Saturday, February 04, 2006

J.P. Moreland and Metaphysics

I would love to get some feedback from the moldy thomists of Tu Quoque. J.P. Moreland holds to a univocal view of being. His reasoning for this may be summarized as:

1. Being is either univocal or equivocal.
2. Being is not equivocal.
3. Therefore being is univocal.

Of course our first response is to deny the first premise because there is a third alternative, namely that being is analogical. Dr. Moreland holds that the analogical view is contradictory and he bases this on the principle of identity. According to Moreland, the analogical view holds that there are different levels of existence. By this I think he means that the analogical view holds that things can "sort of" exist. For example, somethings partially exist while other things have full existence. Moreland states, "Something either does or does not have being and everything either has or does not have being." I could be wrong, but I think what he calls the "modes of being" view is an attempt to express the view of us moldy thomists.

So without an analogical option, we are left with a univocal view of being or an equivocal view. Obviously an equivocal view is absurd, therefore we are left with the univocal view. When we say that "Joebob exists" and "My Isuzu Rodeo exists" we are saying the same thing of Joebob and my Isuzu Rodeo. None of us think that "exists" in the first instance means something entirely different from the "exists" of the second instance. And given the fact that a thing either exists or does not exist, it follows that being is univocal.

I don't know how many of you have read "Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview" but for those of you who have, I would love to hear your thoughts on Morelands treatment of ontology in general and on the univocity of being in particular.

Moreland also defines existence as follows:

"Existence is either the belonging of some property or the being belonged to by a property or, more simply, the entering into the nexus of exemplification."

He elaborates saying:

"Consider the statement 'Tigers exist.' This would appear to assert the following: (1) The property of being a tiger (2) belongs to something (an individual tiger, say Tony) ... The claim that tigers exist is the claim that the essence of being a tiger (the what of being a tiger) is actually exemplified by or belongs to something (the that or fact of an individual tiger existing)."

Honestly, I do not get this. I understand the terms and have something of a basic understanding of the metaphysical background here, but to define existence as "the entering into the nexus of exemplification" appears to be riddled with problems. In order for something to enter into a nexus of exemplification doesn't there have to be a "nexus" to enter into? Does this nexus exist? If so, did the nexus enter into the nexus of exemplification? If the nexus does not exist, then how is it meaningful to talk about "something" existing by virtue of its entering into "nothing"?

I would love to discuss this more and bounce some criticisms of this view off of someone. I would be particularly interested in bouncing some idea's off of someone that holds this view.


Anonymous Matthew said...

I’d say that Moreland’s view that existence is an all or nothing affair, and that it is univocal, is fairly standard among metaphysicians. I take it that the “nexus of exemplification” is simply when the properties and some bare substance (haecceity) come together to bring a particular into existence. I have a colleague who is a fan of Moreland’s property theory, but to my knowledge it is a very nonstandard position these days.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize this is provocative, but it is Moreland’s (and Craig’s) presuppositions that animate (to a certain extent) their view of ontology: it is a kind of Protestant Ockhamism transferred to (or projected upon) philosophical ones from theological ones (and vise versa) that is at the heart of their error. Moreover, this error ripples throughout other positions they hold, for example the Kalam argument and ID “theory” (more on this later). It is also, at base, a rejection of Thomism which (apart from their deep Protestant prejudice against Catholic antecedents – see comments to follow this one), ANY philosopher does at his or her own peril.

Consider the out-of-hand rejection of the modality of being in which Moreland holds that an analogical view of being reflects “levels” of existence. Well, that’s wrong. To impose the characterization “levels” upon ontology is to employ “images” rather than “concepts,” and one will NEVER be able to grasp ontological concepts (such as substance) through images. So, when Moreland states, “Something either does or does not have being and everything either has or does not have being,” is to make that mistake, for it simply-mindedly (and dishonestly) avoids defining what substance is in the first place. Without an understanding of substance, no discussion of being can proceed.

Consider the simplest of examples where Moreland’s position is completely unsupportable: the “existence” of shadows. An equivocal consideration of shadows with respect to other beings is incoherent. A proper ontological understanding, on the other hand, recognizes shadows as privations (of light) and thus their mode of being as beings of reason. To equivocate beings of reason (such as shadows – whose “existence” surely Moreland must admit to) with other beings is almost as absurd as a fully univocal view of existents (which Moreland correctly rejects).

You are correct to be troubled by his tiger metaphor, for it is a careless bandying about of the term “belonging to” when applied to properties or beingness as related to existents. Note another important point: the term “related to” as regards the fourth of the four primary categories (out of a total of ten) of being MUST also be properly and understood BEFORE proceeding with ontological descriptions of anything existing. Moreland’s mistake is not only a failure to define terms, but also to relate them.

SUBSTANCE is a philosophical term defined as the primary mode of being. All things are composed of a substance, and so, the very basis of reality lies in substances. Atoms and other particles are real, yet they are only parts of the whole. This is why substance is called the primary mode of being. To repeat a previous point, it is crucial to realize that substance is not an image (or an image-based idea) but rather a concept: one cannot “picture” what a substance is in the imagination. Rather, one must use concepts and logic in any approach to understanding it – and decidedly NOT the metaphorical image Moreland proposes.

In addition to the primary mode of being, substance, all things have secondary modes of beings called ACCIDENTS. i.e., those things that permit us to IMAGINE a being or thing. Accidents inhere in a substance and “give” it physicality. This, of course, is problematic for Moreland: to equivocate between the accidents of being and its substance is absurd. I can place a penny in my pocket, but I cannot place the color “copper” in my pocket… yet both the accident and the penny as such exist.

Apart from the differences in existence of shadows and real beings, just how can Moreland reliably account for accidents? What about the concept of justice, or its privation “injustice”? (One sees not only the man, the baby, and the candy, but also the injustice act.) How can Moreland account for the existence of angels if being is equivocated? Finally, how can Moreland even begin to think about God, i.e., the one whose name is “I AM THAT AM,” the one whose essence is existence itself? Is Moreland comfortable in equivocating God’s existence with ours, with that of our ideas, with a crouching tiger? Yes, all exist. But to suggest that they exist equivocally is facile reasoning at best.

I will dwell a bit on the tetragrammaton YHWH: the classic text in which God discloses himself as the fullness of Being is Exodus 3:14. When Moses asks God (Elohim) what his name is, he replies, “I am what (that) I am (eye hasher eyeh); thus you will say to the sons of Israel I AM sent me to you.”… The Septuagint translation, a translation into Greek by Jews and for Jews, renders Exodus 3:14, “eye hasher eyeh,” with the words, “ego Emil ho On,” meaning literally: “I am THE BEING”… “Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, THE BEING (ho On) has sent me to you.” Here, in “ho On” (Greek: ο ων), the article “ho” (the) precedes the present participle, “On.” (Note: it is not coincidence that the word “ontology” has its root in the Greek word ων, and it is not for artistic reasons that eastern icons depict the ο ων in the halo of Christ; see and Thus, present, ON-GOING act is expressed. There is a definite timelessness and persisting-in-being indicated here that is also found in many other Old Testament texts. So, how can Moreland possibly equivocate God’s on-going, timeless existence with other existents… whose very existence depends on His causal will?

I will comment separately upon Kalam and ID.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Philosopher William Lane Craig fails to prove the existence of God because he limits himself to a distant shadow of what St. Thomas accomplished by grafting St. Thomas’s First Way onto what is at base the medieval Islamic “Kalam” argument (which means “eternal” in Arabic). Craig attempts to argue from modern scientific evidence that the world began in time to the existence of God as the explanation for that empirically established beginning:

… the most frequent objection is that the past ought to be regarded as a potential infinite only, not an actual infinite. This was Aquinas’s position versus Bonaventure… Such a position is, however, untenable. The future is potentially infinite, since it does not exist; but the past is actual in a way the future is not, as evidenced by the fact that we have traces of the past in the present, but no traces of the future. Hence, if the series of past events never began to exist, there must have been an actually infinite number of past events. [William Lane Craig, “The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe,” Truth Journal (Leadership University website),]

Note that what Craig feels is “untenable” is actually spot-on: “By faith alone do we hold, and by no demonstration can it be proved, that the world did not always exist, as was said above of the mystery of the Trinity (Q32, A1). The reason of this is that the newness of the world cannot be demonstrated on the part of the world itself. For the principle of demonstration is the essence of a thing. Now everything according to its species is abstracted from “here” and “now”; whence it is said that universals are everywhere and always. Hence it cannot be demonstrated that man, or heaven, or a stone were not always. Likewise neither can it be demonstrated on the part of the efficient cause, which acts by will. For the will of God cannot be investigated by reason, except as regards those things which God must will of necessity; and what He wills about creatures is not among these, as was said above (Q19, A3). But the divine will can be manifested by revelation, on which faith rests. Hence that the world began to exist is an object of faith, but not of demonstration or science. And it is useful to consider this, lest anyone, presuming to demonstrate what is of faith, should bring forward reasons that are not cogent, so as to give occasion to unbelievers to laugh, thinking that on such grounds we believe things that are of faith.” (Summa Theologica, I:46:2:c. “Faith is not demonstrative knowledge”)

Craig cannot reasonably conclude that the future is potentially infinite unless he accepts a Deist vision of the creation of the world whereby the world is left to operate on its own. Why? The world remains in existence precisely because God wills it that way and (most important) because the order of God’s being is not the same as that of the world. This error stems from a prior more far-reaching and quite crucial error in which Craig has not fully ingested a proper understanding of being as modal (i.e., he accepts the notion that being is a genus), and as a result there is an underlying equivocation between empirical scientific evidence as one mode of existence, and God.

