Feser on Schmid on Existential Inertia: EIT, Entailment, and Extrinsic Explanation | Part 3

Feser has recently responded to my IJPR article. I will respond to his post in a series of blog posts. Check out Part 1 and Part 2. This post is Part 3, which deals again with Feser’s false (and misrepresentative, and uncharitable) claim that I claim that his Aristotelian proof assumes, without justification, the falsity of EIT. It also deals with the entailments of EIT.

Feser writes:

“You may or may not agree with this argument.  (In my previous post on Schmid, I defend it against an objection he raises against it.)”

And in Section 3 of my lengthier blog post, I argued that Feser’s defense fails.

Feser: “But it is precisely an argument against EIT and for EET.  For it entails that the water will not continue to exist from t – 1 to t unless something acts to keep it in existence.  Hence Schmid is wrong to say that the Aristotelian proof (of which this argument is a component part) merely assumes EET.”

But I am not wrong here, because that’s not what I claimed. I showed in Part 2 that Feser has both mischaracterized me and read me uncharitably here. And I also explained that even if (as is contrary to fact) he neither mischaracterized me nor uncharitably read me, my claim is still correct. See Part 2.

Feser: “(Moreover, the whole point of my ACPQ article “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways” is to show that, properly understood, Aquinas’s Five Ways – the first of which is a version of the Aristotelian proof – are arguments against EIT.  Schmid cites this article in his own paper, which makes it is especially odd for him to write as if my arguments simply assume the falsity of EIT.)”

I have already explained why I did not claim that Feser’s arguments simply assume (without justification) the falsity of EIT. And this is obviously true when one inspects what I actually wrote in my IJPR paper, as I explained in Part 2. This makes it especially odd for Feser to write as if I claimed, in my IJPR paper, that Feser’s arguments simply assume (without justification) the falsity of EIT.

Feser: “Schmid also claims that the rejection of EIT does not entail accepting EET.  Consider again the example of the water.  If we reject EIT, Schmid thinks, all that follows is that the water will not of necessity continue to exist without a sustaining cause.  But it doesn’t follow that it will of necessity go out of existence without one.  It might simply happen to carry on without one.

This too is not correct.”

Feser is incorrect here. For it is demonstrable that the mere negation of P-EIT does not entail the truth of EET as I spelled them out in my paper. Let’s see why.

The negation of P-EIT says that it is not necessarily the case that objects persist in the absence of destruction.

It is simply a fact of logic that the negation of P-EIT is consistent with the following claim:

CLAIM: It is possibly the case that objects persist in the absence of destruction.

If we let ‘objects persist in the absence of destruction [i.e., the absence of destruction is by itself sufficient for objects’ persistence]’ be ‘p’, then we have:

The logical form of ~P-EIT is: ~□p, which is equivalent to ◊~p

The logical form of CLAIM is: ◊p

Now, it is, again, simply a fact of logic that  ◊~p and ◊p are consistent.

So, ~P-EIT is consistent with CLAIM.

But CLAIM is not consistent with EET. CLAIM says that, possibly, the absence of destruction is by itself sufficient for persistence. According to EET, however, it is necessarily the case that objects cease in the absence of sustenance, in which case it is necessarily true that the absence of destruction is not by itself sufficient for persistence (since the object needs to be sustained in addition). This has the form of □~p. Since CLAIM says that, possibly, the absence of destruction is by itself sufficient for persistence, CLAIM is equivalent to: it is not necessarily the case that the absence of destruction is not by itself sufficient for persistence. So, CLAIM is equivalent to ~□~p. Hence, EET is □~p whereas CLAIM is ~□~p. That’s inconsistent. Hence, CLAIM is not consistent with EET.

Hence, ~P-EIT is consistent with CLAIM, but CLAIM is inconsistent with EET. But it is a simple fact of logic that if q is consistent r and r is inconsistent with s, then q does not entail s. For suppose the antecedent of that conditional is true. Now suppose, for reductio, that q entails s. Since s is inconsistent with r, s entails ~r.  So, q entails ~r (by transitivity of entailment). But this is to say that q and r are not consistent. But we are supposing that q is consistent with r. Contradiction. Hence, our assumption for reductio is false. So, q does not entail s. Hence, from the truth of the antecedent we derived the truth of the consequent. Hence, the conditional claim is true. Hence, if q is consistent r and r is inconsistent with s, then q does not entail s.

