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Archive for the ‘Ergo discussions’ Category

Thanks again to Chloe Armstrong and Jeff McDonough for their discussion last week. Here are links to all the relevant posts.

The paper being discussed: “Leibniz, Spinoza and an Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists”

Chloe’s first post, A Leibnizian Way Out of the Rationalist’s Dilemma (Part 1): https://philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/a-leibnizian-way-out-of-the-rationalists-dilemma-part-1/

Jeff’s first reply: https://philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/a-leibnizian-way-out-of-the-rationalists-dilemma-mcdonough-reply-part-1/

Chloe’s second post: A Leibnizian Way Out of the Rationalist’s Dilemma (Part 2): https://philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/a-leibnizian-way-out-of-the-rationalists-dilemma-part-2/

Jeff’s second reply: https://philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/mcdonough-reply-part-2/

Comments on all these posts will remain open for another couple of weeks, if anyone else wants to contribute to the discussion.

 

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At the end of her last post, Armstrong raised the question of why we should be tempted to follow Leibniz’s way out of Della Rocca’s Dilemma if we reject key aspects of Leibniz’s way into the problem. The short answer, I think, is that the aspects of Leibniz’s way into the problem that are most problematic are not essential to his way out of Della Rocca’s Dilemma. Leibniz’s suspect commitment to relations being at least partially ontologically grounded in the divine intellect makes Della Rocca’s Dilemma more challenging, not less. Watching Leibniz juggle five balls makes it easier to see how we can juggle three.

 

I introduced the distinction between ontological and semantic grounding largely to explain the sense in which relations are and are not ideal for Leibniz. If we turn specifically to Della Rocca’s argument against the possibility of relata jointly grounding relations I don’t think that distinction is particularly important. What is important is the thought that at least some relational facts might be wholly grounded in their relata, that, for example, the fact that a and b co-exist might be wholly grounded in the existence of a and the existence of b. Borrowing notation that I learned from my colleague Selim Berker, we might express (what I’ll call) Leibniz’s Key Thought by saying that [p • q] <- [p], [q] where “[p]” is shorthand for “the fact that p,” and “[p] <- [q]” is shorthand for “[p] is fully grounded in [q].”

 

Although I think most contemporary philosophers accept Leibniz’s Key Thought, Della Rocca and Bradley would, I believe, demur. They think that [p], [q] cannot fully ground [p • q] on their own. Something more, in their view, is needed, namely, [p] and [q]’s standing in a certain relation, call it “R.” So, to fully ground [p • q], we’d need at least [p], [q] and R. But wait, they’ll say, [p], [q] and R also can’t fully ground [p • q] on their own. For the same reason as before, something more is needed, namely, their standing in some relation, call it “R’”. And so on. If one allows the first regress, obviously we’ll be off to the races. Either we will be committed to doubling back at some point, falling into a vicious circle, or we’ll be launched on an infinite regress. I think contemporary rationalists should follow Leibniz’s lead and nip the regress in the bud by accepting his Key Thought.

 

If I’ve understood her correctly, Armstrong sees Della Rocca’s argument against the possibility of relata jointly grounding relations slightly differently. Her suggestion is that, according to Della Rocca, “the coexistence of a and b requires the relation of partial grounding, which is itself grounded in the coexistence of a and b.” This suggestion, she thinks, generates an “additional fact in need of explanation … namely, why does the fact that a’s existence partially grounds a and b’s coexistence require appeal to both a and b?” But, as I think Armstrong would agree, if there is such a fact as a’s existence partially grounds a and b’s coexistence, it looks like it too can be grounded in a’s existence and b’s existence. Using Berker’s shorthand, and letting “[p] <- – – [q]” stand for “[p] is partially grounded in [q],” we can say [[p • q] <- – -[p]] <- [p], [q]. If Leibniz’s Key Thought is accepted, it will take care not only of Della Rocca’s Dilemma as I’ve interpreted it, but also as Armstrong has interpreted it. Either way, contemporary rationalists could do a whole lot worse than to follow Leibniz’s way out of Della Rocca’s Dilemma.

