic dualism doesn't depict 'body and soul' as separate substances in the way that Descartes was later to do, but surely it can't be disputed that Thomas Aquinas accepts the immortality of the soul; he is a Doctor of the Church, after all.Wayfarer

    I'm not interested in Thomas here. I didn't deny that Aristotle thinks there's a part of the soul which is immaterial and eternal. On the contrary, I've affirmed it. But I also think that the reason he believed that is important. He thought that this part of the soul, this activity, doesn't have a corresponding bodily organ like the other parts of the soul. And I asked you: do you believe that there's any mind function which is somehow not related to the brain? For Aristotle the mind does not have to be the same thing as the brain for it to be considered as inseparable from it (except that he didn't know as much about the brain as we do). That's the ground on which he rejects the separability of the other parts of the soul, even though he does not identify these parts with their corresponding organs. It seems to me that given the grounds on which he believed nous is separable from the body, while the other parts of the soul are not, he would have to either change this conclusion or find other ways to argue for nous' separability while rejecting this criterion.

    Indeed, that is precisely what I am attempting to articulate. That is why I referred to the passage from Father Brennan on Thomistic philosophy, to whit:

    if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality.

    That is as succinct a statement of the notion of hylomorphic dualism, which was derived from the 'active intellect' of Aristotle, as I have found.
    Wayfarer

    I think that the reason you find it succinct and not a distortion is because you haven't read Aristotle. Both this and Gerson's quote, leave out distinctions which are present in Aristotle. I point them out and you still believe we're talking about the same thing. Yes, "intellectual knowledge" and "sense knowledge" (whatever that is) are different, but that's not the only distinction Aristotle draws. Maybe in their books they're more precise, but to someone who has not read Aristotle, this can only be misleading. Reading Aristotle along with secondary literature might help.

    Again, here, there is an implied or explicit hierarchy - that 'what produces' is 'superior' to 'what is affected' as 'the first principle' is 'superior' to 'matter' - all of which is stock-in-trade for scholastic realism.Wayfarer

    No, it's not, it's Aristotle. Aristotle describes knowledge in act as essentially energeia - activity. The activity (nous) is the producing. This activity, knowledge in act, is between nous and the sensible object. That's why he compares the active nous to light. The way light enacts colours in sensible things, active nous enacts forms. And the first principle being superior to matter here points to the fact that despite that we arrive at it last (we understand bit by bit), it's what completes our knowledge (the active intellect knows all things at once, it grasps the original unity). Everything has its place and role here. None of that means that thinking can't be blended with a body. It can and as Aristotle points out, without the body (i.e. perception) we would understand nothing. We would also understand nothing without the always active intellect which enables us to understand bit by bit, even though its job is not that bit by bit knowledge.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I point them out and you still believe we're talking about the same thingΠετροκότσυφας

    No, I don’t believe that. I’m talking about trying to understand ‘matter-form’ dualism. I don’t need to be told ‘I haven’t read Aristotle’ as I have acknowledged that but we’re clearly talking past one another.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    975
    You quoted me and wrote that the quoted passage was what you were trying to articulate, so I took you saying we were talking about the same thing. But the Brennan quote just afterwards is not talking about the distinction my quote makes. It only discriminates between "intellectual knowledge" and perception (as such).
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    Really? How would you describe my knowing that God exists physically? Note that if you remove what my knowledge is about, you fail to specify what knowledge you are discussing. If I say moving my leg is local motion of a lower extremity, I have lost no content.Dfpolis

    The physicalists produce this description on the this forum quite commonly. They refer to neurological processes. I disagree with such descriptions because I think that leaving out the intentional aspect is to produce an incomplete description. You would insist that a description of "knowing that God exists" requires the "aboutness", but the physicalist would say that this is accidental, and so not required.in the description, the activity of such and such neurons is a sufficient description, and what this is about is only relevant to you, who claims it is about God.

    I would argue the same point against you, on your description of a leg spasm. It is incomplete, because you are missing content, you are missing the fact that the leg spasm it is a neurological process of a living human being. When you remove this content, you may as well be talking about the movement of an extremity of a piece of rock.

    So I think that your description of a leg spasm is incomplete because it leaves out the intentional aspect, just like the physicalist's description of thought as a neurological activity is incomplete because it leaves out the intentional aspect. I believe that all the activities of living beings have an intentional aspect, because intention is inherent within the "soul", which all living things have in common, as the source of all their activities. So I believe that any description of the activity of a living being requires reference to intention in order to be a complete description of that activity. To leave intention out from a description of a living activity is to provide an incomplete description.

