The Unnecessary Science (Chapter 5)

Continuing on from last time, in Chapter 5 Laird is going to look in more detail at Feser’s idea of good and how it relates to moral good.  Essentially, Feser defines moral good as aligning with what is naturally good, in the sense that it best aligns with the Form of the thing and strives for its ideal  Laird’s first argument, as my notes have it, is to challenge and dismiss that definition, but we do have a sense of good and bad as relating to an ideal.  Laird then does say that that sense is a different sense than the moral sense, but Feser actually argues for why natural good aligns to and links to moral good in at least moral agents, and can use design and God’s will to make the full argument.  You could accuse Feser of equivocation in using “good for the individual” as being the same thing as “morally good” and so using the motivation we get from striving for our ideal to motivate us to act morally, but for humans as moral beings we have to include acting ideally morally as part of our true and full form.  In a sense, then, Feser has a better argument for why we, as humans, must be moral than most, since his notion of Forms can easily argue that morality is part of who we are, something that most other moral systems cannot actually do.  Laird also takes on examples of toys and Nazis to try to show weakness or conflict with good as defined by Forms.  He argues that a toy in the shape of a triangle that does not have perfect sides would seem to not be a good triangle, and so would be better if it was more like a triangle even if that would make it a worse toy (by being more dangerous to children playing with it).  He also notes that a Nazi who acts more like a Nazi is a better Nazi and so would be more good, despite being morally inferior.  However, as even Laird admits much of this can be handled by appealing to the specific properties and Form that the thing is trying to achieve, and for Nazis in particular we can easily appeal to humans as moral agents to note that a Nazi, if inherently immoral, is an inferior human being precisely because adopting that stance makes them worse at achieving and respecting the moral being that is part and parcel of them.

The next attempt Laird makes is essentially to talk about how difficult it can be to decide which Form to apply in the first place, or what the Form really is.  We may end up in constant arguments over what Form is instantiated or what properties of the Form matter, leading to problems of redefinition.  However, he starts with an example of someone scribbling something on a bus seat that looks like a triangle, that Feser (Laird argues) would criticize as not being good for not being a good triangle, with the drawer saying that it wasn’t intended to  be one in the first place.  This is, it seems to me, a bit of a distortion of what Feser would say because he would surely recognize that a scribble that was not intended to be a triangle has to be good as a scribble, not necessarily as a triangle.  Yes, there may be cases where someone scribbling a perfect triangle could be held to have done something impressive in accidentally doing that, but if someone didn’t intend to scribble a triangle it wouldn’t be a valid criticism to say that it’s not a good scribble because it didn’t achieve something that it — and scribbles in general — were never intended to achieve.  So Feser should accept the argument that the person wasn’t drawing a triangle, but was instead just scribbling, and so will accept that it not having perfectly straight sides is not an indication that it’s not good.

This, then, carries over to pretty much all of Laird’s other arguments as well, and reveals the key thing here:  in Feser’s view and with the ideas of Forms or even concepts themselves, you cannot merely assert that it has a certain Form or fits a certain concept or that certain properties make up the Form or concept.  You always have to have an argument that works for why any of these things are true.  So any such definitions will have to be objectively defensible.  So in contrast to the Amazon review by Dan Lawler that Laird cites, we aren’t going to go to Feser to determine what the Forms are.  Feser appeals to philosophical arguments and science to justify his ideas of the Forms, so ultimately no simple generic argument that we cannot know the Forms or that his idea relies too much on his own personal assessments works.  It may not be easy to work out what the Forms are, but we can do so, and if Laird or others think that Feser’s ideas of the Form of something is incorrect the best move is to engage that directly instead.

Which then leads to Laird attempting to go after Feser’s notion that the Form of Human Beings includes rationality, which is what he uses to get to the zygote being potentially rational and so deserving of protection.  The first move Laird makes is actually one of my pet peeves, as he tries to use the dictionary definitions of various forms including human beings, to argue that rational doesn’t seem to be there.  This is the same move that Jerry Coyne made in defining knowledge, and it fails for the same reasons:  the dictionary is not a credible source for philosophical concepts, and so its definitions cannot be used as an argument against philosophical concepts.  The dictionary records folk views of concepts that are generally agreed upon and work for everyday reasoning, but obviously those definitions aren’t designed to deal with the more detailed examinations demanded by philosophy.  They’re there to let you pick those things out in the world, not to determine what their real and full nature is.  And philosophically the idea that humans have rationality as an importantly different part of their nature is one that’s pretty well supported.  It may be wrong, but it will take more than the dictionary leaving that out to put a dent in that assessment.

So Laird then turns to questioning whether humans are inherently rational or whether they might actually be merely accidentally rational, meaning that we happen to be rational but it isn’t an integral part of our nature.  He appeals to humans acting irrationally and needed to be trained to act properly and fully rational, but this can be easily countered by pointing out that even when we are not engaging our rational faculties — like when we’re being overwhelmed by emotion — we are still inherently capable of being rational, which is clearly how Feser takes it (since he includes zygotes who are not capable of acting, rationally or otherwise).  What he really ends up doing is arguing that our rationality is taught to us or imposed on us from external sources, and isn’t inherently part of us, but that’s not a very credible argument.  After all, we do learn to act somewhat rationally even without specific training in reason — after all, most people do not take philosophy and so do not learn how to properly reason — and even then the full capacity must be there.  We are not like the vines that can be put to another purpose as a hammock and might even grow on their own into something that someone else can co-opt for those purposes.  Our reason is not instilled in us externally and used by someone else for something other than its original intent.  Reason, in us, is its own intent in us, or so it seems.  So he’d need a much stronger set of arguments to make the case that we should not consider human beings to be inherently rational animals.  And in fact, what separates us from at least most other animals just is our capacity for reason, which is one of the primary functions of a Form.

Laird returns to his Form of Squirrel example to argue for Forms being at least a bit looser than Feser would like, but he makes the same mistake as before by lumping specific behaviours into the Form itself.  But behaviours do not define the Form, but follow from it, since we know that we can have behaviours that violate what is good for us, and so what is our Form.  This is indeed how we decide that a squirrel eating toothpaste is doing something at least less than ideal:  a squirrel can’t survive without eating nutritious food, and so a squirrel who by some process only eats toothpaste despite the fact that it won’t provide it that nutrition can reasonably be said to have some disorder driving that, especially when we can see other squirrels that act more reasonably.  The same can be said for humans:  just because we sometimes don’t act rationally doesn’t mean that we aren’t rational animals, just that sometimes we have flaws that cause us to ignore that fundamental nature.

