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What makes a thing the same thing?

zmikecuber
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9/3/2014 10:37:33 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
According to Aristotle's hylomorphic dualism, there are real natures or "essences" of things. Thus, he makes a distinction between accidental change and substantial change. This seems pretty common-sensical.

However, for those who reject any sort of realism in regards to nature, how does this explain that this object is the same object when it changes ever so slightly?

Couldn't the passage of time also be considered a type of change? If there are no essences or natures, does this indicate that the object or thing in reference has changed to a completely new thing?

Perhaps an even deeper question... Under nominalism, that is, asserting there are no essences, is there any such thing as a "substance" or "thing"?

I suppose my argument could be formalized...

P1: Either there are essences or there are not.
P2: If there are no essences, then there are no "substances."
P3: There are substances.
C: There are essences.

This is a combination of reasoning via disjunt and modus tollens, which makes it valid.

In short, to deny the existence of essences seems nonsensical, impractical, and to destroy logic. For doesn't language and basic formal logic assume that there are natures? When someone says "All men are mortal" doesn't this assume there is an essence of "man" and "mortal things"?

Thoughts?
"Delete your fvcking sig" -1hard

"primal man had the habit, when he came into contact with fire, of satisfying the infantile desire connected with it, by putting it out with a stream of his urine... Putting out the fire by micturating was therefore a kind of sexual act with a male, an enjoyment of sexual potency in a homosexual competition."
bossyburrito
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9/4/2014 3:33:01 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I know very little about this kind of thing, and there's probably going to be something significant that I've overlooked, but I'm tired and I feel like writing something out.

If concretes are to exist at all, they must exist as something - for something to exist as nothing in particular is for it to exist not at all. Concept formation is done by observing the specific and unique characteristics of multiple existants, picking out what they have in common to each other and what they don't have in common with other groups of entities, omitting all non-essential characteristics, and integrating the concretes into one whole.

As an example, the concept of "book" is formed by observing multiple books, seeing their similar characteristics (e.g. the fact that they're collections of pages filled with symbols, etc), "throwing out" all other characteristics (e.g. the specific dimensions of each book, the font size, or the language used), and forming a whole that is distinguished from other concepts by those similar characteristics that all of the concretes subsumed by the concept share. It is these similar characteristics that are the "essence" of a concept - what it means to be a book is to be a bound collection of pages. A book cannot be said to be a book if it had the essence of an elephant or a mountain, simply by the qualities a book would have to have to be a book.

Concepts are in the field of epistemology, not metaphysics - concepts are human tools made to be able to organize and keep track of vast amounts of particulars. This is done, as said before, by recognizing the characteristics of particulars , and it is only these particulars that exist. Concepts are a form of recognition of particulars used by the human mind. What the "essence" of something is is a conceptual question, and the answer is that the essence of something is the essential characteristics that, in the context of a specified concept, a particular entity must have in order to be considered to be subsumed by the concept in question. A particular table is said to have the essence of a table if it has the qualities specified as necessary by the concept of table for being a table - if the context of conceptual knowledge is dropped, the idea of the "essence" of something loses any meaning.

There's a clear divide between the question regarding particulars in the first part of your post ("how does this explain that this object is the same object when it changes ever so slightly?") and the question regarding concepts in the second ("When someone says "All men are mortal" doesn't this assume there is an essence of "man" and "mortal things""). Denying the idea of essences existing as a part of objects is not the same as denying the idea of essences as a whole.

On the topic of your first question, if it is true that a particular is a particular and that it exists as something with identity, it is true that, if that identity is changed, the particular is not the same particular as was seen in the previous moment. This is unproblematic and I don't think it poses any problems to philosophy as a whole at all. What the acceptance of this doesn't imply, however, is that concepts cannot be formed - this is not true. Concepts are formed by way of choosing common essential characteristics, and omitting (or not specifying) all other characteristics. For example, a particular can have the qualities necessitated by the concept of "horse" to be a horse, and can be considered to be a horse. These essential qualities, whatever they might be, do not include things such as the colour of the particular's fur, the length of its legs (within a defined range), and so on. It is seen that a horse is said to be a horse if it qualifies to be a horse, no matter what else. In a field, if there are two particulars exactly alike in most qualities, though one is black and one is white, and they have the qualities of horses, they are both said to be horses, since the colour of the particular is irrelevant and non-essential.

It has been made plain, then, that particulars that are constantly in a state of change can still be classified by means of concepts, since, as long as their qualities after any one change they go through still fall within the limits set by the concept they are to be classified as under, there is no problem. To answer the second question, yes, it is impossible to have concepts without essences. It is just that the concepts and the essences are intertwined in such a way that one cannot exist without reference to the other, meaning that an essence cannot exist "in an object" without reference to a specific concept, and a concept cannot refer to concretes without defining the essence of that concept.
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zmikecuber
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9/4/2014 8:58:29 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 9/4/2014 3:33:01 AM, bossyburrito wrote:
I know very little about this kind of thing, and there's probably going to be something significant that I've overlooked, but I'm tired and I feel like writing something out.