But it was shown above that ~P-EIT is consistent with CLAIM whereas CLAIM is inconsistent with EET. So, ~P-EIT does not entail EET.

So, I’ve shown that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. But Feser claimed I was wrong in making this claim. So, Feser is wrong.

This shows that what Feser goes on to say after ‘this too is not correct’, in connection with justifying this claim, is moot (to quote Feser). But, nevertheless, let’s consider it.

Feser: “If the water continues to exist from t – 1 to t, then something must account for this fact, and it will have to be something either intrinsic to the water or extrinsic to it.”

What? The claim Feser is supposed to be evaluating is my claim that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. Feser is here adding an auxiliary thesis — that something must explain the fact that the water continues to exist. But Feser is NOT supposed to be evaluating the claim that the conjunction of (~P-EIT & <something must explain the fact that objects persist>) does not entail EET. I never claimed anything about this conjunction. It is trivial that you can add auxiliary theses to ~P-EIT to entail EET. No one denied that. My claim was, instead, that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. Feser can add an auxiliary thesis to ~P-EIT to derive EET if he wants, but then he is obviously not targeting my claim. And yet that is precisely what he was supposed to be doing — he is supposed to be explaining why my claim is “not correct”.

Feser: “Now, if EIT is false, then it is not something intrinsic to the water; and if there is no sustaining cause, then it will not be something extrinsic to it either.”

This is false. It is false that if there is no sustaining cause at t [or from (t-1) to t, which I shall hereafter drop], then the explanation for an object’s existence at t will not be something extrinsic to the object at t. For there are whole swathes of explanations of an object’s persistence that do not adduce sustaining causes and yet adduce facts extrinsic to the object itself at t.

Consider, for instance, one of the explanations I proffered in section 3 of my lengthier blog post and which I adumbrated in the previous post:

For S to fail to exist at m despite existing from [m*, m), m* < m, is for some change to occur.[Fn] But a change occurs only if some factor causally induces said change. Hence, if no factor causally induces a change, then the change won’t occur. Thus, if no factor causally induces S to fail to exist at m despite existing from [m*, m), then S exists at m. Once we add that nothing came along to causally induce this — that is, once we addd that nothing came along to destroy S from m* to m — it simply follows that S exists at m. [Cf. Section 4.1 in the lengthier blog post for more on this line of thought.]

Here, we seem to have a perfectly respectable, perfectly legitimate explanation of S’s existence at m — and this explanation adduces facts outside of or extrinsic to S at m. And the explanation does, indeed, tell us how S exists at m. That was a straightforward deduction of the explanatory facts cited [namely, (i) S existed immediately before m, (ii) nothing causally induced S’s cessation at m [i.e., nothing destroyed S from the immediately prior moment(s) through m], and (iii) a change occurs only if some factor causally induces said change]. And so we do, indeed, have sufficient explanation for S’s existence at m, one that doesn’t adduce some extrinsic sustaining efficient cause. For me at least, the explanation certainly seems to remove mystery as to why/how S exists at m. The present explanation does, indeed, tell us how S exists at m. [I discuss and defend EIT-friendly explanations of persistence that adduce facts extrinsic to S at m along similar lines in this document here on no-change accounts. And again, Feser need not engage with this document if he responds. I include it for those who want to dig deeper.]

Or consider inertialist-friendly explanations based on laws of nature, which adduce facts extrinsic to S at m. Or consider inertialist-friendly explanations based on transtemporal explanatory relations, which adduce facts extrinsic to S at m. Or consider an explanation by appeal to the de dicto necessity of the inertial thesis (à la propositional necessity accounts). And on and on. Feser’s claim is just false.

Feser: “But then there will be nothing to account for its continuing to exist from t – 1 to t, in which case it will not continue to exist.  Which is precisely what EET claims.  So, if we reject EIT, then we must indeed affirm EET.”

But we’ve already seen that (i) Feser has added an auxiliary thesis to ~P-EIT to derive EET, and hence he has NOT shown that ~P-EIT by itself entails EET (which was the claim he is supposed to be evaluating), and that (ii) his derivation contains a false claim, to wit, the false claim that if there is no sustaining cause at t, then the explanation for an object’s existence at t will not be something extrinsic to the object at t.