Laird then tries to argue against the idea that the goal of reason is to produce truth and that truth should be produced for the sake of truth by using the example of a nerd who seeks out all knowledge for the sake of knowledge but then is a complete failure in their everyday life.  Laird uses this to suggest that truth is not important for its own sake, but is instead something that we should pursue insofar is it has practical benefits for us.  Putting aside that his description fits the stereotypical philosopher and so is not something that philosophers will be inclined to accept as a failing, we could easily criticize the nerd not for seeking out knowledge that seems to have no practical value but instead for ignoring something else that is important, which is practical matters.  Yes, Feser does make seeking truth our main goal, but we do need to take care of practical matters as well, if for no other reason that to be able to continue to seek out truth.  So Laird establishes that practicality matters, but that does not justify the move to insisting that it matters more, and Laird needs it to matter more to take on Feser here.

And the last point asks what the point of a rubber ball is:  is it to be a ball itself, or to be a toy for children?  If it’s to be a ball, then it’s possible to make the ball be more like a ball but then less fun for the children to play with, which is the purpose of a toy.  So how do we determine what its purpose is so that we can judge whether it is good or bad?  Is it a toy, or is it primarily a ball?  The first issue with these arguments is that if the ball is human created, then it gets its purpose directly from its creator.  So if I’m making the ball to primarily be a ball, then that’s its purpose and that’s how we judge how well it fits it.  And if I’m making it as a toy for a child, then that’s its primary purpose and it’s on that basis that we judge it.  The natural cases are more tricky because we don’t have direct access to the main purpose for which it was created.  But note that we wouldn’t appeal to whether a particular or even most children like it if it is to be considered primarily as a toy.  They could be incorrect due to a deficiency in them, after all.  While whether children want to play with it is excellent empirical evidence as to whether it is good for that purpose, in theory we could determine it mostly a priori.  It’s just far easier to do the empirical investigation than work it all out a priori.

So that’s Chapter 5.  I’m not going to comment on the last chapter, so next time is Chapter 6 and the last of my commentaries on the chapters in the book.

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12 Responses to “The Unnecessary Science (Chapter 5)”

  1. jayman777 Says:

    The only way we could be taught rationality from an external source is if we are capable of rationality. His move doesn’t get off the ground because it presupposes Feser’s actual position, which is about capability/potentiality (as you note). And what would this external source of rationality be besides fellow human beings? Where did their rationality come from? A special human who was inherently rational? An infinite regress of external sources? God?

  2. Gunther Laird Says:

    Hi Verbose Stoic,

    If I may, a few clarifications on what you’ve said here.

    First, in reference to the nerd in my example, in my thought experiment he actually wasn’t *completely* useless, as in unable to support himself, though I could see why you got that impression. To quote from the relevant section,

    Take, for instance, a nerd who has dedicated his life to cataloging the most obscure, finely-grained details about trains or classic films or some other esoteric, eccentric field….if our nerd spent most of his time studying them rather than learning about more practical pursuits and areas of knowledge, we probably would not say his mind, his Rational Faculty, was successfully fulfilling its function.

    I probably should have added a qualifier to ‘dedicated’ (dedicated much or most of his life, not all of it), but in this excerpt I never actually say, as you imply, the nerd was completely ignoring practical matters. I wasn’t casting him as a moocher or someone incapable of living on his own, though again I think I could have made that clearer.

    So, to modify my example a little bit, let’s say we have a nerd who spends *most* of his time studying irrelevant but true trivia, but some of his time on practical matters. Maybe he’s an electrician or an ER specialist with competent knowledge in those fields, but spends all his free time at home studying the minutiae of film trivia. In such a case, we would admire the guy for spending the time and effort on learning about electricity or medicine or whatever other true knowledge could be put to practical use, but we wouldn’t admire him for spending so much time learning about trivia, even if it was true. Thus, I maintain my argument that the purpose, or telos, of our “rational faculties” is not attaining truth for its own sake, but attaining it so that we may survive.

    (I should note that I also counter Feser’s likely response to this in his deployment of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism; I point the reader towards several of the EAAN’s critics and make my own critique of it on page 237).

    With that aside, in reference to this statement:

    After all, we do learn to act somewhat rationally even without specific training in reason — after all, most people do not take philosophy and so do not learn how to properly reason — and even then the full capacity must be there.

    I’d say this is actually somewhat debatable. Yes, even mundane non-philosophers can learn to reason to some extent–how generous–but people seem to be unable to do so without at least other people (their parents or caretakers) making them so. As I state in the book,

    We can easily understand this by thinking of a human baby somehow born in the depths of space or an endless void of nothingness. The baby would die of starvation, obviously, but even if it didn’t it would never develop language or have any grasp of ideas, logic, or anything else. It would just be hairless and two-legged, not rational in any sense.

    Now, I probably should have given some real-life examples, but I thought I wouldn’t have room–in real life we actually have a few examples of “feral children” who illustrate my point:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child#Documented_cases_of_feral_children

    Aside from a few cases like Marina Chapman, when children have spent a very long time in their formative years away from parents and peers, they demonstrate no capacity for reason, and even when returned to civilization what reason they do display is severely attenuated. If reason was “natural” to us as part of our substantial form, you would expect us to exhibit it even in the absence of anyone making us rational. But as these unfortunate feral children illustrate, that seems not to be so.

    Finally,

    >And the last point asks what the point of a rubber ball is: is it to be a ball itself, or to be a toy for children? If it’s to be a ball, then it’s possible to make the ball be more like a ball but then less fun for the children to play with, which is the purpose of a toy.

    For the benefit of your readers, as I assume these are just your notes you put down for yourself, in the actual text I don’t say “the point of a rubber ball is to be a ball itself or a toy.” I think you’re referring here to the funny little thought experiment I had on page 248, where I imply a “perfect” ball could be a poor toy for a child. Then I go on to mention how a ball might have different purposes from the perspective of different people–from the perspective of a child, a ball is meant to entertain, but the person who made it at the Acme Ball Company might have only cared about how much money it made. I think this is what you were referring to in your paragraph as well.

    • theoriginalmrx Says:

      So, to modify my example a little bit, let’s say we have a nerd who spends *most* of his time studying irrelevant but true trivia, but some of his time on practical matters. Maybe he’s an electrician or an ER specialist with competent knowledge in those fields, but spends all his free time at home studying the minutiae of film trivia. In such a case, we would admire the guy for spending the time and effort on learning about electricity or medicine or whatever other true knowledge could be put to practical use, but we wouldn’t admire him for spending so much time learning about trivia, even if it was true.

