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Reasoning To Belief: Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism — Part Last: Skulls Full Of Nothing

Don’t Think
Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part Interlude, Part IV, Part V, Part VI. Part Last. Buy the book ($12.92 as of last glance).

There is a curious phenomenon unwinding throughout secularism. One wing is busy elevating animals to the status of humans. And another is dedicated to demoting humans to the level of animals. The overarching goal appears to meet in the middle and declare as equal, in every respect, human creatures with, say, dolphins and colobi, or any other species which is deemed photogenic or does not regularly make appearances on dinner menus.

The former are not just “outraged” members of PETA, or those who push fur-wearing bans. This new group of the Very Concerned are scientists, like those signing the “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” or who organize conferences around “Consciousness in Humans and Non-Human Animals.”

Those who attend First Annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference will be lectured on a “purely data-driven perspective on the neural correlates of consciousness.” There the “most advanced quantitative techniques for measuring and monitoring consciousness will be presented, with the topics of focus ranging from exploring the properties of neurons deep in the brainstem” presented. It is neurons—exceptionally scientific objects of study—deep in the brainstem that tell us that monkeys are the same as you and I. Not in the sense of being conscious, which animals of course are, but in the sense that their intellect and rationality and our intellect and rationality are equal.

It is also neurons deep in the brain which tell us that humans are animals. Not in the dull sense that like annelids we are capable of self-motivation, or like birds we respire, or like mosquitoes we like to eat blood, particularly in our case in the form of breakfast sausage. No, even past popes knew we had bodies and were animals in that sense. What scientists are now “discovering” is that our brains are mere mechanical engines. Input data, provide a glucose power supply, turn the crank and what comes out is perfectly predictable. We are just machines, these scientists say: unthinking, deterministic machines. Slaves to our neurons.

Wait, that’s wrong: not slaves. A slave is a man wrongly imprisoned. Neurologists tell us there is nothing sentient there that can know it is imprisoned. We are just masses of tissue, reacting in pre-programed, unwilled ways to external stimuli, just as the dumbest gnat or cockroach does.

These two views—the simultaneous elevation of animals and demotion of mankind—are of course incompatible. They cannot both be true. If some animals are rational, intelligent beings, then so are we, but then we cannot be mere machines. If we are robots acting out the script provided by our selfish genes, then so are animals, neither group being entitled to any special treatment. Yet we race to embrace both theories. We are therefore converging towards a special state of lunacy.

It is partly a psychological question why this is occurring in our society, but since Yours Truly has no expertise in deviant behavior I remain silent on this matter. There is a theological explanation for our comportment, but we can’t bear thinking on this. Therefore, let’s jump right to the philosophical underpinnings.

Now, if it cannot be so that some animals are just like humans and all animals including humans are unthinking beasts, it can be so that both views are wrong and that instead, just as common sense and all observation suggests, we humans are unique, far different than any animal. That, except when under the influence of alcohol or theory, we are possessed of rationality, of self- and other-awareness, of intentionality. It “should be obvious that it is simply a conceptual impossibility that [intentionality] should ever be explained in terms of or reduced to anything material”.

Free will, as you might guess, is perfectly explainable:

In an Aristotelian-Thomistic analysis, the relationship between a choice and the action it results in can be understood as an instance of formal-cum-final causation. The matter of “material cause” of the action is the sequence of neural firing patterns, muscular movements, and the like by means of which the action is carried out. The formal and final causes of the action—that which gives intelligible structure to the movements—is just the soul considered as a kind of form, and in particular the activities of thinking and willing that are distinctive of the soul’s intellective and volitional powers. The action is free precisely because it has this as its form, rather than having the form, say, of an involuntary muscular spasm. Nor are the intellect and will themselves determined by such things as physical law, because they exist as parts of the realm of formal and final causes, not material and efficient ones.

Let’s don’t forget that Aristotle did not use the word cause in its modern sense of “temporally ordered events”, but as answers to four Ws: What’s the thing made of? (material cause) What’s its form? (formal cause) What actualized its potential? (efficient cause) What’s the thing for? (final cause). A thing must have all four causes: it cannot have just one. In particular, all things have a final cause, in the sense that all things (almost always unconsciously) are “directed toward” some “goal.” This should be utterly uncontentious, given that we see that everything in fact is “directed toward” some (limited range) of “goals.”

But it is contentious, and many moderns reject the idea of final causality. Mostly because they don’t like the implications of accepting it, or because they believe that “science” has proven final causality false.

Let me be clear about something. However widely accepted, these claims are, each and every one of them, simply untrue. They are false. Wrong. Mistaken. Erroneous. Non-factual.

(Regular readers may recognize the tone.)

Rejecting final causation “immediately created a number of serious philosophical problems that have never been settled to this day, but instead have only gotten progressively worse; indeed, historically unprecedented in their bizarreness and rationality.” In Yours Truly’s own field, the “problem” of induction is one of these. Grown men and women actually deny that inductive beliefs are rational (while never ceasing to use them). What this did to statistics is obvious (hello, p-value!).

But the rejection of final causality has also slain rationality in neuroscience. Feser quotes W.T. Stace: “The world, according to this new picture, is purposeless, senseless, meaningless. Nature is nothing but matter in motion. The motions of matter are governed, not by purpose, but by blind forces and laws.” That view led to the slaughter of the universal morality—a subject Feser’s pursues briefly, and which we’ll investigate another day.

For now, we examine the logical conclusion of the modern enterprise: eliminative materialism, a fully mechanical picture of all reality, including the stuff that goes on inside our heads. We have already seen the proof that our intellect cannot be material, yet there are is no shortage of scientists and philosophers who claim the mind does not even exist, except perhaps as an epiphenomenon of wiring together large numbers of neurons, each following a preset “program.” As “John Searle (who, as we have seen, is no religious believer) has argued, every form of materialism implicitly denies the existence of the mind, whether or not it intends to.”

For as Searle has emphasized, there is a difference between following a rule and behaving as if one were following a rule. Suppose someone tells me to follow the following algorithm: 1. Move from the front of the desk to the back of it and go to step 2; 2. Move from the back of the desk to the front and go back to step 1. If I comply, then I will begin circling the desk. Now suppose an earthquake knocks a marble off the desk and after hitting the floor it begins to circle the desk. The marble acts as if it were following the algorithm, but of course it isn’t, while I really am following it.

Because of intentionality, of course. The marble has none. Feser gives several—as in several—other, what should be well known, but which are not, arguments proving, and not just suggesting, that the mechanical picture of our minds is false. He also shows that final causality is necessary to understand or explain what we are.

So what happened? Why were Aristotle and Aquinas abandoned? Nothing more banal than this: “Apart from scholars who specialize in these matters, most academics and other intellectuals, and certainly most journalists and popular writers, simply cannot think about the Middle Ages, Scholasticism, the scientific revolution, and related topics except in terms on the crudest clichés and caricatures.” In other words, laziness and desire the old stuff be wrong.

[T]he rabid anti-Scholasticism of the early moderns was driven less by dispassionate intellectual considerations than by a political agenda: to reorient human life away from the next world and toward this one, and to weaken the rational credentials of religion so as to make this project seem justifiable and inevitable.

I can testify that one can graduate from a PhD program in the sciences at a prestigious university and never, not once, be required to take a philosophy course. There was no expectation that we would even know who Aristotle was. This is especially screwy in my own field of probability applied to physical models because we toss ideas of causality around all the time. Fancy never having to think about what you’re doing! As Mermin said about quantum mechanics: it was “Shut up and calculate.”

But, as Feser says, Aristotle will have his revenge. There is a growing interest in some of us to return to our roots,to discover what we’ve been missing out on, to dispense with “the problem of this” and “the problem of that” in a coherent, sensible, satisfying, and correct way. Of discovering, that is, what is true. The Last Superstition is thus required reading for any scientist who thought they knew what they were talking about when it came to philosophy.

Update I just saw this at Feser’s site. Watch the video. Hilarious. “These are thrilling times.”

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Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part Interlude, Part IV, Part V, Part VI. Part Last.

76 thoughts on “Reasoning To Belief: Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism — Part Last: Skulls Full Of Nothing Leave a comment

  1. + – “…converging towards a special state of lunacy.” &
    ++ – “… far different {from the other animals}…, except when under the influence of alcohol or theory, ”

    Thanks for the re-introductions. John

  2. Nope, wont do. Free Will is a self-contradictory concept that crumbles with a more pierceful analysis (to be free from one’s own wills is a c

  3. Nope, wont do. Free Will is a self-contradictory concept that crumbles with a more pierceful analysis (to be free from one’s own wills is a contradiction and unnecessary). You keep calling your arguments “proofs”, as if the premises are undeniable, while they are to me the equivalent of alchemic thinking, filled with wrong in every sentence. And if you think the medieval ways of thought are superior to current ones, well then!

  4. I had a course in classical Aristoleian logic as an elective. I thought It would be boring, but it was very interesting. I did try to read various philosophers works, but couldn’t develope any interest in philosophy. That’s probably why I became an engineer.

  5. CONSIDER THE VERY LAST REMARKS: “I can testify that one can graduate from a PhD program in the sciences at a prestigious university and never, not once, be required to take a philosophy course. There was no expectation that we would even know who Aristotle was. … as Feser says, Aristotle will have his revenge. There is a growing interest in some of us to return to our roots, to discover what we’ve been missing out on, to dispense with “the problem of this” and “the problem of that” in a coherent, sensible, satisfying, and correct way. Of discovering, that is, what is true.”

    ISN’t THAT interesting, specifically, that shift to the wisdom of the ancients, those keepers of the grand mystic wisdom since lost to humanity. Right? RIIGGGHHHTTT????? You know, keen insights such as the building blocks of nature being Earth, Air, Fire & Water; that an imbalance of “humors” led to disease, cured by bleeding (leeches) & so on.

    IT IS EXACTLY THAT SAME SORT OF LOGICAL THINKING that underlies so much religious & medical pseudoscience; things like crystal power, all manner of New Age charms such as Wiccans are [in]famous for, and so on & so on — a similar retreat to ancient “wisdom” easily believed in.

    Feser, et.al, are arguing for a wholesale retreat of precisely the same sort espoused by those succumbing to pseudoscience and similar religions.

    Underlying that inclination to retreat to an idealized ancient perspective are a lot of things, a longing for a simpler worldview, and so on…but such wholesale backwards thinking always includes an element of self-deception–blinders to help one retain a worldview–diety included–one knows, at some level, is false.

    If anything is clear it’s that Feser’s lengthy discourse isn’t about objectively reaching some conclusion, its about reaching a very particular conclusion — one consistent with certain postulates that are straining for survival under the weight of scientific fact-finding. Even philosophical mental gymnsatics are hard-pressed to offset this…hence the appeal of retreaing to the views of a more primitive time–all the better for preserving one’s cognitive blinders & thus preserve archaic Bronze Age perspectives of reality.

  6. One can compare the logical thought pattern Feser applies to reach a particular pre-determined conclusion with the scientific method used to reach whatever the real conclusion (aka “truth”) is; Montgomery’s work with geology & how science clashed with primitive religious outlook (much of which is based on ignorance of science–with deity used to fill in gaps) is described at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444772404577587711899418378.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion )

    Feser’s approach strains to grasp an old-world sort of view while Montgomery’s shows how such a view gets superseded by new info–science–and with absolutely no reason to look backwards for “truths” other than to see where & why ancient perspectives went astray.

    Just a very current benchmark to compare how ancient benchmarks are best used to serve as a warning…not to be embraced as a profound source of “truth” (unless, again, one wants to preserve certain flawed perspectives of reality).

  7. Ken,

    You have confused “not required to take a philosophy course” with “I wish we could all go back to four elements.” If it helps, you are not alone in your error: many people feel the Departments of Philosophy at their institutions are of little value.

  8. Another great post. Reading your series on TLS, Prof. Briggs, is almost as entertaining as reading the book itself. Very nicely done.

    Luis,

    Don’t make me laugh. You’re a blowhard who skips out as soon as you’re challenged. Nothing more than a bully. I’m still waiting for your responses to my posts in the earlier comboxes, by the way.

  9. First, any claim that Aristotelianism/Thomism has been rejected on the basis of ignorance of its arguments and philosophical method must first address certain historical realities:

    (a) virtually all Catholic theologians in the 20th century (and thus, also highly prominent ‘dissenting’ Catholic theologians — Edward Schillebeeckx, Charles Curran, to name just two –) perforce studied, and even were expert in, classical Thomism;

    (b) two believing and deeply influential 20th-century Catholic theologians, Henri Cardinal de Lubac and Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, did not use Thomistic arguments, assumptions, or methods, and von Balthasar wrote explicitly (if arguably) that system itself, very much including any Aristotelian/Thomist system, was a dead letter with regards the faith of Christians;

    (c) magisterial documents from our two most recent Popes, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI (and Benedict had been a highly-esteemed professional theologian prior to his election) never systematically deploy Thomistic language, assumptions, or methodology and hardly ever deploy them at all, and in fact JP II wrote explicitly that “The Church has no philosophy of her own….” [Fides et ratio, 49].

    None of these historical facts prove that the Aristotelian/Thomist vocabulary, method of argumentation, etc. is incorrect; but given them, it is not so easy to argue that its superiority is evident to all but the stupid, the unlearned, and the wayward.

    People with a good, excellent, even prodigious working understanding of Aristotelianism/Thomism don’t necessarily think it’s the bee’s knees.

    Second, and much more importantly, there are serious, serious problems with the Aristotelian answer to God, the soul, Cause, Substance, Accident, Life, the Universe, and Everything. The Aristotelian god is, for example, rigorously, systematically, methodologically, absolutely, utterly, non-Trinitarian.

    This is literally true: if the Aristotelian god actually exists — if there are indeed proofs of that god — then the Christian God is completely unreal, and indeed, the whole idea of the Trinity is fundamentally incoherent, massively insupportable, intellectually vacant to the point of being ludicrous, which is nothing more than what St. Paul casually mentioned — Christ crucified is ‘folly’ to the Greeks.

    St. Thomas, at least to jaundiced observers, inevitably, perforce, multiplies his philosophical and theological difficulties the closer he identifies that Aristotelian Deus Unus with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And in certain passages, St. Thomas carries that jaw-dropping (mis)-identification very far indeed.

    Equally as astounding is a remark made in a 1998 article in the magazine Catholic Dossier [4(5), p. 6] by Ralph McInerny, a prominent Thomist considered a stalwart defender of the faith, that there are “obligations antecedent to choice, rules that bind us whether we like it or not.” This, believe it or not, amounts in McInerny’s eyes to a working definition of ‘natural law’. According to McInerny, necessity is prior to choice and binds free will itself, lest rationality become relativism. Not even the Catechism’s ultra-blunt statement that the world “is not the product of any necessity whatever” [CCC 295] deters the dedicated Thomist from his appointed epistemological rounds.

    In short, neither unsophistication, nor mal-education, nor relativism, nor evil, nor unbelief, nor inattention to Scripture, nor acceptance of Hume’s or Kant’s critiques, nor not taking Aristotle or Aquinas seriously, deeply, at the letter, can account for every single bemused response to Dr. Feser’s arguments and methodology.

    There are worthier revivals of St. Thomas’s project, Dr. Feser, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

  10. JohnK,

    I’m far from any expert, but for example I understood Aquinas to say that the Trinity could not be known via reason but only via Revelation.

    In any case, I’m sure you would agree an acquaintance with Aquinas as opposed to ignorance is to be preferred, and that Feser and you (and me too!) are on the same team.

  11. Rank yes i noticed the various insults you deem worthy of a response. Very classy of you. Unfortunately I do have a life of my own, and was in my holidays managing my family with three little toddlers, who are more important than discussions of angels dancing on top of pins. I do intend however to develop and discuss the notion of free will, when I buy myself the sufficient time.
    Nighty night.

  12. JohnK,

    While I in no way intend to dismiss the credentials of the prestigious people you mentioned, it is simply the case that those who disagree with Thomism, more often than not, have misunderstood Aquinas’s work. You, while you appear to be very well educated in theology, would fall into this group. For starters, Aquinas’s God is not, strictly speaking, Aristotle’s. He bent and warped Aristotle’s philosophy into something that Aristotle himself would have found strange. Aquinas’s God is indeed the “first mover” and “purely actual”, but the meanings of these terms have changed. God is, primarily, “ipsum esse subsistens”: subsistent being itself, in which all other being participates. Being is higher than act or potency, and is in fact the source of both categories. God contains no potency, and is in no way composite, but this does not prevent the Trinity from obtaining. Because God is metaphysically simple being itself, it is possible to affirm the Trinity without contradicting natural theology. Where the Prime Mover of Aristotle failed, the Prime Mover of Aquinas succeeds.