Feser: “A critic might respond that this presupposes the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR).  Well, since I think PSR is true and have defended it at length in several places, I hardly think that is a problem.  But in fact the argument does not presuppose PSR – or to be more precise, it doesn’t presuppose PSR any more than any other explanation does.  Homicide detectives, insurance investigators, and forensic engineers never take seriously the suggestion “Maybe it just happened for no reason!” when considering the phenomena they are trying to understand, and that is so whether or not they are committed to the principle that absolutely everything has an explanation.  Similarly, we needn’t appeal to such a principle in order to judge that the rejection of EIT should lead us to embrace EET.”

But the criticism that I’ve leveled, at least, is not that the argument merely presupposes the PSR or something like it. The criticism instead is that Feser was supposed to be addressing my claim that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. But then to address this claim, he only argued that adding an auxiliary hypothesis to ~P-EIT entails EET. That wasn’t my claim, and I never denied the trivial fact that one can add an auxiliary thesis to ~P-EIT to entail EET.


Edit:

One might object: isn’t your post here just pedantic and irrelevant logic-chopping? How does any of this matter?

Here’s my response.

I see it as neither pedantic nor irrelevant or insignificant. There is a purpose behind it, and I take the purpose to be obviously significant. What is that purpose? I’ll spell it out briefly.

Remember my point: the mere fact of denying P-EIT doesn’t deliver (i.e., allow us to derive or establish or logically infer the truth of) EET. This means that it is not enough merely to deny P-EIT if we want to deliver or establish EET. Feser wants to deliver or establish EET. So it is not enough for Feser merely to deny P-EIT. So if Feser wants to succeed in delivering or establishing EET, he must adduce and defend some philosophically substantive auxiliary thesis or theses added to the denial of P-EIT. This is quite clearly a significant result, one that some may not have seen originally and one that some may have thought unnecessary. [Some may have thought it would be enough merely to reject P-EIT.]

And this discovery especially helps us focus precisely on those substantive auxiliary theses and whether or not they are true/defensible. And that’s precisely what I went on to do with Feser’s proffered auxiliary theses: one of Feser’s theses was a PSR or PSR-like explanatory principle, which I accept; but another one of his theses was that if there is no sustaining cause, then there is no extrinsic explanation. And I argued against this. Nothing is pedantic or irrelevant here. It is a significant point that some philosophically substantive auxiliary thesis or theses needs to be conjoined to a mere denial of P-EIT to deliver EET. It helps us see connections between ideas, clears up the dialectical context [i.e., helps us see what one needs to do if one wants to establish EET], allows us to identify the dialectical role the auxiliary theses play and what they need to add to ~P-EIT to deliver EET, and finally sets the stage for and facilitates our focus on such auxiliary theses. Nothing pedantic or irrelevant here.

Fin.


In Part 4 of this series, I’ll address the next part of Feser’s post.

[Fn] I addressed an objection to this argument based on the claim that cessation isn’t a change in Section 4.1.2 of my lengthier blog post. Use the command F function to find it quickly.

Author: Joe

27 Comments

  1. johannes y k hui

    (not sure if I posted my comment correctly previously so I try again)

    Hi Joseph Schmid,

    You have characterised Existential Inertia Thesis (EIT) in your journal paper this way:

    “Necessarily, concrete objects (i) persist in existence (once in existence) without requiring a continuously concurrent sus- taining cause of their existence and (ii) cease to exist only if caused to do so.”
    [equivalence: (ii)… if caused to cease existence.”]

    If we look at the above statement carefully, it appears to be semantically equivalent to its rival thesis Existential Expiration Thesis (EET)!!!

    Therefore even if the above EIT is true, it seems to support Prof Feser’s Aristotelian Proof, or at least on the part about EET. Let me explain.

    Take a wooden table as an example.

    A wooden table’s continuation in existence is CONTINUOUSLY conditional on the presence of many conditions, such as the existence of space (space cannot be taken for granted; around 13.7 billion years ago the available space was not enough even for a molecule to exist in) and the existence of suitable temperature around the table (if the surrounding temperature is too high the wooden table would cease existing; it would then become burnt charcoal).

    So a table’s continuation in existence obviously requires the CONTINUOUS presence of various conditions.

