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Descartes’ “clear and distinct perception” argument

Yet another entry in my series of posts on philosophy of mind, for those who might be interested.

Comments (64)

This post has caused me to start thinking about that interesting question--are all physical things extended? Short answer. No. I don't think so. For example, it seems like the force of gravity between two objects is a physical entity in some sense (or is it?) yet it is not extended. If I really thought that I knew what I was talking about when using the phrase "quantum field," I might use that as an example, too. But I'm not at all sure I know what I'm talking about there, so I won't.

Well, Lydia, the post helped me to see (at least I think it did) that the distance between dualists like you and the A-T'ers is not so great.

The force of gravity is measurable. Couldn't "extended" be applied to any property of the physical universe? I first encountered the word while reading Spinoza, and can't get his use of it out of my mind.

... are all physical things extended?

1. But, firstly, what do we mean by "physical thing"? What do we mean by "material thing"? Do we mean the same? Are they the same (when the meaning is already fixed)? That's crucial for debates about "materialism," "naturalism," and "physicalism."

2. Once (1997) an esteemed "naturalist" (whatever that means) I read wrote that all physical objects are spatiotemporally extended and have mass (i.e., some weight in a gravitational field -- whatever that means). He said: "The nature of a mere physical object consists of the nontrivial essential properties of being spatiotemporally extended and having mass." http://qsmithwmu.com/normative_ethics_quentin_smith.htm

Other time (2001) he said that there are spatial points and mass points (presumably non-extended and with no mass) that belong to our universe and are concrete, thus, presumably, being physical objects too: "... there are abstract points, e.g., the points in the abstract topological space postulated by point-set topology. ... [But] all the ... spatial points and mass points that belong to our universe ... [are] concrete ..."

In the same para he said that "some thing is concrete if and only if it is (a) mental and/or has (b) extended or unextended spatiality or temporality and (c) is able to cause something and/or is able to be causally affected by something." But if he meant (a) or ((b) and (c)), then no spatial point and no mass point seems to satisfy that. And if he meant ((a) or (b)) and (c), the same holds. For any such concrete point seems both non-mental and causally inert. Cf. http://qsmithwmu.com/time_began_with_a_timeless_point.htm
Since that time, I feel dizzy.

3. In Craig's and Moreland's http://books.google.com/books?id=ACgBmzpv3mgC , pp. 229-232, we're said that physical entities and properties are those treated in the textbooks of physics (and chemistry). But that's time-relative, audience-relative, and vague. And to beat on Lydia's drum (cf. her recent post on scientific optimism): is there some complete list of such entities and properties?

4. So, I suspect that discussions about "naturalism", "materialism" and "physicalism" are usually muddy at their core and wonder how Lydia and Edward understand words like these:

"physical object" ("physical property"),
"material object,"
"materialism,"
"naturalism,"
"physicalism."

... are all physical things extended?

1. But, firstly, what do we mean by "physical thing"? What do we mean by "material thing"? Do we mean the same? Are they the same (when the meaning is already fixed)? That's crucial for debates about "materialism," "naturalism," and "physicalism."

2. Once (1997) an esteemed "naturalist" (whatever that means) I read wrote that all physical objects are spatiotemporally extended and have mass (i.e., some weight in a gravitational field -- whatever that means). He said: "The nature of a mere physical object consists of the nontrivial essential properties of being spatiotemporally extended and having mass."

Other time (2001) he said that there are spatial points and mass points (presumably non-extended and with no mass) that belong to our universe and are concrete, thus, presumably, being physical objects too: "... there are abstract points, e.g., the points in the abstract topological space postulated by point-set topology. ... [But] all the ... spatial points and mass points that belong to our universe ... [are] concrete ..."

In the same para he said that "some thing is concrete if and only if it is (a) mental and/or has (b) extended or unextended spatiality or temporality and (c) is able to cause something and/or is able to be causally affected by something." But if he meant (a) or ((b) and (c)), then no spatial point and no mass point seems to satisfy that. And if he meant ((a) or (b)) and (c), the same holds. For any such concrete point seems both non-mental and causally inert. Since that, I've felt dizzy.

(You can google those sentences.)

3. In Craig's and Moreland's Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, pp. 229-232, we're said that physical entities and properties are those treated in the textbooks of physics (and chemistry). But that's time-relative, audience-relative, and vague. And to beat on Lydia's drum (cf. her recent post on scientific optimism): is there some complete list of such entities and properties?

4. So, I suspect that discussions about "naturalism", "materialism" and "physicalism" are usually muddy at their core and wonder how Lydia and Edward understand words like these:

"physical object" ("physical property"),
"material object,"
"materialism,"
"naturalism,"
"physicalism."

1. Edward says:

I am my body.

Some would say yes, but they would add that in spite of that you are not strictly numerically identical to your body. So, we have here a concept of sameness without strict numerical identity. Developed mainly by Brower and Rea in their papers on Trinity (available online). I guess this could be close to Lee's and George's recent (2008) book on Body-Self Dualism (see Amazon).

2. As for the dualist argument from possible worlds, I guess Lydia would try to make do without mentioning possible worlds.

3. I also think there are many different concepts of possibility (Plantinga's strictly logical and broadly logical, Lydia's conceptual, Q. Smith's metaphysical, and others.) Which muddles the waters, making the debaters talking pass each other.

4. Edward:

It is often supposed that Descartes assimilates sensation, imagination, and intellect into an amorphous something called “the mind,” but this is not the case.

But does not Descartes call all acts of perceiving, imagining, remembering, desiring, willing, etc. (all mental acts), "cogitationes"? Cf. Vallicella on this: http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1149552356.shtml

5. What's the problem with "clear and distinct perceptions"? Don't we need them?

(a) For instance, sometimes we are said that epistemically foundational beliefs differ clearly from beliefs that do require support; they are strikingly and obviously different from all the latter. And what is the relevant common denominator, a common feature that make such beliefs foundational? Of course, one can say they are all intrinsically reasonable, rational to hold without inferring them from anything else, or immediately justified. But: is there an answer beyond these answers?, and, one could ask anew, what's the common feature which makes them intrinsically reasonable, etc.? Isn't the correct answer that the common feature of foundational beliefs is their being evident, self-evident, obvious, clearly and distinctly perceived, intellectually grasped, cognitively intuited, seen to be true, perceived with ultimate clarity, and the like? So far, it really seems to me that being epistemic foundations consist precisely in this, in this special and peculiar "seeing" something clearly.

