• Wayfarer
    8k
    Well said! I have only smatterings and inklings of these ideas, which have seeped in somehow, transmitted by the vestigial memories of my cultural heritage. I keep telling myself to go and study it all in depth and detail, but the scope is daunting and there's no utilitarian reason for so doing.

    In any case, the 'bottom line', as they say in the modern world, is that ideas are real, they're not simply the output of a meat brain adapting to the exigencies of survival. 'The world', said some physicist, 'looks much more like a great mind, than a great machine'.
  • Janus
    7.9k
    That's an interesting distinction. Perhaps the philosophical denier of representationalism is a naive realist concerning both the existence of objects and the knowing of them. The "ordinary" naive realist, if she thought about the issue, might accept representationaism as to knowing objects, that our representations don't "capture" them exhaustively, but nonetheless do so veraciously; or something like that.

    It's truly a tangle web we weave, but do we practice to deceive?
  • Mww
    866


    Oh, I suspect your smatterings and inklings are rather more substantial than you’d admit. That, or my readings of you hereabouts are grossly over-rated, which I would never admit.

    Sir James Jeans, Cambridge lecture, 1930, published subsequently in “The Mysterious Universe”. Family library, growing up. I remember because the image of the Universe in the shape of a brain, but pulsing like a heart. Freaked me out. Then made me laugh.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    You seem to be forgetting that Aristotle inverted Plato's ontology. For Aristotle, what is fundamental, and thus primarily known, is the particular. Hylomorphism is not a dualism, it is an abstraction over particulars. What is known about particulars (by way of experience) is isomorphic to how they (really) are.Andrew M

    For Aristotle we can't know the form of the particular because we know through universals. This leaves a gap of separation between the form of the particular, with all its accidents, and the form which a human being knows, the essence of the thing. Since "form" is the actuality of things, there is two distinct actualities and therefore dualism. One actuality is substantiated by the form of particular material things, and the other actuality is substantiated by the form of "the soul"..
  • Mww
    866


    A naive realist has this factual edifice going for.....her, in that no matter what’s actually happening between our ears from which our abstractions are created, it has something to do with the brain. Never was a tautology so ill-conceived, I must say, and presupposes the naive realist holds with some sort of materialism supporting his realism.

    I regard myself as a superficial empirical realist, inasmuch as the inconceivable complexity of the human brain seems to be sufficient in itself for grounding our abstractions, but I’m strictly a transcendental idealist inasmuch as even if such is proven with absolute certainty how such physicalism should be the case, my “I” as representation of my intrinsic subjectivity, will remain undiminished. And I challenge anyone to relinquish........his, and at the same time adhere to the primacy of determinism.

    If the physical mechanisms of the brain are fully determined, I submit that at the same time will be discovered the biological animal cannot function as the human without an epistemic void, for then arises the reality of “incongruent counterparts”: the left hand of determinism will never match the right hand of rationalism, although both hands are absolutely necessary for satisfying the requirements for a complete body.

    ......so ends the of Spiel of the Day.
  • Andrew M
    696
    Thanks - I think I've got Kant's epistemology sorted out now! ;-)

    Perhaps the philosophical denier of representationalism is a naive realist concerning both the existence of objects and the knowing of them. The "ordinary" naive realist, if she thought about the issue, might accept representationaism as to knowing objects, that our representations don't "capture" them exhaustively, but nonetheless do so veraciously; or something like that.Janus

    I think naive realism and representationalism are two sides of the same metaphysical coin here. Do our senses reveal the world as it is (as if our eyes were windows) or is there a veil between mind and the world (and thus an obstacle or limit to knowledge)?

    A different approach is to say that we decide what we mean by "the world" in our use of language. So, pragmatically, what we point to - the objects of everyday experience - constitute the starting point for natural investigation and knowledge.
  • Andrew M
    696
    Forms only manifest as particulars, but the forms are what grasped by the active intellect so as to enable us to determine what a thing is.Wayfarer

    Forms only manifest in particulars and are how we perceive those particulars. That's a difference that determines whether you see particulars as imperfect representations of ideal forms (per Plato), or instead as exhibiting form (per Aristotle).

    For Aristotle we can't know the form of the particular because we know through universals. This leaves a gap of separation between the form of the particular, with all its accidents, and the form which a human being knows, the essence of the thing. Since "form" is the actuality of things, there is two distinct actualities and therefore dualism. One actuality is substantiated by the form of particular material things, and the other actuality is substantiated by the form of "the soul"..Metaphysician Undercover

    That's not my reading of Aristotle. It is always and only the particular that exists and acts. A form(alism) without matter is merely an abstraction and thus not able to act.
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    That's a difference that determines whether you see particulars as imperfect representations of ideal forms (per Plato), or instead as exhibiting form (per Aristotle).Andrew M

    I’m sure your depiction of the contrast between them on the question exaggerates the difference, but I really need to hone in on some writing about it. I’m thinking ‘Aristotle and Other Platonists’ by Lloyd Gerson.
  • Andrew M
    696
    I’m sure your depiction of the contrast between them on the question exaggerates the difference,Wayfarer