    Remove any one of the necessary conditions, and the wooden table would cease existing as a wooden table.

    If one says that the removal any of the necessary conditions is equivalent to the table being “caused to cease existence”, then I would suggest that the EIT’s qualifying phrase “unless caused to cease existence” seems to be semantically equivalent to “unless any of the sustaining conditions ceases to be present to sustain the existence” of the table.

    It appears to be a matter of EIT and EET using different expressions to describe the SAME UNDERLYING PHENOMENON.

    This means EIT is ultimately equivalent to its supposed rival EET (Existential Expiration Thesis): the table’s continuation in existence CONTINUOUSLY requires the CONTINUOUS presence of various conditions.
    [we can even include “not being caused to cease existence” as one of the conditions]

    If we are not bewitched by the labels “EIT” and “EET” but to look at the substance behind the labels, then the key issue is expressed by this more neutral expression: whether a wooden table’s ability to persist in existence is CONTINUOUSLY conditional on the presence of various conditions.

    I doubt anyone can rationally deny the empirical fact that a wooden table’s existence continuously requires the continuous presence of various conditions.
    (It does not matter if one calls the removal/absence of any such conditions as “causing it to cease existence” or “ceasing to sustain its existence”)

    I would further suggest that to say “a wooden table’s persistence in existence continuously requires the continuous presence of various conditions” is equivalent to saying “a wooden table’s persistence in existence continuously requires the continuous actualisation of the relevant potentiality of the wood”.
    [“continuous presence of all necessary conditions” is equivalent to “continuous actualisation of the relevant potentiality”]

    If the above is correct, then:
    A wooden table’s act of persisting in existence is conditional on the CONTINUOUS actualisation of the underlying wood’s potentiality of existing as a wooden table.

    In summary, the key underlying issue behind the EET/EIT seems to be whether or not a wooden table’s ability to continue existing
    (a) is absolutely unconditional
    or
    (b) is continuously conditional on the presence of various conditions.

    Feser proof partly depends on (b) being true. And (b) seems to be empirically true.

    Your correction of my errors is welcome.

    🙂

    Cheers!

    johannes y k hui

  2. David McPike

    “What? The claim Feser is supposed to be evaluating is my claim that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. Feser is here adding an auxiliary thesis — that something must explain the fact that the water continues to exist. But Feser is NOT supposed to be evaluating the claim that the conjunction of (~P-EIT & ) does not entail EET. I never claimed anything about this conjunction.”

    Joe: It seems to me you’ve got your head way up your logic-chopping ass here. Isn’t it obvious that Feser was arguing for a *real* entailment from A to B, given what is true (certainly what he takes to be true), not a merely pedantic “strictly logical” entailment from A to B, based on bracketing/ignoring whatever else might be true?? What am I missing here?

    • “Joe: It seems to me you’ve got your head way up your logic-chopping ass here.”

      My dude, if you want me to approve your comments from here on out, they’ll need to be more respectful than this.

      “Isn’t it obvious that Feser was arguing for a *real* entailment from A to B, given what is true (certainly what he takes to be true), not a merely pedantic “strictly logical” entailment from A to B, based on bracketing/ignoring whatever else might be true?”

      Yes, it’s obvious that this is what ****Feser**** is arguing for. But Feser claimed that MY CLAIM, in my IJPR article, was wrong. And so he needs to address MY CLAIM in the IJPR article. And if we go to my IJPR article, it is obvious that I was talking about *logical entailment*.

      I say: “Let’s turn now to the second point of emphasis concerning the dialectical context. In particular, P-EIT and EET reveal that Feser’s premise seven is not adequately justifed solely by rejecting P-EIT. For the denial of P-EIT simply amounts to its not being necessary that temporal objects persist without causal sustenance. But this neither means nor entails EET. All it means is that it is possibly false that temporal objects persist of their own accord—and this doesn’t entail that things of necessity will be instantly annihilated in the absence of existential causal sustenance.”

      If we pay attention to the reasoning here, as well as the careful italicization of the modal operators in the original article, we can see that I was simply making a point about the modal operators of possibility and necessity not allowing us to infer EET from the negation of P-EIT. I obviously wouldn’t deny that one can add an auxiliary thesis to ~P-EIT to derive EET. This is trivial.

