The Imitation: A Critique of Atheism


A frequent visitor of this blog, Tildeb, seems to think that reality is the only thing that is true. Well, my intention here is to show that reality is the very thing that contains untruth. He states, “How do you know what is straight? The notion of ‘straight’ (the principle) has various expressions of approximations in reality (the practice) that we utilize, and we utilize these approximations because they work.” … “We use a straight edge to draw a straight line” and this “shows how useful it is to utilize relative tools – both materialistic (a relatively straight edge) as well as theoretical (a relatively useful comparison like differences in quantity) – to help us function in reality when reality arbitrates what works.”

Straightness is a universal. One has only to look at the varying “degrees of straightness” modeled in the material world in order to grasp or extract the concept of straightness. The concept, that exists in the intellect, serves as the standard against which we hold all other straight things we find in the material world. In other words, a straight line in reality is true to the extent that it conforms to the ideal defined by the essence of straightness. A straight line drawn on a cracked sidewalk with a piece of chalk is not as true as one drawn on a table using a ruler and a pen. “True” is meant here in the sense of being genuine, or in the same sense that an arrow which hits its mark is true.

The intellect grasps the true forms of things. These true forms are the universals, the standards by which everything in the material world is judged. We ask ourselves, “does this straight line on my paper correctly instantiate the essence of what it means to be straight?” We trust a ruler to guide us because we see it already conforms to the universal we grasp in our intellects.  When you think about straightness, it is necessarily perfect straightness that you are contemplating, not the approximation of it. We find approximations in reality. You may be able to find tiny imperfections not detectable to the naked eye in almost all straight lines that exist in the material world. Closer inspection might reveal a straight line that is not true. But, when mankind comes to make a straight line, we do the best we can.

Now, inasmuch as the things that we see in this world correctly instantiate the universals, they are true. A squirrel that does not store nuts for the winter is not as true as a squirrel that does. A dog that has three legs is not as true as a dog that has four legs. A human that is blind is not as true a human as one that can see. All the world is judged to be true based upon these universals that we grasp. But, that is just it, we grasp them. We apprehend these things as if they were waiting for us to reach them in some way. But, how do they exist? The only way in which we experience them is in the mind. And it seems as if all of reality were built upon these things like great archetypes or blueprints made by some great architect. It follows then, that as only minds contain them, they exist primarily in the divine mind. Thus, a thing is true inasmuch as it expresses conformity to the divine intellect, and the Divine has shared his thoughts with us.

Now, It’s not hard to realize that if John tries to act like Carl, he is imitating him. He has become a crude copy of Carl. And when considered as a “Carl”, John is a less real Carl than Carl himself. In the same way, inasmuch as things in the material world imitate the universals and miss the mark, they are not true and are less real than the things they imitate. That being the case, we are living in a world that is not entirely true and may be more of a copy, a shadow, or a crude imitator than a perfect original. People like Tildeb, who let reality arbitrate what is true are letting falsehoods dictate what is right and wrong. If they really thought that way, they might think a three legged dog better than a four legged dog; or a blind man better than a seeing one. Indeed, they are blind themselves, for they confine themselves to see only the crude imitations, and never open their eyes to the truth.

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34 thoughts on “The Imitation: A Critique of Atheism

  1. You can imagine a pink unicorn. That doesn’t make my fluffy blue toy unicorn a ‘crude’ imitator of anything real any more than the conceptualization of what ‘straight’ means is a thing in and of itself. You continue to confuse your concepts as more ‘real’ than discrete objects that exist independent of your mind.

    The platonic form of anything doesn’t exist. But, please, prove me wrong: show me where any of them actually exist as independent objects. But you know and I know that you cannot. And there’s a good reason for this: platonic forms are nothing more and nothing less than mental constructs we infuse with symbolic meaning. Said another way, tell me exactly how a dog with four legs is more of a ‘real’ dog than one with three. Again, you cannot because both fulfill our mental construct of what the term ‘dog’ means. And our language is filled with such meaningful ambiguities to account for what these terms represent in reality. No ‘perfect’ Platonic form of dog actually exists, and all the dogs of the world are no less ‘real’ when they sink their teeth into you regardless of how many legs they may have. When asked what bit you, you will not say some less-than-real dog bit you. Stop pretending I am the one confused about reality for insisting that it is the biting dog that is real and not your conceptualization of it. But then, unlike you, I have a great deal of respect for reality to arbitrate what is true about it.

    1. I’m a little out of the loop on this one, but I think Dan is trying to say that our thoughts reflect external realities. A, yes, unproven statement, but not without logic. I’ll attempt to demonstrate. Please bear the word “attempt” in mind.

      It goes something like this: the number 30 is real even though it has no location, and it is universal to all existence in it’s various scribed forms, it is ageless, timeless, no beginning, no end. It exists out of the necessity of it’s own existence. It is therefore real, but not seen. Our thoughts about it are real in their attempt to compare it to language, formal logic, logical laws, and objects of tangibility. It exists independent of thought. The laws of math concerning the number 30 are not affected by actual existence, but actual existence is affected by them.