 

Thanks again to Armstrong for her careful reading and thoughtful comments. And thanks to Stewart Duncan for setting up our exchange.

 

[Posted on behalf of Jeff McDonough]

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In Part 1, I raised some questions about how to understand semantic grounding as a response to the Rationalist’s Dilemma within Leibniz’s system. In this post, I will explore the notion of semantic grounding as a response to the dilemma as it arises for adherents to the PSR more generally.

 

According to McDonough’s solution, relations are semantically grounded in their relata jointly and still satisfy the PSR. In particular, McDonough thinks that the relation of coexistence is unproblematically grounded in the existence of its relata:

 

If one has an explanation for the fact that my dog exists, and one has an explanation for the fact that my cat exists, then ipsis factis one has an explanation for the fact that both my dog and cat exist…what is harder to imagine is [Leibniz] agreeing with the intuition that, say, having explained the fact that one substance exists and the fact that another substance exists, there should remain an additional fact still standing in need of explanation, namely, the fact that both substances exist (McDonough 379).

 

However, Della Rocca offers an argument against the possibility of relata jointly grounding relations. This argument is part of what makes Della Rocca’s dilemma worrisome for those that accept the PSR but reject Leibniz’s views on the ideality of relations (or substance-accident ontology for that matter). Della Rocca argues that the coexistence of objects cannot be grounded in the existence of those objects as follows:

 

…in order for a relation between a and b to hold, the relation must be partially grounded in a (and also partially grounded in b). Call this relation of partial grounding (between a and R) R’. So R holds in part because R’ holds. Why does R’, the relation of partial grounding between a and R, hold? There’s a relation, R’, of partial grounding between a and R only because a coexists with b. Call the relation of coexistence R”…Now in virtue of what do a and b co-exist, i.e. in virtue of what does the relation, R”, of coexistence hold? Just as R’ obtains in part because a and b coexist, so too R” obtains because a and b coexist…so R” holds in part because R” holds…And here we reach a circular explanation of a relation (Della Rocca 149).

 

The key move in the above argument is that grounding the coexistence of a and b requires the relation of partial grounding, which is itself grounded in the coexistence of a and b. McDonough, as we saw above, thinks that coexistence can be semantically grounded in existence, because it’s unlikely that “there should remain an additional fact still standing in need of explanation, namely, the fact that both substances exist.” It is, however, worth revisiting this issue precisely because Della Rocca does not think that coexistence directly appeals to the coexistence of both a and b. Instead, the relation of partial grounding generates appeals to the coexistence of a and b. My point is that the additional fact in need of explanation is a fact about grounding—namely, why does the fact that a’s existence partially grounds a and b’s coexistence require appeal to both a and b?

 

Perhaps Della Rocca is emphasizing the partial aspect of this relation. In order for it to be true that a partially grounds the coexistence of a and b, b must also partially ground coexistence. So the conditions under which a partially grounds a and b’s coexistence depends upon both a and b existing, or their coexistence.

 

On the one hand, I’m not sure I’m doing Della Rocca’s objection justice for, when reframed this way, it is still difficult to see why the partial grounding relation requires appeal to coexistence. The partial grounding relation itself is not so specific as to involve the other objects involved in partial grounding. Thus, to my mind, a’s existing partially grounds the coexistence of a and b in the same way that a’s existing partially grounds the coexistence of a and c, in the same way it would partially ground the coexistence of a, b, and c.

 

On the other hand, it is also true that a’s existence does not partially ground a and b’s coexistence without b’s existence. This, at least for me, gives Della Rocca’s worry some bite. But what this suggests is that a’s partial grounding depends on b’s existence, and thus only derivatively on the coexistence of a and b. So we have reason to think that a’s partial grounding relation too depends on a’s existence and b’s existence. This is consistent with what McDonough says about semantic grounding: not only is coexistence grounded in existence, but also the partial grounding of coexistence is grounded in existence. What is surprising, perhaps, is that a’s partial grounding depends upon b’s existence, but as long as it does not depend on their coexistence it is not circular.

