Theory of Everything: Successful References, Definitions & Descriptions as criteria for degrees of Explanatory Adequacy

Outline to be fleshed out later:

Distinguish between

Exploration

Reference

Definition of Terms & Concepts

Dogmatic, heuristic, theoretic & semiotic

Indeterminacies

  • Overdetermined possibilities from vague to precise
  • Determined actualities from ambiguous to clear
  • Underdetermined probabilities from general to specific & regularities vs necessities

Classify the extent indeterminacy is epistemic and/or ontic, in/determinable and/or in/determined

Description

Explanation

Scholastic Notation

  • Un/certain
  • Im/probable
  • Im/plausible
  • Im/possible

Ir/rationality refers to sapient realities in degrees of epistemic virtue re metanomological heuristic

Adsurdity refers to metaphysical realities in degrees of un/friendliness to rational creatures in terms of excess of meaning re truth (sufficient nomicity) & surplus of beauty & goodness or suffering & pain, abundance & superabundance (existential sufficiency)

Occam’s Razor in terms of abductive facility plus multiplication of ontologies only adjudicating between models that enjoy explanatory adequacy

Evidentiary standards

Normative justifications

Practical reasoning under speculative uncertainty

Equiplausibility & equiprobability principles

What about a Theory of Everything?

Presently, it seems that a TOE is most generally understood to involve the construction of a model that describes both quantum mechanics and gravity. It remains quite the challenge but the research is driving remarkable technological advances. Perhaps such a TOE would

1) describe the origins of

2) all quantum and thermodynamic realities,

3) accounting for all of the initial, boundary, limit, intermediate & final conditions of

4) all of their properties, existents and relations, using the

5) same concepts & terms for them all.

One might imagine that, theoretically, “everything” could refer to more of reality than just quantum mechanics & thermodynamics. Perhaps such a TOE would

1) describe the origins (inductively & statistically) and predict the behaviors (deductively & probabilistically) of

2) all quantum and thermodynamic realities as well as all living, sentient and rational beings,

3) accounting for all of the initial, boundary, limit, intermediate & final conditions of

4) all of their properties, existents and relations,

5) using the same concepts & terms for them all.

While conceivable in theory, I don’t see that happening for all sorts of reasons, due mostly to practical constraints but some theoretic as well.

In my view, there will never (strong philosophical claim, n’est pas?) come a time when any given observer would not be epistemically entitled to posit vis a vis reality’s furnishings (being or meta-ontological heuristic), an Analogia Entis, and/or their arrangement (necessity or meta-nomological heuristic), an Analogia Axiomata.

An observer could, in principle, always further probe reality and holistically ask descriptive, evaluative, normative, interpretive, transcendent and explanatory questions, while respectively positing various cosmological, axiological, teleological, ontological, existential (soteriological) and epistemological proofs and arguments.

What would keep one within their epistemic rights, in addition to humanity’s requisite shared epistemic virtues, would be any significant and unique personal experiences with respect to which many others may not be similarly situated. Thus it is that accepting one’s reasonableness, as they articulate some reasonable stance regarding reality writ large within their given epistemic rights, must be distinguished from imagining that such a stance would necessarily move others with any general normative impetus.

Humanity’s relationship to God, as a meaningful philosophical concept, hypothetically, and as a leap of faith, existentially, can never be demonstrated as unreasonable, neither a priori, in principle or theoretically, nor a posteriori or for all practical purposes.

So, even as we heed the methodological admonition to not place God in our metaphysical gaps, that doesn’t mean that Nietzsche gets to stand guard at reality’s perimeter.

Note: Proofs are derivable from the primal causes (reality’s primitives).

An observer could, in principle, always further probe reality and holistically ask descriptive, evaluative, normative, interpretive, transcendent and explanatory questions, while respectively positing various cosmological (primal support & efficient), axiological (primal order & formal), teleological (primal goal & final), ontological (primal being & material), existential (primal source & existential in potency to essential & soteriological) and epistemological (primal ground & semantic/proportionate metaphysical ground plus PSR or metanomological heuristic) proofs and arguments.

BREAKING: DBH’s Flip-phone Hacked by a Covert Cyber-Catacombic Enclave of Baroque Neo-scholastic Manualists

Curious pop-up advertisements began showing up during my browsing sessions a few days ago, not long after Yale Press announced a Fall 2019 release for DBH’s universalist-themed book:

That All Shall Be Saved

After a cursory cybersleuthing effort, which was collectively conducted by numerous tweeps of mine, who all belong to the same informal Orthodox cyber-underground, we uncovered the source of those ads, a new organization called OrthodoxWikiLeaks.