      Conclusion: our thoughts do not make the number 30, but the number 30 is utilized by thinking individuals.

      Not that this puts the issue to rest in my mind, but it is an interesting consideration.

      1. It (the number 30) exists out of the necessity of it’s own existence. It is therefore real, but not seen.

        This is a great example so let’s follow it.

        Show me a ‘thirty’.

        If it is real, if it exists ‘out of the necessity of its own existence’, it exists in some way that reveals itself independent of our minds through effect in reality. You cannot provide any evidence that thirty is real, that thirty causes effect in reality, which is why you say it is ‘unseen’. But last last bit is not an explanation; it’s an evasion.

        Thirty does not seem to exist.

        So, how is it this number seems to be understood by (almost) everyone everywhere all the time if it isn’t real, if it doesn’t exist independently of the mind?

        Well, because we as humans share the use and function of assigning meaning to symbols… in this case a word denoting (or, better yet, describing) a comparative quantity. It’s a concept that has proven highly useful so all of use it to describe some amount greater than 29 but fewer than 31.

        So far, so good.

        Quantity is a ‘relative’ comparison because our numbering system is Base 10. Change the Base, change what the number represents (or the comparative quantity the symbol describes). For example, in Base 8 the number 30 would represent the quantity we call 24 (the first column represents complete Bases – 3 groups of 8 – and the second column how many parts of one Base of 8 – in this case, none). And we can do this not because the number 30 is a real thing but is actually a description of quantity relative to the Base we mutually agree to use. Dan’s friend Gorf from Planet Neo only has a pair of fingers on each of its pair of limbs (how its species conquered intergalactic space travel remains a mystery). Not surprisingly, Gorf uses what we call Base 4, so to it the number 30 is obviously translatable into our 12. Dan doesn’t realize how lucky he is to have a friend like Gorf to help explain why concepts like numbers are not real objects that exist without being seen. He should learn to appreciate such friends.

        When we think of concepts as descriptions rather than objects, we can better understand why calling, say, thirty a thing is like calling pretty a thing… it makes no sense without a common reference point because it’s not an independent thing at all.

    2. Tildeb says, “The platonic form of anything doesn’t exist. But, please, prove me wrong: show me where any of them actually exist as independent objects.”

      I will not prove you wrong, but rather say that you are right. The form of a straight line does not exist in some platonic heaven of abstract objects outside of time and space. But, as you are only addressing platonic forms, you have not addressed my argument.

      I am, however, a realist about universals, in the sense that they are not mere inventions of the mind, but are grounded in the real natures of things like straight lines, humans, and squirrels. They exist also in the intellect of the person who grasps them.

      You are also not addressing my argument when you say that I “imagine” straightness. That is not my argument. The universals are grasped by the intellect, not the imagination. When you think of a straight line, you do so by having the concept of the straight line in your intellect. It’s something you understand, not something you picture.

      If you pictured it, it would not be a universal. The thing pictured by the imagination is going to be particular and individual in some way. The intellect grasps universal and incorporeal things. The universal cannot be in the imagination for the same reason that it cannot exist as a mere material process in the mind. For you would be contemplating some individual thing and not a universal. The thought about straightness as a material thing would consist of some physical representation of straightness in the brain somewhere. But, a physical representation cannot count as a universal because it too would be a particular material thing among others, and not universal at all. Straightness, however, applies to all straight lines. Catness applies to all cats and is that which makes cats the sorts of things they are. Hence to grasp humanity is to grasp the essence of human beings – that which makes them human – and thus to understand what a human being is. You aren’t grasping individual things. Therefore, the intellect has certain potentialities that material things do not, for it can take on the form of a thing without losing its own form. The intellect is irreducible to imagination, sensation, or mere material processes for they only deal with individual bodily things.

  2. A squirrel that does not store nuts for the winter is not as true as a squirrel that does. A dog that has three legs is not as true as a dog that has four legs. A human that is blind is not as true a human as one that can see.

    Icky. Very icky.

    Indeed, they are blind themselves, for they confine themselves to see only the crude imitations, and never open their eyes to the truth.

    I’ve often said the same thing about tildeb. He just doesn’t see the truth like you do. You know why?
    He’s jealous!
    That’s why.

  3. Tildeb,

    12 or 30. What we call it doesn’t really matter, does it? We know it exists because it has many applications in nature. Everything is divisible into 30 parts. Therefore, the number exists simply by necessity. It applied the same way before there was a human mind to think about it.

    1. It exists in the same way all words exist: representations. But you omit any explanation of how ‘pretty’ exists in the same way that 30 or 12 exists independent of what the words represent. And therein lies the clue: representations are not ‘things’ in and of themselves but require something to describe. They are utterly dependent concepts that are meaningless by themselves.

      Again, show me a 30 independent of what it describes!

