I will argue that Aristotle’s fourfold division of four causes naturally arises from a combination of two distinctions (a) between things and changes, and (b) between that which potentially is something and what it potentially is. Within this scheme, what is usually called the “efficient cause” is something that potentially is a certain natural change, and the “final cause” is, at least in a basic sense, what the efficient cause potentially is. I will further argue that the essences of things (...) and changes are not features or attributes of them, but paradigms that set the standards according to which these things and changes may be judged to be natural or typical. The “formal cause” of a natural thing will be shown to be its essence in this sense: it sets the standards of typicality that apply to instances of its kind. The final cause will be shown to set the standard of typicality for natural changes. When we understand Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes in this way, it becomes clear on what basis he could convincingly argue that final causality is operative in the whole of nature. (shrink)
Although Descartes is often said to have coined the modern notion of ‘consciousness’, he defines it neither explicitly nor implicitly. This may imply (1) that he was not the first to use ‘conscientia’ in its modern, psychological sense, or (2) that he still used it in its traditional moral sense. In this paper, I argue for the latter assumption. Descartes used ‘conscientia’ according to the meaning we also find in texts of St. Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and later scholastics. Thus the (...) Cartesian conscientia is, technically speaking, a shared knowledge of the specific value of our thoughts as thoughts and at the same time the cause of this value. This means that it is not itself a kind of individual knowledge, awareness, or a particular thought. Rather, ‘conscientia’ refers to the evaluative knowledge of an ideal observer. (shrink)
Although Descartes is often said to have coined the modern notion of 'consciousness', he nowhere defines the according Latin term (conscientia), neither explicitly nor implicitly. This may either imply that he used the word in a sense that he did not make sufficiently clear, that he was not the first to use 'conscientia' in its modern psychological sense, or that he still used it in its traditional sense. I argue for the third assumption: Descartes used 'conscientia' according to the traditional (...) meaning that we also find in the writings of St. Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and later scholastics. Thus for Descartes, conscientia is not a kind of speculative self-knowledge, inner observation or reflexive awareness. Rather, it is a kind of practical knowledge. This is a bold claim. I will argue for it (1) by closely examining the key passages in the Cartesian writings and (2) by re-evaluating the traditional use of the Latin 'conscientia'. Then I will (3) draw some consequences. 1. Descartes makes rather clear what consciousness (conscientia) is not. To take only the most likely candidates. Consciousness is not a thought (cogitatio), since every thought must be accompanied by consciousness. Further, it is not a disposition. Descartes claims that the object of our consciousness never is a possible, but always must be an actual thought. It would be difficult to see how a disposition could be about an actual thought rather than a possible one. But consciousness is also not an attribute of a thought, since Descartes always ascribes it to the thinker herself. 2. In classical and mediaeval Latin, 'conscientia' did not mean 'consciousness', but also not exactly the same as 'moral conscience'. Three aspects are involved in the traditional meaning of the term. First, conscientia is shared knowledge. At least since Augustine, this knowledge is said to be shared between particular human agents and God. Second, conscientia concerns the specific (moral) value of an action. Even more, as Aquinas maintains, actions acquire their rationality and normativity only by being subject to conscientia. On this basis, later scholastics thirdly defined conscientia as a kind of practical knowledge. As such, conscientia is in some sense the cause of what it understands. Put in late scholastic terms, it is the formal cause of its moral being (esse morale). This account of the meaning of 'conscientia' will be shown to be largely compatible with the Cartesian use of the term; the only change to be made being that it deals with thoughts (cogitationes) and their specific value rather than with actions. Hence for Descartes, consciousness is a kind of practical knowledge about thoughts that is shared with an ideal observer (God) and that causes the specific value of the thought that is its object. 