Saturday, May 9, 2009

22b Thomas Aquinas (Universals II)

Universals are a class of mind independent entitties. They are responsable for qualitative relations and resemblance among individuals (individual objects).
A plum and a flower are both purple for instance.

If they are purple at the same time they share the universal 'purple' . Thence the universal must be at two places in the same time, which is impossible for individual objects,which are material. Therefor a universal cant be matterial.

So, this universal is a peculiar entity. What is it? Ontology tries to answer the question: what exists, what is really out there.

For individual objects the questions doesnt seem that complex. An individual object is something that occuppies a certain space in time. We can see them, touch them, hold them, count them, and so on.

But a number of individual objects look alike. They all have the same properties. Men, animals, flowers, stones. So easy it seemed to define an individual object, so difficult it appears to get these properties in our grip. easy...just realize what I did...............I enumerated things !!!, flowers, stones. How could I do that? Just because a number of individuals share the same universal: being a man, a flower and so on.

I mean it works in communication. We cant communicate about our world without these universals, tho they are still odd epistemological and ontological fellows.

They are everywhere, a meadow full of yellow flowers. We see the yellow color. Makes no sense to deny it. We have to admit that the yellow color exists. We even can think of the yellow color without the flowers....

But what is in our mind? The observation of some property, which exists out there or is it some kind of trick out mind plays, which is inclined to interpret everything as objects, sothat we believe that this color is also something, tho immaterial (Plato)?

I hope that feeling is growing in you, the feeling of a big questionmark. On the one hand the feeling of having an answer and on the other hand the feeling that it slips through your fingers everytime you want to grab it.

Something like that must have been the experience of the early Greek philosophers and it remained through the centuries. We still experience the same elusiveness.

Philosohers have tried to get a hold on these universals in a number of ways: we could say........yes they are out there, they exist (Realism) or we could say no,they dont exist out there but only in our mind (Conceptualism) or we could say..forget the whole thing, we dont need it (Nominalism).

Is it weird to postulate (= hold as true without proof) the existence of unobservable, immaterial entities? No it isnt. The existence of quarks or neutrinos or an invisible object in the universe are postulated, because this postulate really helps to explain phenomena,which we observe.

This all is not about Thomas Aquinas personnaly, tho indirecty it definitely is, but I have a reason to ask Thomas to give me some space. And I know he would have agreed, for the issue of Universals is so essential to understand what was happening philosophically in his time.

And for you it is so essential to understand, sothat you can understand what philosophy (from an epistemological point of view) is all about.

And not only philosophy, but also all debates in our time, where people use all these universals so easily as if they they know what is absolutely true and to what we absolutely should comply.

Next class I will deal with universals in detail,with the solutions man's mind came up with. And then we can assess our position in regard to this subject and look at philosophers to come yet and how they dealt with this intricate problem.

