• Walter Pound
    202
    For Aquinas, one could know what a thing is but not know that the thing actually exists.
    Therefore he concluded that essence, or what makes a thing what it is, is distinct from its existence.

    Imagine a unicorn and we may know what makes a unicorn a unicorn, but within the definition of a unicorn, we don't find existent as part of that definition. Aquinas thinks that this fact of language has metaphysical significance.

    Does this really prove that existence is a thing on par with other parts of the unicorn, such as its horn, or is language being conflated with metaphysics?

    I heard this argument before for why existence and essence are distinct because if existence wasn't distinct then that thing would necessarily exist. Imagine the essence of humanity and existence being part of it if so then humanity would have always existed, but this is obviously not true so existence is distinct from essence.
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    Necessity and contingency in Aquinas's sense don't exist because a thing doesn't have form\matter, accidents\substance, and existence\essence divisions. An object is one thing composing necessity and contingency and everything is related to something else. Aquinas could write endlessly on these subjects but really doesn't have any sound arguments
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    1) things exist

    2) things have existence

    Aquinas thought he could argue that 2 is true and 1 is wrong but his arguments presupposes God's existence although he is trying to prove it. All his 5 ways have God's existence in the premises
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    Take the 5th way. It says there is design which by definition means "done by an intellect". So he assumes God's mind in trying to prove it. The 4th way is not an argument and the first 3 ways assume contingency and God's necessity in the premises.
  • Wittgenstein
    442
    I think Bertrand Russell provided a good solution for any problem caused by this concept in his famous essay, "On Denoting ". It's available online and you should read it.

    The main problem was making a reference to an object that doesn't exist, how to make sense of it.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k


    When René Descartes said: cogito ergo sum he referred that if I have awareness, then I exist, doesn’t matter at all if everything around us cheat me or is lying to me. Our world could be a fantasy or created by pure interpretation of ourselves. This is the true essence I guess. The fact of doubting about external points but not about your own awareness.
  • Antony Nickles
    1.1k


    Well we’ve started talking about existence as a quality, without any concept of existence. What makes existence what it is? What is the essence of existence? Perhaps there are different senses (is the word used in different ways, Wittgenstein would ask). We can say a unicorn does not exist, but it is a fantasy (and an analogy). We could say the Bermuda Triangle doesn’t exist, but it is still an area on a map; here perhaps it’s the fantasy that we (want to?) say does or does not exist. And we could say it is something real, but then do fake watches not exist? We could say it is something tangible, but we can also say justice doesn’t exist in some places; that gravity exists. When we tell a child that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, what essentially changes? We haven’t just said he is not real, tangible, alive, certain, provable, etc. (“that man at the mall is not Santa”); the tragedy of it is that we destroy the ability for the myth to be meaningful, to be something that matters to us. So, then: does God exist? No, and yes (and so, absolutely not!). But is it always an open question? of everything? “Does that oasis exist?”, but, “Does that table exist?” Does Russell need to solve for the “object” which he can not see (@Wittgenstein), for others (and their minds) to matter to him (us)? Is existence dependent on (a certain) knowledge?
  • Amalac
    489
    I think Bertrand Russell provided a good solution for any problem caused by this concept in his famous essay, "On Denoting "Wittgenstein

    Yes, it's a good objection. It is similar to Kant's in that it questions whether existence is a predicate or not. My favorite illustration of the argument is Martin Gardner's:

    Suppose I express my idea of ​​a blue apple by painting a picture of five blue apples. I point my finger at it and say, "This represents five blue apples." If later I discover that blue apples really exist, I can still point to the same picture and say, "This represents five real blue apples." And if I can't discover the existence of the blue apples, I can point to the painting and say, "This represents five imaginary blue apples." In all three cases the picture is the same. The concept of five real apples does not contain one more apple than the concept of five possible apples. The idea of ​​a unicorn will not get more horns just because unicorns exist in reality. In Kant's terminology, one does not add any new properties to a concept by expressing the belief that the concept corresponds to a real object external to one's mind. — Martin Gardner
  • Ciceronianus
    3k
    The conflating what we imagine with what actually exists seems a problem, to me.
  • 3017amen
    3.1k


    Walter!