After contacting its webmaster via a javascript-enabled contact form, several of us received Twitter DMs from an account, incuriously named, ScotusWasADunce.

Apparently, the CatacombicEnclave’s bots will be responding to #trending_topics and will kick-in in response to any level of cyber-chatter regarding DBH’s upcoming book release.

The bots will DM any tweeps, who either speak favorably of universalism, in general, or of That All Shall Be Saved, in particular. They will be rolling out various unedited DBH text messages between now and September in an effort to discredit the author & dampen his book sales. As the release date nears, the text releases, they say, will be progressively voluminous and will escalate in their level of scandalousness.

Both as a teaser and as a manner of authenticating the hacked contents, ScotusWasADunce released bits & pieces of DBH’s flip-phone contact list.

I contacted ScotusWasADunce thru OrthodoxWikiLeaks insisting that I needed better evidential authentication, while conceding the DBH Contact List was certainly experientially congruent with his lexical reality.

ScotusWasADunce responded with this SMS text:

That pretty much clinched it for me.

You can judge this evidence for yourself. Simply RT this BREAKING news and watch the ScotusWasADunce bots and OrthodoxWikiLeaks DBH text drops kick-in!

Notes regarding Semi-formal heuristics & syllogistics for nondeterminate & determinate realities

One couldn’t a priori say whether, ontologically, there’s a single formal system. If there were, it seems that a single semi-formal heuristic could model it.

That single semi-formal heuristic, which would relate the distinct nondeterminate & determinate syllogistics of a given system, could, in principle, model a single formal system.

Concretely, it seems, for example, that in a materialist monist ontology, nondeterminate static relations, whether in/finite, un/bounded, un/curved +/- and so on, could constrain otherwise determinate, dynamical activities of an energy plenum. We could only model the nondeterminate relations but not explain them, other than to say they’re necessarily like that, noncausally, by the very axiomatic nature of that given formal system.

Can a TOE be formalized?

I would hold that a TOE most certainly can be delimited formally.

Even within given layers of complexity, we can not only successfully reference but even robustly describe properties, entities & relations. With such descriptions, we are not only able to abductively hypothesize & inductively test but can complete a virtuous cycle of triadic inference, deductively using univocal terms, both semantically & ontologically, achieving a certain explanatory adequacy.

It is when we are methodologically thwarted & ontologically befuddled by the emergence of novel properties, entities, states & systems, confronted by reality’s various aporia, that we are forced to fallback on mere exploratory heuristics in order to make vague, overdetermined possibilities more precise; general, underdetermined probabilities more specific; and ambiguous actualities better defined.

When we are seriously thus thwarted, we can engage in a rather nonvirtuous cycle of abductive hypothesizing & deductive clarifying, unable to interrupt it by inductive testing. That dyadic inferential cycling can be efficacious and hypothetically fecund, if done rigorously, opening our minds to new avenues of exploration. It can also become rationalistically vicious, if we imagine we’re thereby achieving explanatory adequacy, as it instead forecloses on research programs.

At the margins of aporia or horizons of knowledge or interface of novelty, we must engage in semi-formal heuristics because we’re relying on analogies of proportion & attribution, e.g. the quantum and the gravitational have these similarities, but those are outnumbered by these dissimilarities.

There is another sense in which nondeductive processes come into play. We inductively & abductively infer 1st principles and such, but call them self-evident, so must rely on refutation by reductio to convince others they’re wrong about, for example, this or that version of a principle of sufficient reason and, yes, even common sense notions of causation. But the semi-formal in play in this discussion pertains to how we relate nondeterminate & determinate syllogistics, respectively, in their modes of identity & being.

Specifically, the identity relations that I am using refer to the formalization of otherwise ambiguous natural language sentences, with their various meta-logics, predicate logics, propositional logics and term logics. Aristotelian syllogistics employ a term logic. In modeling a syllogistic theory, the “axioms” are just the rules employed for moving from premises to conclusions.

Otherwise, the validity we’re seeking in our nondeterminate and determinate syllogistics applies to arguments. Some arguments regarding non/determinate realities that sound counterintuitive, causing interlocutors to come out of the woodwork with reductios & charges of absurdity, can more easily be demonstrated as sound by disambiguating to which modal category they refer, i.e. a reality’s properties, existents or relations and whether non/determinate, and can thereby be made more intuitive.

We do end up with a single formal system that handles propositions about nondeterminate & determinate realities equally well. When we say semi-formal in this sense, it refers to the theory of predication and syllogistic reasoning that’s being applied to nondeterminate and determinate realities but not to the specific syllogisms employed.