Craig not only has a confused understanding of modal being in his Kalam argument, but he incorrectly argues that being is a genus in the philosophy textbook he co-authored with Moreland (Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, page 188. For a rebuttal see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book I (Of God As He Is In Himself), Chapter 25 (That God is Not In Any Genus), Article 4.) At their own peril, Craig and Moreland disagree even with St. Thomas’s assertion that God’s essence is His existence (page 468) by a prior failure to distinguish between God as knowable and God as knowable by us. See also pages 468-480 for Craig and Moreland’s detailed explication on the Kalam argument where examples from modern science are used (allegedly) to prove the existence of God. The authors believe it is sufficient to operate almost wholly in the modern scientific realm to justify their conclusion, while earlier having argued that by using St. Thomas’s approach it “is difficult to show that things are, in fact, contingent in the special [metaphysical] sense required by the argument.” Unfortunately, they end up throwing the baby out with the bath water, and leave themselves open to the attacks of modern empirical science.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intelligent Design

A similar (confused!) situation obtains from the current debates over whether Intelligent Design Theory as a science versus Neo-Darwinian theories are adequate explanations for life to have arisen on earth. The former claims to be a science by attempting to expand the meaning of empirical science beyond its adequacy and capacity to describe and predict material entities and physical phenomena. ID manifestly is not a science but rather uses science (quite effectively) to criticize the explanatory failings of Neo-Darwinism. Science is not about inferring design but rather about seeking explanations as demonstrated through causes. Inferring design (as opposed to inferring causes*), in fact, lies within the competence of natural philosophy—whose very nature is to be informed by the observations and predictions of science to infer beyond that of which science is capable. ID’s crucial error is in believing it can use only modern science to reason to something beyond science, and as such it will always fail to convince those using evidence and reasoning from the natural sciences. Neo-Darwinism, on the other hand, implicitly assumes that methodological naturalism (which is exactly the correct approach to be taken by the modern sciences which, again, do not and cannot infer design) and supports metaphysical naturalism as the only possible way by which to understand all of reality—which is a monumental non sequitur.)

(* Science, of course, does infer causes: the famous case of a prior unseen-Pluto influencing the orbit of Neptune as well as the case of the undetected-neutrino in beta decay—for which an apparent violation of the conservation of momentum had to be accounted. But science cannot infer design because design is not in the same metaphysical “category” as material entities and physical phenomena, i.e., design as cause and cause as physically-based are two different things, with the former clearly containing an aspect of the teleological.)

To borrow from a comment I recently posted on Summa Philosophiae blog: one of the presuppositions of Craig’s argument (and which is, incidentally, a fatal flaw in the arguments of ID theorists) is he believes he can use the results of modern empirical science ALONE to reason to the existence of God. That’s wrong and it flows (partially) from his rejection of the modality of being. Modern empirical science can and does provide us with data and descriptions of physical reality (i.e., science addresses questions of “how?). However, it takes natural philosophy (and common sense) to interpret those data and descriptions and to reason to the existence of the First Cause (i.e., natural philosophy address the question of “why?”). IDers indeed are guilty either of (1) using science alone to argue to the existence of an Intelligent Designer or First Cause (which, as just stated, is impossible), or (2) manipulate or change the bounds of modern empirical science to suit their needs. They end up getting it wrong and doing a disservice to science, natural philosophy, and frankly, to God.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Matthew Graham said...


Thanks for your thoughts! I hadn't thought about the implications a univocal view of being has on the kalam and design arguments. Do you know of any books or articles where Moreland lays out his reasoning for a univocal view of being? (Other than Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview)

2:51 PM  
Blogger davis said...

JP Moreland's book 'Universals' explains his view of being in greater detail. Also, Philosophia Christi Volume 6 Number 1 from 2004 has a critique of Moreland's book by William Vallicella.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Good post Matt. I like your timing too for I was just reading Philosophical Foundations this weekend. I myself am inclined to accept the notion of degrees of being or existence but then there are other days...
I think Moreland (and I may be wrong here) may accept the Frege-Russell view that existence cannot be a (first-order) property and that the existential quantifier is the "all-or-nothing" of whether a thing exists.
But it seems to me that we can speak of degrees of being in the same way we think of genunieness. Something is more genunie when it is closer in the right sort of way to the ideal or paradigm, whatever that is. Something then can be said to have a greater degree of being or existence if (in some metaphysical way) it is closer to Being or Existence itself. Since God is Himself the Paradigm Being then anything other than God can be said to have a lesser degree of being.
But then again. I may just be plain wrong.

I should add that I think the anonymous poster is being a little unfair to Craig. The Kalam's appeal to contemporary cosmology to shore up the second premise (i.e. "The Universe Began to Exist") is a quite reasonable use science. Moreover, I don't think Craig would insist that the Kalam "proves" that God exists. All the Kalam needs to do is to show that there are good reasons to believe that God exists.

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I’m commenting at an inconvenient distance away from my copy of Craig and Moreland’s textbook (and so cannot immediately reference it), there are other statements that may be readily referenced to support the contention that Craig uses the Kalam argument as a proof of the existence of God. Consider, for example, the very last line of Craig’s on-line essay “The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe” ( “Therefore, on the basis of the kalam cosmological argument, I conclude that it is rational to believe that God exists.” This goes beyond the hair-splitting distinction that, “All the Kalam needs to do is to show that there are good reasons to believe that God exists.” Moreover, this is not to speak of the many bloggers and websites who do not understand the nuances of Kalam and yet site Craig’s argument as if it were a “proof” of God’s existence.

Craig, I fear, is closer to a kind of Bertandian logicism than he may care to admit. Why? Because he uses logic as THE recipe based on empirical observations of the world to allegedly “prove” God’s existence… all while NOT importing into the picture full ontological considerations. But (per my earlier comments), this is not surprising, for how can he escape his own methodology? If he rejects a proper modal ontology, he’s stuck trying to prove the existence of God with mere empirical observations and logical beings of reason, i.e., the crude equivocation of God to mere logical beings of reason and empirical data necessarily forces him into that corner. It is not logic qua logic that “proves” (let alone demonstrates) the existence of God. Rather, logic, as the methodological science, is a tool that directs our thinking (our knowing the modalities of being) to certain truths. Logic cannot trump ontology, for logic is based upon our observations of being… in all the richness of its modalities.

Metaphysical materialists and naturalists have outmaneuvered the likes of Craig, Dembski, etc., simply by doing what they do best: focusing on the evidence of modern empirical science as the alleged epistemological arbiter of all human knowledge. Craig, Dembski, and the like have fallen for this trap: they assume they can fight the intellectual battle on the field of modern empirical science. But they cannot, and their failures to do so are there for all to see. They elevate science beyond its capacities because they think science can infer design. For the umpteenth time: Modern empirical science cannot infer design, nor should it be forced to do so. Modern empirical science seeks causes of material entities and physical phenomena.

To counter the claims of Dembski, Behe, Meyer, etc., there is nothing wrong at all with modern empirical science being methodologically materialist in its character and approach to studying nature. But, philosophically, there’s everything wrong with an extrapolation from this methodological materialism to a metaphysical materialist world view. Why? Valid descriptions of the material/physical world (i.e., addressing questions of “how?”) do not lead on their own to (to say nothing of “justify” or “validate”) the preposterous, non-scientific, monistic claim that all of reality is material (which can only be addressed by the question of “why?”).

Moreover, just because modern empirical science cannot “see” design (or causality or substance or, etc.), does that mean design does not exist? Of course not. But this is PRECISELY one of the unfortunate outcomes of Craig’s (and Moreland’s) equivocation of being: they literally flatten modality of being into one plane. By this equivocation they (ironically!) open the door for scientism to sneak in: if all being is of one mode, then all being is observed by the tools and methodologies of that one mode. Which tools and methodologies are perceived “most successful”? Why “scientific” ones, of course! And what further problem arises from this? An epistemological one: if modern science is successful at addressing an equivocal ontological reality, then modern scientific knowledge is the ONLY valid form of knowledge. Craig and Moreland and the IDers literally end up aiding and abetting the philosophically inept metaphysical materialist position, precisely because they choose to battle on the limited playing field of modern empirical science.

In today’s world it is unconsciously accepted that if something is not “scientifically verifiable” or “measurable” (such as “beauty” or “justice”) it does not count as “real” knowledge. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise us, for we live in a culture saturated with science and powerful technological applications. We pay an overly high tribute to modern science while other forms of intellectual inquiry label themselves “scientific” -- when, in fact, their mode of inquiry is not modern-scientific in either methodology or goal. But this is precisely the thinking behind whose who gripe, “Why can’t philosophy and the other humanities be more like science?” In our everyday language, for example, we habitually employ the adjective “scientific” as a synonym for “true,” “excellent,” “dependable,” etc. Why is this? Who ceded to modern empirical science an entitlement to determine what counts as knowledge? Unfortunately, Craig, Moreland, and Dembski are doing just that. How? To repeat: by denying ontological modality, they limit their epistemological choices.

Metaphysical materialists/naturalist know all to well what is at stake: Daniel Dennett (the real post-Sagan intellectual leader, rather than Richard “if I could only hate faith even more” Dawkins) and Richard “anti-realism” Rorty realize all too well that if the world is not simply monistically material, then their positions collapse in an instant… hence, why they fight so strongly against critical realism and modal ontology. Funny bedfellows, that: Moreland and Craig agreeing with Dennett and Rorty on the non-modality of being! This may be harsh, but it seems to me Craig and Moreland’s (but especially the IDer’s) quest for scientific validation hints at a deep uncertainty in their faith. No one should need Kalam or ID Theory to validate their faith, or even to make it “reasonable.” Faith is “reasonable” on a much deeper basis than the flat anti-modal-being arguments of Moreland and Craig, or the pseudo-science of ID Theory. Faith must rest upon the Triune God, not merely on scientific and logical “proofs.”

If I may be so bold: Arise all ye Thomists of the world! Metaphysical materialism and its positivistic minions are nothing more than paper tigers whose roars leech upon the successes of the modern empirical sciences! Do not be dismayed or dissuaded by those who have succumbed to modern empirical science as a validation for their faith: reality is much richer than those who find comfort in flatland…

2:55 AM  
Blogger davis said...


You quoted Moreland as writing, "Existence is either the belonging of some property or the being belonged to by a property or, more simply, the entering into the nexus of exemplification."

If I'm not mistaken, Moreland also defines a substance as 'the being belonged to by a property.' He seems to lump 'existence' and 'existant' into the same definition as well, confusing the act of existence (definite article) with an act-of-being (indefinite article).

6:07 AM  
Anonymous Fleenar Mavis said...