      1. You’re contradicting yourself.

        You wrote that our thoughts reflect external realities which you attempt to demonstrate by using the number thirty as an example. But that’s not an external reality; the quantity being described uses this term ’30’ which isn’t floating about as an external reality. It is formed and expressed entirely as an internal thought to symbolize a description of quantity. Change the quantity, change the symbol. The number didn’t evaporate or disintegrate or disappear in a puff of smoke. The number remains available to US to describe this quantity whenever reality matches up with the meaning of the symbol WE have created.

        Furthermore, you write the number exists simply by necessity What necessity? It’s a quantity WE describe with the term. Not aliens. Not other critters. Not supernatural invisible agencies. WE describe quantity by the symbols we call numbers. And different human cultures produce different numbering systems (and terms) to describe quantities, in which case the symbol ’30’ and the word ‘thirty’ is meaningless drivel. It exists only as a conceptual description of quantity. Not all numbering systems posses the same numbers translated into Base 10; in fact, the Babylonian system of Base 60 has no concept of zero because it makes no sense: when in time is there no time?; where in direction is no direction? Yet we mutually agree to continue to use the circular clock and compass even though these numbering systems do not have any requirement for zero. This shows us that the numbering system we agree to use is a description of something in reality and entirely dependent on it for its meaning.

        I don’t know how else to get you to appreciate that in no way have you provided any evidence whatsoever that that the symbol we agree to use to represent a quantity comes from anywhere other than entirely from us… not by necessity nor by capturing some external thingie and putting it to use but by agreeing that a symbolic system of describing quantity is handy for mutual understanding and clarity of quantity. The notion of a platonic form existing independent of our creative conceptualization of reality is factually and demonstrably wrong.

  4. “The notion of a platonic form existing independent of our creative conceptualization of reality is factually and demonstrably wrong.”

    What are you reading? No one here believes in platonic forms.

    Tildeb thinks there is no humanity, no straightness, no triangularity, and no numbers. I’m beginning to wonder what he would describe himself as.

    1. Tildeb thinks there is no humanity, no straightness, no triangularity, and no numbers.

      Instead of telling us what Tildeb thinks, why not just quote him saying these things?
      Ninth Commandment, remember?

      1. I’m sure he can answer for himself. The problem is he hasn’t. Neither you nor Tildeb have engaged my argument and Tildeb has insisted on a platonic understanding of it; which is a misunderstanding. If he believes there are no universals and thus no standard of judgment, I must ask him what he calls himself. If he judges himself to be a certain thing, then is that thing a dog or a human? How does he know the difference unless he uses a standard whereby he measures if a thing conforms to it? If he thinks himself a human he must have criteria he must meet to qualify.

      2. Of course there are standards of judgement – and we use them all time to great effect and accuracy – but they are all relative. In the same way that elevation is a relative comparison, so too are such concepts as ‘humanity’. There doesn’t have to be a ‘universal’ metric for speed in order for local rules – in miles per hour or kilometers per hour here on earth – to be able to very accurately determine relative distance traveled over relative time. Your insistence that we cannot have the latter without a universal former is demonstrably wrong. If you don’t believe this argument, then see for yourself: go out on a city street where enforcement officers are working and depress the accelerator of your vehicle to the floor and keep it there. See what happens when you attempt to explain to some officer and later the judge why you cannot accept the reality of the speeding ticket you have been issued unless and until each of them first provides you with this universal metric you insist must be real. See how far your logic that builds your metaphysical reality will get you… sitting in a jail cell refusing to admit the tickets are a mere facsimile of the universal speeding ticket that has yet to be issued.

      3. That should read sitting in a jail cell refusing to admit the ticket you have been issued is anything more than mere facsimile of the universal speeding ticket that has yet to be issued

    2. The intellect grasps the true forms of things. These true forms are the universals, the standards by which everything in the material world is judged.

      This is the very definition of the model we call platonic forms (as described in The Republic of Plato Chpt 19, V.476).

      Okay, Dan: show me humanity. Show me straightness. Show me triangularity. Show me 30.

      ….

      ….

      ….

      Let me know when you have found these ‘universals’ independent of what they are describing. If you could also locate ‘pretty’ for me I would be much obliged.

      1. Tildeb thinks there is no…

        Instead of telling us what Tildeb thinks, why not just quote him saying these things?
        Ninth Commandment, remember?

        I’m sure he can answer for himself.

        He can and he does. That does not excuse your dishonesty.
        Instead of telling us what Tildeb thinks, why not just quote him saying these things? How hard can it be?

        Tildeb doesn’t need to create strawmen. I don’t need to.
        We are both happy to quote your original words.
        Yet you…don’t. It’s almost like…you can’t.

        Ninth Commandment.

  5. Tildeb,

    Platonic realism takes universals to exist entirely independently of either the natural world or of any mind. That is not my position. In my post I stated that universals can exist only in either their concrete instantiations, or in an intellect. But, they also have a kind of existence beyond those instantiations and beyond finite, human intellects. The reason for this is that universals pre-exist both the material world and all finite intellects. They also exist in the divine intellect as blueprints according to which the Divine Intellect creates the world.