    What's to exaggerate? Aristotle famously rejected Plato’s theory of forms and proposed his own theory in its place.

    but I really need to hone in on some writing about it. I’m thinking ‘Aristotle and Other Platonists’ by Lloyd GersonWayfarer

    Given the criticisms and the absence of an explicit commitment to harmony, is not the reasonable default interpretation of these texts anti-Platonic? This concluding chapter explores one possible way of answering this question: namely, by suggesting that perhaps Aristotle is a Platonist malgré lui. I mean the possibility that Aristotle could not adhere to the doctrines that he incontestably adheres to were he not thereby committed to principles that are in harmony with Platonism. In short, I explore the claim that an authentic Aristotelian, if he be consistent, is inevitably embracing a philosophical position that is in harmony with Platonism. — Lloyd Gerson

    Note that his conclusion is not that Aristotle didn't reject Platonism but that, in spite of that, Aristotle was a Platonist anyway. (Which he then argues for, unconvincingly in my view.)
  • Janus
    7.9k
    I remember because the image of the Universe in the shape of a brain, but pulsing like a heart. Freaked me out. Then made me laugh.Mww

    Now, that is funny! What an imagination! :lol:
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    Aristotle famously rejected Plato’s theory of forms and proposed his own theory in its place.Andrew M

    I have downloaded a copy of the book I mentioned, but it is a pretty substantial text and I haven't made a lot of headway with it yet. But one thing that Gerson says is that Aristotle is in no way a nominalist, i.e. he doesn’t accept that only particulars are real. They are intelligible only because of their forms, regardless of whether the forms can be conceived as existing in their own right (which is where he differs with Plato). So I think the issue is that in your reading, Aristotle comes across as being more like a modern empiricist, when in reality his 'forms' may (according to Gerson) quite plausibly be understood as 'ideas in the divine intellect'. But I will keep reading this text, although it's a slog ;-)
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    That's not my reading of Aristotle. It is always and only the particular that exists and acts. A form(alism) without matter is merely an abstraction and thus not able to act.Andrew M

    There is nothing within Aristotle to deny forms without matter, nor that such "Forms", if they exist, are actual. That is why Neo-Platonists and Christian theologians maintain consistency with Aristotle's principles, despite Aristotle's difference from Plato. Plato is confused and full of changing views on this matter, as he learnt through his experiences. Aristotle denies matter without form, but not form without matter, and anything eternal must be actual. "Form" in Aristotle is actual, and this includes, essence, and formulae, which you call abstractions. These are the forms by which human beings actively change the world through intention, final cause.

    What Aristotle denies is the eternality of these "forms". They are actualized by the human mind, and so if they existed prior to human beings, they could only exist as potential. Then he shows, with the cosmological argument that anything potential cannot be eternal. This creates a distinction between the forms of particular things, which may be eternal as the eternal circular motion is, and the forms which are activated by the human mind, which are not eternal because they are dependent on the human mind for their actuality.

    This position is derived from the later Plato, Timaeus for example, and it is the means by which dualism escapes the problem of how the eternal may interact with the non-eternal. Matter, in the realm of "becoming", serves as the medium between the two types of actualities. Plato is famous for exposing the need for such a medium between the eternal and the temporal. Aristotle does not deny dualism, he simply clarifies the principles which make dualism reasonable.

    Aristotle famously rejected Plato’s theory of forms and proposed his own theory in its place.Andrew M

    What Aristotle proposed is a duality of forms. And, "form" is very clearly defined as what is "actual". Therefore we have within Aristotle a duality of actuality, hence "dualism". To deny this, and deny that the soul is a form, within Aristotle's writing, is to deny a major part of his work. The assumption that essences, abstractions, are not actual within Aristotle creates a huge inconsistency making it impossible to understand how human beings act to change the world, through intention and final cause. Once you realize that these forms (intellectual objects) are properties of the soul, which is an active form itself, then you can make sense of the activities of living beings.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k

    I've noticed a trend in modern metaphysics which is to attempt to create consistency between the principles of modern science, and the principles of Aristotle. This is done principally through a misrepresentation of Aristotle's principles, as you are doing. The reality is that science broke from the principles of Aristotle many years ago. So, we ought to be looking at the differences between modern science and Aristotle, created by this break, rather than misrepresenting Aristotle to create the appearance that modern science is consistent with him. The most obvious difference is that Aristotle's principles support dualism, and modern science has rejected those principles. So to present Aristotle, and simply leave out those principles which support dualism, because one wants to show Aristotle as supporting monism, is very distasteful.
  • Andrew M
    696
    What Aristotle denies is the eternality of these "forms". They are actualized by the human mind, and so if they existed prior to human beings, they could only exist as potential. Then he shows, with the cosmological argument that anything potential cannot be eternal. This creates a distinction between the forms of particular things, which may be eternal as the eternal circular motion is, and the forms which are activated by the human mind, which are not eternal because they are dependent on the human mind for their actuality.

