allzermalmer

Truth suffers from too much analysis

Archive for January, 2012

Atomic Buddhism

Posted by allzermalmer on January 19, 2012

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“How did you get here?”

Posted by allzermalmer on January 19, 2012

In the movie Inception, Cobb is talking with Ariadne at a coffee table. He is talking about dreams, and about how you just find yourself right in the middle of the dream while not remembering how you got there. And later, after they wake up, he brings up that dreams were very real until you wake up and realize that something strange happened.

This brings up, what seem, to be two interrelated problems. One of them seems to be the problem of the past and the other about comparison. For each of these we can rely on two quotes to summarize these two problems. Bertrand Russell brings up the problem of the past when he said “the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that “remembered” a wholly unreal past’.” George Berkeley sums up the problem of comparison when he said “Two things cannot be said to be alike or unlike till they have been compar’d’.”

Now you’ll notice that the problem of the past deals with “remembering”, which means it deals with memory. The point of the hypothesis, it seems, is to point out that the past is really known by the memory. For I would have to compare the present with the past. But how can I compare the past with the present when the past is nowhere to be found? So it seems I would have to rely on something, and this would seem to be memory comes into play. I have a “mental image” of something, and this event itself isn’t a “sensory” type of experience. And this “sensory” type of experience is the “present” world. But the memory seems to carry much of the content that is found with the “sensory” type of experience that helps to form what the memories are about.

Now here is another point that would seem to bring in the problem of comparison and the problem of the past. Now imagine that you just pop into existence, and you come to our planet and notice  this volcano. You decide to jump into it, and you find that your body melts. The point is, most of us wouldn’t do this because we have memory of things going into the volcano to catch fire. And we’re taught certain things about it that help to form an idea of what happens. Memory plays an important part, like it does in telling us not to walk in front of an oncoming freight truck or train. We compare what has happened in the past, which is contained in our memory, and what is happening now in the present. We can notice if either something is similar or different.

Part of what goes on in this is comparison. Is the content of this memory similar to what is going on now in the present? Do they compare up in some parts or disagree in some parts? When you wake up from the dream, you have a memory, at least right when you wake up, of what happened. But you also have this present experience which seems to be at odds with the memory of your dream. Thus, you can say this present experience is different from what I have memory of. The comparison tells you that something is different between the two. But it doesn’t tell you which one is “real” and which one isn’t. Either of them could be the real or not. When you find yourself in either one, they both seem real at that moment when you find yourself in it.

Did you wake up into “real world” or did you wake up into a “dream world”? From what experience would you tell the difference? The senses don’t the tell the difference between “real” or “dream”. Looks like you would have to use something else besides the senses to differentiate between the two. What would you use? Memory looks like the best thing to use.

But the point would also be that memory is based on what the senses, if we want to exclude “imagination”, presented to us. However, the senses don’t differentiate between the “real world” and a “dream world”. Which would mean that memory wouldn’t help us differentiate between the “dream world” and the “real world”. But we have more memories that fit this “real world” than we do of the “dream world”. We find that we often forget much of our “dreams”, and remember more of the “real” world. The point, might be, that “real world” gives us more memories which form a coherent whole. And what doesn’t fit this coherent whole, we consider to be a “dream”. And so when we wake up from a “dream”, we find that our experience fits with what we have more memories of usually going on.

But here is the question, “how did you get here?” How did you get to this “real world”? When you find yourself in a dream, you don’t remember how you got there. But how did you get to this “real world”? Did you just find that you woke up into it as well, or did you just fall into a dream?

Think back to your first memory of the “real world”. You had some sort of experience, but this experience didn’t differentiate between real and dream itself. And it couldn’t have been memory either when you had no previous memories to use to help differentiate between dream and real, or experience. So maybe now you’ve just started to collect memories of a dream that you just fell into, and thus, all those points that were made to help us think that we woke up into the “real world” is just us “dreaming”. In other words, when we think we wake up from a dream, we are just falling into the dream again. Vice versa, when we go to sleep and dream, we are actually waking up into the real world.

As Immanuel Kant once said, “the senses do not err – not because they always judge rightly, but because they do not judge at all.” And the senses don’t judge between “dream” and “real”, and memory based on the senses wouldn’t differentiate between “dream” and “real”.

“How did you get here?”

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Positivism

Posted by allzermalmer on January 18, 2012

This blog will be based on a paper done by W.T. Stace. It was published in the philosophical journal Mind, New Series, Vol. 53, No. 211 (Jul., 1944), pp. 215-237. It was called Positivism.

During the time of writing this paper, there was a big movement in parts of Europe and eventually came to America, and it was Logical Positivism or Logical Empiricism. This group was known for the principle for which they became infamous and later collapsed. Stace says what he takes the principle to be, and calls it the Positivism Principle.

“A set of words purporting to express a factual proposition P is significant only if it is impossible to deduce or infer from it, in combination if necessary with other premises, some proposition or propositions (at least one) Q^1, Q^2, Q^3…etc., the truth or falsity of which it would be logically possible to verify by direct observation. If no such directly verifiable deductions from P are possible, then the set of words purporting to express P is non-significant, and P is not really a proposition at all, but a pseudo-proposition.”

Now there are some terms in that principle that would need to be clarified. These terms are “significant” and “meaning”. We, in our common speaking, talk of meaning of a sentence and meaning of a word. This will also deal with the difference between significant and meaning. The meaning of a sentence is called significance, because only a sentence can be true or false. The meaning of a word is called meaning, but words can’t be either true or false. This is because meaning of sentences is where the predicate of true or false apply, but those predicates don’t apply to single words like “red”. Sentences have significance, and words have meaning. This forms a big distinction from which the rest of the paper follows.

The difference between significance and meaning are based on a distinction within the genus of semantical meanings. So Stace shall be dealing with the semantical significance of sentences and the semantical meaning of words. And Stace will deal with “deduce or infer” as being a deduction or being a causal inference. So when we make the statement of “P”, it can hold the form of “P→Q”. This will help spell out some of the deduction and causal inference that is going on.

But Stace also quotes the Logical Positivist A.J. Ayer, as he states what is meant by the Positivist Principle.

“Let us call a proposition which records an actual or possible observation and experiential proposition. Then we may say that it is the mark of a genuine factual proposition…that some experiential proposition can be deduced from it in conjunction with certain other premises without being deducible from those other premises alone.”

There seems to be no clear distinction between A.J. Ayer and what W.T. Stace has said as well. And so what Stace would say would also seem to hold for the Positivism Principle.

The Positivism Principle seems to be of the same of the Verification principle, but there is some slight difference from when the original Verification principle was proposed. Schlick was one of the first to propose the Verification principle. Verification was meant to be direct and complete verification, which was the significance of a statement was the method of its verification. It had to be direct and complete verification. But such a principle makes universal statements to be insignificant. For to directly and completely verify a universal statement, you wold have to observe an infinite number of facts, which would have been of the past, present, and future, and all locations. And even singular statements about material objects would be insignificant sine the complete verification would also involve an infinite number of observations. Also, talk of the past wouldn’t be allowed for to be significant.