The Discussion

[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: So abstact.
[13:27] Herman Bergson: YEs Aristotle...
[13:27] Herman Bergson: How do you feel Cailleach..:-) ??
[13:28] Cailleach Shan: In Thomas Aquinas' time were they discussing universals when they were contemplating the existence of God... or were they looking at things like the wind?
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: It stirs the mind in the chase to capture it.
[13:29] Herman Bergson: Good question Cailleach....
[13:29] Herman Bergson: Because these universals were essential to Thomas AND his belief
[13:30] Herman Bergson: Just think of properties like goodness, allmightiness, Allknowing, just......all loving....
[13:30] Herman Bergson: supose these properties were only inside man's mind
[13:30] Herman Bergson: while they were ascribed to God
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: abstract.. you cited objects one can observe as examples.. what about abstract objects.. does love have an universal or is it a universal..
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: Where else but the mind?
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: i think it can't be a universal.. dos it have one?
[13:31] Herman Bergson: That is the leap of faith Aristotle....where God
[13:31] Cailleach Shan: How could we manifest a loving action towards another if it wasn't first in our mind?
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: We bring the universal into existence.
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: Then I must be.
[13:32] Herman Bergson: That is not the scolastic problem cailleach...
[13:32] Herman Bergson: Just look at this reasoning....
[13:33] Herman Bergson: If I say this flower is red I have an individual and a universal
[13:33] Herman Bergson: the universal isnt identical with the individual...many individuals can be red
[13:34] Herman Bergson: so this redness must be something else...whatever it is
[13:34] Herman Bergson: However...
[13:34] Herman Bergson: when I say God is good....I have a problem
[13:35] Herman Bergson: if you regard God as an individual, like I can say Cailleach is good, God and Cailleach would be on the same level of existence
[13:35] Herman Bergson: and that isnt the idea of God they had...
[13:36] Herman Bergson: God was an individual, but also all goodness
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: Wel they could not have the power if everyone can have the power.
[13:36] Herman Bergson: so the individual was identified with the universal
[13:37] Herman Bergson: but when these universals were just creations of the human mind..?
[13:37] Herman Bergson: Where then would God be with his properties?
[13:37] Osrum Sands: But that is not Aquinas' Ontological argument - I think
[13:38] Cailleach Shan: So at that time did they all accept that the individual was identified with the universal?
[13:38] Herman Bergson: I will come to the five arguments of the existence of God of Thomas soon Osrum
[13:38] Osrum Sands: ok sory
[13:38] Herman Bergson: no....Cailleach
[13:39] Herman Bergson: only when you mean with the individual God
[13:39] Maphisto Mapholisto: we have a higher tolerance for ambiguity, uncertainty, and relativism than Thomas, i expect ... we don't need the Realist understanding as much as he did ... it is precisely because we are more Conceptualists that belief in his God has wained so much in the West
[13:39] Herman Bergson: all other material individuals were a kind of participating in a property (universal)
[13:40] Cailleach Shan: mmm.... I think my difficulty is trying to identify where I sit in which of the three camps...
[13:40] Herman Bergson: I agree with you Maff
[13:40] Herman Bergson: Yes are on the right track.....
[13:40] Maphisto Mapholisto: yes, Calli ... i find using the universals of Realism, Conceptualism and Nominalism very helpful to start pinning the thing down, for it helps me quieten down my own camp so i can listen more attentively to the others
[13:41] Herman Bergson: Like maff says...
[13:41] Herman Bergson: Also today this matter is important and still unsolved....
[13:42] Herman Bergson: Just think of cognitive psychology.....
[13:42] Herman Bergson: when you do reseach on color perception
[13:43] Herman Bergson: you easily say that you show kids colorful objects and you freely talk about color and what it is....trying to come to statements about cognitive processes...
[13:43] Herman Bergson: but what are you talking about when kids say...that apple is red?
[13:43] Herman Bergson: what does cognitively happen?
[13:44] Maphisto Mapholisto: so very much
[13:44] Maphisto Mapholisto: it is not a single simple process
[13:44] Herman Bergson: right....
[13:44] Maphisto Mapholisto: what do say about people who are color blind?
[13:44] Maphisto Mapholisto: or people who see colors during a migraine
[13:44] Herman Bergson: that is not the issue here, Maff
[13:45] Maphisto Mapholisto: i think it is
[13:45] Herman Bergson: colorblind or not color see objects with properties
[13:45] Maphisto Mapholisto: philosophy can't just keep using Thomas's understanding of cognition
[13:45] Cailleach Shan: Does it matter how one describes the colour.... red, blue, whatever.... it's how you 'know' what it is...
[13:46] Maphisto Mapholisto: but not colors, herman .... so what happened to the universal 'yellow'?
[13:46] Herman Bergson: yes Cailleach...a colorblind sees things in shades of brown or grey, but he sees shades of 'color'
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: Knowing about lighwaves, color is not as intrigueing as emotional properties
[13:46] Maphisto Mapholisto: can universals just come and go into existence depending on the state of our sensory aparatus? what sort of universals are they?
[13:47] Osrum Sands: or abstracts like justice
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes
[13:47] Herman Bergson: No..I think you should take the discussion one level of abstraction higher....
[13:47] Maphisto Mapholisto: nibbling our way there herman
[13:48] Herman Bergson: it is not about is about kids that ascribe property X or Y to object B
[13:48] Herman Bergson: it is about reference
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: And so the value of the object changes.
[13:48] Cailleach Shan: It reminds me of Helen Keller learning about water..
[13:49] Maphisto Mapholisto: how can a kid reference something they are unaware of?
[13:49] Maphisto Mapholisto: quite, Calli
[13:49] Maphisto Mapholisto: and there is so much research in that area
[13:50] Maphisto Mapholisto: i undersatnd herman's desire to get us to see the thing in its highest abstract algebraic form, but we are still at concrete stage of thinking
[13:51] Osrum Sands: there's a Q Maff. Can something exist beyond our sensory intake
