• Vipin
    7
    I am new to philosophy. I find it interesting to read on philosophy.
    Nominalism theories deny universals and they say particulars can have predicates or group under some category. This is tough for me to understand.

    Alfred and Tom have strong arms. Having strong arms is universals, why they deny its existence.
    Why do they say it is just named?
    some help appreciated.
    Thanks

  • StreetlightX
    4.9k
    Perhaps a less confusing way to put it is that nominalism doesn't necessarily have to be committed to the denial of universals as such. What it denies is rather the 'reality' of universals; it says that that universals only exist, insofar as they do exist, as names, as nominata, and not as something substantial - as if another entity, another ens - apart from particular instances of 'strong arms'. Not 'whether' universals exist but 'how' they exist (as names, as things): this is perhaps a more tractable approach to nominalism.
  • Vipin
    7

    Thanks for the reply.
    Your reply helps but one more doubt.
    What does it mean to say they exist as names alone? They don't consider universals as reality as Plato argues. I understood that much.
  • StreetlightX
    4.9k
    What does it mean to say they exist as names alone?Vipin

    In a way this is the question that defines the terrain of nominalism: to answer this is to have a theory of nominalism, and there are quite a few of those. You're right that nominalism is generally anti-Platonic (insofar as Plato is said to be a realist, and not a nominalist, about universals). So to get your conceptual bearings, the opposite of 'nomialism' is usually said to be 'realism'. The SEP is, as always a good but detailed introduction to the topic:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nominalism-metaphysics/#NomAboUni
  • DfpolisAccepted Answer
    926
    Nominalism theories deny universals and they say particulars can have predicates or group under some category. This is tough for me to understand.Vipin

    Nominalism is tough to understand because it is inadequate. We don't assign the term "strong arms" to Alfred and Tom, by fiat as nominalists seem to think. We assign the term because Alfred and Tom in fact have strong arms.

    Moderate Realism, the theory of Aristotle and Aquinas among others, rejects both Platonic Ideals, and the view that universals are merely names or concepts. It takes the middle ground by saying (against Plato) that there are no actual universals outside of thinking minds, but (against nominalists and conceptualists) there is a foundation in reality for our universal concepts.

    When we see Alfred, we can mentally separate many features ("notes of intelligibility") he has. Say he's male, lanky, blond, and has strong arms. Each of these features becomes an idea when we become aware of them. <Male>, <lanky>, <blond> and <strong arms> are all ideas evoked by Afred's reality. When we see Tom, the idea <strong arms> is also evoked, showing that it applies to more than one individual, and hence is universal. In each case, the idea is invoked because the individual in question actually has the corresponding feature or note of intelligibility.

    Thus, universals are not just names or concepts, they reflect reality. That reality is not a Platonic Idea or Divine Exemplar, but features or notes intelligibility in individuals that have the objective capacity to evoke the same, universal idea. Thus, universals do not depend on arbitrary naming conventions or set assignments. Universal names express our experience that many individuals elicit the same idea, and they apply not only to individuals we have encountered, but to any and all individuals with the objective capacity to evoke the same idea (with the same notes of intelligibility).

    So to get your conceptual bearings, the opposite of 'nomialism' is usually said to be 'realism'.StreetlightX

    Yes, but realism need not be the extreme realism of Plato. it can be the Aristotelian or Thomistic moderate realism explained above.
  • darthbarracuda
    3k
    I'm not necessarily disagreeing with what you wrote here, but want clarification.

    Aristotelian universals, as I understood them, exist and are in fact real (independent of minds), but are not Platonic ideas. Rather, Aristotle's universals are multiple-realizable entities that exist only insofar as they are instantiated in a substance. Perception is the mind's impressions of substances, akin to how pressing your thumb into a piece of clay creates an impression of your thumb in the clay. Aristotle's mind is thus a model of substances.