I really enjoy your thoughts on this, but you're moving a bit to fast for me. I have questions on both your kalam and ID comments.
Kalam- I guess I just don't see how Craig is making the mistakes you see him making. Can you elaborate a bit on how Craig is using logic as "the recipe"? It seems to me like he is using logic to structure the argument, science to get the second premise and common sense to get the first (he spends very little time defending this principle).
ID- Your points on how ID is the result of the denial of modes of being is much clearer to me here, but it isn't clear to me why a Thomist couldn't agree with ID and leave off the bad metaphysics. If we agree that design is not properly in the realm of modern science, couldn't we hold that it is at least manifest there? It can be "seen" from there, but is not properly found there?
Last, I don't think Craig's efforts at arguing for God's existence show a weakness of his faith. I have read enough of Craig and spent enough time with him to reasonably discern he has a very sincere and deep faith. Instead, I think think his positions show what he thinks to be true of the world and how we reason about it.
Looking forward to your answers.

7:10 AM  
Blogger chris said...

You guys need to lighten up a bit. Moreland once had to be corrected when he claimed that St. Thomas was the smartest man that ever lived. (We know, of course, that even St.Thomas is a distant second to Jesus.) So don't think JP is dismissive of Thomas. Also, anyone who would use "Foundations" as their target is committing a straw man fallacy. Please read JP's primary texts addressed to professional philosophers. (Davis mentions a few.)
Xavier is exactly right about Craig and the KCA. Anon. is not reading Craig clearly -- you seem too eager to dismiss. This is clouding your judgment and revealing a disordered soul.
But, you are quite articulate and astute. I learned a few things from your posts. Thanks.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi FM:

Thanks for your questions. I’ll start with the second one. There’s a subtle yet important distinction I drew about the nature of ID Theory which isn’t about a Thomist agreeing or disagreeing with ID per say.

The first point of this distinction is that ID Theory cannot properly claim it is science in the sense of one of the modern empirical sciences. Why? Because ID first calls itself a modern empirical science and then proceeds to do something modern empirical science cannot do, to wit, infer design -- which is NOT something modern empirical science can or ought to do.

ID seems to be on the right track in terms of using science to criticize neo-Darwinism on scientific grounds. That’s fine. That’s great, in fact, and to the extent that it can rally good scientists to question the empirical scientific (forensic or otherwise) claims Darwinists make, and to the extent that it can do so successfully, then I will continue to be interested in following its progress. But note that in such a case, since it does NOT offer an over-arching (theoretical) empirically scientific (i.e., testable) alternative, it is not so much a science but a group or movement of strong scientists who have legitimate doubts about the scientific validity of Darwinism.

The second point of the distinction is a NOTA BENE: what ID does offer is out-of-bounds for any empirical science qua empirical science: it concludes that an intelligent designer must be responsible for the complexities observed in nature because nature by itself cannot (they claim) give rise to such complexities of its own capacities. I happen to be convinced by the evidence they present… at least for now. BUT (and this is crucial), as soon as they make that claim (correct or not), THEY INFER DESIGN RATHER THAN SEEK CAUSES. At that point, ID is no longer acting in the capacity of a modern empirical science but as a sort of natural philosophy.

So why not more properly call themselves natural philosophers? First, because then ID will no longer be able to be taught in science classrooms… and the Discovery Institute will have a lot to answer for in front of their donors. Second, I strongly suspect that because of the modal equivocation of being lurking (consciously or subconsciously) in the background of IDer’s minds (which means modern empirical scientific observations and methodologies indeed validate all knowledge), this pushes them to incorrectly (and, I might add, without hope) to attempt to battle empirical scientists on their own turf using non-scientific tools of philosophical inference. That’s why, as much as I despise the philosophically fraudulent worldview known as metaphysical materialism (implicit or otherwise) driving many Darwinists, these Darwinists are spot-on when they claim ID is fraudulent as a science. It IS fraudulent as a science, because (as I’ve explained above and earlier) it simply is not science… period. Third, given the situation just described, IDer’s get into more hot water (making things far more confused) by illicitly trying to reinvent modern empirical science to include inference of design. That’s wrong and IDer’s should be brought on the carpet for this -- especially by Thomists, who should recognize such an illegitimate attempt to mold science to fit their goals.

In the end, even if we are able to shave away all the childish name-calling by Darwinists of ID being the BB of Creation “Science” under new management (no, ID is not another form of creation “science”… as if creation qua creation (i.e., ex nihilo) could be studied by the modern empirical sciences in the first place), we’re unfortunately left with (1) IDer’s trying to change modern empirical science to suit their needs (a big point against even honest IDer’s who don’t know better), (2) people of faith putting their trust (yet again) into something that fails undue expectations, which has the sad result of hurting some people’s faith; (3) giving more impetuous (directly or indirectly) to the public understanding of “science” as indeed (yet quite incorrectly!) being the epistemological arbiter of all human knowledge; and (4) emboldening materialists and naturalists to have a hey-day and pulling more unsuspecting people into their illegitimate world view.

In the interest of full-disclosure, yes, I’m angry with the inept approach (but not the scientific challenges posed by) IDer’s in promoting a much-needed nipping at the heels of Darwinism. But, I’m also equally miffed by solidly-trained natural philosophers (especially Thomists) for not entering the fray because of fears of modern empirical science as a seemingly insurmountable force.

So, finally, to address the last points of your second question, no: ID is not manifest in the empirical sciences. Certain empirical observations that seem to question the scientific basis of Darwinism are there, but not design. Design can only be seen through the eyes of natural philosophy and common sense. The onus is for scientists skeptical of the scientific claims of Darwinism AND natural philosophers together to provide the overall response. Divided, they will be conquered.

Regarding your third question, what Craig thinks about the world is at the very least (as shown previously) incorrect regarding the modality of being. From that ripple far-reaching errors that further color his worldview. On the one hand, I don’t doubt the sincerity of his faith. What I do maintain, unless shown otherwise, is that if a man of faith RELIES on scientific arguments to more than buttress that faith, then there seems to be a deep insecurity about that faith. (Note another reason why I’m uncomfortable with Craig’s overall projection of his position and methods: Immanuel Kant’s philosophical attempt to define “religion within pure reason” seemed to eliminate any notion of a divine revelation to which the Church was accountable…) One can be, after all deeply sincere and yet quite insecure. I realize I’m treading on thin ice because we’re talking about matters of personal character as well as philosophical errors. For this reason, I will step back and defer to your personal knowledge of Craig and his faith. But, this ironically buttresses my argument from another perspective: faith is a personal encounter with God and it is a gift of grace. As such, to employ scientific and logic arguments as central to faith is dangerous because “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). What possible conviction even of material entities and physical phenomena can a scientists have if he can’t see (i.e., empirically observer) them? How much more so, then, is it true that scientific and logical arguments simply don’t cut it in terms of faith? What could science possibly demonstrate to me to make me believe? Would that really be faith? I’m am a trained scientist and a trained philosopher, but as helpful as they are in providing fleeting glimpses into what faith is, it is ultimately faith itself that supports the other two: to me it is faith that seeks understanding (Fides Quaerens Intellectum!) more than the other way around.

Finally, to your first question: it seems to me (although I may again not have been clear) that the responses I provide to your second and third question address your first question. If not, I apologize… although at this point I’m not sure I’ll try again… my thoughts will need to regroup.

Thank you for your questions, and God’s speed to you!

To Chris: I’m not sure I can agree with you. I’ve read the relevant and related sections of the Foundations quite carefully, and it is not at all easy to dismiss the errors contained therein. Rejecting the modality of being is a very big error, no matter how smart one believes St. Thomas to be. Also, the reference to JP’s “primary” text really doesn’t work considering the context: text books have an impact far beyond an author’s primary texts on the average student or autodidact (by that, I do NOT mean “average” in a condescending manner). A student taking a course using the Foundations will not catch what is that important (although admittedly highly-nuanced) error. Finally, regarding my “disordered soul,” I have more evidence of the truth of your assertion than I care to adduce here. However, your assertion, whatever else it may be, is also an ad hominem attack and not a refutation of the arguments I have presented. Nevertheless, I do accept your words and will continue to dwell upon my style (of which readers of this blog are not no doubt aware wrt to my earlier dealings with Dr. “Logic”), all while thanking you for the kind words you shared. Thanks.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Matthew Graham said...


Thanks for the references. I have "Universals" and I am reading through that. I didn't know that Philosophia Christi had a couple of articles critiquing Moreland. I am going to order that volume today.


Thanks for your responses! I have a great deal of respect for Moreland and Craig, but coming from a Thomistic background, I am somewhat critical of his view.

You said,

"it seems to me that we can speak of degrees of being in the same way we think of genunieness"

I actually agree with Moreland when he says that something either exists or does not exist, but I deny that this necessitates a univocal view of being. My understanding is that things can "be" in different (analogical)ways. Perhaps there are people who hold to a "modes of being" view that think that there are degrees of existence, but that is not my view.


Even though I only quoted from PFCW, that does not mean that I am not reading his more technical books like "Universals" and "Christianity and the Nature of Science". What I find interesting is that even though Moreland used the doctrine of analogous God talk to respond to Kai Neilson's acognosticism, Moreland denies the doctrine of the "analogy of being" that underlies analogy in our God talk.

I wouldn't accuse Moreland of being unfamiliar with Aquinas. But that does not mean that he always portrays Aquinas correctly. There are people who are more familiar with the works of Aquinas (i.e. Gilson, Garrigou-LaGrange, Maritian, etc.) and they disagree with some of Moreland's interpretations of Aquinas.


I especially liked your first post. However, I too am a bit skeptical about your criticisms of Craig and Moreland's use of science in their apologetic task. I completely agree that scientism is folly, but Moreland and Craig do not restrict knowledge to "that which can be known through science". In fact, they both argue strongly against that sort of non-sense.

Could you elaborate on what a "modal view of being" is? I am trying to follow your argument for how a univocal view of being limits one's "epistemological choices" so as to rule out one's ability to make supernatural inferences from scientific evidence. I don't know that I understand your notion of a "modal view of being".

2:06 PM  
Blogger Doctor Logic said...

I think J.P. Moreland is on the right track.

When I say that there is a coffee cup on the table in the next room, I am making a claim about a pattern of sensation that may be observed. I cannot then speak of the existence of the coffee cup without any of the empirical attributes of the coffee cup, e.g., its topology, its ability to hold coffee, its shards once having had the empirical attributes of a cup, etc. There is no such thing as the "essence (or spirit) of coffee cup" that has not one empirical attribute of a coffee cup. Therefore, I think we should consider being to be an identifiable pattern of sensation, mental or otherwise.