In order to escape some of these downfalls of what Schlick presented as the Verification principle, it was mean to soften it some, but keep some of the same points. Now, instead of complete and direct verification, the new principle allowed for indirect and partial verification. So we can verify the past occurrence of something by checking the present effect. And this is part of Carnap seems to mean with “testing” the proposition. Stace points out how we come to indirectly and partially verify something.

“What is now required in order to make a statement about the past significant is, not that the facts asserted in the statement should be themselves now observable, but that some of their effects should be observable (indirect verification). And what is required to make a universal proposition significant is not that all the facts which it asserts (an infinite number) should be observable, but that some of them should be observable (partial verification). These are the requirements which are embodied in the positivist principle as formulated in the first paragraph of this article.”

Now with the Positivist principle, and what was originally in the Verification principle which was later modified, seemed to be another principle. In other words, the Positivist Principle seems to be based on another principle. And now see what this other principle is would seem to help cast light on the Positivist Principle. This principle would be called The Principle of Observable Kinds:

“A sentence, in order to be significant, must assert or deny facts which are of a kind or class such that it is logically possible directly to observe some facts which are instances of that class or kind. And to observe some facts which are instances of that class or kind. And if a sentence purports to assert or deny facts which are a class or kind such that it would be logically impossible directly to observe any instance of that class or kinds, then the sentence is non-significant.”

Now let us use an example to see what this principle is trying to get across. Take “Napoleon crossed the Alps”. It is logically impossible for us to now directly observe this particular fact asserted in the sentence. This fact no longer exists, and so we can’t directly observe it. But this particular fact of Napoleon crossing the Alps is also part of the class of “men crossing mountains”, which we can experience. So the point becomes that we might not be able to logically observe all particular members of the class, but it is logically possible for us to observe some of the particular members of that class. Thus, the fact itself might not be observable but it is of the observable kind. This means that if the kind of thing said is unobservable, then we definitely can’t observe the particulars.

So the point becomes, “A sentence is significant if what it asserts or denies is the sort of thing which it is logically possible to observe, even if the particular instance in the sentence is such that it would not be logically possible to observe it.”

Now Stace will maintain that the Positivist Principle implies the Principle of Observable Kinds. But the Positivist Principle might not directly say it. But the Principle of Observable Kinds doesn’t seem to be what the Positivist Principle is saying, or what the Logical Positivist themselves maintain. There seem to be two differences between the two principles: 1. The principle of observable kinds introduces the notion of classes, while, on the other hand, the positivist principle says nothing about classes. 2. The Positivist principle makes use of the concept of indirect verification while the principle of observable kinds contains only concepts of direct verification or observation.

Now the Principle of Observable Kind is based on direct verification, and would seem to go back to that of the Verification principle that was given by Shclick. But this wouldn’t be correct to think that it goes back to the Verification principle. But the Principle of Observable Kinds does make a distinction from that of the Verifiability principle, which is based on that of classes.

“Suppose the proposition to be examined for its significance is P. Then according to the original principle of verifiability the facts asserted or denied in P must themselves be capable of being observed. What the new positivist principle says is that the facts asserted or denied in Q (the proposition or propositions deduced from P), must themselves be capable of being observed. It does not say anything at all about the observability or non-observability of the facts asserted or denied in P. It entirely ignores that question.

Now as was pointed out earlier, P can be replaced with P→Q. So P of the P→Q might not be directly verifiable by experience, or direct experience. But the consequence of it, which is Q, would be of the observable kinds. But now there is a divide between both principles, the original formulation and the later formulation that deals with indirect verification. And this divide is filled with the Principle of Observable Kinds. This is because the original formulation doesn’t state whether the facts stated in P must be observable. Nothing is said on this.

So what is the Positivist to say with this divide? “He ought to say, not that the particular facts asserted in P must be observable (this is what he wished quite rightly to avoid), nor yet that they may be of a wholly unobservable kind; but rather that the particular facts asserted in P, although they cannot be themselves be observed, must yet be of a kind of facts which other instances can be observed. And this is what the principle of observable kinds does say.” Thus, the Principle of Observable Kinds is implied by the new Positivist Principle.

The Principle of Observable Kinds seems to carry some of the same meaning of the Positivist Principle, but would seem to give more gain than that of the Positivist Principle. One of the reasons is that the Positivist Principle is based on the way of the propositions logical consequences, while the Principle of Observable kinds don’t seem to be worried too much about that.

Now A.J. Ayer makes a point in his book The Foundation of Empirical Knowledge, that we can have two different philosophers disagree over a certain point. So take that Philosopher A said that “We do not perceive the table or the chair, we only perceive sense-data which we believe to belong to a  table and a chair.” But Philosopher B says, “No, what we perceive is the actual table and the actual chair”. What Ayer says is that both philosophers disagree with the language, but they agree with the observations. They agree about the color, shape, weight, and about every fat which could possibly be observed. They agree about all possible observable facts, and there is no disagreement between these two philosophers on the facts. Thus, they both disagree over the language and not the facts.

But what do we say, in this position, when they disagree over unobservable facts? This seems to be something that Ayer might have overlooked, and is overlooked by the Positivist Principle.

“For instance, Philosopher A may hold the view that there is a “physical object”, X, which possesses intrinsic qualities which correspond to the perceived qualities of shape, size, color, smell, etc, but which are forever hidden fro us, so that we can never know anything about these intrinsic qualities except the fact of their correspondence to perceived qualities; and that this physical object X stands in a causal relation to our sense-data…Philosopher B may deny that any such object as X exists. He may say that the table or the chair simply is the collection of all the sense-data which (according to A) are caused by it. Thus both of them may admit the existence of the sense-data, and may entirely agree about all their characteristics, which means that they will agree about all the observable facts. But they will assert that they are in disagreement whether x exists or not. X, if it is a fat, is a fact forever unobservable These philosophers will therefore say that they are in disagreement about whether or not there exists an alleged unobservable fact. Mr. Ayer appears to have overlooked this in his argument.”

This seems to be one reason why the Positivist Principle would have many things listed as insignificant. It is more of a difference over language than it is over some actual fact. And thus, for the Positivist, it is only about a way of speaking than some actual facts. For they both contain the same observable kinds.

But now maybe the Positivist principle doesn’t rely on the principle of observable kinds. What might be the case if this isn’t so? Than although the facts stated in Q of P→Q are logically capable of being directly verified, then P itself might states facts which would be logically impossible to observe. And the Positivist principle seems to tell us that this might be the case. For Q tells us that it is observable, but it doesn’t say anything about the observability of P. And there seem to be two cases: (1.) Where P→Q is a deductive argument, and (2.) where P→Q is a cause and effect inference.

Case 1: If P→Q is a deductive argument, then either (A.) Q states some facts as P, either in whole or in part or (B.) Q states some facts or elements of fact which are not asserted in P. (A.) is the view that logical rules are rules of linguistic transformations. (B.) is the view that in the conclusion of a deductive argument there may be some element of fact that may be “new”, i.e. not “contained” in the premises.

