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Theoretical Philosophy » Criteria of demarcation » 5/23/2018 7:05 pm

Greg
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This is the entirety of Nicomachean Ethics VI.3:

Let us begin, then, from the beginning, and discuss these states once more. Let it be assumed that the states by virtue of which the soul possesses truth by way of affirmation or denial are five in number, i.e. art, scientific knowledge, practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, intuitive reason; we do not include judgement and opinion because in these we may be mistaken.

Now what scientific knowledge is, if we are to speak exactly and not follow mere similarities, is plain from what follows. We all suppose that what we know is not even capable of being otherwise; of things capable of being otherwise we do not know, when they have passed outside our observation, whether they exist or not. Therefore the object of scientific knowledge is of necessity. Therefore it is eternal; for things that are of necessity in the unqualified sense are all eternal; and things that are eternal are ungenerated and imperishable. Again, every science is thought to be capable of being taught, and its object of being learned. And all teaching starts from what is already known, as we maintain in the Analytics also; for it proceeds sometimes through induction and sometimes by syllogism. Now induction is the starting-point which knowledge even of the universal presupposes, while syllogism proceeds from universals. There are therefore starting-points from which syllogism proceeds, which are not reached by syllogism; it is therefore by induction that they are acquired. Scientific knowledge is, then, a state of capacity to demonstrate, and has the other limiting characteristics which we specify in the Analytics, for it is when a man believes in a certain way and the starting-points are known to him that he has scientific knowledge, since if they are not better known to him than the conclusion, he will have his knowledge only incidentally.

Let this, then, be taken as our account of scientific knowledge.

That is to say, science

Theoretical Philosophy » Verification critera and self-refutation » 5/20/2018 12:36 pm

Greg
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Giving charitable readings is important. But at some point the question arises "Are we talking about the same theory?" A lot of logical positivist work is not at all plausibly read as treating the verification principle as a recommendation, for instance. That's an interesting suggestion, but the logical positivists would turn out to look to be a pretty dishonest bunch if you take them just to be recommending that we exclude unverifiable utterances from the language. Such a reading would take much of the wind out of their polemical sails.

​Likewise if you view them as recommending a new concept of meaning​ which rivals that in ordinary language. For then they seem to be trading on an equivocation. Yes, what folk understand as meaningless, like "’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe," is bad philosophy. But if you want to replace that concept of meaning​ with your own, you aren't entitled immediately to infer from "this is meaningless" to "this is bad philosophy".

​There will be a tension in any account of what the logical positivists are saying which attempts to hold that they are writing about our​ ordinary notion of meaning. For the verification principle is a principle for sorting utterances into the meaningful and the meaningless, on the basis of their verifiability. But how do I sort them? Well, I hear them and understand them; because I understand them, I can judge whether they are verifiable or not. But then my understanding them as meaningful must be prior to and separate from my judging of their verifiability. Relatedly, to judge that something is unverifiable I need to understand it already. There's no such thing as judging Lewis Carroll's nonsense as unverifiable. Because it's nonsense, it doesn't claim anything which may or may not exceed the possibilities of verification. I can only judge "There are undetectable fairies" as unverifiable because I know what it is claiming.

​And as Mi

Theoretical Philosophy » The Modal Problem of Evil » 5/17/2018 2:49 pm

Greg
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The modal problem of evil was also discussed here. Didn't get many replies though.

​At least in the standard modal problem of evil, I think the possibility claim should be regarded as on an epistemic par with "it is possible that the clouds should spell out 'God does not exist' every day, with no evident natural explanation".

Theoretical Philosophy » Is life meaningless without an afterlife? » 5/15/2018 8:38 pm

Greg
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Hard to say. I find it hard to dismiss the "if God is dead, then everything is permitted" thought out of hand. But it also seems tough to take someone whose life is subjectively meaningful--someone who takes his life to be full of meaning--and say that it is not.

​On the other hand, disillusionment is something that happens to some people sometimes. In disillusionment, someone comes to believe that what he took to be a meaningful life in fact was not. It now seems empty to him. We don't do justice to the transition to understand it merely as a change in belief about what is meaningful, because it's a transition to seeing one's prior outlook as illusory, as lacking meaning even then. (One can make a similar argument for an objective standard of a weak sort in ethics, from the phenomenon of regret.) So I don't think subjectivism about meaning is true, and a theory according to which many people with subjectively meaningful lives in fact lead lives without meaning cannot be immediately​ ruled out as disregarding of human experience.

Theoretical Philosophy » Materialist's definition of matter » 5/15/2018 8:12 pm

Greg
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Ouros wrote:

Fair enough. But I l would say that what materialists call dualists and idealists can define coherently what is matter and what isn't, something not avaible to them.

Indeed they can. Aristotle has matter as the principle of potency. Descartes has matter as extended thing. Locke has matter as corpuscles. The materialist, at least, will not think any of those is the correct account of the matter he cares about, though he will need a further argument to reject them.

Theoretical Philosophy » Materialist's definition of matter » 5/15/2018 2:56 pm

Greg
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Ouros wrote:

The more I think about it, the more I think that materialism isn't even wrong.

If that's the case, then the ​denial of materialism also isn't even wrong. You can't take the negation of nonsense, unless you want some more nonsense.