(Traditionally, when we ask if something exists, we ask whether there is a correlation between a pattern of mental sensation and a pattern of physical sensation.)

Since physical theories are patterns, we are justified in saying that things like photons exist, because the world exhibits a pattern consistent with the theory.

I agree with Anonymous that ID isn't science. However, I would add that ID isn't even explanatory as yet. An explanation is a law of cause and effect that tells you why what you observe must be the case. The consistency of a theory with observation is not sufficient for the theory to be called an explanation. A consistent, non-predictive theory is merely a restatement of one's observations. It explains nothing and is indistinguishable from the absence of explanation.

Materialism recognizes that the term "supernatural" is just a synonym for inexplicable.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Matthew Graham said...

Dr. Logic,

Thats interesting that you think Moreland is on track. It's almost comical really. He is a realist in the neo-platonic tradition! Your ontology couldn't be much further from his. Have you read anything by Moreland?

5:18 PM  
Blogger Doctor Logic said...


The likelihood of my agreeing with a leading Christian apologist are vanishingly small!

I know next to nothing about Moreland. I'm just speaking to your short summary of his views on existence.

If existence is equivalent to the identification of a sensory pattern (mental or physical), then the appropriateness of term 'nexus' seems striking. Most patterns are correlations between sensations, conjunctions, if you will.

Of course, my personal concern is with the executability of any recipe for labeling things as existent. I would be surprised if Moreland were interested in restricting discussion to executable recipes.

What do you think?

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Ahh… another beautiful day for philosophizing! Thanks for your questions. I’ll try to respond to the ones you pose, and at the same time to also respond to FM’s first question (posted earlier) which, by the end of my previous comment, received little justice.

First, I never stated Moreland or Craig hold a univocal view of being (which is essentially the error of Parmenides. In fact, I commended JP for not holding it. The error they make is an out-of-hand a priorirejection of the analogousness of being, and hence settle on equivocating across the entire spectrum of being.

[Note: I’m assuming the crucial differences (and the difference it makes) between univocal, equivocal, and analogous terms are familiar to the readers of this blog. Absent a clear understanding of these concepts (and therefore the ability to distinguish between terms as used in the language of discourse), it’s impossible to proceed with the point I’m making.]

Consider the following simple example: (a) a SHADOW, (b) the BRONZE [accident] SUNDIAL [substance] casting the shadow, (c) the CONCEPT representing the essence of the theory of the operation of sundials as “held” in the mind, (d) and then the visualized IMAGE of that sundial, (e) the HUMAN who conceived of, designed, and constructed the sundial, (f) the guardian ANGEL protecting this designer’s life, and (g) GOD Himself who sent the angel. Now, few would deny the existence of at least some of the capitalized entities just noted (metaphysical materialist’s cries of “foul!” notwithstanding… for now). Moreland and Craig would also not deny their existence. But can anyone reasonably deny (even if not aware of the subtleties and nuances of philosophical discussions of beingness) that there is something fundamentally distinguishable between the existences (the “beingness”) of these entities? Moreland and Craig DO deny that difference: for them these entities exist and that’s all that need be considered. (I exaggerated… but only a bit and only to drive home the point.)

The error of equivocating over beingness, i.e., where being is held to have only one mode of existence (which, by the way, remains vague in their descriptions when contrasting properties vs. the being “possessing” those properties), is, in fact, a very grave error, and this cannot be overstated. Why? (This is where I address your “modality of being” question.)

Consider the equivocation of beings of reason (such as theories of the operation of sundials, or better yet, logical entities such as “predicate” or “category”) with an actual sundial. IF these beings are equivocally the same, then there can be only one approach to studying and understanding them. (I’ll leave aside the obvious absurdity of equivocating God’s existence with that of the rock Charlie Brown received in lieu of Halloween candy.) Modern empirical science is a wonderful means by which to discover truths about the physical universe, so it can tell us a LOT about sundials, the sun, etc. But what can modern empirical science possibly tell us about “predicate”? Nothing. (An aside: if a neuroscientist asserts that the concept of “predicate” is merely the complex firing of electrochemical signals across the neurons of the brain (reducing a concept to material beings), then he has (allegedly) “explained away” what a predicate is, and hence his own ability to use predicates for formulate his assertion becomes meaningless.) In fact, modern empirical science presupposes, i.e., it can only operate with the methodological science of Logic in place PRIOR to science in order to permit us to reason (employing the tools of science) to conclusions about the physical universe. What about “angels”? What about concepts qua concepts? What about the color “bronze”? How can science explain that I can place a (small) sundial in my pocket, but cannot place a “bronze” in my pocket? Doesn’t the color “bronze” exist in some capacity?

Modern empirical science jettisons by definition from the full explanatory force of philosophical arguments two important causes: formal and final, while limiting itself to the material and efficient. (Note, mathematics does employ the formal cause, but only in a very rarified way -- relying on the first accident of real being (continuous quantity as extension and discrete quantity as number).) But that’s okay. Modern empirical science must jettison these in order to do its job effectively, for the same reason it must jettison any considerations of supernatural or natural influences beyond the control boundaries of its experiments. (When one conducts experiments, one hopes to isolate them from human influences, for example.) There’s nothing wrong with this.

What is wrong -- VERY WRONG, however, is for a scientist to cross the line into philosophical conjecturing WITHOUT consideration of the full ontological impact of the other two causes. Not to pick on him, but that’s why Dr. “Logic” is so crucially incorrect in most of his claims: he believes science IS the epistemological arbiter of all human knowledge. But EXPLANATION (i.e., this exists as it does be-CAUSE…) cannot be limited to the material and the efficient causes alone. To assert that only these two causes count as a fully valid and necessary EXPLANATION is (1) scientism, (2) incoherent given that science (again, by definition) is a limited method for acquiring knowledge, (3) and a non-scientific assertion in the first place! To repeat: just because modern empirical science cannot “see” or explain substance, virtue, causality (writ large), predicates, etc., etc., is not a bad thing. BUT it is a VERY BAD thing for science to assert or “explain away” such entities. Furthermore and strictly speaking, that is why modern empirical science does not really “explain” things in the fullest sense. What it does do is “describe” the physical world quite well… and we can thank God for that.

Now, back to Craig and Moreland: by rejecting the analogousness of being (the modality of beingness), they are stuck with using the limited tools of modern science to “explain” something that cannot be and should not be “explained” by modern empirical science. This is why I claim (quite ironically) that they open the door for scientism to sneak in: if they limit themselves to scientific explanations by virtue of rejecting the analogousness of being (recall: one explanation fits all in such a limited world), what else can they offer? They may, of course, cry “foul!” (As you note: “[they] do not restrict knowledge to ‘that which can be known through science.’ In fact, they both argue strongly against that sort of non-sense.”) But what good is crying “foul!” if they’ve rejected modal beingness? They MUST by their own assertion employ ONLY the tools of modern science and mathematics: they believe being is equivocal, therefore explanations across all equivocal beings must be the same, therefore the tried and true tools of science can be used… and Dr. “Logic” and other positivists, materialists, naturalist, and all manner of anti-metaphysicians, are perfectly correct in rejecting their arguments. What possible room is there for philosophical explanations if only “observable” data is acceptable: if being is equivocal, why introduce extraneous explanations, beings, conjectures, when the tools to explain material beings MUST (by their logic) NECESSARILY be sufficient?

So, you have on one side metaphysical materialists who are blind (in intellectual terms, quite literally so) to other causal explanations. You have those like Craig and Moreland who are mute (because they cannot “vocalize” with explanatory instruments unable to vocalize in the first place), trying to get their message across only with words. Yes, I’ll admit, my analogy limps like most analogies, but it does provide food for thought.

Finally to relate this to what Xavier mentioned earlier: “All the Kalam needs to do is to show that there are good reasons to believe that God exists,” well, that’s not quite correct for the purposes at hand. First, if Kalam “shows” something, there’s no need to “believe” it… which is precisely my point about undermining faith (per Hebrews 11:1). If God could be “proved” by Kalam, well then eventually everyone would “know” God and belief would be superfluous. But Kalam is only a distant shadow of St. Thomas’s First Way because St. Thomas doesn’t “prove” the existence of God directly. Rather, he reduced the contrary position to the absurd (showing the impossibility, the chaotic consequences, i.e., the contradictory nature of the contrary position) and hence forces us to the inescapable ONTOLOGICAL conclusion of the existence of the First Unmoved Mover. That’s why the Catholic Church correctly understands that one can come to know of the existence of God through human reason. As Peter Kreeft very succinctly notes: “It is a dogma of faith that the existence of God is not just a dogma of faith.” To counter atheists: isn’t it ironically delicious that the Catholic Church dogmatically defends the ability of human reason to arrive at a knowledge of the existence of God?

Who cares, in fact, whether Craig shows the universe must have been created by relying on the observations of science? You can find all sorts of ridiculous “scientific” responses to this, and both sides keep talking past each other. Consider Quentin Smith who in one reference argues ““There is sufficient evidence at present to justify the belief that the universe began to exist without being caused to do so,” (Quentin Smith, “The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe,” Philosophy of Science, 1988 (vol. 55, no. 1): 39-57; available on-line at ( while later apparently arguing FOR the universe to be caused… BUT: “I argue that the timeless, uncaused, simple, independent, necessary and transcendent being that causes space-time’s beginning to exist is not God but a spatially zero-dimensional point,” (Quentin Smith, “Time Was Created by a Timeless Point: An Atheist Explanation of Spacetime,” in Gengansall and Woodruff (editors), God and Time, (New Work: Oxford University Press: London, UK, January 2002), page 96, with the text available at Seriously, fiction writers are put to shame: this kind of stuff is HARD to make up! How about physicist Victor Stenger: “… we can avoid an infinite regress. We can just stop at the world. There is no reason why the physical universe cannot be it’s own first cause.” (Victor J. Stenger, “Flew’s Flawed Science,” Free Inquiry, (February/March 2005, vol. 25, no. 2), The physical universe is its own cause?!? In other words, the universe existed before it existed?!? Finally, how about physicist Mano Singham from Case Western Reserve who denies that science is “goal-directed and thus progressing toward the ‘truth’... [T]o be valid, science does not have to be true.” (in “Letters to the Editor,” Physics Today, June 2002, page 51) Huh?!? A scientist against the truth content of science?!? Goodnight, sweet prince! I’m cataloging a lot more examples of this type of anti-scientific, anti-philosophical, anti-reasoning lunacy.