 

Della Rocca’s argument above focuses on circularity, but he also raises an infinite regress worry—a Bradley-style regress—whereby the relation between x and y is grounded in a further relation which is grounded in other relations which are themselves grounded in other relations and so on (151). The relation of partial grounding is itself partially grounded thus there is the possibility for an infinite regress of grounding relations. While Leibniz seems opposed to an ontological regress of relations (see Mugnai 2010) it is less clear whether he would object to a semantic regress. Because the issue here is rooted in the ontological aspect of relations I have focused more on the circularity worry. However, if partial grounding can be grounded in existence, then even if there are an infinite number of semantic grounding relations as long as the ground for each is not itself a relation there is not a vicious semantic regress.

 

I’ll leave it to the reader to determine the gravity of Della Rocca’s objection, and the viability of my recommendations using McDonough’s resources. But, as I’ve rendered it, I think that Della Rocca’s objections raise the following important questions for developing a notion of semantic grounding:

 

  1. Do semantically grounded relations generate further truths about grounding?
  2. If grounding is a relation, are its instances semantically grounded?
  3. Is coexistence the (partial?) ground of the grounding relation for coexistence?

 

Works Cited

Della Rocca, Michael (2012). “Violations of the Principle of Sufficient Reason in Leibniz and Spinoza.” In Fabrice Correia and Benjamin Schnieder (Eds.), Metaphysical Grounding, Understanding the Structure of Reality (139-164). Cambridge University Press.

 

McDonough, Jeffrey (2015). “An Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists.Ergo, 2, 367-392.

 

Mugnai, Massimo (2010). “Leibniz and ‘Bradley’s Regress.’” The Leibniz Review, 20, 1-12.

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I want to start off by thanking Chloe Armstrong for carefully reading and presenting my paper. She does a great job of summarizing my overall view in the beginning of her post. After that she proposes to reexamine the notion of semantic grounding first with respect to Leibniz’s own system and then with respect to Michael Della Rocca’s more general Rationalist Dilemma.

 

In my paper, in a footnote, I note that “Leibniz’s full semantics is, of course, further complicated by … his esoteric view of truth.” Armstrong presses this point, wondering how we might reconcile my “account of semantic grounding with Leibniz’s conceptual containment theory of truth.” The answer she offers seems to me essentially right. Given Leibniz’s conceptual containment theory of truth, at the end of the day, he’ll have to say that the truth of relational statements is at least partially dependent upon concepts in the divine intellect. The response I offer on Leibniz’s behalf to Della Rocca’s challenge, however, should remain effective as long as he allows – as I think he does, and as Armstrong suggests – that the truth of relational statements concerning co-existence are either partially or immediately grounded in features of the actual world.

 

Della Rocca’s Rationalist Dilemma is a challenge not just for Leibniz but for all would-be rationalists. In my paper, I suggest that at least some contemporary rationalists might want to follow Leibniz’s way out of Della Rocca’s Dilemma. Some of Leibniz’s background commitments are, however, highly contentious. Armstrong thus wonders, quite fairly, “Why, then, should we take Leibniz’s way out if we reject key aspects of Leibniz’s way into the problem?” Why indeed? I’ll take up this question in my reply to Armstrong’s second post.

[Posted on behalf of Jeff McDonough]

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[Comments on Jeffrey McDonough’s “Leibniz, Spinoza and an Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists” (Ergo 2015), by Chloe Armstrong]

 

Consider the following argument that starts with a Leibnizian view about relations:1

  1. Relations are ideal; they are not accidents that inhere jointly in their relata but exist insofar as they are apprehended or cognized by a mind comparing the relata.2
  2. Coexistence is a relation.
  3. Thus, the coexistence between distinct objects is ideal.
  4. If coexistence between distinct objects is ideal, then no numerically distinct objects can coexist.
  5. Therefore, no numerically distinct objects can coexist.

The conclusion of the argument endorses radical monism—the   denial that there exists a plurality of objects (including substances, attributes, and modes). This conclusion is unacceptable for Leibniz who maintains that there is a plurality of substances each with a multiplicity of states. (See, e.g., Monadology §§1-8.) Leibniz is in trouble if his analysis of relations undermines the existence of distinct objects. However, the problem runs deeper because Leibniz’s views about relations results from his commitment to the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR):

 

If an object x is in a certain state (or has a certain property or whatever), then there must be some thing or things in which the state is grounded, some thing or things in virtue of which the thing is in that state (McDonough 368).