    (Note: All of the Church Fathers endorsed the doctrine of divine simplicity and the Trinity simultaneously. Aquinas is able to follow them on this because of his identification of God with being, and not merely with actuality.)

  13. Further, concerns about post-Aquinas schisms can be set aside. The two scholastics who tried to topple Aquinas–Duns Scotus and Ockham–created systems that crumbled the foundations of Catholicism, and which, in fact, were the direct historical cause of Protestantism. They were disastrous–and largely based on misreadings of Aquinas. Later Thomists–like Banez and Suarez–were influenced by these and their own misinterpretations, and they eventually perverted Thomistic free will into a thoroughly deterministic affair. Many contemporary Thomists, including the venerable Garrigou-Lagrange, fell into this trap. Aquinas himself would have recognized it as the abomination that it is.

  14. I thank you, WM Briggs, for introducing us (me) to Feser. It opened a new dimension of philosophy for me and even though I earned an MA in Comparative Religion in my early 40’s, I never got close to being exposed to Aristotelian-Thomistic thought. That’s a shame. I sadly can say that I concur with you and Feser that far too many people believe what they believe not because of their love of the Truth, but because they don’t want the Truth to be true. How many times have I heard people say something similar to the following: “I believe personX because I like what he asserts.” If one likes something as it agrees with our thinking already, that supposedly makes it true? That’s weird thinking to me but I’ve heard people say this with a straight face even when the facts are obviously against them.

  15. Free Will is a self-contradictory concept that crumbles with a more pierceful [sic] analysis

    Liberum arbitrium better translated as “free judgment.” But the proof of the will’s freedom is simple. First, the will is defined as the intellective appetite: a hunger for (or against) the products of the intellect, analogous to the sensory appetites as a hunger for (or against) the products of the senses/imagination. Put simply, you cannot want what you do not know. The intellect is thus logically prior to the will.

    But we do not know most things completely. We may desire world peace, but we do not grasp what this would look like or what we must do to achieve it. So the will is not determined toward any one particular course of action. The freedom here is akin to “play” in engineering specifications or to “degrees of freedom” in math.

    When the matter really is understood completely, the will is determined toward it. 1+1=2 is (using the signs as commonly understood) completely known and no one who understands the signs can withhold the consent of the will.

    The Modern confusion seems to stem largely from Nietzsche’s triumph of the will over the intellect, whereby “if it feels good, do it.” This leads to a foolish, scientificalistic understanding of what free will means in the first place. This understanding, being Modern, is an elaborate concoction that naturally falls apart.
    + + +

    The Aristotelian god is, for example, rigorously, systematically, methodologically, absolutely, utterly, non-Trinitarian.

    Who said there is no progress in philosophy?

    Consider that in the early parts of the chains of lemmas and theorems, one establishes the necessary existence of a purely actual being (BPA), then that this BPS is necessarily singular, then that it is “all-powerful.”

    Now, “all-powerful” does not mean the Modern personalist concoction: a (“powerful human” x ∞), preferably wearing a Spandex suit and Cape. It means “full of all powers.” Since a cause cannot give what it does not in some sense have, the First Cause must possess something analogous to the powers of intellect and volition. (And since a “person” just is a being of intellect and will, we can call the BPA “He” from now on.)

    1. Intellect. He knows Himself. As subject of knowing He is called the Father and as the object of knowing He is called the Son. Since knowledge is expressed in words, the Son is also called the Word. (And since in revelation God created by “speaking” we would say “through him all things were made.”) To know something is to conceive of that something. Hence, since He is singular, He is called the Only-Begotten.”
    2. Will. He also desires Himself. To desire something is to send forth and retrieve that thing. As the subject of desiring He is again called Father, but as object He is called the Spirit, and is said to “proceed” from the Father. (And since Father=Son, the Latins as “…and the Son.”)

    Thus, the Trinity is implicit in the existence of two predicates and the concomitant subject and objects. But since He is a BPA and is singular, these three hypostases must be 1) the same substance and 2) full and complete persons in themselves.

    Hope this helps.

    A similar line of reasoning, but coming from a Neoplatonist tradition, was used by the pagan philosopher Plotinus to demonstrate that in the One were three hypostases: the One itself, the Intellect, and the Spirit. So the trinitarian nature of the Godhead was not exclusive to Christian thinkers.

  16. Very nice YOS. Although I find your narrative about the trinity to be funny and very Douglas Adamsian, I cringe at the thought that you really take that thing seriously.

    Not to be “bullyish” like poor Rank admonishes me of being, but the idea that there’s a “father” and a “son” involved within god because god “knows himself” and thus it is “reasonable” to infer that it’s all about a father-son relationship is hilarious. Why not a Mother-daughter instead, or just a bunch of twins. Why the whole anthropomorphism charade at all?

    Put simply, you cannot want what you do not know. The intellect is thus logically prior to the will.

    And this is the problem of taking metaphysic logic too seriously. I don’t buy this argument, not because it is “wrong”, but put simply because it is too separate from my own empirical assessments of wills. Does a newborn really need an intellectual assessment of reality in order to will his/her milk dosage of the day? Or just have an inate reaction?

    Is a male’s obsession over a female’s body really a product of “intelect”, or of a cocktail of hormones and other dirty sinful chemical interactions happening in one’s brain?

    The Modern confusion seems to stem largely from Nietzsche’s triumph of the will over the intellect, whereby “if it feels good, do it.” This leads to a foolish, scientificalistic understanding of what free will means in the first place.

    Those seem uncorrelated for me. Your caricature of Nietzche’s morals, even if taken for granted, are just an observation of what always happens: we only do what we will. We have no choice but to will what we will, for that is the nature of “willing”. Thus the phrase “Free Will” can lead to a lot of trouble if you take it literally, for you cannot ever be “Free” from your “Will”.

    What you can do is tame some of your wills. For instance, you want to kill someone. But you know it to be “wrong”. And while you want to kill someone, you also want not to do something “wrong”. So you can choose not to follow your first will. But you can only do so with another will.

    With this assessment of Will, anyone can see that there’s nothing wrong in even a deterministic universe where wills are “determined” by a game of atom billiards. We can discuss if this “means” that “we do not really exist”, but the reasoning is analogous: to exist inevitably means to be “Something” and if you are “something”, you are inevitably doomed to be and do exactly what you will be and do. This is always true, regardless of us being formed by “free will souls” or plain dull atoms (I personally do not find atoms to be dull, but that’s the theist meme, so there).

  17. He also desires Himself

    Talk like that too much and you’ll be thrown out of every Church. Be careful!

  18. People interested in this kind of stuff might want to look up Rational Agents: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_agent.

    Regarding the difference between men and other animals, there is no reason in this theory that all agents must be computationally identical, some agents might be much smarter than others.

    Regarding the hardware, as long as it is capable of supporting the agent, it doesn’t matter whether it is a very large bunch of foul tasting neurons, an even bigger pile of contaminated silicon or whatever kind of stuff souls are using to think.

    Self-counciousness is not modeled, so it is clearly not a complete theory of human behaviour.

    But there’s quite a lot of interesting stuff in there, including Bayesian statistics. Much more interesting than the “my neurons did it” versus “the devil made me do it” argument.

    There might even be something that is good enough to pass for Free Will, something like self-modifying Utility Functions for instance.

  19. There might even be something that is good enough to pass for Free Will, something like self-modifying Utility Functions for instance.

    Indeed. I suggested before that a utility function is as good as any other explanation for Free Will. Suppose, at any given time, we act in a way that balances perceived benefit against perceived cost. It isn’t necessary that we be aware of doing this.

    Look at the way people act and the things they say when trying to coerce someone to a particular course of action. For example: “If you do this I won’t beat the hell out of you.” or “It’s for your own good.” or “You’ll get a candy bar.” Punishment and reward implied or otherwise used to modify someone’s utility function.

    If you aren’t aware of making the tradeoff you might actually convince yourself that you made a conscious choice when you did no such thing.

    Self-evaluation is a tricky thing. I saw a program recently that described an experiment in which subjects were to track and catch a toy helicopter that was darting about a room. Not a single one even closely described what they all did: moved in a way that caused the helicopter to follow a linear trajectory from their viewpoint. They were completely unaware of doing this.

    What we do and what we think we do don’t always match.

  20. @Luis Dias:

    “And this is the problem of taking metaphysic logic too seriously. I don’t buy this argument, not because it is “wrong”, but put simply because it is too separate from my own empirical assessments of wills.”

    So you do not buy “metaphysic logic”, and in the next sentence you take a metaphysical stance that gives privileged status to empirical knowledge. Right. Also interesting is your concession that the putative merits of the argument have zero relevance to your rejection of it.

    “Is a male’s obsession over a female’s body really a product of “intelect”, or of a cocktail of hormones and other dirty sinful chemical interactions happening in one’s brain?”

    It may be the case that the “male’s obsession” is the product “of a cocktail of hormones”, but that it *is* an “obsession” and a lesser or higher Good in the hierarchy of Goods, is a judgment produced by the Intellect, and such knowledge in rational creatures is prior to Choice because you can only choose something you perceive as a Good under some aspect. The very “obsession” *presupposes* the knowledge of a host of things, including that of the female body, and that it is a Good under some aspect. It is in that sense, that the Intellect is prior to the Will.

    As for babies, they have not yet matured to the point of being able to fully exercise their capacity for rationality and thus Free Will, so they are irrelevant as far as this particular discussion is concerned.

    “Thus the phrase “Free Will” can lead to a lot of trouble if you take it literally, for you cannot ever be “Free” from your “Will”.”

    No serious philosopher in the libertarian (conceived in the broadest sense possible) tradition that I know of, certainly not Aquinas nor any of the Schoolmen, has understood Free Will to be or entail Freedom of our own Wills, a statement so patently and obviously absurd that it takes a very bizarre frame of mind to find intellectual fulfillment in raising it and then knock it down with the obvious rejoinder.

    “With this assessment of Will, anyone can see that there’s nothing wrong in even a deterministic universe where wills are “determined” by a game of atom billiards.”

    Besides incoherency? If the universe is deterministic, saying that “What you can do is tame some of your wills” is contradictory. You no more choose to tame your will than you choose anything else. In fact, in a naturalistic deterministic universe there is no self to speak of, since all the wills, beliefs and actions of the self are determined by causes outside the self, causes that can, at least in principle, be traceable to the original state of the universe. Since any causal explanation can, at least in principle, do away with selves, apply Ockam’s Razor and throw the self to the dustbin of irrelevancy. It is also incoherent and futile to try to convince us of anything, because trying presupposes choosing and a self that can be the originator of causal chains, all of which do not exist under naturalistic determinism — not that you can avoid playing the role; but it is a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Out, out brief candle! indeed.

    But the problems do not end up here. Here is one of the simplest: so suppose we do live in a naturalistic, deterministic universe. Why does anyone “see”, in the sense of intellectually grasping, that a statement such as P = “we live in a naturalistic, deterministic universe” is true? In the traditional epistemological account, the belief that P is true is warranted because we have *reasons* to believe it is true. But *reasons* and *causes* are something entirely different, and (efficient) causes are the only thing that exist in a naturalistic deterministic universe. For what is a belief? A brain state such as some pattern of firing neurons or whatever. What is the *cause*, and the *determining* cause by determinism, of the brain state corresponding to the belief that P is true? In a naturalistic, deterministic universe, it can be traced backwards in time, say, towards the initial state of the universe. So why do you believe P is true? Not be*cause* you have a cogent reason to believe it is true, but be*cause* of the ineluctable chain of efficient cause and effect starting with the initial state of the universe and leading to your brain having the corresponding brain state. At this point you could try to argue that reasons and causes somehow magically align, say because natural evolution selected our brains to reason logically and hold beliefs as true when backed up by evidence because it conferred a survival advantage; or something in the neighborhood of that. But the word “argue” in the previous sentence trashes the argument completely. Because once again, in a naturalistic deterministic universe there are no arguments, there are only chains of cause and effect, so any “argument” produced by you is subject to the same brute fact that it is accepted as valid — a brain state — not because of cogent *reasons* (true premises, deductive validity, etc.) but by the inevitable chain of cause and effect.

    As a corollary, it is incoherent to pride yourself in being rational for accepting determinism as true or chiding others’ alleged irrationality in accepting the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Earlier you said that under a more “piercing analysis”, Free Will can be seen as self-contradictory. If this is an example of your “piercing analysis”, it is as dull and blunt as that produced by the intellect of a dissected frog.

  21. but that it *is* an “obsession” and a lesser or higher Good in the hierarchy of Goods, is a judgment produced by the Intellect

    You do realize, don’t you, that one meaning of “obsession” — if not *THE* meaning — is the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.? It doesn’t have to be a judgment. All it needs to be is predominantly in the forefront. A lot of what we do is sexually driven or oriented.

  22. The Game of life is completely deterministic and only predictable by running it. There are no known shortcuts to predict a future state given the rules and an initial state.

    The classical Newtonian Universe is completely deterministic, and not predictable either. The equations are chaotic, which means that for a tiny difference in one of the input values, the difference in output values will always be bigger than a certain value after some amount of time. You need to be exact, which is impossible as the associated state space user real numbers. You need to specify, or measure, the initial state with infinite precision, and that is not possible.

    As everybody should be aware the only closed form solution in Newtonian Mechanics is for the two-body problem. The three-body problem has no closed form solution, and nether has the N-body problem for N>3. So you need to integrate the N-body problem using an algorithm that does not introduce errors in the computed positions and impulses.

    Then the Newtonian Universe is not even a good approximation to the real universe, not only because of Quantum, but already at the classical level with humans, animals, plants, minerals and whatnot sticking together because of electrical forces and not because of their own weight.

    Who cares that determinism works in a clockwork toy universe, the one we live in is not such a universe.

  23. @Sander van der Wal:

    “The classical Newtonian Universe is completely deterministic, and not predictable either.”

    Whether it is predictable or not is completely irrelevant to the metapysical significance of determinism.

    “Who cares that determinism works in a clockwork toy universe, the one we live in is not such a universe.”

    Just in case I am misreading you, are you saying that our universe is not deterministic? If yes, then I agree with you. But probably not for the same reasons.

    @DAV:

    “You do realize, don’t you, that one meaning of “obsession” — if not *THE* meaning — is the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.? It doesn’t have to be a judgment.”

    Can you read? I did not say that the obsession is a judgment (what does that even mean?), I said that it being an obsession, as well as its object being a Good under some aspect, are judgments of the intellect.

  24. CONSIDER THE FIRST remarks in this essay:

    “There is a curious phenomenon unwinding throughout secularism. One wing is busy elevating animals to the status of humans. And another is dedicated to demoting humans to the level of animals.”

    THAT is neither new or particularly unusual — that’s an ancient mindset/perspective found all over the world. Many native American indian tribes held the value that all life is interconnected, and part of their ritual after killing an animal for food & hide was to say a prayer thanking the animal for its contribution.

    Briggs, your response (and presumably interpretation) of my earlier remarks completely misses their point…so much so your earlier remarks are nonsensical & utterly irrelevant to the prompt.
    Today, others have essentially the same sort of outlook.

    So, what’s the best way to address the core rationale for that outlook: a) apply science (biology, etc.), or b) dream up a series of intertwined concepts and argue a position based on those mental gymnastics–even resorting to advocating a review of Aristotle!

    Philosophy was an early stepping stone of the intellectual journey to science. At some point with every topic, its utility become limited and, ultimately, obsolete–much like a carpenter’s utility eventually ends and must give way to painters, decorators, etc.

    The desire to cling to philosophy/to keep falling back on philosophy–like reading Feser, when philosophy can only provide a primitive answer and other more objective factual information is available, is that that those facts are challenging a fundamental philosophical belief that is fundamentally wrong.

    Philosophy provides a security blanket of sorts–it allows one to delude oneself into believing one is actually addressing something when the reality is one is actually evading something else. Much like college students busily engaged in cleaning rooms and all sorts of important activities that must be done before they can sit down and focus on coursework.