Whew! That’s enough for now… I’m all thunk out... and so early in the morning!

6:59 AM  
Blogger Matthew Graham said...

Dr. Logic,

I am glad that you like to discuss things on this blog. I think most of what you say is wrong, but I am glad that you are a participant in our discussion.

I am curious though. We talk a lot about metaphysics on this blog. You don't think metaphysics is real discipline. Rather you think that metaphysics is an obsolete mode of thinking. Why try to engage in metaphysical discussions? If I didn't believe that metaphysics was fruitful, I would not spend a great deal of time talking about metaphysics.

Concerning Dr. Moreland's views, I would love to hear your thoughts on his views after you have read some of his works. Or at least after you have read a text on contemporary realistic metaphysics. I would be interested in hearing a positivist's responses to contemporary metaphysics. I might actually agree with some of your criticisms.


It's all becoming more clear now. But what an odd paring of ideas: thomism and presuppositionalism?? (or perhaps reformed epistemology)??? You don't seem to be the typical presuppositionalist. From your discussion of the analogy of being and whatnot I assume that you hold to something of a thomistic epistemology. If so, I don't know how you would be a presuppositionalist????

Thanks for your further elaborations. However, I still think you are lumping Craig and Moreland into a group in which they don't belong.

You said,

"I never stated Moreland or Craig hold a univocal view of being"

Ok. I said that. Moreland specifically says that being is a genus. Now, that may lead to the problem of Parmenides, but his stated belief is that being is univocal. I imagine that when you say that they "settle on equivocating across the entire spectrum of being", you are pointing out the consequence of holding a univocal view of being and holding that there is real multiplicity in the world. The classic problem of the one and the many.

I agree with your criticisms of their univocal view of being. All thing DO NOT exist in the same way. I don't know how they could possibly solve the one and the many problem.

I may part company with you when you criticize Moreland and Craigs use of science. Some of your criticisms about empirical science overstepping its bounds are almost identical to the arguments Moreland makes.

Moreland even grants that the object of study should determine the methods of inquiring about that object. So Moreland does not think that empirical science is adequate for the study of all things. He is very interested in deliniating between the sciences and then synthesizing them. In other words, he is not ignorant of the distinctions between the sciences.

It's possible that Morelands univocal view of being may leave him without a metaphysical grounding for distinguishing between the sciences, but be that as it may, he is not a logical positivist. Nor does he use the same means to study animals and properties. I don't agree with Morelands starting points (i.e. attribute agreement) or all of his methods of metaphysical investigation or his metaphysical convictions, but regardless of this fact, he does make clear distinctions between empirical science and philosophy.

I also agree that the use of the 4 causes (Aristotle) or the 6 causes (the medievals) has long been forgotten. I also agree that science it limited in its domain, but again I don't think that Moreland is subject to these sorts of criticisms. Craig and Moreland make cumulative cases for the existence of God. Their cases include scientific finds and philosophical reasoning. They make more use of philosophy in their overall case for the existence of God.

You said of Moreland and Craig,

"they are stuck with using the limited tools of modern science to “explain” something that cannot be and should not be “explained” by modern empirical science."

Could you give an example of where they restrict themselves to the tools of modern science in arguing for substance dualism or the existence of God?

You said,

"what good is crying “foul!” if they’ve rejected modal beingness? They MUST by their own assertion employ ONLY the tools of modern science and mathematics"

There are much worse consequences to holding a univocal view of being. If all being is univocal, you fall into the problem of parmenides and you should probably become a mystic, not a philosopher. If you want to point out the logical implications of Morelands view of being, take it all the way to it's logical end. Why stop at "Well now they can't do philosophy" If being is univocal, they should become monists! The subject / object distinction is obliterated.

What I am getting at is this, even if we can show that Morelands view of being should lead to strange absurdities, it doesn't follow that he holds those absurdities. Perhaps he is inconsistent. He's not omniscient, so it is possible that he is inconsistent.

But even if he is inconsistent, he does agree with us on a number of issues. We can't claim that his position is false because he can't support it metaphysically. He views concerning the distinctions of the sciences may be completely sound even if his general ontology is not. And his general ontology may be inconsistent with his rejection of logical positivism, but his inconsistency does not MAKE HIM a logical positivist.

You said,

"If God could be “proved” by Kalam, well then eventually everyone would “know” God and belief would be superfluous."

So you don't accept the "proof" vs. "persuasion" distinction? If you can't persuade me that the rock I am kicking exists, does that mean that it's existence can't be proven?

You said,

"St. Thomas doesn’t “prove” the existence of God directly. Rather, he reduced the contrary position to the absurd (showing the impossibility, the chaotic consequences, i.e., the contradictory nature of the contrary position) and hence forces us to the inescapable ONTOLOGICAL conclusion of the existence of the First Unmoved Mover."

I would love to hear a defense of the idea that the Five ways are actually transcendental arguments. :)

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


With all due respect, may I suggest you have a partial understanding of the terms I’ve used? I apologize for what may seem an overly-pedantic approach (I’m not trying to lecture you -- bear with me, the Craig/Moreland punch line is near the end), but may we agree on the following:

(1) A concept can be both that which is understood (intellectual knowledge, the so-called objective concept) as well as that by which the thing known is understood (the so-called formal concept).

(2) Just as a concept is the internal representation of a thing’s essence or “whatness,” so a “term” or “word” is the external sign of that concept.

(3) A sign is anything that represents to a knower something other than itself.

==> With these meanings clear, we can then expand upon the distinction between a concept and the term that signifies that concept: a concept is a sign of the essence of the thing apprehended in extra-mental reality, whereas the term is the sign of the concept

NOTE: For now, there is no need to get into the three types of signs.

(4) There are three types of terms that signify concepts: univocal, equivocal, analogous.
(a) univocal -- signifies the thing represented by one and the same concept (man signifies all men as identified in one and the same concept of human nature);
(b) equivocal -- signifies things represented by several essentially different and unrelated concepts (the bark of a dog is essentially different from the bark of a tree; one can write with a pen and one can be kept in a pen... usually equivocal terms are monosyllabic)
(c) analogous -- signifies a concept that has unity of proportion (a dog is "healthy" [state of the dog], dog food is "healthy" [what causes the dog to be in a state of good health], a dog has a "healthy" coat of fur [what the dog possesses])

So, stepping back for a moment, I think you can see why considering being as a univocal term is absurd. (By the way, Parmenides’s mistake is more than not just differentiating between existents: he literally believed all differentiation was an illusion (even the illusion of the illusion was an illusion to him!), and that there was only ONE existent... PERIOD!) Moreland’s and Craig’s mistake, equivocating over being -- while understandable in its superficial attractiveness -- is also incorrect: while all existents share something, i.e., they “are,” they have “beingness,” to equivocate would be tantamount to asserting a prison cell (pen) has the same “beingness” as a writing instrument (pen)! In other words, just because they exist doesn’t mean they exist in the same way or even with the same level of “beingness.” How can a being of reason, such as “predicate” (which only enjoys “existence” in the mind) have the same “beingness” as a sundial or a human? Clearly, it cannot. The trick, of course, is to find a linguistic tool that permits a clear portrayal of the proportionality of being... and this is where analogous terms come into play. That’s why God, whose essence is His existence, is proportionally “more” real [God is, in fact, reality itself: He is THE REAL THING (no apologies to Coca-Cola).] than a human whose existence (his beingness) is not equivalent to his essence (his whatness). To say a human being “is” -- that he exists -- is one thing. To say “what” a human being is (a rational animal), is something quite different: one must be predicated of the other, i.e., a rational animal is standing at the train station.

However, what I’ve just explained is not rigorous enough. We need more.

(5) A genus (which is a logical universal, i.e., a being of reason and therefore a second intention) is a predicable (that upon which definitions are constructed), and one of the five predicable is “genus.” A genus is a universal said of many differing in species, i.e., “what is it?” when it addresses whether the being before me is a rational animal or a brute animal. (For a bit more completeness, the second predicable, “species” addresses the question “what is it?” of many that differ only in number, i.e., when considering the two men standing in front of me, I distinguish them as Socrates and Plato as species of the genus “rational animal.”)

(6) The first thing any human being knows is being and non-being. This concept (see above) of being comes prior chronologically AND analytically (hence, why the ONTOLOGICAL Principle of Non-Contradiction is the most basic certitude that is completely unchallengeable). This concept gets modified as we acquire more knowledge, but all else is nevertheless posterior to being. NOTA BENE: the being just described that everyone comes to know is NOT to be conflated with being as studied by metaphysicians (and certainly not with the new-age garbage “metaphysics” one can pick up on dime-store racks!). Metaphysicians study being qua being: positive being that enjoys extra-mental existence independently of man’s knowing, in other words with whatever has essence.

Why is what I just said true? Consider the following examples: (1) Peter is; (2) Uncle Sam needs you; (3) Definitions abound. Only Peter can be said to “be” without qualifications; Uncle Sam exists but only so far as he can figure in sentences like the second one; and “logical” beings of reason like “definition” do not and cannot enjoy extra-mental existence. ONLY that which enjoys extra-mental existence has “essence” (that whereby a substance or accident exists) or “whatness” or “quiddity” and therefore can be known by a (healthy) knower without qualification, whereas beings without essence need (to be crude) a little “coaching” or teaching or experience to be “known.” So, can you see the proportionality in these beings? Yes, they all exist, but it is a huge mistake to believe they exist in the same manner, i.e., with the same level of “beingness”... which is exactly Craig and Moreland’s error.

I mean, how can Moreland reasonably claim being is a genus? To claim being is univocal, we’ve seen, is absurd (and Aristotle nicely dispatched Parmenides’s idea to the philosophical dustbin: if you haven’t studied that argument, I assure you it’s well worth the effort). But let’s be even more rigorous: the term “being” cannot be equally predicate of accident and substance. How could they? Consider: an accident can only exist (inhere) “in” the substance (the copper color of the penny cannot exist independently of the penny or the copper wire or the Crayola crayon). The inability to predicate being equally of accident and substance is precisely why being cannot be a genus. Why? If being were a genus, then accident and substance would have to differ in something other than being. But what is other than “being”? “Non-being,” of course... but that is a trivial outcome: for substance and accident to differ in non-being is no difference at all! I think you can see that it follows that neither can “being” attributed to substance and accident equivocally (how can color, in terms of its beingness, be equivocated to the beingness of the being in which it inheres? Clearly, it cannot. So, we’re left with the (correct) analogous predication. Why? Again, proportionality: the meaning of “beingness” as said of accident includes its meaning as said of the substance, but not conversely (a penny is copper-colored, but copper-color is not a penny or “pennied”).