(b) When we talk about an epistemically good argument (not just a sound argument) we have in mind an argument whose clearly probable premises clearly establish the conclusion. Some premises are clearly true, some premises are not clearly true. And we do like to have a clear handle of things. E.g., we hear: "Hey, what do you mean? Why do you claim it? Could you be clear, please? Please, be concise and clear in your writing", etc. It seems, we earn in our epistemic lives for this peculiar of clarity (and distinctness). Esp. Descartes and Husserl earned reflectively for clear and distinct (Descartes) or evident (Husserl) knowledge.

(c) When reading philosophy or epistemology, many times one encounters concepts of intellectual grasping, seeing that something is the case ( e.g., that 1+1=2, or that one is appeared thus and so), of something being (self)evident, clear, or perceived clearly (and distinctly), with (ultimate) clarity, and the like. Especially phenomenologists treat such concepts very thoroughly. It seems to me that the nub of the concept of apodeictic philosophical knowledge consists precisely in the concept of special and peculiar "seeing" something clearly and distinctly (and with certainty).

(d) Lydia and her husband, in Internalism and Epistemology, defend Descartes' and Locke's emphasis on clear and distinct perceptions and intuitions.

Aw, gee, Vlastimil, and here I was trying to discuss a side issue in the name of being irenic. (Actually, I do find the side issue somewhat interesting.)

Ed Feser writes:

Here as elsewhere Descartes is, as contemporary Descartes scholars have made an industry of documenting, far more Scholastic than one would expect the Father of Modern Philosophy to be.

The problem with describing Descartes as somewhat of a Scholastic is that he was not just someone who was ignorant of the traditional scholastic method, and groped for the truth as best he could, finally arriving at something similar. Descartes as a youth received the best scholastic education money could buy. He knew the scholastic method and understood its tenets - and he rejected it.

Furthermore, it was this understanding of the scholastic method which enabled him to substitute his own poisonous idiocy in its placed. Consider the following (astonishing) passage from his Meditations:

There are two kinds of demonstration, namely by analysis and by synthesis.

Analysis [i.e., Descartes bullshit method] shows the true way by which a thing was discovered methodically and, as it were, a priori, so that if the reader wishes to follow it and to pay enough attention to everything, they will understand the thing as perfectly and will make it their own as if they had discovered it themselves. It includes nothing, however, by which a less attentive or resistant reader would be compelled to believe, for if they fail to pay attention to even the slightest detail of what is involved, the necessity of the conclusion will escape them.

In contrast, synthesis [i.e., the traditional scholastic method] operates in the opposite and, as it were, an a posteriori manner (although the proof itself is often more a priori in this than the former method), and demonstrates the conclusion clearly and uses a long series of definitions, postulates, axioms, theorems and problems, so that if any one of the consequences is denied, it shows immediately that it was contained in the antecedents and in this way it compels assent from the reader no matter how resistant or stubborn they may be. But it is not as satisfactory as analysis, nor does it satisfy the minds of this who are anxious to learn because it does not teach the way in which something was discovered.

Amazing.

Not only does Descartes here show that he understands the scholastic method, but even admits that it is in every way superior to his own method, except in that it does not "satisfy the minds of this who are anxious to learn because it does not teach the way in which something was discovered," which refers to the Cartesian delusion that knowledge does not originate through the senses but is formed according to innate ideas.

Clearly Descartes was an enemy of sound doctrine.

Hello Vlastimil,

1. Edward says:

I am my body.

No, I am the composite of my body and my soul.

But does not Descartes call all acts of perceiving, imagining, remembering, desiring, willing, etc. (all mental acts), "cogitationes"?

Well, again, at the beginning of the Sixth Meditation he pretty clearly distinguishes intellect from imagination, and associates the latter (unlike the former) with corporeality. While a particular act of imagining something might be associated with intellectual activity, the imaginative aspect and the intellectual one can be distinguished.

What's the problem with "clear and distinct perceptions"? Don't we need them?

Sure. Just not for this particular argument.

Hello George,

Clearly Descartes was an enemy of sound doctrine.

I agree completely. Descartes was not only a modern, but a modernist.

George,

If the second method does not teach the way in which something was discovered, then some could consider it as a serious lack. Sometimes we grasp only with difficulty some position when not knowing the context of its discovery.

***

Edward,

-- You are not your body? So why do you say in the linked post this?:

... “I” am ... not distinct from my body from the A-T point of view ...

Further, aren't you a body in the sense of an organism? And if I touch your body, don't I touch you? Cf. also the book of Lee and George which, I suppose, is close to you -- so I'm surprised you disagree.

--

... I am the composite of my body and my soul.

I've thought that according to the A-T theory you are a composite of materia and soul. And that body is this composite, not a component of this composite.

-- As for the cogitationes, I'll check my notes in my copy of Descartes' Meditations.

-- As for my first collection of questions, on "materialism " etc., I see you allude to Fodor's Psychosemantics (p. 97) and Levine's Purple Haze (pp. 17-21) in your TLS (p. 195), saying that there is very little clear content to the materialist's idea of "matter." Levine is available at Google Books, but Fodor isn't. Could I ask for more info about Fodor's point? Does he say something more substantial? Thanks.

-- Isn't the A-T idea of "matter" unclear too? The basic picture is often introduced via some analogy (like of the statue and the clay), and then there are different senses of matter (materia prima, secunda, signata, this body, this matter, etc.), and the A-T author often does not indicate which one is in his mind.

-- A problem for the A-T theory of individuation. Materia signata is, due to the accident of quantity (for materia signata is "signified" precisely by this accident) of a corporeal substance, the principle of individuation of this substance. But this substance is, at least on some A-T theories of individuation, also the principle of individuation of its accidents. So, in a sense, the accident of quantity is both the cause (the principle) of individuation of the corporeal substance and the effect of this cause. And that seems like a causal circle.

-- As for the A-T concept of human soul.

First, after death I am a form, right? (Cf. Oderberg, "Hylemorphic Dualism," p. 96: "I persist ... as the form that once was the form of the body ...") But isn't it a categorial mistake to say that I am a form -- like to say that a thought has a weight, or that God is a set?