    Nice. In my view the traditional existential ethos is that existence precedes essence. Meaning we understand our existence more than our essence. In layman's term's, we do not have the essential tools available in order to fully understand the nature of our own existence, which are framed as essences (consciousness, cosmological existence, so on and so forth). Yet we do know that we exist (in some way shape or form).

    So the paradox between understanding our true nature or essence and that of our existence, makes essence subordinate to existence. Logically we know that we exist but we don't know how or why we came to exist. Or came into Being... .

    I can't remember but didn't Aquinas argue the opposite?
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Aquinas thought existence actualizes what some thing is (form) to makes its existence in reality (essence as accidents and substances). But doesn't a form have to exist in a sense before being actualized?
  • 3017amen
    3.1k
    Aquinas thought existence actualizes what some thing is (form) to makes its existence in reality (essence as accidents and substances). But doesn't a form have to exist in a sense before being actualized?Gregory


    Gregory!

    Great question, in that so-called paradoxical view it seems like it does. In other words, if we agree that 'forms' are tantamount to the nature of our own existence (our true essence), and the fact that we don't truly understand those 'forms', our true essences, then we must turn attention to how we came into Being (or existence) for clues (theoretical physics, etc..).

    In turn, that becomes a kind of segue to other existential questions, including metaphysical questions (essences) that include conscious existence. For instance, what really is consciousness(?). Self-awareness? It seems like we must first exist to logicize, yet it takes something or someone to think in order to make something else think, I think. Or, is self-awareness and consciousness itself (its essence) just a byproduct of evolutionary soup. Certainly. having self-awareness in and of itself, creates these kinds paradoxical concerns.

    To me, when one speaks essences, it begs metaphysical questions, which include metaphysical languages (mathematics) used in physics to parse the true nature of (our) existence. At some point, we only possess that language to (abstractly) describe our existence. Yet living life is more than just a priori mathematics. Go figure.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Ye I think the book Frankenstein applies to all of use. We are fashioned by the gods (evolution?) in ways we really don't understand. We approach the world with love, expecting acceptance, but we find things happen to use that don't make sense (Camus's "absurd") and we become resentful and doubtful. We don't know who is to blame for the whole situation but we feel like we shouldn't be on this earth in this condition. We feel like the world owes us more. In the final analysis, we oscillate between pure idealism ("I create reality") and perfect realism ("only matter exists"). I think this dialectic is what "phenomenology" means.
  • 3017amen
    3.1k
    Ye I think the book Frankenstein applies to all of use. We are fashioned by the gods (evolution?) in ways we really don't understand. We approach the world with love, expecting acceptance, but we find things happen to use that don't make sense (Camus's "absurd") and we become resentful and doubtful. We don't know who is to blame for the whole situation but we feel like we shouldn't be on this earth in this condition. We feel like the world owes us more. In the final analysis, we oscillate between pure idealism ("I create reality") and perfect realism ("only matter exists"). I think this dialectic is what "phenomenology" means.Gregory

    I must say, either I've been away too long, or you've come a long way! Specifically, you paraphrased yet anther basic existential ethos!

    Damn these self-aware sentient Beings!!#$%@? Who needs them !!!!!

    Good Stuff man!
  • Hallucinogen
    266
    Necessity and contingency in Aquinas's sense don't exist because a thing doesn't have form\matterGregory

    Form is what unifies some matter into a single object; it's how you can refer to something that has properties as a single thing.

    An object is one thing composing necessity and contingency and everything is related to something else.Gregory

    I didn't understand this. Are you saying objects can be contingent in relation to one another?

    his arguments presupposes God's existence although he is trying to prove itGregory

    None of his arguments do this.

    It says there is design which by definition means "done by an intellect". So he assumes God's mind in trying to prove itGregory

    No, it only presupposes a relationship between deisgn and (our) intellects.

    the first 3 ways assume contingency and God's necessity in the premises.Gregory

    No they don't.
  • chiknsld
    314
    ...essence, or what makes a thing what it is, is distinct from its existence.