    You say, “There doesn’t have to be a ‘universal’ metric for speed in order for local rules – in miles per hour or kilometers per hour here on earth – to be able to very accurately determine relative distance traveled over relative time. ”

    I’m not suggesting a universal measurement for speed that we must abide by. It’s not as if we all must follow the metric system or we are breaking God’s law. I’m talking about speed itself. Either things move (instantiating acceleration), or things do not move. The ability to accelerate must exist within the material world before an object moves, thus instantiating acceleration. Otherwise, nothing could move. The entire universe has the principle of movement, without which, it would not have begun to expand. Our ticket writing for speed limits has nothing to do with it, for acceleration pre-existed mankind, pre-existed all words that describe it, and pre-existed our intellects. Because one society measures in meterts and another in yards does nothing to show that acceleration does not exist. If anything, it proves it because they are all talking about one and the same thing – acceleration.

    Now, if dogs only had three legs, we would think it odd when we saw a dog that had four legs. But as we all know, dogs have four legs and we think it odd when a dog has less than that or more. It is because we abstract from that concrete object in this world and grasp the essence of what it means to be a dog. Is a human conforming to the essence of what it means to be a human when he tries to lay an egg? Definitely not! These universals are easy to find, and easy to grasp. They don’t originate in our minds, they originate in nature. We see what it means to be a certain kind of thing and can identify when something is “not quite right.” It is because we possess these universals in our intellects. We are grasping the blueprints by which all things are made. And it’s obvious that dogs had four legs before humans ever became aware that they had four legs. And if humans became extinct and dogs were still around, dogs would still be correctly instantiating the essence of what it means to be a dog by having four legs.

    1. They (universals) also exist in the divine intellect as blueprints according to which the Divine Intellect creates the world.

      And you know this how? Certainly not from reality. You’re just attributing reality – including such concepts as measuring movement with relative standards – to this agency you call a “Divine intellect”.

      Let’s say it might be true. Show me how these so-called plans for ‘acceleration’ are a property of this Divine intellect first and then are transferred into physical properties of mass. All I see (and measure) are physical properties of mass. That’s all the information I have, that I can use, that I need to function in the reality we share. No belief in some imaginary Divine intellect helps us in this cause. There isn’t a shred of evidence for some other agency at work regarding acceleration of physical mass and nothing upon which you can base a conclusion for a Divine intellect. Furthermore, neither I nor you have any way to determine what a Divine intellect even looks like, how it operates, where it resides. Quite simply, you’re just making shit up.

      Daniel, you’re very confused. You tell us that universals don’t exist but that they exist, that unlike platonic forms they don’t exist in reality but only in the mind as if this gives them form and substance independent of the mind that utilizes the concept. I say they are the mind’s – not some ‘Divine intellect’s’ – product alone dependent entirely on its interaction with reality, that to call these handy concepts ‘real’ is to give them substance and discrete borders they do not possess in the same way that imagining a pink unicorn gives the concept shape and mass.

      Reality – not our imaginings – determines what is true about it and the sooner you respect that fact the sooner you can start appreciating why empowering contrary beliefs serve no useful purpose except confusion, delusion, and hypocrisy.

  6. “And you know this how?”

    Refer to my post and my replies.

    “Certainly not from reality.”

    Yes. Reality. The universals are grounded in the real natures of things. They are abstracted from concrete real things.

    “You’re just attributing reality – including such concepts as measuring movement with relative standards”

    Relative to what, exactly? Who decides these standards that aren’t really standards? Is it you, society, the majority, the wise, the experts, or the people in charge? How is this idea of relative any different than using your imagination?

    And by the way, Cedric, I’ll admit to misrepresenting Tildeb when he tells me there really is such a thing as straightness, or humanity, or triangularity? If he admits humanity is a real thing, then I will admit my wrong.

    1. And by the way, Cedric, I’ll admit to misrepresenting Tildeb when he tells me there really is such a thing as straightness, or humanity, or triangularity? If he admits humanity is a real thing, then I will admit my wrong.

      Surely you should do the right thing willingly and in good cheer without holding it hostage?

      Do you always subject your morality to the actions of others?
      Hmm

      Instead of telling us what Tildeb thinks, why not just quote him saying these things?
      Ninth Commandment, remember?

      I’m sure he can answer for himself.

      He can and he does. That does not excuse your dishonesty.
      Instead of telling us what Tildeb thinks, why not just quote him saying these things? How hard can it be?

      I’ll admit to misrepresenting Tildeb..

      You have.
      Instead of telling us what Tildeb thinks, why not just quote him saying these things? How hard can it be?
      Ninth Commandment.

    2. They (universals) are grounded in the real natures of things. They are abstracted from concrete real things.

      This is exactly where you are wrong.

