Issue #06. August 1996. Pp. 34-60.
by John D. Kronen (pp. 34-60)
The first book in the series was wholly written by Gracia, the second was edited by him and was also graced with two substantial articles by him as well as with a long introduction and appendix. In this work, as it deals with a period that is not his speciality, Gracia is not so prominent, and it is Kenneth Barber, a scholar of the modern period and of Hume in particular, who is the chief editor and the author of the book's interesting introduction. In it Barber notes that certain problems central to particular paradigms become peripheral when other paradigms take their place. He gives as an example of this phemonemon the fact that a problem central to logical positivism, namely, «whether two persons can experience the same sense datum,» is no longer much discussed in this post-positivist age.<27>Foot note 3_3
Barber argues that the problem of individuation, which so concerned the medievals, was not as much discussed in the modern period due to another paradigm shift. According to Barber this shift was from a «weak model» of the relationship between epistemology and ontology, characteristic of the middle ages, to a «strong model» of their relationship, characteristic of the modern period.<28>Foot note 3_4
Barber believes that the medievals were not concerned with whether or not their metaphysical entities pass muster on the epistemic front: «The existents, beginning with God, are given as are the categories available for their analysis. The task of the epistemologist is to support not to challenge the schema...»<29>Foot note 3_5 All this changed with the moderns who, following the strong model, allowed entries on their list of entities only after they passed «a test for knowability.» Barber goes on to take Descartes' philosophy as representative of both the strong model of the relationship between epistemology and ontology and of the spirit of modern philosophy: «In the opening paragraphs of the Meditations Descartes announces that he will suspend belief in the existence of anything not known with certainty. Ontological claims concerning the existence of material objects, of God, and even of the self, must be subjected to a most rigorous epistemological scrutiny before one...is entitled to accept those claims.»<30>Foot note 3_6
This way of characterizing the distinction between modern and medieval philosophy seems wrong to me. It is not that the medievals did not look to see whether or not entries on their lists of entities passed tests of knowability, its just that they used different tests. As Plantinga has noted, Aquinas held that one is rationally justified in claiming to know something (as opposed to merely claiming to believe it) iff the knowledge of it is 1) self evident, or 2) evident to the senses, or 3) follows, by deductively valid arguments, from something self-evident or evident to the senses.<31>Foot note 3_7 What distinguishes the modern philosophers from the medieval philosophers, is not their rejection of foundationalism (with respect to philosophy), but rather their rejection of the traditional categories of what is properly basic. Thus, they rejected (2) and in its place proposed what is incorrigible for the senses.<32>Foot note 3_8
Of course, one might hold that the moderns were more critical than the medievals, that they did not accept in so dogmatic a manner as the medievals that our senses can be trusted or that we know that (for example) «everything that comes to be must have a cause.» In this sense, then, I think that the moderns were concerned with epistemology in a way the medievals were not; or, perhaps, I would simply say that they questioned certain sources of knowledge the medievals did not. And for this reason, also, I think that their ontological concerns did shift in the way Barber notes that they did. After all, if I accept as my basic epistemic criteria those of Hume, I cannot very easily appeal to form and matter respectively as the principles of the individuation and identity of empirical objects since I have no impressions of either of these entities.
I agree with Barber, therefore, that the problems of individuation and identity shifted for the moderns and that this shift was rooted in epistemological concerns. But I don't agree that this is a matter of the moderns' having a strong notion of the relationship between epistemology and ontology and the medievals' having a weak one. It is rather that the moderns, for various reasons, did not accept (or did not accept without argument) the same criteria for knowledge as the medievals did. And since they did not, they ended up not only proposing different solutions to some of the problems of the medievals, but also being concerned with different problems than the medievals were. One of the problems that the moderns were concerned with that the medievals were less so is the problem, not of what individuates a given thing, but of how we can know that a given thing is an individual distinct from other things. Thus many (but not all) of the articles in this book are concerned primarily, and even exclusively, with this problem, and not the ontological one. The first bach of articles in the book deal with Descartes and the Cartestians, the second with Locke and the empiricists, and the third with Leibniz and his philosophical heirs, Wolf and Kant. Sandwiched in between the Cartesians and the empiricists is an article on Spinoza.
I: The Cartestians
The first article on the Cartesians, by Thomas Lennon, gives an excellent overview of the problems facing a Cartesian account of the principle of individuation for finite substances. The article shows that when the Cartesians followed the principles of their master they had a devil of a time defending the proposition that there are any individual minds or souls at all, and that they tended to drift into the Spinozistic position that individual minds are so many modes (or bundles of modes) of a single universal mind.
Lennon gives two basic reasons for the pervasiveness of this problem among the Cartesians. The first, also emphasized by Emily Grosholz in her article on Descartes, is that Descartes' desire for a unified grand philosophy of everything lead him to deny the distinctions the medievals drew between various kinds of bodies.<33>Foot note 3_9 Descartes, in short, saw the whole physical universe as consisting of only one sort of essence, that of the res exstensa. This alone would not have caused individuation to be a difficulty for Cartesianism, however, had not Descartes also confused primary with secondary substance; had he not, that is, equated the essences of things with the universal attribute that he held constituted that essence.<34>Foot note 3_10 This, along with the reduction of the universal essence of all finite things to two kinds only (viz. extended and thinking) lead, inexorably, to seeing all individual instances of such kinds as but modes or parts of the universal substances extension and thought. I think that Lennon's account of the origin of the problems facing a Cartesian account of individual substances is fine as far as it goes, but I think he fails to understand the reasons behind Descartes' confusion of the primary substance of the Aristotelians with their secondary substance. Lennon thinks this confusion was a mere corollary of Descartes' mechanistic reductionism. The truth is that it was more a corollary of his obsession with epistemic problems. Gracia has shown, in his book on individuation, that those philosophers who tend not to clearly grasp the difference between ontological and epistemic problems conceive of the principle of individuation as that which distinguishes a thing from other things in the same class as it.<35>Foot note 3_11 The reason for this is that the chief problem of individuation from the epistemologist's point of view is precisely how we can distinguish one thing from another. So it is only natural that the epistemologist turned ontologist should think that the principle of individuation in things is just what makes them really distinct from other, otherwise similar, things.
