Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

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Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby patrick » Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:53 pm

I've seen nominalism be brought up several times here, but it seems there's as of yet no thread discussing the issue itself. That said, this area is fairly new to me so I'm just going to put my thoughts surrounding the issue down here for now.

What's most on my mind with this is how Aristotilean hylomorphism seems to echo the basic chemistry principle that structure determines properties. Both seem to acknowledge that it's not just the substance of a thing that matters, but rather the form that substance takes. So I get the impression that even pure scientism would acknowlege that an object is defined both by its matter and its form, albeit only in a concrete sense. Perhaps then, what nominalism is really trying to do is leave out all "forms" that are unjustified and maybe are being assumed to exist because they do exist in the mind -- just not anywhere else (what conceptualism seems to be trying to get at).

That said, if it's conceding that universals really do exist in the mind, that seems to be leaving unanswered why we're assuming they exist there but not outside the mind. Additionally, I get the impression that there's an assumption in nominalism that somehow it's needed to be able to address the epistemological problem of being unable to have certain knowledge of anything outside of our own minds. While strong realism may sit upon this epistemological error, hylomorphism seems not only to account for this, but to readily explain why some ideas can predict real events better than others.

As an aside, one of the issues that I used to have with most Christian philosophy was that it seemed to assume a sort of strong realism, making it seem like many ideas were being taken for more than they really are. But it's important to note this was an impression that only registered internally, not on an explicitly intellectual level. I bring this up because I think several atheists who used to frequent this board also got this impression on an internal level, based on their rejecting arguments as "word games" or leaving a discussion unresolved despite accepting all the premises that would lead to a theistic conclusion.

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby abelcainsbrother » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:56 pm

patrick wrote:I've seen nominalism be brought up several times here, but it seems there's as of yet no thread discussing the issue itself. That said, this area is fairly new to me so I'm just going to put my thoughts surrounding the issue down here for now.

What's most on my mind with this is how Aristotilean hylomorphism seems to echo the basic chemistry principle that structure determines properties. Both seem to acknowledge that it's not just the substance of a thing that matters, but rather the form that substance takes. So I get the impression that even pure scientism would acknowlege that an object is defined both by its matter and its form, albeit only in a concrete sense. Perhaps then, what nominalism is really trying to do is leave out all "forms" that are unjustified and maybe are being assumed to exist because they do exist in the mind -- just not anywhere else (what conceptualism seems to be trying to get at).

That said, if it's conceding that universals really do exist in the mind, that seems to be leaving unanswered why we're assuming they exist there but not outside the mind. Additionally, I get the impression that there's an assumption in nominalism that somehow it's needed to be able to address the epistemological problem of being unable to have certain knowledge of anything outside of our own minds. While strong realism may sit upon this epistemological error, hylomorphism seems not only to account for this, but to readily explain why some ideas can predict real events better than others.

As an aside, one of the issues that I used to have with most Christian philosophy was that it seemed to assume a sort of strong realism, making it seem like many ideas were being taken for more than they really are. But it's important to note this was an impression that only registered internally, not on an explicitly intellectual level. I bring this up because I think several atheists who used to frequent this board also got this impression on an internal level, based on their rejecting arguments as "word games" or leaving a discussion unresolved despite accepting all the premises that would lead to a theistic conclusion.



Well when it comes to philosophy I've said many times that to be an atheist one must reject reality,but it goes far beyond this that I think has been overlooked. Here is something that I have picked up on and it is this to be an atheist not only does one have to reject reality but they must also not care if they are right or wrong but go totally on their opinion or how they feel regardless if it is right or wrong,they could careless and just go on their feelings without any evidence.

But to get away with this they have came up with a fancy way to explain why they are excluded and do not have to have any evidence to be an atheist. So not only must they reject philosophy and go outside reality into a kind of LA LA Land but also they do not care if they are right or wrong also.Their opinion or how they feel is more important than reality and the world around us so that not even evidence is important to them. It is a direct rebellion to truth and how to know what is true while being in denial about it.

I really believe that to reach atheists we must first get them to take the truth seriously if we are going to try to use philosophy or evidence to try to convince them God exists. Because until they realize the importance of truth and how to know what is true they can never discover truth,they must first learn how to know what is true or not. This is why no matter how much evidence or reasons to believe we might give them they just cannot realize the truth or how to recognize it. Until they learn the importance of truth and how to discover truth there is nothing we can do to persuade them God exists and is real.

