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10/18/2018 7:57 pm  #1


Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

Why were nominalist, mechanistic, and voluntarist ideas taken seriously enough to eventually have influence? Given the theological and quasi-Aristotelian climate prior to modernity, I find it strange that ideas so contrary to the traditional worldview became so widely accepted. I'm especially thinking of Ockham and his influence.

I have a very rudimentary understanding of the origins of modern philosophical thought, so I would appreciate it if anyone could also direct me to some reputable sources that deal with this question.

 

10/19/2018 5:15 am  #2


Re: Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

Because of the early modern confusion of the a priori, an epistemic notion, with the necessary, a logical/metaphysical notion. This is what lead to Hume's Fork (as he assumed the only prospective form of non narrowly logical necessity was causal necessity) ergo the absurdity of Logical Positivism and towards the idealism of Kant and his followers.

I wouldn't call the modern metaphysical picture nominalist though, as one of the greatest achievements of early 20th century philosophy (Russell, Moore, Frege, Husserl and others) was killing stone-dead the old arguments for nominalism employed by Mill and co.

As for 'Voluntarist' what do you mean? If anything the modern picture from the 17th century onwards has been marked by philosophers trying to smuggle determinism in as a free will under the label of 'compatibilism'. Until Kant there were only a few who protested about this e.g. Reid and Clarke.

Last edited by DanielCC (10/19/2018 5:17 am)

 

10/19/2018 6:06 pm  #3


Re: Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

DanielCC wrote:

Because of the early modern confusion of the a priori, an epistemic notion, with the necessary, a logical/metaphysical notion. This is what lead to Hume's Fork (as he assumed the only prospective form of non narrowly logical necessity was causal necessity) ergo the absurdity of Logical Positivism and towards the idealism of Kant and his followers.

I wouldn't call the modern metaphysical picture nominalist though, as one of the greatest achievements of early 20th century philosophy (Russell, Moore, Frege, Husserl and others) was killing stone-dead the old arguments for nominalism employed by Mill and co.

As for 'Voluntarist' what do you mean? If anything the modern picture from the 17th century onwards has been marked by philosophers trying to smuggle determinism in as a free will under the label of 'compatibilism'. Until Kant there were only a few who protested about this e.g. Reid and Clarke.

With regards to voluntarism and nominalism I'm referring to the shift in late medieval thinking away from the Aristotelian mindset and more towards something approaching theistic personalism--where God's will is seen as something unfettered by essences, final causality, natural kinds. Instead, the divine will in conjunction with omnipotence is viewed as something that could break causal connections, override the constitution of things thus changing what was seemingly their essence or form.

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10/20/2018 2:38 am  #4


Re: Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

DanielCC wrote:

Because of the early modern confusion of the a priori, an epistemic notion, with the necessary, a logical/metaphysical notion. This is what lead to Hume's Fork (as he assumed the only prospective form of non narrowly logical necessity was causal necessity) ergo the absurdity of Logical Positivism and towards the idealism of Kant and his followers.

Are you thinking about "Water is H2O" type of a posteriori necessities? If that's what you were thinking about, I'm not sure to understand why it was the problem.

Wouldn't it be simply empiricism the major problem? The fact that we don't have substantive a priori knowledge, when that idea is a substantive a priori knowledge.

(I'm most probably just showing my ignorance here.)

Last edited by Ouros (10/20/2018 5:19 am)

 

10/20/2018 5:51 am  #5


Re: Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

RomanJoe wrote:

With regards to voluntarism and nominalism I'm referring to the shift in late medieval thinking away from the Aristotelian mindset and more towards something approaching theistic personalism--where God's will is seen as something unfettered by essences, final causality, natural kinds. Instead, the divine will in conjunction with omnipotence is viewed as something that could break causal connections, override the constitution of things thus changing what was seemingly their essence or form.

Come the advent of modernity virtually no non-idealist philosopher has thought this though. Descartes of course does say things like this about God's will but he was in an absolute minority (Leibniz and many others took him up over it very early on).

