Feser Still Can’t Read

Feser keeps trying. And keeps failing. Indeed, he is now making things worse, by demonstrating he doesn’t even understand what is going on here. To catch you up: I wrote a critique of his book. He wrote a reply. I wrote a response to that reply showing how he didn’t understand my critique and still hasn’t actually responded to anything I actually said. And now he has replied to that, with a new blog article, Carrier Carries On. Here is what’s wrong with that.

In his new response, Feser ignores pretty much everything I said. Again. And makes only three points, all of which only demonstrate he doesn’t understand anything I’ve said.

Problem A

First, Feser says:

[H]ere is the passage from my book that he is quoting from, at p. 37:

40. So, the forms or patterns manifest in all the things it causes must in some way be in the purely actual actualizer.

41. These forms or patterns can exist either in the concrete way in which they exist in individual particular things, or in the abstract way in which they exist in the thoughts of an intellect.

End quote.  As you can plainly see, Carrier really did do exactly what I said he did and what he now strenuously denies doing – he collapsed steps 40 and 41 into one step without telling the reader that that is what he was doing.

No. That’s not what I did. I simply completed Premise 41 by inserting his definition. When he says “these forms and patterns” in Premise 41 he means (and logically can only mean) “the forms or patterns manifest in all the things it causes.” If he does not mean that, then he has committed a basic fallacy in the structure of his syllogism. I can only suppose that Feser doesn’t understand how logic works, and thus doesn’t understand what he was hiding behind the word “these.” Filling out what the word “these” means is not conflating two premises; that’s spelling out the premise. As in, correctly stating what his Premise 41 must assert (and is asserting), in order for his syllogism to be valid. That Feser does not understand this is disturbing.

Problem B

Second, Feser falsely claims he deals with Aristotelian Forms Theory in his book. No. He doesn’t. And I explained in my first article why the pages he devotes to Aristotle don’t even mention much less address Aristotelian Forms Theory. So for him to just re-cite those pages does not respond to what I said. Because he instead spent those pages talking about abstractions as properties only of a mind. For example, he writes “Aristotelian realists emphasize that abstraction is essentially a mental process, so that abstractions are essentially tied to a mind” and “abstract objects…do not so exist in mind-independent reality” (pp. 99-100). That’s not what Aristotle said. And that is not Aristotle’s Theory of Forms.

I even quoted “the peer reviewed Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy [stating that] ‘Aristotle…argued that forms are intrinsic to the objects and cannot exist apart from them’.” That’s Aristotle’s theory of forms. Feser never addresses Aristotle’s actual theory of forms. He confuses Aristotle’s discussion of how humans perceive those forms (how we “abstract” from particulars), with what makes those forms real (what makes them a thing we can perceive). And that mistake is what causes Feser to construct a false disjunct in Premise 41 of his First Argument. Exactly as I originally argued. Feser still has no response.

Here is what I wrote:

Aristotle took Plato to task for the mistake Feser is making, pointing out that it is not necessary that potential patterns actually exist in some concrete or mental form. They only have to potentially exist.

Potential things are by definition not actual. So obviously we don’t need them to be actualized to exist. That’s a self-contradictory request. It’s thus self-contradictory of Feser to insist that potential things must be “actualized” somewhere (a mind; concrete things). Obviously there is no logical sense in which they must be actualized in that way.

Aristotle argued that potentials exist inherently in everything, without anything further needing to be the case. A cube contains the potential to be a sphere (by physical transformation); but not as if that potential is some sort of magical fluid contained physically inside the cube. It’s simply a logically necessary property of any material that it can be reshaped; if it can have shape, it can have any shape. Period. It is logically necessarily always the case.

The only thing new here is that Feser fabricates the premise that “Aristotelian realism” holds that “abstract objects exist only in human or other contingently existing intellects.” That’s not true. Maybe some Medieval interpretation of Aristotle concluded that. But that is certainly not Aristotle’s actual account of abstractions—or more properly, universals. Feser seems to have confused what Aristotle said about how we discover and employ universals in human thought, with what he said about what universals are. Once we correct the mistake, Feser’s entire third argument collapses.

This, Feser simply has not responded to. He keeps responding to things I didn’t say. I said his notion of Aristotle arguing universal properties exist only in minds, is false. He responds, by citing all the pages where he addresses Aristotle arguing universal properties exist only in minds. That’s a complete failure to respond to me. My argument is that those pages are completely irrelevant, because Aristotle didn’t argue that. My argument is that Feser’s book contains no argument against what Aristotle did argue (or at least, no argument against what some modern Aristotelians argue). And that statement remains true. And it remains the problem I was identifying in his Premise 41. And Feser still hasn’t grasped that’s what my point was. And thus still hasn’t responded to my actual argument.

Think this through. I argued that when Feser says abstract objects, to exist, must exist in “a mind” (or “concrete things”) the only two options Feser claims exist (apart from Platonism), his claim of “a mind” here, refers to his mistaken ideas about Aristotle’s Theory of Forms, a mistake my original article took him to task for, and which he still has not responded to. He still thinks Aristotle argued that abstract objects (i.e. universal properties) only exist in minds. But even if that’s what Aristotle had argued (it’s not, but never mind that, he’s thousands of years old and so obsolete anyway), there are modern Aristotelians who argue differently. Like me. And standard references in the field. Exactly as I explained. And Feser’s book contains no response to us. In fact, by failing to even consider our theory of forms, his Premise 41 is a false lemma. That’s a fallacy. And his entire first argument collapses from there. Just as I said.

Feser continues to fail to understand this point. And still has developed no response to it. Not in his book. Nor in any of his responses to me.

Problem C

Third, Feser ignores all the rest of both my articles, and complains instead about an offhand comment I made in a thread on one of them, wherein I said Feser tries in his chapter six to get to “a traditional Christian God of some sort.” To which he responds, “not only do I not address any specifically Christian claims in the book, I explicitly decline to do so.” Here I think he just misunderstood what I said. There is a difference between “an [x] of some sort” and “a specific [x].” I never said Feser defended a specifically Christian God (like, for example, the resurrection of Jesus, or a specific theology of salvation). I said he defended a God with a wider array of traditional attributes like the one Christians believe in. And he does. For example, he tries to go from God being “good” in a sense having no moral meaning (in his Five Proofs, it is simply the assertion that God has no unactualized features), to it meaning moral goodness. He likewise gives arguments for this God ensuring we will have an afterlife. And so on. All things Christians want in their God.

I can nevertheless understand how Feser could be confused by my saying he argues all the way “to Christianity” (as in, he must have thought, some specific theory of Christ as God’s instrument or the Christian gospel). I didn’t mean to imply that. Rather, I only meant that he argues to the kind of God Christians want to exist, and not just the abstract entity his Five Proofs aim for (which as such has no actual characteristics of moral goodness or concern for our salvation in an afterlife, for example). This at least I can chalk up to an honest misunderstanding. And about nothing stated in either of my articles, but just a casual conversation on one of them. The confusion is now corrected. So he has no grounds to continue complaining about it.

He has no other responses to me.


Feser still can’t read. He still doesn’t understand what my argument against Premise 41 in his First Argument is. And still offers no reply to it. Nor has he replied to my refutation of any of his other four arguments. And he even claims now to not understand what his own Premise 41 is asserting, by claiming I am conflating it with Premise 40. Evidently not understanding what the word “conflating” means or how terms must be consistently defined in a syllogism. He is really not thinking any of this through. And consequently he is not even responding to anything I’ve said. Still.

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