On pp. 58-59 of TLS, you say that form and materia (of corporeal substance) are principles of beings, not beings. But I am after death a being (ens). Thus, I am not after death a form.

Or can a principle of being become a being? If you approve, isn't that an impossible categorial shift?

Secondly, if after death I am a form, then, because I am after death an individual, this form I am is an individual. But each individual (except God) has a form which is a principle of this individual and this principle is distinct from this individual (the individual is not its principle). Thus the form I am after death has a form2.

But (a) if the form I am after death has a form2, why not to say that form2 has a form3, form3 has a form4, etc., ad infinitum? And (b) if the form I am after death is an individual, why not to say that form2, form3, etc. are individuals, too? Thus, after my death I comprise (at least aleph-zero) infinity of individuals and forms of individuals.

Addendum

As for soul-body vs. soul-materia, Bill Vallicella noted that it might be better to say that on the A-T theory you are before your death "a soul-matter [rather than a soul-body] composite inasmuch as a body (as opposed to a corpse) is itself ensouled (animated) matter."
http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1166569723.shtml#7725

Lydia,

Just trying to understand you philosophers.

What about the question I set forth? How do you understand/use popular philosophical words like these?:

"physical object,"
"physical property,"

"material object,"


"natural property,"

"materialism,"
"naturalism,"
"physicalism."

Both sides of the divide use them.

George R. stated: "The problem with describing Descartes as somewhat of a Scholastic is that he was not just someone who was ignorant of the traditional scholastic method, and groped for the truth as best he could, finally arriving at something similar. Descartes as a youth received the best scholastic education money could buy. He knew the scholastic method and understood its tenets - and he rejected it."

Actually, according to some Scotists (i.e., Faber et al):

...Ariew says that during the time Descartes wrote his major works it had been over 20 years since he had rea[d] any scholastic material, and that prior to writing this treatise he requested a few manuels from his friends
, manuels which turned out to be Scotistic as the dominant school at Paris at the time was that of the Scotistae. A scholastic, at least during the 13th and 14th centures would ask if being was univocal to God and creatures, substance and accident. Clearly, in this passage Descartes denies that the term substance is univocal to God and creatures. Pickstock has claimed that Descartes and Kant were basically regular old scholastics in virtue of (evil) Scotistic influence, etc., which seems absurd as his whole project is to supplant scholasticism; but perhaps in supplanting it he was also highly conditioned by it.

SOURCE: http://lyfaber.blogspot.com/2008/10/descartes-and-scholasticism.html

Honestly, Vlastimil, I don't think I have time to do a sort of lexicon list. It's just too much stuff. As you already know, though, I do consider some variety of physicalism and naturalism to be tightly connected. So, I would imagine, do most self-styled physicalists and naturalists.

Yeah,
UK's Mark Steel pretty much showed why Descartes was wrong.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoCnAtlHThw&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnpqtEUk8E4&feature=related

And how desperate Descartes became when he realized he just proved that god doesn't exist (funny thing you never hear Christian philosophers mention this).
Mark says it better than I can.
But yeah, as Descartes showed you can only argue for god's existence if you argue in a circle. Mark Steel shows how absurd it really is.

Mark says,
"but also, if God created the idea of God in our minds then that allows for some sort of connection between God's knowledge and our knowledge. And the church was appauled at any suggestion there could be a similarity between the two. Because we're supposed to be lowly. That's why there's a prayer that actually starts 'Oh Lord, we are not worthy to receive you'.

See, your catholic church couldn't stand the thought that there could be a connection between god's knowledge and human knowledge. So they made these prayers that reminded people "hey, you're not good. You're dirt. Remember that!!!"

P.S.
I'm a regular debator of Christians on my college campus. Come one, come all. :D

Vlastimil writes:

If the second method does not teach the way in which something was discovered, then some could consider it as a serious lack. Sometimes we grasp only with difficulty some position when not knowing the context of its discovery.

Yes, but who said the second method does not teach the way in which something was discovered? Descartes. And he was wrong, as usual.

Aristotle and Aquinas prove that things begin to be discovered through the senses, the experiences of which engender the principles of science, upon which the edifice of science is built. Descartes rejected this, considering ideas to be innate and the senses to be deceivers.

"Descartes rejected this, considering ideas to be innate and the senses to be deceivers
."

Apparently, the demon that Descartes unleashed back then is one the World to this day has been unable to exorcise since, giving us the notorious "Brain in the Vat" notion that some folks I happen to know unfortunately (and quite insanely) subscribe to -- only instead of the horrendous 'demon', that ominous figure has undergone an evolution of a sort to now being quite simply a mad scientist from whose imaginary grip no mortal man can escape!

George,

I remember that by the second (synthetic) method Descartes means a valid deductive demonstration from self-evident premises. And I think he's right that mere giving you such a demonstration (however ingenious) often does not give you the idea how the heck it was discovered. But knowing this can be useful.

***

Edward,

In the 6th Meditation, Descartes says:

And I easily understand that, if some body exists, with which my mind is so conjoined and united as to be able, as it were, to consider it when it chooses, it may thus imagine corporeal objects; so that this mode of thinking differs from pure intellection only in this respect, that the mind in conceiving turns in some way upon itself, and considers some one of the ideas it possesses within itself; but in imagining [dum imaginatur] it turns toward the body, and contemplates in it some object conformed to the idea which it either of itself conceived or apprehended by sense. I easily understand, I say, that imagination may be thus formed, if it is true that there are bodies; and because I find no other obvious mode of explaining it, I thence, with probability, conjecture that they exist, but only with probability; and although I carefully examine all things, nevertheless I do not find that, from the distinct idea of corporeal nature I have in my imagination, I can necessarily infer the existence of any body.

So, according to Descartes, acts of imagining are performed by the mind, though the mind connected with body.

And it is not conceptually impossible that they are performed without any body -- it is only improbable. Which contradicts the A-T view, right? But, then, on the A-T view, the blessed souls in heaven can't have imaginations -- even God can't supply these souls with imaginations, right?

and the senses to be deceivers

Not that I know of. Considering the possibility of major sensory deception and possible responses to that scenario is not the same thing as believing that, in fact, the senses are deceivers.