    This position is derived from the later Plato, Timaeus for example,
    Metaphysician Undercover

    Can you provide a reference in Aristotle's writings where he asserts this position (that these forms are actualized by the human mind)?

    Also, perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but you seem to be denying that particulars (say, ordinary objects like trees) have form prior to the existence of human beings. If so, I'm curious whether you also deny that particulars exist prior to the existence of human beings.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    Can you provide a reference in Aristotle's writings where he asserts this position (that these forms are actualized by the human mind)?Andrew M

    I suppose the best reference here would be Metaphysics Bk.9 Ch.9.

    Also, perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but you seem to be denying that particulars (say, ordinary objects like trees) have form prior to the existence of human beings. If so, I'm curious whether you also deny that particulars exist prior to the existence of human beings.Andrew M

    No, clearly I am not denying that, I am citing that as the reason why Aristotle must be understood as dualist. There is a duality of form, the form of the particular material things, which may be prior to human beings, and, the form which you call the abstraction. These are two distinct types of "form". Since forms are actual, having active existence, a dualism is described by Aristotle. But what Aristotle has done, is switched the positioning of the "Forms " in relation to Pythagorean Idealism. Human abstractions, which are forms in the sense of essence, universals without the accidentals, cannot be eternal, their actual existence is only produced by the human mind. However, the form of the particular may be prior to the temporal existence of material substance which expresses that form to us.

    Here's a point he makes earlier in the Metaphysics, and this is tied in to the logic of his law of identity, which applies to particulars. A thing cannot be other than the thing which it is, otherwise it would not be the thing which it is. Also, a thing's existence is not random, it is what it is, and not something else, for some reason, or reasons. This he describes as the first question of metaphysics, not 'why is there something rather than nothing?' (which doesn't make sense to ask because we have no approach to answering it), but 'why is a thing what it is rather than something else?'. Now, we can apprehend that the form of the thing is necessarily prior to the material existence of the thing, otherwise the thing, when it comes into existence, could be other than it is. To ensure that the thing is the thing which it is, and not something else (which would defy the law of identity), the form of the thing, what the thing will be when it comes into existence, must be prior to the material existence of the thing. Otherwise the thing could be other than it is (defying the law of identity), or else it's existence would be completely random.

    This is the principle which is expressed by Plato in the Timaeus (in not so clear terms), and is taken up by Neo-Platonists and Christian theologians (cosmological argument), which establishes Form as necessarily prior to material existence. Notice, that in his later work, Plato turns from independent Ideas (associated with the theory of participation, and Pythagorean Idealism), to "Forms", which are more closely related to Aristotle's "form". When we deny the possibility that material existence extends backward in time (toward the beginning) indefinitely (infinitely, as if there is no beginning to material existence), then we must accept that there is immaterial Form which is necessarily prior to material existence, in the beginning of material existence. Otherwise, the material things which exist would not be the things which they are (defying the law of identity), or material existence would be purely random (which is inconsistent with empirical observation). To maintain the law of identity, as well as the validity of empirical observation, we must allow that form is prior to material existence.
  • Andrew M
    696
    Can you provide a reference in Aristotle's writings where he asserts this position (that these forms are actualized by the human mind)?
    — Andrew M

    I suppose the best reference here would be Metaphysics Bk.9 Ch.9.
    Metaphysician Undercover

    Thanks. The issue has motivated me to dig more into the literature on Aristotle's philosophy of mathematics. The relevant passage in the chapter you reference is where Aristotle discusses geometrical constructions:

    Geometrical constructions, too, are discovered by an actualization, because it is by dividing that we discover them. If the division were already done, they would be obvious; but as it is the division is only there potentially. Why is the sum of the interior angles of a triangle equal to two right angles? Because the angles about one point <in a straight line> are equal to two right angles. If the line parallel to the side had been already drawn, the answer would have been obvious at sight. Why is the angle in a semicircle always a right angle? If three lines are equal, the two forming the base, and the one set upright from the middle of the base, the answer is obvious to one who knows the former proposition. Thus it is evident that the potential constructions are discovered by being actualized. The reason for this is that the actualization is an act of thinking. Thus potentiality comes from actuality (and therefore it is by constructive action that we acquire knowledge). <But this is true only in the abstract>, for the individual actuality is posterior in generation to its potentiality. — Aristot. Met. 9.1051a

    So to take the first example ("Why is the sum of the interior angles of a triangle equal to two right angles?"), the parallel line is drawn by the geometer. The "act of thinking" does not mean that the construction is in the geometer's mind, it means that drawing the line is an intelligent act (by the geometer). Once drawn, the question about the angles can then easily be answered. Similarly for the second example.