  25. So you do not buy “metaphysic logic”, and in the next sentence you take a metaphysical stance that gives privileged status to empirical knowledge. Right. Also interesting is your concession that the putative merits of the argument have zero relevance to your rejection of it.

    If by “metaphysics” you account for all human attempts to define how people reach their conclusions about life, the universe and everything, then sure I feel obligated to ponder on such things. But here’s the important aspect: I don’t take my own empirical reasoning sufficiently seriously (or powerful enough) to account for all possible kinds of reasonings and intellectual venues, due to my own empirical assessment that my own intelligence is limited, and my own language is limited and my own education is limited.

    Such caveats are thrown out to the garbage can by the metaphysical theologians, and such people give themselves the right to PROVE (not make an hypothesis or a speculation, no! Outright PROVE!) how such metaphysical “entities” are absolutely true (and then go on proving the existence of “infinite” beings and other ludicrous things).

    I am sorry if I do not recognize in either mr. Feser’s or mr. Briggs’ or your brain the ability to achieve such a task, but I don’t, okay?

    Regarding the so-called “merits”, all I recognize here is “word-play”. People move these concepts and attribute them characteristics as if they are doing mathematics and then apply them to the world as we know it. All this talk about “actuality” and “potential” and so on may provide for an entertaining read, but there’s never an exposition on why should anyone take such metaphysics as absolutely true and not any *other* that anyone can invent. So yes, if you accept a kind of metaphysics that apparently “proves” there is a god, then you will have to accept there is a god. Nowhere do I see a sane reason why I should though.

    It may be the case that the “male’s obsession” is the product “of a cocktail of hormones”, but that it *is* an “obsession” and a lesser or higher Good in the hierarchy of Goods, is a judgment produced by the Intellect, and such knowledge in rational creatures is prior to Choice because you can only choose something you perceive as a Good under some aspect. The very “obsession” *presupposes* the knowledge of a host of things, including that of the female body, and that it is a Good under some aspect. It is in that sense, that the Intellect is prior to the Will.

    If the will can happen despite the existence or not of the intellect, such as in the newborn’s hunger, then I do not see why you are pounding the table on this matter. Yes, the intellect is useful and having a better grasp of reality is good for you to make better choices and so on, but it is not a requirement for the will to exist. Will is an animal beast that you should “civilize”.

    If your definition of free will is all about civilizing yourself, giving you proper tools to master your own wills according to a purpose that you set yourself into, then I fail to see why only a “non-materialistic” soul entity could harbor this ability.

    Besides incoherency? If the universe is deterministic, saying that “What you can do is tame some of your wills” is contradictory. You no more choose to tame your will than you choose anything else.

    You are not understanding the point. The existence of multiple wills inside one’s brain does not require a non-deterministic world. All it requires is a complex brain capable of producing multiple wills. Like “I’m thirsty” and “I want to read that book” and “I want to play football” or “I want to be a good employee”. With all these in mind, you choose which will is the most important to you in the moment.

    What you do not seem to understand is the fact that even if such choice is inevitably going to be X, it is nevertheless a choice. Why shouldn’t it be? A choice is a brain activity, which consists of measuring different wills against each others and deciding which one to take. Nothing in this process demands that such a choice can be “free” from physics.

    If however we posit that it is “free from physics”, all you are saying is that you can choose whatever you want despite your own brain’s neurons actions. OK, lets posit this ludicrous possibility for a moment. You would still be destined, doomed, fated to pick the choice that you wanted to. This is what I meant when I said that you cannot be “FREE” from your own “WILL”, that is, from your own nature. Unless you deny your soul even has a nature (in which case you are a bhuddist or something).

    Since any causal explanation can, at least in principle, do away with selves, apply Ockam’s Razor and throw the self to the dustbin of irrelevancy.

    To the principles here invoked we should, yes. However, there is indeed a phenomena that we call “subjectivity” and so on that we can demand an explanation for. And why shouldn’t we try to understand it? But please, use some methodology that is not just handwaving concepts around as if it was a game of cards and actually builds up knowledge in a non-groupthinking basis. I only know of “science” as a way to do this, but you may be my guest at listing others.

    Because once again, in a naturalistic deterministic universe there are no arguments, there are only chains of cause and effect

    This is mere whining. Slap out of it. This reminds me of the christian obssession with souls and against evolution. We couldn’t have come out from monkeys! Surely along the way, god cheated and placed a “divine spark” at this particular species. Because ho and behold if he did not, how can we call ourselves Special when we are not qualitatively different from mice, trees, frakkin viruses??

    I appreciate attempts at reductio ad absurdum, but you could at least also appreciate the possibility that perhaps reality isn’t about sharp boundaries between the “profane” and the “sacred” but rather a continuum that spans between utter mechanistic behavior and civilized, poetic, rational, beautiful behavior.

    And perhaps (most probably even), such traits will only expand ever more if you increase the complexity of a “brain”. Imagine the “free will” of a being who has 100 times more “intelligence” than a human. Perhaps as we have poetry that a mouse couldn’t dream of, such beings have things that we can’t even dream of. Perhaps such beings can look down on us and see us as such simplistic automatons in denial.

    As a corollary, it is incoherent to pride yourself in being rational for accepting determinism as true or chiding others’ alleged irrationality in accepting the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Except of course that incoherency of an argument has nothing to do whatsoever on how it came about. We are self-correcting our own philosophies, as if we were a tribe inside a boat that started off as a basic raft, then a wooden pile of confusion, then a more complex ship, then a metal one, etc. And while we “stand” on it, we replace parts of it and rebuild it on and on and on.

    That’s the lesson of evolution. The prime cause is not a logical argument, it is the big bang, and perhaps something else before it.

  26. G. Rodrigues,

    My mistake. I thought it was an English sentence when it wasn’t intended to be one. Kinda like YOS’s “To desire something is to send forth and retrieve that thing.” At least I hope it wasn’t English because it sounds like something one might encounter in a bad parody of a Positive Thinking seminar. Reminds me of a passage from Jonathan Livingston Seagull where the Old Gull told Jonathan to get to the next level and fly faster than ever before: “You must be there before you ever leave”. More or less.

    Please do carry on.

  27. Why not a Mother-daughter instead, or just a bunch of twins. Why the whole anthropomorphism charade at all?

    Some of us understand poetry, imagery, analogy, and the like.

    In fact, you could say “mother-daughter,” the only difficulty being the “Word made flesh” thingie. If you like you can simply say “Creator-Word.” But there are allegorical uses for personalized references.
    + + +
    “Put simply, you cannot want what you do not know. The intellect is thus logically prior to the will.”

    And this is the problem of taking metaphysic logic too seriously. I don’t buy this argument … because it is too separate from my own empirical assessments of wills.

    I will accept your self-assessment of having an impaired intellect.

    Does a newborn really need an intellectual assessment of reality in order to will his/her milk dosage of the day? Or just have an inate reaction?

    What part of “rational animal” is unclear? Or that the Will is the intellective appetite, not the sensory appetites? Do you suppose that Aristotle and the rest were unaware that habit could affect the will? (And by “habit” they included what would would call “genetic” or “injury”.) Thomas uses the example of a scholar who absent-mindedly strokes his beard while in deep thought. A-T makes a claim that even though one’s body grows hungry, the will can overrule the sensory appetites in the interest of dieting for weight loss or fasting for spiritual strength.

    Is a male’s obsession over a female’s body really a product of “intelect”, or of a cocktail of hormones and other dirty sinful chemical interactions happening in one’s brain?

    You obsess over women’s bodies? (And a chemical cannot be sinful.)

    an observation of what always happens: we only do what we will.

    I thought above that you were claiming that we were impelled to do things by hormone cocktails and innate hunger for milk and stuff like that.

    Of course we only do what we will. Motion is the consequence of e-motion (or appetite), either of the sensory kind or the intellective kind. The contention of the rational philosophers is that you cannot will what you do not know. The intellect is prior to the will, not instead of the will. Even the baby knows that she is hungry and will cry to be fed.

    For a schematic representation, see here:
    http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0010.GIF

  28. @Luis Dias:

    “If by “metaphysics” you account for all human attempts to define how people reach their conclusions about life, the universe and everything, then sure I feel obligated to ponder on such things.”

    No, that is not what metaphysics is for Aristotle, Aquinas and et. al. (the context of the OP).

    “such people give themselves the right to PROVE (not make an hypothesis or a speculation, no! Outright PROVE!) how such metaphysical “entities” are absolutely true”

    So this whole display of indignation is the alleged “absolutely true” status of metaphysical proofs? Yawn. For the sake of curiosity, mathematicians are even more arrogant in their claims, and with good reason, about the certainty status of their proofs. Why don’t you go heckle them?

    “I am sorry if I do not recognize in either mr. Feser’s or mr. Briggs’ or your brain the ability to achieve such a task, but I don’t, okay?”

    I do not give a rat’s keister about what you “recognize” or what “rights” you deem fit to grant me, Mr. Feser or Mr. Briggs. The point that you so woefully misunderstand is that if you deny the possibility of metaphysics, then presumably you have an argument for it (not that you have presented one, you just make grandiose, unsubstantiated claims), but by the very nature of what metaphysics is, such an argument *must* be a metaphysical argument and so in denying the prospect of metaphysics you must engage in it, so the whole task is self-refuting from the get-go.

    “Regarding the so-called “merits”, all I recognize here is “word-play”.”

    First, since you show no inkling of understanding what act or potency is — and by all means if I am wrong, disabuse me — your charge that it is mere word-play is meaningless. Second, the charge itself is based on a profound misunderstanding of what metaphysics is as shown above.

    “Will is an animal beast that you should “civilize”.”

    You do realize that a Christian like Aquinas would say something close to this? Never mind.

    “If your definition of free will is all about civilizing yourself”

    Of course it is not. So you claim that Free Will is a self-contradictory concept and yet you haven’t got the faintest idea of what it is? Right.

    “You are not understanding the point. The existence of multiple wills inside one’s brain does not require a non-deterministic world.”

    So first, you say I do not understand the point and then you go on to completely miss the point of the arguments I made. All your talk about “multiple wills” or what choice consists of is either misguided or is making some banal point that I never disagreed with.

    “What you do not seem to understand is the fact that even if such choice is inevitably going to be X, it is nevertheless a choice. Why shouldn’t it be?”

    Yes, if you redefine words willy-nilly then I suppose that “choice is inevitably going to be X” can be surmised to be a choice. Yawn.

    “If however we posit that it is “free from physics”, all you are saying is that you can choose whatever you want despite your own brain’s neurons actions.”

    No, that is not what I or Aquinas is saying. You have not responded to the arguments, neither you show that you understand them — to your credit, you do get the part that it is a reductio.

    “I only know of “science” as a way to do this, but you may be my guest at listing others.”

    Tell me your definition of science and I will respond. It is certainly possible under Aristotle, Aquinas et. al. definition of science.

    “This is mere whining.”

    Making arguments is called “whining” now? Well, then you are absolutely free of whining.

    “This reminds me of the christian obssession with souls and against evolution.”

    And this reminds of the obsession of willful ignorants that mistake Christianity for a rather fringe, and historically very modern, subgroup of it. Sorry buddy, but much as you would like it, I do not fit your straw-man caricature.

    “Because ho and behold if he did not, how can we call ourselves Special when we are not qualitatively different from mice, trees, frakkin viruses??”

    Actually trees are qualitatively different from viruses, mice from trees and we from mice. As a matter of plain biological reality. And you got the argument backwards. Valid or invalid, the argument goes the other way: it is because we are “special”, that we have to invoke a “divine spark”, the imago dei in traditional Christian speak, to account for our existence.

    “Imagine the “free will” of a being who has 100 times more “intelligence” than a human.”

    You have been listening to John Lennon’s absolutely dreadful song waay too many times. Seriously, reality is not dictated by our imaginations. But by all means, do not let yourself be bogged down by those little things called “arguments”.

    “We are self-correcting our own philosophies, as if we were a tribe inside a boat that started off as a basic raft, then a wooden pile of confusion, then a more complex ship, then a metal one, etc. ”

    Do you even listen to yourself? You can hardly utter a single sentence about human beings without smuggling in Free Will in one form or another. Oh and by the way, what you just said is also self-refuting. But enough of reductios for one day.

  29. Some of us understand poetry, imagery, analogy, and the like.

    Don’t be so rude against me, since it was not clear at all to me that the reality of the Trinity was “poetic”, and not actually a dogmatic absolute truth espoused by the Catholic Church. And I’d posit that the fact that you paint these “truths” as poetic, as images, as analogies, and so on does not change the fact that the Church disagrees with you on this.

    To be more clear, if your position regarding all this shenanigans is that it’s all a poetic assessment of reality, then whatever rocks your boat. Unlike what you might think, I do love me some poetry.

    I will accept your self-assessment of having an impaired intellect.

    While not accepting your own impairment, I’m neither shocked nor impressed. I guess it is too hard to have a civic discussion here but back to the point. Your failure to understand your limitations does not constitute evidence of your abilities to prove the absolute truths of this world (and beyond).

    What part of “rational animal” is unclear? Or that the Will is the intellective appetite, not the sensory appetites? Do you suppose that Aristotle and the rest were unaware that habit could affect the will?

    What I suppose and recognize from all this way of talking of yours is a pattern of building up walls between very similar behaviors as if they were so different they can be treated as different logical entities by themselves. To call a “will” rational or not is a posterior judgement that is, again, limited to a binary empirical assessment by a limited human being.

    Some wills that I do have are more “rational” than others. I fail to recognize a blatant barrier between them, barriers that distinguish an “animal” will from a “divine” will.

    But I do recognize the utility you derive by making such “true scotsman” distinctions between wills, so that your definitions of “free will” remain unpeturbed. Again, I’m unimpressed.

    You obsess over women’s bodies?

    Any true heterossexual male does. So I hereby place in check your manhood.

    (And a chemical cannot be sinful.)

    “Some of us understand poetry, imagery, analogy, and the like”

    I thought above that you were claiming that we were impelled to do things by hormone cocktails and innate hunger for milk and stuff like that.

    Can I be rude as well and joke about your lack of thinking abilities here? Let’s not. Of course what I was really arguing was for the lack of monopoly of the “rationality” for the basis of the Will.

    The contention of the rational philosophers is that you cannot will what you do not know. The intellect is prior to the will, not instead of the will. Even the baby knows that she is hungry and will cry to be fed.

    Again, I disagree with that definition of intellect, and I do not see the necessity of a brain having to go through a “rational process” for it to have the desire to eat. Many of these things can (I do not say “must”, so don’t pretend I do) be a product of simple mechanical intuitions or reactions.

  30. No, that is not what metaphysics is for Aristotle, Aquinas and et. al. (the context of the OP).

    If it isn’t, then I fail to see the problem with my disregard for such metaphysics, and I question your assessment that I indulge in metaphysics myself.

    So this whole display of indignation is the alleged “absolutely true” status of metaphysical proofs? Yawn. For the sake of curiosity, mathematicians are even more arrogant in their claims, and with good reason, about the certainty status of their proofs. Why don’t you go heckle them?

    Because they never proclaim their absolute truths to be valid beyond their own premises? They accept their own premises and move on from them. They play their game. Why should I have any problems with this? When one bloke comes up, confuses the english language with mathematics, creates conceptual categorizations where I do not recognize them, “proves” inane things while telling me I have no “rational” choice but to accept his proofs, then I’ll laugh at him.

    The point that you so woefully misunderstand is that if you deny the possibility of metaphysics

    I do not deny the “possibility” of metaphysics. I even recognize gazillions of different “metaphysical” possibilities, each own preferred by their own groupthinking little (or large as a whole religion) theological groups. Why one and not the other? At some point you just recognize a word game and move on.

    …but by the very nature of what metaphysics is, such an argument *must* be a metaphysical argument

    Unsubstantiated bollocks. It’s like a game where it is proclaimed the only way to end it is following its own arbitrary rules. But there’s also the act of calling the King nude and laugh it away. (Like the best move is not to move at all, or like in this Sam Harris video).

    You do realize that a Christian like Aquinas would say something close to this?