      What do you mean “we”, kemo sabe? Personally I think the world would be a better place if more people had eccentric hobbies instead of just spending their time trying to accumulate more stuff.

      I’d say this is actually somewhat debatable. Yes, even mundane non-philosophers can learn to reason to some extent–how generous–but people seem to be unable to do so without at least other people (their parents or caretakers) making them so.

      So as Jayman said above, why is it that we humans can learn to be rational but other things can’t, if we don’t have an inherent capacity for rationality? And where did our rationality come from in the first place? You can’t have an infinite regress of people each learning to be rational from the previous person, as that’s ruled out by both philosophy and palaeontology.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      Maybe he’s an electrician or an ER specialist with competent knowledge in those fields, but spends all his free time at home studying the minutiae of film trivia. In such a case, we would admire the guy for spending the time and effort on learning about electricity or medicine or whatever other true knowledge could be put to practical use, but we wouldn’t admire him for spending so much time learning about trivia, even if it was true.

      But we would likely admire him more — or at least should — for doing that instead of seeking hedonistic pleasures like getting drunk. So we would seem to accept that truth seeking is of higher value than pleasure seeking and, in fact, is of higher value than most things. The most you could do is criticize him for seeking shallow truths rather than deeper ones, but that would fit into Feser’s idea that we should be seeking ultimate truth, which is God. We certainly would deny that if he knows enough practical knowledge to satisfy all his practical needs that there is no huge obligation for him to seek out more practical knowledge without pointing out that his practical knowledge is deficient, like for example his knowing enough to live unless the power went out (and even in those cases that would be based on a risk analysis).

      You actually have a decent argument if you make him not have sufficient practical knowledge, which leads to the counter I made. If he HAS sufficient practical knowledge, then attacking his seeking knowledge/truth hobby on other grounds than appealing to greater truths seems unwarranted.

      We can easily understand this by thinking of a human baby somehow born in the depths of space or an endless void of nothingness. The baby would die of starvation, obviously, but even if it didn’t it would never develop language or have any grasp of ideas, logic, or anything else. It would just be hairless and two-legged, not rational in any sense.

      I’m not at all convinced of that. Language they would probably miss, but philosophy of language and linguistics has long pointed out that this seems to be from the fact that children learn language by a rather special means that needs to be primed with spoken language before the children get too old to activate. Even in your feral child examples the big examples are of language losses and social skill losses, which are things directly learned/triggered by society and not directly related to reason. So I don’t see any cases where we can say that not being taught reason eliminates that capacity. After all, the children that lost language would have a hard time learning logic because they’d have to be taught it by the language they don’t have.

      Then I go on to mention how a ball might have different purposes from the perspective of different people–from the perspective of a child, a ball is meant to entertain, but the person who made it at the Acme Ball Company might have only cared about how much money it made. I think this is what you were referring to in your paragraph as well.

      True. Still, the solution to all of these falls back on the intent for which the thing was created, which then blunts the idea of multiple competing purposes.

      • Gunther Laird Says:

        >But we would likely admire him more — or at least should — for doing that instead of seeking hedonistic pleasures like getting drunk.

        This isn’t a good analogy, or at least it’s a fairly loaded one. We wouldn’t approve of him getting drunk because getting drunk is bad for one’s health–it hurts your liver and so on. What about other “hedonistic” pleasures, like playing sports or listening to music or even drinking alcohol moderately (so not to get wasted)? If your electrician or doctor told you he liked pickup basketball or strumming on a guitar or wine tasting during his free time, you probably wouldn’t react with anything other than “oh, that’s cool.” Although admittedly, you might say the wine-taster was pretentious :p On the other hand, if your electrician or doctor told you he spent all his free time learning trivia, that might elicit a “huh, that’s weird” rather than “oh, that’s cool.”

        Now, admittedly, this might come off as a little more mean-spirited than I intend. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with learning trivia specifically in this example, or “useless truths” more generally. Like theoriginalmrx said above, there’s nothing *inherently* ill-natured in eccentric hobbies, they’re harmless. Still, the example here supports my argument more than it hurts it. Most people, when meeting someone reasonably well-adjusted and learning about the person’s hobbies, don’t consider “truth-attaining” to be a significant determinant of the value of the hobby. Most folks, when talking to someone who has a “hedonistic” hobby like soccer or music, aren’t going to consider such a person inferior to someone with a more eccentric hobby that nevertheless involves “attaining truth,” like film trivia or whatever.

        I suspect, if I may be forgiven for being presumptuous, you’ll say something to the effect of, “well, what ‘most people’ might think is irrelevant, they could be wrong. We need a philosophical argument!” And I’d agree with you, actually, you’re right, an appeal to how “most people” think is weak for several reasons. But I included that appeal to provide a humorous introduction to the more rigorous, philosophical one I provided on pages 235-236. To sum it up briefly (it’s a bit long to copy and paste directly), if one accepts that the body parts/behaviors/etc. of organisms have functions, it’s not hard to tell what those are. The fangs of a spider have the purpose, or telos, of piercing prey and injecting venom. The sharp teeth of squirrels, on the other hand, have the telos of cracking open nuts and acorns. This is so the organism survives, I think Feser would agree with this.

        So when we look at human beings, we notice something interesting. Humans don’t have many natural weapons of our own. Our teeth are relatively harmless, they can’t inject poison like a spider’s or crack open tough matter like a squirrel’s. We don’t have any other weapons, like fangs or claws or anything else that wolves or lions or whatever possess. The only thing we do have is our minds, or more specifically, our capacity to comprehend Forms (again, assuming Feser’s theory is correct). Understanding the Form of Fire helped us cook food, understanding the Form of Triangularity helped us make better arrowheads to hunt prey, and so on, and so forth. So it seems our rationality is equivalent to a spider’s fangs or a squirrel’s incisors–the weapon we use for our survival.

        But that implies the telos of our rationality is to help us survive, not to seek truth for its own sake. A spider’s fangs are made for envenomating, but venomation isn’t a goal in and of itself, the process of poisoning prey is to help the spider eat and survive. A squrrel’s incisors are made for cracking open nuts, but it doesn’t crack open nuts and acorns for the sake of it, that’s not a good in and of itself. It’s that cracking open nuts helps the squirrel eat and thus survive. So, by the same token, the human rational faculties have the telos of gaining truth, but only to help us survive. There’s nothing beyond that, there’s nothing inherently “better” about “understanding deeper truths,” just as there’s nothing inherently “better” about a spider producing stronger poison or a squirrel biting through harder material–all that matters is whether or not it helps those organisms survive. That, at least, is the more formal philosophical argument I make in the text.