Whew! Okay. I’m going to necessarily skip a lot (buses don’t wait!) to get back to my assertion that Craig and Moreland inadvertently invite scientism to sneak in even though they adamantly oppose it, but I think enough has been covered to state the following (I borrow from today’s posting by Shulamite): Different sciences have different ways of defining what they study: some define hypothetically, others define according to the proper meaning of the word, others define things in order to make them more apt to be measured well. Each science demonstrates according to these definitions: metrical sciences demonstrate through measurements, hypothetical sciences by confirmation of hypothesis (hypotheses are essentially experimental, since by nature they are predictive—if __________, then this will happen.)

What this means is the methodological science of Logic studies one thing, mathematics another, physics yet another, metaphysics studies being qua being, and theology God. “Science” in its widest sense is mediate intellectual knowledge arrived at by demonstration, and in terms of explanation employs all four (or six) of the causes. But since each science studies different subject matters, each will have its own methodologies and employ its own tools. (Astronomers don't use pipets!) So that is why any of the modern empirical sciences are limited in their explanatory abilities: they focus exclusively on the material and efficient causes.

Here’s the punch line wrt Moreland and Craig: since they equivocate over the range of being, they’ve reduced attainment of knowledge to that observable by the senses. That’s a necessary outcome of their logic: beings of reason such as “predicate,” real beings, images, concepts, etc., etc., all get reduced to one type of beingness. How do you demonstrate the existence of something in such a limited world? Well you measure it or observe it? Can one, then, measure “meaning” or “justice” or “predicate” or similar concepts? No! Do they then exist for the strict metaphysical materialist scientist with positivist notions animating his worldview? How can they? Do you see, then, just how grave an error equivocation of being is (apart from its incoherence as noted before when applied to the example of the existence of a shadow)? Craig and Moreland for some reason felt compelled to prove their point using the data of modern empirical science: maybe because modern science is so “sexy” and carries so much “authority” and is “objective”… except, of course, in South Korea where scientific data is faked to support claims of human embryo cloning, or in the former Soviet Union (a philosophically-materialist based ideological system!) where genetics was set back 50 years by Lysenko, or consider the references at the end of my last comments, or, etc. ad nauseum. And, yet, no scientist worth his salt is listening to them (unless that scientist is relying on more than his science)… but is this surprising? Is it surprising that ID Theory is failing on the scientific front? Not at all. The same mistakes are made: it’s so transparent that it would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high and the damage wrought to people's-of-faith expectations and trust in Dembski et al are so nastily dashed. (In my teacup I’M the captain of my tempest!)

Again, whew! I’m sure I’ve missed a lot for skipping other vital concepts… but, again, buses don’t wait. Hopefully, I haven’t confused things even more. I’ve had enough for now… and maybe for awhile. I hope I’ve addressed at least some of your questions. The others will have to wait for TBD.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Doctor Logic said...


I am curious though. We talk a lot about metaphysics on this blog. You don't think metaphysics is real discipline. Rather you think that metaphysics is an obsolete mode of thinking. Why try to engage in metaphysical discussions?

A few reasons.

I think it's important to challenge ideas. Not just yours, but mine, too. Answering challenges forces me to refine my own positions. I think we all accept certain propositions as true without due diligence, and sometimes those propositions turn out to be false.

The other reason I like to participate is to understand why my counterpart holds his/her positions. It's one thing for someone to be wrong, it's quite another for someone thoughtful and smart to be wrong. Is there a language confusion? Has one side or the other not thought things through completely? Does the difference in opinion boil down to a difference in taste?

I once got into a discussion with some folks about whether or not theism was rational. Before entering the discussion I would always have declared theism to be irrational. However, as I attempted to explain in writing why theism was irrational, I realized that I had been wrong. Being forced to think through the issue, I was better able to appreciate the differences between logic and rationality.

Rationality must be logical, but rationality operates on empirical facts of our respective personal tastes. It would be irrational for me to simultaneously assert that my pleasure should be maximized, that I dislike cherries, that I have no need to eat cherries, and that I should eat cherries. Likewise, I can imagine scenarios in which it is rational to be a theist. For example, a man who regards life as only having value if his version of theism is true (and hence there being no penalty for being wrong), then his theism is rational for him. Two perfectly rational people can disagree, even when presented with the same "objective" facts because they also factor in subjective facts. (Of course, in a consistent world, two rational people should not disagree when only objective facts are admitted.)

In short, I want to know whether one of us being inconsistent, or whether we're both being rational, but we have subjective cause for disagreement.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Matthew Graham said...


Thanks again for your response. I don't mind reading through lengthy explanations. I appreciate the time you took to state all that you stated. However, I don't have any disagreements with what you said or how you defined concepts, signs, univocity, equivocity, etc.

I am not wholly unfamiliar with these terms. I am aware of the distinctions you made and agree with them. (genus and species, predicaments and predicables, 3 acts of the intellect, 1st and 2nd intentions, levels of abstraction, nature is essence as it relates to a things activities, etc. I even agree with you in your prioritizing of non-contradiction when ordering the three great logical principles)

I even agree with your criticism of Craig and Moreland in that their view of being leads to HUGE problems. However, I don't think you actually answered my questions. I won't go back and ask them again, but I would love for you to elaborate on the following:

You said,

"since they equivocate over the range of being, they’ve reduced attainment of knowledge to that observable by the senses. That’s a necessary outcome of their logic"

Two questions/comments:

1. What I don't understand is how this follows?? Your entire paragraph after this statement; I don't see how it follows from the distinctions you've made. Your elaboration was on points that I am familiar with. What I am not familiar with is how these principles necessarily lead one to the conclusion you gave in the above statement.

2. Even if this is the logically necessary outcome of their view of being, it doesn't follow that they carry their view out to that logical end, nor does it follow that because their view logically leads them to restrict themselves to the tools of modern science, (a conclusion I am skeptical of for reasons I'll share if you like)that they in fact only use the tools of modern science. In fact, they don't restrict themselves to the tools of modern science. That being the case, it seems better to either criticize them for their inconsistency (between their view of being and their not restricting themselves to the tools of modern science) or to criticize their view of being as such. I appreciate your criticisms of their ontology very much. I found them concise and well said! You, however, insist on going beyond a criticism of their general ontology to criticize their use of science in the demonstration of the existence of God. That is where I am questioning you. I apologize for not being terribly clear about this in my previous post.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


No reason to apologize, I now understand what your question “targets.” Please accept my apologies for overemphasizing the terms of discussion rather than the subsequent direction taken… although, in my defense, I did mention I was taking a risk by skipping a lot. I will try to be more clear.

With respect to my long comments (people are dying to get into my lectures just like people are dying to get into cemeteries), you must understand that I AM a sound-byte free zone, and I pride myself in being able to say in a single paragraph that which takes most people an entire sentence. I have written on this extensively elsewhere…


Anyway, Craig and Moreland… Here the statement I made which you (correctly) focus upon: “… since they equivocate over the range of being, they’ve reduced attainment of knowledge to that observable by the senses. That’s a necessary outcome of their logic.”

It is the manner in which being is understood that is central to how we approach understanding the world, in other words, the ontology must the epistemology: something has to be before one can understand it. If one holds a univocal understanding of being, then one is forced (eventually) to the position of Parmenides: all is one. If one holds an equivocal understanding of being (i.e., all beings have the same level of “beingness”) then there is only one approach to obtaining information about the world around us: by empirical means through the material sciences. Why? What other approach can there be? If (1) rocks are observed and studied (as real beings) in the same way (2) predicables are observed and studied (as beings of reason) as (3) the accident “circular” is observed and studied (as a pretereal being, per Maritain), would not the same methodologies and tools be used across the board precisely because they are all (it is alleged) the same level of being. i.e., of one modality?

Why study concepts any differently from the way we study falling rocks? They are, after all (as claimed by those who equivocate) the same kind of being (meaning: at the same “level” of beingness). And, if those tools and methodologies (which happen to be those of the modern empirical sciences) fail to observe or measure a “concept” or a “predicable” or “substance” or “accident,” or if these objects or study cannot be reduced to complex electro-chemical patterns generated by the brain (therefore observable in some manner by modern empirical science), then (as most scientists animated by metaphysical materialism and positivism do), then they simply do not exist. Period. Again, not to pick on Dr. “Logic,” but that is the error which animates his thinking. I’ll admit, once he has made that a priori (and I emphasize: non-scientific) choice (i.e., that material and efficient causality are necessary and sufficient to describe the world by means of science and mathematics), then he is, in fact, quite logical in his thinking… WITHIN the bounds of reality he has chosen.

[[[ Digression as a memo to Dr. “Logic”: That’s why I chase you so hard: NOT on your science, but on your interpretation of the observations of modern empirical science, which is itself based upon non-scientific presuppositions, and which you can’t imagine to be otherwise. Science or mathematics cannot assert, for example, all that all existents are matter if one cannot define what matter and existence are in the first place. And this is not even to mention the self-referential (i.e., fallacious nature) of using modern empirical science to validate modern empirical science and its methodologies. To (again) borrow and paraphrase a bit from Shulamite: (1) PHYSICS understands “matter” as “whatever takes up space [in philosophical terms, “has” the accident of extension] and has mass,” and this definition permits measurement (collection of empirical data based only on mass and data, all else is excluded by definition), which in turn may be correlated into equations that permit prediction. The PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE, understands matter as “that out of which things are made,” and proceeds to tackle the “that” in the definition, i.e., to understand the “whatness,” the quiddity, the beingness of matter.

