Saturday, May 9, 2009

22a Thomas Aquinas (Universals I)

In our class we try to follow the development of the mind through the ages and we try to understand what happened and why things happened.

The Greek discovered reason and logic, Their mythological view on reality is replaced by a reasoned interpretation. We see different schools..Platonist...Aristotelians...Stoics...Skeptics. They all leave their traces.

And then slowly but gradually all philosophy is dominated by just one school: Christian thought, A judaean, monotheistic belief.

How could just one ideology take over and dominate all thinking? I think there is an explanation. In 800 pope Leo III crowned Charles the Great to Emperor. Just read the signs...a representative of some religion gives the worldly powers to someone.

The close relation between the worldly rulers and a specific church (who organized most of the education and schools in those days) is the historical cause of the fact that we have a christian civilisation now.

Back to philosophy. That belief couldnt deny the former development of reason and this makes the Middle Ages a period in which we see how philosophers try to find the balance between reason and belief, allow belief to be questioned by reason, tested by logic.

Anselmus used reason and logic to proof the existence of God.Thomas Aquinas, who lived about a hundred years later (1225 - 1274) even produced five proofs of the existence of God.

But at the root of all these efforts is a fundamental philosophical problem, which was already formulated by Plato: UNIVERSALS, a term used in philosphical discourse to refer to properties of objects.

Already the Greek had discovered that there are only two things in the world. One is..individual objects, which have as characteristic features that they cant be at two places at the same time and occupy a space in time.

The other is the properties of these individual objects. For instance I can have two flowers and I can say: These two flowers are yellow. What puzzled philosophers was that yellowness.

The existence of the flower was easy to was an individual object, but you also can think of this yellowness without that flower. Besides that ..there is one flower....and an other flowers, but both are yellow, participate in that one property of yellowness.

When we destroy one flower, there definitely is one flower less, but does it also mean that the yellowness has diminished as an existing property? Doesnt seem so, for yellowness is an existing quality on its own.

These considerations suggest that a universal is wholly present in each of its instances, and that the existence of a universal at one place is unrelated to its simultaneous existence at any other place.

It’s not clear, however, how universals could be both wholly present in each of the places they exist, and, at the same time, present in many different places at once. This certainly would make them unusual, to say the least.

Moreover, it seems to be a mark of materiality that a material thing can be in only one place at a time. If so, then universals cannot be material. So at least these universals are a bit odd.

Here we have the main discourse of the Middle Ages in a nutshell. Maybe it is a bit complex for you...maybe you have to think it over again. We all use statements in which we ascribe qualities to objects...that flower is yellow, that man is good, that gesture is generous, that conduct is undemocratic....we do it every day.

To conclude with a kind of scolastic reasoning. We see individual objects to which we ascribe properties. You could say that a number of flowers participate in the property of yellowness. So there seem two exist two entities...a flower and yellowness, where this yellowness is a kind of odd entity.

Now think of God....God is good, all loving and so, an individuality with properties. We also think that God is all. So how do we link these properties to the individuality God.

Can there exist more than God, independent of God...for instance Goodness. If that is the case, isnt Goodness more than God, for that is only an individuality?

If you arent dizzy or utterly confused yet, just try for yourself to figure out in what way these universals have existence and let me tell you this in advance.....if you know the definite answer, you'll have made 2000 years of philosophical discourse on this subject a waste of time...:-)

This wasnt much on Thomas Aquinas himself. So next lecture we will continue on universals and scolastics, for this isssue is too big and important to spend only one lecture on.

