Thursday, February 23, 2017

How to be a pervert


We’ve been talking of late about “perverted faculty arguments,” which deploy the concept of perversion in a specific, technical sense.  The perversion of a human faculty essentially involves both using the faculty but doing so in a way that is positively contrary to its natural end.  As I’ve explained before, simply to refrain from using a faculty at all is not to pervert it.  Using a faculty for something that is merely other than its natural end is also not to pervert it.  Hence, suppose faculty F exists for the sake of end E.  There is nothing perverse about not using F at all, and there is nothing perverse about using F but for the sake of some other end G.  What is perverse is using F but in a way that actively prevents E from being realized.  It is this contrariness to the very point of the faculty, this outright frustration of its function, that is the heart of the perversity.  (See the paper linked to above for exposition, defense, and application of the idea.)

Perversion, in this sense, is arguably analogous to performative self-contradiction.  (I do not say that it is exactly the same thing as that, but only that there is an analogy.)  Consider first the general notion of a self-contradiction, before turning to the performative kind.  The idea of a round square is self-contradictory, because being round and being square mutually exclude one another.  It’s as if, in trying to make a round square, you would be putting something out with your right hand while at the same time taking it back with your left.  Or it’s as if you would be attempting to create something while at the very same time annihilating it.  A round square is a self-undermining kind of thing, its roundness and squareness mutually subverting or frustrating each other’s very existence.

This is loose talk, of course, since round squares, being non-existent, cannot do anything, including frustrating or subverting themselves.  But performative self-contradictions involve things that do exist, namely people.  Suppose you utter the words “I am not uttering any words.”  The very act of making the statement falsifies it.  The statement gives with one hand what the act takes back with the other.  Or, you might say that the statement points in one direction while the making of it points simultaneously in the opposite direction. 

Perverting a faculty is somewhat like this.  A faculty F is of its nature directed toward end E and in perverting it one directs the faculty instead away from E.  With one hand, as it were, one gives E – just by virtue of using F, which inherently points toward E – while with the other hand one takes E away.  The faculty’s natural function is at odds with your use of it, just as the act of speaking is in the example above at odds with the words being spoken, and just as being square is at odds with being round.

Now, a self-contradictory concept effectively nullifies the being of the thing the concept is a concept of.  Being round nullifies being square, so that a round square cannot even “get off the ground” ontologically, as it were. 

A performative self-contradiction effectively nullifies the truth of the statement made by a speaker.  In our example, the very act of speaking the sentence “I am not uttering any words” falsifies the words being spoken.

The perversion of a faculty effectively nullifies the goodness of the action being performed.  The good use of a faculty must be consistent with its natural end, and the perverse user of the faculty actively prevents that end.  Hence the good use of our communicative faculties is inconsistent with lying, which is contrary to their truth-conveying end; the good use of our sexual faculties must be consistent with their procreative and unitive ends; and so forth.

Being, truth, and goodness are, of course, transcendentals and thus convertible – the same thing looked at from different points of view.  We might expect, then, that just as there are self-defeating kinds of would-be entities (e.g. round squares) and self-defeating kinds of utterances (performative self-contradictions), there would also be self-defeating kinds of action.  That is, I propose, what the perversion of a faculty amounts to. 

The perversity of frustrating a faculty is arguably also analogous to the irrationality of self-contradictory thought.  Indeed, we could just as well switch the descriptions: There is a kind of perversity to self-contradictory thinking, and there is a kind of inherent irrationality to the perversion of a faculty.  Rational action is always and necessarily good action (again, see the natural law analysis in the paper linked to above) and the perversion of a faculty involves acting contrary to the good. 

Note that these (tentative and sketchy) remarks are not intended as an argument for the wrongness of perverting a faculty.  The argument for that conclusion is presented in the paper linked to above, and nothing in that paper depends on anything I say in this blog post.  But it does seem to me that the nature of perversity is illuminated by the analogy with self-contradiction. 

276 comments:

  1. Hi Tony,

    You write:

    ...[T]he faculty of eating was the first [example of a multiple operation faculty], where we do actually see the faculty (or faculties if you prefer) being used in such a way that one operation (and its immediate end) is pursued well while another is defeated by design.

    I'm willing to allow that your notion of perversion sounds plausible in this particular instance. But see my remarks below.

    With reference to my remark on the intellect being the only thing that could regulate "ends as distinct as the procreative and unitive ends of sex," you comment:

    Why do you carve out the food / eating / digestive example by so slippery and subjective an objection?

    I've been thinking a little more about this case. Consider the following cases:

    (a) someone suffering from a dry mouth, who takes a gulp of water every few minutes, swirls it around in his mouth and then spits it out, because he doesn't want to feel bloated;

    (b) a wine-taster who drinks a mouthful of wine A and then spits it out before sampling wine B;

    (c) an overweight food critic who takes a mouthful of food in a restaurant, in order to savor the taste, and then quickly spits it out, because he doesn't want to put on any more weight;

    (d) a morbidly obese patient who is being tube-fed, but whose doctor recommends that the patient occasionally swallow some food, before vomiting it up again, because of some harm that might result if the patient's stomach has no food to process for a long period of time.

    I can't think of anyone who would object to (a) or (b), but it seems clear that the function of drinking is being divorced from the functions of swallowing and hydration here.

    If (b) is morally licit, then there can be no good reason for rejecting (c), which involves divorcing the functions of chewing and eating from the functions of swallowing and digestion.

    (d) is the same as (c), except that it's a little further along the chain: chewing, eating, swallowing and the first stage of digestion are being divorced from the functions of digestion (at a later stage) and excretion. And it seems that (d) is not intrinsically wrong, after all.

    Immoderate eating is morally wrong, but the attempt to realize one function of eating while defeating the others is need not always be.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dianelos Georgoudis: “Origins” is not necessarily a positive concept.

    Like jmhenry said, you are not even being consistent with your own later statements. When you can't keep your own side of the story straight, that's a really good sign that you don't understand the subject matter clearly, and you need to put aside your own opinions however much you like them, and focus on learning. Unfortunately, you often seem to have trouble with that.

    In all of the history of thought personhood was defined as entailing rational conscious beings – above I quoted Augustine and Aquinas to this effect.

    No, you didn't, you took two quotations, one of which used the word "self-consciousness" which is not the same thing, and the other which didn't mention consciousness at all, and then equivocated on the term "conscious", which you yourself have called ambiguous. Moreover, neither quotation used the word "person" at all, the one about Augustine (not by him) even starts "every human being". Oh, and then it also says "According to this conception, man is not an isolated individual but a person -- an essentially relational being." Not "conscious being", the idea of person that document uses is "relational being".

    Further, obviously, the concept of person is not limited to humans, given that also God, angels

    So what? Nobody said the modern concept of person was limited to humans, because it's irrelevant to the point under discussion. It would be relevant if we were talking about non-humans, but unborn babies are human, so other kinds of persons do not apply.

    As far as I can see she just made that up.

    That's because you can't see very far, and you so you make stuff up. It has NOT been the case that humans were always recognized as "persons", because that term simply did not exist with that meaning far enough back. Gods and angels are rational living beings, like humans, but the key since ancient times has always been in terms of being a rational substance, not a "conscious" substance. That is how Boethius and Aquinas and Augustine approach the issue, and when the term "person" started to be applied to human beings in that way, it was used to characterize them as rational beings. Which is of course Palazzani's whole point. Any investigation into the etymology of the word and history of philosophical thought will show this, even your own examples show it if you read them properly instead of trying to make them fit your pre-conceived notions.

    If, like her, I had the goal to find a way to justify that the fertilized ovum already is a personal being then I can't see what I could do better than she.

    You accused Palazzani of rewriting history and messing with the definition when she simply does not do that. If you think she is mistaken about the history and terminology, you need to provide evidence, not accuse her of dishonesty. It is telling that you say you would do the same thing as you (wrongly) accuse her of, though.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dianelos: If on your definition of perversion this is not the case, then by the same measure wearing a condom is not a perversion of our sexual faculty

    Wrong. This is not "my" definition, actually read all the stuff Feser has written about it. Pouncing on some vague similarities does make your examples the same, they are clearly not comparable. See Brandon's comment for an example that actually would count as a perversion of seeing.

    Ethics refers to the soul, therefore natural law ethics refers to the soul. That human nature is body and soul is irrelevant.

    I don't know why you think the CC supports your point, unless you think the Catechism suddenly says there is no such thing as sins of the flesh. And if you agree that there are such sins, then your comments about bodies was wrong. In fact, even if you disagree, your comments were wrong. Since human nature requires bodies, natural law applies to bodies as much as to our souls, and therefore it's possible for there to be bodily sins. This is not a controversial point.

    And given that I am freethinker who often thinks outside of the norm, it's not improbable that I am often wrong. I find it all works beautifully though.

    But you show that it doesn't work well at all. If you learned from your mistakes, it would work, but instead of asking questions, you make junk up. Instead of listening to what people actually say, you imagine what you think they would say. You're not a freethinker who thinks outside the norm, you're a sloppy thinker who thinks outside of logic and facts.

    and that's why our ethical reasoning must be based on the knowledge of the body.

    No, ethical reasoning about the body must be based on knowledge of the body, because um, human beings have bodies. This isn't a trick question or some subtle point. Human beings can sin with their bodies or sin with their minds/souls, or with both. So moral reasoning will apply to all of them. And if you want an non-bodily example, read Brandon's comments above.

    Therefore the fact that we are persons with bodies would appear to be irrelevant to personal ethics.

    You can't be serious. Angels don't have bodies therefore the bodies of humans are irrelevant to reasoning about humans???

    Well, that's an irrelevant detail to the argument I was making, isn't it?

    No, of course it isn't. You launched some crazy "the Catholic Church is afraid of sexuality" denunciation because, and I quote, "Orthodox churches allow their priests to marry" but Catholics don't. So the fact that your "argument" is based on a lie is relevant, yes. Now if you change it to a different argument that says "The Orthodox Church allows married men to become priests but Catholics don't" then at least your starting premise would be true, but your argument is still nonsense, because all the supposed reasons you give also apply exactly to Orthodox priests who didn't get married first. (And before you decide that that means the Orthodox Church also thinks "sex is dangerous", they are silly reasons anyway. Of course there are good aspects to priests being married, but there are disadvantages too. Threre's no universal "best" answer, that's why the Church gets to study the issues and decide what the rules should be.)

    I hope I don't give the impression of antagonizing the Catholic Church in any way. I have enormous respect for the her

    I don't think anyone is really paying too much attention to you unsolicited advice about how the Catholic Church needs to shape up to your standards. It's only your attitude that bothers me -- if you really had so much respect, you would try harder to find out what the Church actually teaches before shooting off your mouth.