[13:51] Maphisto Mapholisto: we need to think in examples at the mo ... we are not hung up on 'yellow' as such
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: But properties are not concrete?
[13:51] Osrum Sands: can it be there without any experience
[13:51] Osrum Sands: eg God
[13:51] Maphisto Mapholisto: good question Os
[13:52] Maphisto Mapholisto: though the Holy Spirit is there to give you direct experince, i expect you would be told
[13:52] Herman Bergson: I think this is one of our questions....That question will be answered when we look at the proofs of Gods existance by Thomas Aquinas, Osrum
[13:52] Cailleach Shan: We can conceptualise without having had the experience.
[13:52] Maphisto Mapholisto: true Calli
[13:52] hope63 Shepherd: could the universe exits before man experienced it..
[13:52] Herman Bergson: We can halucinate Cailleach
[13:52] Osrum Sands: sorry just straining at the bit
[13:53] Cailleach Shan: Hehehehe.... Amsterdam coffee houses.
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Right!
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:53] Herman Bergson: But let me put it this way
[13:53] Osrum Sands: Shall I go get an air ticket to there ???
[13:53] Osrum Sands: sorry red herring
[13:54] Herman Bergson: order Osrum...!
[13:54] Herman Bergson: :-)
[13:54] Maphisto Mapholisto: good as gold here
[13:54] Herman Bergson: words refer to things......
[13:54] Herman Bergson: to put it in a simple means that object...and so on...
[13:55] Herman Bergson: when it comes to properties (universals) this simple one on one system of reference doesnt seem to work
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: for us we need words for things.. but things exist also without words..
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: Sorry, got to go, folks are screaming to eat the turkey. Bye everyone.
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: It's difficult to consider universals from the perspective of Thomas Aquinas .... our current data keeps getting in the way.
[13:56] Osrum Sands: enjoy
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: bye ari..
[13:56] Maphisto Mapholisto: bye Aristo
[13:56] Herman Bergson: yes Hope..there still are discovered animals which we have no name for
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: Bye Ari... Happy Thanksgiving.
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: would be valid for ideas too..
[13:58] Maphisto Mapholisto: language, and the cognition that goes with it, is such a complex thing. It is more than just nouns referencing things. Just think about verbs - what are they really referring to?
[13:58] Cailleach Shan: Cooking?
[13:58] Osrum Sands: words speak to human experience
[13:59] Herman Bergson: I know, Maff....
[13:59] Maphisto Mapholisto: or conjunctions? are the proper article?
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd is Offline
[13:59] Herman Bergson: yes...or the word THE or SOME
[13:59] Herman Bergson: I is a hell out there..:-)
[13:59] Maphisto Mapholisto: words often teach humans to know what experience signifies, Os
[13:59] Osrum Sands: point
[13:59] Herman Bergson: Well...let's end our discussion here for today....
[14:00] Maphisto Mapholisto: ok
[14:00] Maphisto Mapholisto: but i just wanna add ....
[14:00] Herman Bergson: next class we will look at possible solutions
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: There is a glimmer of light now Herman...
[14:00] Maphisto Mapholisto: great
[14:00] Herman Bergson: I am glad you are feeling better Cailleach..:-)
[14:01] Ledddd Zabelin: i need more time to get this into my head, but i love it
[14:01] Maphisto Mapholisto: can i just throw in a more general observation at the end?
[14:01] Cailleach Shan: lol....I'm still considering joining Os in Amsterdam for some enlightening hallucination..
[14:02] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol, calli
[14:02] Osrum Sands: haha
[14:02] Osrum Sands: or Nimbin ?
[14:02] Cailleach Shan: Hahahaha..... been there..... crazy place.
[14:02] Herman Bergson: Maff....let's hear it :-)
[14:02] Osrum Sands: just like life - a crazy place
[14:03] Maphisto Mapholisto: maybe the time is past, herman
[14:03] Osrum Sands: no go for it Maff
[14:03] Cailleach Shan: I would like to hear what you wanted to say Maff.
[14:03] Herman Bergson: too...dont keep it from promissed..:-)
[14:03] Osrum Sands: please
[14:03] Maphisto Mapholisto: but i'll pop it here just for the record, to try and understand my own intuitive reluctance to be a Realist camp follower
[14:04] Maphisto Mapholisto: i think herman's observation that "people use all these universals so easily as if they they know what is absolutely true and to what we absolutely should comply" is an important statement because the post WWII, post-holocaust generations in the shadow of the Bomb have become far more wary about signing up to causes full of Universals. American Freedom is causing a lot of grief in the middle east
[14:05] Maphisto Mapholisto: nah, won't say any more now
[14:05] Osrum Sands: when you listen to many / most or all polititians they do it all the time
[14:05] Osrum Sands: and it becomes meaningless
[14:05] Herman Bergson: Thank you Maff....
[14:05] Maphisto Mapholisto: too true Os
[14:05] Herman Bergson: Thank you
[14:06] Maphisto Mapholisto: want me tanked in Amsterdam too, eh
[14:06] Osrum Sands: stop that you guys
[14:06] Cailleach Shan: mmm.. Yay....let's go!!
[14:06] Osrum Sands: getting me all welll
[14:06] Herman Bergson: let me make one final remark before I dismiss class....
[14:08] Herman Bergson: I think that what Maff just said shows how important philosophical reflection still is in this world
[14:08] Osrum Sands: clearly
[14:08] Herman Bergson: Class dismissed..:-)
[14:08] Cailleach Shan: Yes, thanks Maff x x x
[14:08] hope63 Shepherd: if it helps formulate values yes..
[14:08] Maphisto Mapholisto: ty herman
[14:09] Osrum Sands: but but but
[14:09] Strawberrry Fizzle: ty
[14:09] Herman Bergson: Thank you all for this wonderful discussion
[14:09] Osrum Sands: today was great
[14:09] Osrum Sands: we got going there for a time
[14:10] hope63 Shepherd: thank you sl airlines for letting me miss 50%
[14:10] Maphisto Mapholisto: you're the cause of what goes on here, herman .... thank you
[14:10] Cailleach Shan: Thanks Herman....
[14:10] Osrum Sands: not Quantas or Telstra there hope
[14:10] Herman Bergson: my pleasure...:-)
[14:10] hope63 Shepherd: ty for the other 50% :)
[14:10] hope63 Shepherd: nope.. its some american company..
[14:10] Herman Bergson: the lecture is already in the blog...this discussion will be added tomorrow hope

Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-11-22 12:59:15

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