If we accept (A.), then it is clear that if Q is of the observable kind then P will be of the observable kind as well. This is because Q states the same thing as P, but in different words. Thus, if Q is observable, then P would also be observable since P is just another way of saying Q. This means P is another way of saying observable kind, which is what Q did as well. Thus, the Positivist principle implies the Principle of Observable Kind.

If we accept (B.) then it doesn’t seem that we can rigorously prove that if Q states observables P must state observables. For p might conceivably be of a different kind from the facts stated in Q. But, what seems to be enough, is that the Logical Positivist themselves held to the linguistic transformations.

Case 2: If P→Q is a cause and effect inference, then it’s certain that facts stated in P cannot be unobservable if the facts stated in Q are observables. This is because inference must rest on a causal law. “The cause C will be the fact stated in P, while the effect E will be the fact stated in Q. For instance, P any state the fact that it rained five minutes ago, while Q states in effect of this rain, namely, that the ground will be wet now. But it is impossible that the causal connection between C and E can have been established except on the basis that E has been observed to follow C. Therefore C, the fact stated in P, must be an observable.”

Thus, from these considerations, it appears obvious that the Positivist Principle does rely on the Principle of Observable Kinds. And the Positivist Principle, if adopted because that is the definition for significance that they choose, it carries no real force. This is because they just freely choose this criterion while someone else can pick whatever else criterion they wish to use for significance. But if they wish for it to carry some meaning about it based on experience, it would have to be shown through some sort of experience. This would be be based on inductive generalizations.

Now we might wonder how did we arrive at this Positivist Principle. Stace has an answer on how he thinks that the Positivist derived their principle.

“I think it is almost certain that positivists believe that their principles are a development of the general principle of empiricism. They call themselves “empiricists”. And thus by implications they claim that, whatever evidence there is to support the general principle of empiricism is also evidence which supports them. They think that,although their position is in some way different from that of the other empiricists (such as Hume)- more “advanced” no doubt- yet it grows out of the same root as does the tree of empiricism., and that therefore the sap which nourishes that tree will also nourish them. This is a very interesting and also a very important claim. And I propose to examine it. the question is: Is positivism a legitimate development of empiricism, and are the grounds which support empiricism also grounds which support positivism?”

Now the Logical Positivist claim that they’re “empiricists”, but we might wonder what type of empiricist they are. They’re seems, in history, to be different types of empiricist, but they haven’t, as Stace says, made it clear what type of empiricists they are. But there does seem to be two different types of Empiricism. (1.) the doctrine that all knowledge is “based upon ” or “derived from” experience, and (2.) the doctrine that all “ideas” are “based upon” or “derived from” experience.

With the first kind, the meaning of the phrase “based upon” or “derived from” seem to be different in (1.) and (2.). With (1.) is that if any proposition is known to be true, it can only be so known because there is empirical evidence for it, or must be empirical grounds for it. John Stuart Mill brought this up and tried to use it to support that 2+2=4 is an empirical generalization and illustrates this kind of empiricism. The (2.) kind is based upon ideas, like that of a “centaur”. The idea is neither true or false. What happens is that we can break down our ides into some basic parts, or that our experiences are built up off of some basic parts like “blue”, “horse”, “human head”, and etc. This is like Hume saying that “complex ideas” are based on “simple ideas”.

It appears that the Principle of Observable Kinds isn’t based on the first type of empiricism. As Stace says, “For the principle of observable kinds professes to be a criterion, not of the truth of propositions, nor of ways of knowing them to be true, but of whether they have significance. But the first kind of empiricism has nothing to do with significance at all, and cannot so far as I can see have any bearing on that subject.”

For whatever the relaations between “being known to be true” and “being significant” may be, they are certainly not the same thing, since a proposition may be significant and yet not known to be true. A significant proposition may in fact be known to be false. The long and short of it is that the first kind of empiricism is a theory about the truth of propositions (more correctly about how their truth can be known) while the principle of observable kinds is a theory about the significance of propositions. And since the two theories are “about” different subjects, one cannot possibly follow from, or be legitimately developed out of, the other.”

Of the first kind of empiricism, which is about the truth of propositions, the Logical Positivist would have seemed to hold this position as well. And the position that they state is that a priori statements are analytic statements, which means they’re not “derived from” experience. This stance follows from the first kind of empiricism, but we’ve also noticed that the significance of a proposition isn’t based on the first kind of empiricism. And all a priori propositions being analytic would follow from the first principle.

Now take the second kind of empiricism. We might wonder if the Principle of Observable Kinds comes from the second kind of empiricism. David Hume, after all, does bring up something that would be similar to that of the second kind of empiricism, “from what impression is that supposed idea derived.” But the Principle of Observable Kinds doesn’t follow from the second kind of empiricism.

The second kind of empiricism dealt with “ideas” being derived from experience. But as was pointed out earlier, the Principle of Observable Kinds is based on sentence significance, and not word significance. The second kind of empiricism is worried about the ideas, like that of “red”. But it is only the sentences that make significance and not the words itself. The second kind of empiricism is strictly concerned from what those experiences come from, like “red”, “sweater”, “blue-jeans”, “tennis shoes”, and etc, but isn’t concerned with whole sentences. The Principle of Observable Kinds is concerned with only whole sentences, like “James wore a red sweater while also having some blue-jeans to match their tennis shoes.” That sentence carries significance.

So it doesn’t look like the Principle of Observable Kinds follows from empiricism as well, in either kind. Thus, since the Positivist Principle seems to be implied by the Principle of Observable Kinds, the Positivist Principle seems to carry no weight when it comes to empiricism. Thus, those who call themselves empiricists and support the Positivist Principle don’t seem to have such a right.

The reason is that the principle of empiricism was stated by David Hume. The idea can be listed as the mind cannot spontaneously generate “simple ideas”, nor create them out of nothing, but has to derive them from “impressions”. These simple ideas would be those things that you can’t break down any further from your experience. For example, you have “red, “hot”, “cold”, “round”, “soft”, “sweet”, “loud”. From these unanalyzable, simple, building blocks, we can create different things from them by combining them in different ways. Giving some basic material, you can combine it in many different ways. But the basic idea is that you can’t create these simple ideas out of nothing, which means that you needed some impression of them.

The principle of empiricism implies nothing on how we form these simple ideas are to be combined into complex ideas. It provides no rules for combination. This means that we are free to combine the simple ideas in any way we would like, at least we have no rules on how to combine them, or at least according to the principle of empiricism. But there could be some laws, like the law of non-contradiction, or incompatible characters cannot be combined in the mode of spatio-temporal coincidence, though they can in the mode of spatial juxtaposition. This second idea is the Principle of Incompatibles. It basically states that the surface of a ball may be red and blue simultaneously if juxtaposed over one another. Also, we might have the laws of syntax to deal with how to combine our ideas. But the point is that none of these ideas follow from the principle of empiricism.

“The principle of empiricism concerns only the origination of simple ideas, nothing else. It tells us: no impressions,then no simple ideas. We may add as part of the principle, if we wish, the fact that certain of our ideas are not simple but are compounded out of simple ideas.”