    ReplyDelete
  4. Don: Particulars, such as the "actual particular act of digestion" are not symbols. This is true not only for particulars of digestion, but particulars of anything for which we have symbols.

    Great, so you are saying that an act of digestion is not a symbol, and so it doesn't "mean" anything, is that right?

    I don't understand the "anything" part -- are you saying that particular plus signs, like these actual pencil marks here in front of me, do not mean anything either?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Vincent Torley: And that still begs the question of how we know that these two ends should never be separated.

    Isn't the answer simply that there isn't any way in practice to separate them? Humans beings don't have two different kinds of sexual intercourse, there's just the one act that performs both the unitive and reproductive functions. So it's just a fact of biology that in us those functions necessarily have to be performed together, and therefore they're joined morally.

    ReplyDelete
  6. someone suffering from a dry mouth, who takes a gulp of water every few minutes, swirls it around in his mouth and then spits it out, because he doesn't want to feel bloated;

    Not sure if (a) qualifies to begin with, but one has to fold "nutrition needs of the body" into the whole equation. If your body already has all the water you can use, but you still have a dry mouth because of some disorder, what you are doing is "medicating the mouth" rather than "drinking water".

    If (b) is morally licit, then there can be no good reason for rejecting (c), which involves divorcing the functions of chewing and eating from the functions of swallowing and digestion.

    For the record, I have always considered (b) morally doubtful. And at least as much I would say for (c): if eating the food is bad for you because you are overweight, don't put it in your mouth in order to enjoy the tastes. Sorry if that means getting a different job.

    (d) a morbidly obese patient who is being tube-fed, but whose doctor recommends that the patient occasionally swallow some food, before vomiting it up again, because of some harm that might result if the patient's stomach has no food to process for a long period of time.

    I seriously doubt the coherence of such a program. Surely the vomiting up is at least as troublesome as leaving it in the stomach. Acid to the esophagus, etc. I would suspect there are much more wholesome fixes, such as maybe eating something that has almost no nutritional value but absorbs acid: Tums?

    In any case you might have more room for a successful counterexample by pursuing something that is gravely needed for health but seriously nasty-tasting, such as a medicine. I doubt whether this quite works, either, but it's more plausible frankly.

    In any case, I would suggest that bulimic eating / purging is at least as certainly a perverse behavior as any of your examples being counter-examples to the perverse faculty position. That might, logically, leave open whether it is "a perverse behavior" but not a "perverse faculty" behavior, but is that really the road you want to take?

    So Vincent, are you pushing for a position that there is no such thing as "perverse behavior" at all, just "immoral" behaviors vs moral behaviors?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hello, Dr. Feser. We are the students of Siberian Federal University and during our class project we came across Your article and we’ve got questions for you.

    When we discuss purpose, there’s one question we may ask ourselves: “Who defines purposes?”. No doubt our bodies are not what God created them to be because of the fall. In this article you bring up contradictions. We’ll agree with you on that - the life of a man is one big war with contradictions. And the biggest of them is inability to exist fully in the world, that we were meant to inhabit.
    But does Christianity call us to condratict ourselves? Sacrificial love is considered a great virtue, but it contradicts basic human instincts - the instinct of self-preservation and our desire to live a full happy life. “For whosoever would save his life shall lose it” - that is the ultimate contradiction, but is that perversion?

    Is it always the right thing to consider deviation from initial purpose (end) as perversion of a faculty?
    Hands were given to us only to satisfy our initial needs, but is it only that? For example, playing the piano is deviation from the initial purpose of hands, but what is so bad about it? Thus fascinating musical compositions are created, which bring joy and pleasure to people. Does it count as the perversion that a person is dancing? His legs don’t accomplish their main purpose. Such cases of deviations from the end contribute to development not only of the culture but of the humanity in general. They in particular distinguish us from animals.

    Thank you for your article. We’d be very grateful if you consider answering our questions.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous,

    'Particulars, such as the "actual particular act of digestion" are not symbols. This is true not only for particulars of digestion, but particulars of anything for which we have symbols."

    "Great, so you are saying that an act of digestion is not a symbol, and so it doesn't 'mean' anything, is that right?"

    No. I never said that in order for something to have meaning, it must be a symbol. I'm tempted to say you're confusing my personal opinion with what I say about what Ross says. But that's not even true since Ross doesn't make that claim either. Ross essentially claims there is no inherent meaning in any physical process. I claim he's wrong. There are inherent meanings in physical processes. A calculator really does add. A stomach really does digest. A Martian who studies a calculator or stomach would reach the same conclusions about the function/meaning of these as we do. I claim the A-T philosopher needs this "really does" determinacy in physical processes if he wants to talk about an objective sense of perversion.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Vincent,

    "The end of any power to X is obviously X-ing. What else can it be?"

    That is false. The end of the power to communicate is not obviously communicating. If that were the case, there would be no perversion in lying, or lying does not involve communicating.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Summarized From:

    Unmaking the Catholic Argument Against Contraception
    J. Edward Hackett



    Typically, the Argument Against Contraception (AAC hereafter) will go something like this:
    (1) All human faculties and organs are directed towards the chief purpose of God’s design.

    (2) All sexual organs are directed towards the purpose of procreation

    (3) Any technological or willful interruption of this directed purpose is unnatural and therefore wrong in going against God’s design.

    (4) Contraception is such an interruption of this natural purpose

    (5) Therefore, contraception is morally wrong.



    The Evolutionary Teleological Argument Against the AAC



    The teleology I’m proposing here is thoroughly naturalized. It’s so naturalized that what is in nature must also be identified as part of God’s design.[1] This means that behaviors that are conducive to our flourishing are either part of God’s design or a deviation from that design.[2] If the case can be made that some practices are consistent with our dynamic evolving nature, then we have good reason to think that we should engage in that behavior and that’s part of God’s design. Technology is an augmentation of our physical being, and a natural part of being human.

    Consistent with the evolution of the human species, tool-making is a central activity of our success. From the first flint-chipped cutting tools to agriculture, we invent devices to address certain physical needs to enhance our flourishing. Given that contraception is a tool and we’ve evolved to use technology as a way to adapt to the world, then contraception cannot be easily dismissed firsthand as the dogmatic Catholic suggests. Instead, inventing and using contraceptions is part of the very same teleology to solve problems that proves more advantageous to our being than if it never existed. Contraception allows for families to plan the arrival of their own children, and this can only enhance human flourishing as it empowers families and individuals to be more autonomous in choosing the preparedness to have a family, which in itself is more likely better than if left to chance. Moreover, contraception can be used to prevent unneeded pregnancy, which can often harm women and/or the baby if not planned properly. For instance, if a woman is on severe biologics and medicines, pregnancy could physically harm the fetus. As such, contraception not only saves women from unneeded pregnancy but it prevents harms to fetuses that would be born under certain medical conditions that would harm it and possible conditions in which a woman may be harmed by pregnancy itself.


    Conclusions

    The Catholic position against contraception relies too heavily on the faulty grounds of Aristotelian teleology. Even more to the point, the natural law theorist is operating with a conception of nature that is essentially outdated. Aristotle and St. Thomas wrote about a conception of nature that is scientifically moribund.[3] While it is speculatively possible to revise teleology as I have proposed to do, under the revised conception, tool-making will always be seen as an extension of our rational natures to address and solve problems and this must be, as I argue, found to be consistent with God’s purpose. As such, there’s no evil in deviating from God’s purpose since such an appeal makes no sense. Inventing tools is, on the contrary, an open-ended intention of God’s intended natural purpose.

    I believe that there’s no way around this dilemma for the Church. Either there is no such thing as teleology that essentially provides the foundation for the above argument, or we naturalize teleology. Yet, naturalizing teleology means that God becomes the very reasons for why we make tools. More than that, because God becomes the god of the gaps, it becomes even harder to know exactly what God intended in the first place, and looks like He is no longer needed in such an accou

    ReplyDelete
  11. Odlanir: The Catholic Unmaking of the Unmaking of the Catholic Argument Against Contraception:

    1. We don't bother to actually read the OP.

    2. We make all sorts of extraneous, ad hoc, and unnatural assumptions about how tool-making changes the natural teleology of man.

    3. We gut the meaning of "nature" with meanings that import ongoing evolutionary changes.

    4. We leap over untold chasms of logical difficulties.

    5. We completely defy basic metaphysical principles.

    5. Then we assert the Conclusion that we really want to be true.

    Coloring in the shapes outlined here with whatever colors you like is left to the reader. It's really a quite effective and enjoyable exercise. Prizes to the best effort.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Coloring in the shapes outlined here with whatever colors you like is left to the reader

    "Moreover, Zyklon B can be used to prevent unneeded untermensch, which can often harm the State and/or its lebensraum if not planned properly."

    ReplyDelete
  13. @ Anonymous 12:57 PM

    ”they are clearly not comparable”

    Consider the following two statements:

    1) I cover my eyes with pink colored glasses because I don't like to see many colors, and thus actively prevent them from realizing their natural end which, among other things, is to provide me with color information about my surrounding.

    2) I cover my penis with a condom because I don't like to make sex worrying about unwanted children, and thus actively prevent it from realizing its natural end which, among other things, is to provide me with children.

    The two statements above strike me as true and also as exactly analogous. I'd be thankful if you pointed out a significant difference.

    ”unless you think the Catechism suddenly says there is no such thing as sins of the flesh”

    Of course there are sins of the flesh. There are many sins and many kinds of sin. What I was pointing out is that according to the catechism what makes any of them a sin is that it diminishes the charity of the soul. It says so in he very definition of what a sin is.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Evolution. Because...science!

    Contraception. Because...hammers!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dianelos,
    1) I cover my eyes with pink colored glasses because I don't like to see many colors, and thus actively prevent them from realizing their natural end which, among other things, is to provide me with color information about my surrounding.

    2) I cover my penis with a condom because I don't like to make sex worrying about unwanted children, and thus actively prevent it from realizing its natural end which, among other things, is to provide me with children.

    The two statements above strike me as true and also as exactly analogous. I'd be thankful if you pointed out a significant difference.


    In the first statement you are blocking some colors in preference to some other colors. In the second, "make sex" and "children" are not at all comparable to two different colors. But you of course knew that.