I find that definition of theistic personalism odd. On the ontological schema put forward by Plantinga and his followers God's Omnipotence does not allow Him override metaphysical necessity (necessity of nature). I agree that Ockham is responsible for that point about causal connections you make but in all fairness he was just drawing out the consequences of the scholastic emphasis on 'causal concurentism' as opposed to 'mere conservationism' (that God was required as an active as well as a sustaining cause, on which, of course, the temptation for Occasionalism raises its ugly head). I agree that Humea inspired scepticism about modality was a disaster for theology though.

So in answer I'd be more incline to blame this problems on the breakdown of understanding regarding the concepts involved (causality and essential properties for instance) rather than a theological change.

Ouros wrote:

DanielCC wrote:

Because of the early modern confusion of the a priori, an epistemic notion, with the necessary, a logical/metaphysical notion. This is what lead to Hume's Fork (as he assumed the only prospective form of non narrowly logical necessity was causal necessity) ergo the absurdity of Logical Positivism and towards the idealism of Kant and his followers.

Are you thinking about "Water is H2O" type of a posteriori necessities? If that's what you were thinking about, I'm not sure to understand why it was the problem.

Wouldn't it be simply empiricism the major problem? The fact that we don't have substantive a priori knowledge, when that idea is a substantive a priori knowledge.

(I'm most probably just showing my ignorance here.)

If Empiricism is just the belief that knowledge stems from experience, as opposed to innate ideas or Kantian cognitive categories, then it in itself is to problem. A huge swath of philosophers from Aristotelians such as Scotus and Thomas, to modern day platonists such as Husserl and the realist phenomenologists would come out as empiricists on this definition.  

The problematic thesis is that experience can never furnish us with knowledge of necessities (ergo they must come from one of the other two sources mentioned both of which proved infeasible).

Ouros wrote:

The fact that we don't have substantive a priori knowledge, when that idea is a substantive a priori knowledge.

You're correct that this claim is contradictory. Another major a priori claim that plays a central role in Hume's metaphysics (in fact he gives it as one of the core points of philosophy) is that if something is conceivable then it is possible.

Last edited by DanielCC (10/20/2018 5:58 am)

 

10/20/2018 6:56 am  #6


Re: Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

RomanJoe wrote:

Why were nominalist, mechanistic, and voluntarist ideas taken seriously enough to eventually have influence?

It's worth distinguishing nominalism and blob nominalism. Nominalism is the thesis that everything is particular; blob nominalism is the thesis that everything is particular and there are no properties or property-instances. Nominalists can believe in tropes (modes, instances, accidents); blob nominalists can't. Ockham was a nominalist, but not a blob nominalist (cf. Adams's William Ockham and Spade's "Ockham's Nominalist Metaphysics: Some Main Themes").

I bring this up partly because I think a lot of the hostility towards the dreaded nominalism comes from people assuming that all nominalists are blob nominalists. A lot of scholastics (including Aquinas) were either nominalists or conceptualists (i.e. thought that universals existed, but only in minds). Partly, to help contextualize the shift that is supposed to have happened between Aquinas and Ockham and Descartes.

(I realize I'm being a bit pedantic in this post, haha.)

 

10/20/2018 7:49 am  #7


Re: Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

Incidentally, Descartes probably never actually read Ockham (cf. Klocker's William of Ockham and the Divine Freedom), and is if anything more likely to have been influenced by later Ockhamists (who often had substantially different views from Ockham). He also wasn't unfamiliar with Thomist ideas. He was trained at La Flèche at a time when it was run by Thomist Jesuits.

 

10/22/2018 8:48 am  #8


Re: Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

I can't help but feel like we haven't really done the title question justice. Here is a reiteration, taking into account some of the replies so far:

1. What is the modern metaphysical picture of reality? (i. the "popular" picture or picture among nonphilosophers. ii. the picture in philosophy.)
2. Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail? (i. among nonphilosophers. ii. among philosophers.)

 

10/23/2018 1:40 am  #9


Re: Why did the modern metaphysical picture of reality prevail?

Let's start with 1 first. What is a modern person's metaphysics and how much of a divide is there between the typical modern philosopher and the lay person? Then we'll tackle 2.

I leave these questions open to others on the thread because I'm not adequately versed in these matters to give confident answers--I'm merely here to glean knowledge from others.

Last edited by RomanJoe (10/23/2018 1:41 am)

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