    Point being is that I was confused when you said:

    It takes the middle ground by saying (against Plato) that there are no actual universals outside of thinking minds, but (against nominalists and conceptualists) there is a foundation in reality for our universal concepts.Dfpolis

    but then said:

    Thus, universals are not just names or concepts, they reflect reality.Dfpolis

    If universals in the mind reflect reality, then doesn't that mean reality does, in fact, have real universals?
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Rather, Aristotle's universals are multiple-realizable entities that exist only insofar as they are instantiated in a substance.darthbarracuda

    How is this different from what I said? I suppose that you could think that the universals actually exist in individuals, but Aristotle is quite clear that this is not the case. If you read De Anima iii he is quite clear that objects are merely intelligible until the agent intellect (which I see as awareness) makes them actually known. Thus, while the potential to be universally understood is found in individual substances, actual universals are found only in the mind.

    Perception is the mind's impressions of substances, akin to how pressing your thumb into a piece of clay creates an impression of your thumb in the clay. Aristotle's mind is thus a model of substances.darthbarracuda

    The idea of a model misses a critical point in Aristotle's analysis of both sensing and knowing. That point is the dynamic inseparability of sensed and sensor, and of known object and knowing subject. Aristotle points out that the single act of sensing actualizes two separate potentials: the sensibility of the object and the capacity of the sense to be informed. Stated in a different way, the object being sensed by the sensor is (identically) the sensor sensing the object. In a more contemporary projection, the sensible object's modification of our nervous system is (identically) our neural representation of the sensible object.

    The same is true of knowing: the single act of awareness actualizes both the object's intelligibility and the intellect's capacity to be informed. Thus, in both the sensory and intellectual aspects of perception, there is an inescapable identity that "modelling" misses entirely. Our knowledge of the object is not a model of the object, but the object itself informing us. Thus, Aristotle avoids the cognitive gap found in modern philosophy.

    If universals in the mind reflect reality, then doesn't that mean reality does, in fact, have real universals?darthbarracuda

    No, it means that it has potential universals. The distinction of potency and act is a powerful weapon in Aristotle's intellectual arsenal, and be wields it against innumerable problems.

    I hope this helps.
  • Marchesk
    3.1k
    Perhaps a less confusing way to put it is that nominalism doesn't necessarily have to be committed to the denial of universals as such. What it denies is rather the 'reality' of universals; it says that that universals only exist, insofar as they do exist, as names, as nominata, and not as something substantial -StreetlightX

    I'm confused as to the difference between nominalism and conceptualism. Also, saying that universals are just names is pretty much denying the existence of universals. The nominalist is basically pulling a Dennett and redefining the term to mean something else, while saying it still exists, in a fashion (to the extent Nominalists say they aren't committed to denying universals).
  • Marchesk
    3.1k
    The big question for nominalism is whether something other than universals can be used to explain the similarity between particulars.

    Possibilities include tropes, properties and bruteness (sameness has no explanation, it just is).
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Nominalism says universals are only names, with no foundation in reality. Conceptualism says they are only concepts, with no foundation in reality.

    If the only universal things are names, then they exist, but only as conventional signs -- as human inventions.

    Unless there is something real to connect universal ideas/concepts to their instances, there is no reason not to call anything by any universal name. For example, I can decide to call my dog a cat, while I call yours a turtle.
  • Marchesk
    3.1k
    Nominalism says universals are only names, with no foundation in reality. Conceptualism says they are only concepts, with no foundation in reality.Dfpolis

    Right, but I'm unclear as to the difference between names and concepts in this debate.

    If the only universal things are names, then they exist, but only as conventional signs -- as human inventions.Dfpolis

    Sure, but by that token, anything exists that's in language, including unicorns, present day bald kings of France, and the IPU.
  • Marchesk
    3.1k
    Unless there is something real to connect universal ideas/concepts to their instances, there is no reason not to call anything by any universal name. For example, I can decide to call my dog a cat, while I call yours a turtle.Dfpolis

    This would be a major problem with nominalism if that's the case, because clearly there are differences between dogs and cats, while there are similarities among dogs unique to dogs. That's why we have universal categories. Because we recognize that particulars have similarities and difference which allow for grouping/classifying them, and this is non-arbitrary. It's an empirical fact of dogs, cats, stones, stars, etc.
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Right, but I'm unclear as to the difference between names and concepts in this debate.Marchesk