I think that we need to change the way we try to convince atheists God is real. We can approach this from several different angles. First we could just work on teaching them about how truth is discovered using both philosophy and evidence. Instead of trying to convince them God exists work on helping them understand how the truth is discovered or We need to start challenging about how they know they are right to choose to be an atheist based on philospy and evidence. We need to hold their feet to the fire and make them give and provide evidence as to why they have chosen to be an atheist.

Now this is probably going to anger them because they have convinced themselves that they are excluded and do not have to have any evidence to be an atheist. They will probably explain to you why they are excluded and only religious people have to have evidence. I think we should ignore this and demand evidence for how they chose to reject God.We should demand they give evidence for how or why they chose to be an atheist. I'm talking about evidence to choose to be an atheist and they cannot bash God,bring up the bible,etc or any other god's.Make it Christianity vs Atheism.
Hebrews 12:2-3 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,despising the shame,and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

2nd Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,lest the light of this glorious gospel of Christ,who is the image of God,should shine unto them.

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby patrick » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:21 am

Well my point with bringing up atheists was to draw a parallel between nonbelief in God and rejection of abstract properties. That is to say, just as many of them can see sense in causal arguments but don't feel calling the resulting idea "God" is warranted, they also see sense in believing in forms that yield changes in chemical properties, just not to the point in calling these forms real things.

This, I think, points to a fair critique of philosophical realism. I'm not sure whether you agree with Platonic realism, abel, but I find it to be an unwarranted position. It seems to assume too much about what the forms that exist in reality really are. Put another way, just because we can talk about ethnic variations as discrete races (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, etc.) doesn't mean these actually are real forms. With so-called mixed races, there's a continuum of minor traits that can be pulled apart and mixed at random -- quite unlike the situation of the differences between donkeys, horses, and mules. So I think the criticism that realism can lead to inconsequential "word games" is a fair criticism.

I do agree though that there's something typically misunderstood regarding how they think about the nature of truth that comes from philosophy. What I'm hoping is that they can be convinced that there's an underlying principle between how they think about empirical evidence that they'd agree can justifiably be extended to truths gleaned from philosophy -- hence my repeatedly drawing parallels between this and that.

**moving argument to second post

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby patrick » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:59 am

Anyway, on to arguing against nominalism. (felt this would be better as a separate post)


What I think is being overlooked is that while some notions of forms ultimately don't have a basis in reality, some notions of forms really do have a basis in reality. So the question becomes, in response to nominalism, why such notions are true but nevertheless not in alignment with a real form. With Aristotel's hylomorphism, we are readily acknowledging that the idea of, for example, "water" is categorically different from the phenomenon of a particular volume of water. But that has no bearing on the fact that "water," insofar as it refers to the structure of hydrogen dioxide is in fact a real form.

Now, a nominalist might argue that something like species, for instance, can't point to a real form since it can vary continously, but this glosses over the fact that some variations really are discrete. Put another way, that speciation is in part pragmatically motivated (creating distinctions based on natural breeding viability, for instance) doesn't mean that biology couldn't be re-classified based on the actual structure required to give rise to given properties. Some aspects of speciation really do yield specific properties that exist because of the species it is. The point that hylomorphism is making, then, is that insofar as a structure is required to bring about certain properties, this is a real form. If something has a property, something must be causing that property, and to say what is causing it isn't really real demands an explanation about how something that isn't really real can actually cause something.

Put that way, I think even most empirically-driven nominalists would concede some truth to the idea of hylomorphism. Where the hard problem still lies is in convincing them that universals really do exist. Because if one implicitly assumes that everything must have empirical evidence, the assumption will be that no matter how useful universals are, or similar to chemical or biological forms they are, they don't really exist beyond the mind.

What I would suggest is that if one wants to argue that universals only exist in the mind, an explanation is warranted for why the mind not only is lead to think in terms of them, but also can accurately explain reality using these universals. One of the principle reasons I was lead to abandon nominalism was that it appears to leave unanswered what principles undergrid the validity of accepting any kind of philosophically derived knowledge. The empirically-driven nominalist seems to be arguing that the only philosophical knowledge that we should acknowledge is that which is necessary to support the philosophy of empiricism. But this argument needs justification.