NOTA BENE: It does not address the issue but simply postpones ad infinitum the question to suggest matter is “made of sub-atomic” particles. Why? First, because it begs the question of what (in turn) sub-atomic particles are made of; second, it presupposes matter is the only relevant consideration -- which is mildly self-referential; third, it avoids the issue of what properties of matter are (properties of matter are different manifestations of matter?!?). It would be like saying that because water is “made of” two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom” that it is not really wet, or because the color red represents a certain frequency of light, it is not really (wink, wink) red. (Ahhh, yes, the lovely notion of “emergent properties” upon which so much hot air has been wasted… probably enough hot air to supply Ukraine and Georgia with all their energy needs for the next 10 years and keep them energy-independent of Russian gas!)

The wetness of water and the redness of red are existentially prior to their physical composition, just as you are a person (no matter what your age, health, mental state, etc.) existentially prior to and not simply a collection of 10e26 atoms. Why? Because there is something that subsists in you and in water and in paint that is ontologically distinguishable from the accidents which inhere therein. That thing which “subsists” is termed by philosophers “substance,” and substance is not (I underscore) an object of study to which modern empirical science attains: it is the object of study of metaphysics. Of course the color red exists, and it is not simply reducible to something measurable like its wavelength. Think about it: doesn’t it sound silly to assert (or worse, define!) that the color red is only electromagnetic radiation of about 650nm wavelength? Just where is the “redness” in that? Oh, you say the “redness” is the patterned manifestation of complex electro-chemical in the brain as initiated by 650nm wavelength light on the optic nerve? Really? Doesn’t that sound suspiciously similar to someone asserting that the “sadness” of a tragedy as depicted by actors in a movie projected onto the wall is fully “captured” by peering into the movie projector as it operates and measuring the physical characteristics of the plastic film as it rolls past a strong light source? Of course redness exists… but it does not exist in the same way the substance in which it inheres exists: per the previous comment: the paint is red [note the word “is” implies existence… of some type], but the red is not “paintiness.”

This strongly (inescapably, in fact) implies that “paintiness” and “redness” are two different modes of existence, which Moreland and Craig deny. The trick in describing what redness is and what its mode of existence is to find the best possible and most exacting language that permits explanations of what “substance” and “accident” are, and this is the language of metaphysics -- not the language of modern empirical science. Metaphysics, indeed, looks to modern empirical science for data, but then it takes that data and applies what is (at bottom) common sense to understanding it. Metaphysics or philosophy writ large then are able to offer scientists in turn a certain “groundedness” in reality that helps them avoid making foolish non-scientific assertions like “the mind is reducible to the brain.” Physics is one type of science, metaphysics is another type of science: each provides an understanding of matter and both provide “mediate intellectual knowledge through demonstration,” but each according to a particular type of middle term in a syllogism, which is provided by different methodologies and tools.]]]

Okay, sorry for that long digression, but it was important, and supports a continuation of responding to Matthew’s question: for the reasons noted above, this is precisely why Moreland and Craig (by their equivocation over being) are in error. No matter how much they protest and oppose scientism by proposing other supposed “better” means, they have inadvertently invited scientism in through the back door. They are their own worst enemies, because any competent scientist will simply apply their own “meta-rule” of equivocated being: if all beings are of the same “beingness” then I as a scientist should be able to observe a concept in more or less the same way and by the same methodologies as I observe a falling rock. (Quick side note: without the existence of natures or essences as intrinsic principles of action and change, “nature” can mean only the total collection of all material entities moving around in space. The laws of nature, therefore, can be nothing more than nominal descriptions of how the material parts relate to each other over time.)

IF, on the other hand, one can demonstrate that being is an analogous term as applied to existents (and this demonstration can only happen employing philosophy -- which already hints at ways of knowing beyond the simply monistic material), then this opens the door to a much wider and deeper understanding of what is around us and of ourselves.

Bear with me while I expand a bit more: Because of what has just been stated (as well as for other reasons), it is extremely important to distinguish the methodological differences between natural philosophy, metaphysics, and the (modern) natural or empirical sciences. Presupposed, of course, is that each of these disciplines exists and that they are formally distinguishable from each other. The point is crucial for metaphysics which has as its subject matter things that can exist in or without matter, i.e., being as being—which means being is not limited to material being. But how is this demonstrated?

That, in fact, is the rub: a modern empirical scientist would employ methodologies, tools, and language which, no matter what, could not “see” that which is not sensible in the first place. Is this by itself sufficient to demonstrate that the immaterial does not exist except possibly as concepts in the mind? No, for the presupposition in such a case would be that existence is sufficiently and necessarily determined by being material. Moreover, this presupposition itself is not a claim of modern empirical science, which means it would fail its own test—if that were the only test. Nevertheless, the point is well taken and quite valid: until and unless we know there are some existents that are not material, it must be assumed that material being and being are reducible to the same thing, and that metaphysics is an empty discipline.

A logically coherent, sound, and convincing demonstration is required if it is to be validly maintained that some existents are immaterial, and this demonstration must depend on certain true premises about material beings. Furthermore, the existence of metaphysics as a distinct discipline will be determined by such a demonstration, although the “input data” must be obtained from the modern empirical (natural) sciences and mathematics -- disciplines whose existence and validity are uncontested. St. Thomas holds that the philosophical demonstration known as the First Unmoved Mover in Aristotle’s The Physics as well as the continued existence after death of the human soul as demonstrated in Aristotle’s De anima together provide a necessary and sufficient basis upon which to claim with philosophical certitude that to be and to be material are not identical. (Note to Dr. “Logic” -- neither the existence of the human soul nor that of the First Unmoved Mover are presuppositions: they are demonstrated starting from common sensory data (call it empirical data, if you like), but the subsequent knowledge which is reasoned to is not sense knowledge. These demonstrations are worth a separate discussion, but I can assure you they are not dismissible out of hand.) For this reason, the study of being as being can designate a subject area broader than the subject of natural philosophy and certainly far broader than the subject areas of the various modern empirical sciences and mathematics. Moreover, this also provides the rationale for utilizing “being” as a term to reflect the various modes of existence of objects under consideration.

Whew! Okay, to (hopefully!) summarize: of course Craig and Moreland don’t restrict themselves (generally speaking) to scientific arguments. What I do assert (again) is by the very fact that they equivocate over being, the only acceptable basis (acceptable, that is, to metaphysical materialists) for the Kalam argument Craig (in this specific case) is able to provide are a series of premises sufficiently confirmable by sensory observations, i.e., modern empirical science. Why “acceptable” to metaphysical materialists? Because of the very ground rules Craig and Moreland have set up through equivocation over being: IF all beings are of one “beingness” (i.e., of one modality), THEN the science by which one obtains knowledge of such beings is modern empirical science because they are observable, measurable, etc. (as I hope was clearly explained above). So, looking at the Kalam argument, can one honestly say that the premises are exclusively accessible to modern empirical science? Judge for yourself:

(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
(2) The Universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the Universe has a cause of its existence.

Take only the first premise: note how loaded it is with the non-empirically-scientific terms “cause” and “existence” (in philosophical terms, the ontological import is huge.) Yet without defining these in terms acceptable to metaphysical materialists (again per Craig’s own equivocation), there’s simply is no moving forward. What is “existence” to a metaphysical materialist? That which is observable by the senses. What is “causality” for a metaphysical materialist? That which is observable as leading to effects. Are these the definitions which metaphysicians understand “existence” and “causality”? Of course not, as I’ve explained above. Can Craig provide non-empirically-scientific definitions in his Kalam argument? NO!! He equivocates over all beings, and therefore can only permit sensory observables. Scientism rules!

Did that make sense, and was I able to respond to your question?

ID Theory does something very similar without validating its bona fides: it uses science (quite nicely!) but to infer design rather than seek causes: modern empirical science seeks to describe material entities and physical phenomena with its own tools. Natural philosophy tries to provide explanations (writ large), which may include inferences to design. ID Theory is a disordered mixture of both, and the result is terrible. Then, by sleight-of-hand, neither scientists nor metaphysicians worth their salt accept ID Theory as presented, ID theorists try to re-define modern empirical science to include metaphysical causal explanations in order to get to their desired conclusions. Balderdash! Talk about assuming the consequences. They’re trying to come up with an all-encompassing theory, when they either don’t realize (or are selectively inattentive to the fact) that various sciences already exist to do their jobs, and that philosophy is there to provide an overall explanatory “sanity check.” They try to do the job of philosophy, and then demand to be called a science worthy of school classrooms. Sorry, not in my backyard will they dump such half-baked ideas. The good thing is, they’re on the right track in terms of criticizing neo-Darwinian Theory, but the bad thing is they do so with scientific tools when they should be using science to (1) criticize Darwinism on scientific grounds and (2) helping philosophers to provide data by which Darwinism MUST be criticized on philosophical grounds when it strays away from science to make non-scientific assertions, to wit, Daniel Dennett’s and Richard Dawkin’s ridiculous assertions that Darwinism explains religions away. Get your act together and do not fear employing philosophical arguments, gentlemen IDers, and I will be much more willing to listen. And, Thomists: where are you? Why do you fear to face the paper tigers (pussy cats, really) of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett? Because your arguments are, ahem, non-“scientific”? Puhleeez…

6:25 AM  
Blogger Doctor Logic said...


Thank you for outlining some of your criticisms of my positions.

Your argument sounds much like the common argument that qualia, i.e., what it feels like to experience X, are not captured by a detailed scientific analysis of X.

However, aren't qualia the experiences of X as felt by Y via sense Z? If so, it is not surprising that a detailed scientific study of X fails to adequately describe the interaction of X with a specific Y through Y's sense of Z. (Even a detailed aggregate scientific study of the lowest common denominator effects of X acting across many Y through their senses of Z would be insufficient.)

This would seem to apply to your movie analogy because the sadness of a movie for me is its effect on me, so no reductive analysis of the movie (or its method of storage and projection) alone can reveal how I will experience it.

I'm not arguing that experiencing a thing is identical to experiencing its scientific description. A study of both object X and observer Y may reveal every detail about the way Y will react to X, but it may be impossible for observer Y' to experience X exactly as Y did. Y experiences everything in the context of all past experiences of Y, so Y' cannot experience X like Y without becoming an exact copy of Y.

Since every person is a different configuration of matter, we should expect every person should have a unique experience of any given phenomenon. Physicalism doesn't evade this issue, it embraces it. However, physicalism is most productive when considering more tractable problems wherein substantially all observers agree on common aspects of an experience.

Do you think my response makes sense in answer to your qualia argument?

Is your definition of substance founded on this distinction between a material thing and the experience of that thing?