The discussion

[13:50] Herman Bergson: This wasnt much on Thomas Aquinas himself. So next lecture we will continue on universals and scolastics, for this isssue is too big and important to spend only one lecture on.
[13:50] Ewa Aska: lol
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: So these dark age folks understood nouns but not adjectives.
[13:51] Herman Bergson: You could say that Aristotle
[13:51] bundy Razor: the reverse
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: do you think that is all that it meant??
[13:51] Herman Bergson: But let me tell you this....we dont either
[13:52] Herman Bergson: the problem of universals is one of the most dificult and abstract issues in philosophy
[13:52] Herman Bergson: Maff has an explicite opinion about it, I know
[13:53] Maphisto Mapholisto: no, i don't herman
[13:53] Maphisto Mapholisto: i see the difficulty
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Next class I want to show you the real problems with these odd universals
[13:53] Maphisto Mapholisto: but i also perhaps have the advantage of 20th century work on perception and cognition
[13:53] Herman Bergson: What it is all about is their ontological status....
[13:54] Herman Bergson: yes..that is our advantage to some extend
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: From a collective view I can see the difficulty.
[13:54] Herman Bergson: The whole point is this....
[13:54] Herman Bergson: we all accept that their exist individual objects....
[13:55] Herman Bergson: they are in space and time
[13:55] Maphisto Mapholisto: did aquinas ever consider that yellowness is a purely subjective experience common to all humans who possess colour vision (senses and brain functioning normally))
[13:55] Cailleach Shan: How do we know that what I see as yellow is the same as what you see as yellow Maff?
[13:55] Herman Bergson: but these properties we ascribe to objects are different
[13:55] Qwark Allen: that was "a work" of the devil
[13:56] Qwark Allen: maphisto
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: And he never suspected that the yellow flower was actually purple.
[13:56] bundy Razor: cailleach good point
[13:56] Osrum Sands: we dont but we accept the convention of what ever we see as yelllow as thats what name its been given
[13:57] Maphisto Mapholisto: yes, Os ... and perhaps yellowness is only a universal in the sense that our brains function in a partiular way ... yellowness has no existence outside the human psyche ... when no one is in the forest, no tree falls
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: we have and therefor know that a color is not defined by waht we see.. but a wavelenght of the light..
[13:57] Herman Bergson: yes osrum.....that we see the same property is because we use the same name for it
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: and this is a constant..
[13:57] Osrum Sands: now your cooking Maff
[13:58] Herman Bergson: and whether it is subjective or something else isnt the point...
[13:58] hope63 Shepherd: a wave lenth we call yellow.. physics..
[13:58] oola Neruda: in africa... in malawi at least... the colors do not have names
[13:58] Herman Bergson: the point is that a property can be on two places at the same time while an individual object cant for instance
[13:58] Maphisto Mapholisto: it is very significant point i believe when one starts to speak of objective proof of an objectively existing god made of universals
[13:58] oola Neruda: that point being the perspective and interest of the human... therefore...does it exist
[13:59] Herman Bergson: We dont need to talk about colors....we also can say property X
[13:59] oola Neruda: if we do not name it (recognize...acknowledge it) does it exist
[13:59] Osrum Sands: yes
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: Does the object become different for a color blinde person or is it the same?
[14:00] Herman Bergson: The problem, Cailleach, is that we do not understand the existential status of properties..
[14:00] Herman Bergson: You take things to literal Aristotle
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: I get that.
[14:00] Herman Bergson: it is not about is about properties in general
[14:01] Herman Bergson: Object A has property X, like object B has
[14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: Well these properties define the object or not?
[14:01] Herman Bergson: so A and b share the same property