      Galileo showed repeatedly that ‘natures’ – long attributed to things (especially motion) – were not true in reality and demonstrably so; rather, physical objects were subject to physical, uniform, unguided, purposeless yet consistent forces that only gave the appearance of a thing’s nature (the property of heaviness belongs to rock’s nature, you see). This again is right out of Greek philosophy that the early church absorbed as it’s model for its ‘natural’ science (metaphysical musings unrelated to reality), which is why all religious nonsense today continues to be absolutely reliant on the scientific method for its ‘insights’ and produces not one bit of new knowledge in comparison. (That’s a clue, by the way.) Metaphysics is a failed method of inquiry long discredited in all areas of life… except religion where it continues to urge us to believe in supernatural causation and suspensions of these physical properties and forces when theologically necessary. It is not surprising that you have similarly fallen head first into the same bottomless pit of metaphysics – the same ancient rabbit hole of nonsense – and think yourself clear sighted announcing relational concepts are real but unreal things that do but don’t exist.

      The wiggle word ‘nature’ as used by you in the above italics to describe agency and purpose is the problem. Upon examination, it simply doesn’t exist… except as an attribution we mistakenly apply and think ourselves insightful without checking back with reality’s say in the matter where belief in its accuracy is revealed to be hollow because when we do check back, we find our ‘answers’ factually wrong.

      It is not the ‘nature’ of the eye to see, for example, but turns out to be a brain process that uses the eye as its primary sensory organ. But we can see without eyes (yeah, we really can) as long as our brains have some other sensory organ to use. So where did the ‘nature’ of the eye go? Well, it was never there to begin with… (except and only in the metaphysical musings of those who use it to continue to believe what they want believed). The same is true everywhere we look in Nature for natures, meaning everywhere in the living world we’ve looked. That’s why believing in natures is an excellent way to fool ourselves into thinking we know something we do not actually know and we find this all the time in religious claims about reality that relies on metaphysics as its primary method of inquiry. You already demonstrated this foolishness upthread declaring that you know They (universals) also exist in the divine intellect as blueprints according to which the Divine Intellect creates the world. Absolute tripe, but you believe it to be insightful as well as accurate… without any evidence from reality to hold your metaphysical musings in check; instead, you allow it to run roughshod over the reality you think it describes.

      Silly rabbit. Such tricks are for kids.

  7. “Galileo showed repeatedly that ‘natures’ – ”

    You don’t get a free pass here. You have to outline his argument or provide one yourself. In fact, other than just outright contradicting me, you haven’t provided any reason to reject my argument. All you’ve done is cast a bad light on it.

    Also, I think it’s very arrogant to reject the entire field of metaphysics. You say it’s not in the nature of the eye to see. How is that not a metaphysical statement? It doesn’t make sense to employ a metaphysical statement to reject all of metaphysics.

    1. Oh I do and I can; I wrote a thesis on exactly this but I’m hesitant in writing out my paper because of length and the time to do it; instead, I’ll parse it into five edited comments and drop all the annotations:

      (Part 1 of 5)

      Until Galileo gave physics a good shake, there existed a widely held assumption that the physical world, which could be experienced by the senses, contained an underlying metaphysical essence, which could only be experienced by the mind. In other words, what the human sense recognized by sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch were the physical expressions of an object’s nature, that is to say quiddity, or essence. What do I mean by metaphysics? The New Illustrated Webster’s Dictionary (1992) defines the noun metaphysics as “The systemic study or science of the first principles of being and of knowledge; the doctrine of the essential nature and fundamental relations of all that is real”. What are the first principles of knowledge? The term (Greek) means ‘beginnings’ or ‘first principles’. The first principles are the elements, (another Greek term)(earth, water, fire, air), meaning ‘the Boundless, which are “primary substances that never age, can never be surpassed, and produce everything always. They form the ground or foundation of the world, since everything rests on them. They are the (Greek term) ‘beginnings’ to which everything individual and particular goes back out of and which it is made.”

      Aristotelian physics and scholastic peripatetic philosophy recognized that the sensible world was always changing. The physical world, and by extension the physical senses, could not truthfully reflect reality, nor could the senses be trusted to reveal reality. Only the mind could be relied upon to grasp what did not change, understand what remained immutable and beyond the Boundless, comprehend the metaphysical nature of the world and all that was eternally true and everlasting perfect. The Greek philosopher Plato (428-384 B.C.) differentiated between knowing the changing world through the senses, which he called Belief, and contemplating “the realities themselves as they are for ever in the same unchanging state, which he called Knowledge. It should come as no surprise, them, to learn what Plato thought of the study of astronomy and how astronomy should be studied: “In this way. The intricate traceries in the sky are, no doubt, the loveliest and most perfect of material things, but still part of the visible world, and therefore they fall far short of the true realities – the real relative velocities, in the world of pure number and all perfect geometric figures, of the movements which carry round the bodies involved in them. These, you will agree, can be conceived by reason and thought, not seen by the eye.”