    Sure. Regarding Free Will, all you say here is that I “do not understand Free Will”. I admit this possibility, but without an actual exposition on why not, I will not believe you and call bollocks, mkay? Why don’t you stop for a moment and assess my arguments, instead of replying to every single paragraph I make? I have some experience on this internetz discussion things, and when my interlocutors stop having the minimal respect and start behaving like you do here, I usually stop the conversations. The fact that you keep insisting that I do not understand the inherent problems of determinism and free will does not make it true, so at least make the effort to elaborate the point on why that is so.

    And you got the argument backwards. Valid or invalid, the argument goes the other way: it is because we are “special”, that we have to invoke a “divine spark”, the imago dei in traditional Christian speak, to account for our existence.

    Again, I did not “get” the argument backwards, I get it all the directions I want, for I am that badass. If you do not see this “need” of invoking a “divine spark” as a cheat, then I’ll put the motion that you lack a certain aesthetic taste.

    Do you even listen to yourself? You can hardly utter a single sentence about human beings without smuggling in Free Will in one form or another.

    I could answer this extremely well, but since you declared I know nothing about free will, I’ll delay this particular until you clarify for me on where exactly I went wrong in my understanding of the problem.

  31. YOS,

    Great breakdown of the Trinity. Currently trying to get a solid understanding of it, and your posts have helped. Thanks–and try to ignore the Philistines.

  32. YOS,

    One more thing, though. Because the Unmoved Mover or “primum movens” works through change rather than creation, it would be impossible to transition from this theory to your discussion of “whatever is in the effect must be in the cause” without the alterations of Aquinas and the earlier Church Fathers. It is because of their work–strongly influenced by neo-Platonism, I should add–that we may say that the First Cause can be synonymous with the Trinity. Like the One of Plotinus, the Trinity grants things being–it is not merely the “big engine” that “runs” the cosmos. I think it is fair of JohnK to express concern over comparing Aristotle’s “actus purus” to the Christian God, given that he appears to be unfamiliar with the massive changes that happened in the interim.

  33. I understand the implicit affirmation of freedom in any argument that wants to speak for itself or every act of understanding as opposed to persuasion etc. We can simply s e e if an argument has validity or not (in the end), but more often than not we persuade ourselves not by clear argument but by cerebral talk. I know that all too well. One cannot be forced to understand and if we are it is not through reason.

    However the problem of freedom goes beyond that. The question seems to be: can we find within our rational souls desires of our own making? Can we be first movers in our own right? If our animal nature is responsible for certain wants, we are not free. If an ideal arises within the rational soul and acts as an imperative, a concept of duty, we are still not free it seems. I do not see how we could be free if we must act according to reason by the same necessity by which we acknowledge 2+2=4.

    Nietzsche’s “if it feels right, do it” is taken out of context here. If you read Nietzsche you will see that he devotes all his energies towards finding the right feelings, the original ones and not the decadent ones, If you cling to the rational soul as a beacon, that is a form of decadence. If you let go of it you are lost (as Nietzsche obviously was). He would have liked the modern aphorism though.

    @Rodrigues
    I messed up badly concerning the house form, because I omitted final cause, among other things…. when one refutes ones own thoughts a lesson is learned twice as intense.

  34. @Luis Dias:

    “I do not deny the “possibility” of metaphysics. I even recognize gazillions of different “metaphysical” possibilities, each own preferred by their own groupthinking little (or large as a whole religion) theological groups. Why one and not the other? At some point you just recognize a word game and move on.”

    You do not know what metaphysics is and yet you confidently proclaim it a word-game. Right. Then you ask, upon facing several competing metaphysical views, “Why one and not the other?” and then go on to assume that there is no possible answer to the question (arguments? none, zero, zilch, puto, nada) and proclaim, “move on”, all the while oblivious to the fact that this itself embodies a metaphysical claim. Why? Ok, here is another argument: one of the tasks of metaphysics, conceived in the Aristotelian sense as the study of being qua being, is to chart the possibilities of being and categorize them. Suppose we were to come up with an argument that such a task is impossible. But since the conclusion of the argument itself concerns the realm of possibilities, maintaining that is impossible to chart it, the argument would have to be by its very nature a metaphysical argument.

    All claims and arguments purporting to show the impossibility of metaphysics — and saying that metaphysics is just a word-game, so better move on, *is* such a type of claim — refute themselves in pretty much this way. This is no mere debater’s trick. It is simply the conclusion that doing metaphysics, by its very nature, is inevitable, even if it includes questioning the very possibility of doing it. The only choice is between doing it well or not. Those like you, who deny its possibility, ignorantly confounding it with “groupthinking little theological groups” (tell that to the numerous atheist metaphysicians), also have metaphysical views about the nature of reality, of possible beings and our possible knowledge of them, but because they are unconsciously held, they are also uncritically held.

    So shout “unsubstantiated bollocks” as much as you want, unless you address the arguments I really couldn’t care less.

    “Regarding Free Will, all you say here is that I “do not understand Free Will”. I admit this possibility, but without an actual exposition on why not, I will not believe you and call bollocks, mkay?”

    It was you who claimed that Free Will is an incoherent concept, and then at the same time *every* single account of it you gave was completely off the mark, and now it is I who has to explain what Free Will is? Get real.

    “Why don’t you stop for a moment and assess my arguments, instead of replying to every single paragraph I make?”

    If you had payed attention, you would know why. So I will repeat myself: “All your talk about “multiple wills” or what choice consists of is either misguided or is making some banal point that I never disagreed with.” Translation: your points, as regards the specific argument I made, are irrelevant. And as an aside, just one correction: you made no arguments. A series of loosely connected claims, ranging from the banal to the patently absurd, do not an argument make.

    “The fact that you keep insisting that I do not understand the inherent problems of determinism and free will does not make it true, so at least make the effort to elaborate the point on why that is so.”

    I formulated an *argument*. If you are to show that it is invalid, you must show that some premise is invalid, that I committed some logical error or made some equivocation. You did not even addressed it, not once, but displayed your bountiful ignorance and misunderstanding on the matter. Period.

  35. “Some of us understand poetry, imagery, analogy, and the like.”

    Don’t be so rude against me, since it was not clear at all to me that the reality of the Trinity was “poetic”,

    Speaking of understanding poetry, does it sometimes happen that something real can be approached or described in poetic terms? If not, why not? Is it perhaps a deficiency of the Late Modern/Post Modern ages that poetic imagery is equated with ‘false’ or ‘non-existent’? We are so used to reading instruction manuals that we expect every matter to come to us in that form.

    To call a “will” rational or not is a posterior judgement that is, again, limited to a binary empirical assessment by a limited human being.

    Well, no. If the intellect is capable of abstracting concepts from percepts, surely there would be an appetite for the resulting concepts. Some ideas may not be to our taste. (Warning: ‘taste’ is used as a poetic analogous term for the desire of the will for the products of the intellect.) Of what utility (supposing one is a Darwinian) would be a capacity for forming concepts if there were no corresponding appetite for them?

    I fail to recognize … barriers that distinguish an “animal” will from a “divine” will.

    “Your failure to understand your limitations does not constitute evidence of your abilities to prove the absolute truths of this world (and beyond).”

    What animal ‘will’ are you talking about? The sensory appetites (aka, e-motions) for sensory percepts are not ‘will.’

    But I do recognize the utility you derive by making such “true scotsman” distinctions between wills,

    I’ve often wondered when the True Scotsman became a faux fallacy. Surely, a Kikuyu from Kenya is not a true Scotsman. In any case, the sensory appetites are clearly distinct from the intellective appetite. Keep working at it and you may learn to recognize the distinction; e.g., between feeling horny and actually acting on your hungers.

    “You obsess over women’s bodies?

    Any true heterossexual male does. So I hereby place in check your manhood.

    I do recognize the utility you derive by making such “true scotsman” distinctions. However, I also recognize the distinction between obsession and simple admiration. There is certainly a sensory appetite for such things, governed by the more primitive parts of the brain; and modern neuroscience has recognized that neural patterns originating in the hindbrain can, when they become ‘vulcanized’, impede the formation of rational patterns originating in the neo-cortex, and hence impair the ability to think rationally. In extreme cases, the obsession leads to serial rapists, but it can also result in boys behaving like jerks on a date.

    I do not see the necessity of a brain having to go through a “rational process” for it to have the desire to eat.

    It doesn’t. See the schematic previously linked. The rational processes for which you see no necessity come into play as a governor on the sensory appetites. (Not often enough perhaps, as the “epidemic of obesity” would indicate.) To have the desire to eat is an animal function. Whether to eat or not can be modified by rational thought. The moral dimension of this is recognized when we say “too much red meat is bad for you” or “too much fast food is bad for you.”

    There is a short discussion here: http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02003.htm#1

    You cannot want what you do not know. You have to know you are hungry, whether that knowledge is purely sensory knowledge of particulars or is intellective knowledge of universals. You will note that in http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0010.GIF there are three pathways to motion:
    i) directly from perception to motion, bypassing emotion. (This is called the autonomous nervous system: the knee jerks, the stomach digests, etc.)
    ii) from perception to emotion to motion, bypassing the intellect. (This is responding to hunger, pictures of nekkid wimmin, or touching a hot stove. All animals employ this mode of knowing.)
    iii) through the intellect and will to emotion and thence motion. (This is responding to the intellect’s conclusion that one should not jump the bones of every passing female however winsome you imagine her nekkid pitcher to be. Only humans, so far as we know, employ this additional mode of knowing.)

  36. IMHO, the number of atheists becoming theists based on Feser style arguments will be, to use a term appropriate for this blog, statistically insignificant. (Wish I could get some data to confirm or falsify this opinion. How many atheists will buy Feser’s book?)

    I also noticed less decorum, on both sides, in the comments than I usually find. Maybe this outcome was predetermined? Or people showing they are truly free to believe anything they will to believe?

  37. @G. Rodrigues

    Of course it is relevant. There are a lot of things that should work in principle, like Communism and Capitalism. And in practice they do not work as advertised. Communism doesn’t work at all, and Capitalism only works when there is a party making sure markets stay free, without getting involved themselves.

    When practice doesn’t follow a theory’s description, then the theory is wrong. Metaphysical or not.

    So while in theory you can create a device that computes the positions and impulses of N particles in a Newtonian Universe for the lifetime of that universe, in practice you will still be entering the x-position of the first particle by the time the real universe dies in the Big Rip (or whatever way the real universe is going to end).

    Worse. At that time you haven’t really started as there are still an infinite number of digits to enter.

  38. @Sander van der Wal:

    “Of course it is relevant.”

    No it is not and you are badly misunderstanding the issue. The relevancy question was posed in the context of a classical Newtonian universe, so let us assume for the sake of argument that we do live in such a universe. The reason we cannot predict the future evolution of (some) classical systems is due to the compounding of two factors: we cannot make precise measurements, and our computations are not done with real numbers but with approximate surrogates (IEEE floating point or whatever). In chaotic systems, two phase space trajectories that start out closely will inevitably diverge, and depending on the specific system, diverge very fast, and this, because of measurement errors and rounding errors in computation, makes prediction impossible.

    But if there were a being that could measure the initial state of the system with complete precision and do completely precise computations, then he would know the complete evolution of the system. Whether such a being exists or not is a matter of contention; but this contention need not detain us, because the real point of the mental experiment is to show that whether *we* can predict or not is completely irrelevant as regards determinism. What *is* relevant is that the future evolution of a (classical) system is *completely* determined by the initial state — this is a straightforward consequence of a standard result about solutions of systems of differential equations. After all, this is what determinism means: the present state of a system is completely determined by its prior states.

    While the inability of humans to predict the future evolution of classical systems is irrelevant to the core question of determinism, it can, and has been, used by the determinist to explain away our experience of Free Will. I do not think this line of reasoning works, but I will stop here.

  39. @G. Rodrigues

    In the Newtonian universe that being has to be capable of numerically intregrating the differential equations to infinite precision too. There is no other way to solve those equations. Now, even the tiniest error in the integration procedure will eventually grow to such magnitude that it will dominate the outcome.

    This was not a problen when people believed such errors were growing linearly, or at least could be made tiny enough.

    But these computation errors cannot be made small enough. So you can never measure accurately enough, you can never compute accurately enough and you cannot recreate the initial state accurately enough. That is unpredictable in my book.

  40. @Sander van der Wal:

    “That is unpredictable in my book.”

    Did you read what I wrote? Determinism does not entail predictability in the sense you are using the word, so what is your point?

  41. G,

    You make a lot of erroneous claims about my assertions, for the second straight time, without adding anything to clear up the conversation. Let me list those errors on your part:

    1. I never made the argument that Metaphysics is “impossible”. I make the argument that one should not take a metaphysical argument too seriously, that they are rational speculations that go beyond our empirical assessments but are clearly “hanging” in the absolute validity of the premises any particular metaphysics employs (Descartes had his own, Aristotle, Plato, and so on). I do not recognize such power in the premises, thus I can’t follow the deductions that mr. Briggs exposes in Feser’s treatise. I said this more than once, I hope it is clear by now.

    2. I don’t have to engage in speculative rationalities to recognize they are speculative. IOW, I don’t have to “do metaphysics” in order to recognize its unjustified “pomposity”.

    3. I have a good grasp of what people mean when they refer to the phrase “Free Will”, however when people so vehemently disagree with this assessment, is it that bad an action of mine to ask where I went wrong? According to you, this was not kosher at all. I stand awed.

    The problem that arises in Free Will discussions is always the problem of “where is our freedom if everything is material phenomena?”. This problem arises because of a held common view of “free will” where our choices should be “free” from causal chained events (going back to the big bang and so on). If we can trace back our “Will” to the big bang, why should we be responsible for our choices, our wills, when we didn’t have the freedom to actually choose anything at all?

    Are you now saying this is not the “problem” of “Free Will” as discussed in this blog? I beg to differ.

    The reason why I assert this arises from an inherent contradiction comes from recognizing two different things:

    a) It is a very frightening matter to recognize we are “fated” to will what the arrangement of our atoms causes us to will;

    b) It is no more frightening matter than to recognize we are “just as fated” to will whatever any arrangement of our own nature of our own “soul” causes us to will.

    That is, we are *always* fated to will what our nature causes us to will, be such a nature the realm of platonic souls or aristotelian, or whatever fancy metaphysics you pick up as a favorite of yours, or, even *gasp*, materialistic ones.

    Now, other people use “free will” in other sorts of manners. For instance compatibilism makes a compelling case of how to eat half the cake and keep the other half (so to speak).

    I formulated an *argument*.

    Your argument that we cannot reach to a conclusion for a rational reason, but rather reached it because there was a Big Bang 13.7 billion years old (in the naturalistic determined universe) is both true and irrelevant, and analogous to the argument that God is omniscient and all powerful (and thus he knew what would happen when he created the universe). In such a universe, all things are already considered as well, so the notion of personal responsibility is also a very unfunny joke.

    Putting that aside, it is in fact an interesting discussion but even in such a world, the problems would not go away by simply dismissing our own responsibilities and capabilities of choice. Choices would still exist but would have to be redefined conceptually and so on. Now, again, this is metaphysics. And as I said earlier, I like to discuss speculative things, but I don’t take it too seriously. The only way we can reach a conclusion that is both fair and true is when we can empirically test each one of these speculations. That is science.

  42. the present state of a system is completely determined by its prior states.

    Sander I understand you to say that the prior state cannot be accurately determined (not just practically, but principally because of the requirement of infinite precision). If so I do not see how determinism makes any sense, because speaking of a prior state (and by consequence also the present sate) becomes fictional.
    Within a certain context it makes sense to say the present state of this something is determined by a prior something, but adding completely to it, or extending the reach of the claim to include the universe as a whole (whatever that may be) is just nonsensical.

    I have a pen in my pocket, I imagine its present state, that I cannot determine completely, to be wholly attributable to prior states, of the pen, my pocket and what not, that I cannot determine exactly either. In reality it is just fiction, although it is reasonable and verifiable within certain limits.

    There is a rather fascinating thought when it comes to freedom. If freedom is self-determination, it seems that if I am capable of original willing (not determined completely by prior states), I am still determined by a prior state of my own will afterwards. So in order for freedom to be something ongoing, the reasonable origin of my own willing must be continuously renewed.
    A doctor who is a doctor because he once chose this profession is different from one who loves his work because he is motivated by his own ideal every day.