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. “Logic”:

Sorry for not responding earlier. A good friend of mine passed away last week, and I’ve been out of sorts for awhile.

To respond to your first question: No, your response does not make sense for at least two reasons: (1) it’s directed at a straw man -- what you term a “qualia argument” which you allege I’ve posed; (2) the explanations you use seem to rely on terminology readily available on the web that is (selectively extracted from Wikipedia, for example) that are ultimately and broadly based upon the serious philosophical error known as Idealism. This is clear from the very way you pose the issue: you focus upon the “experience” (loosely termed “idea”) rather than upon the object being considered. If it is assumed one cannot focus upon the object known but only on the idea of the object, then no possible discussion can result -- epistemological considerations are dead in the water. That is why ontological considerations (which you have rejected a priori in other comments on other postings) are extremely important.

(My immediate challenge to you: please use only empirical scientific data to support your belief that the idea of the object known is the epistemologically correct (valid) way of knowing the object as such, and support this only by employing the descriptive methodologies of modern empirical science.)

How can we discuss the “it” if we can only know the idea of the “it”? Moreover (to counter your distinguishing between the experience and the scientific description of the experience), both of these are (again, loosely speaking) merely ideas of the object known rather than the object itself. So, why draw such a distinction in the first place? The real distinction is between the object and the idea of the object. (Note: I’m not even getting into the important distinction between images or phantasms as arising from sensory experience and the essence of the object as known by the knower.)

To summarize briefly your latter error (which is a much more serious than the former): It is incorrect to believe that what we know are not objects of study themselves but our images (on the one hand) or our conceptions (on the other) of them. In fact, ideas are not what we know (except reflexively as second intentions), but that by which we know things. Why? If the only thing we knew were are ideas, then we would be forever trapped within our minds, and (among other things) there would be no basis to believe even the observations of modern empirical science. Why? Well, if all we know are our ideas (which, again, is at the basis of all forms of Idealism), then observations, in fact, mean nothing. If all we know are the ideas or images, then what observation is possible? You may claim that images and ideas must derive from sensory data. Fine, but that’s simply an unsupported desire rather than a demonstrated truth, and it’s a monumental begging the question of just what an idea is in the first place.

The thing that may be puzzling you appears to be the following: a yellow rose on the other side of the street cannot physically enter your mind to make itself directly known to you, nor can your mind leave your body to “wrap itself around” a distant nebula in order to understand it directly. So, what you believe is that by some manner (likely through transfers of energy of different types that stimulate your senses), your senses pick up impressions of the object (but not the object itself, obviously), transfer themselves into your brain, and are mysteriously somehow “understood.”

But tell me, what does it mean for complex electrochemical signals crossing neuron synapses to “understand” anything at all? Please tell my “why” grey matter understands rather than merely telling me “how” it understands... when, in fact, the latter presupposes the former is in place. What is the difference between a lump of sugar being able to “know,” to “understand” anything and grey matter doing the same thing? Echoing back to my earlier comments: if all being is of one mode (matter, matter, and nothing but matter as the materialist mantra goes), how can matter “know” anything? Simply by virtue of the fact that some matter is more complex than other matter (some matter is more equal than other matter)? Come on... that’s dishonest, isn’t it? Don’t you think you have to first understand what it is to “know” in the first place? And, in answering this, you should be able to tell me why a lump of sugar can’t “know” while grey matter can – even though they are all of the same beingness, i.e., matter.

[Digression and repeat for emphasis: If all we can “experience” (you word, but you may use “perceive” if you’d like) is our “ideas” of things; whether anything corresponds “out there,” extra-mentally, to these “ideas,” is something we can never actually know. If such extra-mental objects exist, we simply cannot know them, because they are physical entities, and the mind is restricted to the mental, the psychical, the ideal, in all its processes. As far as the mind is concerned, its objects have “beingness” only in so far and so long as they are “perceived”: esse est percipi (“to be is to be perceived”)... which is precisely your positivist worldview expressed by other means. This idea, this “being” is then not physical, but ideal; and since it proceeds from, and resides in, the mind as its “subject,” it is subjective. Per this notion, therefore all objects of our knowledge are ideal and subjective, because they are mental products. This notion, that the mind in its knowing can know only its own “ideas” or “experiences,” is Idealism. NOTA BENE: there is not the tiniest hint of empirical science supporting such a notion. You may protest otherwise because you have “data,” but you have not explained (i.e., interpreted that data, i.e., answered the “why” rather than simply the “how”) the notion... which is actually a doctrine or worldview accepted but not demonstrated as sound and true.]

Continuing, your position appears to be that things cannot exist in reality unless perceived or experienced. This can be put in the form of a syllogism:
(1) Ideas or sensations cannot exist unperceived;
(2) But sensible objects (yellow roses, lumps of sugar, etc.) are ideas or sensations;
(3) Therefore, sensible objects (yellow roses, lumps of sugar, etc.) cannot exist unperceived.
The fallacy lies in the second statement (the minor premise): on what basis is the claim made that a yellow rose is exclusively the idea or sensation or experience? Moreover, does this fallacious statement address the state of the yellow rose when it is not being perceived by a human? Don’t you think this Berkelian issue needs to be addressed, or is it simply hand-waived away?

I’m hoping that these comments and my earlier ones to this post, if they don’t answer your questions, at least they indicate to you the world is not as “empirically-scientifically” black-and-white as you are led to believe, or which you purposefully establish before demonstrating. After all, it is your non-empirical-scientific claim “every person is a different configuration of matter” that begs the question, “ONLY matter?”... and hence ONLY accessible by the limited (albeit powerful) tools and methodologies of modern empirical science. You demand “proof” but you a priori only accept knowledge accessible to empirical science: you impose epistemological limitations without justifying those limitations, e.g., by the very way you pose the “qualia” straw man. Is it only the “qualia” (the “experiences” using your word) that we know, or are we capable of knowing more? Moreover, why should anyone believe the efficacy and soundness of physicalism if you’re only willing to admit physical data acquired by the modern empirical sciences to support your position... isn’t that a self-referential argument? We’ve gone over this on other occasions -- no need to repeat it here.

With respect to “my” definition of substance: First, it is not “my” definition, but Aristotle’s and St. Thomas’s, so before approaching this subject please make sure you at least understand WHAT substance is. And, if you reject that philosophical understanding of WHAT substance is, before limiting that understanding to empirically-scientifically-accessible data, make sure you can support exactly WHY modern empirical science is the epistemological arbiter of all human knowledge. Second, I guess you can see why your question is posed incorrectly in the sense that it leaves many considerations aside. In any event, I’d like to end this rather long set of comments on this post. I have other things to do... Happy Valentine's Day.

4:57 AM  
Blogger Doctor Logic said...


My condolences for your recent loss.

I realize you're about done with this, but, just for the record, I wanted to answer your comment.

The reason that I start from experience first is that experience is what is most fundamentally empirical. My experience is not only prior to everything else, but it encompasses all the thoughts of which I am aware. The only meanings I will ever grasp exist in this realm of experience. To my mind, whether things "exist" independently of my experience of them has to be a secondary consideration.

For example, if I see a purple rose, how could I ever know that it has an existence independent of me? What does my question even mean? It can only mean that there is something about the way the rose interacts with my other experiences that makes it distinguishable from a dream of a rose. I simply have nothing else to go on.

you focus upon the “experience” (loosely termed “idea”) rather than upon the object being considered.

I think this is the step I find unjustified. I cannot grant a pattern in my experience that attribute of "otherness" unless I have grounds to do so. That is, I cannot meaningfully introduce a property/category unless I have some recipe for applying it.

Your objection to my position seems to be that its acceptance would render the discussion of objects somehow meaningless:

If it is assumed one cannot focus upon the object known but only on the idea of the object, then no possible discussion can result -- epistemological considerations are dead in the water. That is why ontological considerations (which you have rejected a priori in other comments on other postings) are extremely important.

However, as with my purple rose, I can distinguish between what appears to me as "real" and what appears to me as a dream.

You went on to say:

Well, if all we know are our ideas (which, again, is at the basis of all forms of Idealism), then observations, in fact, mean nothing. If all we know are the ideas or images, then what observation is possible?

Yet, my observations are my experiences. They do not mean nothing, as they are all that I have. :) I can only ever define an object in terms of its corresponding patterns of experience.

You may claim that images and ideas must derive from sensory data.

Actually, I claim that images and ideas are forms of direct sensory data. Not only do I experience the purple color of my rose, but I also experience the very concept of a purple rose as the conjunction of all the elements of my experience that concern purple roses.

Though I have never seen a purple rose, I am, at this very moment, experiencing the idea of a purple rose. I can visualize the rose and formulate propositions about it. After I have visualized the rose, I have a memory of that act of visualization that is analogous to a memory I would have of any sensory experience.

A priori, I can only build upon my multitude of experiences by finding patterns within them. The patterns I find include a sense of time, consistency and logic, persistence of past patterns into the future, distinction between mental sensation of objects and my physical sensation of those objects.

Having a sense of logic and natural law (persistent patterns) enables me to formulate the axioms of science, i.e., that the consistency of experience, and the persistence of patterns therein, would facilitate a search for predictive models of experience. Thus, I'm not founding my philosophy on science per se. Rather, I am deriving it from more elementary experiences regarding consistency and persistence.

Since consistency and the existence of natural laws are assumptions, there is never a guarantee that every phenomenon can be explained by science. However, I don't see how a phenomenon could ever be explained by anything other than science. That is, phenomena are explicable by science or they are inexplicable.

You had some questions about the application of reductionism to thought:

What is the difference between a lump of sugar being able to “know,” to “understand” anything and grey matter doing the same thing?

For the same reason that the symbol A printed on a page is different than the symbol B printed on another page. They have a different arrangement of matter, and they interact differently with their environment.

if all being is of one mode (matter, matter, and nothing but matter as the materialist mantra goes), how can matter “know” anything?

I think this has been demonstrated in the lab. Information can be stored in arrangements of matter (e.g., a Shakespeare sonnet), and machines made of matter can do computations on that information. Furthermore, it appears that every facet of human experience can be altered by tweaking the corresponding configuration of brain matter.

So while its was by no means philosophically a priori that human minds are explicable in terms of natural laws, it increasingly appears that they are.

1:29 AM  

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