    As I said, some acts are intentionally done, others not. Or are you thinking that all acts reflect Divine Intent?Dfpolis

    What I think, is that in general, all the activities of living things display this "aboutness" which you refer to. They are about some further end. Sure you can point to a particular living action, and say, I don't see the aboutness here, therefore there is none, but we do not see intention. Intention is only reveled when we put the action into its appropriate context, and that context is often unknown. To do this is like pointing to a person walking down the street, and saying, that's a random act, there is no aboutness to that act of "walking down the street". Only when we put the act into the appropriate context, is intention revealed.

    The problem is, that there is an intentional aspect to the act, must be presumed in order to give the act an intentional context. if you do not presume the intentional context, you will place "walking down the street" in the context of other physical acts by that person, and other people, in an ever widening physical context, without ever coming across intentionality. Instead though, our habit is to place the act into an intentional context, and this is the result of a logical conclusion. if the act is such and such (the conscious act of a human being, for example), then it is intentional, therefore we presume intentionality, and we look to give that act an intentional context. Notice that intentionality cannot be directly inferred from a simple description of the act. We class the act as intentional, based on some logical principle that this type of act ought be classed as intentional, and only following this presumption of intentionality do we seek a context of intentionality for the act.

    So to give the act an intentional context, to say that it is an intentional act, requires some principles by which this presumption is made, otherwise the act will be placed in the category of physical act, and the intentionality of the act will be overlooked in any description of it. The common principle employed is that a conscious human act is an intentional act, and therefore we seek an intentional context for conscious human acts. I argue that intention is evident within acts of all living things, therefore we ought to presume that if it is an act of a living thing, it is intentional, and seek to put all living acts into an intentional context. I would not call this "Divine Intent", because I apprehend a separation between the intent of God and the intent of living things.

    There's an SEP entry on Active Intellect (or active mind, nous poiêtikos) here. It makes the point again that the very brief passage on the active intellect is a minefield for interpreters, saying 'So varied are their approaches, in fact, that it is tempting to regard De Anima iii 5 as a sort of Rorschach Test for Aristotelians: it is hard to avoid the conclusion that readers discover in this chapter the Aristotle they hope to admire.'Wayfarer

    I think the important point to note, rather than trying to apprehend what "active intellect" refers to, is the distinction between active intellect and passive intellect. This places "active intellect" into context, and the passive intellect, as the scholastics found out, is really the difficult part to understand. The nominalist/realist division is started right here, in the question of whether the passive intellect is proper to the individual, or to the collective of human beings. However, as described by Aquinas, the passive intellect is required to account for memory so it must be proper to the individual, but as "passive", the passive intellect gets into the same category of things which matter is placed in, it is similar to matter. But Aquinas seems to take pains to establish a separation between the passive intellect, and matter, because he wants to attribute the intellect to the soul, which is immaterial, so he doesn't seem to be ready to allow that any part of the intellect, not even the passive intellect, is material.
  • Dfpolis
    546
    The physicalists produce this description on the this forum quite commonly.Metaphysician Undercover

    I am not a physicalist. Are you? The rest of your paragraph wanders aimlessly, not responding to my question. "How would you describe my knowing that God exists physically?"

    I believe that all the activities of living beings have an intentional aspect, because intention is inherent within the "soul", which all living things have in common, as the source of all their activities.Metaphysician Undercover

    As Aristotle notes, the soul is the actuality of a potentially living being. While some of our acts are intentional, the mere fact that an act is our does not make it intentional. Your "logic" is rather like saying that since a paint factory can produce black paint, all its paint must be black.

    So I believe that any description of the activity of a living being requires reference to intention in order to be a complete description of that activity.Metaphysician Undercover

    All human thought, and all of the language that expresses it, fails to be exhaustive. That does not prevent us from making valid distinctions based on our power to abstract.

    What I think, is that in general, all the activities of living things display this "aboutness" which you refer to.Metaphysician Undercover

    Fine. Most of the rest of us do not see that.

    I think I have spent enough time with you on this.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    I am not a physicalist. Are you? The rest of your paragraph wanders aimlessly, not responding to my question. "How would you describe my knowing that God exists physically?"Dfpolis

    No, I'm not physicalist, so I would not describe you "knowing that God exists" in a physicalist way. The point is, that a physicalist would describe it in that way. So you need some principles whereby you can demonstrate that the physicalist description is wrong. You have provided no such principles, just alluded to the assumption that if your thought is about "God" instead of about "myself, or about "another person", or about something else, that this amounts to a substantial difference which cannot be described physically. In other words, you insist that since you describe this act as intentional, that act as physical, therefore they are as stipulated, despite the fact that others describe them in a different way.