That said​, a materialist might be a (perhaps selective) scientific realist; that is, he might hold that the existence of the entities posited by science is a reason to suppose that some of them exist. And he might hold that one can know, for instance, that there are certain particles out of which everything else is 'built', even if he hasn't situated those particles in a complete theory.

​Another question is what is meant by 'materialism'. If materialism is, broadly, the view that everything is made out of matter, then it will be incumbent upon the materialist to say what matter is and how everything is made out of it. But maybe it isn't a view​ or ​set of theses​ at all, but rather an approach or temperament. Perhaps the materialist is the person who tends to look for reductive explanations or who tends to consult science or who tends to avoid positing what science cannot explain--quite apart from having any general theory about how it all hangs together, or about the fundamentality of the entities he admits.

Theoretical Philosophy » Hylemorphic dualism and the interaction problem » 5/07/2018 10:33 pm

Greg
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John West wrote:

Could this be because a lot of medievals weren't actually realists about universals in the first sense?

Yes, that's right.

Theoretical Philosophy » Hylemorphic dualism and the interaction problem » 5/07/2018 9:40 pm

Greg
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John West wrote:

Neither, I think. The way Armstrong uses “strict identity” (which is the same as “absolute identity”), something is strictly identical if and only if it's both numerically and qualitatively identical.

I see. Thanks. That suffices for my purposes. Even the medieval non-nominalists, on my reading, want to qualify or reject the claim that a universal is numerically identical in each of its instances; a fortiori, they want to qualify or reject the claim that a universal is strictly identical in each of its instances.

John West wrote:

The reason that it's a truism that each universal is strictly identical in each of its instances is that the whole idea behind positing universals is that they account for sameness among different things by the fact that each of the different things have exactly the same entity as a constituent or ontological “part”.
...
Medieval authors used “universals” in two ways. They use it in the sense of whatever can be present in many things (i) wholly, (ii) simultaneously, and (iii) in some appropriately metaphysically constitutive way, or in the sense of whatever is naturally able to be predicated of many (Spade).

​Yes, that is the definition (or near to it) that Boethius gives in his sophistical argument against universals: "common in such a way that both the whole of it is in all its singulars, and at one time, and also it is able to constitute and form the substance of what it is common to" (Spade's translation). His solution to the problem of universals is a qualification of that definition, though. He claims (obscurely) that a universal is the likeness (which he also calls a "nature" and a "form") of numerically distinct things, when thought. The likeness in question is "universal in one way, when it is thought, and singular in another, when it is sensed in the things in which it has its being." He accepts his sophistical argument's premise that nothing is comm

Theoretical Philosophy » Hylemorphic dualism and the interaction problem » 5/07/2018 11:08 am

Greg
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John West wrote:

It's a truism that each universal is strictly identical in each of its instances; hence, if there is a disjunctive relation RvS it's strictly identical in each of its instances. Now, RvS is presumably instantiated in both aRb and cSd, but are R and S strictly identical in each case of its instantiation? Obviously not.

Compare: Fe and Gf, where F is blueness and G is redness. If there are disjunctive universals, then presumably e and f also instantiate FvG. (After all, a disjunction only needs one disjunct to hold.) But are the two instances of FvG in Fe and Gf strictly identical? Obviously not.

Pardon my ignorance of terminology here, but is strict identity numerical identity or is it complete (as opposed to loose) qualitative identity? A quick search around reveals uses of both.

If numerical identity, then that may be a truism (indeed a crucial premise to Boethius's sophistical argument against universals), but it's a truism which at least many of the medieval authors who want to say there are universals would qualify or reject (starting with Boethius).

​If complete qualitative identity, then I find your subsequent claims rather less than obvious. (And the truism rather less than truistic. On the classical account animal is a universal present in horses and in men. But is animality completely qualitatively identical in horses and in men? Is color completely qualitatively identical in blue and red things?) (What would make this seem obvious perhaps is a particular picture of what sort of thing a universal in a particular is. If f i

Theoretical Philosophy » Evolution and Proportionate Causality » 5/07/2018 10:21 am

Greg
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seigneur wrote:

First, supposing that water is just a(n accidental) combination of hydrogen and oxygen, it should be evident that biological organisms are nothing of the sort.

Austriaco is not supposing that water is an accidental combination. He is choosing the generation of water from hydrogen and oxygen as an example of substantial change.

seigneur wrote:

Second, given the more traditional view of water (i.e. that it's a specific stable natural element as opposed to an accidental combination of other more fundamental elements), biological organisms are not analogous insofar as (Darwinian) evolution is asserted. On (Darwinian) evolution, a species can evolve into another, bacteria can eventually recombine into a human, whereas water does not evolve, not by itself anyway. You can cook it so that it becomes vapour, freeze it so that it becomes ice, and do other tricks with it, but that would be you doing it, not water doing it.

Strictly, I think, Austriaco agrees. At some point a lizard generates a non-lizard, on his view. He thinks that what makes this possible is a drift in the material constitution of lizards over time, that eventually lizards come to have a matter which is receptive of the form of snake. But he thinks that when a lizard finally generates a non-lizard, that is, something with a distinct and (let us stipulate) superior form, it must be helped by something without.

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