And how exactly would you know (or even come to prove) that your senses are not actually being deceived by Descarte's demon or that everything you think you seem to know is not merely the elaborate fabrication of some mad scientist under whose maniacal control and experimentation you've winded up actually believing such distardly incredible things as your having a body to begin with, let alone a mind!

muhahahahaha!

Edward,

I've found Fodor on the Web.

***

Lydia,

I'll try to be less greed.

You said: "... it seems like the force of gravity between two objects is a physical entity in some sense ..."

Could you explicate shortly what is your meaning for "physical entity"? Just a sentence or two. That should provide a sufficient clue. Thanks!

Vlastimil,

So why do you say in the linked post this?:

... “I” am ... not distinct from my body from the A-T point of view ...

Because I was speaking imprecisely. What I meant was that from the A-T point of view my body is a part of me, not something external to me. But that's doesn't mean it's the whole of me.

Further, aren't you a body in the sense of an organism?

Depends on what you mean by "body." Any organism is a composite of prime matter and substantial form, where its form is its soul. You could call the overall composite a "body" if you want, but one needs to be careful in the human case because humans (unlike plants and animals) have souls which are subsistent, so that the souls survive the deaths of the bodies. And in that sense their souls can be distinguished from their bodies and the organism as a whole can be described as a composite of body and soul rather than "just a body."

And if I touch your body, don't I touch you?

Of course, because my body is part of me. But so is my soul, which is subsistent and thus distinct from my body.

Cf. also the book of Lee and George which, I suppose, is close to you -- so I'm surprised you disagree.

I haven't read their book yet, so I can't say much. But there's no guarantee that they take the standard A-T view -- they certainly don't take it in ethics, even though (I would argue) classical (NOT "new") natural law ethics follows from the A-T metaphysics. Judging from their other work, they're also strangely hung up on the word "dualism," which may drive them into saying things that seem to imply that a human being can be identified with his body full stop. But again, I haven't read it yet, so I don't know that that's precisely what they say.

As for the A-T concept of human soul.

First, after death I am a form, right? (Cf. Oderberg, "Hylemorphic Dualism," p. 96: "I persist ... as the form that once was the form of the body ...") But isn't it a categorial mistake to say that I am a form -- like to say that a thought has a weight, or that God is a set?

If the claim were that "I am a form, period," then that would conflict with the A-T view of human nature. (I'm not sure it would be a category mistake, since angels are forms -- or at least forms conjoined with an act of existence -- and an angl could thus truthfully say "I am a form.")

But that's not what Oderberg says, and it's not what A-T says. He says (and A-T says) that after death I persist as a form, and he compares it to the case where a guy's head is preserved alive after the rest of his body is destroyed, so that he continues, in a sense, as the chief part of his body (conjoined with his soul). The person continuing qua soul alone is just an extension of this idea. But it's not that the person continues full stop; the person would continue full stop, without qualification, only if all components were together. Rather, he continues only in a truncated, sub-standard, incomplete way.

Properly to understand this -- and to deal with the other questions you raise -- requires, as Klima has emphasized, reading all these claims in light of the broader A-T semantics, including the doctrine of analogy and the different senses in which a thing can be said to have being. (E.g. I have being as a disembodied soul and I have being as a soul-body composite, but only in analogous, not univocal, senses. It is a mistake to interpret these claims as if "I exist" was meant univocally in both cases, and it seems to be that some of your questions refelct a failture to make this distinction.)

Klima discusses these issues in many places, but the article most directly relevant here is probably "Man = Body + Soul: Aquinas's Arithmetic of Human Nature."

And how exactly would you know

Aristocles--by evidence. How else? But there is, you know, a lot that has been said and argued about this. It's not as though it's something that can be seen to be insoluble by some sort of one-off shallow statement. For goodness' sake. My own work presently indicates that the only largely intractable question remaining appears to be how to formalize an evidential state prior to all empirical evidence. I am working right now on formulating the argument that once we set this question aside we can see that the body of empirical evidence--now that we do have empirical evidence--taken as a whole strongly favors basic, standard, realism regarding the external world.

Vlastimil,

Re: Descartes, the sentence immediately before the passage you quote says:

I remark, besides, that this power of imagination which I possess, in as far as it differs from the power of conceiving, is in no way necessary to my [nature or] essence, that is, to the essence of my mind; for although I did not possess it, I should still remain the same that I now am, from which it seems we may conclude that it depends on something different from the mind

If imagination is not essential or necessary to me, if it depends on something different from the mind (i.e. from me, in Descartes' reckoning), then (from a Cartesian point of view) it cannot be part of me, and thus cannot be a part of the mind in the strict sense (even if it is in a loose sense).

This "something different" that imagination depends on is, as the passage you quote goes on to make clear, something corporeal in nature. It is true that he says that the existence of body follows only with probability, but I gather that that is only because he isn't yet trying in this meditation to prove the existence of body (that comes later) and still hasn't made completely clear what it would be for body to exist (which also comes later, though he's already dropped hints that body is extension alone). So, since he isn't yet laying out what a "clear and distinct" idea of body would be, it wouldn't yet be approriate for him to claim demonstrate, as opposed to making probabale, the dependence of imagination on body. His aim at this point in the meditation is just to clarify the relationship between intellect and imagination.

In any case, as the sentence I quote makes clear, he does think that, strictly speaking, imagination is distinct from the self and from the mind, and that intellect alone is essential to the latter.

Edward,

Re: Descartes.

I'm not sure Descartes takes his argument for the existence of the body as an apodeictic demonstration (even in the end of his Meditations). There's rich textual evidence for the hypothesis, defended mainly by the Cartesian scholar Lex Newman, that Descartes employs a unified theistic argumentative pattern in his attempts at showing the veracity of clear and distinct perceptions, the existence of external world, the state of one’s being awake and not asleep, the health-conduciveness of sense perceptions, and the mathematical nature of material things. The same pattern was likely employed by Descartes in order to justify the veracity of memories, and it seems he could have use it, with the same degree of (im)plausibility, to solve the problem of induction, to demonstrate the existence of other minds, or to refute the brain-in-vat hypothesis. The pattern is this: 1. We have a tendeny to believe that P. 2. This tendency is something ontologically positive. 3. This tendency is caused by God. 4. We know of no reason why not to believe that P. Thus, 5. P is true.