3. This reading has several important implications. For instance, it provides us with a reason for the claim that the consciousness is not itself a thought of the thinker who has it. Our the consciousness turns something into a thought by taking it as its object and thereby endowing it with the specific value that it has as a thought. This value might be truth, correctness, adequacy or something along these lines. Now every particular judgment of value can itself be false, incorrect, or inadequate. Hence, every particular reflexive thought would itself be subject to a further consciousness. The only conscientia that can stop this regress is Gods knowledge of our thoughts. This knowledge cannot be wrong. As a consequence, the suggested reading directs us away from the assumption that the mind contains only incorporeal thoughts that are privately known to the thinker. As for the first, Descartes himself claims that most of our thoughts depend on the body. The object of our consciousness may then be some event happening in our brain. Consciousness turns this event into something that is also in some respect incorporeal by endowing it with a value. As thought, it is then not a mere corporeal thing. (The modern reader may add: as thought, but not as bodily event, it is equivalent with other brain events.) As for the second part of the above claim, the Cartesian mind must be radically public, since we always share our conscientia with an ideal observer. Finally, we come to see why Descartes proceeds so easily from his cogito, sum to a proof of the existence of God. Since every thought must be subject to a conscientia, there must always have been an ideal observer. God's existence can be shown because it must already have been presupposed. In fact, the Cartesian meditator was never alone. (shrink)
Obwohl ‚conscientia’ ein zentraler Grundbegriff der cartesischen Metaphysik ist, sagt Descartes nirgends explizit, was er damit meint. Auch aus der Art und Weise, in der er das Wort verwendet, lässt sich dessen Bedeutung nicht vollends erschließen. Insbesondere handelt es sich nicht um einen reflexiven Denkakt (cogitatio), nicht um eine Disposition zum Haben solcher cogitationes und nicht um eine Art Aufmerksamkeit. Um die Bedeutung des Begriffes zu klären, schlage ich vor, auf klassische Texte von Augustinus, Thomas von Aquin und jesuitischen Autoren (...) zurückzugreifen. Es ergibt sich, dass man unter der conscientia traditionell ein Wissen um den moralischen Wert einer Handlung verstand, das der Handelnde mit einem idealen Beobachter (d.i. Gott) teilt. Ich behaupte, dass sich diese Begriffsbestimmung mehr oder weniger analog auf Descartes übertragen lässt. Die cartesische conscientia ist demnach ein Wissen um den spezifischen Wert eines Gedanken, das der Denker mit einem idealen Beobachter teilt. (shrink)
Eric Watkins argues that according to Kant, causation is not a relation between two events, but a relation between the “causality” of a substance and an event. It is shown that his arguments are partly based on a confusion between causation and interaction. Further, Watkins claims that for Kant, causes cannot be temporally determined. If this were true, it would follow that there can be no causal chains, and that all factors that determine the time when an effect occurs do (...) not belong to its cause. However, it is not true. In order to understand Kant, one must distinguish between causation, action, and interaction. When two substances interact, each of them does something, which causes something to happen to the other one. (shrink)
Descartes’ metaphysics lays the foundation for the special sciences, and the notion of consciousness (conscientia) belongs to metaphysics rather than to psychology. I argue that as a metaphysical notion, ‘consciousness’ refers to an epistemic version of moral conscience. As a consequence, the activity on which science is based turns out to be conscientious thought. The consciousness that makes science possible is a double awareness: the awareness of what one is thinking, of what one should be doing, and of the possibility (...) of a gap between the two. (shrink)
In Principia Philosophiae I 9, Descartes defines “thought” as follows: “By the name ‘thought’ I understand all that which happens in us such that we are conscious of it, insofar as there is consciousness of it in us”. I inquire how to read the "insofar as" in this definition.