    Imagine a unicorn...
    Walter Pound

    A unicorn does not exist. :snicker:
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    The 5 ways of Aquinas are all different linguistic formulations of a single assumption: namely that only the highest good could complete the symmetry of the world. The fourth way doesnt even provide an argument for God but it tries to bring out an instinct that the universe cannot simply be an eternal series without the greatest good as its grounding.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    Glossary entry: In Aquinas' epistemology, the essence (essentia or quidditas) of a particular refers to "what it is." It delineates the nature or the kind of a particular being. Existence (esse), on the other hand, refers to "that it is," or to the act of existing. Aquinas argues that in all beings essence and existence are distinct (except for in God, see below). This means that for any given creature, what it is (its essence) is distinct from the fact that it exists. In God, essence and existence are identical.

    In Aristotelian and Thomist (A-T) metaphysics, there's a distinction between accidental and essential properties. Essential properties are those that belong to the essence of a thing (without which the thing wouldn't be what it is), while accidental properties are those that can change without the thing becoming something else (like color, size, etc.) Beings (at least corporeal beings) are composed of matter and form. Matter provides the potentiality for a particular being, while form actualizes that potentiality and gives it a specific nature. "Esse" (existence) is the act by which something exists, whether that thing is material (composed of matter and form) or immaterial (such as angelic intelligences).

    Aquinas indeed holds that forms are known by the intellect, but these forms are abstracted from the particulars sensed by the corporeal senses. It's not that the form is "what is real" and the particulars are not. Rather, the intellect knows things in a universal, abstracted manner, while the senses know them in their particularity. (The nature and reality or otherwise of universals is one of the great arguments in Western philosophy.)

    When comparing Aquinas's views with later philosophical traditions, It's important to distinguish between the hylomorphic (matter-form) dualism of Aristotle/Aquinas and the substance dualism of Descartes. The former argues that every material being is a composite of matter and form, while the latter argues that a human being is composed of two distinct substances: mind (res cogitans) and body (res extensia) which seem to be separable in principle, giving rise to the well-known 'interaction problem'.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    I dont see why the interaction problem would apply to Aquinas any less than to Descartes. The soul is the same for both. Aquinas has prime matter vs Descartes's particularized extentions. The difference is the act of the soul on the "body" is more complete with Aquinas. But i can still ask "HOW can the soul interact with prime matter". Matter is all matter in principle, by definition
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    I dont see why the interaction problem would apply to Aquinas any less than to Descartes. The soul is the same for both.Gregory

    Not true. Aquinas doesn't depict the soul as a separate substance in the way Descartes does, so there are not two types of entity involved. Beyond that, I will have to yield to someone with better knowledge of A-T than I.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    You would have to convince me that Descartes said something different from Aquinas. How can soul have anything to do with body we can still ask. Descartes described a human as one substance composed of body and soul. I dont where this ghostly sense about it comes from. And a body IS prime matter. Matter just forms differently according to its source
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    Descartes described a human as one substance composed of body and soul.Gregory

    Not so. Descartes proposes two 'substances', one purely intellectual, the other purely material.

    This conclusion in the Sixth Meditation asserts the well-known substance dualism of Descartes. That dualism leads to problems. As Princess Elisabeth, among others, asked: if mind is unextended and matter is extended, how do they interact? This problem vexed not only Descartes, who admitted to Elisabeth that he didn't have a good answer (3:694), but it also vexed Descartes' followers and other metaphysicians. It seems that, somehow, states of the mind and the body must be brought into relation, because when we decide to pick up a pencil our arm actually moves, and when light hits our eyes we experience the visible world. But how do mind and body interact? Some of Descartes' followers adopted an occasionalist position, according to which God mediates the causal relations between mind and body; mind does not affect body, and body does not affect mind, but God gives the mind appropriate sensations at the right moment, and he makes the body move by putting it into the correct brain states at a moment that corresponds to the volition to pick up the pencil. Other philosophers adopted yet other solutions, including the monism of Spinoza and the pre-established harmony of Leibniz.René Descartes, SEP