    It reflects what is thought primary, words or ideas. If you think that ideas are merely words we speak internally, then you are more likely to be a nominalist. If you think ideas are more fundamental, and words merely express them, then you're more likely to be a conceptualist.

    clearly there are differences between dogs and cats, while there are similarities among dogs unique to dogs.Marchesk

    Yes, that is why I'm a moderate realist. Perhaps there is a nominalist on the forum that would like to provide a stronger defense of his/her position.
  • Marchesk
    3.1k
    If you think that ideas are merely words we speak internally, then you are more likely to be a nominalist.Dfpolis

    Words typically express concepts. Names would be an exception, as they're often arbitrary labels. Does anyone disagree that many words are conceptual? I have a sneaking suspicion about the meaning-is-use people here, but even with that concept of meaning, there is still a cognitive component to understanding the use, which explains why humans are capable of language.

    Perhaps there is a nominalist on the forum that would like to provide a stronger defense of his/her position.Dfpolis

    Oh, there's a few. Whether this topic interests them is another matter.
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Does anyone disagree that many words are conceptual?Marchesk

    There are people who believe there is a "language of thought." I reject the notion because it leads to an infinite regress.
  • Marchesk
    3.1k
    There are people who believe there is a "language of thought." I reject the notion because it leads to an infinite regress.Dfpolis

    Do you reject that there are neural mechanisms behind word formation in the brain that have something to do with understanding word meaning?
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Do you reject that there are neural mechanisms behind word formation in the brain that have something to do with understanding word meaning?Marchesk

    Of course not. I see the mind as composed of two subsystems: (1) a neural processing subsystem (the brain), and (2) an intentional subsystem that provides awareness and direction (intellect and will).
  • Wayfarer
    9.5k
    I’m interested in the relationship of matter and form in ‘hylo-morphism’ [which is the matter-form dualism that originated with Aristotle.] ‘Hyle’ is matter, ‘morphe’ is form; and ‘the form’ or ‘the idea’ is what comprises the nature of the particular, which is a unity of form and matter. The form or type is what enables the intellect to identify a particular as being ‘this kind, species or type’,and also what gives it its identity; related to essence. This is summarised in one text as follows:

    Moreover, 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.

    From Thomistic Psychology: A Philosophical Analysis of the Nature of Man, by Robert E. Brennan, O.P.; Macmillan Co., 1941.

    From Feser:

    As Aristotelians and Thomists use the term, intellect is that faculty by which we grasp abstract concepts (like the concepts man and mortal), put them together into judgments (like the judgment that ‘all men are mortal’), and reason logically from one judgment to another (as when we reason from ‘all men are mortal’ and ‘Socrates is a man’ to the conclusion that ‘Socrates is mortal’). It is to be distinguished from imagination, the faculty by which we form mental images (such as a visual mental image... ) and from sensation, the faculty by which we perceive the goings on in the external material world and the internal world of the body (such as a visual experience of the computer in front of you, the auditory experience of the cars passing by on the street outside your window, the awareness you have of the position of your legs, etc.).

    That intellectual activity -- ‘thought’ in the strictest sense of the term -- is irreducible to sensation and imagination is a thesis that unites Platonists, Aristotelians, and rationalists of either the ancient Parmenidean sort or the modern Cartesian sort.

    Whereas, in consequence of nominalism, which was in many respects the precursor to empiricism, this distinguishing characteristic of the ‘faculty of reason’ is generally no longer recognised, with considerable consequences for modern philosophy of mind and especially theory of meaning.

    You might be interested in this essay which is a historical critique of the origin of nominalism.
  • Marchesk
    3.1k
    Whereas, in consequence of nominalism, which was in many respects the precursor to empiricism, this distinguishing characteristic of the ‘faculty of reason’ is generally no longer recognised, with considerable consequences for modern philosophy of mind and especially theory of meaning.Wayfarer

    Where does science fit in this? Science is empirically-based, but theory is equally important. Science seeks to tie related observations together into an explanatory whole. Physics highlights how importation rationalism and imagination are in a addition to doing experiments.