But sentences are based on some ideas being placed in relation to one another in a certain way, or whatever way since the principle of empiricism does not care. Sentences, it seems, deals with complex ideas. So take a word to be symbolized like “F”. This word is composed of different simple ideas, like a certain color, shape, smell, taste, or sound, to go along with it. So all these different, simple ideas, can be symbolized as m,n,o,p,q. Thus, F=m,n,o,p,q. And sentences are composed of complex ideas which talk about the relations between something like A being B or A being related to B.

Thus, when empiricism isn’t concerned on how we form complex sentences, which is how we form our simple ideas together, it doesn’t imply the Principle of Observable Kinds because that principle relies on sentences or how complex ideas are to be put together. And this would also mean that the Positivist Principle isn’t implied by the principle of empiricism.

“What [the principle of empiricism] tells us is that if a sentence asserts or denies a fact F, which is a complex of a,b,c,d…, then each of these simples, a,b,c,d,…, must be an observable. But what the principle of observable kinds does is to assert that the total complex fact F, or abcd, must as a whole, be an observable. But for this there is not the slightest warrant in the principle of empiricism.”

The main point is that the Positivist have no right to claim to their principle of significance follows from empiricism. And that they’re constriction on propositions is arbitrary on it’s own, and has no standing in the principle of empiricism.

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Metaphysics and Meaning

Posted by allzermalmer on January 17, 2012

This blog will be based on a paper done by W.T. Stace in the philosophical journal Mind, New Series, Vol. 44, No. 176 (Oct., 1935), pp. 417-438. The title of the paper was Metaphysics and Meaning.

A.J. Ayer published a paper called “A Demonstration of the Impossibility of Metaphysics” in the philosophical journal Mind in July of 1934. A.J. Ayer went over the basic principle of the Logical Empiricist, which was known as the Principle of Verification. This principle was suppose to give us a way of telling the difference between what statement was meaningful and what statement was meaningless. And Metaphysics was considered to be part of meaningless statements. These meaningless statements were also called pseudo-proposition.

Some of the metaphysical ideas that they would question, and say were meaningless, were those saying there is something behind the appearances. In other words, how there was something that was hidden from our senses. For example, the talk of an external world would itself be a meaningless proposition, for it would be stating that there is something behind the appearances, or what we experience with our senses.

One of the things about being a meaningless proposition is that it means that the contradictory of that proposition is also meaningless. For example, this means that metaphysical proposition A is meaningless, and means that ~A is also meaningless. Both propositions are also meaningless, and so they carry no meaning. These propositions don’t stand for anything. And this is all based on the Principle of Verification:

“the meaning of a statement is the method of its verification.”

This makes many of the statements of metaphysicians to be meaningless, or moral philosophers to be meaningless, some of our commonsense beliefs, and some scientific statements would also be meaningless. Verification is only possible of what is, but never what ought to be. One of the common examples of what is rendered to be meaningless by the Logical Positivist is “other minds”.

“It is, of course, quite senseless to ask whether one person’s sensations bear any resemblance to the corresponding sensations of another person, whether, for example, what I call ‘red” is anything like what you call “red”. for it is in principle impossible for me or anyone else to compare my red with your red or to verify either their likeness or their unlikeness.”

So to say that someone else has experiences, or is conscious of any experience, is something that would be meaningless to ask. We can’t verify this statement to say if it is true or false, and thus becomes meaningless. There is no experience we can have to verify such a statement. And along with this, it is meaningless to say that there is an external world or to say there’s no external world. This would also mean that if you do agree that there is an external world, which is meaningless, whatever you say that the external world is would also be meaningless.

Now Stace wishes to bring up a criterion for meaning that will allow for some of our previous beliefs that the Verifiability principle would have had us gotten rid of. But the point is that the Verifiability principle seems to rest on this idea.

“…the meaning of any statement which a man makes about the world, or about part of it, has to be interpreted, in the long run, in terms of possible experiences. If it has meaning, it must be analysable into statements each of which sets forth a possible or actual experience. Any part of it which is not so analysable cannot be said to have meaning.”

Now take the example of saying “This is a wooden table”. This statement will deal with certain things that we shall experience. For example, with the wood, it will deal with our observation of something that is oblong and colored. If you touch it, you will get a certain tactile feeling of resistance in the fingers, and will emit a certain sound if you tap on it, and if you cut it open you will get a certain white visual observation. And other people, in the same conditions, would have the same experiences as well.

“Thus the meaning of the statement consists in certain possible experiences. But these very same experiences would also constitutes its verification.” So the statement “This is a wooden table” is talking about possible experience, which can only be verified with actual experience. The statement was bringing up the possible experience you would have, which would be of the observation of something oblonged and colored, as well as when you touch it you feel some resistance in the fingers, and will emit certain sound if you tap on it, and if you cut it open you will get a certain visual observation. “Hence the verification of the statement would consist in bringing to actuality the very same experiences the assertion of whose possibility constitutes its meaning.”

Now take it that someone makes a statement that says “this table is cotilaginous”. Here is a statement that would need to be qualified with some possible experience that would help give it some meaning. We have the possible meaning of “table”, but now we need one of “cotilaginous”. We would wonder what the word stands for, and we would have to say that it deal with some sort of possible experience. For example, it would have to describe some possible experience in some possible circumstance to be received from the table, and that the experience in those circumstances is what is meant by being “contilaginous”. Now if I were to give such a specification based on experience, then you would understand the meaning of that word. When this can’t be done, this word carries no meaning.

“All meaning is clearly conceptual…The point I want to make here is that, whichever view we take, a concept is meaningless unless it has application in experience.”

So if we follow the empiricist, all concepts are abstracted from experience, then every concept must at least apply to experience from which it was abstracted. And this means that a concept that has no application to experience is meaningless. Say that we say that some part of experience is X, this would mean that x asserts something that is experienceable. It will say something verifiable in experience. And this should be obvious when the empiricist usually works with induction. We experience something that has X, and abstract that particular property from what we’ve experienced.

Now there is a Kantian view that we have some sort of a priori concept, but this is still consistent with the idea that Stace is bringing for for the empirical principle. These a priori concepts wouldn’t necessarily be meaningless. For they might not be derived from experience, but they are still applicable to experience. And being applicable to experience is what gives these a prior concepts their empirical meaning. “[a priori] concepts, although they are not derived from experience, would be empty and meaningless unless they had application in experience.” This means that a concept not derived from experience isn’t meaningless, unlike going with the inductive procedure of abstraction with the empiricist.

“They cannot be thought of except as potential or dormant forms which only spring into living actuality when the mind makes contact with empirical reality. They are the structure of experience. But structure cannot exist by itself. It must be the structure of something. And the categories cannot come to be, cannot come to consciousness of themselves, until they have become embodied in actual perception.”

This follows Kant motto of “concepts without percepts are empty”. This would also seem to form one of the foundations of what the Logical Positivist were trying to get across with their principle of Verifiability. This all helps to form what makes the verification principle so appealing. There seems to be something to it that we latch on to, and we see to carry something strongly appealing to it. It’s just that some problems arise from the way in which the Logical Positivist have taken some of this idea that takes it too far.