Even if Descartes does think his argument for the existence of the body is apodeictic, and similarly for his claim that imagination is always performed in connection with the body, it does not follow that he believes that this statement (no imagination without the body) is conceptually necessary. Similarly, when you demonstrate the existence of the Moon, it does not follow that its existence is conceptually necessary.

(What about my previous question? Is the claim no imagination without the body on the A-T view conceptually necessary? If so, then the blessed souls in heaven can't have imaginations -- even God can't supply these souls with imaginations, right?)

And even if everything you say is true, it is still also true according to Descartes that, in the end, the mind imagines (has imaginations), though only in connection with the body. If not, why would Descartes call all acts of perceiving, imagining, remembering, desiring, willing, etc. "cogitationes"? And why would he talk in the para quoted by me that the mind "in imagining"? So I'm still unclear what's exactly the supposed confusion you criticized when you said: "It is often supposed that Descartes assimilates sensation, imagination, and intellect into an amorphous something called “the mind,” but this is not the case."

As for the pattern:

1. We have a tendeny to believe that P. 2. This tendency is something ontologically positive. 3. This tendency is caused by God. 4. We know of no reason why not to believe that P. Thus, 5. P is true.

Some interpreters would say that when employed for the health-conduciveness of sense perceptions and the veracity of memories, the step (4) would made the case rather inductive, probabilistic than demonstrative. We ispect the whole of our perceptions or memories, find that it seems coherent, and infer inductively that we have no counter-tendency to the tendency to believe, etc. But in other mentioned applications of the same pattern, Descartes seems to take the argument as demonstrative, not only probabilistic.

For instance, he seems to be theoretically certain in the end of his Meditations that the external world exists. That's a difference from Lydia who takes the external world as only probable, though extremely probable.

For instance, he seems to be theoretically certain in the end of his Meditations that the external world exists.

That's only because Descartes was operating on the assumption that God does indeed exist and that this God would not be so cruel as to allow any kind of deception.

Aristocles,

"Descartes was operating on the assumption that God does indeed exist and that this God would not be so cruel as to allow any kind of deception."

But Descates takes this assumption as already demonstrated.

I recommend these papers by Lex Newman, all online:

-- NEWMAN, Lex. 1994. „Descartes on Unknown Faculties and Our Knowledge of the External World“. The Philosophical Review 103 (Jul.): 489-531.
-- NEWMAN, Lex. 1999. „The Fourth Meditation“. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (Sep.): 559-591.
-- NEWMAN, Lex. „Descartes’ Epistemology“. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
-- NEWMAN, Lex – NELSON, Alan. 1999. „Circumventing Cartesian Circles“. Nous 33 (Sep.): 370-404.

The SEP entry is esp. good for the notorious problem of the Cartesian circle, pertaining to Descartes' argument for the veracity of clear and distinct perceptions.

Edward,

Re: I am a body/soul vs. I perist as a body/soul.

Is that really different?

I think it can be truly claimed about me (and similarly about all living people) that I am (before my death) a body/physical biological organism. And I understand the identity here not as the strict numerical identity but as some weak numerical identity. That's why I can exist even after my death. J. Brower and M. Rea talk, in their papers on the Trinity, about numerical sameness without strict numerical identity. See esp. http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~brower/Papers/Material%20Constitution%20and%20Trinity.pdf , p. 25.)

This point seems to be suggested also by D. Oderberg's "Hylemorphic Dualism," p. 97: "Suppose it were technically possible to reduce my organic existence to that of a head. Then I would exist as a head, but I would not be [strictly?] numerically identical with a head any more than I would have been [strictly?] numerically identical with my whole body - there being no reason to affirm one and deny the other, transitivity of [strict numerical?] identity would be violated. And yet in some sense [that is, in the sense of numerical sameness without strict numerical identity?] I am a head ..."

So, even Oderberg could take "I am a body in the sense of numerical sameness with strict numerical identity" as meaning the same as "I persist as a body." Similarly for my being a head or a soul.

***

But I admit, on the other hand, that my position has a problem. The paradigmatic sameness without strict identity is that of the statue and the clay, and the like. The clay can exist without the statue, but the statue would not exist without the clay. And if I am a body in the sense of numerical sameness without identity, and this sameness is paradigmatically such that the individual material thing would not exist without its material, then how could we and why should we truly say that I would exist even after my death (without my body)? So I should explore whether there are some sound metaphysical reasons for humans being something special (existing ever when the bodies they had been perished).

***

I guess you would point here that the right reason is that human intellectual activity is intrinsically, in its essence, immaterial, though extrinsically dependent on matter for normal operation. But I'm still unclear on this.

Some people think that matter is necessary for human intellectual activity. As Spur wrote elsewhere:

I actually believe that the senses are necessary even for the most abstract thoughts, such as thoughts about Group Theory. In this I follow Leibniz and Frege, and perhaps even Thomas himself. (Perhaps even Aristotle held something like this too.) The reason for thinking this is that in order to have these abstract thoughts, the mind must be provided with some sensible signs or symbols--Aristotle and Aquinas called these phantasms, I believe. But on a direct realist view, these signs or phantasms can enter the mind via the senses only if there's a body. So Aquinas ought to hold that even the highest mental operations require a body.

http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1166569723.shtml

And as your commenter similarly wrote elsewhere:

... for St. Thomas ... the proper mode of human knowing comes from abstracting and separating universal forms from particular sense impressions. So anytime I think about human nature I begin with some image (or phantasm, as it is sometimes called) of a human being--whether it is my father, my best friend, Leonardo's Vitruvian Man &c.--from which my intellect acquires the form.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/12/mindreading.html

I think you would point again to the alleged fact that human intellectual activity is essentially immaterial and only "extrinsically" dependent on matter for normal operation. But I'm still unclear on this. I'm not sure (i) what does it mean and (ii) whether it is true. Mea culpa, I guess.

Edward,

Re: I am a body/soul vs. I perist as a body/soul.

Is that really different?

I think it can be truly claimed about me (and similarly about all living people) that I am (before my death) a body/physical biological organism. And I understand the identity here not as the strict numerical identity but as some weak numerical identity. That's why I can exist even after my death. J. Brower and M. Rea talk, in their papers on the Trinity, about numerical sameness without strict numerical identity. See esp. http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~brower/Papers/Material%20Constitution%20and%20Trinity.pdf , p. 25.)