    Event experimental setup requires a good deal of creativity and reason.
  • Wayfarer
    9.5k
    Where does science fit in this?Marchesk

    It’s a metaphysical question.
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Thank you for the reference.

    I reject the Thomistic thesis that the intellect can only know universals, which I see, not as Aristotelian, but as Neoplatonic. Aristotle's thesis is that science deals with universals, not particulars. The confusion arises because scientia means both science and knowledge. So the Latin text of Aristotle can be read to mean that intellectual knowledge is only of universals (as stated by Brennan in your quotation).

    The problem is that unless both individuals and universals can be recognized by the same faculty, we can't form judgements linking them. We cannot think (an intellectual operation) <This is (universal)>, because (in the Thomistic view) "this" is not an idea, and therefore not something the intellect can grasp, while the universal predicated of "this" can't be represented at the sensory level.

    The difficulty can be resolve simply, by identifying the agent intellect with awareness (as I do) and noting that we can be aware of both an object as a unified whole (ousia, substance) and as having various universalizable features or notes of intelligibility. So, in my view, first we become aware of objects as wholes, and then, by abstraction, we dissect them into universal concepts. So, wen we think <this is (universal)> we mean that the "this" we are aware of is the identical object that evokes the universal concept. Both subject and predicate are grasped by the same faculty, but in different modes -- fixing our attentions either on the whole or on a specific note of intelligibility.

    Whereas, in consequence of nominalism, which was in many respects the precursor to empiricism, this distinguishing characteristic of the ‘faculty of reason’ is generally no longer recognised, with considerable consequences for modern philosophy of mind and especially theory of meaning.Wayfarer

    Which is why modern defenders of the irreducibly of consciousness fix on qualia and not on the actualization of intelligibility by the intellect.
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Where does science fit in this? ... Event experimental setup requires a good deal of creativity and reason.Marchesk

    Of course, science must use intellect, because science is a human activity and humans understand the world by the use of intellect. Still, that does not mean that scientists (as a whole) are all that self-reflective in their use of intellect.

    I have written a number of times recently about the fundamental abstraction of natural science. While every act of knowing involves both a knowing subject and a known object, at the beginning of natural science a conscious methodological decision is made to focus on the known object to the exclusion of the knowing subject. As natural scientists, we care about what Galileo saw through his telescope, not about his experience as a knowing subject in seeing it. As a result, the natural sciences leave data on the knowing subject on the table -- excluded from their area of concern. Being bereft of data on the knowing subject, it cannot link what it does know about the objective world of physics to what it does not know about the knowing subject. Thus, the natural sciences are methodologically unequipped to devise theories of consciousness or to discuss intentional realities such as the operations of intellect and will.
  • tim wood
    4.1k
    Thus, universals do not depend on arbitrary naming conventions or set assignments. Universal names express our experience that many individuals elicit the same idea, and they apply not only to individuals we have encountered, but to any and all individuals with the objective capacity to evoke the same idea (with the same notes of intelligibility).Dfpolis

    This sentence seems to come as close as any to the problem with realism. "[W]ith the objective capacity to evoke the same idea," comes even closer. The example given was <strong arms>.

    What is real is the idea. The subject of the idea is a constellation of abstract ideas of some kind of experience, probably many experiences. All tending, once filtered, to the same idea and the same expression of that idea in language, "strong arms." This is how the world works. But is there any such thing as a strong arm?

    As a practical matter, sure. I have two, my friend's are stronger, and my wife's truly terrifying. But the question isn't to the practical matter of the thing. It is to what is.

    A simple test. If a strong arm is a thing, then folks can describe it, and there ought to be enough in common in those descriptions that can enable us to identify that thing that is the strong arm. Not your strong arm or mine, but the strong arm itself that is the strong arm.