      • David McPike

        Just being honest with you, dude, and pointing out what seems to be a real and serious problem with your reasoning. No offense intended. I just hate to see the substance of your argument getting lost in a sea of irrelevant, pedantic nonsense. Anyhoo! If you wanted to be able to justifiably claim the right to bluster on about the triviality of Feser’s objection in light of the dialectical context, maybe here’s what you should have said:

        “Let’s turn now to the second point of emphasis concerning the dialectical context. In particular, P-EIT and EET reveal that Feser’s premise seven is not adequately justifed solely by rejecting P-EIT, AT LEAST IN THE FOLLOWING NARROWLY LOGICAL SENSE. For the denial of P-EIT, FROM A NARROW, STRICTLY LOGICAL STANDPOINT (I.E., LOGICAL NEGATION), simply amounts to its not being necessary that temporal objects persist without causal sustenance. But this KIND OF NARROW STRICTLY LOGICAL NEGATION OF P-EIT neither means nor entails EET (NOT THAT THIS PEDANTIC POINT ABOUT THE RESULT OF LOGICAL NEGATION IS AT ALL GERMANE TO THE ACTUAL PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUE IN QUESTION). All it (I.E., MERE LOGICAL NEGATION) means is that it is possibly false that temporal objects persist of their own accord—and this doesn’t entail that things of necessity will be instantly annihilated in the absence of existential causal sustenance.”

        To which Feser would presumably have responded something like: “So what? I have no dispute with you or anyone else the general nature of logical entailments from negations. But the substantive philosophical issue is not about the strictly logical negation of P-EIT, and the entailments of that negation (why would it be??); it’s about a philosophically substantive rejection of P-EIT that entails — so I argue — the truth of EET.”

        • First, I am happy to admit that I could have added greater clarity to the relevant paragraph when writing the article that I was talking about logical entailment.

          But, second, given that this was not done, I take it to be reasonably obvious that I was making a point about logical entailment. After all, ‘entails’ has a pretty standard meaning in philosophy, and this standard meaning is precisely logical entailment. (Or so it seems to me having read countless philosophical works that employ the word and unanimously mean ‘logical entailment’ by it.) Moreover, I was keen to italicize (and, hence, emphasize) the modal operators, and I informally talked through a logical derivation. This quite decisively shows that I was talking about logical entailment.

          And, third, it is false that this is pedantic or not germane to the philosophical issue in question. It shows that merely arguing against P-EIT, one doesn’t thereby establish EET. One would have to add some philosophically interesting auxiliary thesis. This is obviously not a pedantic point, and it is obviously germane to the philosophical issue in question.

      • David McPike

        Also, if you say my head-up-ass comment was too colorful for the tone that you want to enforce here, I can certainly respect that. Paradoxically, I also did respect you in making the comment, and rightly, as it turns out, enough to trust you had thick enough skin — which is, effectively, a matter of your love of truth outweighing your self-love — to be able to handle the comment in the first place. “Amicus Joe; magis amicus veritas” (or something like that).

      • David McPike

        Dude, you can be as bloody-minded about it as you want, the fact remains that no matter how many times you’ve read the word ‘entail’ in contexts where it refers to strict logical entailment, the word ‘entail’ per se flat out does not mean ‘strict logical entailment’ — it just means entail (and go ahead consult a good dictionary if you need the details spelled out)! So again, this kind of pedantic quibbling is irrelevant, a distraction, and a waste of time. But have at it, if that’s how you wanna roll!

        So here’s a challenge for you: I claim this argument simply misses the target, it is irrelevant. So here’s a way to test that claim, instead of just being bloody-minded about it: Go on over to Feser’s blog and make this one narrow point there. I’ll bet he responds, and then we’ll see what traction your point has. Maybe it turns out you’re right, maybe not; but I think you’re much more likely to learn something from the exchange rather than carrying on with the pedantic grandeur (is that fair? — maybe, maybe not) of your lengthy monologues. In a way I think you’re a high-minded fellow, and maybe you think it’s enough to win your arguments in the world of forms; but try bringing them down to the world of dialogue, where you have to test them step by step against the competing arguments and rebuttals of other intelligent people, who are just as interested as you in the world of forms and might actually also be able to help you to arrive there yourself in an effective, expeditious fashion.