This point seems to be suggested also by D. Oderberg's "Hylemorphic Dualism," p. 97: "Suppose it were technically possible to reduce my organic existence to that of a head. Then I would exist as a head, but I would not be [strictly?] numerically identical with a head any more than I would have been [strictly?] numerically identical with my whole body - there being no reason to affirm one and deny the other, transitivity of [strict numerical?] identity would be violated. And yet in some sense [that is, in the sense of numerical sameness without strict numerical identity?] I am a head ..."

So, even Oderberg could take "I am a body in the sense of numerical sameness with strict numerical identity" as meaning the same as "I persist as a body." Similarly for my being a head or a soul.

***

But I admit, on the other hand, that my position has a problem. The paradigmatic sameness without strict identity is that of the statue and the clay, and the like. The clay can exist without the statue, but the statue would not exist without the clay. And if I am a body in the sense of numerical sameness without identity, and this sameness is paradigmatically such that the individual material thing would not exist without its material, then how could we and why should we truly say that I would exist even after my death (without my body)? So I should explore whether there are some sound metaphysical reasons for humans being something special (existing ever when the bodies they had been perished).

***

I guess you would point here that the right reason is that human intellectual activity is intrinsically, in its essence, immaterial, though extrinsically dependent on matter for normal operation. But I'm still unclear on this.

Some people think that matter is necessary for human intellectual activity. As Spur wrote elsewhere (BV's blog):

I actually believe that the senses are necessary even for the most abstract thoughts, such as thoughts about Group Theory. In this I follow Leibniz and Frege, and perhaps even Thomas himself. (Perhaps even Aristotle held something like this too.) The reason for thinking this is that in order to have these abstract thoughts, the mind must be provided with some sensible signs or symbols--Aristotle and Aquinas called these phantasms, I believe. But on a direct realist view, these signs or phantasms can enter the mind via the senses only if there's a body. So Aquinas ought to hold that even the highest mental operations require a body.

And as your commenter similarly wrote elsewhere (W4, "Mindreading"):

... for St. Thomas ... the proper mode of human knowing comes from abstracting and separating universal forms from particular sense impressions. So anytime I think about human nature I begin with some image (or phantasm, as it is sometimes called) of a human being--whether it is my father, my best friend, Leonardo's Vitruvian Man &c.--from which my intellect acquires the form.

I think you would point again to the alleged fact that human intellectual activity is essentially immaterial and only "extrinsically" dependent on matter for normal operation. But I'm still unclear on this. I'm not sure (i) what does it mean and (ii) whether it is true. Mea culpa, I guess.

What about my previous question? Is the claim no imagination without the body on the A-T view conceptually necessary?

No, since e.g. God could produce phantasms for the intellect to abstract concepts from etc., when the soul is apart from the body. But in any event, what I was talking about was Descartes' view of the imagination, not the A-T view.

I'm sorry I missed this question. You ask a lot of questions, and long ones, and given the limited time I have to respond, sometimes something falls through the cracks.

And even if everything you say is true, it is still also true according to Descartes that, in the end, the mind imagines (has imaginations), though only in connection with the body. If not, why would Descartes call all acts of perceiving, imagining, remembering, desiring, willing, etc. "cogitationes"? And why would he talk in the para quoted by me that the mind "in imagining"? So I'm still unclear what's exactly the supposed confusion you criticized when you said: "It is often supposed that Descartes assimilates sensation, imagination, and intellect into an amorphous something called “the mind,” but this is not the case."

The "confusion" in question is the idea that Descartes considers sensation, imagination, and intellection to have an equal status as modes of the res cogitans, as if (e.g) feeling pain was on all fours with contemplating the Pythagorean theorem, as just two different kinds of thought. In fact he evidently regarded the latter to be, to the extent it was divorced from sensory content or mental imagery, more exemplary of thought, and thus more indicative of the essence of the res cogitans, than the former.

Re: why he calls them all "cogitationes" anyway, I would suggest that he is just using the term in a loose sense. In any case, it doesn't negate the evidence of the sentence I quoted. Overall, I would say that Descartes is not entirely clear, or perhaps consistent, in everything he says on this topic -- hardly unusual in a philosopher!

3. This tendency is caused by God.

That's only because Descartes was operating on the assumption that God does indeed exist and that this God would not be so cruel as to allow any kind of deception.

Isn't proposition 3 a bit of a problem here? It has been a loonnng time since I read the meditations (so maybe I am forgetting what he has already "established" at this point), but it strikes me that there is no way in the world for this proposition to be proposed in this location in a dogmatic manner, as if it were either immediate to experience as such, or already demonstrated. So, does it operate as sort of a postulate? If so, then all we need say is: we do not allow the postulate.

Tony,

I think Descartes suggests: the tendency is something ontologically positive (by some phenomenological introspection and/or some further general ontological analysis?); everything ontologically positive is ultimately caused by God (by Descartes' proof of God's existence and his attributes).

It's more apparent in Descartes' replies to the objections to the Meditations.

Hello, Edward,

Thanks for that clarification.

One more short question concering the existence of human soul after death, if I may. Let's grant something you and Oderberg argue for: intellectual activity of the soul is at the same time intrinsically immaterial and extrinsically dependent on the body matter when the soul forms the body. Still, how does it follow that if the body perished, the soul still could perform some intellectual activity? In short: what if there could be no intellectual activity of the soul, though immaterial, without the matter, though extrinsic. What if the absence of the low thwarts the presence of the high? Like when I can't contemplate when I don't have enough food in my stomach.

Still, how does it follow that if the body perished, the soul still could perform some intellectual activity?
Pick me! Pick me!

It depends on what you mean by "could".

Because if the soul is a Platonic Form in the modified Aristotlean sense, extrinsically dependent on some instantiating substance in order to engage in intellectual activity, God is perfectly capable of providing that substance.

