Thursday, April 2, 2009

Consider this analogy…

Human nature is analogous to an electromagnetic field. While electricity and magnetism are analytically distinct (qua entia rationis), they are formally and actually inseparable. Likewise, while we can analytically rend human nature into "body" and "mind", we cannot really destroy their formal unity.

Further, let us "analogolyze" (my own term of art for, hopefully, restoring analogy into analytical philosophy) the forms of perceptible objects as discrete wave functions (which is just what the quantum theorists tell us everything is anyway). As we know vividly from Cartesian geometry, each function on the x-y plane has its own distinct formal intelligibility, which, of course, yields distinct material (efficient) causes on paper. E.g., x = y^2 is formally, AND THEREFORE MATERIALLY, different from x = y, x = y^3, and so forth. (Interestingly enough, this is where string theory is pointing: each thing is what it is because it "resonates" according to a certain formal structure.)

Basically, particular objects have esse naturale (i.e., their "being what they are by nature"), esse intelligibile (i.e., their "being known as what they are by suitable knowers"), and esse intentionale (i.e., their "being known as particular objects to particular knowers"). We cannot know particulars per esse naturale, so our intellect can abstract their esse intelligibile and synthetically judge them as one particular of this or that kind (via the existential copula). We cannot "take in" the esse naturale, since this would convert our intellect into the very object it beholds. We also do not, however, simply know pure abstract forms, but know them under a concretely intentional mode of apprehension -- the esse intentionale. Metaphorically, we might imagine the esse intelligibile as the formal "meat" of the being's "shell" (i.e., its esse naturaliter), and the esse intelligibile as the "flavor" of the actual meat as we eat it. It does seem to smack of trope theory, but I will not go into that now. Basically, I think the point is that the theory tries, successfully, to account for three solid facts of experience: 1. there are THINGS, 2. WE can know them, and 3. we can KNOW them.

Animal cognition is rooted in esse intentionale, since even dogs and worms can respond to real objects, but the immateriality of the intellect enters the picture when we consider the physical indeterminacy of certain entia intelligibiles. Cue James Ross, Mortimer Adler, et al. Esse intentionale, then, might be construed as a being's potential esse intelligibile, and its esse intelligibile as a being's actual esse intentionale. (I shall preempt the attacks of my betters by admitting I have probably mangled the subtlety of the Thomistic account, and I defer to Gerard Casey's discussion of this in "Immateriality and Intentionality".)

As for the complaint that Aristhomism, and Scholasticism generally, "rigs the game" so that its pet terms just--lo and behold!--fall out from an artificial analysis, we need to keep in mind that a good theory (explanans) must exclude countless facets of experience in order to isolate and illuminate a freely chosen (small) set of problems. People often accuse the Scholastics of making up lots of terms just to make their theories fit, but much the same could be said of modern physicists! New discoveries require new terms. Hence, the nuances of esse, which I limned above, are very much entailed by putting all the pieces together (i.e., my 1., 2., and 3.).

Now, when it comes to us, analogized as electromagnetic wave functions, we have a dim grasp of how a thing's wave-form can "enter" us intelligibly. Were we sheer EM wave functions, we would literally assume the form of whatever wave functions we "absorbed." This would in no way destroy the thing's formal integrity and objectivity, since it itself would be existing with the same esse intelligibile, but under the form of a new esse intelligibile. At every point along its emanated substance (in whatever medium), its material structure would conform to the form of its originating wave source, such that it could simultaneously exist as one and the same "formed being" in our intentional grasp of it and outside us in the objective world. As James Chastek ( has stressed on numerous occasions, it is the hylomorphic intelligibility of objects that ensures their OBJECTIVITY, viz., our perception of a toaster does not render it a mere phantasm but actually presents the very same objective object to us, albeit via its esse intentionale.

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