Author Topic: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being  (Read 389 times)

Offline james03

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Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« on: September 26, 2020, 09:35:51 PM »
Found the book I was looking for.  Starts with epistemology and ends with God.  Anyone familiar with this book?

Read through it once, it will take a few readings.  Has the normal deficit of philosophy books in that a few pages are made for the Proposition, and then reams of pages discussing possible objections and the refutations to the objections.  I really wish they would lay out their propositions, and THEN go over the objections.

That being said, it is an excellent tool against atheism.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

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Offline Non Nobis

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2020, 03:58:48 AM »
Found the book I was looking for.  Starts with epistemology and ends with God.  Anyone familiar with this book?

Read through it once, it will take a few readings.  Has the normal deficit of philosophy books in that a few pages are made for the Proposition, and then reams of pages discussing possible objections and the refutations to the objections.  I really wish they would lay out their propositions, and THEN go over the objections.

That being said, it is an excellent tool against atheism.

Quote
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Frederick_Ferrier  James Frederick Ferrier (16 June 1808 – 11 June 1864) was a Scottish metaphysical writer and philosopher. He introduced the word epistemology in philosophical English,[1] as well as coining agnoiology for the study of ignorance.[2]

Interesting.  Not Catholic as far as I can tell.   And (maybe for that reason) most probably does not follow the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, or at least start there.

Quote
St. Pius X said that “all who teach philosophy in Catholic schools throughout the world should take care never to depart from the path and method of Aquinas, and to insist upon that procedure more vigorously every day...We warn teachers to keep this religiously in mind, especially in metaphysics, that to disregard Aquinas cannot be done without suffering great harm.”

Seems Ferrier follows Berkeley idealism, but claims it really is common sense.  That is very hard to see, as I have read Berkeley.  But I haven't read Ferrier, except through google.

Here's one Thomistic Epistemology book: https://www.amazon.com/Mans-Knowledge-Reality-Introduction-Epistemology/dp/1258143674/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1601188353&refinements=p_27%3AFrederick+D.+Wilhelmsen&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Frederick+D.+Wilhelmsen#customerReviews

https://media.christendom.edu/1996/12/in-memoriam-dr-frederick-d-wilhelmsen/

I heard well of Wilhelmsen in my time after graduating from Thomas Aquinas College  years before he died. But I never personally saw him. There were little disagreements between different schools of St. Thomas and I think not all liked Wilhelmsen as well; and he was not traditionalist (not that TAC was).  Now his books are not very available...

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Offline james03

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2020, 03:55:29 PM »
Thanks for the book reference.  Added to my list.

It's somewhat complicated to explain, but it all started with me coming across some Catholic refutation of Descarte's Cogito ergo sum, or perhaps "complaint" is a better way to describe it.  I thought it was a bad rap because that is a good starting place when trying to convert atheists.  I actually find it more effective than First Cause and Prime Mover arguments from a utilitarian perspective (how do I get this guy to give up his simpleton ideas).  So I think Epistemology is the starting point, and then move on to ontology.

Put it another way, atheists hitch hike on a lot of theistic presuppositions without realizing it.  So you take a two prong approach; 1.  Find common points of agreement (Cogito ergo sum).  2. Point out where they are assuming things, and ask them to prove those assumptions.   One question I would ask an atheist: "Why do we have those Scenic Overlook parking places?  What are you looking at?".

It seems your book reference might be a better choice to accomplish what I want to do, so I'll give it a read.  Thanks.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 
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Offline james03

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2020, 10:03:33 PM »
Finally started reading the book.  Unfortunately it runs into the problems I have.

Examples:
Quote
[The author] holds that the "critical problem" need not be answered at all. .... But he also holds that a philosopher must give an account of his rejection...
Not a good start.
Quote
[The Thomistic assumption of existence] mean...[the] self-coherent, non-contradictory proposition someone is asked to accept as true even though its truth is neither self-evident  nor capable of proof.
Boom, he blows it.  The "criticalist" like myself does not accuse the existence assumption of being unprovable.  No.  I say that it is provable, but the Thomist doesn't ever prove it.  And when dealing with atheists, this becomes critical, otherwise you end up with infinite parallel universes and string theory.