    It is a guess on my part that Aristotle, if he's taken as the original font of the realist idea, was fully cognizant of the problems inherent in the reification of concepts, whether he expressed it in those terms or not, and that in his philosophy of strong arms it didn't especially matter, and thus he didn't really care. He knew a strong arm from a weak one, end of story. As to his idea of what an idea is, I do not know. But I am pretty sure he could tell the difference between the reality of an idea and the different reality of a strong arm.

    ----

    It seems to me that any modern (that is, post c. 1400 AD) consideration of realism and nominalism must take into account scholastic-Christian realism and the opposed nominalism. These are still somewhat relevant topics. Further back may be interesting but is a proper focus for antiquarians.
  • Dfpolis
    926
    All tending, once filtered, to the same idea and the same expression of that idea in language, "strong arms." This is how the world works. But is there any such thing as a strong arm?tim wood

    Note that I did not say we all have the same idea <strong arms>. What qualifies as strong for me may not qualify as strong for you. That is why I talk about the fact that different people have different conceptual spaces. So, the universality is in the relation of one person's concept to its instances, not in the equivalence of concepts among different people. Of course some concepts, say <triangle>, are simple and well-defined enough to fairly universal in the population, but that is not a requirement for any one person to have a universal concept. It may be his or hers alone.

    Aristotle was quite aware of people reifying concepts (he had Plato as a teacher). That's why he discusses the difference between things (ousia = substance) and features or accidents.
  • tim wood
    4.1k
    So, the universality is in the relation of one person's concept to its instances, not in the equivalence of concepts among different people.Dfpolis
    This sounds like universal as phenomenon rather than thing. That gets messy, fast; or maybe it doesn't get messy, but starts messy. By phenomenon I have in mind that my instantiated idea of a strong arm and yours, while both entirely different (I may be admiring my biceps in a mirror, you a gorilla or giant squid), may, by a third person both be adjudged to correspond in the sense of referring to strong arms. If that, then of what, exactly, is the universal comprised - beyond the behaviour of the third person?
  • Dfpolis
    926
    This sounds like universal as phenomenon rather than thingtim wood

    It it is neither a thing, nor a phenomenon (an experiential appearance). Universality is a attribute of a concept, and, by extension, of words expressing that concept.

    By phenomenon I have in mind that my instantiated idea of a strong arm and yours, while both entirely differenttim wood

    I would say, not entirely different (equivocal), but analogical.
    may, by a third person both be adjudged to correspond in the sense of referring to strong arms. If that, then of what, exactly, is the universal comprisedtim wood

    may, by a third person both be adjudged to correspond in the sense of referring to strong arms. If that, then of what, exactly, is the universal comprisedtim wood

    Universality is not about communication. What a third person does or does not understand is irrelevant to the intrinsic nature of our concepts. All that is required is that multiple instances have the objective capacity to evoke my concept and (possibly other) multiple instances have the objective capacity to evoke your concept. Of course this can lead to difficulties in communication, because when I say "strong arms" the idea the words evoke in you may differ from the idea I have. Such is life. It is important, we can work out the differences and communicate more effectively.

    In any culture, it is likely that our concepts will be very similar, having prety much the same set of instances. Differences will have to do with marginal cases.
  • Wayfarer
    9.5k
    The problem is that unless both individuals and universals can be recognized by the same faculty, we can't form judgements linking them. We cannot think (an intellectual operation) <This is (universal)>, because (in the Thomistic view) "this" is not an idea, and therefore not something the intellect can grasp, while the universal predicated of "this" can't be represented at the sensory level.

    The difficulty can be resolve simply, by identifying the agent intellect with awareness (as I do) and noting that we can be aware of both an object as a unified whole (ousia, substance) and as having various universalizable features or notes of intelligibility.
    Dfpolis

    Again, animals have awareness, but not the ability to abstract and judge, to say 'this means that', or 'this thing is the same type as that thing'. Animals are possessed of awareness, but have none of those capabilities, except for in rudimentary fashion. That ability is partially pre-conscious, i.e. it operates partially below the threshold of discursive consciousness, and is employed whenever we make rational judgements, which we do continuously as language-using beings. Don’t you see a link between this faculty - intellect - and what enables humans to think, reason, calculate and speak?