According to the aspect theory of instantiation, a particular A instantiates a universal B if and only if an aspect of A is cross-count identical with an aspect of B. This involves the assumption that both particulars and universals have aspects, and that aspects can mediate between different ways of counting things. I will ask what is new about this account of instantiation and, more importantly, whether it is an improvement on its older relatives. It will turn out that the (...) part of it that is new is the notion of cross-count identity among aspects. As I will show, this notion is both dubious and unnecessary. I will end by presenting a simplified aspect theory of instantiation that does not involve cross-count identity. (shrink)
Psychological experiments show that human behavior is often determined by features of the situation rather than general and persistent character traits of the agent. Therefore, it may seem naive to suppose that someone with a virtuous character will in general act virtuously. This is at least true if a character trait is taken to be a persistent characteristic or property that reliably causes certain behavior. On the basis of the conception of agency developed by Anscombe in Intention, I will argue (...) against the assumption that virtues are such persistent traits. Rather, I will suggest that virtues stand in a conceptual relation to ways of acting in kinds of contexts in the same way in which intentions are not causes of actions but stand in a conceptual relation to them. (shrink)
Obwohl 'conscientia' ein zentraler Grundbegriff der cartesischen Metaphysik ist, sagt Descartes nirgends explizit, was er damit meint. Auch aus der Art und Weise, in der er das Wort verwendet, lässt sich dessen Bedeutung nicht vollends erschließen. Insbesondere handelt es sich nicht um einen reflexiven Denkakt (cogitatio), nicht um eine Disposition zum Haben solcher cogitationes und nicht um eine Art Aufmerksamkeit. Um die Bedeutung des Begriffes zu klären, schlage ich vor, auf klassische Texte von Augustinus, Thomas von Aquin und jesuitischen Autoren (...) zurückzugreifen. Es ergibt sich, dass man unter der conscientia traditionell ein Wissen um den moralischen Wert einer Handlung verstand, das der Handelnde mit einem idealen Beobachter (d.i. Gott) teilt. Ich behaupte, dass sich diese Begriffsbestimmung mehr oder weniger analog auf Descartes übertragen lässt. Die cartesische conscientia ist demnach ein Wissen um den spezifischen Wert eines Gedanken, das der Denker mit einem idealen Beobachter teilt. (shrink)
Niklas Luhmann verwendet in seiner soziologischen Systemtheorie offenbar etwas, das er den Büchern des englischen Mathematikers George Spencer Brown entnimmt. Dessen Formenkalkül ist für Luhmann, wie Günther Schulte treffend bemerkt, “Mädchen für alles, mit dem er nicht nur in der Lage ist Teezukochen, sondern auch Auto oder Straßenbahn zu fahren”. Der erste Blick in Spencer Browns Laws of Form vermittelt einen anderen Eindruck: nichts scheinen sie mit soziologischer Systemtheorie zu tun zu haben. Der vorliegende Text bearbeitet hieran anknüpfend eine recht (...) bescheidene Frage, die sich gleichwohl jedem Luhmann-Leser schon einmal gestellt haben dürfte: Was wollen die Laws of Form und was will Luhmann mit ihnen? Als Antwort ergibt sich, nach Zurückverfolgung der relevanten Fußnoten, eine gute und eine schlechte Nachricht. Die schlechte Nachricht ist, daß die Lektüre der Laws of Form offenbar niemandem wirklich weiterhelfen kann, auch Luhmann selbst nicht. Die gute ist folglich, daß dem Luhmann-Leser die Notwendigkeit erspart bleibt, einen so dunklen, weil sparsamen Kalkül zu verstehen. Das meiste nämlich, was Luhmann den Laws of Form angeblich entnimmt, steht auf den zweiten Blick nicht darin. Er wird es also ohnehin durch andere Texte begründen müssen. (shrink)
Starting from the idea that functions are formally similar to actions in that they are described and explained in a similar way, so that both admit of an accordion effect, I turn to Anscombe’s insight that the point of practical reasoning is to render explicit the relation between the different descriptions of an action generated by the accordion effect. The upshot is, roughly, that an item has a function if what it does can be accounted for by functional reasoning. Put (...) differently, a part of a system has a function if what it does is a functional part of what the system does. (shrink)
In this essay I defend the claim that the life of a living being is not one of its properties but something different: a mode of being. It follows from this that living beings should not be taken to be things that possess the property of being alive. Second, I argue that living beings are essentially involved in ongoing activities as long as they exist. Life cannot only be a disposition to be active, but must itself be an ongoing activity. (...) Third, I suggest that for something to be a living being is to engage in activities whose success is determined by criteria that emerge exclusively from a proper account of the nature of the living being in question. To identify something as a living being is not to attribute a particular property to it, but to say what criteria apply to what it actually is or does. (shrink)
The paper demonstrates that the biological species concept that Mayr con- trasts with the typological one in fact presupposes a version of the typological species concept. For one cannot assess whether two living beings are capable of producing offspring without already knowing what would count as off- spring. Therefore, one must know non-relational features of typical offspring of a kind of living beings in order to be able to apply the biological species concept. The typological species concept that is at (...) stake here is the Aristote- lian one. (shrink)
On the one hand, Aristotle claims that the matter of a material thing is not part of its form. On the other hand, he suggests that the proper account of a natural thing must include a specification of the kind of matter in which it is realized. There are three possible strategies for dealing with this apparent tension. First, there may be two kinds of definition, so that the definition of the form of a thing does not include any specification (...) of its matter, whereas the definition of a compound does. Second, the definition of a substance may not include a specification of its matter at all, but still reveal in what kinds of matter its form can be realized. Third, there may be a special kind of matter, functional matter, which belongs to the form of certain things. I will show that the functional matter of a thing does not belong to its form, but that an adequate account of natural substances and their functions must nonetheless involve a reference to their functional matter. This means that the function of a natural thing is not the same as its form and that its adequate account as a natural thing is not a definition. (shrink)