    ReplyDelete
  16. @ E. Seigner,

    In the original post Feser suggests that it is a perversion to actively use a faculty in a way that prevents it from realizing its natural end. He suggested this as a general principle. The ends of the various faculties can be very different in kind, but that's irrelevant to the issue at hand which is whether something is a perversion or not. For example in a previous comment I suggested that according to Feser's definition smoking is a perversion because it prevents our lungs from realizing their natural end of providing our body with oxygen. Indeed a particular bad kind of perversion, because it can permanently harm our lungs from realizing their end.

    Now on so-called natural law ethics (based on the thought of Aquinas) to prevent a faculty from realizing its natural end violates God's order in creation and thus is a sin. Which makes wearing a condom a sin. But also makes smoking a sin, a result with which probably many natural law ethicists would agree. But it also makes wearing pink colored glasses a sin, which is kind of an absurd result.
    So natural law ethics does not seem to work very well when applied to cases outside of its traditional comfort zone.

    Another problem I see is that natural law ethics does not say something about the seriousness of the sin. For example we all agree that wearing pink glasses is an extremely minor sin, if one. But natural law ethics doesn't explain why. Further, lets compare the sins of smoking and wearing a condom. In my judgment smoking is much worse because it produces great harm to the smoker, her family, and society (scientific studies show that the average smoker loses 17 years of life – sounds incredible but I checked it out). Perhaps a conservative Christian will object and claim that wearing a condom is a worse sin than smoking. Natural law ethics seems incapable of helping us decide one way or the other.

    The third criticism I have is that natural law ethics appears to be entirely superfluous. According to ancient Christian understanding sin is what diminishes the charity in a person's soul. This is also the definition we find in the Catholic Church's catechism. But then we don't need natural law ethics. We can decide what is a sin and also how grave a sin is by considering the damage it causes to the soul. (Some people in this discussion have responded to me that we we can't know how the charity in our soul changes, but I find that this, as a matter of fact of the human condition, is patently false.) Perhaps the unease with my “consider the movement of the charity in your soul” ethics bothers some because they sense they won't approve of how it will categorize sins among trivial and grave sin. But my soul-centered ethics makes perfect sense on the Christian soteriological understanding of sin and repentance.

    ReplyDelete

  17. @ Anonymous Nikita,

    Hi there. I am not sure that Feser reads all comments in his blog and he certainly hasn't the time to respond to all of them, so perhaps I may venture some answers. Keep in mind though that I am not a specialist.

    “Who defines purposes?”

    Feser expounds the metaphysics of Aquinas which in turn is based on the metaphysics of Aristotle. Metaphysics is the field of philosophy which studies how things are and not just how they seem to us. According to Aquinas reason tells us that in order to know what a thing is we need to know its four “causes”, namely its material cause (what it is made of), its formal cause (how it is put together, its abstract properties), its efficient cause (whence it came, how the rest of reality produced that thing), and its final cause (what it will become, what its effect on the rest of reality will be). Take for example an apple. Its material cause is physical matter, its formal cause is the structure of the apple with all its physical/chemical/biological properties, its efficient cause is the apple tree including the whole biological environment that led to the apple coming into being, and its final cause is what an apple by its nature becomes, namely to fall from the tree to play its role in the multiplication of the apple tree species (normally to be eaten by an animal so that its seeds are transported some distance before being set to back on earth in a fertile environment for the growth of a new apple tree).

    Aquinas further argued for the existence of God who created all nature and all things with their four causes. The final cause represents if you will the “purpose” for which God created the thing as they are. To use a thing, and especially our bodies, against the final cause it has by nature is to violate God's natural order (or God's purpose for that thing), and is therefore a sin.

    ”No doubt our bodies are not what God created them to be because of the fall.”

    I think you are quite mistaken here. On theism everything is as God created it, indeed God sustains everything in existence. Our bodies are then created in the way God created them to be in this fallen world. Aquinas believed that all living animals have not only a body but also a soul, and that the soul is the formal cause of the body – in a sense the soul is how the body of a living body is ultimately put together. Humans are special creatures in that their soul is rational, has free will, can recognize good and evil, can know its creator and love him – and thus we say is made in the image of God. When the human body dies its soul remains in that inert existence but, according to Christian revelation, will experience the resurrection of the dead in which instant it will be embodied again and thus we humans will continue living for ever either in heaven or hell. Since in heave our soul will be perfected, so will our body of which it is the formal cause.

    At least that's what I understand Aquinas thought – please keep in mind I might well be wrong. Others here know much more and perhaps the will correct me.

    ”Sacrificial love is considered a great virtue, but it contradicts basic human instincts - the instinct of self-preservation and our desire to live a full happy life.”

    Right, but according to Aquinas the final cause (or “the natural end”, “the purpose for which God created it”) of the human life is not happiness of the body in this world but repentance, that is the moral perfection of the soul and salvation in heaven where the soul and body will be truly happy. The final end the whole is greater than the final end of the part. The natural end of the soul is thus to be given priority over the natural ends of our current body or its parts. I agree that it's kind of difficult to understand how, if the soul is the formal cause of the body, in order for the soul to be perfected some natural ends of the body must be temporarily sacrificed. But there you have it.

    That's what I understand Aquinas says.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Rinaldo: Summarized From: Unmaking the Catholic Argument Against Contraception J. Edward Hackett

    So basically his argument is that human beings are supposed to make tools... so if I make a gun and shoot you in the face to make my life better, then that's a good thing. Clearly he is clueless about how the argument actually works, seems he just thinks evolution is a magic wand to beat anyone over the head who lived before he did (because old=stupid!)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Nikita: Sacrificial love is considered a great virtue, but it contradicts basic human instincts - the instinct of self-preservation and our desire to live a full happy life.

    Instincts are not the same as faculties -- our instincts guide us, but they are "hardwired" and cannot apply to every scenario, so sometimes our reason has to override our instincts. Giving up your life is not a contradiction then -- but note that killing yourself would be, because we have a natural end to live, so deliberately killing yourself would be perverse. However, letting yourself get killed may sometimes be morally good, by the principle of double effect. It's an important distinction.

    Hands were given to us only to satisfy our initial needs, but is it only that? For example, playing the piano is deviation from the initial purpose of hands

    Prof. Feser has addressed this before (search for his other articles on this topic). But the purpose of our hands it to manipulate things, so playing the piano IS the purpose of our hands (or one example of it).

    ReplyDelete
  20. Don: No. I never said that in order for something to have meaning, it must be a symbol.

    Well, that's what a symbol is, so it kind of follows by definition. But it seems you have a different meaning for "meaning".

    A stomach really does digest.

    Of course a stomach does digest, but what does it MEAN? Not the word "digestion", not the concept, what does the actual biological action going on in your stomach right now mean according to you?

    A Martian who studies a calculator or stomach would reach the same conclusions about the function/meaning of these as we do.

    OK, you can tell me what a Martian would say about your stomach gurgling away too. But what I really want to know is what the Martian will say about this device I made. It takes a binary input and produces output according to this chart:

    0 0 --> 0
    0 1 --> 0
    1 0 --> 0
    1 1 --> 1

    So what is the device doing?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Dianelos: But it also makes wearing pink colored glasses a sin, which is kind of an absurd result.
    So natural law ethics does not seem to work very well when applied to cases outside of its traditional comfort zone.


    This is nonsense and shows that you don't understand the issue at all. Natural law doesn't have a "traditional comfort zone", it's simply the logical working out of what human nature entails. Consider watching TV. Does that pervert your faculty of sight? Of course not, you can't see the TV without USING your faculty of sight. What about watching black and white TV? Same thing, obviously. If you make a helmet with two tiny TVs inside and go around using that to view the world, is that a sin? Certainly not because of your faculty of sight, which you are still USING to watch the screens. Now suppose that instead of paying Google lots of money to wear tiny screens, you just get a filter that makes things look gray... they LOOK gray because you are LOOKING at them, using your faculty of sight. It doesn't matter what color you make things look, you are still looking at them, which means you are using your faculty of sight. You have not prevented your sight from doing anything because seeing black and white or rose or whatever colors you are looking at it what sight does. The only similarity to the condom situation is that you used the word "cover" in both cases. Sorry, but that does not make the situations correspond at all.

    Another problem I see is that natural law ethics does not say something about the seriousness of the sin.

    Then again, it's because you haven't been looking, because of course various conclusions follow about the seriousness of different sins. That you do not understand this just means you have a poor grasp of natural law. That shouldn't bother you so much, nobody knows everything, just admit that you don't have a clear understanding of the principles and try to learn from people who do instead of making stuff up.

    The third criticism I have is that natural law ethics appears to be entirely superfluous. We can decide what is a sin and also how grave a sin is by considering the damage it causes to the soul.

    That isn't a criticism. Even if it were superfluous (whatever that would mean, not that you try to explain such a curious phrase), that doesn't make it wrong. If anything, it shows how useful it is, because understanding human nature and what perverts it is exactly how we know what damage we are causing to our souls. How else would you tell? Look it up on your Google glasses, perhaps?

    Perhaps the unease with my “consider the movement of the charity in your soul” ethics bothers some because they sense they won't approve

    Or maybe it bothers them because it is false and pernicious and can lead people away from the truth and into sin, and maybe they don't want people falling into sin. Did you ever think of that? When you make these outrageous claims without any evidence, why are they always imputing some nasty motive to other people? Why don't you ever think of good reasons why people might disagree with you? Maybe your soul isn't so good at noticing charity after all, huh.

    ReplyDelete
  22. What about intent and natural law? Suppose a couple is physiologically and psychologically suited to use Natural Family Planning with almost 99% assurance they will never conceive. Suppose it is their intent to use NFP and NEVER to conceive. Is that sinful?

    ReplyDelete
  23. @ Anonymous 7:46

    “is that a sin? Certainly not because of your faculty of sight, which you are still USING to watch the screens.”

    That one is using one's faculty of sight is given, the question is if one is using it in a sinful or even perverted way. Please read again Feser's post above. He is discussing how using a faculty can amount to perversion.

    Now in all the examples you gave the faculty of sight is not used in a perverted way (in Feser's sense) because it is used in ways that do not prevent it from realizing its natural end, which is to provide one with correct information about one's surrounding. So if there is black and white TV in the room and we watch it then we our using our faculty of sight property, for it does provide us with correct information, namely that that there is black and white TV. That this TV does not produce colors is entirely irrelevant. If we are in a dark room and don't see anything then, again, our faculty of sight is used properly and is not perverted. But if sitting in a dark room we apply pressure on our eyeballs using our fingers to cause them to produce the impression of flashes of light, then we are perverting our faculty of sight. We are using a faculty in a way that prevents it from realizing its natural end.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Anonymous,


    0 0 --> 0
    0 1 --> 0
    1 0 --> 0
    1 1 --> 1


    This is an AND function. If it's part of a binary adder it's also referred to as the carry logic of the adder. I'm confident a Martian would be able to distinguish this logic from an XOR function.