Assuming that a nominalist can be convinced that their philosophy requires this justification, I think it can be shown that nominalism, even though not philosophically invalid, is really just a weak position to hold. As I sort of mentioned earlier, I think it's trying to account for hard epistemological problems. But rather than address them via epistemological means it tries to avoid the problem entirely by creating a philosophy that rejects as many assumptions as possible, even if these assumptions are quite warranted. This might have had a point if it were possible to entirely avoid assumptions that make knowledge of the external world uncertain, but it just ends up with fewer such assumptions at the expense of large swaths of unwarranted agnosticism.

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby Jac3510 » Wed Jul 27, 2016 3:55 pm

Take some time and read this chapter, and tell me what you think:

https://books.google.com/books?id=d2O1V ... &q&f=false
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby Kurieuo » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:04 pm

Hi Patrick,

Reading your posts above, although I should probably re-read them again, the general impression I receive is that you're largely going from one extreme to the other. That is, associating universals of the mind with Nominalism (you seem to make a trade on Nominalism and conceptualism as though because universal concepts are of the mind they don't really exist, though I'm unsure??)... and if not of mind but actual objects or the like then Realism (Platonic form)? That's the sense I'm getting reading your posts.

Many Christians don't know really about such philosophy, but will say things like morality is objective and the like. Perhaps that's what you mean by "with most Christian philosophy... assum[ing] a sort of strong realism." Yet, really, it comes down to a misunderstanding if it is believed one is affirming Platonic Realism, that for example, morality itself can be found as some abstract object somewhere.

Yet, I ask you what of Neo-Platonic thought? A sticking point with certain universal concepts and the like is that they evidently presuppose a mind. Therefore, if universals eternally hold (for there has always been some form of world in existence or else our current world and form of existence wouldn't exist), therein is a good positive argument for an eternal mind (i.e., God).

As I see matters, many universals possess Aseity and therefore bear the hallmark of Divinity. That is, their necessary existence seems inescapable just like arguments for a Necessary Being or First Cause, so I relegate them to one aspect* of God that we see protruding into our world.

*By "aspect" I do not mean a "part" of God, only that from our perspective we see an aspect of the Whole (i.e., God) penetrating our created world.
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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby abelcainsbrother » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:38 pm

patrick wrote:Well my point with bringing up atheists was to draw a parallel between nonbelief in God and rejection of abstract properties. That is to say, just as many of them can see sense in causal arguments but don't feel calling the resulting idea "God" is warranted, they also see sense in believing in forms that yield changes in chemical properties, just not to the point in calling these forms real things.

This, I think, points to a fair critique of philosophical realism. I'm not sure whether you agree with Platonic realism, abel, but I find it to be an unwarranted position. It seems to assume too much about what the forms that exist in reality really are. Put another way, just because we can talk about ethnic variations as discrete races (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, etc.) doesn't mean these actually are real forms. With so-called mixed races, there's a continuum of minor traits that can be pulled apart and mixed at random -- quite unlike the situation of the differences between donkeys, horses, and mules. So I think the criticism that realism can lead to inconsequential "word games" is a fair criticism.

I do agree though that there's something typically misunderstood regarding how they think about the nature of truth that comes from philosophy. What I'm hoping is that they can be convinced that there's an underlying principle between how they think about empirical evidence that they'd agree can justifiably be extended to truths gleaned from philosophy -- hence my repeatedly drawing parallels between this and that.

**moving argument to second post


From everything that I've listened to or read concerning philosophy I do see a few problems with it when trying to convince atheists to believe in the Christian God.I think it gets a person to a deist at the bare minimum, but does not necessarily point to Jesus Christ. Still,because atheists reject reality and could careless about whether they are right or wrong it does not even get them to a deist position. So I think first we must work on showing atheists how truth is discovered and how we determine what is true or not before we can convince them God exists. We have the evidence to back us up as Christians but until we can get atheists in reality and can help them realize how truth is discovered we won't be able to convince them God exists whether it is using philosophy or even evidence too.
Hebrews 12:2-3 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,despising the shame,and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

2nd Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,lest the light of this glorious gospel of Christ,who is the image of God,should shine unto them.