        >I’m not at all convinced of that. Language they would probably miss, but philosophy of language and linguistics has long pointed out that this seems to be from the fact that children learn language by a rather special means that needs to be primed with spoken language before the children get too old to activate.

        Now, I hadn’t heard of this before–it’s very interesting, thank you. Might you happen to have a book or article that explains this in more depth? Aside from that, though, I suppose the question becomes one of epistemology–how can we tell if the power of reason in such children has been attenuated or is absent entirely? You might say that human beings inherently have the capacity for reason, but as I argue in the text, something can have the capacity for some trait without that trait being “natural” to them in Feser’s sense of “flowing from” their substantial form. Again, to use his example, liana vines have a “capacity” for becoming hammocks that not everything else has–it’s pretty tough to turn bones or lead pipes into hammocks. But that doesn’t mean it’s “natural” (again, in Feser’s sense) for liana vines to be turned into hammocks. So you, or at least Feser, will have to explain why reason is “natural” for human beings, and how you can discern that.

        >Still, the solution to all of these falls back on the intent for which the thing was created, which then blunts the idea of multiple competing purposes.

        Well, okay, so if we ask the person who created the ball and they say “to make me money,” or “to give joy to children” or whatever, we have our answer. The problem is IMO that this is a very thin conception of telos and can’t really do the work Feser needs it to do, and for that reason isn’t really able to refute the point I raised. Let’s say we ask the CEO of acme what the purpose of the ball is and he says it’s to entertain children. If a teacher buys it to teach his students about physics, is a telos being violated, and if so, who cares? If someone buys it to use as a paperweight, why should they care about the intent of the original creator at Acme? And so on, and so forth. The only sort of teloi that seem interesting in both practical and philosophical terms are relative. If you’re going to argue for some kind of “main telos” that’s contingent on the will of a creator, you and Feser will have to make a stronger argument for why anyone should care. I suppose Feser could use the threat of hellfire to convince us to follow the various teloi God has apparently set for us, but in that case you don’t even need the concept of teleology at all–I doubt the various Christians and Muslims who haven’t heard of teleology or Aristotle or “classical philosophy” needed that encouragement to do what their holy texts told them to do.

      • verbosestoic Says:

        This isn’t a good analogy, or at least it’s a fairly loaded one. We wouldn’t approve of him getting drunk because getting drunk is bad for one’s health–it hurts your liver and so on. What about other “hedonistic” pleasures, like playing sports or listening to music or even drinking alcohol moderately (so not to get wasted)? If your electrician or doctor told you he liked pickup basketball or strumming on a guitar or wine tasting during his free time, you probably wouldn’t react with anything other than “oh, that’s cool.

        The point of the analogy was to take a hedonistic hobby taken to what we would consider excessive extremes and so would criticize it. Thus, your analogy is at least as misleading as mine because it compares that sort of extreme hobby with a minor one. But you are correct that we might consider getting drunk worse because of the physical impact, so let me cast the comparison this way: compare someone who in their free time only plays and watches soccer with someone who learns about film trivia. I would argue that in general we shouldn’t consider the nerd to be any worse than the soccer fanatic, and potentially somewhat better because they are gathering knowledge and not merely engaging in fleeting pleasures. If someone disagrees, they would probably do so on the basis that the soccer fanatic is improving their body through exercise, which makes it not quite the same, either. But I think it clear at this point that what’s doing the work is NOT that it has no practical use, but instead that it seems utterly frivolous. Someone, then, studying deeper knowledge like philosophy or, as Feser notes, seeking to understand God would not be vulnerable to such criticisms, and doing so would indeed seem to be more admirable than pursuits that don’t increase knowledge at all. Would you really claim that I, who did my philosophy degree as a hobby and even read your book as one, isn’t doing something with real value because I don’t put it to practical use?

        So it seems our rationality is equivalent to a spider’s fangs or a squirrel’s incisors–the weapon we use for our survival.

        But that implies the telos of our rationality is to help us survive, not to seek truth for its own sake.

        The problem here is that evolution can easily co-opt existing mechanisms for survival purposes, and we can have emergent faculties from evolution as well (like mathematics is believed to be). So it actually seems more reasonable to say that rationality IS primarily aimed at producing truths, and then we use those truths to survive. To deny this is to say that any truth that we discover that does not directly improve our survival is an inferior and potentially useless truth, with no real value. That would eliminate much of mathematics and philosophy, even though those fields seem to be the ones that make the most use of our rationality.

        Now, I hadn’t heard of this before–it’s very interesting, thank you. Might you happen to have a book or article that explains this in more depth?

        It’s been over 10 years since I did it, but I Googled around and found this link that seems to give a decent summary and would give you a starting point, as it’s Noam Chomsky’s Theory of Language Acquisition: https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/curriculum/esol/cpd/module2/docs/chomsky.pdf

        Aside from that, though, I suppose the question becomes one of epistemology–how can we tell if the power of reason in such children has been attenuated or is absent entirely?

        As long as their learning isn’t impacted, you would do the same sorts of tests as we do with animals, to see if they can do problem-solving in the world with a goal that they’d share.

        The problem is IMO that this is a very thin conception of telos and can’t really do the work Feser needs it to do, and for that reason isn’t really able to refute the point I raised.

        That’s why I differentiated between objects that were deliberately created by people and natural objects. For deliberately created objects by people like us, all we can appeal to is what that person wanted it to be. For natural objects, they can have an inherent telos by their full nature. Now, of course, Feser thinks that they have been given a nature by God and so that’s what their telos is, so it is similar but also stronger.

        If a teacher buys it to teach his students about physics, is a telos being violated, and if so, who cares? If someone buys it to use as a paperweight, why should they care about the intent of the original creator at Acme?

        Remember, we’re talking about determining objectively whether it’s a good example of the sort of thing it is or whether it is an inferior one. For a deliberately created object, whether it fulfills its purpose or not can only be related to the purpose for which that person created it, no matter what other use someone might put it to. For Feser, then, the telos of any natural object would be the purpose God gave it, and so that would remain how it should be assessed when considering how well it has fulfilled its purpose. You can ignore that if you want, but then by definition you would be analyzing the situation incorrectly and from an invalid perspective. In short, intentional agents give things purpose when they create them, and God would be the intentional agent doing that for all natural things, and so when analyzing if their properties are such that they fulfill their purpose properly you have to do so using that purpose. To return to your example, while the physics teacher may note that the ball has flaws that make it not work as well for their experiment as they hoped it would, that’s not a criticism of the ball, but a criticism of the purpose to which the teacher is putting it. If the CEO only made the ball to make money, that it’s properties were such that they make as much money selling it as they good makes it fit the purpose regardless of the flaws the physics teacher says it has for their purpose.

