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If there are no bodies does Whiteness exist?

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  • vaeringjar
    Just reading this passage in Aristotle s Categories, from a translation online by E M Edghill - Part 5 in his version: Everything except primary substances is
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 2, 2009
      Just reading this passage in Aristotle's Categories, from a translation
      online by E M Edghill - Part 5 in his version:

      "Everything except primary substances is either predicable of a primary
      substance or present in a primary substance. This becomes evident
      by reference to particular instances which occur. 'Animal' is predicated
      of the species 'man', therefore of the individual man, for if there
      were no individual man of whom it could be predicated, it could not
      be predicated of the species 'man' at all. Again, colour is present
      in body, therefore in individual bodies, for if there were no individual
      body in which it was present, it could not be present in body at all.
      Thus everything except primary substances is either predicated of
      primary substances, or is present in them, and if these last did not
      exist, it would be impossible for anything else to exist."

      This sounds to me like the old question, if a tree falls in the forest
      with no people around, does it make a sound? From a scientific
      viewpoint, of course it does, since the sound still propagates in the
      waves in the air, regardless of the lack of human listeners (the
      analogy is rather poor, isn't it, for not taking our animal friends who
      would be there in the woods regardless into account?!?)

      It seems to me that Aristotle does rather want to have it both ways,
      that forms do exist but only somehow inherent and coexistent with
      things of substance, but only for real individuals. How then does he
      explain the consistency of whiteness from one individual to another?

      Sorry if this isn't that Neoplatonic a subject, but I would be curious
      to see the reaction of Plotinus and Porphyry, just to name two, to this
      point, if they had any. I suppose Simplicius' Commentary ad loc would
      be a great place to start to figure that out - ?

      Dennis Clark
    • Michael Chase
      ... M.C. : Not sure I see the analogy, except insofar as both are, I suppose, kinds of Gedankenexperiment. Aristotle s argument is, I think, the Old Academic
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 2, 2009
        On Mar 2, 2009, at 9:30 PM, vaeringjar wrote:

        > Just reading this passage in Aristotle's Categories, from a
        > translation
        > online by E M Edghill - Part 5 in his version:
        >
        > "Everything except primary substances is either predicable of a
        > primary
        > substance or present in a primary substance. This becomes evident
        > by reference to particular instances which occur. 'Animal' is
        > predicated
        > of the species 'man', therefore of the individual man, for if there
        > were no individual man of whom it could be predicated, it could not
        > be predicated of the species 'man' at all. Again, colour is present
        > in body, therefore in individual bodies, for if there were no
        > individual
        > body in which it was present, it could not be present in body at all.
        > Thus everything except primary substances is either predicated of
        > primary substances, or is present in them, and if these last did not
        > exist, it would be impossible for anything else to exist."
        >
        > This sounds to me like the old question, if a tree falls in the forest
        > with no people around, does it make a sound?
        >























        M.C. : Not sure I see the analogy, except insofar as both are, I
        suppose, kinds of Gedankenexperiment. Aristotle's argument is, I
        think, the Old Academic one of co-elimination. If we have two entities
        A and B, and All Bs are eliminated when all As are eliminated, but not
        all As are eliminated when all Bs are eliminated, then A is
        ontologically prior to B. The principle is formulated as follows by
        the late mathematician René Thom (Esquisse d'une sémiophysique, p. 209):

        It is logical to say that a genus B is ontologically prior to a genus
        E, if every entity featuring the quality E necessarily has its
        substrate in B. For instance, color is ontologically posterior to
        extension, because every colored impression necessarily has an
        extended support.


        > a<snip>
        >


        >

        > It seems to me that Aristotle does rather want to have it both ways,
        > that forms do exist but only somehow inherent and coexistent with
        > things of substance, but only for real individuals.
        >



        .


        M.C. Yes, sure. "real individuals" is kind of superfluous for
        Aristotle, since individuals and only individuals are in fact real.


        > How then does he
        > explain the consistency of whiteness from one individual to another?
        >





        M.C. Not sure I see why this is a problem for Aristotle. Some things
        just happen to be white, owing to the particular ratio of their
        constituent elements. We obtain our notion of white by abstracting
        from a number of white things: a sufficient number of such
        experiences, stored in memory and compared, gives rise to the concept
        of white. It's not clear to me that this is a more problematic account
        than Platonic participation, with the problems it raises (third man
        argument, question of forms of individuals, evil things, man-made
        artifacts, etc., etc)

        >
        >
        > Sorry if this isn't that Neoplatonic a subject, but I would be curious
        > to see the reaction of Plotinus and Porphyry, just to name two, to
        > this
        > point, if they had any.
        >








        M.C. Both have a lot to say about Aristotle's doctrine of the
        categories, although not so much the specific points you mention. The
        interpretation of their views is controversial. My view is that
        Plotinus rejects Aristotle's doctrine of the categories (in Ennead VI
        1-3) precisely because the Stagirite has omitted any discussion of
        intelligible realities. Porphyry attempts to rehabilitate Aristotle,
        arguing that the Categories is an introductory work intended for
        beginning students: if he says rocks and horses are primary
        substances, it is because they are such from the viewpoint of a
        beginning philosophy student. The study of Aristotle, which gives an
        adequate explanation of the sensible, phenomenal world is a necessary
        preliminary to the study of Plato, in which the advanced student will
        learn the truth about genuine reality, i.e. the intelligible world.
        But as far as logic and physics are concerned, what is relevant is
        precisely the study of *enmattered* forms, and here, Porphyry argues,
        Plato and Aristotle are on the same wavelength.