        • If you want to think it’s irrelevant or pedantic, I can’t stop you. But I see it as neither. There is a purpose behind it, and I take the purpose to be obviously significant. What is that purpose? I’ll spell it out briefly. Remember my point: the mere fact of denying P-EIT doesn’t deliver (i.e., allow us to derive or establish the truth of) EET. This means that it is not enough merely to deny P-EIT if we want to deliver or establish EET. Feser wants to deliver or establish EET. So it is not enough for Feser merely to deny P-EIT. So if Feser wants to succeed in delivering or establishing EET, he must adduce and defend some philosophically substantive auxiliary thesis or theses added to the denial of P-EIT. This is quite clearly a significant result, one that some may not have seen originally and one that some may have thought unnecessary [some may have thought it would be enough merely to reject P-EIT]. And this discovery especially helps us focus precisely on those substantive auxiliary theses and whether or not they are true/defensible. And that’s precisely what I went on to do with Feser’s proffered auxiliary theses: one of Feser’s theses was a PSR or PSR-like explanatory principle, which I accept; but another one of his theses was that if there is no sustaining cause, then there is no extrinsic explanation. And I argued against this. Nothing is pedantic or irrelevant here. It is a significant point that some philosophically substantive auxiliary thesis or theses needs to be conjoined to a mere denial of P-EIT to deliver EET. It helps us see connections between ideas, clears up the dialectical context [i.e., helps them see what they need to do if they want to establish EET], allows us to identify the dialectical role the auxiliary theses play and what they need to add to ~P-EIT to deliver EET, and finally sets the stage for and facilitates our focus on such auxiliary theses. Nothing pedantic or irrelevant here.

    • David McPike

      I think I agree with almost all of that, except for your claim that it isn’t irrelevant or pedantic. So what divides us, apparently, is our respective criteria for irrelevant pedantry. So maybe you’d like to say something about that. My take is this: Just as I agree with all of the obvious general points about logic and dialectical context that you make, so, I believe, would your primary interlocutor (Feser). Or do you think otherwise?? As I say, try him! So unless I am mistaken about Feser, your rehearsing all of these obvious general points on which you and your interlocutor already agree is pointless, pedantic, and irrelevant. It does nothing to advance the discussion, because it has nothing to do with the real point of contention between you. And if you doubt what I say, again: TRY him! Dare to enter into a real dialogue with the man on the point. Just this one point. Then you can get back to your monologuing. (I’ll add that I don’t agree with your general position, but I’m not really comfortable with Feser’s response to it either, so I’d sincerely like to see the both of you, highly intelligent and well-informed as you both are, get together and engage in some actually constructive back-and-forth.) Peace.

      • One of my hesitations about engaging in a dialogue in the comment section over at his place is the profound toxicity of the comment section. Feser isn’t to blame for this, of course, but it strongly disincentivizes me

      • @Joe Schmid
        Feser’s combox is pretty much open, excepting his insistence that comments should be on-topic. Yes, there can be a lot of acerbity, but it’s easy enough to ignore them if you want to interact with him personally. If you showed up, I’m practically certain that he would reply.

        Toxic or not, Feser wouldn’t treat you that way, and direct interaction would be highly instructive for the rest of us non-toxic spectators.

  3. David McPike

    Joe, here’s a bit of a vague and perhaps totally unfair accusation, but maybe useful for you to consider: It seems you are, say, 90% concerned with defending yourself, that is, your own position in relation to the intricate details of the dialectical situation of the status quaestionis; and 10% concerned with the philosophical question itself. And perhaps the fact of this skew alone would be enough to convict you of committing a kind of treason against the majesty of reason (quite in spite of yourself, of course). So again, maybe that’s not a fair assessment; but still, possibly it could be a useful warning for you to keep in mind as you think, and especially as you write. Peace.

    • This is honestly the same feeling I have after reading through many of these blog posts by Mr. Schmid. He seems much more concerned with ‘winning the argument’ than actually interacting with the fundamental issues at hand. Sadly, I think this ultimately has to do with pride if I had to take a guess. Mr. Schmid feels the need to take his readers through wild goose chases time and time again and it’s sad to see. Readers are more concerned with the philosophical issues at hand, not Mr. Schmid’s personal repertoire.