If the claim under discussion is that the soul, while necessarily immortal, is in addition always necessarily actually engaged in intellectual activity, well, I don't agree with that so I won't defend it. The way I understand it the claim "the soul is immortal" is like the claim that the number four is immortal: that is, it is a claim that the soul is a timeless Form of the particular person, always capable of instantiation in a real substance. I used to misunderstand (because of the unconsciously Cartesian distortion in my own thinking) the immortality of the soul as a claim that the soul is always conscious and capable of intellectual activity; and when I did I couldn't figure out what the heck the scholastics and Greeks were talking about that wasn't just obviously false, refuted every time I go to sleep.

But in point of actual fact, there is some Scriptural evidence that the souls of the dead do think and have experiences, even prior to the resurrection (which hasn't yet taken place). Jesus said, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day," for example. And Catholics, being committed to Purgatory, are in any event committed to consciousness between death and the resurrection. So while it is possible to have a soul which is unconscious, which isn't thinking at some given time (and even Descartes must have known that people can sleep dreamlessly!), any view according to which disembodied souls are, for some heavy metaphysical reason, unconscious, has problems with Christian theology.

...any view according to which disembodied souls are, for some heavy metaphysical reason, unconscious, has problems with Christian theology.
I agree. What is at issue (or what I took Vlastamil to be presenting as at issue) is not whether and which disembodied souls are in fact conscious. What is at issue is whether, as a matter of philosophical demonstration, disembodied souls are necessarily conscious. I don't think they are: I think they are necessarily immortal as a matter of philosophical demonstration, but I don't think they are necessarily conscious as a matter of philosophical demonstration. (Mind you, when I talk about Cartesian distortion in my own thinking it may well be unfair to call it Cartesian. The distortion I stand by though).

Further clarification/correction:

What is at issue for Vlastamil is the possibility of a disembodied soul's consciousness, given its dependence on an extrinsic substance in order to manifest consciousness. My answer, which led me to ramble a bit over the conceptual space in question, is to consider the soul as analogous to the number four. That the Form four may substantively manifest in those four apples right there does not imply that four cannot manifest in some other extrinsic substance. That intellection in Vlastamil's soul manifests in that body right there does not imply that it cannot in principle manifest in some other extrinsic substance; and like four, that other extrinsic substance does not by necessity (that I can see) have to be material in the sense of being atoms and molecules.

Zippy,

Thanks for the correction.

Here's my own clarification.

I'm basically asking: how does "the soul's intellectual activity is immaterial" entail "the soul's intellectual activity would obtain without the body"?

I'm also asking: how does "the soul could (in which sense?) be in some activity without the body" entail "the soul would be in some activity without the body"? But maybe the consequent here is not important for the A-T view.

***

As for the suggested analogy btw the soul and the Four, I'm not used to take such moves as illuminating. In fact, the Four and the soul are very different, aren't they? I believe you would like this post much: http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1218844619.shtml

***

Lydia,

What do you mean by "physical entity"? :-)

The most clear discussion on this I've found (thanks to Edward's tip in TLS) is Levine's Purple Haze, pp. 17-21, http://books.google.com/books?id=g4svYoFDAkwC . (His conclusion is that the physical is the non-mental.)

Vlastimil, the reason that I raised the initial question about extension is because I don't have that aspect of my concept of a physical object nailed down (extension). But I can say this much: All physical things necessarily exist within space and time.

Vlastimil,
http://alevelphilosophy.co.uk/shelf/AristotleSoulLifeAfterDeath.pdf

If Aristotle knew what we know today about neurology, I am not at all sure he would admit to the possibility of an immaterial intellect.

Vlastamil:

I'm basically asking: how does "the soul's intellectual activity is immaterial" entail "the soul's intellectual activity would obtain without the body"?
And again, I don't think it does entail that. An algorithm is immaterial, but it doesn't follow by necessity that software runs without hardware. If you change "the [that particular] body" to "any instantiating substance" I think your question might be at least more on target - though my answer would be the same. In fact I think (as a conjectural opinion based in intuition) souls are almost certainly not conscious or engaged in intellectual activity absent an instantiating substance.

IOW, I think you may be conflating a requirement for some instantiating substance with a requirement for that particular instantiating substance. The number four can be instantiated in my mind as well as in matter, for example. It doesn't become not the number four just because its instantiation is my intellection. The question then arises whether God's mind can (or does) instantiate a human soul without matter, analogous to (though as you say also quite different from) my mind instantiating four (as in "four apples") without matter. But you won't pursue that kind of question as long as you don't distinguish between "that particular substance" and "some substance" in your inquiry.

I'm also asking: how does "the soul could (in which sense?) be in some activity without the body" entail "the soul would be in some activity without the body"? But maybe the consequent here is not important for the A-T view.
I can't speak authoritatively on the A-T view, but I think you may be asking the wrong question: replace "body" with "that particular body" and you may be closer to asking (what seems to me to be) a more pertinent question.
In fact, the Four and the soul are very different, aren't they?
They are. But numbers are commonly used to show the distinction between Aristotle's understanding of Form and Plato's, and if I'm not mistaken your questions tend to target Plato's view of Form moreso than Aristotle's. Of course I could be all wet, since this is not at all an area of expertise for me and I just engage in the discussion out of a kind of whimsical interest.

Thanks for the link.

Zippy,

By "the body" I've meant "the particular body."

I raised the question: how does "the soul's intellectual activity is immaterial" entail "the soul's intellectual activity would obtain without the body"? I supposed that the A-T would answer that it doesn't. But then I would reply: if it doesn't, then how do we know that the soul would exist without the (particular) body? For if the soul operated intellectually without the body, it would obviously exist without the body. But if the A-T does not want to infer that intellectual activity, then how does he know that the soul would exist without the body?

Thus, my new question is: how does "the soul's intellectual activity is immaterial" entail "the soul would exist without the body"? Again, as I've said, what if the absence of the low (the body) thwarts the presence of the high (the soul)?

***

The question then arises whether God's mind can (or does) instantiate a human soul without matter, analogous to (though as you say also quite different from) my mind instantiating four (as in "four apples") without matter.

Would the instantiation of my soul in God's mind guarantee that my soul exists? No. Like the instantiation of a unicorn in my mind or the instantiation of my soul in God's mind before my conception do not guarantee that a unicorn (really) exists or that my soul before my conception (really) exists.

Lydia,

If every physical entity is a spatiotemporal entity, do you mean 4D, that is, localized in some quadruple of three classical spatial axes-cum-temporal axis? Then what about 5+D string theories? Are they non-physical?

