Is Reality Optional?
Is reality just a construct of our minds? Is it whatever we feel it is? Can I declare I am a 10 foot tall, 5-year-old Chinese girl and it really is so? Can I declare myself an animal or an alien species trapped in this human body and it becomes reality? Or, is there some objective nature to reality that is true regardless of what we may think about it?
The modern mind has truly fallen down the rabbit hole. We now deny the most basic truths of the world around us.
New absurdities appear in news headlines every day. Bathrooms and sports have become a flashpoint for those who affirm reality against those who want to make it whatever they feel.
The root of this mass denial of reality is the loss of our 3rd piece of classical theism missing from the modern mind: essentialism. Its loss comes with both serious and absurd consequences.
This is the final set of posts of this series (see previous posts here). In this first post, I will again begin by describing what essentialism is. Then in the next post, I will discuss how its loss leads to errors in the secular mind, followed by errors in the church.
Men Without Chests
We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful. 1
–C. S. Lewis
I am shocked how detached from reality we have become. Maybe I shouldn’t be. Many great minds from the past warned of the dangers of rejecting objective truths of reality.
For instance, C. S. Lewis warned us of this exact outcome in his classic work The Abolition of Man. In it, C. S. Lewis describes a new book being used to educate children he calls The Green Book. The Green Book describes two men staring at a waterfall, one says the waterfall is sublime the other says it is pretty.
Rather than saying that a waterfall actually is sublime, the authors of The Green Book claim the person is really saying “I have feelings of sublimity about the waterfall.” The hidden claim is value is not something inherent in the being of reality, but rather is just made up by our mind.
What he will learn quickly enough, and perhaps indelibly, is the belief that all emotions aroused by local association are in themselves contrary to reason and contemptible. 2
–C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis points out that this idea will lead children to believe that all statements of value are just feelings, and that these statements are not really important. 3
If all value is just based on feelings, then even virtues such as courage and honor are just constructs of our minds too. They are just emotions that do not say something true about the external world. As such, Lewis claimed the world would soon be filled with men without chests, because men would no longer learn to temper their emotions to conform with reality through the virtues. As it is now commonplace to speak about how toxic masculinity is, it seems Lewis was most prophetically right. 4
Realist vs Non-Realists
Is there a part of reality that truly is sublime? Are our minds experiencing emotions that say something true about nature or are they projecting feelings onto dead matter?
Underneath this discussion of green books and waterfalls emerges a battle of two world views. One is the realist view; that all objects contain universal essences that exist independently of how we think of them.
The other is the anti-realist view; that there are no universal essences. On this view much of our experience of the world is just constructed by our mind. Anti-realism can take different forms, but most trace back to a position called nominalism. I will discuss this topic in greater detail in a later section.
As C. S. Lewis argues, the anti-realist view of the world has serious implications on how we derive value. Ultimately, anti-realism must deny that objective value even exists.
It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are….And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to an objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason (when we feel liking for what ought to be approved) or out of harmony with reason (when we perceive that liking is due but cannot feel it). No emotion is, in itself, a judgement; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. But they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.5
— C. S. Lewis
Though most people are likely not aware of the specifics, what we are experiencing in the world today is a battle of the realist/essentialist versus the anti-realist/nominalist and what is at stake is the stability of society itself.
The practical result of education in the spirit of The Green Book must be the destruction of the society which accepts it. 6
–C. S. Lewis
What Essentialism Is
Essentialism is the heart of the realist view of the world.
What something is – its essence or nature – determines what capacities it has to act in the world. We commonly call these powers or abilities. For instance, a human has a lot of powers: the power of locomotion, the power to think, the power to communicate through speech, etc.
Essences also set limits for what a thing cannot do. A human cannot naturally fly. A human cannot naturally change colors like a chameleon.
When you get to the most specific difference that marks a thing off from everything else in the universe, you have reached its essence. This is exactly what we do with language when we try to define things.
To define something just means, literally, to set forth its limits in such a way that one can distinguish it from all other things of a different kind. (To distinguish it from all other things of the same kind belongs to the theory of individuation, which I discuss in Chapter 5.4). Putting the point again in Aristotelian terminology (which will happen often throughout this book), to give the definition of something it to say what it is…Put simply, the real essentialist position is that it is possible to say correctly what things are. 7
–David S. Oderberg
With water, its specific difference is being composed of H2O. Nothing else in the world is composed of H2O that is not water. There are other things that are odorless. There are other things that are liquid. Water is the only odorless, liquid thing composed of H2O though.