  43. @Luis Dias:

    “You make a lot of erroneous claims about my assertions, for the second straight time, without adding anything to clear up the conversation.”

    So let us go through my alleged errors, shall we? Following your numbering:

    1. “I make the argument that one should not take a metaphysical argument too seriously, that they are rational speculations that go beyond our empirical assessments but are clearly “hanging” in the absolute validity of the premises any particular metaphysics employs (Descartes had his own, Aristotle, Plato, and so on). I do not recognize such power in the premises, thus I can’t follow the deductions that mr. Briggs exposes in Feser’s treatise.”

    Going to repeat myself, but here it goes: first, you make a lot of claims. Arguments to back them up? None. For just one example, why should we not take seriously “rational speculations that go beyond our empirical assessments”? You add “speculation” to poison the well, but more importantly, this is a patent absurdity (see the end of my post for an argument). Second, I explained why this does not work. Not a single word in response. The brute fact is that even the attempt to escape metaphysics when put in the form of a proposition is readily seen to involve highly significant metaphysical postulates — you judge yourself free from the abomination, but of course what is happening is that you are blind to your own metaphysical presuppositions.

    2. “I don’t have to engage in speculative rationalities to recognize they are speculative. IOW, I don’t have to “do metaphysics” in order to recognize its unjustified “pomposity”.”

    Repeating myself: first, you have not shown the least taint of understanding of what metaphysics is so your recognition that it is “pomposity” is worthless. It should be treated with the same contempt that we treat the utterances of a philistine. Second, I made an argument for why this move does not work. Response from you? Repeat the same drivel all over again, which is tantamount to nothing and frankly, rather tiresome.

    3. “I have a good grasp of what people mean when they refer to the phrase “Free Will”, however when people so vehemently disagree with this assessment, is it that bad an action of mine to ask where I went wrong?”

    All the accounts of Free Will you gave to allegedly show that it is incoherent were completely off the mark. The thread is public and this can be amply documented. It is *you* who has the burden of proof to show that the traditional accounts of Free Will are incoherent. If you do not show the faintest understanding of them, you cannot coherently say to have shown they are incoherent. And sorry, but I am *not* going to do your homework neither I am interested in educating you.

    “If we can trace back our “Will” to the big bang, why should we be responsible for our choices, our wills, when we didn’t have the freedom to actually choose anything at all?”

    The problem of moral responsibility is not the only problem posed by determinism. In fact, I never even mentioned it in my arguments against naturalistic determinism although it can be used to form another reductio against it (note: and I think compatibilism is an epic failure, but this is a story for another day). So once again, it is you who misunderstands the whole issue.

    As far as your “argument” that Free Will is inherently contradictory, it is difficult to parse it because you constantly equivocate on the use the words. For example, saying that “we are *always* fated to will what our nature causes us to will” can be either a tautology (e.g. we only will what we can will) and thus completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, a patent falsity (e.g. if “fated” is taken in its usual meaning) or simply gibberish. It is also completely baffling why you add the qualifier “very frightening” as if the problem is an emotional one and not a metaphysical one. But I do not have to strain myself to try to understand you, for it is clear that you completely misconstrue the relation between the soul, which is the form of the human body, and the agent’s actions. The relation is one of formal cum final causation, *not* efficient causation which is what is needed to derive the contradiction. But of course, to understand this and undermine Aquinas’ conception of Free Will, you would have to have a modicum of acquaintance with it, which you do not.

    note: I also note that you are engaging in “rational speculation” and that you give yourself a free pass when it comes to allegedly show the contradictory nature of Free Will. Consistency is not your forte, is it?

    “Your argument that we cannot reach to a conclusion for a rational reason, but rather reached it because there was a Big Bang 13.7 billion years old (in the naturalistic determined universe) is both true and irrelevant, and analogous to the argument that God is omniscient and all powerful (and thus he knew what would happen when he created the universe). In such a universe, all things are already considered as well, so the notion of personal responsibility is also a very unfunny joke.”

    So you do not understand the full import of the argument. Shrug shoulders — I already gave up hope that you will actually understand it.

    note: as an aside, no, there is no contradiction between God’s omniscience and Free Will. Read Augustine or Boethius for the details.

    “The only way we can reach a conclusion that is both fair and true is when we can empirically test each one of these speculations. That is science.”

    Is it? Consider the statement P = “The only way we can reach a conclusion that is both fair and true is when we can empirically test each one of these speculations”. According to you, it is a true statement. So we can ask, what is the evidence that P is true? Obviously there can be *no* empirical evidence for the truth of P so by P, P itself is nothing but speculation. Contradiction. If you do not like reductios, or what is more likely you cannot understand them, then realize that there are statements that are empirically unfalsifiable, true and true with a degree of certainty greater than *any* scientific claim or set of scientific claims there is, was, or ever will be. An infinite number of them, actually. Examples: all the truths, whether of a mathematical or metaphysical nature, that science *must* presuppose to even get off the ground. Since empirical science presupposes these truths, and a conclusion is only “as true” as its premises, you are wrong. Again. And again.

  44. When practice doesn’t follow a theory’s description, then the theory is wrong. Metaphysical or not.

    This is hilariously ironic. Do you realize that you just invoked a metaphysical principle?

  45. @G. Rodrigues

    Yes, and I disagree with you. You can postulate there is a being that is capable of computing all future states of a Newtonian universe in some way. That means that that being must be capable of storing an infinite amount of information about that universe. In particular it needs an infinite amount of bits to store all positions and impulses. It needs an infinite amount of computing power to compute an infinite amount of data for the next state after an infinitisimal step. The computation must be done faster that the state change in the modelled universe, as there is no point in predicting the new state after it happened.

    This is what it means when you say that the universe is determinable. It is determinable when you have infinite amounts of storage and a computing device capable of processing an infinite amount of information in a finite amount of time.

    But there is no room in that universe for that computer. It needs more storage than the universe is capable of providing. And then, after the universe is filled with that computer, there is nothing left to model.

    Which means that determinable for that Newtonian universe means nothing.

    Ok, lets put the compiting device outside that Newtonian universe. Then you need a bigger universe that is capable of providing an unlimited amount of storage, capable of processing an infinite amount of data ina finite amount of time, and it has to host the Newtonian universe too. Ours cannot do that either, storing an infinite amount of data and processing an infinite amount of data in a finite amount of time.

  46. @Sander van der Wal:

    “This is what it means when you say that the universe is determinable.”

    Ok, so you do not know what determinism is. That explains why you are talking past what I said.

    And your “argument” is invalid. For starters, when you say “In particular it needs an infinite amount of bits to store all positions and impulses” is an unsubstantiated claim; it assumes that every being must be a material being and that the intellect is to be conveived in a computationalist fashion, two claims that I strenuously deny. But never mind, as I said what I wanted to say already.

  47. @Sander
    In most cases deterministic ideas are launched within a certain context that provides the necessary parameters, like Darwinism. We certainly cannot compute Einstein from the amoebae, but some say it holds true anyway that he is just the outcome of a series of prior states in the evolutionary process.
    Determinism simply means unidirectional causation from prior to current.

    @Rodrigues
    I take it you are not a determinist. Perhaps you can provide us with an example whereby a current state is determined by a either itself or a next (future) state. Would be interesting.

  48. @G. Rodrigues

    I am saying that determinism is not working as a *scientific* argument against free will. If you need to postulate a being that is capable of doing computational tricks that are beyond we know is possible, for it to make a prediction based on determinism, then you stepped outside science.

  49. @Rembie:

    “I take it you are not a determinist. Perhaps you can provide us with an example whereby a current state is determined by a either itself or a next (future) state.”

    I was careful to direct my arguments against naturalistic determinism. If I were talking to a Calvinist say (and assuming I understand correctly what they say) I would have to take a different route. But yes, I am not a determinist — which to oversimplify matters, criminally oversimplify matters, boils down to the fact that human beings as rational animals can be the (proximate) originators of causal series. Or that (at least some) choices are “up to us”.

    Are you asking me to provide an example of a past state determined by its future history (note: a state is tautologically determined by itself)? Open any book on classical mechanics. Classical systems are symmetric with respect to time, so once you (fully) fix the state of a system, all its past and future history is determined. The same for quantum mechanical systems as their evolution is completely deterministic. The “indeterminacy” (putting the word between scare quotes on purpose) only comes in the scene when measurements are performed.

    @Sander wan der Sal:

    “I am saying that determinism is not working as a *scientific* argument against free will.”

    First, what do you mean by “scientific argument”? Since no one adduced any experimental evidence, neither you nor me, no one has made scientific arguments in the usual sense of the word. Maybe by scientific argument you mean a conclusion drawn from a body of scientific knowledge, such as classical mechanics? Then you are right, insofar as I adduced one metaphysical premise (naturalism) and one assumption for the sake of the argument, but otherwise you are wrong because I did use a straightforward consequence of classical mechanics. Maybe you want to say that science by itself cannot decide the question? Agreed. But the argument you gave, does *not* yield such a conclusion for it rests on equivocations and misunderstandings. Second, by what you wrote, you show that you do not know what determinism is, so even if your argument was right it does not prove what you think it does. Third, are you one of those Science-fetichists that thinks Science the only path to True Knowledge? Because determinism and the existence of Free Will are philosophical positions that cannot be arbitrated solely by resort to empirical science, so what exactly is your point?

    “If you need to postulate a being that is capable of doing computational tricks that are beyond we know is possible, for it to make a prediction based on determinism, then you stepped outside science.”

    You really do *not* know what determinism is. There are other things wrong with the quoted sentence, but I suggest you actually read what people write instead of refuting figments of your imagination (hint: see post of 6 September 2012 at 8:42 am, second paragraph, sentence starting with “Whether such a being exists or not is a matter of contention”).

  50. You add “speculation” to poison the well, but more importantly, this is a patent absurdity (see the end of my post for an argument). Second, I explained why this does not work. Not a single word in response. The brute fact is that even the attempt to escape metaphysics when put in the form of a proposition is readily seen to involve highly significant metaphysical postulates

    To call speculative rationalities “metaphysics” and deem it some sort of special powers of infability is also the counter-weight of “poisoning the well”. I’m sorry if my being unimpressed by all sorts of metaphysical arguments that I’ve seen shown before me offend you.

    However, I’d like to make something very clear. You accuse me, rightfully, of being ignorant of very specific details of metaphysics. I couldn’t disagree. However, the notion that I have to know every single metaphysical argument in order to “dismiss them” is bollocks. Just as I do not need to do or know Astrology to dismiss it, I also do not need to know every detail of metaphysics to recognize its speculative nature, which sometimes appears to me as unjustified in its own certainty. Just because you are able to form very deep, logical and consistent schematics of logical arguments all tied neatly together, does not make such schemes relevant for our fundamental questions of life, the universe and everything.

    first, you have not shown the least taint of understanding of what metaphysics is so your recognition that it is “pomposity” is worthless.

    I’ve seen enough of metaphysical arguments to recognize how preposterous certain claims can become, based upon the absolute characteristics that are assumed as axiomatic in the way the concepts are defined, determined and played together, when all history clearly shows that such mental arrogance always comes crashing down like dominoes. Of course, in places sufficiently distant from the armchairs of handwaving theologians and too near actual experimental refutation, such arrogance is quickly taken and shot down. Not so in Metaphysics, where one can hang their “deductions” so far out of our empirical reality and not be shot down by actual experiments in a daily basis (although we can already make fun of Descartes particular dualism), in a similar vein on how climate modelers are given a pass on their “predictions” of thermaggedon within a hundred years.

    Whenever an activity on “explaining things” gets too far away from a reality check, you shouldn’t take it “seriously”, and by seriously, I do not mean you should “joke with it”, but take it with an amazing ammount of a grain of salt. This ammount is incompatible, I think, with the claims that with this method we can “prove” the existence of a god. Hence my distaste to the whole endeavour.

    Last, but not least. I’m quite relativistic. If you state that my opinions are “worthless”, that really does not hurt me. My opinions are worthless to most humanity, for obvious reasons (I’m one person among 7 billion). Why should I care about that fact of life?

    For example, saying that “we are *always* fated to will what our nature causes us to will” can be either a tautology (e.g. we only will what we can will) and thus completely irrelevant to the issue at hand

    But I argue the exact opposite, that this evident tautology is not given sufficient attention. The fact that I have a Will is and should be uncontroversial. However, this Will does not need to be “Free” from causal constraints on a deterministic universe for it to exist. It exists just as a hurricane exists, despite the fact that it is causally constrained by a complex bunch of previous phenomena. To say that a hurricane is just “atoms in action” is both true and irrelevant, because it is also something else, for we humans decided we can distinguish it from other phenomena like “clear sky”, “a slight breeze” or any other. Equally, our “Will” does not stop existing just because it is caused by the universe that harbors it.

    What I also argue with the tautology is that it is equally true in a “souled” world. If the Will is the consequence of our having a prime mover “soul” somehow independent of causal chain of events (with whatever metaphysical details you like to add or correct with), it is nevertheless not independent of such “prime mover”‘s own nature. We cannot be free from ourselves, that is, we cannot but choose what we do choose, we cannot free our own nature from doing the choices that we will inevitably do.

    If you still do not understand why the understanding of this tautology undermines your problems with a deterministic universe, well then I do not seem to be able to express it sufficiently well to you, and we’ll just have to agree in our disagreement.

    It is also completely baffling why you add the qualifier “very frightening” as if the problem is an emotional one and not a metaphysical one.

    I do think the problem people have with “Free Will” is an emotional one. Sue me.

    note: I also note that you are engaging in “rational speculation” and that you give yourself a free pass when it comes to allegedly show the contradictory nature of Free Will. Consistency is not your forte, is it?

    And reading is not yours. Come on, why the insults? I also stated quite clearly that I admitted I was also indulging in speculations, the difference being that I don’t take them as seriously as you, for I do not claim to know the answer. I do not claim to have a final answer on the question, and I do realise that the problems you pose regarding Free Will and stuff are quite interesting and mind-frakkin.

    note: as an aside, no, there is no contradiction between God’s omniscience and Free Will. Read Augustine or Boethius for the details.

    I do not find their answers satisfactory. Basically they argue that humans are the cause of evil for they are stupid enough not to direct their good will to actual good things, and other terrible arguments like that. It just gives God a free pass on why should he ever create stupid beings like us if he knew the consequences of it? If God is the ultimate answer to the existence of everything, to then blame humans on the “bad stuff” is intellectually indefensible. Might as well just admit that God wanted these things to come about. Perhaps he was bored, he liked the idea of a misadventuring species doing terrible things every day. Perhaps he had ulterior amazing motives. I can “eat that”.

    To say however that God is not responsible for our “free willed actions” is, IMHO, just plainly dishonest.

    Consider the statement P = “The only way we can reach a conclusion that is both fair and true is when we can empirically test each one of these speculations”. According to you, it is a true statement.

    I am not an absolutist, thus yeah, there is sufficient empirical evidence that this is “true”. Just not in an absolute sense (I am aware and accept Stove’s proof of that one… but such proof is only relevant if one is to make absolutely true statements, which I do not have the slightest interest in).

    Since empirical science presupposes these truths, and a conclusion is only “as true” as its premises, you are wrong.

    And “these truths” are achieved through empirical assessments as well. It’s an iterative process in itself. I am indeed “wrong” in this I am pretty sure, but just way less wrong than you are.

  51. YOS, just to state that I did read your reply to me and I thank you for it. It was very interesting and clear and I learned a lot what you mean by “knowledge” and “will”, so further disagreements on those notions are dispelled.

  52. The same for quantum mechanical systems as their evolution is completely deterministic. The “indeterminacy” (putting the word between scare quotes on purpose) only comes in the scene when measurements are performed.

    Sorry to nitpick and interrupt your other conversation, but this is not the correct way to put it. The evolution of QM cannot be called to be the same as with classical systems or even analogous. In QM systems, for instance, the calculations of past events are astonishingly more difficult than future calculations, which is a fact that per se refutes your claim.

    The other thing you said, that it only becomes “problematic” when you measure things is funny in the worst possible way, since QM is first and foremost a theory for predicting measurements. If you state that your analysis only fails when you try to use QM’s measurements then you are stating that it *always fails*.

  53. @Rodrigues
    I was not aware of the narrow interpretation of the word “state”.