    I confess I don't know where you're going with this or with the digestion thing. You seem to be headed toward the claim that our invented symbols are the only things with meaning. This would mean that 'perversion' is also human invention, which is what I've argued follows from Ross. This would be a surprisingly counter-intuitive approach to saving 'perversion' from the realm of indeterminacy.

    ReplyDelete
  25. but according to Aquinas the final cause (or “the natural end”, “the purpose for which God created it”) of the human life is not happiness of the body in this world but repentance,

    Hey, Dianelos, was the final cause for Mary "repentance". Repentance from what: she never sinned, nor was subject to original sin.

    You know, Aquinas's stuff is all online. Almost all of it is translated into English. You could actually look up what Aquinas said about the end of human beings. It's pretty easy. Hint: first part of the second part, first 5 questions.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Perhaps the unease with my “consider the movement of the charity in your soul” ethics bothers some because

    It contradicts what the Church teaches. That's a good reason to be bothered by it.

    Council of Trent:

    For as no pious person ought to doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so each one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.

    And this gift of grace brings with it the infused gift of charity:

    Fr. Hardon:

    Those who are justified are sanctified “through the voluntary reception of grace and gifts.” [21] No one can be just unless he shares in the merits of Christ’s passion, whereby “the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who are justified and remains (inhaeret) in them.” So that, at the same time as his sins are remitted, “a man receives through Jesus Christ to whom he is joined, the infused gifts of faith, hope and charity.”

    Catechism:

    Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

    Your theory of charity, however sensible it seems to you, is completely at odds with the teachings of the Church. Now, the logical possibilities are as follows:

    (1) What you believe consists if your perceiving directly "charity" in your soul is really so, and this is according to the normal operations of charity and faith; in which case the Church* is completely and gravely wrong - so much so as to be like a blind man.

    (2) What you believe consists of your perceiving directly "charity" in your soul is really so, and this is NOT according to the normal operations of charity and faith, but a special gift to you and not to all who have faith, hope, and charity; in which case those without that special gift CANNOT simply observe it as you insist. You are demanding a blind man to "just use your eyes already" when he can't.

    Or (3) you are mistaken about what you perceive directly in your soul as being charity, and what is happening is something else; and as a result there is no need to turn our backs on what the Church teaches and has always taught.

    I am going with (2) or (3), since they don't demand of me to reject the Church.

    It's not an argument, to say over and over "but it's true, I tell you."

    (*Not only is the Catholic Church clear on this teaching: most Protestant churches also deny that a person can reliably discern charity in their soul.)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Anonymous,

    Earlier I remarked: And that still begs the question of how we know that these two ends should never be separated.

    You responded:
    Isn't the answer simply that there isn't any way in practice to separate them? Humans beings don't have two different kinds of sexual intercourse, there's just the one act that performs both the unitive and reproductive functions. So it's just a fact of biology that in us those functions necessarily have to be performed together, and therefore they're joined morally.

    There are however many kinds of sexual behavior which do in fact separate the unitive and reproductive functions, so they can be separated.

    Hi Tony

    You wrote:

    So Vincent, are you pushing for a position that there is no such thing as "perverse behavior" at all, just "immoral" behaviors vs moral behaviors?

    No. I think that organs of the body have a purpose, and can be perversely used. I think anal intercourse is a pretty clear-cut case of a misuse of an organ, for instance. But for a general argument against homosexuality and/or contraception, an argument based on the proper uses of organs won't be enough. Instead, one needs to appeal to the essential complementarity of man and woman in order to identify what kinds of behaviors are wrong, and probably one's argument won't be as clear-cut as some moralists would like it to be.

    ReplyDelete
  28. This discussion about natural law, centered mostly on sexuality, might have been germane in 1968, but not in 2017. When Pope Paul VI asked for a commission to advise him before he issued "Humanae Vitae," even his own commission revolted against him.

    The Vatican's Ban on Contraception: What Really Happened at ...

    churchandstate.org.uk/.../the-vaticans-ban-on-contraception-what-really-happened-at-.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Doubting Thomas: What about intent and natural law? Suppose a couple is physiologically and psychologically suited to use Natural Family Planning with almost 99% assurance they will never conceive. Suppose it is their intent to use NFP and NEVER to conceive. Is that sinful?

    Maybe, but it wouldn't be a perverted faculty argument, because in this case they aren't interfering with the faculty itself. They are trying to figure out a way around it, so it might be wrong for other reasons, I'd say.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Vincent Torley: There are however many kinds of sexual behavior which do in fact separate the unitive and reproductive functions, so they can be separated.

    Well, there's only one act that is directly reproductive, but I guess there are other acts that contribute to the bonding of the couple. So you're asking whether it's OK to make out with your neighbor's wife as long as you don't impregnate her? That doesn't seem to be perverting a faculty, but it would be ruled out by extension from the main unitive-reproductive act. Since that cannot be separated from itself, then it would follow that the attendant sexual acts can not be legitimately employed outside the same context. It's not as though those other acts are somehow unrelated, they either lead up to or related to the main sexual act. In other words, the other unitive acts are all connected to each other, which means they are all connected to reproduction.

    Instead, one needs to appeal to the essential complementarity of man and woman in order to identify what kinds of behaviors are wrong, and probably one's argument won't be as clear-cut as some moralists would like it to be.

    That sounds like just looking at our biological faculties, only maybe through the other end of the telescope. The whole male/female thing doesn't really seem that hard, why shouldn't we consider it *too* clear-cut for some immoralists?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Don: This is an AND function. If it's part of a binary adder it's also referred to as the carry logic of the adder. I'm confident a Martian would be able to distinguish this logic from an XOR function.

    I'm sorry, that's incorrect, thank you for playing. Guess our favorite Martian isn't as clever as you thought. I actually built that device to multiply. Some similarities to AND, but not the same thing. Anyway, I'll make it easier this time by giving two choices, one of which is XOR and the other isn't, let's see let's see if Marvin really can identify the XOR.

    0 0 --> 0     0 0 --> 1
    0 1 --> 1     0 1 --> 0
    1 0 --> 1     1 0 --> 0
    1 1 --> 0     1 1 --> 1


    I confess I don't know where you're going with this or with the digestion thing.

    That's because you have a strange definition of "meaning". I'm not quite sure what it is, because you won't answer the question. What does your digestive act mean?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Dianelos Georgoudis: Please read again Feser's post above. He is discussing how using a faculty can amount to perversion.

    You can't pervert a faculty by using it to accomplish its natural end. For sight that's seeing things. Looking at red stuff is seeing things, just as your eyes are supposed to. It doesn't matter whether the things are ordinarily red, or you covered them all with red paint, or you are looking at them on a red-and-white TV, or using red-tinted lenses. You haven't done anything to your eyes, so they are doing exactly what they are supposed to.

    But if sitting in a dark room we apply pressure on our eyeballs using our fingers to cause them to produce the impression of flashes of light, then we are perverting our faculty of sight. We are using a faculty in a way that prevents it from realizing its natural end.

    Now that's a much better example, you should have used that in the first place. We could examine it in more detail, but for now let's just assume that's that all there is to it, and pushing your eyeballs distorts the faculty of sight because it prevents the seeing operation from proceeding in its natural way. Similarly, interrupting the reproductive act so that reproduction is impossible interferes with it. Now we have actual similarities between the two cases.

    Of course there are sins of the flesh. There are many sins and many kinds of sin. What I was pointing out is that according to the catechism what makes any of them a sin is that it diminishes the charity of the soul.

    I'm glad to hear that you agree there are sins of the flesh, at least that's one thing right. But of course that wasn't what I was objecting to, what you originally said was:

    5) Any application of natural law ethics to the body serves little useful purpose if at all.

    which I think we can now see is false. Natural law applied to the body is exactly what tells us that certain sorts of physical actions will result in the diminishing of charity in our soul, such as squashing your eyeballs.

    ReplyDelete
  33. RMJ:This discussion about natural law, centered mostly on sexuality, might have been germane in 1968, but not in 2017.

    Yeah, because human beings used to have natures way back in 1968 but not any more!

    (Full moon tonight or something?)

    ReplyDelete
  34. RMJ: When Pope Paul VI asked for a commission to advise him before he issued "Humanae Vitae," even his own commission revolted against him.

    Yet it was Pope Paul VI who was proved right, in the end. In Humanae Vitae, he predicted that methods and plans for artificial birth control would (1) open the way for greater marital infidelity; (2) lead to a general lowering of moral standards; (3) result in a reduction of women to mere instruments for the satisfaction of men's desires; and (4) give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the intimate responsibilities of husband and wife.

    A good theory is one whose predictions have proved factual. How many of these predictions have happened? To what extent are they related to the increased use of contraception? (E.g., back in 1996, Akerlof and Yellin described the negative sociological effects of abortion and contraception as a "reproductive technology shock.") People criticize Pope Paul VI for ignoring his own commission. Will these critics ignore the testimony of sociological data relevant to Pope Paul VI's warning?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Isn't it a bit perverse to respond to Don or Dainelos?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Anonymous,

    Multiplication is just addition many times. I've previously answered your question about digestion. You've transformed it this time to, "What does your digestive act mean?" Now at least it looks like more than nonsense. It means to digest. It's an example of a system that digests. It's not a system that walks. It doesn't mean to walk. But none of this is going to help you on a mission to salvage perversion. In fact, you're doing the opposite.

    ReplyDelete
  37. jmhenry:

    'Yet it was Pope Paul VI who was proved right, in the end. In Humanae Vitae, he predicted that methods and plans for artificial birth control would (1) open the way for greater marital infidelity; (2) lead to a general lowering of moral standards; (3) result in a reduction of women to mere instruments for the satisfaction of men's desires; and (4) give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the intimate responsibilities of husband and wife.'

    NO. Quite the opposite. It gave women control of their bodies (I know that phrase is hated here), and with the overturning of "Griswold v. Connecticut," the US Supreme Court took away the power of public authorities to intervene in a couple's sexual life.

    ReplyDelete
  38. @ Tony,

    ”You could actually look up what Aquinas said about the end of human beings.”

    First of all I was talking about the end of human life, not of human beings. I am fairly confident that the end of human life is repentance since that's what Christ, our very creator, asks of us to do in this life: to repent in order to transform ourselves into His likeness. Now the end of human beings is atonement. When Aquinas says that the end of human beings is happiness, I suppose that's what he means: the perfection that is unity with God.