Macroscopic vs. Microscopic
Once you reach the specific difference, it doesn’t mean you have exhausted everything you can describe about a substance. One can certainly look deeper.
Again, for water, we could look at the deeper composition of the H2O molecules and find atoms of Hydrogen and Oxygen. We could continue, looking at the parts of the atoms, electrons, protons, and neutrons, and find further divisible parts.
As we go deeper and deeper we have actually moved away from the essence of water completely and are discovering other entities that each have their own essences. We have moved beyond the specific difference of water and are no longer even talking about water. 8
An essentialist view of reality doesn’t favor the microscopic over the macroscopic.9 This is the exact tendency of the modern, empirical view of the world though. It is to try and atomize everything into the smallest building blocks possible and claim that is the “essence” (loosely speaking) of everything.
This is a reductionist view of reality and ends up denying essences; denying things really are what they are. Instead it views everything in terms of the smallest part it finds and all of our classifications as useful fictions. As we shall see, this reductionist view of reality ultimately is not tenable.
Problems With Denying Essentialism
Science and Essentialism
Science is about finding general truths. There can’t be general truths if things don’t have essences/natures.
Why does the molecule water always behave the same way? Why does water not act like diamonds, a dog, or steel? Water’s nature determines how it behaves. Science is the study of essences.
There must be some things in common between things of the same kind. There must be a reason things of a similar kind behave similarly. If not, science cannot work.
And yet, many prominent scientists do deny essentialism causing many philosophical problems of which they are likely not even aware.
The loss of the idea of forms or formal causes is largely responsible for science taking a reductionist view of everything. Remembering back to our discussion of Aristotle’s four causes from the third post in this series, a form tells matter how to behave. It is what tells matter to have the properties it has. While scientists study these properties, the history of science has included many famous thinkers that denied there is things such as forms.
Worth noting here is the difference between substantial and accidental forms. The substantial form is a thing’s essence. If you change this, it becomes a new substance. Accidental forms are things you could change without changing a thing’s essence. This would be like changing a things’s color.
Painting a wall red doesn’t change that it is a wall. Scholastic philosophers call this accidental change. Adding a proton to a hydrogen atom does change it into a new substance – Helium. Scholastic philosophers call this substantial change.
There is much more to say about forms, but I do not want to get too in-depth here. This will require many future, specialized posts to do so, lest this post become a book.
Unity of Objects?
With the theory of forms, an essentialist has an explanation for the unicity of objects – why a person, though comprised of many parts (i.e. its organs, cells, molecules, atoms, etc.), behaves as a single entity that acts and persists through time. It is the substantial form that is determining matter to behave as this single entity.
Note that to say that a ball can be analyzed into its form and matter is not to say that it can be “reduced” to them, for the form and matter themselves can in turn be understood only in terms of the entire ball of which they are constituents. The Aristotelian conception of substance is in this regard holistic rather than reductionist. 10
On a non-essentialist point of view, the unity of substances becomes a problem without an explanation. And yet, forms and universal essences are exactly what many great thinkers denied during the enlightenment era and rise of the scientific revolution.
Now it is an understatement to remark that the concept of substantial form has taken a hammering in the last four hundred years, this being probably the single greatest philosophical reason why real essentialism went into almost terminal decline. Descartes scorned the notion. Locke claimed to have ‘no idea at all’ of substantial form, a term he described as having been introduced by ‘mistaken pretenders to a knowledge that they had not’ (Locke 1975: II.31.6, p. 380; III.8.2, p. 475). And Hume, altogether a non-believer in substance, descried substantial form as ‘incomprehensible’, a ‘fiction’, one of the ‘spectres in the dark’ conjured by the ‘ancient philosophers’, from which delusions ‘modern philosophy’ promised to free the mind (Hume 1978: I.iv.3, p. 222; I.iv.4, p. 226).