The PSR, so formulated, requires that all states—including relations—be grounded. If the only way to ground relations is to affirm their ideality, then Leibniz’s commitment to the PSR seemingly entails radical monism. Michael Della Rocca (2012) summarizes: “Leibniz’s dilemma is this: EITHER give up the claim that there is a multiplicity of objects and that there are states of objects OR give up the claim that relations are grounded” (157).

 

Leibniz’s Way Out:

Jeffrey McDonough argues that Leibniz has a way out of this dilemma: the fact that coexistence is an ideal entity does not rule out the possibility of coexisting objects. The key is to distinguish two types grounding relations: ontological grounding and semantic or truth-making grounding. The ontological ground of a relation is that in virtue of which the relation exists (373). For example, the ontological ground of the relation of coexistence is an idea in God’s mind. Semantic or truth-making grounding explains why a statement or proposition is true, and, in the case of relations, it specifies the conditions under which a relational predicate holds (375). McDonough observes that the fact that the ontological ground of relations is ideal and mind-dependent does not thereby render the semantic ground of relations mind-dependent. Instead, the truth of relational predication might well be grounded in non-relational properties of each of the relata. In the case of coexistence, McDonough claims that the semantic ground of the relation is the existence of each of the relata. Put differently: coexistence is semantically grounded in existence. Thus, premise (4) of the above argument is false because coexistence is ontologically ideal but semantically real. If coexistence is a two-place relational predicate, Rxy, the fact that R picks out an ideal entity does not prevent Rab from being true as long as a and b each exist.

 

Semantic Grounding in Leibniz’s System:

I want to consider semantic grounding first with respect to Leibniz’s own system, and then with respect to Della Rocca’s more general way into the Rationalist’s Dilemma (which does not depend on uniquely Leibnizian views about the ideality of relations).

 

I’m particularly interested in the first issue, since it is not clear that we can successfully account for semantic grounding of coexistence in the Leibnizian system. This is because there are texts in which Leibniz not only identifies relations as dependent on God’s mind, but also seems to affirm that truth is similarly dependent:

 

The reality of relations is dependent on mind, as is that of truths; but they do not depend on the human mind, as there is a supreme intelligence which determines all of them from all time (New Essays 265).

God not only sees individual monads and the modifications of every monad whatsoever, but he also sees their relations, and in this consists the reality of relations and of truth (Notes for Leibniz to Des Bosses, 5 February 1712).

The above passages seem to assimilate the ideality of relations and the ideality of truth(s). If both the ontological and semantic grounds of coexistence are ideal, McDonough’s distinction between ontological and semantic grounds might not be viable for Leibniz.

 

This issue is also tied to the question of how to reconcile McDonough’s account of semantic grounding with Leibniz’s conceptual containment theory of truth. While it is very natural to ground the truth of coexistence of a and b in the existence of a and the existence of b, Leibniz famously maintains that truth is a matter of conceptual containment. Whether existence is contained in the complete concepts of substances is a controversial interpretive matter, but Leibniz does make it clear that the truth of other relations, such as Caesar having crossed the Rubicon, is true because the concept of having crossing the Rubicon is contained in Caesar’s concept. This suggests that—contra McDonough’s suggestion—the semantic ground for relations rests not in features of the relata themselves, but their concepts or notions.

 

I think, however, that reconciling the conceptual containment theory of truth with McDonough’s account will help explain how relational truths are semantically dependent on God’s mind, but not ideal in the same way as the ontological ground of relations. Perhaps relations are semantically grounded in both the existence of the relata and the concepts of the relata. For example, if God creates substances according to their complete concepts, then complete concepts semantically ground relations by (at least partially) grounding the relevant features of the substance that in turn ground the relation. In this sense truth is mind-dependent, but not ideal, because there is no individual entity corresponding to God’s idea of a relation in the world, but there are entities corresponding to complete concepts and those entities are the immediate ground of relational truths.