    • I can appreciate why someone might think I’m defending myself. On some occasions, I’m doing precisely that. But I don’t see anything wrong with that. If Feser demonstrably misrepresents me, am I supposed to turn a blind eye and not defend myself against his misrepresentation? I take any ‘defense’ that I do in this series to be necessary, since I care about people with a large following misrepresenting me.

      But, alas, I think it’s clearly wrong to say it’s 90%-10%. I have not ignored a single claim of Feser’s pertaining to the philosophical issue at hand. I have systematically proceeded through each of his claims pertaining to the philosophical question, and have brought up usually two- and three-point rejoinders to his claims that discuss the philosophical question at hand. I have left no stone unturned when it comes to the philosophical issues, and the vast, *vast* majority of my lengthier post from July 4th are dry philosophy.

      If I can indulge in this psychologizing enterprise you and others seem to be indulging, I would say that some of our human ingrained biases have overcome your assessment. In particular, we tend to remember more strongly the occasions where more ‘defensive’ and ‘tribalistic’ stuff is written and remember less strongly the dry philosophical rejoinders, leading us to think that the former preponderates over the latter when, in reality, this is simply untrue.

      • I think you’re fine. You were misrepresented badly and so defended yourself. Thoroughness is important here as well.

        Frankly though, evaluating Thomism formally just seems like something obviously out of reach.

        I’m sure you’re aware of the myriad papers about formal manipulations of analogical terms and how obviously they don’t work. It isn’t clear also how Thomist accounts of modality work either, since possibilities of different creatures exist logically prior to any potentials. Such accounts do exist, but they conflict between interpreters and aren’t obviously formalizable in terms of modal operators and basic modern modal semantics.

        You could take this as criticism of Thomism, and I think these are very bad qualities myself. But I also think this gulf in approach probably means these “actually you’re missing an auxiliary premise” disputes are inescapable. The systems you are employing are radically different.

      • David McPike

        “I’m sure you’re aware of the myriad papers about formal manipulations of analogical terms and how obviously they don’t work.”

        Riight, “obviously.” And “obviously” this general problem is particular to “Thomism,” and just isn’t a problem, and won’t be a problem, as long as we resolutely ignore “Thomism” (whatever that is — what do you suppose that is, btw, my dude? Hardly a trivial question, I’m sure you’ll agree).

        (Note to Joe: Look at your bland-positivity nothing-response to this essentially just stupid comment about an enormously important and complex philosophical question, compare that response to your responses to Feser, and reflect on the biases that might seem to be therein betrayed.)

        • I don’t have time to give substantive responses to every comment. I’m not going to go in depth about formal manipulations of analogical terms when this is irrelevant to the topic of my posts. I have other things to work on than engage substantively every comment. I don’t think there are biases betrayed herein; it just shows that I have to divvy up my time strategically to what’s actually relevant to my blog posts, and digging into that person’s comment in depth is simply not relevant to my blog posts. And here is, again, my attempt to draw out psychological speculations from your comment: You tend to read far too much psychology into things. A bland positivity nothing-response might just reveal that I don’t have time to engage a comment containing ideas irrelevant to the topic of my blog post. [And before you comment again saying ‘oh, well my comment here isn’t relevant to the topic of your blog post, and yet you engage it substantively!’, there is an obvious dissimilarity b/n the cases, since your comment is relevant to my psychology/character, which I feel compelled to respond to whenever someone conjectures about it]

      • David McPike

        Okey-dokey, Joe. I don’t think your analysis is compelling, but I won’t pursue it. I could read too much into the psychology of things, you could read too little, and more importantly underestimate the significance of the underlying psychology for rightly understanding the surface manifestations. But self-knowledge is by no means an easy thing, so take it or leave it. It’s there, so I hope it might be of some use to you.

        I’ll also say I re-read Michael’s comment and I misread it the first time. I apologize for being so dismissive, I think now that wasn’t fair to him or you, although I still think the basic contention of my objection is correct and important. It seems to me silly to treat “Thomism” as some kind of obvious monolithic, simple entity, of some obvious sort-or-other, and silly to think that the problems with attempting to treat philosophically interesting problems in a strictly formal analogy-free way are in any sense avoidable, as if those problems were a by-product of a dispensable quirk of said “Thomism.”

        • We can stand in unity here! I think you’re absolutely right that Thomism isn’t some monolithic, single system of thought. Things are much more complex and nuanced than such a single, monolithic term lets on. 🙂

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