    As to what synthesises the intelligible and sensible into a unity, this is connected to the 'subjective unity of perception', which I think suggests a principle very much along the lines of Kant's 'transcendental apperception' and also suggested by the Ideas of Reason. So I don't find 'awareness' a sufficient explanatory principle.

    My view is that universals, mathematical and syntactical laws, logic, and the like, are like the 'ligatures of reason'. They are what binds together our mental operations. And being possessed of those abilities opens up domains of possibility that are not visible to non-rational creatures. How would science, scientia, be possible, were it not for the ability to recognise types, forms, substance, and so on? And these were ultimately grounded in the ideas, types, substance, and so on, of the metaphysical tradition, which nominalism, and then later empiricism, abandoned. Hence in the Ockham essay I referred to above:

    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 has 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.
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Again, animals have awarenessWayfarer

    We know that animals have what we might call "medical consciousness," which can be defined in terms of physiological responsiveness. We do not know that animals are aware in the sense of being knowing (as opposed to sensing) subjects. On the principle of parsimony we have no reason to suppose that they do.

    That ability is partially pre-conscious, i.e. it operates partially below the threshold of discursive consciousnessWayfarer

    All that we know animals to do can be explained without assuming that they are conscious of what they are doing. We can explain it at an entirely physical level. We cannot do that with human intentional operations such as knowing and willing.

    Don’t you see a link between this faculty - intellect - and what enables humans to think, reason, calculate and speak?Wayfarer

    Of course I do. It is the same faculty.

    So I don't find 'awareness' a sufficient explanatory principle.Wayfarer

    But it is. All we need to judge <This apple is crisp> is to be aware that the same object that evokes the concept <this apple> is the object that evokes <crisp>. What more do we need? You can easily extend this analysis to the syllogism in Barbara -- following the identity through the premises to the conclusion. So, awareness explains ideogenesis, judgement and deduction. We do not need more.

    Hence in the Ockham essay I referred to aboveWayfarer

    I'm reading it. I note that it misconstrues Aquinas by leaving out the role of intelligibility in the instances of a universal.

    I think you've failed to answer my question: How can we judge that a particular is a universal if particulars and universals are never found in the same theater of operation?
  • Wayfarer
    9.5k
    We do not know that animals are aware in the sense of being knowing (as opposed to sensing) subjects. On the principle of parsimony we have no reason to suppose that they do.Dfpolis

    Animals can learn, and even display problem-solving, along with empathy, aggression, compassion, and many other abilities. But they don't speak and they can't count (in any form other than the very rudimentary). Anyway the point I'm making is that, animals possess awareness - I can't see how that is contestable - but not reason.

    So I don't find 'awareness' a sufficient explanatory principle.
    — Wayfarer

    But it is. All we need to judge <This apple is crisp> is to be aware that the same object that evokes the concept <this apple> is the object that evokes <crisp>. What more do we need?
    Dfpolis

    That is a very basic form of generalisation, and 'crispness' hardly a stand-in for the scope of universal judgements generally. The examples that Feser provides communicate the idea more thoroughly:

    For Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and other ancients and medievals, the main reason why the mind has to be immaterial concerns its affinity to its primary objects of knowledge, namely universals, which are themselves immaterial.
    ...
    Consider that when you think about triangularity, as you might when proving a geometrical theorem, it is necessarily perfect triangularity that you are contemplating, not some mere approximation of it. Triangularity as your intellect grasps it is entirely determinate or exact; for example, what you grasp is the notion of a closed plane figure with three perfectly straight sides, rather than that of something which may or may not have straight sides or which may or may not be closed. Of course, your mental image of a triangle might not be exact, but rather indeterminate and fuzzy. But to grasp something with the intellect is not the same as to form a mental image of it. For any mental image of a triangle is necessarily going to be of an isosceles triangle specifically, or of a scalene one, or an equilateral one; but the concept of triangularity that your intellect grasps applies to all triangles alike. Any mental image of a triangle is going to have certain features, such as a particular color, that are no part of the concept of triangularity in general. A mental image is something private and subjective, while the concept of triangularity is objective and grasped by many minds at once.
    ...
    Now the thought you are having about triangularity when you grasp it must be as determinate or exact as triangularity itself, otherwise it just wouldn’t be a thought about triangularity in the first place, but only a thought about some approximation of triangularity. Yet material things are never determinate or exact in this way.