    As Aristotle notes, the soul is the actuality of a potentially living being. While some of our acts are intentional, the mere fact that an act is our does not make it intentional. Your "logic" is rather like saying that since a paint factory can produce black paint, all its paint must be black.Dfpolis

    I haven't shown you the logic whereby I conclude that all acts of living beings have an intentional aspect, so you have no place to criticize the logic I haven't yet shown you. However, I can use your analogy of the paint factory to demonstrate how your position is faulty. First, do you accept the premise, as I explained, that the existence of intention cannot be observed in an act? Now, if we know that a particular being is capable of carrying out an intentional act, we cannot exclude the possibility of intention from any act carried out by that being as we cannot observe whether the act is intentional or not. If we know that the paint company turns out some cans of black paint, and none are ;labeled, we cannot exclude the possibility that any can has black paint. So when you deny that any particular action of a living being (such as the leg spasm) has any intentional aspect, this is what you are doing, denying that the paint in the can is black without knowing whether this is the case or not.

    So, when you apprehend from the vast evidence, the fact that every living being produces intentional acts, (they have acts which are about some purpose beyond the immediate act) you have no reason to deny the possibility that any particular living act has an intentional aspect. But when you are in denial, and refuse to acknowledge this fact, you will tend to designate some living acts as "physical", without an intentional element, and this seems to be your inclination.

    I think I have spent enough time with you on this.Dfpolis

    You really don't seem to take having your ideas criticised very well. Instead of defending your position, and backing up your principles with reason, you prefer to end the discussion.
  • Dfpolis
    546
    I'm not physicalist, so I would not describe you "knowing that God exists" in a physicalist way. The point is, that a physicalist would describe it in that way.Metaphysician Undercover

    I presume you are not a physicalist because you, like me, see the errors of physicalism. Therefore, it is absurd to rest your case on a position we both agree is defective.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    I presume you are not a physicalist because you, like me, see the errors of physicalism. Therefore, it is absurd to rest your case on a position we both agree is defective.Dfpolis

    If this is your opinion, then you're completely missing the point of my "case". We both see that physicalism has errors. Perhaps though, we do not see the same errors.

    The physicalist claims that if an action can be described without reference to intention, it is not an intentional act (P1). Further, every action can be described without reference to intention (P2). Therefore no acts are properly called intentional. The error of physicalism which I see, is the first premise, that if an action can be described without reference to intention, it is not an intentional act. That is false, as my explanation, and example demonstrate. Intention is not observable, so when any act is described it is not necessary to include intention. If intentionality is referred to, it is added as an extra, unobservable part of the description.

    My "case" is that you make the very same error. Your distinction between intentional acts and physical acts is based on how we choose to describe the act. The second premise above, is true, as my example of "walking down the street" demonstrates, any act can be described without reference to intention. Because you make the very same mistake as the physicalist, defining "physical act" according to the description of the act, and it is clear that any act can be described without reference to intention, your division between an intentional act and a physical act is completely arbitrary and absolutely meaningless.

    There is a book called "The Hidden Life of Trees", by Peter Wohleben. The author has an extraordinary writing style, he refers to the intention behind all the different sorts of activities which trees are involved in. It is an uneasy read at first, because the man is well versed in the biology and science of arboriculture and the mix of the terminology of science with that of intention is unusual, requiring that one adapt to this writing style. The use of "intention" in reference to the acts of trees appears like the writings of a quack, yet this use of "intention is backed up, and supported by all sorts of scientific facts. The point now, is that the man is not incorrect to use "intention" in this way, describing all these activities of trees as intentional acts. It is just our custom and habit to restrict the adding of "intention" to our descriptions, such that we only use it in reference to conscious human acts. However, "intention" as per its common definition is found in activities everywhere throughout the biological world, and we really ought to start describing the intentional aspect of these activities, following the example that Mr. Wohleben sets. To leave intention out of the description, and describe these acts as "physical acts" is to provide an incomplete description of the act, in the erroneous way of the physicalist.
  • Dfpolis
    546
    The physicalist claims that if an action can be described without reference to intention, it is not an intentional act (P1)Metaphysician Undercover

    This is not my position.
    Intention is not observable, so when any act is described it is not necessary to include intention.Metaphysician Undercover

    This is false on two points. (1) We observe purely intentional acts such as knowing and willing by introspection, so they are observable. They are not intersubjectively observable, it is true, but that is of no epistemological consequence. (2) As acts such as knowing, willing, believing, and hoping can be defined without reference to matter, they are not intrinsically physical. Thus, they are intrinsically intentional.

    any act can be described without reference to intention.Metaphysician Undercover

    False.

    I certainly agree that, since the laws of nature are intentional, all physical acts, which are guided by those laws, are intentional wrt to God. They are not all intentional with respect to finite minds.