 

Both Della Rocca and McDonough stress that Della Rocca’s dilemma is not unique to Leibniz’s system, but confronts anyone committed to the PSR. That said, the above formulation of the problem depends on distinctive Leibnizian commitments including the ideality of relations. Why, then, should we take Leibniz’s way out if we reject key aspects of Leibniz’s way into the problem? I’ll take this question up in Part 2.

 

[Thanks to Stewart Duncan for inviting this post, and thanks to Jeff McDonough in advance for taking the time to respond.  In Leibniz, Spinoza and an Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists” McDonough not only steers us through some of the most challenging aspects of Leibniz’s system, but also–amidst these opaque topics–develops the resources to engage the Rationalist’s Dilemma.   My comments reflect only a portion of McDonough’s enlightening and subtle discussion.]

Notes:

  1. This is drawn from Jeffrey McDonough’s argument in “Leibniz, Spinoza and an Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists” (Ergo 2015). McDonough’s version is based on Michael Della Rocca’s discussion in “Violations of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (in Leibniz and Spinoza),” in Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality (Eds. Fabrice Correia and Benjamin Schnieder), Cambridge University Press: 2012, 139-164.
  1. The sense in which relations are mind-dependent does not follow directly from Leibniz’s immaterialism. The distinction between ideal and real is one that Leibniz draws within his system. Relations are ideal in the sense that they are not states of the substances that they relate, but instead states that depend on a mind that understands the relevant features of the substances and compares them.

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I’m pleased to announce that we will continue our series of discussions of papers published by Ergo. (For previous discussions, look here.)

The next discussion will look at Jeffrey McDonough‘s paper “Leibniz, Spinoza and an Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists”, which was published in volume 2 of Ergo. The commentator is Chloe Armstrong. I’d like to thank both Chloe and Jeff for participating in this event. We will publish comments and replies next week. Comments will be open on all posts, for those who would like to participate in the discussion.

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Response to Sydney Penner

[The following is by Stephan Schmid. I am merely posting it on his behalf. — Sydney]

I am impressed about the carefulness and accuracy with which Sydney Penner extracted my rationale for doubting that Suárez’s defense of final causality in God and (inanimate) nature is consistent by Suárez’s own standards. In case you have not read Penner’s discussion of my critical reconstruction of Suárez’s theory of final causation, you should do so now: here is part 1 and here part 2 of his discussion. As Penner succinctly points out, my criticism on Suárez’s account of natural teleology comes in three steps:

(1) Final causation in the operations of natural agents is supposed to derive from the final causation involved God’s external (or transeunt) actions (of concurring with these natural agents).

(2) External actions inherit their final causality from internal (or immanent) acts of will, which are primarily subject to final causation insofar as they are influenced by ends.

(3) As a perfect being, God is not subject to any kind of influence at all, and so there is no final causation in God either.

These three claims entail that there can be neither any final causation in God’s external actions nor (for that matter) in the operation of natural agents. Both, Suárez and Penner, want to avoid my problematic conclusion by denying (2). In God’s case, they argue, the final causality of his transeunt actions need not be inherited from the final causality involved in his immanent actions. I doubt, however, that this move is legitimate. Or to put it in more neutral terms: that this move can only be made at the prize of equivocating on the notion of a final cause. For if ends only qualify as genuine final causes to the extent that they exert a distinctive kind of influx (as Suárez teaches us in DM 12.2.4), the ‘final causes’ in God’s actions must be ‘final causes’ in a very different sense as they are not due to any kind of influx.

As Penner notes, he is inclined to react to my worries with “fear and trepidation”. And I can well understand him. God, especially the Christian one, is notoriously difficult to understand, so better not to step into these muddy waters in the first place. One might turn Penner’s concern even into an objection against my criticism at Suárez’s theory of final causality. That things become murky with respect to God is something we knew all along, and so it comes not as a surprise that the final causality of God’s actions is difficult to understand as well. So, judging Suárez’s whole theory of final causality on the grounds that it has difficulties to account for final causality in God’s actions is neither fair nor particularly revealing: just everyone has these problems.