These condemnations are without foundation, whatever the explicable deficiencies in the empiricists’ learning concerning the doctrine of substantial form, whatever the state of science at the time, and whatever the faulty teachings of late Scholasticism that gave rise to so much misunderstanding. There is no explanation for the unity of any material substance without the postulation of substantial form. Most contemporary metaphysicians confronted with the unity problem would either feign ignorance of just what the problem was or attempt to explain it in terms of some sort of arrangement of, or relation between, micro-particles at some level. 11
–David S. Oderberg
Loss of Power
Another problem with denying essences is we lose the ability to speak coherently about causality. This stems from the denial that things have powers of action in the world.
A famous criticism of essentialism is a joke that opium has a “dormitive power” because it causes sleep. The joke is supposed to show that saying essences are real is just a tautology and that it explains nothing. 12
The problem is describing a thing’s powers is not attempting to describe the process of causation in full. It is, rather, to describe what effects a certain substance is capable of causing. The tautological charge doesn’t apply then. This is misunderstanding what a description of powers is claiming to explain.
The relationship between causality and essentialism is a huge topic I do not intend to fully get into here. Suffice to say, without essences, there is no explanation that science can give why things behave according to a pattern. There is no reason for opium to “cause” sleep. What ends up happening is actually a denial of cause and effect.
Being skeptical of causality may sound utterly absurd, but it is exactly the positioning that the influential 18th century philosopher David Hume came to. You can see my post here for a more detailed explanation of Hume’s denial of cause and effect.
If essentialism is the heart of the realist position, nominalism is the heart of the anti-realist position.
Nominalists deny there are any universal elements to essences. They deny that there really is a universal human nature, or “dogness”, or “redness”. Instead nominalists believe these are just concepts we project on to matter. Everything is just a specific instance of itself. There is no shared nature between things.
Nominalism denies that there are any true universals and insists that only particulars are real—there is this triangle and that one, this cat and that one, but no such thing as “triangularity” or “catness” over and above them. 13
A typical example is redness. A realist would say redness really exists. Anything that is red shares this universal redness nature. A nominalist would say red is just the word we choose for objects that look similar, but there is no universal “redness” that exists.
Similarly, conceptualists believe there are no universal essences in objects in the world. They do believe that there are universal concepts in our minds though.
Conceptualism can be thought of as a kind of middle-ground position, and holds that universals exist, but only in the mind—“triangularity,” “catness,” and the like are the products of abstraction, and correspond to nothing in the world of external objects, all of which are particular. 14
The nominalist position will ultimately deny that our words accurately reflect the world around us. Instead, everything becomes feelings and interpretations. 15
A nominalist thinks because we cannot directly observe one of these universals or forms, there is no need to describe reality with them. The denial of universal essences will ultimately undercut the nominalist’s position and even reason itself.
Also worth noting is an extremely brief description of the common views of universals throughout history.
- Plato thought universals existed in their own separate realm. Everything that is red participates in the form red from this other realm.
- Aristotle also thought universals existed but only in the things themselves. For instance, there is a universal essence of redness but it only exists in the objects that are red.
- Nominalists think there is no universal essence of redness. It is just a name used to describe similar looking particular things.
- Scholastic realism bridges the gap between Platonic and Aristotelian realism. Like Aristotelian realism, scholastic realism places universals in the objects that exist in the world. Like Platonic realism, the ground of all essences exist eternally in the infinite divine intellect.
The position I am advocating for is this final version, scholastic realism. It seems to solve the shortcomings of all the other views while also mapping well with what we observe in reality and what the Bible reveals.
It may seem that a debate over the nature of universals and essences is obscure and unimportant. As we shall see in the next post, it is actually at the heart of most disagreements, political and theological. 16
Why Nominalism is Wrong
If nominalism or conceptualism is true why do things of a similar kind have similar abilities and powers? Any explanation they offer will pull them right back to verifying what the essentialist has been advocating for all along: resemblances between things are universal essences.
Consider nominalism, which denies that there are universals, numbers, propositions, or possible worlds. For example, where we think there are universals, the nominalist says, there are really only general names, words we apply to many things. Hence, there is, for instance, the general term “red”, which we apply to various objects, but no such thing as redness. Of course, this raises the question why we apply the term “red” to just the things we do, and it is hard to see how there could be any plausible answer other than “because they all have redness in common”, which brings us back to affirming the existence of universals after all. The nominalist might seek to avoid this by saying that the reason we label different things “red” is that they resemble each other, without specifying the respect in which they resemble each other. This is implausible on its face—isn’t it obvious that they resemble each other with respect to their redness? 17
While a nuanced discussion of essentialism can be very technical, at the same time it should be apparent that we are simply describing what is also just common sense. Things are what they are and behave according to their kind. It is the non-essentialist view of the world that goes against our common sense.