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby patrick » Wed Jul 27, 2016 11:23 pm

@Jac: still reading; I'll quote you so you're directly notified when I'm done

Kurieuo wrote:Reading your posts above, although I should probably re-read them again, the general impression I receive is that you're largely going from one extreme to the other. That is, associating universals of the mind with Nominalism (you seem to make a trade on Nominalism and conceptualism as though because universal concepts are of the mind they don't really exist, though I'm unsure??)... and if not of mind but actual objects or the like then Realism (Platonic form)? That's the sense I'm getting reading your posts.

Many Christians don't know really about such philosophy, but will say things like morality is objective and the like. Perhaps that's what you mean by "with most Christian philosophy... assum[ing] a sort of strong realism." Yet, really, it comes down to a misunderstanding if it is believed one is affirming Platonic Realism, that for example, morality itself can be found as some abstract object somewhere.


Well, I readily admit my OP is organized confusingly. Basically what I was pointing to was that before I was even fully aware that nominalism or platonic realism was a thing, I nevertheless had some notion of that conceptual area. And while in retrospect I can say I was indeed misunderstanding much of Christian philosophy as basically assuming Platonic forms, without the issue coming up as a central matter, at the time I could only register this sense on an internal (i.e. not-intellectual) level. So my opening post was meant to address the importance of the problem I ran into, since it seems my mistaken impressions are shared by many who (unwittingly) adhere to nominalism.

My current view though is that both extremes have serious problems, so I would hope that my latest post, where I try to formulate a specific argument, doesn't imply I hold to either extreme. And in addition, I also see a problem with the conceptualism standpoint (which Wikipedia implies is somewhere between nominalism and realism) since it assumes universals do exist, just only in the mind -- which leaves unanswered why that distinction is being made if such universals can also be used to explain reality.

Yet, I ask you what of Neo-Platonic thought? A sticking point with certain universal concepts and the like is that they evidently presuppose a mind. Therefore, if universals eternally hold (for there has always been some form of world in existence or else our current world and form of existence wouldn't exist), therein is a good positive argument for an eternal mind (i.e., God).


Well, while I don't have a problem with this, I'm not sure that a conceptualist would find it convincing. The problem is that I think a conceptualist would argue that universals fall from the structure of the mind. I'm not sure how they'd respond if we were to additionally argue that they could only fall from the structure if there was an eternal mind to make them fall from that structure -- that seems to be the problem with conceptualism from my point of view. But if you'd argue it differently perhaps that'd be worth exploring.

Anyway, hopefully I've organized my thoughts better here, but if not feel free to ask more. While I no longer adhere to nominalism or conceptualism, I don't feel satisfied yet that I understand why people hold those positions, so I'm going to dig a bit more around this area until I am.

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby patrick » Thu Jul 28, 2016 3:54 am

Jac3510 wrote:Take some time and read this chapter, and tell me what you think:

https://books.google.com/books?id=d2O1V ... &q&f=false


I thought this would take longer, but I think I managed to make sense of Abilard's perspective. Particularly when he wrote the following:

the word "man" can connote both Socrates and Plato because, distinct as they may be in respect to their essences and properties, these two individuals are united nevertheless in that they are men


Given that he's basically a grammarian, it sounds like he was trying to say that Socrates and Plato are not essentially, but rather functionally equivalent. For example, if I need something that will allow a child to entertain herself, I might draw a pragmatic distinction that any object that will be entertaining to her is a "toy." Assuming everyone thinks this way, "toy" is a word that refers to a prediction of how children will functionally relate to a given object. It need not comment on the essence of what the given object in question really is. That the last sentence probably isn't warranted if we're talking about the word "man" would be neither here nor there to a grammarian, and I think also explains a bit about nominalist thinking.

It seems if we stick to the notion that all general words/ideas are functional, we need never worry ourselves with what they mean in essence. Which is basically the approach of science: treat everything as a black box and understand everything by inputs and outputs. So to a nominalist, understanding the class "man" is probably less about understanding it in essence and more about breaking the concept down to its functional predictors. So we might first reclass "man" as "male human," but after that, "male" is a functional prediction regarding mating possibilities and "human" is a functional prediction regarding how to relate to and treat a given object. And if we need to clarify what "human" refers to, we only study it insofar as it clarifies how to relate to it, i.e. functional predictors regarding inputs and outputs. So long as the concept is sufficient to achieve a desired result, it's considered true -- hence the largely disinterested attitude towards philosophical truths.