    Incidentally I found it interesting that Aquinas speaks not just of “end” but “final end”, which reminds me of a problem I have with the concept of final cause, namely the cut-off point.

    ”was the final cause for Mary "repentance"? Repentance from what: she never sinned, nor was subject to original sin.”

    I don't understand the Catholic church's metaphysics of Mary to even think about this question. I don't even understand my own Orthodox church's. I have the feeling some mystics saw in Mary a symbol or perhaps even the visible realization of the third hypostasis in the trinity, and that this has put in motion within the church a kind of theology of Mary.

    ”It contradicts what the Church teaches.

    I have no idea where you see the contradiction. The Church teaches that sin is what diminishes the charity in our soul, and I use this teaching of the Church to reason about sin. I think this is a much safer way than the round-about method of natural law ethics and the requirement to reason about the final causes of body and body parts. Incidentally, given Christ's ethical teaching in the gospels, we already know enough ethics to guide our life (for example to love all and even our enemies, to not return evil, to offer the thief our cloak, to not worry about material goods), but there are some ethical questions we encounter which require our own answer (for example about the use of contraceptives, about giving sexual education to our children, about the death penalty).

    Now you say that we are entirely blind to the charity in our soul, but it seems that's your personal claim and does not reflect anything the Church teaches. After all, if it were the case that we are entirely blind to the charity in our soul then the Church's definition of sin, as fundamental a matter in soteriology as it gets, would be rendered vacuous. (Incidentally the practical ethics which I find is the direct and natural implication of the Church's teaching about sin only requires that one be aware of the movement of charity in one's soul when one sins. Which movement, I say, is clearly perceptible in the human condition. At least for all people who have not slipped into very bad state of moral perdition and thus of spiritual blindness.)

    You quote from the Council of Trent: ”no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.”

    We've been over this already. I have made no claims whatsoever about having obtained the grace of God. Indeed I have no idea whether I myself have obtained the grace of God, and I am not even sure what it means to be in a state of grace. As we discovered this is not at all a clear issue, since even some ordained Catholic priests are “in a great deal of confusion” about it. My own confusion about the concept of grace is quite broad. On the one hand I do understand that I cannot move a finger but for the grace of God, never mind being saved. But I don't understand how I am to freely accept the gift of salvific grace while not knowing whether I have or haven't accepted that gift.

    But I am not at all confused about the movement of the charity in my soul because of sin. It is as clear to me as the my awareness of the movement of the branches of a tree because of the wind. I feel certain it would be clear to you also if you looked into your soul. Forgive me, but I have the impression you only look into books.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I have made no claims whatsoever about having obtained the grace of God. Indeed I have no idea whether I myself have obtained the grace of God, and I am not even sure what it means to be in a state of grace.

    Dianelos, did you even READ any of the quotes I gave that shows the fundamental connection between grace and charity? What do you think is the cause of charity? What do you think charity consists in? What do you think the Church says about these? Well, I quoted what the Church says about them, and the answer is that charity is necessarily the fruit of the gift of sanctifying grace (which is utterly distinct from "he can move his finger only with God's assistance), and so a person who has charity has grace, there can never be a separation between them. Anybody who would know that they have charity also would know by that fact that they are in a state of grace. This is standard, indeed inescapable given what "charity" means in Church theology. That you don't even get THIS much of what the Church teaching means that everything else you have said about "what the Church teaches" is so much blather.

    to repent in order to transform ourselves into His likeness.

    Oh, golly, can you PLEASE pay attention to the words you are using. If repentance is in order to accomplish something then repentance is the means, and the "accomplish something" is the end. If the end is "be like God" (or better yet, "be in union with God" which _implies_ being like God), then repentance is the means to that end. If you had said that the end of human life is to be in union with God, I wouldn't have objected.

    That you imposed your thought as being Aquinas's thought ("according to Aquinas the final cause"...) without even bothering to read what he actually said about the final cause of human life is completely unacceptable.

    I don't understand the Catholic church's metaphysics of Mary to even think about this question. I don't even understand my own Orthodox church's. I have the feeling some mystics saw in Mary a symbol or perhaps even the visible realization of the third hypostasis in the trinity, and that this has put in motion within the church a kind of theology of Mary.

    Interesting notion.

    The Christian view, though, has always been that Mary is a human being in every sense. The Catholic view has always been that she is a human being whom God by special gift kept free from all sin, and who lived entirely as spiritually perfect as God intended for her to be, so that her every action (and refraining from action) was done without moral defect of any sort: FULL of grace, meaning full of charity (and other graces besides the grace of charity). You don't need to invent any weird metaphysics to simply accept what the angel says about her, she was full of grace.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I feel certain it would be clear to you also if you looked into your soul. Forgive me, but I have the impression you only look into books.

    You may take it as a given that I have looked into my soul as much as you have, and as confident as you are of what you perceive as charity, I am just as confident that I am unable to so perceive.

    I am not ASSERTING that I have, mind you, only that you may (actually, must) take it as a given. Because you can have no adequate reason to DOUBT my doing so that cannot be turned and used against you as an equal reason to doubt your perceptions. Epistemologically, your perceptions are no better an argument than mine.

    Also, again speaking epistemologically, HOW COULD you know for sure that what you observe in your own soul as charity is not a special gift given to you and not universal? On what basis could you think that others MUST have the gift just because you do? After all, charity is itself a gift above our natures, not something present by nature.

    That I have read some books is hardly evidence of NOT doing sufficient introspection. Theology is a SCIENCE because it is based on a firm and adequate grounding, but (unlike the other sciences) it is based on the firm grounding consisting of the testimony of God: it is the one science that properly proceeds by argument from authority. The argument from authority in theology then rests on the whole of revelation, which the Church teaches comes to us in two forms: Scripture and Tradition. Which are handed on through the works of man. Hence, resorting to the evidence of what is written in BOOKS (i.e., in The Good Book, and in the Fathers of the Church, as further explicated by the Church's dogmas, Councils, and Doctors) is how one proceeds in theology. Accusing a person of having read (many) books and constantly using them in theology is like accusing a scientist of having done (many) experiments and constantly referring to their results.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Has Santi changed his name?

    I do have a question about Vincent's argument: Does it allow the possibility of using a faculty badly? That's unclear to me.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Don: Multiplication is just addition many times.

    So what? And is your Martian still trying to figure out which was one was XOR? I thought he could tell the difference?

    You've transformed it this time to, "What does your digestive act mean?" Now at least it looks like more than nonsense. It means to digest. It's an example of a system that digests.

    Meaning and examples are different things. But apparently your definition of "meaning" = "is". And are you saying that it is determinate that digestion != walking?

    ReplyDelete
  43. RMJ: NO. Quite the opposite. It gave women control of their bodies (I know that phrase is hated here), and with the overturning of "Griswold v. Connecticut," the US Supreme Court took away the power of public authorities to intervene in a couple's sexual life.

    Oh, how cute. You actually believe everything you're saying, don't you?

    ReplyDelete

  44. "Oh, how cute. You actually believe everything you're saying, don't you?"

    Well, Anonymous, it has nothing to do with what I believe. Read the decision for yourself. Now how cute would that be?

    In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court ruled that a state's ban on the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. The case concerned a Connecticut law that criminalized the encouragement or use of birth control.
    Griswold v. Connecticut - PBS
    www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_griswold.html

    ReplyDelete
  45. Anonymous,

    It takes more than labeling things by different names (de facto synonyms) to make them different. Multiplication is simply multiple addition by another name. That does not make it a truly different function. You're playing word games.

    You ask if I'm saying that it is determinate that digestion != walking. I suppose in a way I am. If someone claims all physical processes are indeterminate, how can he then claim to know the physical process in question is not simply a small, imperfect glimpse of a bigger function that looks entirely different than what he believes it to be? By what objective standard does he judge? He's just thrown out all objective standards. He's then free to make suspicious subjective claims, such as, that one-bit multiplication is functionally different than ANDing even though they behave exactly the same.


    ReplyDelete
  46. Don: Multiplication is simply multiple addition by another name. That does not make it a truly different function. You're playing word games.

    Careful, Don, accusations of word games might sound evasive when the discussion is actually about words and meanings. Speaking of evasive, why haven't you answered the XOR question? There's no harm in admitting it if you don't know the answer.

    Now I notice you tried to slip in this "multiple addition" thing, but weren't talking about addition, we were talking about AND. ANDing and multiplying are two different things (so are AND and addition), and whether you could use one as part of implementation of the other is irrelevant. I never said anything about "functionally different". When I built that device, I was thinking specifically of multiplication, not ANDing, and the fact that the results also happen to work for AND is a mere coincidence. If I hadn't been lazy and built it to handle more than one digit, that would have been clear from the results, but as I happened I didn't. So in terms of behavior it COULD have been designed as an AND device, but as a matter of simple historical fact what I was actually doing was making a multiplier. No number of "coulds" can change what I was actually doing at the time. But this is hardly a surprising result, this sort of ambiguity happens all the time.

    You ask if I'm saying that it is determinate that digestion != walking. I suppose in a way I am.

    Great, I would too, and so would Ross and Feser, so finally something we can all agree on. We're making progress. But now given your usage of "meaning" = "is", do you think Feser and Ross also use that definition, or do you think they have a different definition of "meaning"?

    ReplyDelete
  47. RMJ: Well, Anonymous, it has nothing to do with what I believe.

    You're right, reality doesn't care about what you wish were true. But I was referring to everything you said, including the list of facts from jmhenry that you apparently prefer to dismiss, not just the way your quotation from PBS doesn't quite match what you said. Perhaps you were hoping nobody would notice the difference.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Anonymous,

    "I would too, and so would Ross and Feser,"

    Well, yes and no. You're ignoring my main point: The answer changes with context. When the issue is perversion, physical processes such as digestion are determinate. When the issue is mind, physical processes are indeterminate. I'm pointing out a contradiction in the whole. You're merely talking about the half you want to talk about.

    "ANDing and multiplying are two different things."

    They are definitely not different in the example you gave. Multiplication (or addition) encompasses more than multiplying two bits. It's false for you to claim your very limited subset (two inputs, one bit output -- and therefore false answer!) represents the function itself. A 32 bit multiplier can be constructed using only NAND gates. It does not follow that each one of those NAND gates is, itself, multiplying. I've never made the claim that two or more functions cannot behave the same on a limited subset of inputs. You appear to be arguing something more radical than Ross. Ross's indeterminacy doubts any physical process implements the entirely of a "pure" function, or at least we can never know that it does. In part he makes this claim because we cannot test an infinite set of inputs. Therefore the outputs cannot be known in their entirety, and anything short of the infinite is not the function but a kind of simulation. So, for example, quaddition cannot be ruled out. But you're claiming more. Even if we know all inputs and outputs in a finite system, you claim the function is whatever we want to call it, or whatever we happen to be thinking of at the time. Our naming it or thinking about it makes it different even though it physically does the same thing in all cases. How am I supposed to see this other than subjectivism?