The Logical Positivist make half of our common propositions to be meaningless, and this seems to say something about about the criterion that they are using. Most people, in fact, actually seem to find many of these propositions that the Logical Positivist say are meaningless seem to be meaningful. We know that certain statements have meaning, but the logical positivist actually think that none of this has any meaning.

One example is statements of the past. Statements of the past would be meaningless under the verifiability principle. Some might say something like C.I. Lewis said: “At any date after the happening of an event, there is always something, which at least is conceivably possible of experience, by means of which it can be known. Let us call these items its effects. The totality of such effects quite obviously constitute all of the object which is knowable…The event is spread throughout all after-time.” And we can take this to mean that the past is verifiable in its present effect.

We can take the proposition that “Brutus killed Caesar”. How would we know this past event based on it’s present effect? We would know this that it is written in history books or written on some stone monuments, which are the present effect of that murder. But it would seem that knowing the present effects of the past event is the same as knowing the past event itself. So me reading a history book on the murder of Caesar would be the same as knowing that the murder took place. So “Brutus killed Caesar” would be the same as saying “It is stated in a book that Brutus killed Caesar.” For it could be that Brutus didn’t kill Caesar, and yet the history book says that Brutus did killed Caesar. And there’s another reason for seeing that we have a problem with the meaning of a proposition is based on the verifiability principle:

“And I cannot know that a present event had a certain cause in the past unless I have a knowledge of the past which, though the present may have been the clue which led me to it, is a logically distinct piece of knowledge from my knowledge of the present…Knowing B (an effect) is not the same thing as knowing A (its cause). For in the one case what I know about is B, while in the other case what I know about is A. It is impossible to get away from the fact that if knowing the past is simply identical with knowing the present, then the past is itself simply identical with the present. A proposition about the past has for its subject a thing or event which no longer now exists. A proposition about the present effects of something past has for its subject a thing or event which exists now. Therefore, since these two propositions have different subjects, they cannot be the same propositions, and the knowledge conveyed by the one is not the same as the knowledge conveyed by the other.”

So it seems that there is something appealing about the verification principle, but it also brings one objection that would follow from this principle. So we might try to get the good part out of the principle, while getting it to the point where this objection can be met.

When we go back to the statement of “this is a wooden table”, which means that when scratched it will look whitish, doesn’t mean anyone in the future or now has to verify it. The table could annihilated at this instant, and so verification would be impossible. And this would make the statement meaningless. But we just have to say that there should have been possible to observing it. “And it begins to emerge that what is necessary for meaning is simply that what is asserted in the statement should be something of a kind which is in general an experiencable character of the world.”And we would add on one more thing, which is based on Kant’s motto of “concepts without percepts are empty”, which carries that “a concept, to be meaningful, must have application in experience.”

So the Empirical theory of meaning, which is distinguished from the verification theory.

“either that any statement, to have meaning, must symbolize experiencable characters of the world; or, what is the same thing, that every concept employed in it must have empirical application.

Let’s go back to a statement of the past like “Caesar’s hat was red”. It is a meaningless statement under the verificanist principle, but it is meaningful under the empirical theory of meaning. Under the verification principle, the redness of the hat wouldn’t be verified because it was in the past, which can’t be experienced. However, with the empirical theory, it is meaningful because redness is of a general experiencable character of things, and is proved that you have had the experience of it before. But the concept also has application in experience as well.

Here is one of the other major differences between the verification principle and the empirical principle.

“On the verificational view, in order to give meaning to my assertion that a certain entity has a certain character I must be in a position actually to experience (if I want to) that very instance of the character in that very entity. I must be able to experience every particular example of the concept which I want to assert. That is what is meant by verifiability. But on the empirical theory, all that is necessary is that I should have had experience of some instance or instances of the concept. The concept then has application in experience and can be extended by me to other cases far beyond the horizon of my own limited experience. “

So take the example of other minds. Under the verification principle, it is meaningless to say that other people have minds. This means that they don’t feel pain, don’t feel pleasure, don’t have any sensory experience of things like blue, red, hot, cold, and etc. All we can say is that we see a body behaving in a certain way, but we don’t see them being in pain itself. The face is moving, but we can’t see pain or feel the pain. The empirical principle says that saying there are other minds is perfectly meaningful. This concept is experienceable because it has been experienced and so have one case. And this helps us form the concept and thus give it some application in experience to ‘other minds’.

Under the verificaton principle, it was meaningless to ask if someone elses experiences were similar to you. This would mean, if I saw a cat and a friend was next to me looking at the same place, we can’t say that we saw the same thing or anything similar to one another. This is because I can only experience my experiences, and can never experience another persons experiences. There’s no way to verify them. In other words, whether the sensations of one mind are qualitatively similar to the corresponding sensations of another mind, is meaningless for the verificationist. But it is perfectly meaningful under the empirical theory.

“It is true that the likeness or unlikeness of A’s green to B’s green is in principle unverifiable. This shows that we can never discover whether they are alike or not. But it has no bearing on the question of meaning. If A makes the statement “B’s green is similar to my green”, the statement is meaningful since both “green” and “similarity” are concepts which have application in experience (in A’s experience, and in B’s experience, and in that of other people.) Therefore the question is not meaningless, though the answer to it may be impossible to discover.”

The logical positivist, under their principle, also stated that questions of morality, or what we ought to do are meaningless. Under the empirical theory, this isn’t quite the case. The empirical theory is definitely open to the idea of oughts being meaningful. There are different ways in which one could do this, and Stace brings up one way in which it would be meaningful. But the logical positivist basically took that things should be sensuous, while moral statements were said not to be sensuous. But there is one way in which objective morals could fit into the Empirical theory.

“But the value of the thing might be a character of it actually experincible by an intuition of the mind. And the theory of value which I had in mind when I said that a meaningful theory of objectivity might be framed is that which asserts that value is a kind of quality directly experienced in intuition. If there is any such non-sensuous kind of experience, then this concept of the objectivity of value would be meaningful, since it would have application in that experience.”

“It is urged that what is not, but merely ought to be, cannot be experienced. But when any quality has been apprehended in experience, it is frequently possible to conceive a higher degree of that quality than any which has ever been actually discovered. For example, the idea of a perfectly elastic body has empirical meaning, though no perfectly elastic body has ever been found. For elasticity is an empirical character of things which admits of degrees. And the notions, first of a more elastic, and finally a perfectly elastic, object are reaching by an extension of degrees beyond what has been actually experienced. And if goodness were an experincible quality of things admitting of degrees, exactly similar considerations would be applicable. We could speak with perfectly clear meaning of a degree of goodness beyond any actual experience, and such a notion would yield a norm and an empirical concept of obligation.”

The same consideratiosn of morals could also hold with what have been deemed mystics. For they have an experience of some kind, and to have an experience of some kind is to to have a structure of experience. And this structure of experience can have applicability in communication. Now what the mystic might say might be nonunderstandable to the masses of people, but there are also a group of mystics that understand what the other said. This is because they would carry the same structure. But this would also seem to hold universally with any speaking community.

A question that could arise would be, “If a concept, to have meaning, must have application in experience, whose experience is here referred to?