[14:01] Herman Bergson: Yes.....
[14:02] Herman Bergson: Plato called them Ideas or Forms...
[14:02] Maphisto Mapholisto: but we need to ask whether the issue of colour as a universal is the same as all other universals, for we have a lot say about colour perception but may not as much about other abstracts like Justice
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: But the substance of the object does not change because of our interpetation of the color.
[14:03] Herman Bergson: Interesting point Maff....are there different 'species' of properties
[14:03] hope63 Shepherd: gooood point maff. the substance of values and objects..
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: very intircate thinking hre
[14:04] Herman Bergson: To go on with what Maff said.....
[14:04] Osrum Sands: Justice is an outcome
[14:04] Herman Bergson: If you take it to full abstraction, you only have the statement : individual object A has property X
[14:05] Herman Bergson: it doesnt matter whether this is yellow, goodness , love , taste...
[14:05] oola Neruda: and if you do not name/affirm that existance...does it exist?
[14:05] AristotleVon Doobie: All tainted by prejudice.
[14:05] Herman Bergson: our philosophical prblem is that two objects have the same property
[14:05] Maphisto Mapholisto: my senses tell me object A has existance outside my head-space ... but how do get to believe that property B also has an existance?
[14:06] Herman Bergson: In the next class I'll try to explain in what way properties exist...
[14:06] AristotleVon Doobie: But the property is intepreted differently by different people.
[14:06] Maphisto Mapholisto: yes, Aristo, and by different cultures
[14:06] oola Neruda: ultimately, i am getting at abstratcts... if we do not recognize they exist... like GOD... did we make him up... make him exist????
[14:06] AristotleVon Doobie: If I see a yellow dog you may see a tan one,
[14:06] Maphisto Mapholisto: quite, oola
[14:06] Herman Bergson: All such things arent important in the discourse...
[14:07] AristotleVon Doobie: Sure.
[14:07] Herman Bergson: there are two positions....
[14:08] Herman Bergson: Plato said ..the properties (Ideas, Forms) exist independent of matter tho they are not material themselves
[14:08] Ewa Aska: color is no good example ,color is light notning else ,the sun
[14:08] AristotleVon Doobie: As we understand today.
[14:08] Herman Bergson: at the other end you will find the position, which claims that properties are only in the mind
[14:08] Maphisto Mapholisto: but the 'experience' of colour is a mental event, ewea
[14:09] Herman Bergson: Ewa.....that is not the point....
[14:09] Herman Bergson: we are talking of property X only from now on
[14:09] Ewa Aska: ok
[14:09] Herman Bergson: I dont mind what it is...
[14:10] AristotleVon Doobie: But isnt property x subjective?
[14:10] Herman Bergson: You must understand that we operate on a very pragmatic level in daily life
[14:10] Herman Bergson: No Aristotle I wouldnt say that
[14:10] oola Neruda: property x subjective... that is what i am asking!!!!!!!!
[14:10] Herman Bergson: even being subjective is a universal
[14:10] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes but differs from viewer to viewer.
[14:10] Ewa Aska: lost in translation to difficult for me .my english I think
[14:11] Herman Bergson: That doesnt matter......
[14:11] Herman Bergson: we are not talking about the content of a property
[14:11] Cailleach Shan sobs....just when I think 'I've got it'.... it slips away.
[14:11] Maphisto Mapholisto: are unviersals a semantic ghost - a trick of language?
[14:11] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[14:11] Herman Bergson: we are talking about the phenomenon itself...
[14:12] Herman Bergson: There..Maff....there you hit one off the positions taken
[14:12] Gemma Cleanslate: Cailleach you are not alone :-))
[14:12] AristotleVon Doobie: It is a slippery thing to grab on to.
[14:12] Herman Bergson: very true Aristotle...
[14:12] Herman Bergson: I am doing some reading at the moment to deal with it in next class....
[14:13] AristotleVon Doobie: Wonderful food for thought.
[14:13] Osrum Sands: would goodness still exist if nobody was good ?
[14:13] bundy Razor: hmmmm
[14:13] hope63 Shepherd: but hard to digest..
[14:13] Herman Bergson: This is a real philosophical testcase
[14:13] AristotleVon Doobie: Depends on who defines good.
[14:13] Osrum Sands: forget definition
[14:13] Osrum Sands: just concept