    Some Brief Arguments for Dualism


    How can we judge that a particular is a universal if particulars and universals are never found in the same theater of operation?Dfpolis

    I did address that - this is a question of the 'synthetic unity of consciousness' - 'synthetic' in the sense of there being a faculty which draws together (synthesises) the differing elements of sensation, perception and judgement into a united whole. So when we see an object, we can recognise it as a type - i.e. categorise or classify it - as well as recognise its colour, location and whether it's moving. And actually the faculty is involved in doing that is still somewhat mysterious to neuro-science - that is an aspect of the 'neural binding' problem (as I think we discussed).

    So the universal form and the particular instance of it are both unified in perception, but due to the faculty of reason, we can make judgements about what the thing is - what type, and so on. That amounts to much more than simply a judgement about a quality.

    And actually the Brennan passage addresses the issue too:

    “Abstraction, which is the proper task of active intellect, is essentially a liberating function in which the essence of the sensible object, potentially understandable as it lies beneath its accidents, is liberated from the elements that individualize it and is thus made actually understandable. The product of abstraction is a species of an intelligible order. Now possible intellect is supplied with an adequate stimulus to which it responds by producing a concept.”

    I admit, I'm not familiar with all of the implications and elaborations of these arguments. But I do maintain that central to them is the acceptance of the 'reality of intelligible objects', which is that these forms and ideas are real in their own right i.e. their reality is not derived from their being in individual minds or brains.
  • TheWillowOfDarkness
    2k


    Concepts must be more then ligatures of our reason. Animals might not have our reasoning ability, but they are significant in the conceptual order which extends beyond the human use of reason. Humans don't need to be reasoning or thinking about an animal for it to have its place in the conceptual order.

    A dinosaur eats without humans being present to reason about it. This schism between the conceptual order and human reason (i.e. that the conceptual order is over and above the existence of human reason/perception) also extends to concepts outside of reporting on the empirical order. Triangles and triangularity, for example, obtain as a concept even in the absence of humans reasoning about them. In any case, the unity of the concept is defined regardless of perception. General concepts which apply to an individual are defined with unity within the conceptual order itself.

    In applying a general to an individual, we are making use of this conceptual order. If I perceive a tree, for example, I do not unify that specific tree the general. On it's own, the tree already defines that unity: an existing thing which express the generality of tree. We just have think this necessarily true concept to understand this aspect of the tree.

    In other words, when I understand how a general applies to a particular, I'm not moving from a "fuzzy" guess to something more specific. Rather, I understand something specific (the existing tree) and that it reflects a particular general concept ( the general concept of "tree" ). The "fuzziness" is just an illusion created if I mistake the general concept for the object I'm talking about.

    When Dfpolis says we don't need anything more than for an explanation, they are saying we need is experience of the right concept itself-- e.g. the crispness of the apple, the triangularity of various triangles, etc. There is no higher or more foundational order than these necessary concepts. The existence (or non-existence) of human reason/experience has no impact upon these.
  • Dfpolis
    926
    Animals can learn, and even display problem-solving, along with empathy, aggression, compassion, and many other abilities.Wayfarer

    The brain processes most data without a hint of consciousness. Philosophers have long noted that even complex sensory processing can be automatic, absent awareness. Aquinas cites Ibn Sina's observation that citara players don't pause between chords since they're predetermined.  William James notes Rudolph Lotze pointing tof writing and piano playing as similar activities.  Roger Penrose remarks that people can carry on conversations without paying attention.  Reductionist J. J. C. Smart proffers bicycle riding as his example.  Psychologist Graham Reed studied time-gap experiences in which we become aware of the passage of time after being lost in thought. In my own case, I've found that I've been driving safely (on automatic pilot as it were) while thinking about some issue. By the time I realize this, I may have missed my exit. Thus, complex sensory processing and response need involve no awareness.