    I meant something else:
    present by prior = fate (I have a bad leg due to an accident)
    present by future = vocation (is what I am looking for: is it real?)
    Present by present = I, me (I am who I am now)

  54. @Luis Dias:

    Still, no response to or engagement with the arguments.

    “To call speculative rationalities “metaphysics” and deem it some sort of special powers of infability is also the counter-weight of “poisoning the well”.”

    No need to propagate lies. Only in your imagination has anyone accorded “special powers of infability [sic.]” to metaphysics. Being an intellectual, rational activity, it has the same constraints and shortcomings of all the other intellectual activities.

    “You accuse me, rightfully, of being ignorant of very specific details of metaphysics. I couldn’t disagree. However, the notion that I have to know every single metaphysical argument in order to “dismiss them” is bollocks. Just as I do not need to do or know Astrology to dismiss it, I also do not need to know every detail of metaphysics to recognize its speculative nature, which sometimes appears to me as unjustified in its own certainty.”

    You do not know what metaphysics is (not as you say “ignorant of very specific details”), as amply demonstrated and as you yourself partially concede, so all your judgments of it are, as a matter of objective fact, meaningless and worthless. How do you respond? You bring in a comparison of astrology. But whether metaphysics is in fact comparable to astrology in this regard, is what is at issue, so you are simply begging the question. It is precisely the sort of thing that people that *actually* know metaphysics, know it is false. There are departments of philosophy in universities. They employ metaphysicians, who in their turn offer courses on metaphysics. And this is not just one university, but a relatively general phenomenon. There are also peer-reviewed journals dedicated to the subject. So the situation is *NOT* analogous to astrology and once again you put on display your foolish and arrogant ignorance for all to see.

    Dropping this matter. At this point, I fear nothing I can say can penetrate the veil that clouds your mind.

    “But I argue the exact opposite, that this evident tautology is not given sufficient attention. The fact that I have a Will is and should be uncontroversial. However, this Will does not need to be “Free” from causal constraints on a deterministic universe for it to exist. It exists just as a hurricane exists, despite the fact that it is causally constrained by a complex bunch of previous phenomena. To say that a hurricane is just “atoms in action” is both true and irrelevant, because it is also something else, for we humans decided we can distinguish it from other phenomena like “clear sky”, “a slight breeze” or any other. Equally, our “Will” does not stop existing just because it is caused by the universe that harbors it.”

    Let us parse this: you say first that the existence of the Will is uncontroversial. Indeed. No one disputes this, not even determinists, because the first-person subjective experience of choosing is a (near) universal experience. Then you say that the Will does not need to be free from the constraints of a deterministic universe. Maybe or maybe not, but the point is whether the Will can be Free in the *relevant* metaphysical sense, which is precisely what incompatibilists (like Aquinas, although this classification is probably too crude) will argue that it cannot — *this* is the real issue, not whether the Will exists or not. Determinists have to explain how we have the “illusion” of Free Will among other things; defenders of Free Will have their own problems to solve as well — although contrary to what you seem to imply, they do *not* dispute that the Will is constrained, even by physical facts. Then you go on to say a most astounding thing: “for we humans decided we can distinguish it from other phenomena like “clear sky”, “a slight breeze” or any other”. It is so because Mr. Luis Dias says so, not because it is an objective matter of reality. Arguments from you? None. Misunderstanding the problem? Yup. Truly amazing.

    “If you still do not understand why the understanding of this tautology undermines your problems with a deterministic universe”

    Besides everything I already said, above and in previous posts, tautologies are statements like A = A, they are a priori and necessarily true. Freedom of the Will of human beings, *if* it is true as I believe it is, is a *contingent* fact of our universe, so it can *never* be undermined by a tautology. What you have to give is an argument for the metaphysical impossibility of Free Will, but such an argument does not exist. Why? Because we have the experience of Free Will. Even if it is an illusion, the experience of it means we have a conception of it, in the intellectual not imaginative sense, so Free Will is metaphysically possible. Oh I understand you perfectly, but I will refrain from describing said understanding.

    Dropping this matter as well.

    [On Augustine and Boethius arguments that there is no incompatibility between omniscience and Free Will:]

    “I do not find their answers satisfactory. Basically they argue that humans are the cause of evil for they are stupid enough not to direct their good will to actual good things, and other terrible arguments like that.”

    Uh, no, that is not that argument. Not even close. Really, what the heck are you talking about? Could you just get one thing right? Is it too much to ask?

    “If God is the ultimate answer to the existence of everything, to then blame humans on the “bad stuff” is intellectually indefensible. Might as well just admit that God wanted these things to come about.”

    Oh, now I understand. You are talking about *A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PROBLEM* (apologies for the shouting, patience wearing thin): how to respond to the question that if Evil is foreknown, why does He allow it as He apparently does. And if He does, is He not somehow morally guilty? The only thing I will have to say is that you simply ignore the answers that are available and then take your ignorance as somehow indicative that there can be no rational answer to this problem. And no, your mangled reconstruction does not even come close to the actual answer, or more precisely, any of the possible answers (some better than others). Dropping this as well.

    [about the self-refuting status of P = “The only way we can reach a conclusion that is both fair and true is when we can empirically test each one of these speculations”:]

    “I am not an absolutist, thus yeah, there is sufficient empirical evidence that this is “true”. Just not in an absolute sense.”

    More of the usual crap; you never engage the argument or show its invalidity, but rather misunderstand the problem and spew more of your inconsequential drivel. Pay attention: there is no empirical evidence, as in none, zero, nothing, in fact, there *can be none*, for the truth of P. By the very nature of P. So P is pure speculation, and by your *own* criteria it should be tossed to the dustbin with everything else that is not empirically falsifiable. Period. So either you are special-pleading or you have to find a criteria for why P deserves a special status that the other unfalsifiable statements do not enjoin. Warning: this was the project of positivism and it failed with a crash and boom. But hey, maybe you can achieve what otherwise brilliant minds like Ayers and Flew did not. And then, in the quoted sentence, you contradict yourself. Again. Because if P is not absolutely true, then since it is a universally quantified sentence, it admits of exceptions and you have just undermined your whole claim.

    [on metaphysical and mathematical truths at the foundation of science:]

    “And “these truths” are achieved through empirical assessments as well.”

    Ok, let me pick an important result of functional analysis:

    Theorem (Banach-Alaoglu): the unit ball of the dual of a Banach space is compact in the weak-star topology.

    Show me how the proof of this result was achieved “through empirical assessments”. The ball is on your court; put up or shut up.

  55. @Luis Dias:

    “The evolution of QM cannot be called to be the same as with classical systems or even analogous.”

    The evolution of a quantum system is given by Schroedinger’s equation, a first order differential equation in the time variable. The evolution of a classical system is (in the Hamiltonian picture) given by a system of first order differential equations in the time variable. By standard results on differential equations, the time evolution is deterministic, period.

    “The other thing you said, that it only becomes “problematic” when you measure things is funny in the worst possible way, since QM is first and foremost a theory for predicting measurements.”

    Every physical theory *is* a theory for predicting correlations measured in experiments. There is nothing unusual in QM about that. Now, on second reading, what I wrote can be reasonably interpreted as being “funny in the worst possible way” as you say. But (and there is always a but, isn’t there?), the finishing sentence on that paragraph is “The “indeterminacy” (putting the word between scare quotes on purpose) only comes in the scene when measurements are performed” the parenthetical remark being put there to insinuate that I probably should add a lot of qualifications here to make it precise.

    Here is one way to put the problem: the evolution of a quantum system is completely deterministic, time symmetric, and given by a *unitary operator*, generating a one-parameter group. But measurements are not given by unitary operators, but rather by projections. So here is the conundrum: the system and the measuring apparatus are themselves a quantum system, so *its* evolution should be completely deterministic and given by a unitary operator. How to solve this apparent problem? In fact, there is no consensus solution, and it depends on what interpretation of QM you favor (Copenhagen, Bohm, Transactional, Relational, Many-Worlds, etc.). For example, on Bohm’s interpretation the evolution of a quantum system is *fully causal and deterministic* — although it has some serious problems of its own, but then so does every interpretation.

  56. @Rembie:

    You lost me with your clarification. My problem, no doubt. Can you rephrase and clarify the question?

  57. No need to propagate lies. Only in your imagination has anyone accorded “special powers of infability [sic.]” to metaphysics.

    There is simply no way of invoking a proof of the existence of a deity without using infallible arguments. Once you acknowledge the fallibility of an argument, you admit the impossibility of such “proof” in frakkin principle. That is, once you acknowledge the possibility of doubt, game’s over. There’s no tertium datur here.

    Thus you are left only with two options. Either you backpedal in your indignated cry that metaphysics ain’ no special powers of infability, or you admit that Feser’s exercise in “proving” God’s existence is puerile and idiotic.

    No amount of further insults you might feel inclined to feed this chat box with will save you from this basic dillema.

    How do you respond? You bring in a comparison of astrology. But whether metaphysics is in fact comparable to astrology in this regard, is what is at issue, so you are simply begging the question. It is precisely the sort of thing that people that *actually* know metaphysics, know it is false.

    You are basically saying that Metaphysics harbors in itself the argument for its own validity. I’m sorry if I feel that such viewpoint is too much self-serving and convenient. Of course, it does not mean it is false, but eyebrows should be doing their thing. And yours should also. Just saying.

    There are departments of philosophy in universities. They employ metaphysicians, who in their turn offer courses on metaphysics.

    And this is evidence of its validity? Come on. I wasn’t even comparing metaphysics with astrology. I was trying to make you understand exactly how it is not necessary to understand the details of an activity to judge its value. You just need to watch carefully and critically what it produces. IOW, treat stuff like a black box. If what comes out is akin to garbage, treat it as garbage. Same with gold. Or anything in between.

    Then you go on to say a most astounding thing: “for we humans decided we can distinguish it from other phenomena like “clear sky”, “a slight breeze” or any other”. It is so because Mr. Luis Dias says so, not because it is an objective matter of reality.

    Are you denying that humans distinguished breezes from hurricanes and decided to call them with different names? Is this fact a matter of controversy? Perhaps a thought passed through your mind on how I contradicted myself there or how I made an error of another sort, but you are unable to express the mistake in an intelligible manner. Must I provide arguments on why I think people were able to distinguish breezes from hurricanes?

    Please help me here.

    Oh, now I understand. You are talking about *A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PROBLEM* (apologies for the shouting, patience wearing thin): how to respond to the question that if Evil is foreknown, why does He allow it as He apparently does. And if He does, is He not somehow morally guilty?

    The problems are inherently related, since there is no “Free Will” without the possibility of doing “EVIL”.

    God, in such metaphysics, is all-powerful, omniscient, all-knowing, omnipresent, etc. God, in such metaphysics, is the father of every soul. He created them, with the whole knowledge on how these souls would behave in each circumstance. Heck such God must, by the definition provided, know in advance every single action that each soul will perform. Thus, he will create such souls always with this knowledge in “his mind”. No matter how beautiful you find the “promises” of Free Will given by such a God, the matter of a fact is that God knew exactly what you were up to even before he created you (if these tenses are even applicable). Thus you never had a “choice”. Your choices were always accounted and calculated for. Had you got any plans against the “Divine Plan” you would never stand a chance, God knows he “wins” it at the end (whatever one means by such phrasings).

    How is there any Free Will if God already knows the end result? If true, it’s nothing but a sham (there’s a very curious paradox involving “omniscience”, christmas, santa claus and a potential gift to you with these concepts).

    And you dare call this “Free Will”? The Freedom to do exactly what was foretold and calculated by the omniscient creature?

    More of the usual crap; you never engage the argument or show its invalidity, but rather misunderstand the problem and spew more of your inconsequential drivel. Pay attention: there is no empirical evidence, as in none, zero, nothing, in fact, there *can be none*, for the truth of P

    I did not show it’s invalidity, what makes you creep up the walls is how I just sidestep it and declare it unconsequential to me, since I do not deal with absolutes anyway. Why should I be concerned if P is “TRUE” in an absolute sense at all, if I do not live in a world of absolutes, but of contingencies, predictions, events and phenomena? Why should I care about the eternal if I live in the ephemeral?

    And then, in the quoted sentence, you contradict yourself. Again. Because if P is not absolutely true, then since it is a universally quantified sentence, it admits of exceptions and you have just undermined your whole claim.

    Why should admitting of exceptions be a problem, since I do not live in an error-free world? Do you take me for someone who thinks empiricism is the end-all answer to every problem, and that it will always be right, when I know by that same experience that this just ain’t so? The world is just messy, error-prone, filled with problems of even modelling the very notion of “unknown unknowns” (fat tails, black swans, whatever you want to call them), You are so brainwashed to nurture the comfortable place of the ABSOLUTE certainty of possible knowledge, the safety of knowing there’s an ultimate TRUE reference of everything, that you just can’t wrap your own mind over the possibility of someone else just living perfectly fine without these safety protocols.

  58. @Rodrigues

    No, it’s my fault. You acknowledge the fact that something like self-determination is possible ( human beings as rational animals can be the (proximate) originators of causal series) Now I was curious where this power comes from. I do not disagree with it at all, but I would like to know how it could come about in practice.

    I agree that whatever arises from our animal nature does not lead to freedom, our freedom only relates negatively towards it. That means that we are “free” to postpone or ennoble those primal wants and appetites. Since these wants are tied up with our bodily development and depend on them, it would amount to determinism to say t h a t is all there is to a human being. My little son does not have sexual desires yet, because his reproductive organs have not yet developed. He has no lust for theorizing because his brain is not ready yet. But as soon as these organs have developed, he will acquire certain want and desires. When I look at my own life I must acknowledge that these prior developments determine my current “state”, but only up to a point.

    I am also me and I like that to count for something. I am not my organs or body chemistry although I express myself in union with these things. I can think and this allows me to have other things in mind than wants and pleasures. I can enjoy an argument that solely works by its own adequacy, without any passion or external force acting on me. This is another glimpse of freedom, that is why I like to think so much, it unties me from my bonds. In this sense I am presently capable of giving my present state a definite character.

    The most challenging aspect of freedom is to consider positive actual freedom. Acting in the outer world as a free man. Now I do not just untie myself from bonds, I engage in new ones of my own choice. I take responsibility for my actions. I ask myself: who do I want to be? Do I have a future that I might be able to grasp and bring to realization? In this sense the current is determined by the future imagined or real. Without it, my current state crumbles, just as it would when one of my organs was failing. On analysis it might seem limited what we achieve in this direction, but it is the essential human mission.

    I was interested in your view in this regard….

  59. @Luis Dias:

    “Once you acknowledge the fallibility of an argument, you admit the impossibility of such “proof” in frakkin principle. That is, once you acknowledge the possibility of doubt, game’s over. There’s no tertium datur here.”

    You really are a piece of work.

    What I acknowledged was, and to quote myself, is that metaphysics “has the same constraints and shortcomings of all the other intellectual activities”. I do not know what you make of this expression, but I am simply recognizing that as fallible humans, there is always the theoretical possibility that some proof, in whatever field you could name, can be wrong. The theoretical possibility of error, which is always open to us, does not entail the “impossibility of proof”. Some proofs, say the proofs of elementary mathematics that have been computer proof-checked, have the highest degree of certainty to them, but of course there is still the theoretical possibility that an error has crept in somewhere, that the proof-checker contains a bug, etc. Rather, the lesson to take from my acknowledgement is that *if* you want to show that some proof of a statement P is wrong, then it is incumbent upon you to show where the mistake was made, something you have failed to do with every single argument I made.

    And for someone who does “not deal with absolutes”, you sure pull out a few (e.g. tertium datur) when it is convenient, *and* then to prove an absolute: the impossibility of proof. But then again, to expect logical consistency from you is like expecting to see a unicorn strolling down the road.

    “You are basically saying that Metaphysics harbors in itself the argument for its own validity.”

    I quoted this sentence, as one example among many, just to show that you simply cannot read, but rather read *into* what people write your own projected ignorance. To quote myself from 5 September 2012 at 4:27 pm: “It is simply the conclusion that doing metaphysics, by its very nature, is inevitable, even if it includes questioning the very possibility of doing it.”

    “How is there any Free Will if God already knows the end result?”