      Plato called the true realities of all things ‘Forms’, which could only be known by reason and thought. What the senses revealed was the expression of the essence of the Form. Thus, within each sensible object or body resided its nature, and the expression of its eternal and unchanging essence.

      Aristotelian physics can be understood to link the physically changing world to an underlying philosophy that accepts Platonic Forms as an established truth. Accepting that such a philosophical premise is true, it logically follows that everything in the sensible world is made from different mixtures of the elements that contain a nature suitable to the appropriate form. For example, a lowly tree is made up of a combination of elements and possess the nature, or essence, of the Form ‘Tree-ness’. A dog is higher on the hierarchical scale of being because it possesses the combination of required elements and the nature of Dog-ness as well as limited choice and mobility, which are also properties of the nature of Dog-ness. At the top of the hierarchical scale of being resides Man, possessing the required elements, the nature of Man-ness, mobility and choice, and crowned with (Greek word) meaning sophia, which Aristotle understands “as the highest intellectual, and especially philosophical, excellence of which the human mind is capable, and which is the result of studying nature for its own sake.” The physics of Aristotle places mobility of a sensible body within the sensible body itself, as an expression of a body’s nature, an expression of the body’s Form. Movement as an expression of Form is what Aristotle means when he says a body is able to “move by its own nature”.

      (End of Part 1)

    2. (Part 2 of 5)

      What would be the physical properties of celestial bodies, assuming that objects represent Form and that a body’s motion expresses in some measure the body’s nature? Aristotle outlines his premises and conclusions about celestial matter in his work On The Heavens. Because the fixed stars remain in place relative to each other, yet appear to travel from east to west without falling toward or rising away from the earth, Aristotle concludes that the motion of the celestial bodies must be circular, which is natural to the celestial bodies, but different from the straight ascending and descending motion of terrestrial bodies that are made from the four elements found on earth. Therefore, Aristotle concludes that the celestial bodies must be made of a different element, which he calls “aither, derived from the fact that it ‘runs always’ for an eternity of time,” that possesses the nature to travel in a perfect circle. Aristotle further concludes that celestial bodies made of aither must be “exempt from increase and decrease” and that “the same reasoning leads us to suppose that it (aither) is also unalterable.” Because all the stars appear to remain fixed relative to each other, yet can be seen to complete a circumference about the earth in a single day of 24 hours, Aristotle explains this phenomena by placing the earth at the center of the celestial orbit and imbedding all the fixed stars in one moving circle.

      Aristotle’s elegant model explains much of what is observable, from explaining why bodies express their nature by traveling down, up, or in a circle, to explaining why the wandering stars – the planets – should be conceived as enjoying life and action on a lower hierarchical celestial scale compared with the higher ranking fixed stars. Aristotle draws an analogy of the fixed stars to a “perfectly conditioned (man who) has no need of action.” Aristotle also imports the idea of concentric spheres from Eudoxus (409 – 365 B.C.) in order to help explain the observable motion of the planets. But before we condemn this explanation as flawed, we should keep in mind that Aristotle’s basic assumption – the lens through which he viewed everything around him, that all bodies possessed a nature and expressed it – appeared to be verifiable by offering a credible explanation as to the nature of things.

      As an intriguing sidebar, how guilty are we of seeing our own world through an assumptive lens, and how does our own lens colour and shade our interpretations of what we assume to be true? Let us marvel at Aristotle’s example of sophia, and keep in mind that the quest for knowledge is a heroic journey that should be judged not only by the destination that is eventually reached but by the difficulty of the obstacles that have had to be surmounted. Aristotle, then, should be recognized as nothing less than a tremendously influential trailblazer.

      (end of part 2)

    3. (Part 3 of 5)

      About five hundred years later, a mathematician named Ptolemy (126 – 161 A.D.) developed a mathematical explanation of the planetary movements. He published a book called the Syntaxis that later became known as the Almagest. Ptolemy incorporated the geocentric Aristotelian view but discarded the planetary concentric spheres; instead, he offered a mathematical explanation based on three fundamental principles: eccentric motion, epicycles, and the equant. The principles of eccentric motion, whereby the earth is off-center, helps to explain the observable planetary variations in velocity as well as their variation in brightness. The principle of the epicycles helps to explain the apparent retrograde motion of the planets because of smaller orbits the planets have on the larger deferent around the earth. The principle of the equant helps to find the position from which planetary measurements of velocity can be more accurately made. Unfortunately for Ptolemy, the principle of the equant may allow for accurate mathematical planetary measurements, but the principle directly questions the legitimacy of placing the earth at the center of any world model.