In the later middle ages, when epistemological and ontological problems were carefully and systematically distinguished, the principle of individuation was not so conceived. According to Suarez, for example, it is perfectly possible to have a class consisting of only one member (indeed, he thought the class of things that are God necessarily has only one member), which member is hence not distinguished from any other member of the class.<36>Foot note 3_12 For Suarez, the principle of individuation is the principle that makes a thing incommunicable to another thing of the same sort.<37>Foot note 3_13 So Bob, for example, cannot be divided into other complete men; he can only be divided into his soul and body, or into his various physical parts (head, hands, feet, etc.). Bob is thus an individual, and would be an individual even if he were the only human being in existence. «Humanity,» on the other hand, is communicable to a potentially infinite number of individuals (Bob, Bill, Sally, etc.) each of which are complete human beings. So «humanity,» for Suarez, is a universal and it would be distinct from any actual instance of it, even if that instance were the only such instance. To put all this in more contemporary parlance, for Suarez individuals are members of classes, while universals are the mind-dependent properties in virtue of which individuals are grouped into classes. No universals do or can actually exist; they are simply the way the mind conceives of the essences of things in abstraction from those things.<38>Foot note 3_14 However, this does not mean that all our categories are arbitrary. The category of all things that are human, for example, is not arbitrary because there is a real (i.e. mind independent) similarity between all the individual things we place in the category of «human being.»
Now, if Lennon is to be believed, Descartes did not conceive of individuals in the way in which Suarez did at all. For Descartes, apparently, that is in individual which is distinct from other members of its class; Descartes, sure to his epistemic concerns, conceived of the principle of individuation as that which distinguishes a thing. One can find the root of this shift from the ontic to the epistemic in the way Descartes laid down the conditions for the real distinction between thing and thing. Suarez had said, in effect, that for an entity x to be distinct from an entity y, it is sufficient (I say sufficient but not necessary because of God) that x be able to exist apart from y and y apart from x.<39>Foot note 3_15 Descartes, in laying down this distinction, echoed Suarez nearly word for word, the important difference being that x must be able to be conceived apart from y and vice versa.<40>Foot note 3_16 From this it will follow for Descartes that x can exist apart from y (or, as he put it, that God could conserve them in separation from each other). Descartes also gave conceptual re-readings of Suarez's modal and conceptual distinctions.
Applying his epistemically grounded distinctions to bodies, Descartes argued, notoriously, that the essence of all material things is the same, namely extension, and so, not only is there only one material substance for Descartes, but this substance just is the universal essence res extensa. This conclusion did not worry Descartes (or the Cartesians) much; what was more problematic for them was the seemingly equally valid conclusion that, as the essence of all minds is the same (viz. to think), there is only one created thinking substance, of which all individual minds are but modes. Such a conclusion was problematic for the Cartesians since it seemed to them to contradict the theological doctrine of the immortality of the soul (indeed it raised the ghost of the medieval heresy of the «common intellect.»)
Perhaps for this reason, not only Descartes, but his more Orthodox follows, Arnauld and Malebranche, though they all resolutely held to a plurality of finite intellectual substances, nowhere discussed how such substances could be individual on Cartesian grounds.<41>Foot note 3_17 It was only the more radical (but perhaps also more consistent) Cartesians, Desgabets and Regis, who drew the conclusion that individual minds, no less than bodies, are modes of the one created thinking substance.<42>Foot note 3_18 In Desgabets the implications of this conclusion for the immortality of the soul are not clearly or explicitly drawn (indeed, Desgabets, fallaciously, seemed to draw the conclusion that souls are immortal);<43>Foot note 3_19 Regis, ever the enfant terrible of Cartesianism, however, did draw the appropriate conclusion: «as extension, which is the essential attribute of body is never corrupted, and it is only the modes making it this or that body that perish, we are forced also to recognize that thought, which is the essential attribute of mind, cannot be corrupted. And it is only the modes determining it to be this or that soul, for example to be the soul of Peter, Paul, John, etc., which are destroyed.»<44>Foot note 3_20
Regis knew such a conclusion would get him in trouble with the theologians, and he tried unsuccessfully to avoid such trouble by having recourse to a fideistic argument for the immortality of the soul.<45>Foot note 3_21 As I said, this attempt to avoid trouble was unsuccessful; at that time both Catholics and Protestants saw the philosophical arguments for the immortality of the soul as important underpinnings of both religion and public morality.<46>Foot note 3_22 Be that as it may, Regis is important for us today for having the courage to draw many of the inferences that seem implicit in Descartes' philosophy, which Descartes himself, whether for religious or political reasons, refused to draw.<47>Foot note 3_23
Two articles conclude the book's treatment of Cartesianism proper. The first, «Descartes and the Individuation of Physical Objects,» by Emily Grosholz, supports Lennon's more general pronouncements. Grosholz concludes her article by asserting that «because Descartes understands the unification [of mathematics and physics] in too emphatic a way...the integrity and individuality of his physical objects are finally unconvincing.»<48>Foot note 3_24
The second, «Malebranche an the Individuation of Perceptual Objects,» by Daisie Radner, gives a clear and informed solution to the problem of how we can perceive particular bodies according to Malebranche's general principles. This was a real problem for Malebranche because he thought that both our acts of perceiving bodies and our acts of contemplating their nature take as their immediate object the universal essence of intelligible extension, which is in the mind of God.<49>Foot note 3_25 Radner's article should be profitable to anyone interested in Malebranche's rather bizarre, but brilliant, epistemology.