    What Aristotle is showing here is that mathematical (and thus universal or eternal) truths can be discovered by acting intelligently on sensible objects, in this case the geometrical drawing of a particular triangle and a particular line. The geometrical figures (as geometrical) are neither located in a separate Platonic realm nor in the mind, they inhere in sensible objects either as potentials (before construction) or actuals (after construction) and thus are a legitimate source of knowledge. A mathematician properly considers mathematical objects separately from sensible objects (i.e., in abstraction), since that is just what distinguishes mathematics from the physical sciences. As Aristotle later says, "The best way to conduct an investigation in every case is to take that which does not exist in separation and consider it separately; which is just what the arithmetician or the geometrician does." (Aristot. Met. 13.1078a)
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    So to take the first example ("Why is the sum of the interior angles of a triangle equal to two right angles?"), the parallel line is drawn by the geometer. The "act of thinking" does not mean that the construction is in the geometer's mind, it means that drawing the line is an intelligent act (by the geometer). Once drawn, the question about the angles can then easily be answered. Similarly for the second example.Andrew M

    Right, now we have here what you call "an intelligent act". This is an act with a purpose, its purpose is to demonstrate the angles. The cause of such an act, in Aristotelian terms is a final cause. In Aristotle's biology, the existence of such acts is accounted for by the soul. And this is why he is dualist.

    What Aristotle is showing here is that mathematical (and thus universal or eternal) truths can be discovered by acting intelligently on sensible objects, in this case the geometrical drawing of a particular triangle and a particular line.Andrew M

    But his demonstration goes deeper than this. Notice that he is arguing in this section, that actuality is prior to potentiality, in all senses of the word "prior". So he turns this against Pythagorean idealists, and those Platonists who adhere to Pythagorean idealism, to show that it is impossible that such mathematical "Ideas" are eternal. This is his famous refutation of such Idealism, known as the cosmological argument. It is impossible that potential is eternal. That is, looking back in time, it is impossible that potential is prior to actual. Converted to look ahead in time, this becomes the principle of plenitude, given enough time any potential will be actualize, so potential cannot be eternal in that way either.

    The geometrical figures (as geometrical) are neither located in a separate Platonic realm nor in the mind, they inhere in sensible objects either as potentials (before construction) or actuals (after construction) and thus are a legitimate source of knowledge.Andrew M

    Let's assume that the geometrical figures inhere in the sensible world, prior to being actualized by the human mind, as potentials. According to Aristotle's cosmological argument, there must be something actual which is prior to these potentials. This is because if the potential was prior in time to the actual, it would not have the capacity to actualize itself, so there would always be only potential without any actuality. Something actual is needed to actualize a potential. And what we glean from observation is that there is something actual, therefore actuality is prior to potential. The Neo-Platonists, and Christian theologians take up this argument for Forms (actualities) which are prior to material existence (material existence having the nature of potential).
  • Andrew M
    696
    Right, now we have here what you call "an intelligent act". This is an act with a purpose, its purpose is to demonstrate the angles. The cause of such an act, in Aristotelian terms is a final cause. In Aristotle's biology, the existence of such acts is accounted for by the soul. And this is why he is dualist.Metaphysician Undercover

    Dualism doesn't follow from Aristotle's examples. The soul is not separable from the body - it is always the particular that acts (and thus is the locus of causality, including final cause). That is standard hylomorphism.

    But his demonstration goes deeper than this. Notice that he is arguing in this section, that actuality is prior to potentiality, in all senses of the word "prior".Metaphysician Undercover

    Logically, but not temporally. Which is what Aristotle says in the last sentence of the Chapter 9 quote.

    Let's assume that the geometrical figures inhere in the sensible world, prior to being actualized by the human mind, as potentials.Metaphysician Undercover

    In Aristotle's examples the geometrical figures were not actualized by the human mind (which is a form), they were actualized by the human being (the actor). It's essential not to reify mind here. What is actual are the particulars.

    According to Aristotle's cosmological argument, there must be something actual which is prior to these potentials. This is because if the potential was prior in time to the actual, it would not have the capacity to actualize itself, so there would always be only potential without any actuality. Something actual is needed to actualize a potential. And what we glean from observation is that there is something actual, therefore actuality is prior to potential. The Neo-Platonists, and Christian theologians take up this argument for Forms (actualities) which are prior to material existence (material existence having the nature of potential).Metaphysician Undercover

    We agree that something actual is needed to actualize a potential. However the Aristotelian position is that that thing must be substantial, not merely formal. That is what we observe.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    Dualism doesn't follow from Aristotle's examples. The soul is not separable from the body - it is always the particular that acts (and thus is the locus of causality, including final cause). That is standard hylomorphism.Andrew M

    Aristotle denies that matter can exist independent of form, but not that form can exist independent of matter. And, when you understand the earlier part of his Metaphysics, which I referred to earlier, you'll see that the form of a thing is necessarily prior (in time) to the material existence of that thing. This necessitates a dualism between the immaterial form and the material form.