Let me first respond to this objection before turning to Penner’s own, more benevolent questions about my critical assessment of Suárez’s theory of final causality in God and nature.

First of all, I do not think that everyone has problems to reconcile God and final causality in the way Suárez does. Consider Ockham, for instance, who, according to my reading, defends a counterfactual account of final causation according to which a G qualifies as a final cause of an agent’s action A, if this agent loves or desires G, and would not perform A, if s/he did not love or desire G. I see no difficulty whatsoever in applying this theory to God. Accordingly, I think it is all but unrevealing to see that Suárez runs into problems with his account of final causality when it comes to accounting for the (presumed) teleology in God and nature. To the contrary: it shows that Suárez conceived of the notion of a final cause in a way, which made it difficult for him to apply it for the explanation of the kind of phenomena for whose explanation it was originally introduced. This is not only instructive for understanding Suárez’s conception of causality, but also for understanding the reluctance of many early modern philosophers to accept something like a distinct form of final causality at all.

Nor do I think that my critical stance against Suárez is unfair. I do not confront Suárez with these difficulties out of sheer exegetical malice. Rather I turn to the topic of final causality in God because Suárez himself teaches that the final causality in nature is due to the final causality involved in God’s transeunt actions of concurring with natural agents. If we take Suárez philosophically serious, as I think we should, we have to take a closer look at the final causality in God in order to understand his account of natural teleology.

Let me now turn to Penner’s specific questions.

Ad 1. Penner rightly points out that in his DM 27.1.11, Suárez argues that efficient and final causes are causes in a univocal sense, as “they both properly and intrinsically agree with the nature of a cause”. Now, this sets a difficulty in its own right since Suárez wants to equally abide by the “common view that the nature of the cause is not univocal, but analogical” (DM 27.1.9). (To be sure, Suárez thinks that this is no difficulty at all since he takes it to be non-contradictory to hold that “a name applies analogically to a plurality, yet univocally to some of its members” (DM 27.1.11). But it is at least an open question whether Suárez is right on this score – and Jakob Fink has made a strong case to the effect that Suárez is not).

Be this as it may. Let us grant Suárez that final and efficient causes are ‘causes’ in a univocal sense of the term. How does this affect his account natural teleology? Well, not in a way which leaves him better off with respect to my criticism. Recall my argument: I conclude that Suárez’s account of natural teleology (1) is problematic since it is incompatible with two other claims he endorses – viz. (2) and (3). And the incompatibility of these three claims is not affected if final causes should exert the very same kind of influx as efficient causes do.

One might perhaps want to take the univocity of efficient and final causes as a cue to bail Suárez out of my problem by arguing against (3). We could argue that just as God has from eternity willed what he wants, he has also always been attracted by what he wants – and thereby he has always been subject to the final causality exerted by his desired objects such that there are genuine final causes of God’s immanent actions after all. I take this to be a promising way for a Suárezian to go (even though it is not open to Suárez, who almost explicitly states (3) in DM 23.9.5.). One should note, however, that this suggestion does not depend on the univocity of efficient and final causes. The thought that God might have been attracted by his desired objects from eternity does not loose its plausibility if we think that the the attraction exerted by his desired objects constitutes a different kind of influx than the action of an efficient cause. Thus, my overall verdict remains: The dialectical situation for Suárez’s defense of final causality in nature does not depend on the question as to whether final and efficient causes are ‘causes’ in the univocal sense or not.

Ad 2. Another suggestion for bailing Suárez out is by applying a slightly thinner notion of final causality according to which “final causality … only consists in this dependency which the action has by the agent having thus ordered it to the end” (DM 24.2.12). As Penner rightly points out, on this thinner notion there arguably is final causality in God’s transeunt actions: after all, these actions depend on God’s ends insofar as he performs these actions in view and for the sake of his ends so that God would not perform his actions if he did not pursue the ends he does in fact pursue.