Sandwiched between the section of the book dealing with the Cartesians and the section dealing with the empiricists is an article by Don Garrett on «Spinoza's Theory of Metaphysical Individuation.» Garrett notes that this theory is often accused of being 1) incoherent, 2) unclear and 3) incomplete.<50>Foot note 3_26 It is accused of being incoherent because it locates the principle of individuation in the a certain «proportion» or «ratio» of motion and rest; but motion and rest, being accidents of individual things, seem to presuppose individual beings and so cannot constitute such beings. It is accused of being unclear because it does not lay out any very clear account of what is meant by the phrase «ratio» of motion and rest. Finally, it is accused of being incomplete since it would seem to apply only to bodies.
Garret does a good job of responding to these objections to Spinoza's theory, but I don't think he has shown it to be tennable because he has not shown that Spinoza's account of extension as a simple, infinite mode of God is tennable. Be that as it may, Garret does convincingly argue that Spinoza's theory is coherent because by motion and rest Spinoza did not mean to refer so much to the physical places of bodies as to the forces that keep them in place or cause them to move.<51>Foot note 3_27 Although one might argue that force, like motion itself, is a property of bodies, it is certainly not as clear that this is the case as that motion and rest are, and many prominant philosophers from Plato to Whithead have located the very being of bodies in their power. So it would seem that if Spinoza did mean by motion an rest the inner principles of such, his theory cannot easily be accused of making the principle of individuation reside in a mere accident of bodies.
Garret further convincingly argues against the charge that Spinoza's theory is unclear by giving very good reasons for holding that by «ratio of motion to rest» Spinoza meant to refer to fixed patterns of communicated motion and rest among the parts of a thing.<52>Foot note 3_28 Finally, Garret argues against the charge that Spinoza's theory is incomplete by showing that 1) for Spinoza the only beings which need a principle of individuation are finite modes<53>Foot note 3_29 (i.e. modes of infinite modes) and 2) that Spinoza's theory applies to the only finite modes we are aware of<54>Foot note 3_30 (viz. extention and thought.) The reason why the only beings that need a principle of individuation are finite modes for Spinoza is that there is only one possible substance (namely God) and only one possible instance of each of his infinite modes (of course, I have argued above that one might question the ontological assumptions unlerlying such a view, but granted Spinoza's Cartesian presuppositions, the defense Garrett gives of him makes sense). The reason why Spinoza's theory is complete for both extension and thought, the only modes we know of, is that thought is essentially thought of or about a certain extension, so if one accepts Spinoza's mind-matter parallelism his theory of individuation will work for both spirits and their bodies.
As I have said, this is a persuasive defense of Spinoza, but its persuasive force will ultimately depend on accepting that every body is but a mode of the infinite mode of extension. I find this hard to swallow. Perhaps I am simply too biased in favor of atomism, but it does not seem to me that the parts making me up are modes of me--rather they are partial substances. Furthermore, I cannot understand how infinite extension can be a simple property or mode of an incompound being. If anything seems evident to me it is Leibniz's assertian that everything characterized by extension is compound. Of course, one cannot so quickly dispatch with Spinoza since he gives arguments in the Ethics for his view that extension is one simple, infinite attribute of God<55>Foot note 3_31 and, therefore, any final judgment concerning his theory of inidividuation would have to carefully examine the cogency of these arguments.
III: The Empiricists
The first essay on the empiricists, by Martha Brandt Bolton, is on Locke's theories of individuation and identity. Bolton begins her essay with a history lesson. She notes that Locke was familiar with certain Protestant scholastic textbooks in use in his time at Oxford, and she asserts that a friend of Locke's had pleaded with him to treat certain of the «metaphysical subjects of the schoolmen.»<56>Foot note 3_32 Bolton claims that the part of the new edition of the Essays which treats of individuation and (especially) identity, is Locke's answer to his friend's request. Nevertheless, Bolton believes that the background of Locke's treatment of these problems is significantly different from that of even those scholastics who were his contemporaries. Attributing a quasi-Platonic realism to all scholastics, Bolton holds that, whereas for the scholastics it is universal essences which are primitive and individual instances of those essences which need to be accounted for, for Locke the notion of an individual substance is primitive and «what needs explanation is generality, species or kinds.»<57>Foot note 3_33 She goes on further to quote a passage from Locke supporting her nominalistic interpretation of his ontology, in which Locke says that «General and Universal belong not to the real existence of Things; but are the Inventions and Creatures of the Understanding...»<58>Foot note 3_34
Bolton's contrast here between Locke and the later scholastics is confused. Specifically, Bolton confuses the ontology of earlier scholasticism, which was more realistic and Platonic, with that of later scholasticism, which was nominalistic and Aristotelian.<59>Foot note 3_35 Indeed, I know that one of the scholastic authors Bolton says Locke was familiar with, Christof Scheibler, was an ardent supporter of the nominalistic notion that everything is necessarily singular and individual and hence that everything is individual by its own entity.<60>Foot note 3_36 Scheibler would further have agreed with Locke that there are no universals in re and that universals are creatures of the understanding, or ens rationis, as Scheibler would have called them.
Where Scheibler and the other later Scholastics did differ from Locke, was in their view that the entity which makes everything individual also makes it distinct from other things<61>Foot note 3_37 and in there view that every entity which is truly and substantially one must be unified by a substantial form.<62>Foot note 3_38 The first of these views would have made it difficult for Scheibler to understand why Locke, having in effect accepted the nominalist view that everything is individual and is so in virtue of its very being, felt the need to give a theory of what distinguishes one individual of a certain sort from another. The second of these views would have made him reject Locke's own notion of what unifies and identifies composite substances over time.