    One of the deepest and most lasting legacies of Descartes’ philosophy is his thesis that mind and body are really distinct—a thesis now called “mind-body dualism.” He reaches this conclusion by arguing that the nature of the mind (that is, a thinking, non-extended thing) is completely different from that of the body (that is, an extended, non-thinking thing), and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other. This argument gives rise to the famous problem of mind-body causal interaction still debated today.Descartes, the Mind-Body Distinction
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    You're not answering my objection. Why is there a problem with interaction in either description of the human person by Aquinas and Desacrtes? The same doubt should apply to both. Should we assume a priori that soul shouldn't unite with matter? And more precisely Descartes said the human person was two substances united as if to be one
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    Aquinas' hylomorphic dualism does not suffer from the 'interaction problem' of Descartes because it does not posit a stark dichotomy between body and soul (or mind). In the hylomorphic framework a human being is not seen as two substances "joined" together but as a single substance composed of form (soul) and matter (body). The soul, as the form of the body, gives a particular human being its essential characteristics and powers. Thus, humans are a composite of soul and body, with the soul being the animating principle of the body.

    For Aquinas, the soul and body are intimately connected in such a way that the soul is the "form" of the body. This means that the body achieves its particular nature and function through the soul. There's no need for an external "bridge" for interaction since the soul and body are intrinsically intertwined.

    Instead of seeing the mind and body as two separate entities that need a mechanism to interact, Aquinas views the various capacities of the soul (e.g., intellect, will) as interacting seamlessly with the body. For instance, sensory perceptions inform the intellect, which in turn can lead to bodily actions driven by the will.

    So Aquinas' hylomorphic dualism doesn't suffer from the "interaction problem" because it posits a more integral relationship between soul and body than does Cartesian dualism. The soul, in the Thomistic view, isn't a separate substance from the body but its very form, making their interaction natural and intrinsic.

    If you still can't see the distinction, then I'm afraid I'm unable to provide further help.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    That's just a word salad. Distinctions where none are necessary. You commit the scholastics' mistake. There is body and soul, one alive spirit.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    That's just a word salad.Gregory

    You ask a question then don't understand the answer. It's philosophy 101.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    You posit something there is no answer to: a formless piece of matter needing a soul? That's the solution to the invisible interaction problem? Descartes stated things simpler but I was uniting traditions but you want to separate for doubt's sake. There is no bridge between body and soul. No need. Descartes doubted too much on this matter
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    You would have to convince me that Descartes said something different from Aquinas.Gregory

    You would have to convince me that you have ever read Aquinas. You are drawing conclusions based on your understanding of the Thomistic approach to the way that the intellect knows material things, yet it seems clear that you have never read Aquinas on this question.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Ive read the Summa since i was 12 years old. My point was that for Descartes held the soul and body to be held by one ego, one I, so that they are perfectly united. Sometimes he says they are two substances, but clarifies that they are in perfect union. Wayfarer was arguing that Aquinas had a more subtle explanation of this, but prime matter and extention are not different so I apply Wittgenstein here.. The soul forms the body for Aquinas while Descartes the ego is completely united by the pineal gland with all the rest of the entire body. Any differences are in language and presentation, not concept
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    Does not a Thomist say his arm is his body, not partly his soul?
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    So I found the SEP article I was looking for. This section tells how the nature of Descartes position is much debated.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pineal-gland/#BodySoul

    The Church rejected Descartes but it's long overdue "ecumenically" -so to speak- for Cartesians and Thomists to see each other's avenues and understand the power of their explications on philosophy, physics, and theology. The language Aquinas was used to was different from the later Descartes, who tried to write philosophy in a new language. Descartes should never have been on the Index of forbidden books however. As I said above, a Thomist will say that his arm is not his soul and in fact he will say that the soul is simple and therefore nowhere in space (and yet the body is in space). Descartes "Passions of the Mind" makes clear that the human being, for him, was a complete personality, not a divided ontological contraction, and this is dispayed in practical reason
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-ethics/
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