    I did tell you to read Augustine or Boethius if you wanted to know the answer — the answer that you are clearly ignorant of. If you knew what they said, you would also know why your attempt at an argument fails. Whether the answer will convince you or not, I do not know and frankly, I do not care. But then again, you do not deal in absolutes, so your “proof” might, just might, be wrong — something you generously concede — and thus by your criteria, it is in fact impossible to have such a proof. So, maybe you do not need to read Augustine or Boethius to find the answer after all, because you already know that your “argument” is wrong. To quote you: “once you acknowledge the possibility of doubt, game’s over. There’s no tertium datur here.”

    “I did not show it’s invalidity, what makes you creep up the walls is how I just sidestep it and declare it unconsequential to me, since I do not deal with absolutes anyway.”

    So your response to an argument is to say that you do “not deal with absolutes”. This is not a response to an argument but rather throwing out all logic and rationality out the window. Then again, if you can sidestep inconsistencies by declaring that you do “do not deal with absolutes anyway”, then so can I. Every purported proof of the irrationality of Christianity, every failure in every purported proof of the existence of God, can be similarly dismissed away. Contradictions? Inconsistencies? What is the problem, follow Mr. Luis Dias marvelous consistency evader: “I do not deal with absolutes”. What is good for the goose is good for the gander and all that. I do note that at least you had the decency to shut up about mathematics, which I will take as your concession that even if you do “not deal with absolutes”, you accept that there are countless statements, an actual infinite number of them actually, that are unfalsifiable, true and true with a degree of certainty higher than any scientific claim.

    “You are so brainwashed to nurture the comfortable place (…)”

    And now the inevitable psychoanalyzing, which, to borrow from Dr. Johnson, is the last refuge of the man without arguments.

    Frankly, I am not interested in conversing with irrational people that make mince meat of logic and have no qualms in contradicting themselves at every turn. You are simply not fit for rational discourse.

  60. @Luis

    you have to invite these guys to the territories you are familiar with yourself, otherwise they will lure you into metaphysics and give you a hard time. Your demand for the phenomenon is perfectly valid, for after all, if denial of God and Free Will can be dismissed by reductio ad absurdum, your knowledge of any of the two is about as advanced as when you never proposed to deny them. Both make their appearance in the phenomenal world, God as a causator per se and Free Will because acts follow from it as well. Well, let them address the phenomena. That will require a different language. It will be extremely inconvenient, but a valid demand.

    I will make three reservations:
    a. This is a metaphysical argument, inevitably so.
    b. Phenomena can never replace reason,they require it.
    c. Phenomenal covers a larger area then sensible (something DAV doesn’t get)

    What I would like to say further is that I think this blog is awesome in quality and generally well behaved. I have gained a lot by dropping by here. Since it seems inevitable that we will become co-creators (of the world), one way or the other, the battle for the guiding principles is more vital than ever and justifies a few punches here and there:)

  61. What I acknowledged was, and to quote myself, is that metaphysics “has the same constraints and shortcomings of all the other intellectual activities”. I do not know what you make of this expression, but I am simply recognizing that as fallible humans, there is always the theoretical possibility that some proof, in whatever field you could name, can be wrong. The theoretical possibility of error, which is always open to us, does not entail the “impossibility of proof”.

    You keep underestimating me. I was not mentioning the obvious possibility of making a “mistake”. I was referring to the fallibility of the way concepts, definitions, language and logic are all made of. Mathematical proofs are absolutely true given you accept the rules of the game, all the axioms involved and so on. However, for a metaphysical argument be more relevant than “self-consistent games” and actually make absolutely true statements about the world then it is not enough to proclaim by fiat the absolute truth of the axioms assumed explicitly and implicitly. You have to actually show how these propositions are absolutely true (or dwelve into infinite regresses and stuff).

    Now, you can make like mr. Briggs and just proclaim some of these axioms as “absolutely true” because they are just “self-evidently so”. However, if you want to be less sleazy than that, then you must confront the non-absoluteness of the concepts, words used and so on. And if this is the case, then at any given point I can question the usage of terms like “prime mover”, “will”, “free will”, “volition” and so on as being not representative of what “actually happens” in our world (that is, I can proclaim them as being lousy categories with even lousier proclaimed characteristics). If I can call all of these items into question, then the whole “metaphysical argument” can be as “self-consistent” and “proven” as you may want it to be, but I can just call it irrelevant to the world we actually live in.

    The only way you can admonish me now is by referencing our world and our subjective experience of it, that is, by referencing empirical assessments, empirical truths (as evidence of the truthfulness of your metaphysical categories and so on). Then we can test such correlation (between theory and observation) and so on. But you already know that what I am talking about is the scientific method. However, this is always flawed, and scientists themselves always make the claim that it is impossible for them to prove or disprove God. So you see where my statement comes from. For more references, read Hume. He’s pretty good at this.

    And for someone who does “not deal with absolutes”, you sure pull out a few (e.g. tertium datur) when it is convenient, *and* then to prove an absolute: the impossibility of proof.

    NO! The only absolutes I am dealing with are your own, and I am making you drink your own poison. Either you claim you have the capability of designing concepts and arguments that are absolutely true (not just in the metaphysical game, but actually absolutely true in our world) or your “proofs” are not at all. The fact that there’s “no tertium datur” comes from the obvious fact that either you can or you cannot, and every fuzzy third imaginary “choice” will never live up to the first one.

    “It is simply the conclusion that doing metaphysics, by its very nature, is inevitable, even if it includes questioning the very possibility of doing it.”

    And then I’m the one stating nonsensical rubbish. Look, all you are saying is confirming what I said, and then you chastise me of doing so. Stop trolling me. This sentence clearly states that the only method that you accept to “stop doing metaphysics” would at least partially consist of “doing metaphysics”. That’s fine, that’s at least consistent. Telling me however that what you said is not what I said is rubbish. Bollocks.

    But then again, you do not deal in absolutes, so your “proof” might, just might, be wrong

    Just any other “proof” that people with slightly different concepts and rules can be right. I accept all of this.

    So, maybe you do not need to read Augustine or Boethius to find the answer after all, because you already know that your “argument” is wrong.

    I know that the metaphysical arguments are indeed “wrong” in that particular way, and that includes my own.

    So your response to an argument is to say that you do “not deal with absolutes”. This is not a response to an argument but rather throwing out all logic and rationality out the window.

    Why? Just because I recognize a game of logic and rationality as games and not the absolute revelations of truth, it does not follow that I dismiss them. I find them extremely useful and amazing.

    Then again, if you can sidestep inconsistencies by declaring that you do “do not deal with absolutes anyway”, then so can I. Every purported proof of the irrationality of Christianity, every failure in every purported proof of the existence of God, can be similarly dismissed away.

    You could, but since you are an absolutist, this move would turn you into an hypocrite, since an absolutist cannot do this particular move. However, I’d not fault you for doing so. After all, you are only a human, not a god.

    I do note that at least you had the decency to shut up about mathematics, which I will take as your concession that even if you do “not deal with absolutes”, you accept that there are countless statements, an actual infinite number of them actually, that are unfalsifiable, true and true with a degree of certainty higher than any scientific claim.

    Mathematics include axioms and rules taken for granted, followed by playing its own game. If you accept all the rules, then of course that 2+2 is always 4. Change one rule however, and it stops being so. This is frakkin obvious to anyone who paid attention to logic 101. For instance, I can demand 2 + 2 in base 3. In which case to say it is “4” becomes false. I could change an infinite number of rules. I could even proclaim that the rule of non-contradiction to be false and then seeing what would happen.

    And now the inevitable psychoanalyzing, which, to borrow from Dr. Johnson, is the last refuge of the man without arguments.

    This is really something coming from someone who hasn’t stopped insulting me for the past dozen of comments. JESUS.

  62. @Luis Dias:

    “I was referring to the fallibility of the way concepts, definitions, language and logic are all made of. Mathematical proofs are absolutely true given you accept the rules of the game, all the axioms involved and so on. However, for a metaphysical argument be more relevant than “self-consistent games” and actually make absolutely true statements about the world then it is not enough to proclaim by fiat the absolute truth of the axioms assumed explicitly and implicitly.”

    First, you implicitly assume a disjunction between metaphysics and mathematics. Truth is undivided and one, and the same problems that you say exist for metaphysics are equally valid for mathematics for mathematics studies a corner of reality. What exactly is the nature of mathematical reality does not need to concern us, but since mathematics is the study of a recognizable *something*, whatever that something is, insofar as it is, it is reality.

    Second, since from nothing nothing comes, proofs must rely on certain principles. Proclaiming them self-evident does not excuse one to adjoin evidence for them, I agree with you. First principles do not admit of demonstration on pain of infinite regress, only dialectical justification: either we appeal to other principles, presumably more evident or at least shared by our interlocutor, or we show that their denial leads to absurdities. As an aside, this is why most of the arguments I made were of the reductio form, precisely because we are dealing with mostly foundational questions. In summary, metaphysicians do not “proclaim[ing] by fiat”, or at least no more than other people — and actually less, given the *foundational* nature of the task.

    “If I can call all of these items into question, then the whole “metaphysical argument” can be as “self-consistent” and “proven” as you may want it to be, but I can just call it irrelevant to the world we actually live in.”

    But for this to be more than an exercise in childish naysaying, you have to *show* that these concepts do not do the explanatory work they purport to do. And in order to show that, you have to actually understand them. *That* is how philosophy in general, and metaphysics in particular, works. Rank Sophist challenged you to explain change without invoking potency and act. You never responded. In this thread all you did was appeal to vague generalities and broad impossibilities, which I have shown to be self-refuting. You have not bothered to show why the arguments were wrong, evading yourself with “I do not deal with absolutes”, which makes a mockery of all rational discourse. You even delivered the mind-numbingly stupid retort that you do not have to know metaphysics in order to know that it is “pomposity”, so all your “calling into question” is nothing more than ignorance in full display at best and intellectual dishonesty at worst.

    “The only way you can admonish me now is by referencing our world and our subjective experience of it, that is, by referencing empirical assessments, empirical truths (as evidence of the truthfulness of your metaphysical categories and so on).”

    The “only way”? Says who? Where is your argument that it is the only way? Why is the data given by the senses, and thus “empirical truths”, reliable? Is this one of the self-evident axioms that is proclaimed true by fiat? Or maybe you will excuse yourself to back it up by saying “you do not deal with absolutes”? Sorry, but this is an absolute statement, in fact a metaphysical claim about the nature of human knowledge, so what am I to make of it, given your previous dismissals of metaphysics and absolutes? Relativism is endearing if you are a 10 year-old, but eventually you have to grow up on pain of contradicting yourself, as you do in just about every paragraph you write.

    “NO! The only absolutes I am dealing with are your own, and I am making you drink your own poison.”

    Ok, so you are using a reductio against me. I explained above why it does not work. But I am doing exactly the same. But here is my problem: I have pointed out, time and time again, contradictions, but either you do not address them or even worse, you just wave your hand and dismiss it with “I do not deal with absolutes” or some other absurdity. So you are effectively impervious to logic and reason. Thus, the only conclusion I can draw, is that you are irrational and rational discourse with you is impossible.

    “And then I’m the one stating nonsensical rubbish.”

    Actually, I involuntarily quoted from the introduction of E. Lowe’s “A survey of metaphysics”. I could deliver the full passage (I have the book in front of me) where the argument is developed in full detail, but given your attitude towards arguments I fear it would be pointless.

    “For instance, I can demand 2 + 2 in base 3. In which case to say it is “4″ becomes false.”

    No it does not become false. 2 + 2 in base 3 is still what in decimal notation is denoted by 4, except in base 3 it is denoted by 11. Changing notation does not change the nature of what the symbols refer to. It may be logic 101 and yet you still fail. Epically.

    “I could even proclaim that the rule of non-contradiction to be false and then seeing what would happen.”

    Yes, you can, but proclaiming it false does not automatically make it false, because the rule of contradiction is not an arbitrary logical rule but a principle of being and thus an objective feature of reality. This is a first principle and thus admits only of dialectical justification, so my suggestion is the following: deny it and see what happens.

    “This is really something coming from someone who hasn’t stopped insulting me for the past dozen of comments.”

    This is my eighth comment to you; you seem to fail at arithmetic 101 also. Seriously, if calling you an ignorant when you are demonstrably ignorant, as a matter of objective fact, or calling you irrational when you explicitly refuse to deal rationally with rational arguments, is insulting, then insulting it is.

  63. @Rembie:

    I am not sure exactly what you are asking me, so I will do some tentative guess work and take a stab at it.

    The Argentinian fabulist J. L. Borges wrote a short story titled “The Garden of Forking Paths” (in the Spanish original “El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan”); it can be found in the collection “Fictions”. The crux of the novel (I am going by memory, as it has been a long while since I last read it) is itself a novel written by a Chinese man named Ts’ui Pên. Instead of the common novel, where a character by taking an action thereby eliminates all the other possibilities, Ts’ui Pên’s novel is a labyrinth where all the possible outcomes of a given event are simultaneously actualized, and these possibilities themselves actualize all their subsequent possibilities and so on ad infinitum.

    note: Many-World interpretations did not come about with QM…

    I was reminded of Borges’ gorgeous phantasia when reading you; we, as rational animals, upon coming to a fork in the path, have this amazing power of choosing; but we also bear the terrible responsibility of forsaking all the other paths. By this act, we not only fashion the world (albeit in an insignificant manner, at least most of the times), but more importantly, we also fashion ourselves for we are not just the end product of our history, but rather the embodiment of the that history.

    Whence this strange power? Here I will don my Christian hat in a Thomist guise and simply answer, from God. It follows from our essence as human beings, that we have the power of Free Will, just as it follows from the essence of say, mammals, that they are air-breathing vertebrate animals, or from the essence of an electron that it has spin 1/2.

    Now, admittedly this is not the most satisfying answer to the question. But then again, what answer could be? Evolutionary answers tend to be circular and vacuous. Why do we have Free Will (or the illusion of such, whatever is the case)? because it conferred an advantage for survival. Why does Free Will conferred an advantage? Because we are here. Admittedly, I am simplifying things, but not *too much*. Even more so, because in the Thomistic account, Free Will is a power of the soul, dependent on the intellect. But the presence of rationality, so the argument goes, implies of necessity that human beings are not, cannot, be reducible to their biology and, ultimately, to the laws of physics. If one accepts this much, then it is clear that no physical account of the workings of the brain can fully explain the Intellect or Free Will, so some typical “how” scientific questions are out of reach — and asking them is actually a category mistake, for it implicitly conceives the human being as a sort of mechanism with parts like soul and body that interact in some rather mysterious way, but this is all bunk — and we must settle for other types of accounts, like Aquinas’ metaphysical account, which is actually somewhat complicated, involving as it does a dance between the Intellect and the appetitive power of the Will, with the Intellect moving the will via final causation, but the Will also capable of moving the Intellect via efficient causation, e.g. when our Will prompts the Intellect to reconsider the objects of desire.

    Human beings also find themselves in the curious predicament of desiring beyond what is reasonably possible or expectable. We desire for Goods and we strive to unite ourselves with said Goods, but they are always somehow lacking, we are always left incomplete, so our Wills turn to the next object of desire and on and on we creep from day to day, until Time in its petty pace, and Death, its minister, do away with us. Up to now I have stayed away from Christianity, but what I have just said can form one argument for the existence of God, the argument from desire, which I do not find particularly compelling *in itself*. What I do find compelling, as a Christian, is St. Augustine’s dictum that “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee”. God is the final resting place, or, if I am not misreading you “a future that I might be able to grasp and bring to realization”.

  64. rembie,
    Phenomenal covers a larger area then sensible (something DAV doesn’t get)

    (*sniff*)

    Oh but I do. At least I think I do. There are multiple definitions of “phenomenal” of which at least two might apply.

    If you are talking about the Hawking thing, I substitute information acquisition. I just don’t know any way to do that without first using the senses. Until someone can show differently, I will continue to expect the senses to be at least the initial source.

    Belief is just that, belief. If the basic premises are belief, applying logical argument doesn’t end anywhere useful if the initial premises are false or if there is no way to ever determine their truth. Just because something is reasonable doesn’t make it true. Consensus doesn’t cut it for me. Neither does rejection of any possibility of obtaining more information. GIGO.

    Suppose I start with the premise there are lucky charms and then arrive at some logical conclusion. What have I gained beyond satisfaction and entertainment? It’s daydreaming. Some accomplishment.