With respect to the question why Locke, accepting the nominalist view that everything is an individual by its entity, felt the need to give a theory accounting for the distinction of one sort of entity from another, I can only theorize that he, like Leibniz, must have held the strong notion of the principle of the identity of indescernibles. According to this principel, for any x and any y, y is really distinct from x iff x has some quality or qualities y lacks and vice versa. Furthermore, this strong view will not accept just any property as being a quality in the relevant sense. For example, properties like «being identical with x» will not work. And for Leibniz, neither will relations like «being to the left of» or «being to the right of» or «being above» or «being the father of.»<63>Foot note 3_39 Locke, however, gives a theory of what distinguishes different substances of the same sort which seems to evoke exactly the kind of «extrinsic denominations» Leibniz so thoroughly rejected. Locke argues that what individuates any finite being is its position in space. This follows from the principle that for Locke no two things of the same sort can occupy the same space.<64>Foot note 3_40 Since Locke believed that the place of a thing was relational (that is, to say x is in place p is just to say it has a certain relation to other things, y and z, which relation could be had by some other entity e), his view of what distinguishes one thing from another is accidental; that is, it is certain spatial relations a thing has to other things which distinguishes it from those things. The strengths and weakness of this view are likely to be about the same as those of any accidental view of individuation.<65>Foot note 3_41 More interesting and original is Locke's theory of identity.
Locke's theory of what identifies a thing over time was a result of his acceptance of late scholasticism's notion that it is the complete entity of any thing that individuates and identifies it,<66>Foot note 3_42 coupled with his rejection of its view that matter and form constitute the entity of material substances. In place of matter and form Locke posited a dualism of corporeal body and spiritual substance, with corporeal body being understood atomistically. This left Locke with the problem, pointed out to him by traditionalists who attacked this doctrine, of how to account for the unity of compound material substances such as trees, granted that they 1) are made up of an aggregate of atoms and 2) lack any substantial form to give substantial unity to such atoms.<67>Foot note 3_43 It further left him with the problem of how to account for the identity of such substances over time granted that the atoms that make them up continually change.
In originating a solution to these problems Locke first of all insisted, in line with the late scholastics, that the principles individuating and identifying a thing over time are dependent upon the ontological constitution of that thing.<68>Foot note 3_44 Thus, in accordance with this both Suarez and Scheibler say that what individuates an angel is a pure form, since angels are made up of only form, while what individuates a cat, for example, is its matter and form, since that is what makes it up.<69>Foot note 3_45 However, even in the cat what is essential for identity at is the form, since the matter of the cat will change over time while its form will not. Indeed, for the schoolmen, as Bolton points out, the cat's body can be the same body over time even if the matter changes since what makes a body the body of a certain sort of thing is exactly the form which actualizes it.<70>Foot note 3_46
In place of the late scholastic hylomorphic theory, Locke supported a dualistic atomism. For Locke the most basic ontological distinction to be made in the realm of finite substances is between simple and compound entities. A simple entity is any entity which cannot survive the change of its constituent parts (whether those parts are one or many); a compound entity is any entity which can survive the change of its constituent parts.<71>Foot note 3_47 This leads to the rather odd notion that an aggregate, such as a pile of rocks, is a simple entity since it cannot survive the change of its parts. It should also be noted that Locke's distinction between simple and compound entities cuts across the distinction between material and spiritual entities; Locke thinks there can be instances of both simple material entities (such as atoms) and simple spiritual entities (such as angels), as will as instances of compound material entities (such as animals) and compound spiritual entities (such as persons).<72>Foot note 3_48
Locke noted that the reason that compound entities can survive the change of the parts which constitute them at any given time is that the essence of such entities is to be made of parts of a certain sort structured in a certain way. Thus animals, according to Locke, are compound entities since any given individual animal can, and does, survive the loss of particular atoms and molecules making it up, just so long as new atoms and molecules come to replace the old ones the animal looses. Thus a given animal (a) remains the same individual for Locke trough a certain time period t--t&supers_n;, just so long as (a) continues to exist uninterruptedly as the same sort of thing from t--t&supers_n;.<73>Foot note 3_49
Now, in addition to holding to the above mentioned differences between simple and compound things, Locke also, notoriously, held that persons, like animals, are compound entities. This is because persons can survive the loss of the physical parts that make them up. For Locke, personal identity is not dependent upon the continued survival of any part or set of parts that constitutes a person at any given time. What it does depend upon is the continence of a certain mental structure, involving, among other things, the memory of past mental acts.<74>Foot note 3_50
In some ways Locke's theory on this point echoes the tradition. For the tradition also held that persons could survive the loss of any of the parts constituting their bodies at any particular time. But, according to the tradition, this is possible because one part constituting the person, viz. her soul, does remain numerically the same over time. Locke denies this; he conceives of the logical possibility that distinct immaterial substances could share in the same personal identity. In this respect Locke's view adumbrates Hume's; it differs from Hume's however, in that Locke helds that for any mental act (m) existing at any time (t) there is some simple substance (s) (whether spiritual or material) which performs (m).<75>Foot note 3_51 In short, though Locke thought that personal identity can pass from one substance to another, he did not allow that mental acts or other psychical properties could exist independently of a sustaining substance. Though a person (p) could be constituted over time by distinct substances, it is nevertheless a necessary truth for Locke that (p), at any time (t), performs any mental act (m) in virtue of some simple substance (s), that partially constitutes (p) at (t).
