Epistemologies

Materialist: Given we all agree physical things are entities, this is the only sort of entity we need in order to explain knowledge.

Dualist:  We need another sort of entity in order to explain knowledge.

Thomist: We need something other than entities to explain knowledge.

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4 Comments

  1. reyjacobs said,

    July 29, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    “Given we all agree physical things are entities” ; I’m not sure we do all agree on that. In common language entity seems to be spared for a use that means a living thing. Take for example the Seinfeld episode where Jerry can’t get a smell out of his car no matter how much he shampoos it and declares “It’s a presence! It’s the beast!” and Elaine explains “Jerry thinks it’s an entity.”

  2. Crude said,

    July 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    I don’t think the Materialist case is quite that clear cut. Since, my experience is, you can ask next, “Okay. What’s a physical thing?” and often the response is, “I’m not sure.” or “We’ll see.”

    • July 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Why not help them out then? Aristotle’s account of matter still works: “what a thing is made out of, remaining in it”; more generally “what constitutes a changeable thing as such” or just “what comes to be diverse things” would be close enough. If they want a more sciency-sounding account, then most Materialism seems to rest on an idea that whatever changes either uses or is some form of energy; or that whatever is can be quantified algorithmically so as to fall under a law (the basic axiom being “whatever is, exists in some amount”). All these accounts give some basis for the causal closure of the universe and a respectable interaction problem. Again, we could get the same result by making the third law a statement about agent causality as such.

      True, this is a decadent moment in history for materialism: they have been on top of the heap for so long that they have let their arguments get flabby and they’ve stopped giving any careful reading of their opposition. Much of their case is now just sloganeering, sneering, trading in intellectual urban legends and the attack of strawmen. But, to be honest, this is too bad for us. When one half of a dialogue is so awful, the whole dialogue isn’t much better. It’s really too bad that someone like Ed Feser was never forced to give an account of how there can be no number of the angels or of God- that God is not even one in the sense of being numerically one (in other words, how is it that we should deny that “whatever is, exists in some amount”?) I would very much have liked to read it.

      • Crude said,

        July 31, 2012 at 1:20 am

        All these accounts give some basis for the causal closure of the universe and a respectable interaction problem. Again, we could get the same result by making the third law a statement about agent causality as such.

        I don’t think even this solves it. The “causal closure of the universe” is now discussed with the backdrop of multiverses, universes within universes, Platonism-a-la-Tegmark, claims about things occurring with an utter lack of cause, and more. Even saying “energy” doesn’t really help, because what energy actually is or what forms it can take is an open question in many relevant ways. You bring up Feser, but one thing which really struck me about Feser was how he highlighted that the very question of what matter is is under dispute between Thomists and materialists – or, if it’s not, it’s typically because materialists tend to be working with a broadly Thomist/Aristotilean conception of it without realizing it, or at least without admitting it.

        True, this is a decadent moment in history for materialism: they have been on top of the heap for so long that they have let their arguments get flabby and they’ve stopped giving any careful reading of their opposition. Much of their case is now just sloganeering, sneering, trading in intellectual urban legends and the attack of strawmen.

        I’m cynical, and think you’ve gotten things backwards: materialism, if it is at the top of the heap at the moment, is so because they’ve been avoiding arguments in favor of sloganeering, sneering, trading in intellectual urban legends and the attack of strawmen. Digging in and saying, “Alright, enough of that. Let’s treat these topics seriously and represent them fairly” would likely lead to a drop from the top of that heap.

        It’s similar to politics. Issues are trivialized and caricatured because actually saying “Well, this actually is pretty complicated” would confuse and scare many people who want to believe the issues are open and shut, non-complex. “God was a guy who lived on the clouds. We checked the clouds, God’s not there. There is no God, question answered.”


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