      Ironically, Copernicus (1473 – 1543 A.D.) – like the Greek philosopher Aristarchus (310 – 230 B.C.) before him – places the sun at the center of the solar system to achieve mathematically accurate planetary measurements and criticizes Ptolemy on the principle of the equant, yet inserts his own sun-centered equant for more precise mathematical predictions. Copernicus’ heliocentric mathematical model is considered by many to be a revolution in astronomical history that finally ‘gets it right’ by placing the sun at the center of the solar system, but his explanations continue to rely on assuming that bodies possess a nature. For example, Copernicus says: Rectilinear movement, however, is added to those bodies which journey away from their natural place or are shoved out of it or are outside of it somehow. But nothing is more repugnant to the order of the whole and to the form of the world than for anything to be outside of its place. Therefore rectilinear movement belongs only to the bodies which are not in their right condition and are not perfectly conformed to their nature.

      Ptolemy and Copernicus may have provided mathematically based alternatives to Aristotle’s philosophical explanation of the natural world, but the underlying assumption – that all bodies possessed a nature and expressed it – remained unchallenged.

      (end of part 3)

    4. (Part 4 of 5)

      In 1611, Galileo published The Starry Messenger that outlined in some detail his discovery of four of Jupiter’s largest orbiting moons as seen through a telescope he had built and patented. As well, Galileo drew pictures of his observations of the Moon that revealed an irregular lunar surface that had mountains and craters. The Starry Messenger also contained Galileo’s drawings of established constellations as usually seen by the naked eye along with many additional stars that could be seen through the telescope. Although the telescope revealed distant and never-seen-before celestial objects in remarkable detail, Galileo realized that what he was seeing did not match what Aristotle’s physics presumed would be seen. The moons of Jupiter revolved around Jupiter and not the earth. The surface of the Moon was not perfectly smooth; the surface did not appear to be ‘exempt from increase and diminution’ or unalterable. Sunspots were not sublunary atmospheric anomalies but rather appeared to travel on the surface of the sun. Galileo could plainly see through the telescope that there were more than six thousand fixed stars. In short, the celestial observations Galileo made needed an explanation that could not be provided by Aristotelian physics. Thus, the stage was set for a revolutionary new physics to be introduced. Twenty-two years after The Starry Messenger was published, Galileo did just that within the covers of his next book Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican.

      How did Galileo present a new physics? He questioned the underlying assumption of Aristotelian physics, namely, that mobility resided within the nature of a body, and replaced this assumption by articulating the principle of inertia, namely, that a body in motion will continue to remain in motion unless another force acts upon it. The thought experiment of the inclined plane, whereby a highly polished ball rolls down an inclined plane onto a smooth plane, seems to be a simple idea: if the ball rolls down the incline, acceleration increases uniformly and the ball gains velocity. If the ball is forced up the inclined plane, the ball will do so until the violent force is dissipated, and then the ball will reverse course and descend. The important question to this experiment, however, is deceptively simple: “Now tell me what would happen to the same body on a surface that is not inclined?” The character Simplicio answers that the ball would remain at rest but, if the ball were given an impetus he says, “I see no cause for acceleration or retardation since there is neither descent nor ascent,” and, in the absence of cause for retardation, the ball would roll perpetually if the plane extended indefinitely. Simply put, the nature of a body in motion is not an expression of the body’s nature but an expression an exterior force placed upon the body. Mobility of a body is not an expression of the body’s form but the result of an exterior force.

      (end of part 4)

    5. (Part 5 of 5)

      Galileo knew from his experiments of dropping different objects from various heights that the objects dropped at the same rate. He intuitively knew that a common force was at work and that the dropped objects were not expressing different natures but were behaving as if they were all the sameobject. Motion, therefore, could not be an expression of different essences found within the different objects when all the objects fell at the same rate. Galileo couldn’t identify exactly what the force was, but the inclined plane experiment showed that the principle of motion did not reside within the objects but moved according to the uniform forces acting upon them. Thus, the ground was prepared for a revolution in physics, a revolution that would forever change the way the nature of things was examined. The quest was begun to identify and quantify forces. Before the end of the seventeenth century, Newton would mathematically describe the forces of motion and gravity as immutable natural laws as valid on earth as on the Moon.

      Galileo’s experiment fundamentally altered how mankind perceives itself. Aristotelian physics was a foundation of the theology of the Church and the sciences of other institutions. Those who questioned the validity and worth of both were seen, and often treated, as a destabilizing force throughout western civilization. Whereas Copernicus offered an alternative mathematical picture of the established celestial arrangement, Galileo revolutionized how nature should be perceived and left a legacy that would change the face of physics, questioned the body of established science, and offer a radical new way to perceive ourselves in the nature of things.

      (End of part 5)

  8. Tildeb,

    Have you ever contemplated triangularity? What you are grasping is the notion of a closed plane figure with three perfectly straight sides. This universal your mind apprehends is entirely determinate or exact, not some mere approximation. Any mental image you have of triangularity will be indeterminate and fuzzy; and will also be of a specific triangle like an isosceles, scalene, or equilateral. But, the concept that your intellect grasps applies to all triangles. The mental image is going to be personal and subjective, while the concept of triangularity is objective and can be grasped by many minds at once.