Bolton lays all of this out with great clarity and further shows that Locke's argument against its actually being the case that any person is constituted by different substances over time, takes as its foundational principle God's benevolence, not His justice.<76>Foot note 3_52 In the course of clarifying Locke's views Bolton shows that it is free of the internal inconsistencies it has been accused of harboring from Butler and Reid on until the present. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Locke's theory involves some absurd notions, such as the notion that «different substances may be the agents of acts that are correctly ascribed to a single person.»<77>Foot note 3_53
The next article on the empiricist tradition in Individuation and Identity, by Daniel Flage, is on Berkeley's view of the individuation and identity of physical objects. Flage makes it clear that Berkeley shared Locke's disinction between simple and compound objects, as well as Locke's insistence that the principle of individuation and identity be different for such different sorts of things.<78>Foot note 3_54 Berkeley differed from Locke, however, concerning the specific classes of objects to be placed under these two heads. Simple objects for Berkely consist of souls and their simple ideas;<79>Foot note 3_55 complex objects, on the other hand, consist of the complex notions that souls construct out of their simple ideas. The classes of simple objects are similar in that they are maximally individual; every simple object is individuated necessarily in virte of its very being.<80>Foot note 3_56 They differ in that ideas have only momentary existence while souls perdure over time. Furthermore, Berkeley seems to disagree with Locke's notion that a single person could be consistued over time by different substance. Whether or not the concept of «person» is identical with the concept of «soul» for Berkely is unclear; what is clear is that no person could be consititued by different substance over time. Thus for any person (p) it is necessary the case the there is only one spiritual substance (s) whose mental acts or ideas constiute (p).<81>Foot note 3_57
The individuation and identity of complex objects is much looser than that of simple objects according to Berkely. Flage well describes Berkley's notion that complex objects are constructs that minds make out of their simple impressions. A tree, for example, is a mental construct, made out of the simple impressions of the colors of the three, its textures, etc. These constructs, however, are not arbitrary. Real objects are constituted by minds according to certain pscyological laws or principles which bear on real similarities among the simple ideas comprising such objects.<82>Foot note 3_58 This notion allows Berekely to account for the fact that a botonist, for example, has a clearer and more detailed idea of a rose than the average person does. This is because the botonist is more attentive than the average person to the real similaries that obtain among the ideas which make up the rose.<83>Foot note 3_59
As for the identity over time of physical objects, Berkely accounted for it in terms of similaries of consturcted ideas. That is, the tree I see out of my window today, can be properly identified with the tree I saw out of it yesterday, because 1) the simple impressions making up the three are similar to those making up the tree I saw yesterday, 2) they are related to each other in a way similar to the way the simplie ideas making up the tree I saw yesterday were, and, finally 3) they are related to constructs spacially near them in a similar way to the way the tree I saw yetsterday was related to the spacial constructs around it.<84>Foot note 3_60
Flage finally takes up the question of whether or not two persons can have the same ideas according to Berkely. He thought that if the question concerns the ideas of two finite spirits, that the answer rests on how rigorous one wants to be about the concept of «sameness» invovled. In the most rigorous sense of the word, my idea of the white wall in front of me is distinct from that of my neighbor. However, in a looser sense they are the same in that they are qualitatively similar.<85>Foot note 3_61 If the question concerns the ideas of any finite spirit and God, however, then a case can be made for the view that Berkely thought that the set of ideas that any finite spirit has at any time is a sub-set of the ideas God has simultaneously<86>Foot note 3_62 (although, God, of course, has a more perfect, detailed, and clearer knowledge of any ideas which he shares at any given time with a finite spirit).
The final article in this collection on the empiricists is by Fred Wilson. It deals with Hume's account of the identity of physical objects over time as well as of the self. Wilson's article is one of the longest and most detailed in the collection; it is also one of the most philosophically interesting since Wilson takes as his goal the project of defending Hume's views of physical objects and of the self against the charge that they are inconsistent. Wilson does a good job of this, but I am not sure he quite succeeds in his assinged task. I am quite sure, however, that he comes nowhere near to making Hume's view of the nature and identity of phyiscal objects or of the self tenable.
Wilson's account of Hume's own views is rooted in an account of the scholastic tradition as well as of Locke's spin on that tradition. As Wilson sees it, Locke hanged on to the traditional ontology concerning substance and causal power. What Locke gives up is the epistemic doctrine that we can know anything about the specific nature of physical or spiritual substances or of the way in which the causal powers of a substance flow from it.<87>Foot note 3_63 This means that the emphasis in Locke shifts from substances and their powers to the empirically accessible properties of substances, and to the regular links between events that we are able to observe. Locke's philosophy, then, represents an uneasy half-way house between the tradtion and Hume.
According to Wilson, Hume gave up the traditional ontology Locke clung to. For Hume, the empiricist account of knowledge leaves no room for the concepts of substance or causal power.<88>Foot note 3_64 Hume reconstructed the concepts of physical objects and selves, arguing that both are constructions arising out of simple impressions. To say of a given entity that it is the same physical object as an entity one observed yesterday, is to say that it is a member of a set of perceptions linked together by the mind accourding to relations of similarity and spacio-temporal continuity. This is all very similar to Berkely's account of the nature of physical objects and their identity over time. What is famously different in Hume is his account of the self. Hume gave up, as Berkely did not, the traditional notion of the self as a simple substance that perdures uncahnged in its essence over time. For Hume the self, no less than physical objects, consists of a number of really disinct individual impressions and ideas (it is, in Hume's own famous phrase, a «bundle of impressions»).