So this doesn't bode well for the rest of the book, but I'll slog through it.  To summarize my position, I'm a realist and accept most of Thomism.  However I disagree with their method of starting with metaphysics.  The starting point is a modified Descarte:" I think, therefore I perceive and I exist".  Through epistemological arguments you end at Ferrier's Proposition XI:
Quote
All absolute existences are contingent except one; in other words, there is One, but only one, Absolute Existence which is strictly necessary; and that Existence is supreme, and infinite, and everlasting Mind in synthesis with all things.

After reaching that point, THEN you procede with Thomistic metaphysics.

I'll read the rest and see if my opinion changes.  I really hate the strawman the book sets up at the beginning.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline james03

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2020, 10:08:54 PM »
Let me demonstrate the approach I outlined above:

The results are that at least you exist, and God exists.  Right away we have Realism, since you prove that at least one thing (God) exists outside of yourself.  Goodbye Kant and Hegel and all the other nonsense.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2020, 09:07:11 AM »
The starting point is a modified Descarte:" I think, therefore I perceive and I exist".  Through epistemological arguments you end at Ferrier's Proposition XI:
Quote
All absolute existences are contingent except one; in other words, there is One, but only one, Absolute Existence which is strictly necessary; and that Existence is supreme, and infinite, and everlasting Mind in synthesis with all things.

After reaching that point, THEN you procede with Thomistic metaphysics.

The results are that at least you exist, and God exists.  Right away we have Realism, since you prove that at least one thing (God) exists outside of yourself.  Goodbye Kant and Hegel and all the other nonsense.

What if you don't buy into the cogito ergo sum to begin with? The eliminativist would say that thinking and perception are reducible to the material. He'd say that "your" thinking and "your" perception aren't really "yours" at all, as "you" don't exist.

But even if you do accept the cogito, how does this rule out solipsism and pantheism? Maybe I think therefore I am, but I am God, and nothing exists outside of me.

And even if you admit that a God exists other than Self (or, even if you otherwise accept realism), why should Thomistic hylomorphism be preferred over the alternative metaphysicses? (What about a modified form of Platonism? Or even Berkeley's idealism?)
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 09:10:31 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2020, 11:18:51 AM »
Dan,
you have come from what I believe was total skepticism to Catholicism; how did you work your way out of that hole? 
"The World Must Conform to Our Lord and not He to it." Rev. Dennis Fahey CSSP

"My brothers, all of you, if you are condemned to see the triumph of evil, never applaud it. Never say to evil: you are good; to decadence: you are progess; to death: you are life. Sanctify yourselves in the times wherein God has placed you; bewail the evils and the disorders which God tolerates; oppose them with the energy of your works and your efforts, your life uncontaminated by error, free from being led astray, in such a way that having lived here below, united with the Spirit of the Lord, you will be admitted to be made but one with Him forever and ever: But he who is joined to the Lord is one in spirit." Cardinal Pie of Potiers
 
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Offline james03

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2020, 04:45:43 PM »
Quote
The eliminativist would say that thinking and perception are reducible to the material. He'd say that "your" thinking and "your" perception aren't really "yours" at all, as "you" don't exist.
  "Thinking" is material when it is calculating.  The programming, which involves information, is by definition immaterial.  Perception is entirely immaterial.  Information is entirely immaterial.  Eliminativist's can't even give an existence theorem for perception, let alone explain it.

Quote
And even if you admit that a God exists other than Self (or, even if you otherwise accept realism), why should Thomistic hylomorphism be preferred over the alternative metaphysicses?
  I view Thomism as a tool in the toolbox.  I actually reject it in that they can't explain the interface problem.  But then again science can't explain the interface problem, e.g. how does an immaterial field exert a force on matter?  In reality I'm an immaterial realist, which means I accept matter as described by Quantum Field Theory, but reject prime matter.  "Forms" in Thomism are correct.  Forms are information.  In conclusion, for me Thomism is a short cut method that works.

"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2020, 05:26:55 PM »
  "Thinking" is material when it is calculating.  The programming, which involves information, is by definition immaterial.  Perception is entirely immaterial.  Information is entirely immaterial.  Eliminativist's can't even give an existence theorem for perception, let alone explain it.