    It may turn out to be useful someday like math proofs sometimes can be but until then my reaction will almost invariably be, “so what?”.

  65. @Rodrigues,

    thanks, food for thought.

    @DAV

    🙂 I had your detectable God in mind. Saying God should be detectable is saying God should be a sensible object, or a sensible object should directly point towards him, like the poo to the dog. A phenomenon is broader: as a sensible object I am detectable, but not as a phenomenon, you would have to take my whole life up to now into account and use your imagination, like a good biographer would do.

  66. rembie,

    Not saying God should be detectable. What I’m saying is that these so-called proofs don’t add up to anything other than a belief in God (given the starting premises) is not logically inconsistent. Whatever it means to you is fine with me.

    Some interesting properties of God came out (proved, I guess) but they are on the same level as finding interesting properties of Klingons. Good for storytelling and little else.

    I don’t really understand why people find doing this so compelling or why they think it so necessary to engage in vehemently proselytizing. Goes for both sides.

    In my experience, people who have armed themselves with The Truth tend to be very dangerous.

  67. “Some interesting properties of God came out (proved, I guess) but they are on the same level as finding interesting properties of Klingons. Good for storytelling and little else.”

    If it’s your opinion, then that’s fine. But are you implying that theology/metaphysics is akin to story-telling? If so, this can be construed as an argument from ridicule, which is a fallacy.

    “I don’t really understand why people find doing this so compelling or why they think it so necessary to engage in vehemently proselytizing. Goes for both sides.”

    Simply stating that you do not find it compelling does not demonstrate that it is, in fact, not compelling. If you intend to show that metaphysics is not objectively compelling, you have your work cut out for you. Though I agree that the level of venom can run high in such discussions, and that it can be a turn-off.

  68. First, you implicitly assume a disjunction between metaphysics and mathematics. Truth is undivided and one, and the same problems that you say exist for metaphysics are equally valid for mathematics for mathematics studies a corner of reality

    There is a distinction between the two, otherwise they would have the same name. Just declaring metaphysics to be as rigorous and clear as mathematics does not make it so. Many metaphysical concepts like “prime mover” and so on are only “clear” and “precise” in the manner that we say they are so. When we actually get to actual empirical work, we have a distinct, more complex and rich picture of what the reality of the “soul” might or might not be.

    Mathematics, for all its abstraction, only advances insofar as empirical theories require it. This is an historical fact.

    In summary, metaphysicians do not “proclaim[ing] by fiat”, or at least no more than other people — and actually less, given the *foundational* nature of the task

    So we can agree: that a metaphysical proof means zero if we simply disagree on how to tackle with the premises. Great.

    But for this to be more than an exercise in childish naysaying, you have to *show* that these concepts do not do the explanatory work they purport to do. And in order to show that, you have to actually understand them. *That* is how philosophy in general, and metaphysics in particular, works. Rank Sophist challenged you to explain change without invoking potency and act. You never responded.

    I never did because I was on vacation. Life has its way of intruding in this major important task of talking about angels, and in no ways I want you to feel insulted by that fact.

    Do you want an alternative way to think about “change”? Well, I am at a disadvantage, since I can think of it for a few seconds and try to come up with a way on how it is possible to start thinking it in another way, but I am not going to spend years, if decades, trying to needle a completely new metaphysics. Just as Steve McIntyre does not spend his time making his own paleoreconstructions (because he does not believe such a task would be worthwhile), I also would not like to spend my life in this exercise.

    I see no “real” status to the concepts of “potency” or “act”. For the stuff the universe is made does not care about what they are “capable” of doing, stuff “just happens”, and things are always, constantly “acting”. It may, however, matter or not to the human observer. So to the human observer he can divide things into “acting” or “being all passive about things”, because it can be helpful in his observations.

    I can come up with a random brainstorming over the issue though, just to check on how much weirder physics has shown us what “change” may mean.

    Change is a delta. Of any sort. For instance, we have place X which is different than Y. This “place” can have a different value which is by itself a “change of a value”, in either X, Y, Z, time or any other dimension you can possibly measure (or come up with). This definition of “change” is different from the one Rank prompted me of defining. Why should I limit myself to his definition of “change” though?

    A change in time can only be real if understood by a subject that is aware of that dimension. Thus a “change” in time is “unreal” to any other measuring entity that is unaware of it. Time has an arrow, which is the consequence of thermodynamics (the increase of entropy). Thus, arbitrary random fluctuations in quantum space will generate an arrow of time given a sufficient difference of scale and a sufficient delta in entropy. What seems random at one scale slowly becomes “classical” (without ever reaching that utopia) the bigger the scale is.

    At some scale, rythms exist. Time can be measured, imperfectly.

    Thus we could come up with a metaphysics that was a bit closer to physical jargon and state that “Change” is a measured observation of quantum fluctuations inside a gradient of entropy differentiation, resulting in a perceived arrow of time.

    If one would be given some years in this, perhaps it would begin to sound “metaphysical”, I understand it is still a little bit too rough.

    The “only way”? Says who? Where is your argument that it is the only way? Why is the data given by the senses, and thus “empirical truths”, reliable?

    Oh sure, you got me there. Yes, you are right, however I still do not see an alternative. Please show me one. The fact that you can realise there’s a breach and that there may be an alternative is not equal to actually producing said alternative.

    I have pointed out, time and time again, contradictions, but either you do not address them

    I am sorry if my irrationality offends you. I do try my best to be the least irrational I can, but I’m only human.

    Actually, I involuntarily quoted from the introduction of E. Lowe’s “A survey of metaphysics”. I could deliver the full passage (I have the book in front of me) where the argument is developed in full detail, but given your attitude towards arguments I fear it would be pointless.

    Failed at reading comprehension there, mr Rodrigues. The “rubbish” was not your claim. The funny thing here is I am 100% sure you only read that first sentence of the paragraph. If you had read the follow up you’d turn red at embarrassment. I did not deny your idea, I denied the fact that your idea was opposed to my previous statement.

    No it does not become false. 2 + 2 in base 3 is still what in decimal notation is denoted by 4, except in base 3 it is denoted by 11. Changing notation does not change the nature of what the symbols refer to. It may be logic 101 and yet you still fail. Epically.

    Epicness or not, it is still false. Just ask the computer, you’ll get an error. Simple as that.

    Yes, you can, but proclaiming it false does not automatically make it false

    A sentence ten words just too long. Yes I can. Thanks.

    …because the rule of contradiction is not an arbitrary logical rule but a principle of being and thus an objective feature of reality

    I’d say a very useful rule, which has given us some problems of their own. For instance, it makes our brain in a really painful stress to understand the double slit experiment. We believe in the experiment, although it does create a contradiction. So, we come up with dozens of new concepts to wipe the confusion out. However, I do not see it as an absolute property of the universe. Just ask a poet if life is not a contradiction.

    deny it and see what happens

    Art? Poetry? Really nasty stuff I wholeheartedly agree. For instance, when One is Three, the Father knows his Son and the Holy Spirit blah blah blah, the “mathematical contradictions” are thrown out the window as if this whole importance of the absolutely very much important characteristic of the “Non-contradiction” law was never defended in the first place. What was YOS answer to that one? “It’s poetic, it’s an analogy, it’s a metaphor!”.

    Right. Eating the cake, having it, sharing it. And so on. And miracles. Aren’t those so “non-contradicting”?

  69. If the Law of Non-contradiction is not objectively true, the following statements can both be true: A square is not a circle and A square is a circle. In order to deny that the Law of Non-contradiction is not objectively true, you have to demonstrate a possible world where the two statements are both true.

    As for the double slit experiment, could it be possible that the wave-particle nature of light was not contradictory, but rather our knowledge of physics was simply inadequate at the time? After all, the wave-particle nature is not contradictory in terms of quantum physics, as far as I know.

  70. “In order to deny that the Law of Non-contradiction is not objectively true”

    should read as

    “In order to deny that the Law of Non-contradiction is objectively true”

  71. If the Law of Non-contradiction is not objectively true, the following statements can both be true: A square is not a circle and A square is a circle. In order to deny that the Law of Non-contradiction is not objectively true, you have to demonstrate a possible world where the two statements are both true.

    Such a “demonstration” would be a different one than the one you’d be used to, since the rules would be different (changing that rule would probably change the whole scheme of rules). Most probably, this “possible world” would be quite numb, simple and utterly unuseful for many things we deem dear (like science, say). However, it is the kind of stuff poets feast on.

    Not only poets. As I’ve said previously, christian theologians seem to adore it and make use of the amazing feat of the number “one” sometimes being equal to the number “three”. Or that exceptions to the “rules” of the universe actually happen (things called miracles). And so on.

    As for the double slit experiment, could it be possible that the wave-particle nature of light was not contradictory, but rather our knowledge of physics was simply inadequate at the time?

    Not only possible, that’s the kind of thinking we use to advance physics and so on.

    But isn’t it funny how much wrong our first thoughts about the universe and how it behaved ended up being? (Just ask Lord Kelvin about it) And yet, we are led to believe that Aristotle got these concepts and categorizations of “What Actually Happens, What Events Are, What Time is, The Ultimate Answers to the Questions of Life, The Universe and Everything” exactly right just by thinking them out?

    Who the hell believes this? Should we not remind them how ridiculous this is?

  72. @Luis Dias:

    “Mathematics, for all its abstraction, only advances insofar as empirical theories require it. This is an historical fact.”

    Wrong again. As a matter of objective fact. I wish you really would shut up about things you know nothing about. Just one example: if Einstein did not had befriended Marcel Grossmann who could teach him differential geometry, he would not have the *already invented* mathematical tools to develop GR. On the contrary direction, there is no connection with any physical theory tying Voevodsky’s proof of the Milnor conjecture or Gowers’ construction of the first hereditarily indecomposable Banach space, a construction solving several long-standing conjectures made by Banach. Or a vast proportion of mathematics being done today. But do not take my word for it, just storm into any department of mathematics and ask the question.

    “So we can agree: that a metaphysical proof means zero if we simply disagree on how to tackle with the premises. Great.”

    Whatever gave you the idea that I ever disagreed with that? My complaint is the *reasons* for your disagreement. You have not disputed any of the metaphysical principles or notions such as act and potency; really, how could you, if you do not understand them by your own admission? Instead of getting off your lazy ass and doing the needed work to show that they are not objective features of reality and do not have the necessary explanatory power, no, you take recourse to vague generalities and broad impossibilities which have been shown to be self-refuting, over and over again. For what is the crux of your argument?

    1. From 5 September 2012 at 5:34 am:

    “And this is the problem of taking metaphysic logic too seriously. I don’t buy this argument, not because it is “wrong”, but put simply because it is too separate from my own empirical assessments of wills.”

    By your admission, you cannot find any logical fault in the argument; rather the problem you point out is that the concepts it employs such as act and potency, are not susceptible to empirical falsification. In other words, you are relying in the following principle:

    2. From 6 September 2012 at 9:51 am:

    “The only way we can reach a conclusion that is both fair and true is when we can empirically test each one of these speculations.”

    Call this claim P.

    3. I pointed out that there are an actually infinite number of statements, namely mathematical statements or the statements, that are not falsifiable, are true, and even true to a greater degree of certainty than any scientific claim, so P is *not* true.

    4. I pointed that P is actually self-refuting, because P itself is unfalsifiable, so by your own criteria it is pure speculation.

    5. And yet you *continue* to use it as a principle for disqualifying metaphysics. But it gets worse. You fail to provide even the least shred of evidence for it — you are doing exactly what you falsely accuse metaphysicians to do! In the post I am responding to (10 September 2012 at 10:02 am) you respond to my question “Why is the data given by the senses, and thus “empirical truths”, reliable?”:

    “Oh sure, you got me there. Yes, you are right, however I still do not see an alternative. Please show me one. The fact that you can realise there’s a breach and that there may be an alternative is not equal to actually producing said alternative.”

    So not only you use a principle that is invalid by your own criteria, you offer absolutely no evidence for it. And what is more, it is a *metaphysical* claim about the nature of our knowledge. And yet you dismiss metaphysics. Just one example among many, in 7 September 2012 at 10:48 am you write:

    “Not so in Metaphysics, where one can hang their “deductions” so far out of our empirical reality and not be shot down by actual experiments in a daily basis (although we can already make fun of Descartes particular dualism), in a similar vein on how climate modelers are given a pass on their “predictions” of thermaggedon within a hundred years.”

    So you employ a demonstrably false, demonstrably self-refuting metaphysical principle while at the same time decrying metaphysics in all manner of ways, and without offering the least evidence for it. Truly amazing.

    6. Given that P is false, it admits of exceptions. You yourself conceded this and then excused yourself by saying that you “do not deal with absolutes”. But you fail to extract the consequences of this. If P admits of exceptions, in order to disqualify metaphysics you have to tell us why to accept them one *must* have empirical evidence for them in some form. To quote myself from 7 September 2012 at 1:53 pm:

    “Pay attention: there is no empirical evidence, as in none, zero, nothing, in fact, there *can be none*, for the truth of P. By the very nature of P. So P is pure speculation, and by your *own* criteria it should be tossed to the dustbin with everything else that is not empirically falsifiable. Period. So either you are special-pleading or you have to find a criteria for why P deserves a special status that the other unfalsifiable statements do not enjoin. Warning: this was the project of positivism and it failed with a crash and boom. But hey, maybe you can achieve what otherwise brilliant minds like Ayers and Flew did not. And then, in the quoted sentence, you contradict yourself. Again. Because if P is not absolutely true, then since it is a universally quantified sentence, it admits of exceptions and you have just undermined your whole claim.”

    Have you given such a criteria? Of course not. So you have *absolutely* no basis to dismiss metaphysical statements on account of their unfalsifiability. And yet you do.

    I am going to bypass your pathetic attempt at an explanation of change; I will only content myself in saying that it does nothing to respond to Parmenides’ argument. No great loss I am sure, as you yourself find the exercise largely pointless. A question, if you will: do you even know why Aristotle was lead to posit act and potency as objective features of reality? Hint: the reasons are, in one sense, pretty much the same as why scientists posit electrons or *abstract concepts* such as fields or forces to be objective features of reality.

    Here are a few more comments, just for the sake of semi-completeness:

    “‘No it does not become false. 2 + 2 in base 3 is still what in decimal notation is denoted by 4, except in base 3 it is denoted by 11. Changing notation does not change the nature of what the symbols refer to.’

    Epicness or not, it is still false. Just ask the computer, you’ll get an error. Simple as that.”

    Ok, this is beyond crass ignorance. I have just done what you asked in Python, and yup, it returned 11 (= 1*3^1 + 1*3^0 = 3 + 1 = 4) as expected. Not that I need a computer to do it, as I can give a formal proof of everything I stated.

    “‘Yes, you can, but proclaiming it false does not automatically make it false’

    A sentence ten words just too long. Yes I can. Thanks.”

    So this is the level of irrationality you have fallen into. You proclaim by fiat that “you can” make a statement false and lo and behold, it becomes false. Wow. Without even a single argument to back it up. Was not that what you falsely accused metaphysicians of doing? Was not you who said in this very same post that “The fact that you can realise there’s a breach and that there may be an alternative is not equal to actually producing said alternative.”?

    “I’d say a very useful rule, which has given us some problems of their own. For instance, it makes our brain in a really painful stress to understand the double slit experiment. We believe in the experiment, although it does create a contradiction.”

    The double slit experiment in no way implies the falsity of the law of non-contradiction.

    You really have no idea what you are talking about, do you? Ok, here is a logical argument. If the formal system in which you work has a contradiction, which is the case if the law of non-contradiction is false, then by the principle of explosion the system proves *every* single statement in the language of the system: this means every statement and its negative. If in your language it makes sense to speak about the existence of God, then the theory both proves that God exist and it does not exist. Assuming the language can talk about numbers, it both proves that 1 = 0 and 1 not equal to 0. Etc. and etc. In summary, all rational discourse is down the gutter and you can say goodbye to mathematics and empirical science itself.

    If you want to make some progress address the glaring contradictions pointed out in points 1. through 6. above, otherwise we will just be going in circles without getting anywhere.

  73. That one deserves a good reply, mr Rodrigues, since you took the trouble of bring out several quotes of mine throughout the chatter box to get your point accross. I will have little time tonight though, so don’t expect an answer soon enough.

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