“The first suggestion is likely to be that the experience referred to must be the experience of the mind to whom the concept is to have meaning; that a concept cannot mean anything to me unless it has application in my personal experience; and that similarly what is to have meaning for you must have application in yours. And in a sense I believe this to the correct answer.”

Now there are certain ways that this can be taken, so it would probably be best to clarify some of it in some way. Take the point of “having application in my experience”. Taking this too loosely would lead to the verification principle. But we need to keep in mind that it is necessary to assert that a for a concept to have meaning, it must have application within the experience of the mind which is to understand it. For all knowledge and meaning, is individual. It’s somebody’s knowledge, and so it’s somebody’s meaning. So when we ask if a proposition has meaning, we must ask whether it has meaning for some particular mind.

But this isn’t the only point. For if we follow just this part strictly, we are lead to the verification theory. Take, for example, the point of “dogs hear sounds which are inaudible to human beings”. This would be meaningless, because we can never have this experience, and I wouldn’t be able to have those experiences and so wouldn’t have meaning to me. However, we do have the experience of sounds ourselves, so the concept itself, like of “red”, dos seem to make sense and we do have experience of that. “The conditions for the solution of our problem seem therefore to be that, on the one hand, meaning must be solipsistic in the sense that no mind can understand any concept which has not direct application in its own experience; and yet, on the other hand, that it must somehow be possible for the mind to make available for is meanings the experiences of the other, even of non-human, minds. How can we combine these apparently irreconcilable conditions?”

“The solution of the difficulty lies…in a distinction which has been made familiar to us by the logical positivists themselves, the distinction between structure and content. One can put the essence of the solution in a few words by saying that concepts are structure, the structure of experience, and that what alone is necessary to render available for the mind’s meanings the experience of another is that this latter should possess the same structure as mine…If a concept is to be meaningful to me I must have personally experienced the structure which is that concept. I need not have experienced the content with which another mind fills that structure. It is correct then, as originally suggested, that a concept cannot have meaning for me unless it has application within my individual experience. But the phrase “having application within my individual experiences” must be interpreted so as to refer to structure only. The content of the experience need not be experiencible me.”

Now we might wonder what it means to say that “concepts are structure”. We can try to get a hand on this with an example. How could it be applied with the concept of “green”? It is usually understood that very general concepts like those used in categories, constitute the structure of experience. But a concept like “green” seems to be part of the senses, and so part of the sense content. Now imagine that A says to B, “This book is green”, and both share normal vision. So for B to understand A, it isn’t necessary to suppose that what A calls “green” is qualitatively similar to what B calls a green sensation. But we can assume that what A calls green is unlike what B calls green, and if A could experience B’s green, then A would call it a toothache. Even with all this, A and B can perfectly understand one another when the statement “this is green” is made. So they have the same concept of “green” but they have different content. Thus, they are constituted by structure and not by content.

Now we could wonder “what is this structure of the concept “green”? The answer, it would seem, would be that is consists in a network of relations. The concept holds between what is presently before my senses as “green” and those other within my experience of the past. Stace gives us one example.

“When A says, “This book is green” he is asserting a number of relations between his present experience and other past experiences, of which “similarity to one of the sensations received from grass” may be taken as a typical example. Now suppose that the green book gives B a sensation which A would call a toothache if he could experience it. B will still understand A’s statement about the book, provided that grass also gives B a sensation which A, if he could experience it, would call a toothache. For there will then still be the relation of similarity between the book and the grass in both A’s and B’s experiences. And it is this relation which (among others) is asserted by the concept of “green”. The structure of A’s experiences will be (to this extent at least) the same as the structure of B’s, not with standing their differences of content. They will have the same concept.”

So this means that when we talk about the structure of the concept of ultra-violet color has its relation to the colors that we do know. It stands in a definite relation to red, green, and blue of the spectrum. Thus, we can fill in the structural pattern with any imaginable sensory content that we like. But this does seem to bring up something interesting, which is that we can meaningful speak of salamanders, fairies, or ghosts. So how do we deal with this? Well, Stace does bring up a limiting example.

“The limit is set by the consideration that the experience of these remote minds, though its content may be unimaginable to us, must share the structure of our own. If not, there is no bridge of meaning by which we can pass over. The assertion of the very existence of a mind, or of experience, completely beyond these limits, is meaningless. It is utterly meaningless to say, therefore, that there might exist a mind whose experience should have absolutely nothing in common with ours. There must be structure in common.”

Now this helps make clear how we can understand something of a higher degree. For the concept does consist of relations that we have experienced, even though we have not experienced these higher degrees themselves. For example, you might only experience a dark green, but you’ve experienced green itself, but of a lower degree. And you can extend this to a higher and higher degree, even though you’ve never experienced these higher degree’s themselves.

So this means that the empirical theory does allow for some metaphysics. But the verification theory doesn’t allow for metaphysics, and many of our common beliefs. Thus, the empirical theory is friendly to certain kinds of metaphysics, while the verification theory wasn’t friendly to any kind of metaphysics. Stace gives an example of how it is friend to metaphysics or some structure of metaphysics.

“But the theory of meaning which we have now evolved shows that any statement is meaningful provided the concepts which it employs have application in experience; or in other words, provided what it asserts is an experiencible character of the world; and the experience which is thus the criterion of meaning may be that of any mind, human or non-human, provided that it share structure with our experience…The assertion of a reality which lies behind our experience, and which can never be experienced by us, may be meaningful provided it is conceived as the possible expeirence of some other mind wich shares structure with our own. Otherwise it will be meaningless…The mere facts that the thing-in-itself cannot be experienced by the human mind does not deprive its concept of meaning. If it is conceived as an entity which might be experienced by some other mind, say the mind of God, then it will have meaning (though it may of course be quite false). This, however, will only be the case provided its structure is conceived as in some way similar to that of human experience…The greater the amount of common structure, the greater the quantity of meaning. The less the common structure, the less the meaning. The less the commons structure, the less the meaning. The absence of all common structure is the absence of all meaning.”

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Possibility and Necessity

Posted by allzermalmer on January 14, 2012

This blog is going to deal with logically necessary and logically possible. This is slightly different from Avicenna, but mostly based on Modal Logic, or some of the basic ideas of Modal Logic.

Because it is a form of logic, it also deals with one of the foundations of logic. Logic is concerned with statements, and the inferences that we draw from these statements. It is about having a couple of statements, and seeing if we can draw another statement with those statements that we accept. Logic helps give us some rules to follow in order to say that we drew a statement from the other statements that we held to, in a correct manner.

Law of Identity is “every individual thing is identical to itself”. Law of Excluded Middle is “every statement is either true or false”. Law of Non-Contradiction is “given any statement and its opposite, one is true and the other false”. And with possibility and necessary, they are mostly based on the Law of Non-Contradiction.

Possible means not self-contradictory. For example, “The sun won’t rise tomorrow” or “I ran a 2 minute mile” are possible. There’s nothing logically self-contradictory there. Necessary means self-contradictory to deny, which are based on logic, meaning of concepts, or necessary connection between properties. For example, “2+2=4” or “a bachelor is an unmarried male”.