        Also note that in general for something like a ball that purpose would be to be an entertaining toy for a child and THROUGH THAT make money on it, so the analysis here is a bit off from how we’d normally look at it.

      • Gunther Laird Says:

        >If someone disagrees, they would probably do so on the basis that the soccer fanatic is improving their body through exercise, which makes it not quite the same, either.

        That’s one argument I think sounds reasonable–in an indirect way at least, soccer helps physical fitness which has practical use, unlike assumedly film trivia.

        >But I think it clear at this point that what’s doing the work is NOT that it has no practical use, but instead that it seems utterly frivolous.

        Well, no, it seems to me the practical use is still the important factor, you could argue that something with no practical use is by definition frivolous. Now, you would say that

        >Someone, then, studying deeper knowledge like philosophy or, as Feser notes, seeking to understand God would not be vulnerable to such criticisms, and doing so would indeed seem to be more admirable than pursuits that don’t increase knowledge at all.

        But in this case, “understanding God” has a very practical use–avoiding eternal punishment in Hell. That’s what would make such study admirable and more important than either film trivia or “hedonistic pursuits” like soccer. But as I mention, the question of God existing is different from the question of hell (or heaven); the point of my argument is that there’s no necessary reason God would want us to spend all or even much of our time contemplating Him and punish us if we don’t. Thus, there is no necessary reason understanding God is required or even especially admirable.

        >Would you really claim that I, who did my philosophy degree as a hobby and even read your book as one, isn’t doing something with real value because I don’t put it to practical use?

        Well, I don’t know your circumstances, so I can’t really say. In terms of value, I certainly hope you’ve gotten some from my book, or at least your money’s worth; even if you don’t agree with it I hope you found it entertaining and I hope it gave you some food for thought. I do hope, however, that my book can be put to practical use indeed, namely in reducing the influence people like Feser have in our public life. That’s one reason I’m grateful to you for your extended review, because engaging with your criticisms can prepare me for the sorts of arguments people like Feser might deploy in response and make me and my allies better able to counter them. And in terms of the practical benefits of philosophy more generally, well, much like soccer, it’s good exercise, albeit for the brain rather than the body. But if you were to directly ask me if philosophy has any value *in and of itself,* I would say no, absolutely not. It has value in so far as it can be put to practical use.

        >The problem here is that evolution can easily co-opt existing mechanisms for survival purposes, and we can have emergent faculties from evolution as well (like mathematics is believed to be). So it actually seems more reasonable to say that rationality IS primarily aimed at producing truths, and then we use those truths to survive.

        The problem is those existing mechanisms assumedly arose in the first place for the purposes of survival. When you say “rationality IS primarily aimed at producing truths, and then we use those truths to survive” it seems that this is close to my position. I would be perfectly willing to say that–to use a term I think I just made up–the proximate final cause of our rational faculties is to learn true things, but the more important final cause, or the final cause beyond that, the final cause of that final cause, is to ensure our survival.

        >To deny this is to say that any truth that we discover that does not directly improve our survival is an inferior and potentially useless truth, with no real value. That would eliminate much of mathematics and philosophy, even though those fields seem to be the ones that make the most use of our rationality.

        Well, it seems to me that mathematics has a lot of practical use. Like I said above, understanding triangularity would have helped make arrows, you’d have to use math to figure out how much food to store in winter (for instance), and so on, and so forth. More complex math can be put to practical use in more complex matters, like imaginary numbers being important in electrical science, for instance. Now, for philosophy itself being useless, it could go either way I suppose 😉

        >God would be the intentional agent doing that for all natural things, and so when analyzing if their properties are such that they fulfill their purpose properly you have to do so using that purpose…You can ignore that if you want, but then by definition you would be analyzing the situation incorrectly and from an invalid perspective.

        The problem is this seems like an impossible task barring divine revelation–at least going on what you said earlier. We can tell what the purpose of a ball or any other artifact is by asking the creator directly. In fact, if you’re right, that’s the *only* way we can know what the telos is. As you said in regards to toys, “But note that we wouldn’t appeal to whether a particular or even most children like it if it is to be considered primarily as a toy. They could be incorrect due to a deficiency in them, after all.” In other words, if we’re just going by our empirical investigations into the telos of something, those investigations could be flawed, or the situations we’re looking at could be flawed themselves (children not liking a toy when they should). The only ironclad, 100% certain to be correct way of knowing the telos of something is to ask the creator directly–and we don’t seem to be able to do that with God, judging by how many folks complain about Him not listening to their prayers.

        Now, right afterwards you say “we could work it out a priori.” But I have to ask, *how*? Like, say you find a ball lying on the ground somewhere with no identifying markings other than ACME CO. on it. You could determine what it was “for” by asking the chairman of Acme, or if you couldn’t do that, observing it for a while and watching what folks did with it; if people played with it that would be some empirical evidence it was a toy. But without those options, how could you ever prove “through logic alone,” a priori, that the telos of the ball was for play?

      • verbosestoic Says:

        Well, no, it seems to me the practical use is still the important factor, you could argue that something with no practical use is by definition frivolous

        No, I don’t think that’s what’s doing the work here. I think it’s a combination of two things:

        1) It’s not one of the higher fields of knowledge, like mathematics, physics or philosophy, so as a pure intellectual pursuit it seems inferior.

        2) It’s also not as DEEP a field as the ones I’ve mentioned, so spending all your time studying the tiny details of the field seems that you wouldn’t be finding out things that are interesting, even to you.

        Then again, people do dedicate lots of time studying entertainment on blogs and on Youtube, and people don’t find that wasteful even if they don’t make money at it. So the obsessiveness with it also seems to play a part. And I think that it’s only anti-intellectualism that would consider someone studying philosophy to be doing something less worthy than someone playing and watching soccer.