    So, it's not merely the fact that a behaviorist model works for animals, but also that we ourselves experience complex sensory processing without subjective awareness.

    That is a very basic form of generalisation, and 'crispness' hardly a stand-in for the scope of universal judgements generally.Wayfarer

    This is not a generalization on the Hume-Mill model of induction. I'm not starting with one or a few cases and then hypothesizing that all others are like those I've examined. Instead, it is an abstraction in which we see that the structure of a judgement is independent of what is being judged -- just as we come to arithmetic by seeing that the act of counting is independent of what is being counted.

    The example is simple, but the model is quite general. How can the judgement <A is B> be true if the object(s) that evoke <A> are not Identically the object(s) that evoke <B>? Suppose I'm unaware that object(s) that evoke <A> also evoke <B>. How would my judgement be justified? Or, if I judge <A is not B>, isn't it because I'm aware that the object that evokes <A> doesn't evoke <B>? So, a judgement is simply my act of awareness of identity (or lack of identity, for negative judgements) of source for the subject and predicate concepts.

    Maritain calls this "dividing to unite." We distinguish notes of intelligibility in abstraction and then reunite them in judgement.

    For Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and other ancients and medievals, the main reason why the mind has to be immaterial concerns its affinity to its primary objects of knowledge, namely universals, which are themselves immaterial.

    Am I saying that intelligibility, information is material? Not at all. It belongs to the logical order.

    My rejecting Descartes's misguided notion that we're composed of two things or two kinds of "stuff," Isn't rejecting the difference between the physical and logical orders, or between materiality and intentionality. I see both material and immaterial aspects of reality.

    How can we judge that a particular is a universal if particulars and universals are never found in the same theater of operation? — Dfpolis

    I did address that - this is a question of the 'synthetic unity of consciousness' - 'synthetic' in the sense of there being a faculty which draws together (synthesises) the differing elements of sensation, perception and judgement into a united whole.
    Wayfarer

    This sounds like you are agreeing with me and rejecting Aquinas view that the intellect can't know particulars -- for that is what it means to say there is "a faculty which draws together (synthesises) the differing elements of sensation, perception and judgement into a united whole." This faculty has to be able to recognize particulars ("the differing elements of sensation") and universals ("the ... elements of ... judgement). So, it cannot be sense, nor can it be an intellect that can only deal with universals.

    It is an experiential fact that we are aware of both particulars and universal concepts, so awareness meets all of your criteria for your synthetic faculty. It is also an experiential fact (noted by Ibn Sina, Aquinas, Lotze, James, Penrose, Smart and Reed among others) that we can sense, and respond to sense in complex ways, without a shred of subjective awareness. Thus, subjective awareness is not an aspect of our sensory faculties. It can only be what Aristotle called nous (noos = vision), i.e. intellect.

    And actually the faculty is involved in doing that is still somewhat mysterious to neuro-science - that is an aspect of the 'neural binding' problem (as I think we discussed).Wayfarer

    Yes -- the question of how Aristotle's phantasm is formed. I have a hypothesis on that in my book.

    That amounts to much more than simply a judgement about a quality.Wayfarer

    I am not restricting judgements to qualities.

    “Abstraction, which is the proper task of active intellect, is essentially a liberating function in which the essence of the sensible object, potentially understandable as it lies beneath its accidents, is liberated from the elements that individualize it and is thus made actually understandableWayfarer

    This is a rejection of Aquinas' explicit doctrine. He is clear that we have no direct knowledge of essences, but only glimpse them by reflecting on sensible accidents.

    I do maintain that central to them is the acceptance of the 'reality of intelligible objects', which is that these forms and ideas are real in their own right i.e. their reality is not derived from their being in individual minds or brains.Wayfarer

    I accept the reality of intelligibility. Still, as an Aristotelian Thomist, I reject the notion that universals are actual outside of the minds thinking them. What exists in individuals is potential universals (aka notes of intelligibility) -- not actual universals.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.