Snow is White?
By saying universals only exist in our minds, conceptualism aims to be a middle position between nominalism and realism. This has very similar problems to nominalism and shows that any anti-realist position will fail to be an adequate account of reality.
Would the formula for the area of a triangle be true if there were no humans in existence? Of course! This is a truth about the universal nature of triangles. It is independent of our minds. This shows that universals are not just concepts in our minds, they are objective truths about reality.18
Similarly, if all universals were just concepts in our minds, we could never actually speak of the same thing. For instance, two people speaking about snow would each have their own concept of what snow is in their mind so that they are, in fact, not speaking about the same thing. 19
This is obviously false. Even if two people speak of snow with different languages – “snow is white” and “la neige est blanc” – they are in fact speaking of the same universal essence of snow.
Ultimately, the non-realist will deny some aspects of essentialism: universals, substantial forms, or essences themselves. In doing so, a non-realist loses more than they likely realize.
The Teleological Connection to Essentialism
The ancient Greeks asked what makes anything good? They found the answer in essences. While the Greeks disagreed with each other over the exact nature of these essences (viz., Plato vs. Aristotle), the realists all agreed that a thing was good in proportion to how well it was acting in accord with its essence.
This is the teleological connection to essentialism. The essence determines how a thing should be. The realization of this essence or lack there of determines its goodness or badness.
As we saw in the posts on teleology, there is a direct connection to morality and human action. The goal of virtuous people is to train ourselves to act in accord with reason. When we do so, we train our emotions to elicit appropriate and just responses to our nature and the world around us.
When we deny essentialism, we lose the ability to speak about what is right and wrong. We lose the ability to speak clearly about what things are. In the end, we also lose the ability to speak about causality and undercut empiricism and rationality itself.
The bottom line is that by abandoning formal and final causes, modern philosophy necessarily denied itself any objective basis for morality. If nothing is objectively for anything – if nothing has any inherent goal, end, or purpose – then reason is not objectively “for” anything either, including the pursuit of the good. Hence there cannot possibly be any way of grounding morality rationally. And if there are no essences or forms in the sense affirmed by classical realists (whether Platonic, Aristotelian, or Scholastic), then there is no sense to be made of the good as an objective feature of reality anyway. The good becomes a function of our subjective preferences, desires, sentiments, or “intuitions,” and reason is “for” whatever we want it to be for, which may or may not include the pursuit of what has traditionally been called “morality.” There is just nothing else for the good or for reason to be if one follows the mechanistic line. Like causation, or free will, or knowledge, or the concept of a person, or the idea of natural human rights, morality in general becomes an illusion, a “projection” or convenient fiction at best, when one follows through consistently the implications of the moderns’ anti-Aristotelian revolution. Indeed, insofar as personhood and free will are themselves necessary prerequisites to morality, the very possibility of a rational system of ethics is triply undermined by the moderns. Successfully grounding morality in reason requires putting oneself in the company of Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, and thus taking on board formal and final causes, immutable human nature, God, the soul, the natural law, the whole ball of wax. Awful luck, I know, for the sort of people who find the highest expression of human dignity in bathhouses, abortion clinics, and needle-exchange programs, but there it is. 20
Can’t Stop the Tide
I imagine at the time, many probably thought The Green Book didn’t seem like such a big deal. C. S. Lewis was right to sound the alarm. When you lose a realist perspective of the world, you end up denying objective truths exists. You end up with men without chests. Though he and others tried to stop this from happening, I am afraid to say it is now the world we find ourselves living in.
Next up, we will discuss how anti-essentialism has manifested in the culture and within the modern church.