    So, just to be clear, I do not see physical acts as lacking intentionality. That they have intentionality was my whole point in beginning this thread. Still, pure intentional acts are not physical acts.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    This is not my position.Dfpolis

    If that is not your position, then can you explain to me the principles whereby you class an act as either physical or intentional. That's what I'm trying to get you to explain. As I've explained to you, these are two distinct modes of description which may be applied to the very same acts, not two distinct types of acts. When we attempt to describe an act, we choose to describe the physical aspect of it, the intentional aspect of it, or both. I think that I've satisfactorily demonstrated that many acts of living beings may be described as both, they have an intentional aspect, and a physical aspect.

    It appears to me, like your position is to assume a dichotomy between physical acts and intentional acts, such that they are mutually exclusive. But I see that this exclusive categorization presents problems, such as the assumption of activities which have no physical dimension. Therefore I am trying to get more information from you, concerning these activities which are assumed to have no physical dimension.

    (1) We observe purely intentional acts such as knowing and willing by introspection, so they are observable. They are not intersubjectively observable, it is true, but that is of no epistemological consequence.Dfpolis

    OK, let's assume that there are mental acts, which we know about through introspection. Introspection tells me that even these acts have a dimension which is non-intentional, they are about something physical. And so there is a problem. These intentional acts of knowing and willing cannot be completely separated from their physical dimensions. Furthermore, we know that there is physical activity, (brain activity), which goes along with the intentional activity of thinking. So why propose a separation between these? If we want a clear representation of what is really the case, then why not allow that these are two different aspects of the same activity? I assume that the separation you propose is proposed as a principle, a tool for analysis, such that we might seek to understand the intentional aspect of the act separately from the physical aspect of the act, and understand how they relate to each other.

    If we take this route of analysis, dividing the intentional from the physical, there is a problem which the physicalist is very happy to point out. ,Knowing and thinking may simply be the result, the effects of, physical brain action. The real activity here may be as the physicalist argues, neurological activities, while thinking and knowing are the results of these internal physical activities. This presents a problem for introspection. We can only observe through introspection, the thinking, knowing, and willing, aspect of these activities, we cannot examine the brain activity through introspection. So it is a problem much like that described by Kant's phenomena/noumena division. All that we can observe through introspection is how these activities are presented to the conscious mind, as thoughts, knowing, etc., but we cannot get to the "activities-in-themselves", which are much deeper within the living being.

    So the problem is, that these acts, thinking and knowing etc., already consist of both physical and intentional aspects. The physical is the brain activity, and the intentional is what the thinking is about. Introspection does not allow us to go further, and separate the intentional and physical, in analysis as you suggest it might. So introspection doesn't allow us to observe purely intentional activity without the mix of physical activity, because all that is evident to introspection is thinking and knowing etc., which is already a complete mix of physical and intentional activity. This means that if we want to do the analysis which you propose, to separate the intentional from the physical, we need more than introspection, we need logical principles.

    If you contrast the intentional with the physical, then the intentional must be non-physical. This implies that the intentional is, as I suggested, completely unobservable. As you can see, the purely intentional is not observable through introspection. Now, we need some principles whereby "an act" may be non-physical. How would you describe such an act? How does it relate to the fundamental principles of physics, space and time? Is this act outside of space and time?


    False.

    I certainly agree that, since the laws of nature are intentional, all physical acts, which are guided by those laws, are intentional wrt to God. They are not all intentional with respect to finite minds.

    So, just to be clear, I do not see physical acts as lacking intentionality. That they have intentionality was my whole point in beginning this thread. Still, pure intentional acts are not physical acts.
    Dfpolis

    This is your assertion, that it is false that any act may be described physically without reference to intentionality, as is the physicalist's assumption. I challenged you to support this assertion, and you gave me an example or two, "knowing that...". As I explained to you, your examples represent eternal states, without change, and these are not "acts". A state is not an act. So the challenge is still there for you to support your assertion that there is an act which cannot be described as a physical act.
  • Dfpolis
    546
    If that is not your position, then can you explain to me the principles whereby you class an act as either physical or intentional.Metaphysician Undercover

    I have repeatedly. You refuse to accept what I tell you or offer a sound reason to reject it.

    your position is to assume a dichotomy between physical acts and intentional actsMetaphysician Undercover

    I have already told you many times that this is not my position. Time spent in trying to make you understand my position is time wasted. I'm not wasting any more of my time.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    You refuse to accept what I tell you or offer a sound reason to reject it.Dfpolis

    As I've explained to you, these are two distinct modes of description which may be applied to the very same acts, not two distinct types of acts.Metaphysician Undercover

    Is that not a sound reason? Are you going to support your claim of two distinct types of acts, intentional acts and physical acts, or not?
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