Hume's account of the self made him uneasy. In particular, he did not seem to think that account could explain the origin of our ordinary notion of the self.<89>Foot note 3_65 Wilson argues that Hume's philosophy does indeed provide the materials for a consistent notion of the self which is capable of explaining the origin of our common sense notion of it. The argument Wilson gives for this is quite complex and I shall not summarize it in detail here. I shall note, however, that Wilson shows that Hume does include amoung the entities that constitue the self kinds of impressions which he does not include among the entities that constitue material objects. These kinds of impressions include impressions that impressions are occuring (Hume's odd verson of self-conciousnes) as well as feelings<90>Foot note 3_66 (e.g. pride, anger, hope, love). This is all well and good, and it shows that Hume's account of the mind is more sophsticated than is commonly thought, but I am still not sure it does away with all internal inconsistencies in Hume. In particular, I am not sure that Hume can account for the origin of our ideas of the self or of causal powers without invoking habits (as he indeed does and as Wilson himself notes that he does), and it does not seem that «habits» are the sorts of mental entities one can have an impression of<91>Foot note 3_67 (which must be possible if Hume's use of the idea of «habit» is to square with his account of the nature of all ideas as decayed impressions).<92>Foot note 3_68 Furthermore, I am not at all clear what it means to say that there are impressions that impressions are going one. I think one can percieve that an impression is going on, but such a perception seems to require at least the indirect awarness of the very subject of impressions which Hume banished from his ontology.
IV: Leibniz and the German Tradition
The last section of I&I deals with the German tradition of modern philosophy. The philosophers treated in this section are distinguished from their British and French counterparts in part due to the greater influence of scholasticism on their thought. This was due to the fact hat the universities in 17th century Germany, like those in 17th Century Spain, were far more beholden to the State and the Church than was true in Britian, or even in France.<93>Foot note 3_69 The reasons for this are many, but the religious diversity that came about in Germany as a result of the Reformation is probably the cheif. Germany was divided between the Lutheran, Reformed and Catholic traditions. This led to a kind of tolerance, but it also led to a great concern with theological doctrine and with apologetics. For these purposes the theologians of the German universities found the ontological categories of the Aristotelian/scholastic tradition most servicable and they thus kept it alive even as it was dying in France and Britain.<94>Foot note 3_70
There is no doubt that Leibniz was weaned on the tradtion of Lutheran scholasticicism.<95>Foot note 3_71 This is apparent from the number of thinkers of that tradition Leibniz referes to in his philosophical and theological works, as well as from the number of notions he professly took from the scholastics. For though Leibniz, like all of his most famous contemporaries, criticized the scholastics, he did not do so without at the same time protesting both the great worth of many of their central ideas and the honorableness of their character.<96>Foot note 3_72 The influence of scholasticism shows in the work Laurence McCullough examines in I&I, the youthful Disputatio metaphysica de principio individui. Written under the direction of one of the most famous of Lutheran scholastics, Scherzer, McCullough notes that the influence of scholasticism can be found in the exclusively ontological concern of the work.<97>Foot note 3_73 Leibniz is not concerned with how we can distinguish individuals, but with the feature or features that make things to be individual.
In harmony with other recent work on Leibniz, McCullough argues, I think correctly, that Leibniz came down squarely on the side of the late scholastic nominalist tradition in his treatment of the principle of individuation.<98>Foot note 3_74 For Leibniz all real beings are individual in virtue of their complete entity. There are no universals existing in res, for universals are but constructions of reason.<99>Foot note 3_75 McCullough further argues that Leibniz never abandoned his early nominalistic views and that even his later monadism is informed by his early nominalsim.<100>Foot note 3_76 This may come as a surprise to some who have been accustomned to seeing Leibniz through the lens of Russel's classic work. The cheif reason for doubting the later Leibniz was a nominalist is that Leibniz apparently thought that the essence of each thing is unique; this might lead one to suppose each monad is literally an existing univesral species. Furthermore, Leibniz sometimes speaks as if the essence of a monad is literally the sum of all of its predicates, which predicates themselves might be thought to be universals.<101>Foot note 3_77 Thus one might suppose that for Leibniz monads are bundles of universals.
I think both of these reasons for supposing Leibniz abandoned his early nominalism are based upon minunderstandings of his doctrine. For in the first place, the fact that Leibniz thought every monad unique in its specific essence does not in itself show he thought of them as existing universals. According to the scholastic tradition Leibniz was familiar with, it is quite possible for there to be individuals who are the sole possible instances of their specific essences. This was the common view the scholastics took with respect to the divine essence, and it was also, famously, the view the entire school of St. Thomas took with respect to the angels. Leinbiz was aware of this, and in The Discourse on Metaphysics makes explicit reference to the doctrine of St. Thomas in explaning his own theory of individuation:
From this [i.e. the predicate-in-notion principle], several notable paradoxes follow. One of these is that it is not true that two substances resemble each other entirely and are different in number alone (solo numero), and that what St. Thomas asserts in this connection about angels or intelligences, namely, that in these cases every individual is an infima species is true of all substances...<102>Foot note 3_78
With respect to the second point, namely, that Leibniz's notion that every substance is constituted by a complete concept which includes all of its predicates, it should be noted that Leibniz was often guilty of failing to distinguish mention from use.<103>Foot note 3_79 Thus he would say that the individual consists of its complete concept; nevertheless, when he was careful, he was clear that the complete notion of the individual is merely the way in which the individual is known to God. The individual itself is not a concatenation of predicates; it is rather a certain limited actuality, consisting of a primate active force, or form, and a primitive passive force, or prime matter.<104>Foot note 3_80 Further, these forces are but conceptually distinct aspects of one simple being. The active force is the degree of clarity of a substance's perceptions, while the passive force is its degree of imperfection. God, in knowing the essences of substances, knows their exact degree of perfection and imperfection; He knows, as it were the inner law of their being. Hence, far from knowing them as but an aggregate of predicates, He knows them a priori and thus He knows how all their accidents are a result of the degree of perfection of their essence.<105>Foot note 3_81
Sandwiched between the essay on Leibniz and the concluding essay on Kant, there is one by Jorge Gracia on Christian Wolf. This is fitting, for though Wolf is not much read today, he had great influnece not only in Lutheran Germany but also in Catholic Universities of Spaiin, Italy and the new world. Indeed, Wolf's conception of the nature of metaphysics was determinative of the way in which 19th and early 20th Century neo-scholastics treated metaphysics. Not until the so called «existentialist Thomism» of Maritain and Gilson, did Wolf's influence on neo-scholasticism wain.<106>Foot note 3_82 But in addition to influencing later scholastics, it is very clear that Wolf had a great influence on Kant, who always spoke of the older philosopher with respect.