    Logically, but not temporally. Which is what Aristotle says in the last sentence of the Chapter 9 quote.Andrew M

    He clearly argues that actuality is prior to potentiality temporally at the end of Ch 9, Bk 9, "so that the potency proceeds from an actuality". That's why potential cannot be eternal. I think you ought to read the entirety of Bk. 9, especially Ch. 8 where he explains in what sense actuality is prior to potentiality in time. 1050b, (5) "...one actuality always precedes another in time right back to the actuality of the eternal prime mover.".

    We agree that something actual is needed to actualize a potential. However the Aristotelian position is that that thing must be substantial, not merely formal. That is what we observe.Andrew M

    For Aristotle there are two senses of "substance" primary substance and secondary substance. One can be said to be material, the other formal. He provides the principles to deny that there can be material substance without form, but there are no principles to deny a substance which is form. without matter. This is why the Neo-Platonists and Christian theologians who posit independent Forms as substance, maintain consistency with Aristotle.
  • Andrew M
    696
    Aristotle denies that matter can exist independent of form, but not that form can exist independent of matter. And, when you understand the earlier part of his Metaphysics, which I referred to earlier, you'll see that the form of a thing is necessarily prior (in time) to the material existence of that thing. This necessitates a dualism between the immaterial form and the material form.Metaphysician Undercover

    For Aristotle, form is the correlate of matter and they are not separable from particulars. You can only consider them in separation which is a different issue. For example, as quoted earlier, "The best way to conduct an investigation in every case is to take that which does not exist in separation and consider it separately; which is just what the arithmetician or the geometrician does." (Aristot. Met. 13.1078a)

    If you disagree, can you provide a specific quote where Aristotle would distinguish and refer to "immaterial form" and "material form"?

    He clearly argues that actuality is prior to potentiality temporally at the end of Ch 9, Bk 9, "so that the potency proceeds from an actuality". That's why potential cannot be eternal. I think you ought to read the entirety of Bk. 9, especially Ch. 8 where he explains in what sense actuality is prior to potentiality in time. 1050b, (5) "...one actuality always precedes another in time right back to the actuality of the eternal prime mover.".Metaphysician Undercover

    I'm well aware of the senses in which actuality is prior to potentiality but that is not what I was referring to. The temporal sense in which actuality is not prior to potentiality is discussed by Aristotle where he says, "... for the individual actuality is posterior in generation to its potentiality." (Aristot. Met. 9.1051a) [italics mine]

    For Aristotle there are two senses of "substance" primary substance and secondary substance. One can be said to be material, the other formal. He provides the principles to deny that there can be material substance without form, but there are no principles to deny a substance which is form. without matter. This is why the Neo-Platonists and Christian theologians who posit independent Forms as substance, maintain consistency with Aristotle.Metaphysician Undercover

    Primary substance is particular such as Socrates or an apple. Secondary substance is formal, such as man or fruit. To suppose that man or fruit are separable from particulars comes from Plato, not Aristotle. This is what Aristotle's rejection of Platonic forms was about and it is why Platonism and hylomorphism are not consistent with each other. Though, of course, Aristotle is fine with "taking that which does not exist in separation and considering it separately" (Aristot. Met. 13.1078a) [italics mine].
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    .... since in nature, one thing is the material (hulē) for each kind (genos) (this is what is in potency all the particular things of that kind) but it is something else that is the causal and productive thing by which all of them are formed, as is the case with an art in relation to its material, it is necessary in the soul (psuchē) too that these distinct aspects be present;

    the one sort is intellect (nous) by becoming all things, the other sort by forming all things, in the way an active condition (hexis) like light too makes the colors that are in potency be at work as colors (to phōs poiei ta dunamei onta chrōmata energeiai chrōmata).

    This sort of intellect [which is like light in the way it makes potential things work as what they are] is separate, as well as being without attributes and unmixed, since it is by its thinghood a being-at-work, for what acts is always distinguished in stature above what is acted upon, as a governing source is above the material it works on.

    Knowledge (epistēmē), in its being-at-work, is the same as the thing it knows, and while knowledge in potency comes first in time in any one knower, in the whole of things it does not take precedence even in time.

    This does not mean that at one time it thinks but at another time it does not think, but when separated it is just exactly what it is, and this alone is deathless and everlasting (though we have no memory, because this sort of intellect is not acted upon, while the sort that is acted upon is destructible), and without this nothing thinks.
    — Aristotle, de anima BK. III, ch. 5, 430a10-25

    Quoted in Wikipedia entry on Active Intellect
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    you'll see that the form of a thing is necessarily prior (in time) to the material existence of that thingMetaphysician Undercover

    I had the idea it was ontologically rather than temporally prior i.e. the idea is real whereas the particular is only an instance of the eternally-existing idea. This is why Platonism is ‘objective idealism’ - ideas have a reality of their own. Which is not comprehensible to modern thought as the evolved brain has to precede the ideas which can only ever be its product.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
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    If you disagree, can you provide a specific quote where Aristotle would distinguish and refer to "immaterial form" and "material form"?Andrew M

    The point is that Aristotle does not disallow the possibility of form without matter, as he does disallow matter without form. He does not say specifically "immaterial form", but he refers to Ideas, essences, Forms, and intelligible objects throughout his Metaphysics, and clearly determines that essence is substance in Bk.7. Remember, in his Categories there are two distinct substances, primary and secondary substance. In his Metaphysics he looks at being qua being and determines that it is necessary to conclude that essence is substantial, this is Ch.6.