If concretes are to exist at all, they must exist as something - for something to exist as nothing in particular is for it to exist not at all. Concept formation is done by observing the specific and unique characteristics of multiple existants, picking out what they have in common to each other and what they don't have in common with other groups of entities, omitting all non-essential characteristics, and integrating the concretes into one whole.

As an example, the concept of "book" is formed by observing multiple books, seeing their similar characteristics (e.g. the fact that they're collections of pages filled with symbols, etc), "throwing out" all other characteristics (e.g. the specific dimensions of each book, the font size, or the language used), and forming a whole that is distinguished from other concepts by those similar characteristics that all of the concretes subsumed by the concept share. It is these similar characteristics that are the "essence" of a concept - what it means to be a book is to be a bound collection of pages. A book cannot be said to be a book if it had the essence of an elephant or a mountain, simply by the qualities a book would have to have to be a book.


Agreed. There are substantial qualities which make a thing a thing. There are other accidental qualities it has that could change (size, what's written in the book, etc.) but the thing would remain the same thing.

Concepts are in the field of epistemology, not metaphysics - concepts are human tools made to be able to organize and keep track of vast amounts of particulars. This is done, as said before, by recognizing the characteristics of particulars , and it is only these particulars that exist. Concepts are a form of recognition of particulars used by the human mind. What the "essence" of something is is a conceptual question, and the answer is that the essence of something is the essential characteristics that, in the context of a specified concept, a particular entity must have in order to be considered to be subsumed by the concept in question. A particular table is said to have the essence of a table if it has the qualities specified as necessary by the concept of table for being a table - if the context of conceptual knowledge is dropped, the idea of the "essence" of something loses any meaning.


Do you mean to say that, for us, there may be a difference between a table and a book, but in reality, there really isn't?

There's a clear divide between the question regarding particulars in the first part of your post ("how does this explain that this object is the same object when it changes ever so slightly?") and the question regarding concepts in the second ("When someone says "All men are mortal" doesn't this assume there is an essence of "man" and "mortal things""). Denying the idea of essences existing as a part of objects is not the same as denying the idea of essences as a whole.

On the topic of your first question, if it is true that a particular is a particular and that it exists as something with identity, it is true that, if that identity is changed, the particular is not the same particular as was seen in the previous moment. This is unproblematic and I don't think it poses any problems to philosophy as a whole at all. What the acceptance of this doesn't imply, however, is that concepts cannot be formed - this is not true. Concepts are formed by way of choosing common essential characteristics, and omitting (or not specifying) all other characteristics. For example, a particular can have the qualities necessitated by the concept of "horse" to be a horse, and can be considered to be a horse. These essential qualities, whatever they might be, do not include things such as the colour of the particular's fur, the length of its legs (within a defined range), and so on. It is seen that a horse is said to be a horse if it qualifies to be a horse, no matter what else. In a field, if there are two particulars exactly alike in most qualities, though one is black and one is white, and they have the qualities of horses, they are both said to be horses, since the colour of the particular is irrelevant and non-essential.

It has been made plain, then, that particulars that are constantly in a state of change can still be classified by means of concepts, since, as long as their qualities after any one change they go through still fall within the limits set by the concept they are to be classified as under, there is no problem. To answer the second question, yes, it is impossible to have concepts without essences. It is just that the concepts and the essences are intertwined in such a way that one cannot exist without reference to the other, meaning that an essence cannot exist "in an object" without reference to a specific concept, and a concept cannot refer to concretes without defining the essence of that concept.
"Delete your fvcking sig" -1hard

"primal man had the habit, when he came into contact with fire, of satisfying the infantile desire connected with it, by putting it out with a stream of his urine... Putting out the fire by micturating was therefore a kind of sexual act with a male, an enjoyment of sexual potency in a homosexual competition."
bossyburrito
Posts: 14,075
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9/4/2014 5:11:38 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
"Do you mean to say that, for us, there may be a difference between a table and a book, but in reality, there really isn't?"

My point is that the essence of something is a description of certain qualities something needs to be categorized as something. There certainly is a difference between anything in particular considered a table and something considered a book, but the concept of each refers to an undefined number of concretes with different non-essential attributes. These concretes are tied together by the human selection of an essense, or a human choice of the characteristics the concept would deem essential. As such, the essense of something is epistemological in nature, and, since an essence without reference to a concept cannot exist, the essense is seen not to exist physically in the object somehow. It is but a grouping of certain qualities that are in the object.

My point is that there is a difference between any particular and any other, and to get to the point of saying "what is the difference between any table and any book", you must form concepts of both books and tables. You're not comparing particular concretes when you compare tables and books, you're comparing what the essential qualities of each are. There's a difference between saying "books" and pointing to a particular book you have next to you.

The point about concepts being abstract categorizations can be made more clear by considering the two different-coloured horses - in reality, they are both completely distinct and individual particulars. However, since they both have some things in common, they can be put under the same concept. So, in this way, you cannot learn more about any given particular from learning it's essence than that which is stated by the concept of that thing which it's essense you are learning from.

So the two horses are just as distinct from each other in reality as a particular horse and a particular table, as there's certainly a difference, but the two horses can be united by means of a concept and given the essence of being a horse.
#UnbanTheMadman

"Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights..."

~ Rush