Gracia's essay on Wolf is one of the clearest and best argued in the collection. In part this is because Gracia's own extensive reasearch into the topic of individuation has caused him to have a very clear notion of all of the various problems it contains. Indeed, I am afraid he has a clearer notion of the topic than the subject of his essay did. For, as Gracia notes, in spite of his great attempt to be clear, Wolf is very unclear about many central issues of his view of individuation. His unclarity has lead Gracia to construct what he takes to be Wolf's notion of individuation; but though Gracia mounts an impressive case for the conclustion that Wolf espoused a bundle theory of the nature of the individual, I remain unconvinced.
According to Gracia, Wolf took the essences of individuals (or that which makes them to be beings of a certain sort) to be bundles of their generic and specific features, while their thisness (or that which makes them to be particular instances of beings of a certain sort) he took to be bundles of accidents (i.e. non-necessary features).<107>Foot note 3_83 Gracia's case for this conclusion is based, essentially, on the following points. In the first place, Wolf refered to universals as what individuals «have in common».<108>Foot note 3_84 This, Gracia notes, is a favorite expression of medieval realists, such as Scotus, who took a bundle view of the nature of the specific essences of things. In the second place, Wolf refered to individuals as being «completely determined» in their being, and further went on to suggest that what is determined in them is exaclty their generic and specific properties. Indeed, Gracia points to one text in the Logic where Wolf refers to the specific essence of things as «bundles» of their essential features.<109>Foot note 3_85 Finally, Gracia notes that Wolf spoke of the thisness of a thing determining its specific essence in a way analogous to the way the specific difference itself determines the thing's generic essence.<110>Foot note 3_86 Though Gracia notes that Wolf nowhere asserted that the «thisness» of a thing is constituted by the set of its non-necessary accidents, he thinks that it is the most likely interpretation of Wolf's thought in light of 1) the inherent weakness of views, such as that of Scotus, which take «thisness» to be a primative, and in light of 2) the fact that Wolf retains the traditional scholastic distinction between necessary accidents (called atributes by Wolf) and non-necessary accidents (called modes by Wolf).<111>Foot note 3_87 This is all very convincing and would convince me were it not for the following fact: If Wolf did expound a bundle view of the nature of individuals, then he expounded a view of such which is logically incompatible with fundamental tenets of the monodism that he took over from Leibniz. Let me explain.
One of the foundational principles of Leibniz's philosophy is the view that no accidental unity, i.e. no union of really disinct substances, features or essences, can constitute a single substance rigorously speaking. It is for this reason that Leibniz held that there are no composite substances since the only substantial being composites have is the substantial being of their parts; in truth, composites have no more substantial unity than the East India Company.<112>Foot note 3_88 It is also for this reason that Leibniz held that all true substances are simple, lacking parts entirely.<113>Foot note 3_89 Finally, it is for this reason that Leibniz held that the form and matter «constituing» such substances are not really disinct principles but are simply conceptually distinct aspects of a single limited actuality.<114>Foot note 3_90
Now Wolf entirely agreed with the main outlines of Leinbiz's view. In his Ontologia. he said that all composites are, rigorously speaking, but accidental unities, being constituted by relational modes.<115>Foot note 3_91 He wrote that the ultimate constituents of composites are simple substances, which are substances in the full and rigorous sence.<116>Foot note 3_92 These substances lack parts, are not in space, are neither generated nor corrupted, etc. Furthermore, the features characteristic of such substances are primitive passive force (or their passive faculties), primitive active force (or their active faculties) and conatus, or the continual striving for further perfection.<117>Foot note 3_93 Though Wolf did not say so, it seems reasonable to suppose that he agreed with Leibniz in holding that these features of simple substances are only conceptually, not really, distinct.
Having layed out the chief tenets of the monadism characteristic of both Leibniz and Wolf, it should be clear that Wolf could not have, consistent with that monadism, espoused a boundle view of essence. For if the essences of things consist of bundles of their generic, specific and accidental features, then they simply cannot have the true and rigorous unity that both Leibniz and Wolf ascribed to what is really real, viz., the monads. Since this is so, it seems one should not ascribe a bundle view to Wolf unless the texts are absolutely clear that he held such a view; but even Gracia admits they are not absolutely clear. For these reasons I cannot agree with Gracia that Wolf held a bundle view of the nature of individual substances.
But, if Wolf did not hold such a view, how does one explain his repeated insistence that the essence of things consists in the concatination of their essential and primary features (what Wolf called «essentials»)? And, if he did not hold a bundle view, how can one interpret his theory that what makes things individual is that they are «completely determinate?» A full answer to these questions would constitue a paper in itself, but let me sketch a possible line of thought in answer to them here.