I don't think I need to point out how conceptually shallow this is, but I do think it explains why many would tacitly put their stock in nominalism. I remember coming across this distinction between essentialism and functionalism in college, and though I initially felt that essentialism made more sense, the way it was presented I couldn't deny that functionalism at the very least worked.

Anyway, those are my thoughts regarding this.

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby Jac3510 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:17 am

You are correct, I think, in your basic understanding of both Peter's position and nominalism more generally. The real problem here, though, is why it works at all in the real world. If the terms don't correspond to anything in reality, then we're really just playing word games.

let's take your toy example. I would suggest that there is no essence "toy" out there. So a nominalist could account for that (at least partially) in the way you are suggesting. We see a child being entertained and we say, "toy." So the rule is that a thing becomes a toy because grammar so decides it. The stick was not a toy (by essence), but because of our own rules, it now becomes a toy.

But that doesn't hold with a large number of things in reality. Take the colors red and blue. If I see a red toy, as noted, the thing is a toy because grammar has so dictated. But is a thing red because grammar has so dictated, or does we say it is red because it really is? Redness is a real essence in a way that toyness is not. So the sentence, "the toy is red," refers to the thing itself, not merely to grammar. Put differently, how does "red" relate to the item in question? "Toy" is easy--it doesn't really relate to the item at all. It is completely internal. We see the child playing with it, and we label it a toy. Strictly speaking, we aren't talking about it at all but rather we are talking about how how we are going to talk about it. But when we say it is red, we are talking about the item itself. It is not red because grammar so decides it.

Now, a nominalist may well say, "Not so! It is red because grammar decides it." But now they are making two mistakes. In the first place, it is not red because grammar decides it, but rather, we can at best say that it is "red" because grammar decides it. The word itself refers to a completely internal reality--it's a logic game, if you will, with no bearing on the outside world. And that's fine. That's just second intention stuff. But the problem is that the statement "it is red" isn't a second order intention statement after all--it is of the first order. "It is red" refers to the item, not to how we we talk about it. That's clearly different from the toy example.

The second problem is more nefarious. Why do we call this item red at all? Because it really is? The nominalist can't say that because "it really is" is a reference to nature or essence. Because it gives us a certain experience our brains interpret as what we call "red" (back to second order stuff)? The nominalist can't say that because what is the "it" that gives us a certain experience? That's a problem called the Cartesian theater. Followed through, it leaves us with total and absolute skepticism (which is the point that Gilson is making), since you can't know anything about reality but only about your own logic games. But it is even worse, because the typical response is just pragmatic. We may not KNOW that it really is red, but our senses seem to work often enough that we have good reason for inferring that there is a correspondence between what we call "red" and something about there that always gives us that impression, such that we can reasonally say it is really red. But now we're just closet essentialists. The problem of universals has just found us again, because if we admit on pragmatic grounds rather than common sense grounds that there really are things in reality that really are red, then how do we properly say that this is red and that is red also? What is the relation of the universal to the particulars? Or to use Gilson's example, if I am a man and you are a man (talking first order here)--that is, if we are pragmatically required to admit that there really is something out there called "man" that our minds are able to perceive and represent to us--then "manness" is a real thing in reality outside of our mind. But then we not nominalists after all, and Peter asks us what he asked William: if manness is wholly in you then it cannot be in me; if it is partly in you and partly in me, then neither of us are wholly human. The precise question is, if all is particular in the world, then how do particular things fit into general classes if those classes are only in the mind? If and we just deny that it is possible and say, again, that general classes are wholly in the mind, then we start the circle all over again. We are either inverting our intentionalities, saying we are talking about man when we are actually talking about "man", or we are suggesting without admitting to doing so that the reason we can talk about "man" is because man is really in the real world. So it really is an irreconcilable problem.