The crucial question is whether this thinner notion of final causality is a legitimate notion of final causality. Here is my reason for doubt. In his DM 12.2 Suárez takes great pains to distinguish genuine causes from other explanatory principles – like “privation and all accidental causes, which do not per se confer or infuse being in another thing” (DM 12.2.4). As Suárez points out, the distinctive feature of causes consists in their influx by which they confer being to the things they cause. Accordingly, causation for Suárez must be something like ‘the communication of being’ which is more than mere ontological dependence in the sense suggested above. For if the fact that A causes B could be reduced to the fact that B could not exist unless A exists, privations and necessary conditions (or “sinequanon-causes) would qualify as genuine causes, too – and Suárez clearly denies that they are. Thus, a thin notion of (final) causality that is spelled out in terms of ontological or counterfactual dependence is too thin to establish a legitimate notion of (final) causality for Suárez.

Ad 3. What in reality is this metaphorical motion by which an end attracts the will? Suárez is clear (in DM 23.4.8) that this motion occurs simultaneously with the will’s action of aligning itself with the end in question. But should we go further and say that will’s being attracted by its end and the will’s alignment with this end are in fact one and the same process, which is described in two ways? In my view, Suárez suggests so quite clearly, saying that “one and the same action of the will is caused by the end and by the will itself and insofar as it is ‹caused by› the will it is efficient causality, but insofar as it is ‹caused by› from the end it is final causality” (ibid.). In acts of will, then, instances efficient and final causation are but conceptually distinct. We should note, however, that the distinction between efficient and final causation is no arbitrary conceptual distinction (a distinctio rationis ratiocinantis, to use Suárez’s own terms), but a conceptual distinction that tracks a real feature of reality (a distinctio rationis ratiocinatae): The efficient causality of the will (consisting in the will’s sponateneous alignment with an end) describes another aspect of a performed choice than the final causality exerted by the end (by appearing attractive to the will). What is more, these two aspects of our choice serve to answer different questions. With respect to the will’s efficient causality we can explain why we were able to make a choice in the first place, while we can explain our particular choice by appealing to the end, which seemed most appealing or attractive to us. Nonetheless, these two causalities or ‘motions’ are not two separate entities but inextricably united in one single act of choice. (In this respect it is telling that Suárez also talks about the end’s ‘concurrence with the will’. For an end’s concurrence with the will seems to be analogous to God’s concurrence with the actions of his creatures insofar as like in the case of the final cause’s concurrence with the efficient causality of the will, God’s concurrence and the action of his creature are united in one single action (cf. DM 22.3.2)).

Ad 4. Suppose that I am right and that a consistent Suárezian cannot hold that there is (genuine) final causality in nature. My Suárezian might of course still claim that there is teleology in nature since everything happens for a purpose. My Suárezian would just insist that we need not to appeal to genuine final causality in order to explain that things happen for a purpose. This Suárezien will of course disagree with an Aristotelian who thinks that there is unproblematic final causation in the natural world, which is not mediated by God. Penner’s deep question is: What exactly does their disagreement consist in? Do they disagree about the concept of a final cause (of what it takes something to be be a final cause) or do they disagree about the metaphysical question as to what natural agents are like and how they work? This question is difficult to decide. – Especially in light of Quine’an considerations to the effect that we cannot strictly distinguish between conceptual and metaphysical questions in the way Penner seems to presuppose. In fact, I think it is impossible to pinpoint the ultimate disagreement between my Suárezian and the Aristotelian clearly on either the conceptual or metaphysical side of their dispute. To begin with, it is not even clear to me whether it is helpful to say that there is a ‘conceptual’ disagreement about final causes between my Suárezian and the Aristotelian. Rather than just disagreeing about the concept of a final cause, they disagree about the right concept of a final cause or about the nature of final causes – and this disagreement is as metaphysical as it can get.

Nonetheless, Penner’s distinction between metaphysical and conceptual questions is clear enough and definitely helps to get a better grip of the stakes of their debate. It is a great question! Let me address it by starting with the things that are safe to say. My Suárezian and the Aristotelian have diverging views on both sides of the dispute: On the more conceptual side, my Suárezian thinks that final causes must exert a distinct kind of influx in order to qualify as genuine final causes, while the Aristotelian defends no such constraint. On the more metaphysical side of their dispute, my Suárezian thinks that natural agents can only act thanks to God’s concurrence and that all their actions are ultimately manifestations of God’s providential plan for the universe. The Aristotelian, by contrast, shares none of these (metaphysical) views. She just thinks that natural substances have by their very nature certain ends or goals which are good for them and which they naturally strive to realize.