Genesis 1:21 New International Version (NIV)
21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
- Lewis, C.S. The Abolition of Man. P. 11 ↩︎
- Ibid., P. 4 ↩︎
- “The schoolboy who reads this passage in The Green Book will believe two propositions: firstly, that all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker, and secondly, that all such statements are unimportant.” Lewis, CS. The Abolition of Man. P. 2 ↩︎
- https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/01/gillette-commercial-toxic-masculinity-debate/ ↩︎
- Lewis, CS. The Abolition of Man. P. 7 ↩︎
- Ibid., P. 12 ↩︎
- David S. Oderberg. Real Essentialism (Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy) loc. 86 ↩︎
- ”So, for example, scientists have discovered that water has the H2O structure. Are they justified in regarding this as the essence of water? (For the hidden structure essentialist it will be the whole essence, but for the real essentialist it is only part of the essence.) Not if being composed of H2O forms a genus – because then it would not mark water off from every other kind of thing. But as far as anyone knows – and we have no reason even to suspect otherwise – being composed of H2O does not form a genus. There is nothing in the world that is composed of H2O and is not water. Hence water has nothing more specific about it – in real essentialist terms, no more specific difference – to mark it out from everything else. Being composed of H2O is as specific as it gets. And yet it might be true, and many physicists would claim it is, that being composed of H2O is wholly explicable in terms of a more general subatomic theory, perhaps a theory of quarks or some other fundamental particle. If true – if we can get even more general than H2O to explain the behaviour of water – it does not follow that, to use Popper’s inappropriate phrase, we have got ‘more and more essential’ in our explanation of water. We have got the essence of water once we have got its specific difference (for the contemporary essentialist, its hidden structure), and by moving to a more general theory to explain that specific difference we may have more success in unifying and simplifying our explanation of reality, but it does not follow that we will have overthrown the proposition that being composed of H2O is of the essence of water, in favour of some other, ‘deeper’ essence.There is no ‘essence of the essence’ of something – either you have its essence or you do not. But once you have its essence, that does not exhaust or preclude further investigation into the structure of that essence. And this helps to illustrate the difference between real essentialism and hidden structure essentialism: the real essentialist allows investigation into the structure of essence, but does not thereby end up claiming that what the discovered structure is a structure of was not the essence after all. The hidden structure essentialist, on the other hand, thinks that by delving into ‘deeper and deeper’ structures (to echo Popper) she is somehow getting closer and closer to the essence. From the real essentialist perspective, the irony is that the deeper and deeper she goes, the more and more likely it is that the essence she is searching for will vanish from sight altogether. No wonder that Locke thought real essences, understood as hidden structures, were ‘something we know not what’.” David S. Oderberg. Real Essentialism (Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy) MOBI (Kindle Locations 1064-1068). Taylor and Francis. ↩︎
- “Secondly, real essentialism does not privilege the microscopic over the macroscopic, unless the object of investigation is specifically the microscopic. Taking the macroscopic seriously is shown in the very form of the real essentialist definition, which gives both the genus and the specific difference, for example: ‘Water is a colourless, odourless substance in liquid, solid or gaseous form that …’; ‘Gold is a soft, shiny, yellow, heavy, malleable, ductile metal that … ’; ‘A fish is a cold-blooded, water-dwelling animal that … ’. Again, it is not important for present purposes whether the definition is exact. The point is that, unless we are speaking specifically about the microscopic, the macroscopic always figures in a real essentialist definition, either in the genus, or in the specific difference, or both.” David S. Oderberg. Real Essentialism Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. (Kindle Locations 587-593). Taylor and Francis. ↩︎
- Edward Feser. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism.Kindle Locations 5079-5081. St. Augustine’s Press. ↩︎
- David S. Oderberg. Real Essentialism (Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy)(Kindle Locations 1775-1776). Taylor and Francis. ↩︎