    "why haven't you answered the XOR question?"

    Because I don't understand what you were asking that was any different than what we're already discussing. You mentioned evasion, so I'll ask you the same. Why do you keep evading my question about perversion? How are you saving it from subjectivity?

    ReplyDelete
  49. @ Tony,

    did you even READ any of the quotes I gave that shows the fundamental connection between grace and charity?

    I did, but reading does not always lead to understanding. The whole matter with grace remains quite opaque to me. What's more, given that according to your claim we are normally completely blind both to grace and charity, I am not sure why it matters to you to know the relationship between two invisible things.

    ”What do you think is the cause of charity?”

    One thing I understand and find exactly fits my experience of life is that sin diminishes charity. So sin has a causal effect on charity.

    ”What do you think charity consists in?”

    Charity is the source of love in our soul.

    ”that charity is necessarily the fruit of the gift of sanctifying grace (which is utterly distinct from "he can move his finger only with God's assistance)”

    Again, this all seems very opaque to me, perhaps because I grew up in the Orthodox tradition. So for example some say that charity is the fruit of *accepting* the gift of sanctifying grace, others that one can't in any case resist God's sanctifying grace if one is among the elect (or perhaps the predestined). What I do know is that Christ in the gospels asks us to *do* certain things (like for example to not return evil but to forgive and love those who harm us), and I trust Christ knows best. Or rather, instead of putting so much effort to understand what the CC teaches it serves the end of my soul better to try and do what the creator of my soul asks of me.

    ”Anybody who would know that they have charity also would know by that fact that they are in a state of grace.”

    Again I am confused. The priest is supposed not to give communion to the believer who is not in the state of grace, even though neither the priest nor the believer can possibly know if they are in the state of grace?

    ” If you had said that the end of human life is to be in union with God, I wouldn't have objected.”

    There is a difference between the human being and human life. In my understanding the end of human being is union with God and the end of human life is repentance which when realized leads towards union with God. I find the difference is clear.

    ”The Christian view, though, has always been that Mary is a human being in every sense.”

    To be a human being in every sense entails to be born in a fallen state, that is in a state of imperfection, a state in which temptation exists and sin is existentially possible (what people often but misleadingly call “to be born in sin”). To be human in every sense certainly entails not to be born by immaculate conception. And to not receive the “special gift” that keeps one free from all sin. That's not a gift for humans. The gift humans born in a fallen world enjoy is the opportunity to repent, indeed the possibility of atonement. But they also have the freedom to sin. Mary, according to the gospels, was a very fine person, but her life is not known in the last detail.

    Now perhaps out of love and respect for Mary (imagine giving birth to the incarnation of God and then watch Him die hanging from the cross) at some point in the Christian tradition it was suggested that she had never committed the slightest sin in her life - that she was untouched by sin, “sinless”. In my mind that's an honorific title, as is “Mother of God”, and should only be understood metaphorically, not literally. The value and therefore holiness of Mary is based on her bravery and her suffering. In my judgment that value is trivialized when people go overboard and insist on her possessing various attributes that do not fit the human condition. For example, if she was given the special gift of never sinning, where is the value of her gladly accepting God's purpose for her at the Annunciation?

    ReplyDelete
  50. Don: When the issue is perversion, physical processes such as digestion are determinate. When the issue is mind, physical processes are indeterminate. I'm pointing out a contradiction in the whole.

    Talking about different things in different contexts isn't a contradiction.

    They are definitely not different in the example you gave.

    Of course they are. The output may be the same, but not the concept. One is repeated adding (take the given value zero times, or one time), the other is asking whether both values are set (is this value *and* that one both set/on/true). Those are clearly conceptually different. Here's an even more obvious example of a function that is different even thought the "output" looks the same: "Given these digits, which ones look the most like a pair of consonants?" OO, OL, and LO do not. "LL" does. You want to tell me that functions about numbers that look like letters are "definitely not different" from functions about multiplying?

    Multiplication (or addition) encompasses more than multiplying two bits. It's false for you to claim your very limited subset (two inputs, one bit output -- and therefore false answer!) represents the function itself.

    One-digit multiplication is just as valid a function as limitless multiplication.

    In part he makes this claim because we cannot test an infinite set of inputs. Therefore the outputs cannot be known in their entirety, and anything short of the infinite is not the function but a kind of simulation.

    Not really, the infinite stuff is just an example, to help see the point. You're confusing various approaches with the point itself.

    How am I supposed to see this other than subjectivism?

    Uh, you're not. Of course it's subjective. Have you really been believing that what a subject thinks to himself ISN'T subjective?

    Because I don't understand what you were asking that was any different than what we're already discussing.

    You seem to think the multiplication example was cheating because I limited it to single digits, but the XOR example is fully specified. So obviously it's not exactly the same.

    You mentioned evasion, so I'll ask you the same. Why do you keep evading my question about perversion? How are you saving it from subjectivity?

    Because your question doesn't apply. You're the one who decided I was on some mission to save something. I'm just trying to draw out what you're claiming and where it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Anonymous,

    "You seem to think the multiplication example was cheating because I limited it to single digits, but the XOR example is fully specified. So obviously it's not exactly the same."

    Cheating is a good word for both examples. XOR is the following:

    F F --> F
    F T --> T
    T F --> T
    T T --> F

    It makes no difference what replaces (implements) the Ts and Fs. It's a matter of convention to use 0 for F and 1 for T. But that's all it is. I'm confident a Martian worth his salt would break out of his subjective nature and come to understand these crazy human engineers *could* use 0s for Ts and still mean the same thing. He'd then look for supporting evidence from the rest of the circuit (physics).

    "You're the one who decided I was on some mission to save something. I'm just trying to draw out what you're claiming and where it goes."

    My claim is that perversion *must be* subjective if physical processes are always indeterminate. You've been supporting my case whether you know it or not. You claim these are different things in different contexts. But I'd like to see evidence for that assertion.

    ReplyDelete
  52. There is a difference between the human being and human life. In my understanding the end of human being is union with God and the end of human life is repentance which when realized leads towards union with God. I find the difference is clear.

    So, the end of Adam's life, when placed in the Garden, (before sin entered the world), was for him to repent? The end of Jesus's life was for him to repent?

    Speaking generically, the "end of human life" applies equally to all humans. Not just those who are fallen.

    To be a human being in every sense entails to be born in a fallen state, ... To be human in every sense certainly entails not to be born by immaculate conception. And to not receive the “special gift” that keeps one free from all sin. That's not a gift for humans.

    Why do you insist on rejecting the Bible? Adam and Eve were created not in a fallen state. They fell through their choice to sin, but before that choice there was no sin nor imperfection due to sin in them.

    Mary was also sinless throughout her life. This is part of the Orthodox faith as much as the Catholic faith. If you reject that, you just reject both 'lungs of the Church'. You appear to just make up any old theses as seem plausible to you, and reject anything that looks odd no matter how ancient and universal that teaching has been in the Church(es).

    But they also have the freedom to sin. ... For example, if she was given the special gift of never sinning, where is the value of her gladly accepting God's purpose for her at the Annunciation?

    Ugh. What an ugly picture you paint out of nonsense. God's gift with grace by which he works to lift us up out of sin does not erode or damage our free will, he STREGNTHENS it so that we are more readily able to choose to love him. God did not override her free will, she remained free to sin, but chose not to.

    Mary's glory (not 'value', which is modern claptrap), is first in her being chosen by God for her role, and second in her perfect responsiveness to God's gifts, at every moment giving wholehearted cooperation with the gifts by which he was working in her "to will and to do" His work. She is accorded by tradition, for example, to have been never the cause of any man's sin against chastity, by not only a singular gift, but also by constant prayer and effort. As with any creature, Mary's glory is only a reflection of God's, which Mary herself acknowledged: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant."

    ReplyDelete
  53. Anonymous RMJ said...
    jmhenry:

    'Yet it was Pope Paul VI who was proved right, in the end. In Humanae Vitae, he predicted that methods and plans for artificial birth control would (1) open the way for greater marital infidelity; (2) lead to a general lowering of moral standards; (3) result in a reduction of women to mere instruments for the satisfaction of men's desires; and (4) give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the intimate responsibilities of husband and wife.'

    1. Yes, the Pill made it easier for women to have sex. The condom did the same thing for men and lessened the chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Technology always impacts our lives. For that matter, the automobile made it much easier for men and women to have the freedom and privacy to engage in sexual activity.

    2. Men AND women often use each other as mere instruments of physical satisfaction. That has been true since throughout the centuries.

    3. My quotation was correct. Before the "Griswold" case, the state technically could forbid the sale of contraceptives to a married couple and could intervene in a couple's intimate life. After "Griswold," the state could no longer intervene in a couple's intimate life.

    ReplyDelete
  54. After "Griswold," the state could no longer intervene in a couple's intimate life.

    "Intervene" is an awfully broad term. The state intervenes when it tells a man that if he has sex with a woman and a child is conceived, he is responsible financially.

    The state intervenes when it conditions annulments on the fact (or absense) of consummation of marriage.

    The state intervenes when by statute it defines as rape fully consensual acts of sex by a person under statutory age.

    If the feminazis get their way, the state will intervene most stringently when it demands by law that ALL sexual acts proceed only with explicit and detailed consent by both parties separately at each stage, (more probably than not, in writing), with the opprobrium of rape otherwise.

    You're smoking something if you imagine that "the state can no longer intervene". All the court did was take away ONE way for the state to intervene.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Don: It makes no difference what replaces (implements) the Ts and Fs. It's a matter of convention to use 0 for F and 1 for T.

    Of course it is. That's what makes it subjective.

    He'd then look for supporting evidence from the rest of the circuit (physics).

    There is nothing else in the circuits. The two set of outputs I listed were a complete records of the what the circuits do. There is nothing else in the physics. That's why you said it was subjective, wasn't it?

    You claim these are different things in different contexts. But I'd like to see evidence for that assertion.