[14:13] hannibaal Alekseev: no it wont
[14:14] bundy Razor: if it never existed
[14:14] bundy Razor: there wouldnt be
[14:14] AristotleVon Doobie: Isnt good created by man?
[14:14] hope63 Shepherd: goood.. as useful'
[14:14] hannibaal Alekseev: offcourse
[14:14] Osrum Sands: my point is universality of property
[14:15] oola Neruda: good created by man.... is therefore GOD created by man
[14:15] Cailleach Shan: So what's the difference between that and 'general consensus'?
[14:15] AristotleVon Doobie: I can see the univerality but the perception by all is confusing.
[14:15] Osrum Sands: back to youre Q ooda
[14:16] hope63 Shepherd: god is usefull to man.. therfore you can conclude good is useful for man.. and good is god..
[14:16] Maphisto Mapholisto: hmmm, difficult to think with Riven's dress tickling my ear
[14:16] Herman Bergson: That general consensus matter Cailleach and what it means depends on how you explain universals
[14:16] Osrum Sands: long shot there I think
[14:16] AristotleVon Doobie: But good has no stuff.
[14:16] Riven Flare: lol sorry
[14:17] Cailleach Shan: Tickling.... what's tickling.....:)
[14:17] AristotleVon Doobie: Properties have no stuff.
[14:17] Cailleach Shan: Is tickling universal...
[14:17] Herman Bergson: no..they are immaterial
[14:17] AristotleVon Doobie: Vaper.
[14:17] Maphisto Mapholisto: don't want you think i'm one of those 'up-dress' guys looking for universals
[14:18] Qwark Allen is Offline
[14:18] Maphisto Mapholisto: sorry
[14:18] AristotleVon Doobie: Ithink you dress ver nice.
[14:18] Maphisto Mapholisto: its amazing!
[14:18] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[14:18] Herman Bergson: class I'll discuss all philosophical positions held on universals and their pros and cons..:-)
[14:19] AristotleVon Doobie: All right.
[14:19] Herman Bergson: Today you had a fist taste of the pudding..:-)
[14:19] Osrum Sands: To day the same problems are found in Macro Sociology
[14:19] AristotleVon Doobie: Yumm
[14:19] Osrum Sands: universals and their relations to micro
[14:19] Cailleach Shan: I've got indigestion Herman..:)
[14:19] Maphisto Mapholisto: and quantum mechanics
[14:19] AristotleVon Doobie: :)))
[14:20] Maphisto Mapholisto: sorbet next week please
[14:20] Herman Bergson: I am sorry Cailleach....
[14:20] AristotleVon Doobie: Take some mentla bicarb.
[14:20] Herman Bergson: maybe next class will cure you..:-)
[14:20] Riven Flare: quantum mechanics is fun though
[14:20] Maphisto Mapholisto: an emetic?
[14:20] Cailleach Shan: Heheheh.... burp!
[14:20] Maphisto Mapholisto: yes, Riven
[14:21] Herman Bergson: Well...I have some reading to do before next class..:-)
[14:21] Gemma Cleanslate: and i think so would we!!!
[14:21] Osrum Sands: you folk make me laugh
[14:21] Osrum Sands: and I learn best when I lauggh
[14:21] Herman Bergson: So, thnx for your attention...and class will be as regular on Thursday...
[14:22] AristotleVon Doobie: Happy folk!
[14:22] Osrum Sands: its all good
[14:22] Cailleach Shan: Me too..
[14:22] Gemma Cleanslate: happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate
[14:22] Maphisto Mapholisto: hope riven comes again with that dress
[14:22] Gemma Cleanslate: I wll be away
[14:22] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes indeed.
[14:22] Ewa Aska: ty herman
[14:22] Gemma Cleanslate: hope the weather improves Arist
[14:22] Ze Novikov: ty herman..
[14:23] AristotleVon Doobie: Well I am suffering her at 76.
[14:23] Riven Flare: lol mabe a diffrent one
[14:23] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you Herman
[14:23] Gemma Cleanslate: now about those trees
[14:24] Osrum Sands: Must away
[14:24] Osrum Sands: was grest today
[14:24] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[14:24] AristotleVon Doobie: Take care everone.
[14:24] Gemma Cleanslate: Osrum
[14:24] Osrum Sands: just think how we will be as we get to number 70 or 80
[14:24] Gemma Cleanslate: i do not see how to buy one
[14:24] AristotleVon Doobie: Is the tree ouside?
[14:24] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[14:24] Herman Bergson: just click on a tree, if you mean the Xmastrees
[14:24] Gemma Cleanslate: we should go look
[14:24] Gemma Cleanslate: i see one
[14:24] Gemma Cleanslate: yse
[14:24] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes
[14:24] Gemma Cleanslate: O ;ole

Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-11-21 05:47:26

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