    Now, in Ch.7 of Bk.7 he explains "agency", this is what is necessary for the coming to be (becoming) of any thing. It is necessary that the form of the thing, what the thing will be when it comes into being, is prior in time to the material existence of the thing, in order that the thing will be the thing that it is, and not something else. This is explained earlier, and supported by his law of identity. A material thing is a particular composition of matter, with a particular form, not other than it is, and not something random. So the form of the thing (what it will be) is necessarily prior in time to the material existence of the thing. In the case of a thing produced by art, the form comes from the soul of the artist. So in Ch.8 it is stated that form is put into matter. I had a long discussion about this section of A's Metaphysics with dfpolis in another thread. Df argued that the form (as the source of actuality, what a thing actually is) of a thing came from within the matter, but this is inconsistent with Aristotle because matter is potential, and Aristotle clearly describes here that the form is put into the matter. This necessitates that the form of a particular thing exists independently of, and prior in time to, the material existence of that thing.

    I'm well aware of the senses in which actuality is prior to potentiality but that is not what I was referring to. The temporal sense in which actuality is not prior to potentiality is discussed by Aristotle where he says, "... for the individual actuality is posterior in generation to its potentiality." (Aristot. Met. 9.1051a) [italics mine]Andrew M

    I cannot see how this is relevant. The potential for a particular material actuality precedes that material actuality in time, this is clear. However, to actualize that particular potential, rather than some other potential (because potentials consist of multitudes) requires an act of agency. It is this actuality, the act of agency, which is necessarily prior in time to the existence of any particular thing, which is being discussed here. The need to assume this form of "actuality" is what necessitates dualism. There is an act of agency which is necessary for the existence of any material thing, this is what accounts for the actual existence of a contingent thing. Since there cannot be an infinite regression of material things backward in time, one prior to the other infinitely, there is the need to assume an actuality (Form) which is prior in time to the existence of all material things. That is the cosmological argument.

    Primary substance is particular such as Socrates or an apple. Secondary substance is formal, such as man or fruit. To suppose that man or fruit are separable from particulars comes from Plato, not Aristotle. This is what Aristotle's rejection of Platonic forms was about and it is why Platonism and hylomorphism are not consistent with each other. Though, of course, Aristotle is fine with "taking that which does not exist in separation and considering it separately" (Aristot. Met. 13.1078a) [italics mine].Andrew M

    "Substance" is substance, whether it is primary or secondary substance. It appears like you haven't read Metaphysics Bk.7.



    What evolves in later Platonism (Timaeus, Aristotle, Neo-Platonism), which is inconsistent with modern day representation of "Platonism", is a distinction between the Ideas produced by the human mind, and the true separate Forms. This separation is necessary to account for the imperfections of human Ideas. Human Ideas are created through abstraction, and appear to be posterior in time to sensible, material existence, while the separate Forms are necessarily prior in time to material existence. Aquinas provides a very coherent description of this difference. The forms of the human intellect, abstraction, conceptions etc., do not have separate existence, they are dependent on the material existence of the human being, and this material existence accounts for the deficiencies of these forms. However, there are separate Forms, property of the divine intellect, which are not dependent on material existence, material existence is dependent on these Forms.
  • Andrew M
    696
    The point is that Aristotle does not disallow the possibility of form without matter, as he does disallow matter without form. He does not say specifically "immaterial form", but he refers to Ideas, essences, Forms, and intelligible objects throughout his Metaphysics, and clearly determines that essence is substance in Bk.7.Metaphysician Undercover

    Yes he refers to all of those things. However I'm asking for specific quotes that would demonstrate your claim that they are separable from particulars. Without that, you're assuming dualism without basis in your reading of Aristotle.

    I cannot see how this is relevant. The potential for a particular material actuality precedes that material actuality in time, this is clear.Metaphysician Undercover

    Thank you. It is relevant because you seemed to deny it in your last two posts.

    However, to actualize that particular potential, rather than some other potential (because potentials consist of multitudes) requires an act of agency. It is this actuality, the act of agency, which is necessarily prior in time to the existence of any particular thing, which is being discussed here. The need to assume this form of "actuality" is what necessitates dualism.Metaphysician Undercover

    You regard the form as the agent whereas I regard the particular as the agent. The form of the geometer (somehow separate from the geometer?) didn't actualize the geometric construction, the geometer did.