    That would be where you defined "meaning" as "is" and Feser/Ross/everyone else didn't. We're talking about the subjective aspect of whether to use 0 to *mean* T or F, and you're talking about the what the physics of the circuit *is*. If those weren't two different things, then you could have told me which outputs I was using to mean XOR.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Anonymous,

    I don't define meaning as "is". I don't see how you got that out of what I've said. So your accusation fails. I could understand it if you claimed I defined meaning as "how", as in, how is XOR implemented? how does it work (function)? how do I recognize it if it's there? At least this would kind of match with what I've said. You continue to side-step the issue, though. If you admit you can't find an objective "XOR" in a circuit that clearly implements it, I don't see how you can let someone claim there is an objective "right" use in biology. If you say the XOR I see is my subjective interpretation, I'm justified in saying your "functions in biology" are also a subjective interpretation. Please tell me what difference you see in the two cases because I see none. It makes it too easy to dismiss the "natural law" position and I'm not so sure I like that idea.

    Btw, I dispute your assertion that others aren't talking about "is" whereas I am. It's that old is/ought thing that in this case is not a dichotomy. What "is" the case in biology (at least what is interpreted as the case) must be a continuing, sanctified "is". I'm suggesting that according to the "indeterminacy of the physical," there is no appropriate "is" there. So I'm not talking about "is". I'm talking about isn't. I claim it follows from Ross that perversion is the finding of moral meaning in the isn't.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Doubter said,

    "You're smoking something if you imagine that "the state can no longer intervene". All the court did was take away ONE way for the state to intervene."

    Your first two examples are the consequences of sexual behavior, for which the state can seek sanctions. There are also other sanctions. In some states, if a spouse can prove the other spouse committed adultery, they may be entitled to more alimony in a divorce or are less likely to be awarded custody of children. As for your third example, when I said "couple," I meant an adult couple, not minors, because the state can and does prohibit certain activities for minors(not all of which are sexual)that it does not prohibit for adults.

    What I meant by "intervention" is that the state cannot tell consenting adults how they should engage in sexual activity. In "Eisenstadt v. Baird" (1972), the Court expanded sexual privacy rights to unmarried persons. In "Lawrence v. Texas" (2005), the Court struck down sodomy laws in all 13 states, some of which applied to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

    "If the feminazis get their way" Huh? You have been drinking Rush Limbaugh's Kool Aid.

    ReplyDelete
  58. What I meant by "intervention" is that the state cannot tell consenting adults how they should engage in sexual activity.

    And yet there are state laws against incest among adults.

    https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=8316983252570269955

    I get that you don't think there SHOULD be state laws intervening in adult sexual behavior. Your wishes, though, don't make reality.

    Nor does the Supreme Court's wishes. They can knock down laws all they want, the result is not gay marriage, it is and will be ever only gay "marriage", a thing called marriage by some but not actually marriage.

    As for your third example, when I said "couple," I meant an adult couple, not minors, because the state can and does prohibit certain activities for minors(not all of which are sexual)that it does not prohibit for adults.

    In one state the legal age is 16, in another it is 17. Since it is impossible to argue that the ontological condition (not legal condition) of the 16 year old is that of "capacity to consent" in one state and "without capacity to consent" when she crosses over to the other state, then the correct way to describe this is that the second state is intervening in the affairs of a woman actually capable of consenting and telling her she may not have sex with her 18-year old adult boyfriend.

    But it really doesn't matter: "consent" is all a mirage and hogwash anyway. There are plenty of post-modernists who despise the theory that sex is only OK among consenting adults. It all depends on your point of view, and if there is no normative point of view, you have no right to privilege the quasi-Kantian / Rawlsian point of view over Neitzsche's. At the moment the American states are intervening in ways and not others, and in a few decades it will turn and they will intervene in new ways and not some of the ways they do now. What the US allows at a point in time does not determine moral reality.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Doubter,

    This began as my reply to what jmhenry said about "Humanae Vitae" and birth control that it "(4) give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the intimate responsibilities of husband and wife." and my reply that the right to birth control granted by the "Griswold" case let couples (not the state) determine when they wanted conception to occur. That case and the others I cited forbade the state from criminalizing oral and anal sex between adult consenting couples. If my statement that "the state cannot tell consenting adults how they should engage in sexual activity" was overly broad, it remains a correct statement for couples of legal age in a non-consanguineous relationship.

    "What the US allows at a point in time does not determine moral reality."

    The state cannot in a metaphysical sense determine moral reality, but it can enforce laws that regulate our moral choices.



    ReplyDelete
  60. "The right to birth control granted by the "Griswold" case let couples (not the state) determine when they wanted conception to occur."

    Clearly not true. Even without birth control, couples already could determine when they want conception to occur. To avoid conception occurring is easy: don't have sex, or just don't ejaculate in to the vagina. The state was not forcing couples for have sex, so conception was already in the hands of the couples.

    The Griswold case gave the right to acquire artificial birth control. And birth control is rather twisted wording, because you are not controlling any birth. This is effectively like granting the right to acquire artificial means to throw up, and calling it digestive control, saying that it lets people determine when digestion occurs.

    ReplyDelete
  61. @ Tony,

    By mistake I posted my answer to your latest comments in the next discussion thread here.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Don: I don't define meaning as "is". I don't see how you got that out of what I've said.

    WhenI asked, this is what you came up with: There are inherent meanings in physical processes. A calculator really does add. A stomach really does digest and "What does your digestive act mean?" Now at least it looks like more than nonsense. It means to digest. And when I clarified by stating: 'But apparently your definition of "meaning" = "is",' you didn't deny it or provide any corrections. Saying that the meaning of an act of digestion is just digesting is hard to interpret any other way other than saying the meaning of something is just what it is, but you're welcome to provide a better definition.

    I could understand it if you claimed I defined meaning as "how", as in, how is XOR implemented?

    OK, so in Don-speak, "meaning" = "how". That's still clearly not how Ross or Feser or the dictionary defines it, so my point still stands that they are talking about two different things, and you are not actually addressing the arguments as given because you are applying a non-standard definition of "meaning".

    If you admit you can't find an objective "XOR" in a circuit that clearly implements it, I don't see how you can let someone claim there is an objective "right" use in biology.

    I can find the implementation, but it isn't XOR until I bring my understanding of specifically what "XOR" means as opposed to all the other things it equally well implements. Or, at most, it qualifies as XOR *and* all the other possible things it implements at once. There's no way to single out the XOR without bringing some subjective element into it. Otherwise it really would have been easy for you to pick out the "real" XOR out of my two examples.

    It makes it too easy to dismiss the "natural law" position and I'm not so sure I like that idea.

    All right, you disagree with Feser about the indeterminacy thing, but therefore you agree about the perversion issue.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Billy said"

    "To avoid conception occurring is easy: don't have sex."

    I think that most Americans in 1965 (as well as now) did't want to have just two choices: No sex or don't ejaculate in the vagina. And "Griswold" gave them the choice of having sex while greatly reducing the chances of conception, thereby giving them the freedom to decide how to plan their families.

    "This is effectively like granting the right to acquire artificial means to throw up, and calling it digestive control, saying that it lets people determine when digestion occurs."

    Physicians use agents called emetics to induce vomiting. I don't think they would equate them to contraceptives.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Anonymous,

    I said, "A calculator really does add." I did not say, a calculator really is a calculator. "Is" is much different than "does." It's surely not a bad idea to clarify what we mean by meaning. But recall that this issue came up in response to a question that I thought was nonsense in its original form.

    "That's still clearly not how Ross or Feser or the dictionary defines it, so my point still stands that they are talking about two different things, and you are not actually addressing the arguments as given because you are applying a non-standard definition of 'meaning'."

    Forget what you think I mean by meaning. I'm saying that whatever Ross sees as meaning, it still follows that if physical processes are always indeterminate (and by this he means that physical processes don't care what they do, they don't *mean* to do what they do, they don't care to correct themselves, etc.) then there is no way we can call digestion determinate. And if it's not determinate, there's no way we can claim what it does is a perversion, because that becomes a claim that perversion exists in indeterminate processes and that's nonsense. If you disagree with that, please explain why, using any sense of meaning you wish.

    "I can find the implementation, but it isn't XOR until I bring my understanding of specifically what "XOR" means as opposed to all the other things it equally well implements."

    That same reasoning applies to digestion. How are you going to avoid the result that digestion is therefore a subjective interpretation of the physics?

    ReplyDelete
  65. Don: I said, "A calculator really does add." I did not say, a calculator really is a calculator.

    Since a "calculator" is simply "a thing that does addition" that doesn't sound like much of a difference.

    I'm saying that whatever Ross sees as meaning, it still follows that if physical processes are always indeterminate

    You're saying that his definition of "meaning" is irrelevant to his claims about meaning. Which of course is silly. If you don't understand his definition, then you don't understand what "indeterminate" refers to, and you don't understand his argument.

    If you disagree with that, please explain why, using any sense of meaning you wish.

    I'll use the sense which is different "what something does" or "how it does it". You've already shown that what something means (like XOR) is different from what something does (like digestion) because you could identify digestion but you couldn't identify the XOR. All you had to do to prove your point was identify which of my two examples was XOR, but you couldn't. I gave you the whole "how", the complete implementation was written out, but that wasn't enough.

    That same reasoning applies to digestion. How are you going to avoid the result that digestion is therefore a subjective interpretation of the physics?

    Again, you've already shown it yourself. You are able to tell the difference between digestion and walking just by looking at the physics. You were not able to distinguish XOR from XNOR by looking at the physics. You could determine the "how", the process, but not the meaning. If you were right, then you could pick out the XOR example. Or else, you could say you that you were wrong and really you can't tell the difference between walking and digesting after all. Which is it?

    ReplyDelete
  66. Anonymous,

    "You're saying that his definition of 'meaning' is irrelevant to his claims about meaning. Which of course is silly."

    That's a straw man. But on the outside chance that Ross says meaning is what is 'blue' and nothing physical can be blue, I'll make him stick to that claim in all circumstances.


    "You've already shown that what something means (like XOR) is different from what something does (like digestion) because you could identify digestion but you couldn't identify the XOR."

    You're the one who claimed I should not be able to identify XOR when I in fact did and can. Both your examples are XOR if they operate that way in a circuit. I claim meaning is primarily about what something *does*. It's in the physics. I also claim meaning not merely what we call what it does. XOR is not something "on paper." It's a physical thing that actively reacts to inputs.


    "You are able to tell the difference between digestion and walking just by looking at the physics."

    Yes, I am able to tell the difference between digestion and walking just by looking at the physics, as I can tell the difference between XOR and AND just by looking at the physics. I'm allowed to since I've always claimed the physics can be determinate. It's you who has the problem. I'm asking what allows you to tell the difference between digestion and walking just by looking at the physics? You keep ignoring that question. You're so busy trying to pin me down on a contradiction that you forget it's you who has that contradiction staring you in the face.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Don: You're the one who claimed I should not be able to identify XOR when I in fact did and can. Both your examples are XOR if they operate that way in a circuit.