A possible world is “a consistent and complete description of how things might have been or might in fact be.” A possible world is a consistent world, and this means that the statements that describe a possible world don’t entail self-contradiction. We can’t have statement X of possible world N and statement ~X of possible world N, being both affirmed at the same time like “statement X of possible world N and statement ~X of possible world N”. To do this would be to affirm a contradiction, or show that that possible world couldn’t exist because it’s a contradictory world. But the actual world is a description of how things in fact are. Yet, it would seem, that the actual world has to be consistent as well, which means there are no self-contradictions in the world. So the actual world is a possible world itself.

One of the difference between necessary and possible is that necessary statements are known to be true or false without experience. This means that information obtained from observation or sense-perception play no rule in determining if the necessary statement is true. This means we can know that a statement is true without recourse to evidence supplied by observation. But possible statements are known to be true or false with experience. This means that information from observation or sense-perception plays a part in determining if the possible statement is true. This means we know that a statement is true with recourse to evidence supplied by observation.

(A side note is that a necessary statement is a possible statement as well. This is because a necessary statement is a statement that it would be self-contradictory to deny, but the statement itself shouldn’t be self-contradictory and that’s what a possible statement is as well.)

From this idea of possible and necessary, we can say there are three types of statements. There are necessary statements, impossible statements, and contingent statements. A necessary statement is a statement that couldn’t be false. A impossible statement is a statement that couldn’t be true. A contingent statement is a statement that could be true or could be false, or could have been true or could have been false, or could be true in the future or could be false in the future.

So take “a bachelor is an unmarried male”. This is a necessary statement and means it’s necessarily true. But now say that I say “a bachelor isn’t an unmarried male”. This is a impossible statement, and means it’s necessarily false. To actually affirm the second statement is to affirm something that is false. Now say that I affirm “Justin Bieber is a bachelor”. That statement is a contingent statement. This means that Justin Bieber is a married male or isn’t a married male. The only way we could tell which of the two propositions is true is through experience.

So take the statement “Justin Bieber is a bachelor“, and accept it’s a contingent statement. So when we say “‘Justin Bieber is a bachelor‘ is a contingent statement”, we are also saying “‘Justin Bieber is a bachelor‘ is possible and not ‘Justin Bieber is a bachelor‘ is possible.”But take the same statement, and accept it’s a contingent truth. So when we say “‘Justin Bieber is a bachelor‘ is a contingent truth”, we are also saying “‘Justin Bieber is a bachelor’ is true but could have been false.”

As Raymond D. Bradley said, “Our own world – the real world, the actual one – is just one of many possible worlds. Indeed, it is just one of infinitely many, since for any possible world containing say n atoms there is another logically possible world containing n+1 atoms, and so on ad infinitum.” So there are an infinity of possible worlds, or possible ways of describing what might have been or what might be. Say we have the possible world of N, and within this world it contains M and M contains 140 particular things that are M. That is one possible world, but anther possible world, which is logically contradictory from N, and we can call it N*, contains 141 particulars in M. But 140 is logically contradictory from 141. So N is one possible world and N* is a different possible world, but they are logically contradictory from one another.We can continue on doing this infinitely, and so there’s an infinity of possible worlds.

Now science is concerned with contingent statements. This is because science is said to be empirical. The quotes, in order of the authors, are from Richard Feynman, Pierre Duhem, Stephen Hawking, and Henir Poincare: “The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific “truth.””; “Agreement with experiment is the sole criterion of truth for a physical theory.”; “[the] scientific method…w[as]…developed with goal of experimental verification.”; “Experiment is the sole source of truth. It alone can teach us something new; it alone can give us certainty. These are two points that cannot be questioned.” Now experiment is based on coming to human sense-perception. This can be anything from looking at the squirrel climbing a tree to reading the numbers off of a volt-meter.

The reason that science wants to deal with contingent matters, besides dealing with sense-perception, is that science likes to try to have the ability to be shown that the theories are false. But if science only dealt with necessary statements, then scientific statements could never be shown to be false. For if a statement was presented that said a necessary statement was false, that statement would be an impossible statement and necessarily be false. But a contingent statement can be shown to be false.

But science creates models of how the actual world could possibly be. Take this example of what Richard Dawkins says of science and what science does: “There is a less familiar way in which a scientist can work out what is real when our five senses cannot detect it directly. This is through the use of a ‘model’ of what might be going on, which can be tested. We imagine- you might say we guess- what might be there. That is called the model. We then work out (often by doing a mathematical calculation) if the model were true. We then check whether that is what we see…We look carefully at the model and predict what we ought to see (hear, etc.) with our sense (with the aid of instruments, perhaps) if the model were correct. Then we look to see whether the predictions are right or wrong.  ”

So science creates a model of what is possible, and what happens in this possible world. And we can deduce what should be observed if this possible world is the actual world. We have the possible world of N. But N is our model. So, “If N then O. O. Therefore N.” This is the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Just because the model has a true prediction in the actual world, that doesn’t mean that the model is how the actual world is. In other words, just because this possible world (model) had one right prediction of how the actual world is (which is also another possible world), doesn’t mean that this actual world is that possible world. It also wouldn’t matter if the model has made nothing but correct predictions up till now, because the problem is still there.

If I robbed a bank, then I have 100 million dollars. I have 100 million dollars. Therefore, I robbed a bank. But me having 100 million dollars is also consistent with me winning the lottery, it is also consistent with me investing my money in a way where I got a lot of return in my investments, me starting up a business and my business got me 100 million dollars, or me getting the money from the death of a family member as a part of inheritance. In other words, there are many other possibilities that are consistent with the actual results or observations. As W.V. Quine once said, “Whatever observation would be counted for or against the one theory counts equally for or against another.”

This seems to raise a skeptical problem.

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Avicenna’s Necessary Existent and Possible Existent

Posted by allzermalmer on January 8, 2012

This blog will be based on Book One Chapter 6 of Avicenna’s book The Book of The Healing. The title of the chapter is called “On commencing a discourse on the Necessary Existent and the possible existent; that the Necessary Existent has no cause; that the possible existent is caused; that the Necessary existent has no equivalent in existence and is not dependent [in existence] on another.” I’m just going to quote that whole section, but I’ll try to break it up so his arguments come across in a more readable manner than as one long argument where one follows another in the same paragraph.

“We will now return to what we were discussing and say: There are specific properties that belong individually each to the Necessary Existent and the possible existent. We thus say: The things that enter existence bear a possible twofold division in the mind. Among them there will be that which, when considered in itself, its existence would be not necessary. It is moreover clear that its existence would also not be impossible, since otherwise it would not enter existence. This thing is within the bound of possibility. There will also be among them that which, when considered in itself, its existence would be necessary.

We thus say: That which in itself is a necessary existent has no cause, while that which in itself is a possible existent has a cause. Whatever is a necessary existent in itself is a necessary existent in all its aspects. The existent of the Necessary Existent cannot be equivalent to the  existent of another where each would equal the other as regards necessary existence, becoming thereby necessary concomitants.