- “Perhaps the most famous criticism of Scholastic metaphysics on the part of the early modern thinkers is the one represented by Molière’s joke about the doctor who claimed to explain why opium causes sleep by saying that it has a “dormitive power.” The reason this is supposed to be funny is that “dormitive power” means “a power to cause sleep,” so that the doctor’s explanation amounts to saying “Opium causes sleep because it has a power to cause sleep.” The reason this is supposed to be a criticism of the metaphysics defended by Aquinas and other Scholastics –which, as we have seen, held that efficient causes are directed towards certain effects as their final causes, so that they can be said to have inherent “powers” to bring about those effects –is that it shows (so it is said) that the explanations provided by Scholastic metaphysics are vacuous tautologies. But though the explanation in question in this case is not very informative, it is not in fact a tautology; it does have substantial content, however minimal. To say “Opium causes sleep because it causes sleep” would be a tautology, but the statement in question says more than that. It says that opium has a power to cause sleep; that is to say, it tells us that the fact that sleep tends to follow the taking of opium is not an accidental feature of this or that sample of opium, but belongs to the nature of opium as such. That this is not a tautology is evidenced by the fact that early modern thinkers tended to regard it as false, rather than (as they should have done were it really a tautology) trivially true. They didn’t say: “Yes, opium has the power to cause sleep, but that’s too obvious to be worth mentioning”; they said: “No, opium has no such power, because ‘powers,’ ‘final causes,’ and the like don’t exist.” So, the critique of Scholasticism implied in Molière’s joke is muddled. Moreover, while it is true to say that the appeal to opium’s inherent powers doesn’t give us the sort of satisfying detailed empirical account of opium’s nature that modern chemistry would, it is important to understand that it is not intended to do so. Its point is rather to state a basic metaphysical truth that underlies the empirical details about opium’s chemical structure, whatever they turn out to be.” Feser, Edward. Scholastic Metaphysics. Loc.87 ↩︎
- Feser, Edward. Shoppers Guide Summary of Teleology. p.146 ↩︎
- Ibid., p.146 ↩︎
- “Summarized, the move toward subjective and intuitive knowledge, opposed to abstract and universal knowledge, led to increasingly radical philosophical propositions. G. W. F. Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and Karl Marx pushed the envelope of nominalist-indebted thought. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) wrote, “There are no facts, only interpretations”—a sentiment echoed in the common contemporary refrain: “There is no truth, only opinions.”In the twentieth century, Jacques Derrida’s work in deconstruction—which asserts that truth cannot be known and words lack real meaning—was a type of hyper-nominalism. Derrida’s famous statement that “there is nothing outside the text” was a denial that words refer to a reality beyond them.Like a constantly mutating virus, nominalism lives on. Yes, ideas do have consequences. And bad ideas, no matter how well-intentioned, have bad consequences.” https://www.catholic.com/index.php/magazine/print-edition/whats-in-a-name ↩︎
- ”The debate between the three views is ancient, and extremely complicated.11 It can also seem at first glance to be very dry, esoteric, and irrelevant to practical life. But nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that virtually every major religious, moral, and political controversy of the last several decades – of the last several centuries, in fact – in some way rests on a disagreement, even if implicit and unnoticed, over the “problem of universals” (as it is known).” Edward Feser. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. Kindle Locations 910-914. St. Augustine’s Press. ↩︎
- Edward Feser. Five Proofs of the Existence of God. Kindle Locations 1448-1455. Ignatius Press. ↩︎
- ”The argument from the objectivity of concepts and knowledge: When you and I entertain any concept – the concept of a dog, say, or of redness, or of conceptualism itself for that matter – we are each entertaining one and the same concept; it is not that you are entertaining your private concept of red and I am entertaining mine, with nothing in common between them. Similarly, when we each consider various propositions and truths, we are entertaining the same propositions and truths. So, for example, when you think about the Pythagorean theorem and I think about the Pythagorean theorem, we are each thinking about one and the same truth; it is not that you are thinking about your own personal Pythagorean theorem and I am thinking about mine (whatever that would mean). So, concepts (and thus universals) and propositions do not exist only in the mind, subjectively, but independently of the mind, objectively.” Edward Feser. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. Kindle Locations 993. St. Augustine’s Press. ↩︎
- “The argument from the possibility of communication: Suppose that, as conceptualism implies, universals and propositions were not objective, but existed only in our minds. Then it would be impossible for us ever to communicate. For whenever you said something – “Snow is white,” say – then the concepts and propositions that you expressed would be things that existed only in your own mind, and would thus be inaccessible to anybody else. Your idea of “snow” would be entirely different from my idea of “snow,” and since your idea is the only one you’d have any access to, and my idea is the only one I’d have access to, we would never mean the same thing whenever we talked about snow, or about anything else for that matter. But this is absurd: we are able to communicate and grasp the same concepts and propositions. Hence these things are not subjective or mind-dependent, but objective, as realism claims.” Edward Feser. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. Kindle Locations 996. St. Augustine’s Press. ↩︎
- Ibid., Locations 4058-4059. St. Augustine’s Press. ↩︎