I believe eliminativsts explain it (or attempt to explain it) simply by denying its existence. If it doesn't exist, it doesn't need explaining.

But anyway, I think I may have misunderstood what you're trying to do. Are you looking to show that theism is absolutely true, in a way that nobody can possibly deny? Or are you only looking to show that theism is true granted that the agreed-upon premises are true? I don't believe the former is even possible. As for the latter, I guess what you're doing could work. Most atheists are not eliminativists and probably would accept the cogito.

  I view Thomism as a tool in the toolbox.  I actually reject it in that they can't explain the interface problem.  But then again science can't explain the interface problem, e.g. how does an immaterial field exert a force on matter?  In reality I'm an immaterial realist, which means I accept matter as described by Quantum Field Theory, but reject prime matter.  "Forms" in Thomism are correct.  Forms are information.  In conclusion, for me Thomism is a short cut method that works.

Got it.


Dan,
you have come from what I believe was total skepticism to Catholicism; how did you work your way out of that hole?

Unfortunately I haven't found my way out. If it's possible to "know" Catholicism to be true, or even theism to be true, I'm not seeing it. And I'm almost certain that it's impossible to definitively prove either of these things by way of philosophical argumentation.

I do believe in Catholicism, but my belief is rather arbitrary. It is not based in argumentation... it's mostly just because I personally like Catholicism more than the alternatives, and because I hate everything the anti-Catholics stand for. It also seems more "probably-true" than some (perhaps all) of the alternatives, though I can't say for sure that I know it to be true. (I don't have "faith" either. So my belief is only on the level of opinion, not knowledge, and it doesn't have power to save. I'm hardly better off than the atheist in that regard; I really can't "live the faith" in this state, or even go to Confession.)
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 06:26:35 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2020, 06:34:22 PM »
Dan.
I'm praying for you. I do believe that you are heading in the right direction.
"The World Must Conform to Our Lord and not He to it." Rev. Dennis Fahey CSSP

"My brothers, all of you, if you are condemned to see the triumph of evil, never applaud it. Never say to evil: you are good; to decadence: you are progess; to death: you are life. Sanctify yourselves in the times wherein God has placed you; bewail the evils and the disorders which God tolerates; oppose them with the energy of your works and your efforts, your life uncontaminated by error, free from being led astray, in such a way that having lived here below, united with the Spirit of the Lord, you will be admitted to be made but one with Him forever and ever: But he who is joined to the Lord is one in spirit." Cardinal Pie of Potiers
 
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Offline james03

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2020, 08:30:25 PM »
Quote
I believe eliminativsts explain it (or attempt to explain it) simply by denying its existence. If it doesn't exist, it doesn't need explaining.
  This is self refuting.  Who is denying?  And to deny means you must perceive something that you are denying.  A serious eliminativist would sit there like a rock and do nothing.  Do these people also hold that the immaterial world does not exist? 

Quote
But anyway, I think I may have misunderstood what you're trying to do. Are you looking to show that theism is absolutely true, in a way that nobody can possibly deny?
Yes.  Though I don't take credit.  I believe Ferrier has done this.  There is one assumption, you throw out incoherent arguments.  If an atheist wants to participate in Dadaism, that's his choice, but it won't be an argument.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 
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Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2020, 09:26:30 PM »
Dan,
what if I were having a discussion with a radical skeptic and he denies even his own existence, and I bring out my Bic lighter, and wave it under his arm and he winces; does that prove to him that he does exist?
"The World Must Conform to Our Lord and not He to it." Rev. Dennis Fahey CSSP

"My brothers, all of you, if you are condemned to see the triumph of evil, never applaud it. Never say to evil: you are good; to decadence: you are progess; to death: you are life. Sanctify yourselves in the times wherein God has placed you; bewail the evils and the disorders which God tolerates; oppose them with the energy of your works and your efforts, your life uncontaminated by error, free from being led astray, in such a way that having lived here below, united with the Spirit of the Lord, you will be admitted to be made but one with Him forever and ever: But he who is joined to the Lord is one in spirit." Cardinal Pie of Potiers
 
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Offline Non Nobis

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2020, 02:25:23 AM »
Dan,
you have come from what I believe was total skepticism to Catholicism; how did you work your way out of that hole?