        Ultimately, I think that’s the big issue here. In order for your point to work, it must be the case for you that seeking out truths for the sake of truth must NOT be seen as valid or viable if there is no practical use to it. But that’s a VERY shaky proposition, as in general when someone challenges someone else’s studies on the basis that the knowledge isn’t practical the person criticizing them is the one who comes off the worse. Yes, sometimes the counter is that it is or might be useful, but at times the answer just is that knowledge is useful for its own sake (see, for example, I think, Sarah Palin’s criticism of fruit fly research and the reactions to that). So it is not at all clear that knowledge must have a practical purpose to be valuable, and you need that to work to really oppose Feser.

        But in this case, “understanding God” has a very practical use–avoiding eternal punishment in Hell.

        But that isn’t how Feser justifies it, though, so it’s not really relevant to his argument.

        Well, I don’t know your circumstances, so I can’t really say. In terms of value, I certainly hope you’ve gotten some from my book, or at least your money’s worth; even if you don’t agree with it I hope you found it entertaining and I hope it gave you some food for thought.

        If you include being entertained as having sufficient practical value, then even your original example has practical value that would work and so cannot be used as an example of truth without practical value being valueless, since it would have had value by your standards and yet is still rejected.

        The problem is those existing mechanisms assumedly arose in the first place for the purposes of survival. When you say “rationality IS primarily aimed at producing truths, and then we use those truths to survive” it seems that this is close to my position.

        Evolution doesn’t or doesn’t have to work that way: it can and generally does co-opt existing systems. More specifically, what it does is that a system is developed that HAPPENS to promote survival, or rather that the organism with it survives more than the ones that don’t have it. So the mechanism itself is rarely directly aimed at survival, and since evolution is generally not intentional in its designs it can’t impart that real purpose to the things either (without having a purpose itself, which it doesn’t since evolution can indeed evolve things to extinction). So that seems to deal with your other comment as well, since evolution cannot impart or claim a final to final to final cause or purpose and so make rationality be about survival. If we lived in a chaotic world where rationality and gaining knowledge actually killed us, things that had rationality would still have the purpose of gaining knowledge, and anything that developed it would die off.

        Well, it seems to me that mathematics has a lot of practical use. Like I said above, understanding triangularity would have helped make arrows, you’d have to use math to figure out how much food to store in winter (for instance), and so on, and so forth. More complex math can be put to practical use in more complex matters, like imaginary numbers being important in electrical science, for instance.

        I was thinking of most of Abstract Algebra and Non-Euclidean geometries: not very practically useful if at all, but a very big part of mathematics and what most people think of when they think of pure mathematics. The more pure and purely rational the mathematics and philosophy, the less directly practical it seems (like deductive reasoning). So rationality and practicality do not seem to coincide with each other and seem opposed.

        Now, right afterwards you say “we could work it out a priori.” But I have to ask, *how*? Like, say you find a ball lying on the ground somewhere with no identifying markings other than ACME CO. on it.

        You miss the points I made about the difference between directly intentionally created objects and natural ones. We can’t work out intentionally created objects a priori because the specific creation act included the intention to created it, which was imparted at creation. We can make guesses based on purposes, but intention would overturn that. For natural objects, there is no initial intention imparted at creation, so its intentionality is determined by its natural role in the system itself, and that we can work out a priori as long as we know the details of what properties the object has. So we cannot compare those two sorts of creations directly because they are quite different things.

  3. The Unnecessary Science (Chapter 6) | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] So after last week’s post, I’m at the final chapter that I’m going to look at in detail (I didn’t find the chapter on alternatives all that interesting, at least for my specific interests).  This chapter dives into the more philosophical issues with the Forms, and is one of the chapters where I have more notes.  Also, since I was at the end of the book, the messier notes.  Let’s see how it works out. […]

  4. Gunther Laird Says:

    >1) It’s not one of the higher fields of knowledge, like mathematics, physics or philosophy, so as a pure intellectual pursuit it seems inferior. 2) It’s also not as DEEP a field as the ones I’ve mentioned, so spending all your time studying the tiny details of the field seems that you wouldn’t be finding out things that are interesting, even to you.

    The problem is, what makes the “higher” or “DEEP”er fields worthier than mastery of trivia? I think it still boils down to practicality in the end. Even if higher math or physics might not seem immediately practical at first glance, it’s at least possible they might have some use later on and we just haven’t found it yet. Philosophy is related to logic and sharpening our skills in that is useful for computer science, and so on. Trivia, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be of any practical use at all. Though again, as I mention later in this response and as I said to the other fellow above, I didn’t mean to come across as if trivia was bad or harmful or something.

    >And I think that it’s only anti-intellectualism that would consider someone studying philosophy to be doing something less worthy than someone playing and watching soccer.

    Well, it depends on what you mean by “less worthy.” I would say the philosopher is exercising his mind just like the soccer player is exercising his body, so both are worthy in that sense. But Feser would claim that “philosophy,” in a very loose sense of “knowing the truth about DEEP things” is the highest form of activity, and that I would flatly deny. Just as soccer is nice because it’s fun and it keeps you healthy, philosophy can be nice (if you’re into it) because it’s fun and keeps your mind sharp—but in both cases the pastimes are good because they encourage health generally, not in and of themselves.

    >In order for your point to work, it must be the case for you that seeking out truths for the sake of truth must NOT be seen as valid or viable if there is no practical use to it.

    Well, like I said above, my example in *The Unnecessary Science* was exaggerated, and I think it may have been a little mean, I probably should have clarified that there’s nothing wrong with trivia specifically, or “truth for the sake of truth” generally. The problem is, I think my larger point stands, that there’s nothing particularly admirable about finding “truth for the sake of truth” or “deeper truths.” Any justification you or Feser could give to these things will eventually hinge on some form of practicality—either doing philosophy or math can keep one’s mind sharp which has practical applications elsewhere, or things that seem impractical like higher mathematics can eventually turn out to be practical. The example of Sarah Palin you chose seems to illustrate this—looking it up, this article (https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2008/10/french-fruit-fly-fracas) notes that studying fruit flies helps fight the invasive pests in the real world, can help in genetics, and so on, and so forth—all practical pursuits. I also note, with some irony, that Palin is much closer to Feser politically 😉

    >But that isn’t how Feser justifies it, though, so it’s not really relevant to his argument.

    Not explicitly, though I think that’s the undercurrent of most of his work. But fair enough, we can leave that aside as it is an extrapolation.