Now, the philosophically interesting question is how these sets of views relate to each other. There are in particular two interesting questions to ask: (i) How do the Aristotelian views relate to the Suárezian ones? And (ii) how does the more conceptual view of the Suárezian relate to his more metaphysical views?

Let me begin with question (i): As my Suárezian would think about the case at hand, he would argue that his views provide a theory for the things that the Aristotelian just takes for granted. Of course things have a natural good, which they strive to realize, my Suárezian would say, but how should we account for their ability to do so? How do these natural substances “know about their goods”? – My Suárezian thinks that the only satisfying way to answer these questions consists in integrating the Aristotelian views into a Christian framework by supplementing them with his views about God’s concurrence and providence. What is crucial for understanding the debate between Suárez and the Aristotelian on natural teleology is that Suárez and my Suárezian think that there is more to be explained where the Aristotelian thinks she has already hit on explanatory bedrock (given by the fact that natural substances just have natural goals which they strive to realize). And one important reason for Suárez and my Suárezian to think that there is more to be explained here is that they hold that ends or goals only qualify as genuine final causes if they exert a distinctive kind of influx.

Answering the second question (ii) is more difficult. This is because my Suárezian holds that natural teleology has nothing to do with (genuine) final causes, but is simply due to God’s providential concurrence with natural agents. Accordingly, his views about the nature of final causes and God’s providential concurrence are more or less independent and do not combine for an account of natural teleology, as a part of which they would mutually support each other. We should thus turn to his Suárezian cousin whom we encountered in my response to Penner’s first question (Ad. 1). This Suárezian, recall, thinks that natural agents act for the sake of certain ends because God’s concurs with them as a result of being influenced by these ends (from eternity). For this Suárezian the claims mentioned above – viz. (a) that final causes exert a distinct influx and (b) that natural agents can only act for the sake of an end thanks to God’s providential concurrence – are part of a consistent theory of natural teleology. It is with regard to this theory where it is illuminating to ask about the explanatory connection between the more ‘conceptual’ claim (a) and the more ‘metaphysical’ claim (b). However, it is hard to tell which of these two claims enjoys explanatory priority over which. Perhaps there is not even a clear priority here. Acting on a conception of final causation (a) according to which final causes need to exert a distinct influx makes it natural to take cases of rational agency, where agents are attracted by the ends they represent, as paradigmatic cases of final causation. And from this it is only a short step to claim that the final causality in non-rational agents must be mediated by the activity of a rational agent – and (b) is an interesting way to cash out this claim. Conversely, if you want to defend (b) that the teleological organization of nature is due to the providential concurrence of God, life is easy if you can claim that final causes (or explanatory ends) are primarily grasped and realized by rational agents. (For this allows you to argue that that natural teleology must be mediated by rational agency – of which divine concurrence is a species). And claiming (a) that ends can only become explanatorily relevant if the exert an attracting influence on the agents that can recognize these ends is a good way to make sure that only rational agents can be immediate subjects of final causation.

In disputes about natural teleology more conceptual questions about what genuine teleology consists in and more metaphysical questions about what the world is like seem to be more closely connected than in many other disputes. This is also evident in contemporary debates about whether Darwin has finally rejected natural teleology or rather vindicated natural teleology on a naturalistically acceptable basis. Similarly, late scholastic and early modern debates about natural teleology involve both, more conceptual questions about what final causes are or even whether there can be genuine final causes at all, as well as more metaphysical questions about the structure of the natural world. And it is precisely the intricate entanglement of these two kinds of questions which makes it often hard to decide to what extent these authors denied teleology in nature or not. At the same time, it makes the study of the history of teleology particularly philosophically valuable. It teaches us how intimately conceptual and metaphysical questions can be linked with each other.

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