Unfortunately I haven't found my way out. If it's possible to "know" Catholicism to be true, or even theism to be true, I'm not seeing it. And I'm almost certain that it's impossible to definitively prove either of these things by way of philosophical argumentation.

I do believe in Catholicism, but my belief is rather arbitrary. It is not based in argumentation... it's mostly just because I personally like Catholicism more than the alternatives, and because I hate everything the anti-Catholics stand for. It also seems more "probably-true" than some (perhaps all) of the alternatives, though I can't say for sure that I know it to be true. (I don't have "faith" either. So my belief is only on the level of opinion, not knowledge, and it doesn't have power to save. I'm hardly better off than the atheist in that regard; I really can't "live the faith" in this state, or even go to Confession.)

Can't you take a chance that your "arbitrary and probable" beliefs make praying to a probable God "I believe in a very unsatisfactory way; help my unbelief"  a reasonable thing to do?  Maybe you are just imagining Him around the corner; but maybe He's there.  Don't hang on to the pride of "I've got to have completely reasoned belief before I even pray". You don't treat people you talk to that way.  Praying comes before the fullest living of the faith of a believer or confession. I think God's waiting for you.
[Matthew 8:26]  And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm.

[Job  38:1-5]  Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and said: [2] Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words? [3] Gird up thy loins like a man: I will ask thee, and answer thou me. [4] Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth? tell me if thou hast understanding. [5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Jesus, Mary, I love Thee! Save souls!
 
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2020, 12:14:26 AM »
Can't you take a chance that your "arbitrary and probable" beliefs make praying to a probable God "I believe in a very unsatisfactory way; help my unbelief"  a reasonable thing to do?  Maybe you are just imagining Him around the corner; but maybe He's there.  Don't hang on to the pride of "I've got to have completely reasoned belief before I even pray". You don't treat people you talk to that way.  Praying comes before the fullest living of the faith of a believer or confession. I think God's waiting for you.

Don't misunderstand me, I do pray.

Whether it's "reasonable" or not, I cannot say. But I can say that it's not based in reason. And it doesn't seem much different from what most atheists are doing. ("I choose to believe in God because I like God and because I think God might exist" is formally equivalent to "Mr. Atheist chooses to believe that God doesn't exist because he likes a non-existent God and because he thinks that maybe God doesn't exist".) Nevertheless, we really don't have any other option. Until God gives us certainty, all we can really do is pick our favourite god or God and worship it. Yet if this is insufficient for salvation, then those of us who worship God are still in more or less the same boat as those who worship false gods (including atheists). What we need is for God to move us into the other boat (with the Catholics who actually have the faith).

My main point, however, is that I don't think what james03 wants to do can possibly work. Just my opinion, anyway. I am not nearly as optimistic with regard to philosophy. To me the whole thing is just one shaky edifice built upon non-provable first principles. Conclusions are ultimately determined by whichever starting premises you choose to accept and which ones you choose to reject, and the choice is usually pretty arbitrary. So what you end up with are conclusions which amount to little more than opinion and question begging, disguised as knowledge and truth. Philosophers who have an agenda can even cherry-pick the premises such as to arrive at whatever conclusions they want to arrive at. If you can get the other person to agree with your starting premises, then you'll succeed in getting him to agree with you (if he's actually willing to agree). I suppose this is fine if you're a Catholic apologist trying to push truth, but it's certainly not a good way to arrive at truth.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2020, 12:17:49 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline Non Nobis

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Re: Institutes of Metaphysics: the Theory of Knowing and Being
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2020, 01:45:41 AM »
Pray to the God you don't really know yet and ask for help in reaching even the true premises humbly and honestly and with common sense and help from the right teachers. Faith is from God and even our flawed reason sometimes needs more help from Him than philosophers might want to think.
[Matthew 8:26]  And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm.

[Job  38:1-5]  Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and said: [2] Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words? [3] Gird up thy loins like a man: I will ask thee, and answer thou me. [4] Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth? tell me if thou hast understanding. [5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Jesus, Mary, I love Thee! Save souls!