It seems to me that our concept of physical entity is paradigmatically of entity that is (i) 4D and (ii) a relatum of efficient causal relations, esp. of pushing or of being pushed/or concrete (as opposed to abstract)/or having primary qualities (of modern mechanics, like solidity, extension, figure, motion, number).

But I'm not sure whether all contemporary physical entities satisfy (i) and (ii). Cf. Levine, Purple Haze, pp. 17-21. I also remember Tim once discussed with the commenter Spur at BV's weblog about that; Spur suggested an ideal like (i)+(ii) is still pursued; Tim suggested that it's rather being given up (or has been given up).

In sum, I wonder whether all that is seriously taken as a physical entity satisfies your condition (i) or the added condition (ii). And that renders for me the discussions about "materialism," "physicalism," and "naturalism" muddled.

Isn't the ultimate difference in them just the rejection vs. the embracement of God or after-life?

But if the A-T does not want to infer that intellectual activity, then how does he know that the soul would exist without the body?
I'm not entirely sure that A-T's mean the same thing by "soul" that you mean. I may be wrong, but I think for an A-T the soul is the Form of the person in the Aristotlean understanding of Form. Your whole line of questioning seems to be treating it as something else - as a putative necessarily active consciousness or something.

Lydia stated:

And Catholics, being committed to Purgatory, are in any event committed to consciousness between death and the resurrection.


I don't necessarily buy into something like a "between" death and resurrection.

Can one really say that the soul actually "waits" between the time of death to that of resurrection? Isn't it entirely possible, given that God dwells in the Eternal Present, that a soul upon death is transported right into the Day of Judgment or is such a thought heretical?

I, myself, don't really consider 'Purgatory' as being any actual place (I believe a 'Purgatory' so conceived was more likely the result of Dante's fiction than anything else). However, I do subscribe to the notion that, in all likelihood, Purgatory being a state or even process of purification (i.e., that purifying fire spoken about in 1 Cor 3:15) just prior to entry into the Kingdom of God which, as even Revelation would have it, no unclean thing can enter.

Vlastimil,
Mainly for my own benefit, I want to lay out my understanding of what Aquinas was working with.

There were two distinct uses of soul that Aristotle used; the more generic use was equivalent to life force - insert Jedi reference - found in all organisms. This aspect was intrinsic to the body and inseparable from it. The second use was related to the degree of objective interactions of the living being: nutritive, sensory, and cognitive. These degrees were a progressive hierarchy and only the human cognitive function was immaterial. This was based on a theory of contrast where the passive intellect is literally nothing before it is triggered by potentially infinite active reason and receives the form of the object. Aquinas seems to have adopted the same framework, although there were modifications that made it compatible with the Christina belief of personal survival after death instead of an impersonal intellect.

Zippy,

No,

I've meant in this discussion by "the soul" the form of the human.

As I've said already, I did raise the question: how does "the soul's intellectual activity is immaterial" entail "the soul's intellectual activity would obtain without the body"? I did suppose that the A-T would answer that it doesn't. But then I reply: if it doesn't, then how do we know that the soul would exist without the (particular) body? If the soul operated intellectually without the body, it would obviously exist without the body. But if the A-T does not want to infer that intellectual activity of the soul, then how does he know that the soul would exist without the body?

I'm trying to continue with Edward here:
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/04/tls-on-radio_21.html

...then how do we know that the soul [the Form of the particular person] would [continue to] exist without the (particular) body?
And again, speaking out of my hat, we know that because all Forms are eternal. Even if nothing material in fact at present instantiates four, the Form of four always exists -qua- Form, does not cease to exist -qua- Form, and furthermore can always in principle be instantiated.

So, the form of my dead dog is eternal? If so, how does it guarantee his after-life or his existence after his death?

Permit me to answer a slightly different question:

...how does [the immortality of the soul] guarantee [a person's] after-life or his existence after his death?
It doesn't, if by "existence" you mean "consciousness". That the soul is eternal doesn't guarantee eternal (continuous) consciousness: indeed, we know by our own experience that consciousness comes and goes discontinuously, even with this body instantiating the soul in this life. Again, to me it seems that you are conflating the existence of the soul with consciousness.

If you want to relate the immortality of the soul to consciousness, what we might be able to say is that the Aristotlean potential for individual consciousness is eternal. But the notion that individual human consciousness is eternal, that is, ever-present in and for all times, is manifestly false. I have the impression that there is a relentless attack on a straw man here, unless A-T somewhere claim, contra all of our direct experience, that our individual human consciousness is ever-present and eternal.

Zippy,

I've explained why I talked about consciousness and that that was not essential to my worries.

***

You say: "Even if nothing material in fact at present instantiates four, the Form of four always exists -qua- Form, does not cease to exist -qua- Form, and furthermore can always in principle be instantiated."

I ask: "So, the form of my dead dog is eternal? If so, how does it guarantee his after-life or his existence after his death?"

You say: "Again, to me it seems that you are conflating the existence of the soul with consciousness."

I say now: I don't see how. But, anyway, what's your answer to my question?

Thanks.

Yes, all Forms are eternal. I don't think an after-life - in the sense of the Form being instantiated and conscious in some substance - is guaranteed as a matter of deductive reason. You are asking me to defend a position I don't hold.

But do you think that human after-life - in the sense of human souls being instantiated, period - is guaranteed by their being eternal?

No. Not as a matter of deductive reason.

Thanks.

So, what would be your (favourite) reason for the claim that you would exist even after your death?

That God chooses to instantiate me, has revealed that He will choose to instantiate me, and I trust (that is, I have faith) in Him. The existence of the soul after death and for eternity is I think deducable by right reason. Consciousness after death is not, in my view, or at least I haven't seen such an argument that has 'stuck'.

Zippy,

"The existence of the soul after death and for eternity is I think deducable by right reason."

Without an appeal to the revelation? How?

Without an appeal to the revelation?

Yes.

How?

Addendum

I've found out that David Oderberg, in his Real Essentialism, ch. 7.4, has a critique of some aspects of Brower's and Rea's concept of sameness without (strict) identity. Still, they all (including Oderberg) say that I am not strictly numerically identical to my body; that I am, in a sense, my body; and that I and my body are to be counted as one material substance.

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