    "Substance" is substance, whether it is primary or secondary substance.Metaphysician Undercover

    A true but cryptic response. Do you think fruit would exist without particular fruit such as pears and apples?
  • Andrew M
    696
    Quoted in Wikipedia entry on Active IntellectWayfarer

    I was wondering when the discussion would bring in the unmoved movers or active intellect. There's nothing like an excursion into theology or philosophy of mind to clarify things! ;-)

    So as you no doubt know, both the interpretation and perceived centrality of those passages are controversial. As Sachs says, it's "the source of a massive amount of commentary and of fierce disagreement".

    My interpretive principle for Aristotle is his consistent application of hylomorphism as inseparable form and matter. That, I think, best captures Aristotle's thinking about the natural world and makes sense of his rejection of Platonic forms. Now as suggested by your quote perhaps Aristotle did not always consistently apply it, and naturally the judgement of that depends on the textual evidence.

    So the other interesting question to me is whether that general hylomorphic model has application today, and whether it can be consistently applied in respect to modern science and metaphysics. In that sense Aristotle (as Plato before him) can potentially provide insight into the specific problems of our era.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    Yes he refers to all of those things. However I'm asking for specific quotes that would demonstrate your claim that they are separable from particulars. Without that, you're assuming dualism without basis in your reading of Aristotle.Andrew M

    I think I've provided you with all that. The formula for the material existence of the particular is necessarily prior in time to the material existence of that particular. What does "dualism" mean to you?

    It is relevant because you seemed to deny it in your last two posts.Andrew M

    I surely didn't deny it, it's a principal point of the cosmological argument. What we observe is that the potential for a given thing precedes the actual existence of that thing. This is the case with every particular, material thing. However, the potential for a thing does not necessarily produce the actual existence of that thing, it requires another actuality as a cause of its actual existence. Since we cannot accept an infinite regress (without beginning), there is necessarily an actual existence which is prior to all material existence. This position, that the actuality of formal existence is prior to potentiality of material existence is reinforced by the logic that if there was ever a time when there was only potential without anything actually, there would always be potential without anything actual, because that potential could not actualize itself. However, what we observe is that there is actual existence. Therefore it is necessary that the actual is prior in time to the potential, in an absolute sense. And this is why Aristotle insists that no potential could be eternal, and he refutes Pythagorean idealism on this basis because they posit eternal ideas which Aristotle has demonstrated exist only in potentia.

    You regard the form as the agent whereas I regard the particular as the agent.Andrew M

    Under Aristotelian terms, form is actual, matter is potential. A particular thing is a composite of matter and form. However, there must be some sort of form (agent) to act as a cause, in order to account for the actual existence of any particular material object. That form, (agent), as a cause, is prior in time to the material existence of the particular thing. The particular cannot be the agent, as this would mean it is the cause of its own existence.

    The form of the geometer (somehow separate from the geometer?) didn't actualize the geometric construction, the geometer did.Andrew M

    The geometer's action is accounted for by final cause, intention, what later became known as free will. So it's true, as you say that the geometer, as a physical object, did act to bring about the geometrical construction on paper, but the cause of that act was a final cause, intention. This is where we see that Aristotle's principles support dualism, in the concept of "final cause", which is distinct from material, formal, and efficient cause. The intent, the form of the construct within the intellect of the geometer (the intellect being a property of the soul such that Aristotle says the form of the construct is in the soul of the artist) is the active cause, "agent".

    A true but cryptic response. Do you think fruit would exist without particular fruit such as pears and apples?Andrew M

    The point for Aristotle, is not so much whether the universal form is prior to the particular. That is more of an issue for Plato in the Timaeus, and the Neo-Platonists, who describe this as a progression, or emanation. The One, being most universal is first, and imparts itself to the less and less universal, with the form of the individual being the last. What Aristotle demonstrates is that the form of the particular thing is necessarily prior in time to the material existence of that thing.

    The Neo-Platonists took this principle much further to speculate about how the form of the particular, which is necessarily prior in time to the material particular, comes from a more universal form. This is more like the relationship between the part and the whole.

    I find your question is badly worded. I do believe there was fruit before there was pears or apples. So the wording of your question is clearly devised so as to be pointed toward a desired answer.

    That, I think, best captures Aristotle's thinking about the natural world and makes sense of his rejection of Platonic forms.Andrew M

    As I said, Aristotle clearly denied matter without form, but he did not deny form without matter. In fact, the principles of his Metaphysics necessitate it, as is evident in his cosmological argument. Understanding Aristotle's cosmological argument is very important to understanding his metaphysics, because it unlocks the door to understanding the consistency between Aristotle, Neo-Platonists, and Christian theology.
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    The point is that Aristotle does not disallow the possibility of form without matter...Metaphysician Undercover

    My interpretive principle for Aristotle is his consistent application of hylomorphism as inseparable form and matter. That, I think, best captures Aristotle's thinking about the natural world and makes sense of his rejection of Platonic formsAndrew M

    I think the problems that underlie this point start with Descartes, who, because of the way he conceptualised ‘res cogitans’, made it appear as ‘disembodied spirit’ which made it susceptible to Ryle's 'ghost in the machine' criticism.