    Then you *couldn't* distinguish one from the other, which is my point. Claiming, oh well, they're ALL xor is just as much an inability to tell the two apart. You keep asking me how the meaning argument can be different from the perversion argument, but it's there in your own words: in one case, we have two things that are both the same (either they are both XOR or neither are, depending on what you do with the subjectivity), and we have two things that are easily distinguished (digesting from walking). You've answered your own question, repeatedly.

    I claim meaning is primarily about what something *does*. It's in the physics.

    Unfotunately it's not in the dictionary. If you want to use a different definition of "meaning" from everyone else's you can't use that definition to "prove" someone else's argument is wrong. If you want to show a problem with Ross's argument, then you have to use his definition, as he's using it in his argument. That's the claim you have to make him stick to -- your own definition of "how" shouldn't come into it.

    Yes, I am able to tell the difference between digestion and walking just by looking at the physics, as I can tell the difference between XOR and AND just by looking at the physics.

    But you couldn't! You couldn't tell the difference between AND vs multiplication, or between XOR and the non-XOR. Until you decided well, they were "both" AND/multiplication or "both" XOR. Could both examples be *implementations* of XOR? Sure, not that anyone asked about that. But so what? How is that even relevant, unless you are saying that walking could be an "implementation" of digestion? Is that what you are saying?

    It's you who has the problem. I'm asking what allows you to tell the difference between digestion and walking just by looking at the physics? You keep ignoring that question.

    It's should be pretty obvious from what I've said. You not understanding the answer is not the same as me not answering the question, but in case you actually don't know how to tell digestion and walking apart yourself, it is generally what you would call "how", by looking at the "implementation", because digestion and walking ARE physical actions, so looking at the physics is all we need. Nobody ever said otherwise. The meaning issue, though, is something different, which is why I couldn't pick just one out as XOR either, if you gave me the same info. I am just happy to admit that I couldn't tell whereas you keep insisting that you could even though you can't.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Anonymous,

    "You keep asking me how the meaning argument can be different from the perversion argument, but it's there in your own words: in one case, we have two things that are both the same (either they are both XOR or neither are, depending on what you do with the subjectivity), and we have two things that are easily distinguished (digesting from walking). You've answered your own question, repeatedly."

    False. I can easily distinguish the real thing objectively, by how the circuit functions. Draw a picture of a stomach on paper and then try to tell me it's digesting. You can't do it. And neither can anyone claim a pictorial representation of XOR is *doing* XOR. The function is its doing, not its symbolic representation. You can't claim I couldn't distinguish XOR when you didn't even produce an instance of it.

    Meaning: 1. what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action. -- Dictionary definitions will be of little help on this.


    "If you want to show a problem with Ross's argument, then you have to use his definition, as he's using it in his argument."

    Then please tell me what you think that is. I can guarantee you that we can plug that definition into my argument and it will result in a contradiction.


    "digestion and walking ARE physical actions, so looking at the physics is all we need."

    -- and there is your contradiction and equivocation. You have just used an example of *action* as I suggested above. You permit yourself to look at the physics. That's how you decide, contra Ross. Yet you expect me to find the *action* of XOR on a paper representation. Theses are the "two different things" -- it's your doing, not mine.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Don: False. I can easily distinguish the real thing objectively, by how the circuit functions.

    I told you how it functions, but you could not distinguish them. In fact, you are now contradicting your immediately previous claim that BOTH examples "implement" XOR. How can you distinguish them if they are both doing the same thing, according to you? If you really want to look at circuits, I'll give actual code you can run on your computer:

    #!/usr/bin/python
    first = input("Enter 0 or 1: ")
    second = input("Enter 0 or 1: ")
    if first == 0 and second == 0: print "0"
    elif first == 0 and second == 1: print "1"
    elif first == 1 and second == 0: print "1"
    elif first == 1 and second == 1: print "0"
    else: print "Invalid values"


    And here's the other one:

    #!/usr/bin/python
    first = input("Enter 0 or 1: ")
    second = input("Enter 0 or 1: ")
    if first == 0 and second == 0: print "1"
    elif first == 0 and second == 1: print "0"
    elif first == 1 and second == 0: print "0"
    elif first == 1 and second == 1: print "1"
    else: print "Invalid values"

    Is one of those the real XOR? or neither? or both? or multiplication? You tell me.


    Meaning: 1. what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action. -- Dictionary definitions will be of little help on this.

    If you don't know how to work a dictionary, I think we've found the root of the problem.

    Then please tell me what you think that is. I can guarantee you that we can plug that definition into my argument and it will result in a contradiction.

    You will need to spell out each step of your argument, because nobody is at all clear what it is actually amounts to. So far you are going around in circles.

    You permit yourself to look at the physics. That's how you decide, contra Ross. Yet you expect me to find the *action* of XOR on a paper representation. Theses are the "two different things" -- it's your doing, not mine.

    This is extraordinarily confused. It is not in the least contrary to Ross, because his argument is not talking about identifying the physics of walking or digestion. If he were to talk about those things, I can guarantee you he would agree with me. Digesting and waking ARE physical actions, knowing the physical process is all that is needed to distinguish one from the other. Ross's argument is all about MEANING. If you used digestion to mean something, i.e. if you invented a secret code that meant "digestion if by land, walking if by sea", then according to Ross, I would not be able to determine that meaning by studying your anatomy. And he is obviously right: I could tell whether you were walking or digesting, but I could not tell whether you meant by it land or by sea, because that just is not present in your biological processes. I would have to know what the code MEANT some other way. Two different things: the process and the meaning. Ross's argument applies to the latter, not the former. The fact that you are still confusing the two is why you don't understand his argument.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Anonymous,

    "If you used digestion to mean something, i.e. if you invented a secret code that meant "digestion if by land, walking if by sea", then according to Ross, I would not be able to determine that meaning by studying your anatomy. And he is obviously right: I could tell whether you were walking or digesting, but I could not tell whether you meant by it land or by sea, because that just is not present in your biological processes."

    I wish you had said this earlier. This is *not* what Ross means. If he meant simply that, it's too trivial to cause any commotion. You have misread Ross. So I'll ignore the rest of your post.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Don: This is *not* what Ross means.

    Of course it is. He doesn't go into that in his paper because he takes it for granted that everyone knows meaning != doing. You might find it clearer if you read some of Feser's posts since he goes into more detail. But that's the starting point, and since you agree that it's trivial, then his conclusion inevitably follows. Glad we got that sorted out.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Anonymous,

    By your interpretation this is all Ross means: We have a subjective, navel gazing state of mind and a rock does not. Nothing important follows from that. It certainly does not follow that mind is not a physical process. However, depending on how seriously someone takes this triviality, it might follow that our 'perversion of nature' is merely a form of navel gazing.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Don: By your interpretation this is all Ross means: We have a subjective, navel gazing state of mind and a rock does not.

    I don't know what navels have to do with it, but we certainly do have subjective states and rocks certainly do not. Therefore, we can't be made up just of rocks. Ross of course spells this out more formally. Repeatedly calling it trivial doesn't show in any way that his argument is wrong.

    it might follow that our 'perversion of nature' is merely a form of navel gazing.

    Now you're contradicting yourself again. You originally wanted to claim that there was no difference in basis for Ross's argument and perverted nature arguments, so they both couldn't be true. I proved that they are in fact talking about different things: meaning vs. doing. First you tried to define meaning as doing, which not only wrong according to the everyday definition, but is clearly inapplicable to the definition as used by Feser and Ross. Then you challenged me to show the difference between the two, which I did by showing that you could distinguish digesting from walking, but not one example of XOR from the other example. After a bit of going around in circles, you promptly dropped the XOR stuff and started repeating the "trivial" "one disproves the other" stuff that you began with.

    But your problem hasn't gone anywhere. If we piece together your own admissions from previous comments, then there is something different going on between meaning and doing, so even if both arguments were wrong, they couldn't be wrong because they contradict each other.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Anonymous,

    "... but we certainly do have subjective states and rocks certainly do not. Therefore, we can't be made up just of rocks."

    Curiously that's both a straw man and a non sequitur.


    "After a bit of going around in circles, you promptly dropped the XOR stuff and started repeating the "trivial" "one disproves the other" stuff that you began with."

    That's a poor interpretation of what has happened here. I'm not going to respond to every thought in a post. I've been down that road and it's a long and winding one. We've both had our say on the XOR thing and I don't see that you've done what you think you've done. Even if you had, it only serves to bolster my case against perversion. Furthermore, I never claimed *every* physical process is determinate (though it probably is). So I don't have to defend every case. Ross, otoh, does claim that in every case a physical process is indeterminate. So I come back to Ross: "Some thinking (judgment) is determinate in a way no physical process can be. Consequently, such thinking cannot be (wholly) a physical process. If all thinking, all judgment, is determinate in that way, no physical process can be (the whole of) any judgment at all. "

    Perversion is a judgment. It's a looser form of judgment than mathematics, but that's irrelevant. It's a judgment that says, in effect, a physical process has a natural end, and a "good" one at that. Nobody has offered a compelling explanation as to how this judgment can be (wholly) objective if it's only possible by using subjective standards.


    ReplyDelete
  75. Don: Curiously that's both a straw man and a non sequitur.

    No, just a bit poetic, but if you missed that, it's the least of our worries.

    We've both had our say on the XOR thing and I don't see that you've done what you think you've done.

    So you say, but you haven't been able to refute what I've said. In fact, you could easily refute it by answering the XOR question, which was supposed to be easy. And yet you haven't. Not very persuasive if I'm supposedly so wrong.

    Perversion is a judgment.

    Well, no, *judgments* about perversion are judgments. Which is irrelevant, because in one case we are judging what a physical process DOES and in the other we are judging what a physical process MEANS. Meaning and doing are still different, which is the whole point, one that I have demonstrated over and over again this thread, and which proves your attempt to say one argument contradicts the other is wrong. That's before we even get to how the arguments work, it's clear they are ABOUT two different things. Again, nothing you've said refutes this -- how could it when one argument explicitly talks about the meaning of processes and the other explicitly talks about the biology of processes?

    ReplyDelete
  76. Isn't it part of the Catholic faith that some men must submit to a vow of celibacy in order to become part of the priesthood?
    I don't think it's medically possible or even healthy for a person to stay without sexual intercouse and without masturbation their entire lives. If this is true, than either there is a problem with the reasoning that masturbation is wrong, or there is a problem with the Catholic doctrine of Clerical celibacy.

    ReplyDelete