The existence of the Necessary Existent cannot at all be a composite, deriving from multiplicity. The true nature of the Necessary Existent can in no manner be shared by another. From our verifying all this, it follows necessarily that the Necessary Existent is not dependent on relation, is neither changing nor multiple, and has nothing associated with [its] existence that is proper to [itself]

That the Necessary Existent has no cause is obvious. For if in [its] existence the Necessary existent were to have a cause, [its] existence would be by that cause. But whatever exists by something else, if considered in itself, apart from another, existence for it would not be necessary. And everything for which existence is not found to be necessary-if the thing is considered in itself, apart from another- is not a necessary existent in itself. It is thus evident that if what is in itself a necessary existent were to have a cause, it would not be in itself a necessary existent. Thus, it becomes clear that the Necessary Existent has no cause. From this it is also clear that it is impossible for a thing to be both a necessary existent in itself and a necessary existent through another.

This is because, if its existence is rendered necessary through another, it cannot exist without the other. But if anything whatsoever cannot exist without another, its existence as necessary in itself is impossible. For if it were necessary in itself, then it would have to come into existence, there being no influence on its existence by way of necessity from that which is other and which affects the existence of something else. But sense such an influence has been supposed, its existence would not be necessary in itself.

Moreover, whatever is possible in existence when considered in itself, its existence and nonexistence are both due to a cause. This is because, if it comes into existence, then existence, as distinct from nonexistence, would have occurred to it. Similarly, if it ceases to exist, then nonexistence, as distinct from existence, would have occurred to it. Hence, in each of the two cases, what occurs to the thing must either occur through another or not. If it occurs through another, then this other is the cause. And if it did not exist through another, then the nonexistence of the other is the cause of its nonexistence. Hence, it is clear that whatever exists after nonexistence has been specified with something possible other than itself. The case is the same with nonexistence.

This is because the thing’s quiddity is either of the state of affairs existence or nonexistence to obtain, then that thing would be in itself of a necessary quiddity, when the thing has been supposed not to be necessary in itself. And this is contradictory.If on the other hand the existence of its quiddity is not sufficient for specifying the possible with existence-the later being, rather, something whose existence is added to it- then its existence would be necessarily due to some other things. This, then would be its cause. Hence, it has a cause. In sum, then, either of two things existence or nonexistence would obtain necessarily for the possible that was due, not to itself, but to a cause. The existential idea would be realized through a cause, namely, an existential cause; and the nonexistential would be realized through a cause, namely, the absence of the former existential idea, as you have known.

We can thus say: The possible in itself must become necessary through a cause and with respect to it. For, if it were not necessary, then with the existence of the cause and with respect to it, it would still be possible. It would then be possible for it to exist or not to exist, being specified with neither of the two states. Once again, from the beginning this would be in need of the existence of a third thing through which either existence as distinct from nonexistence or nonexistence as distinct from its existence would be assigned for the possible when the cause of its existence with this state of affairs would not have been specified. This would be another cause, and the discussion would be extended to an infinite regress.

And, if it regresses infinitely, the existence of the possible, with all this, would not have been specified by it. As such, its existence would not have been realized, this is impossible, not only because this leads to an infinity of causes- for this is a dimension, the impossibility of which is still open to doubt in this place-but because no dimension has been arrived at through which its existence is specified, when it has been supposed to be existing. Hence, it has been shown to be true that whatever is possible in its existence does not exist unless rendered necessary with respect to its cause.

We further say: It is impossible for the Necessary Existent to be equivalent to another necessary existent so that this would exist with that and that would exist with this, neither being the cause of the other but both, rather, being equal with respect to the matter of the necessity of existence. This is because, if the essence of the one is considered in itself, apart from the other, then it would have to be either (1.) necessary in itself or (2.) not necessary in itself.

If (1.) necessary in itself, then either it would have also a necessity with respect to the other, whereby a thing would be both a necessary existent in itself and a necessary existent through another (which, as we have seen, is impossible); or it would have no necessity by reason of another and, hence, it would not be necessary for its existence to be consequent on the existence of the other, and it follows necessarily that its existence would have no relation with the other such that it exists only when this other exists.

But, if (2.) it is not necessary in itself, then, considered in itself, it must be possible in existence and considered, with respect to the other, necessary in existence. From this it follows that either the other is of the same state or it is not. If not, then it would not be equivalent in existence. If the other is of the same state, then it follows that the necessity of existence of this one derives from that other when that other is either (i.) within the bounds of possible existence of (ii.) within the bounds of necessary existence.

If the necessary existence of this one derives from that other- that other being within the bounds of necessary existence- and does not derive from itself or some prior third thing, as we have stated in a previous context, but derives from that from which it comes to be, then a condition of the necessary existence of this one becomes the necessary existence of what occurs thereafter as a consequence of its necessary existence, the posterity here being in essence.

As such, no necessary existence is realized at all for it. If on the other hand the necessary existence of this one derives from that other- that other being within the bounds of possibility- then the necessary existence of this one derives from the essence of that other when that other is within the bounds of possibility. The essence of that other which is within the bounds of possibility would bestow necessary existence on this one, having derived not possibility but necessity from this one. Thus, the cause of that one is the possible existence of this one, whereas the possible existence of this one is not caused by that other. as such, the two cannot be equivalent- I mean, that whose causality is essential and that which is essentially caused.

Another circumstance occurs relating to the above argument: namely, that , if the possible existence of that one is the cause of the necessary existence of this one, then the existence of the latter is not connected with the necessary existence of the former, but only with its possibility. It follows, then, that the existence of the latter is possible with the nonexistence of the former, when both have been supposed to be equivalent- and this is contradictory. Hence, it is impossible for the two to be existentially equivalent in the circumstance of not being attached to an external cause. Rather, one must be the other that is essentially prior, or else there must be some other external cause that either necessitates both by necessitating the relation between them or necessitates the relation between them by necessitating them.

The two related things are such that one is not necessitated by the other but is necessary with the other, that which necessitates them being the cause that brought them together and also the two substances or two subjects described by the two relatives. The existence of the two subjects or substances along is not sufficient to make the two related, a third thing that combines the two being required.

This is because the existence of each of the two and its true nature would either consist in their being with the other or not. If they consist in being with the other, then the existence of each in itself would not be necessary. It thus becomes possible, and hence, becomes caused. its cause, as we have stated, would not be equivalent to it in existence,. As such, its cause would therefore be something else, and hence the existence and its cause would not be the cause of the relation between the two, but the cause would be that other.

If, on the other hand, the existence and true nature of each does not consist in being with the other, then the conjunction of the two would be an occurrence pertaining to the proper existence of each and consequent to it. Also, the existence would be due either (a.) to its companion, not inasmuch as the latter is its equivalent, but due to the existence that is proper to its companion and, as such, they would not be equivalent, but , rather, an instance of cause and effect, its companion being also a cause of the imagined relation between them, as in the case of father and son; (b.) they would be equivalent, belonging to the class of equivalents where one is not the cause of the other, the relation of concomitance being necessary for their existence. As such, the primary cause of the relation would be something external that brings about the existence of both, as you have known, the relation being accidental. Hence, there would be no equivalence there, except in terms of a differing or a necessary concomitmant accident. But this is something other than that with which we are concerned. There would necessarily be a cause for that which is accidental; and the two things, as far as equivalence is concerned, would both be caused.”

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