        > I suppose Simplicius' Commentary ad loc would
        > be a great place to start to figure that out - ?
        >





        M.C. Wouldn't hurt. There's also Porphyry's minor commentary in the
        translation by Steven Strange, now available in a brand new critical
        edition with French translation by Richard Bodéüs of the U. of Montreal.

        HTH, Mike.










        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • vaeringjar
        ... there ... not ... present ... all. ... not ... forest ... I was mostly referring to the part Again, colour is present in body, therefore in individual
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 2, 2009
          --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Michael Chase <goya@...> wrote:
          >
          >
          > On Mar 2, 2009, at 9:30 PM, vaeringjar wrote:
          >
          > > Just reading this passage in Aristotle's Categories, from a
          > > translation
          > > online by E M Edghill - Part 5 in his version:
          > >
          > > "Everything except primary substances is either predicable of a
          > > primary
          > > substance or present in a primary substance. This becomes evident
          > > by reference to particular instances which occur. 'Animal' is
          > > predicated
          > > of the species 'man', therefore of the individual man, for if
          there
          > > were no individual man of whom it could be predicated, it could
          not
          > > be predicated of the species 'man' at all. Again, colour is
          present
          > > in body, therefore in individual bodies, for if there were no
          > > individual
          > > body in which it was present, it could not be present in body at
          all.
          > > Thus everything except primary substances is either predicated of
          > > primary substances, or is present in them, and if these last did
          not
          > > exist, it would be impossible for anything else to exist."
          > >
          > > This sounds to me like the old question, if a tree falls in the
          forest
          > > with no people around, does it make a sound?
          > >
          > M.C. : Not sure I see the analogy, except insofar as both are, I
          > suppose, kinds of Gedankenexperiment.

          I was mostly referring to the part "Again, colour is present
          in body, therefore in individual bodies, for if there were no
          individual body in which it was present, it could not be present in
          body at all." There has to be at least one individual (as you say by
          definition in Aristotle, real individual) for there to be any color
          at all, or so I read this. Hence my point about no sound in the
          forest unless at least one person hears it.


          > Aristotle's argument is, I
          > think, the Old Academic one of co-elimination. If we have two
          entities
          > A and B, and All Bs are eliminated when all As are eliminated, but
          not
          > all As are eliminated when all Bs are eliminated, then A is
          > ontologically prior to B. The principle is formulated as follows
          by
          > the late mathematician René Thom (Esquisse d'une sémiophysique, p.
          209):
          >
          > It is logical to say that a genus B is ontologically prior to a
          genus
          > E, if every entity featuring the quality E necessarily has its
          > substrate in B. For instance, color is ontologically posterior to
          > extension, because every colored impression necessarily has an
          > extended support.
          >
          >

          Yes, I see what you mean, that is nicely put, thanks.

          >
          > > How then does he
          > > explain the consistency of whiteness from one individual to
          another?
          > >
          >
          > M.C. Not sure I see why this is a problem for Aristotle. Some
          things
          > just happen to be white, owing to the particular ratio of their
          > constituent elements. We obtain our notion of white by abstracting
          > from a number of white things: a sufficient number of such
          > experiences, stored in memory and compared, gives rise to the
          concept
          > of white. It's not clear to me that this is a more problematic
          account
          > than Platonic participation, with the problems it raises (third
          man
          > argument, question of forms of individuals, evil things, man-made
          > artifacts, etc., etc)
          >

          Well, but isn't that a problem if the concept is abstracted from the
          perceptions of different individuals - how can we be sure then it's
          the same concept exactly, depending on the many individuals to come
          up with exactly the same thing? Isn't this another example of the
          kind of flux perception is potentially prone to that Plato was trying
          to rectify? (Actually I have wondered from time to time in modern
          reality if, for example, indeed we all do see colors exactly alike,
          if the white I see is perhaps for example a little darker than
          someone else's "white". The fault then in modern scientific terms is
          in my eyes, and in a sense there is no white anyway but merely a
          perceived effect of light radiation.) I understand the process you
          describe is the Aristotelian definition. Also not sure I want to side
          ultimately with Plato either, because of the problems on his side
          that you cite. It almost seems desirable to find a solution that
          lies somehow between the two extremes or somehow incorporating both
          at the same time, though that's not likely.

          Do these questions interest modern philosophers at all, or are they
          considered only of historical importance?


          >
          > M.C. Wouldn't hurt. There's also Porphyry's minor commentary in
          the
          > translation by Steven Strange, now available in a brand new
          critical
          > edition with French translation by Richard Bodéüs of the U. of
          Montreal.
          >
          > HTH, Mike.
          >

          Thanks very much for the references to Plotinus, which I will look
          into now, and Porphyry's take on this - I will look for that new
          edition of his short commentary. Your introduction to the Simplicius
          Categories 1-4 translation is by the way most helpful, and I am
          looking forward to digging into the work itself also soon.

          Dennis Clark
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