This is partly a book about Aristotle’s four causes (material, formal, efficient, and final cause), partly a systematic discussion of the relation between form and matter, causation, and teleology. Its overall aim is to show that the four causes form a system, so that the form of a natural thing relates to its matter as the final cause of a natural process relates to its efficient cause. It reaches two highly distinctive conclusions. The first is that the formal cause or (...) essence of a thing is not a property but a generic thing. The second is that the final cause of a process is not its purpose but the course that processes of its kind typically take. (shrink)
I will in this paper attempt to extract a positive doctrine on the substantiality of the human soul from Ghazali"s critique of the Aristotelian philosophical tradition. Rather than reflecting on the possibilities and limitations of intercultural dialogue, my aim is to directly engage in such dialogue. Accordingly, I will not suppose that we need to develop and apply external standards according to which one of the two philosophical traditions addressed here, Western and Islamic, may turn out to be superior. Up (...) to a certain point, Western and Islamic philosophy are virtually indistinguishable regarding their style, the main topics, and the arguments discussed, which both take over from Aristotle and the Neoplatonists. Further, at least up to Ghazali, no Islamic philosopher actually employs standards of rationality that would differ from the standards also accepted in the West. Ghazali himself would certainly be at least as disturbed by a valid philosophical objection to his claims as any other serious philosopher. He does not pursue another kind of project, but submits to the same standards of truth and validity, as far as philosophical argument reaches. His point is, of course, that these standards do not reach as far as some philosophers suppose. But this, again, is not a particularly "Islamicâ€? insight. (shrink)
In this essay, I will sketch my view of the connections between some methodological assumptions in social philosophy, namely those of individualism, holism, and collectivism. My interest in doing so is to outline a rough conceptual landscape, into which an approach of collective actions and intentions can be placed.
Eric Watkins argues that according to Kant, causation is not a relation between two events, but a relation between the “causality” of a substance and an event. It is shown that his arguments are partly based on a confusion between causation and interaction. Further, Watkins claims that for Kant, causes cannot be temporally determined. If this were true, it would follow that there can be no causal chains, and that all factors that determine the time when an effect occurs do (...) not belong to its cause. However, it is not true. In order to understand Kant, one must distinguish between causation, action, and interaction. When two substances interact, each of them does something (an event), which causes something to happen to the other one. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 95, Issue 2, pp 265 - 286 The author argues that when Lichtenberg recommends saying “It is thinking” instead of “I am thinking”, he is not suggesting that thought might be a subjectless occurrence. Lichtenberg’s point is, rather, that we are often the _passive_ subject or medium of our thoughts. The author further argues that Descartes’ _cogito_ argument is not affected by this point, because Descartes does not claim that we must be the active subject of all (...) our thoughts. Moreover, the author suggests that the _cogito_ argument operates with the notion of a qua-object: it consists in the move from “I am thinking” to “I-qua-thinking am”. Seen in this way, the _cogito_ argument by itself leaves entirely open what might be true of me insofar as I am _not_ thinking. (shrink)
In this paper, I will discuss a certain conception of matter that Aristotle introduces in Metaphysics Z3. It is often assumed that Aristotle came to distinguish between matter and form only in his physical writings, and that this lead to a conflict with the doctrine of primary substances in the Categories that he tries to resolve in Z3. I will argue that there is no such conflict. In Z3, Aristotle seems to suggest that matter is what is left over when (...) we strip a thing of all its properties. I take it that he does not want us to strip away these properties by physical means or in our imagination. Rather, we are asked to strip a referring noun phrase of all its predicative parts. We are thus not supposed to be able to refer to something that has no qualities whatsoever, but to construct a phrase that refers to something that has properties without referring to its having them, and without implying which properties it has. The idea that there might be a way of referring to something definite without mentioning any of its qualities is platonic and it still underlies modern predicate logic. In Z3, Aristotle argues against this conception and thus against the basic idea of predicate logic. According to him, matter is at best an inseparable aspect of a primary substance, which substance is best referred to as a compound τóδε τι (“this such”). Matter is what the τóδε refers to as part of this phrase. But it cannot exist in separation from form, and we cannot refer to it by a separated term, without also referring to the substantial form of the substance of which it is an aspect. (shrink)
The account of knowledge in Plato’s Theaetetus, as true belief meta logou, seems to lead to a regress, which may be avoided by defining one kind of knowledge as true belief that rests on a different kind of knowledge. I explore a specific version of this move: to define knowledge as true belief that results from a successful and proper exercise of a rational capacity.