The necessary result of nominalism, then, is absolute skepticism. And I would suggest when you step back and take a high view, it couldn't be any other way. The very idea of nominalism is that all is particular. There are no such things as essences. All that exists is individual. But if all that exists is individual, then necessarily we cannot really classify anything, and since all knowledge is general, we cannot know anything. Absolutely any and all deduction and inference become impossible. Put simply, in order for knowledge about the world to be possible, we must say that general classes really exist in the world itself, and that those classes are what the mind knows--that is, it knows each particular under the general class that it really is a part of. But if that is true, then we are necessarily and definitionally realists of some sort. We may be Platonists. We may be Aristotelians. But we are within the family of realism.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptualism

Postby patrick » Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:54 am

Alright, well I'm mostly satisfied regarding strict nominalism. I'm bothered though by a related view which I'm not sure what to call yet (maybe "functional realism"?). There's a point made in I am a non-believer and I would like my reasoning assess that I would find hard to argue against regarding arguments for God's intentionality. I'll copy the relevant parts here.

Jac3510 wrote:1. All perfections preexist either virtually or really in their causes
2. Intentionality is a perfection;
3. Therefore, intentionality preexists either virtually or really in the PC

NSV wrote:To me, perfection, the way you are using it, strikes me as what I would call, function. A blind eye has lost its function, not it’s perfection. It is now less functional. The continuum created would start at “No function” and work its way to “More functional”.

Jac3510 wrote:just as sight is not the same thing as the eye, seeing X is not the same thing as sight itself, so seeing X is not the same thing as the eye, either ... [But that which may be attained through some subject's properties is a perfection] is just an explication of the nature of a perfection, such that seeing X is seen to be the perfection of the eye


I get the impression that what you demonstrate here would get reframed as perfection being the function's input/output. For instance, seeing the Statue of Liberty is an output of the eye when looking at said statue in the presence of light. And when you say elsewhere that sight virtually preexists in light, that seems to be covered as the accepted input of the eye.

I guess my concern is, how would you demonstrate that perfection is more than just a function's input/output?

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby Kurieuo » Sat Jul 30, 2016 4:54 pm

These are just my own thoughts, but function has a prerequisite of intention. Telos implies intention, some end desired. Therefore, we ought to think about intention. Not simply of the parts such a human eye, but also the whole such as the human body, environment the part is intended for, etc.
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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby patrick » Sat Jul 30, 2016 8:04 pm

I do agree that telos/purpose implies intention, but I guess I don't quite agree that for something to have a function it must also have an intention. For instance, the reflective property of water is a function of its form -- light bounces off of water in a very different way that it does off of stone. But what intention is there in the formation of water or water itself?

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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby Kurieuo » Sun Jul 31, 2016 5:20 am

patrick wrote:I do agree that telos/purpose implies intention, but I guess I don't quite agree that for something to have a function it must also have an intention. For instance, the reflective property of water is a function of its form -- light bounces off of water in a very different way that it does off of stone. But what intention is there in the formation of water or water itself?

Can't a "function of form" has intention? With or without function, I think it is assuming way too much to say there is no telos (and as such intention) to anything that has come into existence. Function is gained via intention, not intention gained via function. To assume there is no intention of this or that because none are clearly seen, is to assume all "butterfly effects" if you will, and that there are truly none. What appears accidental can be purposeful and intended.

In the instance of water, its reflective nature is also often makes for beautiful scenes. Oceans appear blue as the Sun rays get reflected. Reflections out in nature, sparkly nature of water as light reflects and refracts and the like. If such truly adds to beauty, then nothing is truly beautiful unless beauty truly exists. Beauty is like an intended love on display from the Creator, shows us some sort of peace and goodwill. Beauty just as much points to the Designer as morality.

What is perfect beauty? Where this definition of "perfection" I see becomes unstuck, is when it crosses over from the "created order" to the Uncreated who epitomizes of all such qualities. Indeed, perfections aren't always found in function, telos or intention.
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Re: Against Nominalism and Conceptuialism

Postby Byblos » Sun Jul 31, 2016 6:23 am

patrick wrote:I do agree that telos/purpose implies intention, but I guess I don't quite agree that for something to have a function it must also have an intention. For instance, the reflective property of water is a function of its form -- light bounces off of water in a very different way that it does off of stone. But what intention is there in the formation of water or water itself?


It's six of one and half a dozen of the other. Telos, functions, they all are parts of the more fundamental reality of actualizing potentialities. It is the potential of water to reflect light as such that is actualized when light meets water that is not such when it meets a rock. The potential is inherent in what a thing is.

It is not irrational to think that a thing can fundamentally change to a degree that, for example, water no longer reflects lights. What is unremarkable about that is the inherent potential for change in that manner and not another.
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