    >More specifically, what it does is that a system is developed that HAPPENS to promote survival, or rather that the organism with it survives more than the ones that don’t have it. So the mechanism itself is rarely directly aimed at survival, and since evolution is generally not intentional in its designs it can’t impart that real purpose to the things either (without having a purpose itself, which it doesn’t since evolution can indeed evolve things to extinction). So that seems to deal with your other comment as well, since evolution cannot impart or claim a final to final to final cause or purpose and so make rationality be about survival. If we lived in a chaotic world where rationality and gaining knowledge actually killed us, things that had rationality would still have the purpose of gaining knowledge, and anything that developed it would die off.

    This is a very interesting response, but I think it erodes Feser’s position more than mine. So if I understand you correctly, you hold each of our faculties has a specific purpose of its own, and it’s only a happenstance, or side-effect, in evolutionary terms that they aid our survival in that beings that had them lived to reproduce more than those that didn’t. But then how would Feser argue that our “highest purpose” is the pursuit of truth? Our truth-seeking mechanisms are just one of our mechanisms, after all—we have sensory, digestive, etc. mechanisms as well, but Feser, at least, would say all those mechanisms exist “for the sake of” our rational one. Why? From an evolutionary perspective, they’re all the same—the purpose of our stomachs is to digest food, and that would be their purpose even if we lived in some bizarre world where digesting food killed us. So why does one mechanism or faculty take precedence over all the others? That’s the problem with your defense, I think—it seems to reduce organisms to a bundle of mechanisms which happen to collectively contribute to survival; such a non-holistic view makes it harder to argue for the organism as a whole having a certain final cause. I think Feser makes precisely this point in *Aristotle’s Revenge,* but I didn’t concentrate on that book’s treatment of evolution in mine so I don’t remember the page number offhand.

    >For natural objects, there is no initial intention imparted at creation, so its intentionality is determined by its natural role in the system itself, and that we can work out a priori as long as we know the details of what properties the object has.

    Well, I’m a little confused because it sounds like, at least from your reconstruction of Feser’s argument, that God is giving things intention when He creates them:

    “For natural objects, they can have an inherent telos by their full nature. Now, of course, Feser thinks that they have been given a nature by God and so that’s what their telos is, so it is similar but also stronger.”

    If I may, I’d ask you directly—what’s the difference between God “imparting intention at creation to things” and “things being given a nature by God” thus determining their telos, which I assume is like their intention?

    • verbosestoic Says:

      The problem is, what makes the “higher” or “DEEP”er fields worthier than mastery of trivia? I think it still boils down to practicality in the end.

      I disagree. I think that higher relates to intellectual challenge and deeper relates to how much knowledge the field covers. After all, mathematics is considered one of those higher fields but is also often criticized for being too abstract and having no direct application to our daily lives, so it wouldn’t get its status from practicality (except maybe among physicists).

      But Feser would claim that “philosophy,” in a very loose sense of “knowing the truth about DEEP things” is the highest form of activity, and that I would flatly deny.

      Feser’s point is actually that it would provide ultimate truths, not merely deeper ones, and that coming to understand the ultimate truth is what our rationality is aimed at. As you do note Plantinga’s EAAN, there is an issue with trying to replace that with practicality because it would suggest that our reason is not aimed at truth, and we do know that we can have useful falsehoods. Ultimately, your view would lead to that and argue that we should be irrational if it is beneficial to us, both of which are quite controversial.

      Well, like I said above, my example in *The Unnecessary Science* was exaggerated, and I think it may have been a little mean, I probably should have clarified that there’s nothing wrong with trivia specifically, or “truth for the sake of truth” generally.

      The problem here for me is that I don’t see how you can make any valid criticism of Feser if the strong form of your point ISN’T true. If truth for the sake of truth is valuable even if it has no practical purpose, then objecting that Feser makes truth for the sake of truth too valuable since we at least should prefer practical knowledge is a pretty weak argument. All you’d be doing is suggesting that practical knowledge is valuable as well (which Feser wouldn’t deny) and then suggesting that truth for the sake of truth with no practical value might not be as valuable, at which point we’d be totally justified in saying that unless you can actually demonstrate that it’s not really an objection. And it seems to me that the only way to object to Feser using practicality is to prove that practical knowledge is valuable and ultimate knowledge isn’t. So, again, I really think that’s what you need to have a serious objection to Feser, and that is a very difficult argument to make.

      So if I understand you correctly, you hold each of our faculties has a specific purpose of its own, and it’s only a happenstance, or side-effect, in evolutionary terms that they aid our survival in that beings that had them lived to reproduce more than those that didn’t. But then how would Feser argue that our “highest purpose” is the pursuit of truth? Our truth-seeking mechanisms are just one of our mechanisms, after all—we have sensory, digestive, etc. mechanisms as well, but Feser, at least, would say all those mechanisms exist “for the sake of” our rational one. Why?

      Because of our classification as “rational animals”. What separates us from other animals is our rationality, and our more pure rationality and reasoning that applies itself to things beyond simple practical knowledge. Because that’s our defining trait, that’s a special property for us, and so in order to live up to our Form we need to maximize our rationality. And for Feser that means seeking out ultimate truth. And that, for Feser, leads to God.

      If I may, I’d ask you directly—what’s the difference between God “imparting intention at creation to things” and “things being given a nature by God” thus determining their telos, which I assume is like their intention?

      The latter is creating natural processes that ultimately produce objects by, for Feser, having God join Forms to Essences, so they get their final cause directly from the Form. God does not create the object directly, but sets up and maintains the processes that will ultimately do so. A direct creation would, say, God deciding to create ex nihilo an object as a miracle, and in that case I think its purpose would be the purpose for which it was created (if that differed from the purpose the Form would grant it, of course).

      So in summary the difference is between direct and indirect intentionality. Natural creation is indirect intentionality, while direct intentionality is what we get from direct creation.

  5. Gunther Laird Says:

    I disagree. I think that higher relates to intellectual challenge and deeper relates to how much knowledge the field covers. After all, mathematics is considered one of those higher fields but is also often criticized for being too abstract and having no direct application to our daily lives, so it wouldn’t get its status from practicality (except maybe among physicists).

    Well, “among physicists” is a pretty big exception 😉 We might not use higher-level math in our day to day lives, but if it’s necessary to make, say, nuclear power work, then that’s definitely something of very immediate practical use—look at what’s happening in Texas just recently ☹

    Aside from that, though, there’s an interesting disconnect here between your justification of these seemingly impractical arts and Feser’s view of the truth. If intellectual challenge makes a field worthier, that would mean philosophy of religion is less worthy—the arguments for God that Feser gives (regardless of whether one agrees with them or not) don’t seem to be more challenging in any sense than complex mathematics, and indeed Feser would admit this—The Last Superstition and Aquinas are aimed towards college students, not genius professors. Same with “how much knowledge the field covers”—in that case, math would be the deepest subject at all since it touches on nearly all fields of knowledge, but how directly relevant to any other field is philosophy of religion? 😛 Still, I suppose Feser would argue it’s a matter of “ultimate truth” rather than how complex or challenging that truth is, so—

    coming to understand the ultimate truth is what our rationality is aimed at. As you do note Plantinga’s EAAN, there is an issue with trying to replace that with practicality because it would suggest that our reason is not aimed at truth, and we do know that we can have useful falsehoods.