The sciences may be able to describe living beings, but this is not to account for their life. Life is not a describable property of things. There is also no philosophical a priori argument by which one could prove the existence of life – except perhaps our own. In order to understand what life is, we must start with our conception of that life that we know, human life, and reduce the notion of this life to a notion of mere (...) life. We may do this by introducing the following distinctions. Intentional movements may succeed, be interrupted, or be mistaken. In contrast, merely teleological movements can only succeed or be interrupted, but not mistaken. Further, intentional movements are executed as more or less suitable means for achieving an end. Merely teleological movements are not performed as means to ends in this sense, but that does not render them less goal-directed. (shrink)
Die Frage, mit der sich Johannes Haag in Erfahrung und Gegenstand auseinandersetzt, lautet: „Auf welchem Grunde beruht die Beziehung desjenigen, was man in uns empirische Vorstellung, d. i. Erfahrung nennt, auf den Gegenstand überhaupt?“ ...
This is a discussion of self-knowledge in Hugh of St. Victor. It will yield the following three systematic results. First, it will be shown that there is a clear sense in which human self-knowledge is knowledge of one’s own rationality, and therefore knowledge of the proper object of one’s rational capacities (dunameis meta logou). Second, a distinction will be drawn between perfect and imperfect self-knowledge. Third, it will turn out that under conditions of perfect self-knowledge, all our rational capacities would (...) work like our capacity for perceptual knowledge. (shrink)
Attempts are often made to explain collective action in terms of the interaction of individuals. A common objection to such attempts is that they are circular: Since every interaction presupposes the existence of common practices and common practices involve collective action, no analysis of collective agency in terms of interaction can reduce collectivity away. In this essay I will argue that this does not constitute a real circularity. It is true that common practices are presupposed in every attempt to explain (...) collective action. However, this does not mean that every analysis of collective action presupposes an understanding of collective action. Common practices do not involve or presuppose particular collective actions. They are more fundamental than individual or collective agency. The subject of a common practice is not a ‘us’ or ‘them’, but the impersonal ‘one’: ‘One does this and that’. What ‘one does’ is not yet a joint activity. It is not a particular action at all. (shrink)
Descartes claims that God is a substance, and that mind and body are two different and separable substances. This paper provides some background that renders these claims intelligible. For Descartes, that something is real means it can exist in separation, and something is a substance if it does not depend on other substances for its existence. Further, separable objects are correlates of distinct ideas, for an idea is distinct (in an objective sense) if its object may be easily and clearly (...) separated from everything that is not its object. It follows that if our idea of God is our most distinct idea, as Descartes claims, then God must be a substance in the Cartesian sense of the term. Also, if we can have an idea of a thinking subject which does not in any sense refer to bodily things, and if bodily things are substances, then mind and body must be two different substances. (shrink)
In Abelards Kommentar zum Römerbrief erscheint das Handeln contra conscientiam als eines gegen das eigene Urteil über andere. Abelard bezieht sich hier vor allem auf eine frühere Stelle im selben Brief, wo Paulus schreibt, jeder werde nach dem Gesetz gerichtet, das er sich selbst gibt (Rom 2,1). Was wir an Anderen verur- teilen, erläutert er, stehe dadurch auch unserer eigenen conscientia entgegen, und nur ein Handeln gegen die conscientia sei Sünde. Damit wird die goldene Regel, auf die Abelard ad Rom (...) 2,15 verweist, zu dem Gebot, nach der eigenen Überzeugung zu handeln. So, wie wir tun sollen, was wir von Anderen erwarten, müssen wir auch einfach nur tun, was wir von uns selbst erwarten. Der enge Zusammenhang zwischen goldener Regel und dem Gebot, nach der eigenen conscientia zu handeln, beruht auf einer Einsicht in die Natur von Regeln und Handlungsgründen: Eine Regel, ebenso wie ein Grund oder eine Rechtfertigung, gilt nie allein für eine konkrete Handlung, sondern immer für eine Klasse von Handlungen. Da jeder, der sein Handeln allgemeinen Regeln unterwirft, diese auch Anderen nahelegt, unterliegt das eigene Handeln umgekehrt, was seine Rechtfertigung angeht, deren Urteil, so weit sich nämlich die allgemeinen Regeln darin niederschlagen. (shrink)