    The Cartesian view tends to reify the mind as an objective entity; and it's no coincidence that this is at the beginning of modern philosophy proper which seeks to understand in objective terms. It really amounts to a form of consciousness or a way-of-being which is inextricably bound up with individualism and the reliance on science as a cognitive mode.

    I contend that the pre-modern mentality was very different in this respect, as it didn't conceive of the world as being essentially machine-like but as animated by intelligence. (After all, Aristotle's 'de anima' is translated as 'On the Soul'.) So the whole conception of the human's place in the universe was different, in ways that we generally don't understand, because of the incommensurability of these orientations; much more of an 'I-thou' relationship (Martin Buber's term) than 'I see it'.

    So I think, overall, I'm tending to agree with MU
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k

    If you read carefully Aristotle's principal definition of "soul" (Bk2, Ch1) in De Anima, you'll see that the soul is a "form" of a body, the actuality of a body, and that this is a body with life potentially in it. I believe it is important to recognize that the soul for Aristotle is a form. It is not a composition of matter and form, which would be a body, it is just the form. Further, "actuality" is used here in the sense of possession of knowledge, rather than exercising the use of knowledge. So it is a possessive actuality, the body itself manifests as the knowledge possessed by that form. If you read further, you'll see that within the material body itself are the various potencies (potentials) possessed by the soul. These are the powers of the soul, power of self-subsistence, self-nourishment, self-movement, sensation, intellection, etc.. The key to understanding that these powers are all potentials, is Aristotle's description that each of these powers is not always active, as the being might be asleep, so the potencies must be actualized, brought into action.

    Andrew M insists that the separation between matter and form can only be made in principle, in theory, but it is not a real separation. I argue that Aristotle gives reason to believe in a real separation. First, as I've argued above, he demonstrates that the form of a particular material object is prior in time to the matter/form composite of that object. Now, here in De Anima, the description of the potencies (powers) of the soul, as remaining inactive, in potencia, while the soul is active as the animal lives, requires such a separation between the actuality of the soul, and the various potentials. This separation between the actual and the potential is not just a separation in principle, it is necessarily very real, and is most evident in the case of a seed. The seed may lie dormant, as potential, for a long period of time. The knowledge within the seed is possessed by the soul, but is not actually being used by the soul, so there is a real separation here, between actuality and the potential.
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    I think another issue here is that 'form' (morphe) is not simply 'the form a thing takes' or another word for 'shape'. It's similar to the issue that comes up with the translation of 'ousia' as 'substance', which leads everyone to think of 'substance' as 'some kind of stuff'. But the word 'ousia' is nearer to subject than to substance. And I'm sure 'morphe' is nearer to 'principle' than to 'shape'.

    As for the Aristotelian sense of 'potential' - another interesting subject. I'll come back to that.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k

    In Aristotle's Physics, the principles of change are matter and form. Form is what is actively changing, and matter is the underlying aspect of a thing which does not change, allowing us to say that it is the same object which has been changed. In Metaphysics, form is actual and matter is potential. This is derived from De Anima where matter which is the substance of the body gives form which is the substance of the soul, its potencies, potential.

    I look at "substance" as primarily a logical term for Aristotle. It is defined in his Categories, and doesn't play a big role in his Physics or his De Anima. I look at substance as what substantiates logic, it's almost like what gives a true premise. Primary substance is the particular thing, what we would call the object, and secondary substance is what we would call the logical "subject". In ancient Greece there was an issue (which is actually prevalent today) with sophists assigning identity to the logical subject. This is probably why "ousia" was associated with the subject. But as a subject, is simply how an object is represented within logic, so if there is a problem with this representation, it's like a false premise, and the logic which follows is unsound. This is why Aristotle moved to put identity directly within the thing itself ( a thing is the same as itself), instead of the identity which we give it, what we say about it. So for instance, "Socrates" refers to a particular man, an object, and that object referred to is the primary substance. But if we make "Socrates" a subject of logic, and state the proposition "Socrates is a man"., then the identity of "Socrates" is not the object itself, but what the proposition says about Socrates, "is a man". This is substance in the secondary sense, it substantiates the logic, as the premise. Notice that within the logical system being employed, "Socrates" cannot refer to anything other than a man, this is fixed by the premise, and this is the stipulated identity of "Socrates". But if there is a problem with this initial identification, identifying the object which is referred to as "Socrates" as a man, then the soundness of the logic is off.

    That is why Aristotle moved to put the identity of the object right into the object itself (primary substance) rather than what was traditional in the logic of the time, which was to make the identity of a thing, what we say about it, (secondary substance). Notice that what we say about a thing is formal, our descriptions are of the thing's form, what the thing is. But a thing always changes, it's form is changing, while the human description is fixed. So he uses the concept of "matter" to account for that changingness (the potential for change). Then "matter" accounts for that aspect of the object which the human mind cannot grasp, and the difference between the object in its own identity, and the object as identified by human beings. We identify the essence, but the thing itself contains accidents which are associated with the matter.
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