    I think there’s some slippage here—there’s a difference between saying “rationality is aimed at truth” and saying “rationality is aimed at ultimate truth.” I’m arguing here that that our rationality is indeed aimed at truth, but at useful truths, not “ultimate” truth, whatever that would mean, in either Feser’s sense of God or something else. Whether or not “useful falsehoods” might exist (and that’s debatable) wouldn’t challenge my position that rationality is aimed at useful truths, not “useful falsehoods.” Now, you might say…

    I don’t see how you can make any valid criticism of Feser if the strong form of your point ISN’T true. If truth for the sake of truth is valuable even if it has no practical purpose, then objecting that Feser makes truth for the sake of truth too valuable since we at least should prefer practical knowledge is a pretty weak argument. All you’d be doing is suggesting that practical knowledge is valuable as well (which Feser wouldn’t deny) and then suggesting that truth for the sake of truth with no practical value might not be as valuable, at which point we’d be totally justified in saying that unless you can actually demonstrate that it’s not really an objection. And it seems to me that the only way to object to Feser using practicality is to prove that practical knowledge is valuable and ultimate knowledge isn’t. So, again, I really think that’s what you need to have a serious objection to Feser, and that is a very difficult argument to make.

    My response is that for Feser’s argument to work, he needs a very strong argument of his own, that our rational faculties are directed not just towards truthm but towards the *ultimate* truth specifically. Or to directly reference the text of Aquinas, I think that even if you accept that the purpose of human rationality is to know truth, there’s no reason to accept that purpose “is more fully realized the deeper is its understanding of the nature of the world and the causes underlying it” (location 2314 of the Kindle edition). My argument is that the purpose of the intellect is most “fully realized” when it grasps truth relevant to survival and prosperity.

    I don’t think it’s necessary to accept the most extreme version of my argument (that non-practical truths are entirely useless) for this argument to have force. All you need to do is accept that practical truths are *more* valuable than non-practical ones, even if non-practical truths do have *some* value. I think a comparison with chewing gum might help understand this. Chewing for the sake of chewing isn’t really the purpose of our digestive faculties—we have teeth and mouthparts to break down food for ingestion, but chewing something and spitting it out obviously isn’t a fulfillment of our mouth’s telos. It’s just something that happens to feel good as a side-effect of our mouth’s capabilities. But chewing gum is harmless, and most importantly, pleasurable—there is genuinely some value people take out of chewing gum. So I conclude that some activities, though not as valuable as those that directly fulfill a certain Telos (in Feser’s sense), nevertheless have a minor but appreciable degree of value in the pleasure they bring—eating and nourishing oneself is more valuable (and necessary to survival) than chewing gum, but chewing gum is harmless and provides a bit of pleasure, so it has a bit of value, rather than none at all.

    So too, I aver, with truth. I hold that the primary telos of rationality is to attain truths that help us survive, but non-practical truths like those relating to math (though again, those might be more practical than they seem at first glance) can be fun to think about or provide mental stimulation, even if they’re not what our minds are “for.” Thus, one can still hold that our minds exist to help us survive without claiming that non-practical truth has no value at all, just like one can believe our ability to chew is for the purpose of digesting food without claiming that chewing gum is harmful or entirely value-less.

    Because that’s our defining trait, that’s a special property for us, and so in order to live up to our Form we need to maximize our rationality.

    My example above referring to spiders illustrates the problem with that line of reasoning, namely that “defining traits” still have the telos of survival, not that they’re good in and of themselves. Spiders are distinctively web-spinning creatures, that’s what distinguishes them from everything else, that’s their special property (plenty of other animals spin webs and cocoons, but IIRC spiders are the only ones that make webs specifically). But the very act of spinning webs isn’t an ultimate good in and of itself—spiders spin webs for the purpose of catching prey, and that’s the metric by which their “goodness” (in Feser’s sense) can be judged. Thus, even if rationality is a “special property” of human beings, it still serves nothing but the purpose of getting us food, shelter, etc., just like the “special property” of spiders (spinning webs) serves the ultimate purpose of getting our little friends food, giving them shelter, and so on.

    The latter is creating natural processes that ultimately produce objects by, for Feser, having God join Forms to Essences, so they get their final cause directly from the Form. God does not create the object directly, but sets up and maintains the processes that will ultimately do so. A direct creation would, say, God deciding to create ex nihilo an object as a miracle, and in that case I think its purpose would be the purpose for which it was created (if that differed from the purpose the Form would grant it, of course). So in summary the difference is between direct and indirect intentionality. Natural creation is indirect intentionality, while direct intentionality is what we get from direct creation.

    Now this is very interesting, and ties into what we brought up in your discussion of Chapter 6, namely the seeming necessity of the Forms. First, I think you meant “Join forms to existence,” right? But aside from that, there are a few problems here.

    1: Even if we were to claim that God doesn’t create natural objects directly, doesn’t Feser hold that He maintains them in existence, i.e that creation is a constant, ongoing act? So in that case God is creating objects directly, or at least conserving them directly, which seems to be an example of “direct intentionality.”

    2: I think this leads into some issues with the topics I initially brought up earlier. Earlier you said, “For Feser, then, the telos of any natural object would be the purpose God gave it, and so that would remain how it should be assessed when considering how well it has fulfilled its purpose.” But now you’re saying, God is just “join[ing] Forms to [existence], so they get their final cause directly from the Form.” So as far as I can tell, in this view, it’s not God giving natural objects their telos, it’s their Form, and God is just attaching that Form to existence. That doesn’t seem compatible with the telos of a natural object being the purpose God gave it, because as I just went over, God isn’t giving anything a Form or a telos (except maybe via creation ex nihilo), it’s the Form itself that gives a purpose or telos to natural objects—reminding me of what I said in my response to your thoughts on Chapter 6, that the Forms seem to be doing more work than God in this metaphysical scheme, which is…curious, or at least it would be from Feser’s viewpoint 😉

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