The distinction between teleology and teleonomy that biologists sometimes refer to seems to be helpful in certain contexts, but it is used in several different ways and has rarely been clearly drawn. This paper discusses three prominent uses of the term “teleonomy” and traces its history back to what seems to be its first use. This use is examined in detail and then justified and refined on the basis of elements found in the philosophy of Aristotle, Kant, Anscombe and others. (...) In the course of this explication, it will also be shown how the description of end-directed processes relates to their explanation. (shrink)
The distinction between teleology and teleonomy that biologists sometimes refer to seems to be helpful in certain contexts, but it is used in several different ways and has rarely been clearly drawn. This paper discusses three prominent uses of the term “teleonomy” and traces its history back to what seems to be its first use. This use is examined in detail and then justified and refined on the basis of elements found in the philosophy of Aristotle, Kant, Anscombe and others. (...) In the course of this explication, it will also be shown how the description of end-directed processes relates to their explanation. Die Unterscheidung zwischen Teleonomie und Teleologie, auf die Biologen manchmal verweisen, scheint für manche Zwecke hilfreich zu sein. Sie wird jedoch nicht in einheitlicher Weise verwendet und nur selten klar bestimmt. Der Beitrag untersucht drei prominente Gebrauchsweisen des Begriffs „Teleonomie“ und verfolgt seine Geschichte bis zu der Verwendung, die die erste zu sein scheint. Diese wird im Detail analysiert und unter Rückgriff auf Aristoteles, Kant, Anscombe und andere verteidigt und ergänzt. Im Zuge dieser Begriffsklärung wird außerdem gezeigt, wie sich die Beschreibung zielgerichteter Vorgänge zu ihrer Erklärung verhält. (shrink)
Contemporary philosophical logic rests on a distinction between things and properties. Properties are thought to differ from things in that their proper expression is incomplete or unsaturated. In this paper, I will argue that Aristotle did not distinguish between things and properties in this way. I will show, first, that Aristotle’s essences are not properties, and that certain passages in Aristotle make sense only if we do not take accidents to be properties either. The notion of a property is thus (...) not fundamental in Aristotle’s theory of predication. Aristotle’s predicate terms do not stand for properties but for non-substantial things. Second, I will explain and explore the distinction between substances and non-substantial things. This will yield a viable alternative to our contemporary, Fregean account of predication. (shrink)
Intentions are not events that cause an action, but that in terms of which we describe and action when we describe it as intentionally. Likewise, virtues are not character traits that reliably cause certain behaviour, but that in terms of which we describe certain generic behaviour.
This chapter proceeds in five steps. First, we will describe and justify the structure of the traditional system of species classification. Second, we will discuss three formal principles governing the development of taxonomies in general. It will emerge that, in addition to these formal principles, a division of living beings must meet certain empirical constraints. In the third section, we will show that the traditional division of living beings into species best meets these constraints. Fourth, we will argue that a (...) taxonomic system based on this notion of species provides a more natural alternative to the many arbitrary classifications that are possible. Hence, the traditional classificatory system is also the most natural one. Finally, we will discuss and reject an alternative account that suggests defining species solely with a view to their evolutionary history. We will argue that taxonomic trees do not depict hereditary connections but, rather, something else. (shrink)