With respect to the question of how to interpret those passages wherein Wolf does seem to equate the essences of things with the bundle of their essential features, it should be noted that both the scholastics and Leibniz often confused mention and use in their more careless moments, predicating of the essence of a thing its definition. Thus Aquinas often said that the essence of man is «rational animal.» When he was more careful, however, he was clear that, since there are no actually existing universals, «rational animal» merely expresses the essence of man in logical terms, it does not constitute it. What constitues it is prime matter and a rational soul.<118>Foot note 3_94 In a similar way, it may be that when Wolf said that the essence of a thing is all of its necessary and prime featues, he should be interpreted as predicating of the essence its definition. Some support for this can be found in a passage where Wolf compared his notion of essence with that of the tradition. He noted that in this regard Suarez said that the essence of a thing is «that which is expressed in the defintion,» and went on to say that his own view, which holds that the essence of a thing is its prime, necessary attributes, «agrees» with Suarez's view.<119>Foot note 3_95 Since this consturction of Wolf is plausible based upon the tradition he allied himself with, and since there are texts to support it, and since it better harmonizes with Wolf's monadism than the bundle view, I submit that it is a better interpretation of his doctrine of essence than Gracia's is.
With respect to the question of what Wolf means when he says that the individual is that which is «fully determined,» I must confess that I find this an example of the a confusion between the epistemic and the ontic which Gracia thinks runs throughout Wolf (indeed, I agree in general with Gracia's view that Wolf's philosophy is vitiated by this very confusion; I just don't think the extent of the disease is a bad as Gracia thinks it is). What Wolf may have had in mind is that universals, being constructions of the mind, are never as rich as the individuals they confusedly represent. No matter how far you determine them, they are never as determinate as individuals, and can hence always apply to an infinite number of them. Individuals, however, being complete beings, not characterized by the abstractness of concepts, will always be fully determinate.<120>Foot note 3_96 Thus Wolf focused on this determinateness of individuls as the feature or property disinguishing them from universals. All of this is perfectly consistent with holding that universls are merely concepts of the mind and that they do not actually make up the essence of individual substances. Where Wolf was confused was in thinking that determinatenes is the very feature making individuals individual; it seems rather to be a property by which we can distinguish individuals from our abstract concepts of them. It is precicely here, I think, that Gracia is correct that Wolf's concern with epistmology led him to confuse a feature of individuals with their very «thisness.»
The final article in the book, by Michael Radner, concerns Kant's theory of the individuation of phenomena and things in themselves. This article is valuable for the light it sheds on the continuing influence of German scholasticism on Kant's thought. Too often Kant is approached only via Hume and Descartes; but while it is true that the views of these great foriegn philosophers greatly influenced Kant, he responded to the challenges they posed from within his own peculiar tradition, a tradition heavily influenced by scholasticism.<121>Foot note 3_97
Radner's article highlights the influence of the tradition by arguing for both the importance of the concept of substance in Kant's philosophy and for the largely traditional definition Kant gave of that substance. With regard to the first point Radner emphasizes that Kant conceives of phenomenal «things» as substances<122>Foot note 3_98 and he seems even to argue that Kant conceives of things-in-themselves as substances. I say Radner seems to argue that Kant regarded things-in-themselves as substances because at the beginning of his article he points to passages the upshot of which is that things-in-themselves are substances. Some of these passages cash out the real nature of substance in very Wolfian terms: «As objects of the pure understanding every substance must have innter determinations and powers which pertain to its inner causality;» and, «Causality leads to the concept of action, this in turn to the concept of force, and thereby to the concept of substance.»<123>Foot note 3_99 In this regard Radner further points out that the Kantian notion of substance is in itself so tradtional that Kant «refers readers of the Critique to the `ontological manuals' for the tast of adding the `derivitive and supplementary' pure concepts of the understanding.»<124>Foot note 3_100
More convincing, however, than the implicit and explicit ties of Kant's notion of substance to the Wolfian tradtion (and via that tradition to the older German scholasticism) is one of Kant's arguments for the ideality of space which Radner draws attention to. According to this argument space cannot be real because it is neither an accident nor a substance. This assumes that, in Radners words, all the slots that real things could be in are taken up by substances and accidents.<125>Foot note 3_101 But if that is the case then it seems things in themselves must be substances characterized by accidental determinations.
Though Radner gives a number of arguments, then, for supposing that Kant regarded things-in-themselves as substances, he ultimately is afraid to positively assert this. And there are good reasons for this hesitation. In the first place as Radner himself points out Kant's notion of substance is not wholly the same as Wolf's since for Kant the notion is taylored for possible experience, and since we have no experience of things in themselves, it does not seem that the notion of substance can be applied to things-in-themselves.<126>Foot note 3_102 Furthermore, in some places Kant asserts that no a priori knowledge can give knowledge of the thing-in-itself;<127>Foot note 3_103 but the concept of substance is a priori. I am afraid, in light of all this, that Radner's article, thought it sheds some light on features of Kant's philosophy often overlooked by Anglo-American commentators, exposes as well a deep tension in that philosophy which I cannot see how Kant ever overcame.
After addressing the importance of the concept of substance in Kant's philosophy, Radner goes on to show how Kant accounted for the individuation of phemonenal and noumenal substances.<128>Foot note 3_104 Phenomenal substances for Kant are individuated by their position in space. This makes emminent sense because space is, according to Kant, the a priori form of all external intuitions. It also makes sense because the position of things in space is one of the most important (if not the most important) means we use to disinguish things. Since phemonal entities are creatures of our cognitive faculties it is fitting that their individuation should take its principle from an epistemic rather than an ontic structure.
As for things-in-themselves, Radner shows again Kant's debt to the older tradition. According to Kant the thing-in-itself is individuated by the totality of its inner determinations.<129>Foot note 3_105 Though this is in complete accord with Wolf as far as it goes, Radner argues that it is not present in Kant's philosophy only because Kant was influenced by Wolf; rather it is present because Kant really thought that is was entailed by principles innate in the human mind. In short, there is a Wolfian element that is logically entailed by first principles of Kant's philosophy.
John D. Kronen
St. Thomas University
Department of Philosophy
2115 Summit Ave.
St. Paul MN 55105-1096