    Just as a mental image, if thoughts were made of purely physical processes, the physical representation that exists in your brain would only ever be an approximation of triangularity and would not really be a thought about triangularity since it would necessarily be of an isosceles, scalene, or equilateral. Your thought, therefore, would not apply to all triangles. Thus, thoughts cannot be purely material processes.

    1. Daniel, the brain does not have direct sensory access to reality. It relies entirely on coded information that it then manipulates into symbolic representations and groups them according to meaningful properties. ‘Triangularity’ in this sense is the same as ‘Dog’, meaning that our senses relay encoded information to the brain for it to perceive… regardless of its source. Without encountering triangles in reality, we would have no means to grant the term ‘triangularity’ any meaning.

      From the brain’s point of view, there is no difference between the process of identifying any particular triangle as a specific kind of 2D geometric shape with certain key properties and the process we use to identifying a dog as a specific kind of animal with certain key properties. This doesn’t make these certain key properties ‘real’ but is part of library we use to make a representative schematic in order for us to differentiate a triangle from a dog.

      Here I will revisit the concept of comparative elevation in that there exists in reality no such ‘thing’ as ‘high’ or ‘low’. We artificially create the ability to differentiate ‘high’ from ‘low’ by means of a common standard, a representative schematic, in order to compare elevation from a reference point. We do the same with geometric shapes and animals: we assign specific properties by means of comparisons even though there exists no subject-free point of reference. You continue to stumble on this notion that in order for us to assign specific properties to be a meaningful schemata, the properties themselves must exist in reality. Obviously this isn’t true when you consider money: it simply represents a common monetary value acceptable between people with goods and services to trade. Money itself is only as real as the materials they are made of in the same way triangularity is only as real as the neuron firing sequence. Each represents something else, and that representation does not have to exist in reality but can still produce or provide a very useful function between people.

  9. First, a repudiation of Aristotelian physics is not a repudiation of Aristotelian metaphysics. Because Copernicus or Aristotle were incorrect in their description of the nature of the stars and planets, does not mean that the stars and planets had no natures, or even that no natures exist at all. Even if they were to know for sure that the stars had no nature, it would not mean that no natures existed anywhere.

    Second, let me break this statement down: “Simply put, the nature of a body in motion is not an expression of the body’s nature [ i.e. not a function of the formal cause of the ball] but an expression an exterior force [i.e. the efficient cause] placed upon the body. Mobility of a body is not an expression of the body’s form but the result of an exterior force.” — So, the movement of the ball is not due to it’s roundness but due to the efficient cause that was applied to it, i.e. a hand that pushed it. But, if the ball was not round, rather it was some rectangular shape, it would travel about as far as the hand continued to push it and no farther. However, because the ball is round (its formal cause), it will continue along the plane for a far greater distance. The formal and efficient cause (not to mention the material cause) work together to produce the effect of continuing movement. And you cannot really make sense of these two causes without the final cause which is the continued movement. Without the final cause, the observer could not draw a conclusion, for the pushing hand would have had no effect.

    These modern descriptions of cause and effect which only talk about efficient causality, are not really an attempt to reduce final causality (teleology) to efficient causality, but rather an intentional discarding of the notion of final causes altogether. It’s the elephant in the room everyone ignores, for what the scientist is observing is the final cause.

    Third, the modern replacement of natures, essences, final causes and the like with “laws of nature” is an attempt to show not that the ball rolls by virtue of it’s nature or continues to roll because that’s what the efficient cause of the pushing hand was “directed towards”; but rather that events like a hand pushing a ball just happen to be regularly followed, in a “law-like way”, by events like the ball rolling. Thus, in the modern sense, there seems to be no necessary connections between causes and effects, no rational ground for inferences to the unobserved from the observed, or inferences to the future based on what happened in the past. But if science is in the business of discovering objective causal relationships between things, or of making predictions based on experimentation, then, based on the consequences of modern thought, science is impossible or at least rationally unfounded. The mechanistic-mathematical non-teleological view of the natural world that is supposed to make modern science possible, in fact, makes it unintelligible.

    1. Yes, another brilliant deduction by you, Daniel: that explains clearly why all these applications, technologies, and therapies produced by this unintelligible science works for everyone everywhere all the time. Therefore, this metaphysical conclusion for Oogity Boogity is a much more reasonable explanation!

      The inclined plane experiment required no hand because it was a thought experiment about a descending and ascending smooth ball – motions revealed to be wrongfully attributed to the objects’ natures, Dan. The notion of supposedly self-evident natures of all objects underlie the basis of all metaphysical ‘final causes’.

      Your intention to obfuscate is a fail.

  10. Obviously this isn’t true when you consider money: it simply represents a common monetary value acceptable between people with goods and services to trade. Money itself is only as real as the materials they are made of in the same way triangularity is only as real as the neuron firing sequence.

    Look, Dan. Tildeb has revealed himself! He thinks money doesn’t exist.
    Har har har. Those kwazy atheists. Right?

    The “Straw Man” Fallacy

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