Presumably, where mathematical language is being employed for a putative Theory of Everything , we could run into trouble if such a closed formal symbol system is vulnerable to Godel-like constraints, forced to choose between consistency or completeness.

Hawking believed a TOE would thus be vulnerable. See: http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/events/strings02/dirac/hawking/

While there are analogous logical phenomena like undecidability, the halting problem, unfalsifiability, circular referentiality and others, they shouldn’t be facilely conflated and/or applied, such as with Godel’s Theorems, to every attempt at formalization.

In the first place, Godel was talking meta-mathematically, and this is analogous to how I was talking about the semi-formal nature of a theory of predication and syllogistic reasoning for what would otherwise be ambiguous natural language sentences. In the same way that the semi-formal nature of our natural language meta-theory of predication & reasoning would not change the formal nature of the syllogisms under that meta-theory with respect to their ability to deliver formally sound deductive conclusions, Godelian meta-mathematical constraints don’t change the reliability of our mathematical formulas, though they may be variously axiomatized. At least, I have little interest in proceeding through the hundreds of pages of the Principia Mathematica, wherein the axioms required for the arithmetic system that proves 2+2=4 are formulated and proved.

Secondly, Hawking was not abusing Godelian theorems, facilely conflating and applying them to a TOE. He was just giving us an interpretive assist by invoking it as an analogy. The proper take-away may have been, therefore, not that we couldn’t formalize a consistent & complete TOE, but that it would necessarily entail fundamental limit conditions. And he didn’t mean only black hole limits on information concentrations or putative volumetric, geometric, topological or in/finite limits we’re still trying to define. What he was suggesting, some say, is that the TOE’s modeling power would be constrained predictively, since, as occupants within the system, we’d have to self-referentially model ourselves. This is not a constraint, however, on any theoretic ability to formally state a TOE’s axioms or reality’s fundamental principles, even if we remain forever constrained in that regard in terms of practical feasibility.

Finally, even if the Godelian analogy further extended to suggest that our TOE will inescapably express some true statements that could not be deduced from its root axioms, in addition to any phenomena its modeling power could not predict, it would only mean that we couldn’t derive our formal theory from those axioms, thus proving it. That wouldn’t make the formalized TOE, in and of itself, semi-formal or informal, or mean that it couldn’t, in principle, be written out. It only means we wouldn’t know if it’s the authentic TOE, except by tasting & seeing its truths and inductively-abductively inferring the truth of its axioms and their reliability, e.g. in much the same way we overcome solipsism.

Now, maybe we’ve come full circle back to an inherently heuristical nature of our knowledge approaches, but we can distinguish those from our theoretic formulations, in and of themselves, as they formalize our models, even those of Everything. And maybe we’ve discovered that primitive axioms are in a category of givens, where deductive proofs simply do not apply because it’s a category error to treat noncaused, nondeterminate relational aspects of reality as explicable other than in terms of their own nature, simply stated. If that makes all complete descriptions semi-formal and not wholly deducible, that’s just one of their intrinsic features but in no way a defect.

We can’t a priori say whether or not, some day, when an authentic, formal TOE just happens to get written down, whether its truths & reliability will be so patently obvious that – not only will we employ its axioms with all the confidence we now place in those formulated & proved in the Principia, but – we’ll be as disinterested in that TOE’s axioms as most of us are, now, in those that undergird the logic of 2+2=4.

About those Modes of Identity & Being

As an epistemic heuristic, where ontological primitives are bracketed, one might conceive of 3 categories to refer to nondeterminate realities, let’s say, properties, entities & relations, and use the same 3 categories to refer to determinate realities. Those references would be univocal, semantically, but, metaphysically, would be analogical, because we’re distinguishing between nondeterminate & determinate realities. Some would say we’re employing 2 syllogistics, modes of identity for nondeterminate & of being for determinate realities.

For nondeterminate realities, from properties, alone, we can identify the reality, essentially (it acts or does); from exemplifications of an entity, alone, we can identify the reality, existentially (it is); from the nature of its relationality, alone, we can identify the reality, formally (it effects). That’s because a nondeterminate reality always IS what it DOES as known by its EFFECTS. To know something from any of those categories of such a reality is sufficient to identify it.

For determinate realities, however, the only mode of identity is formal identity. To identify a determinate reality, it’s not enough to know that a reality is actual, existentially (that it is), or to know its properties, essentially (how it behaves), we need to know its relations, formally, such as genus & species (what it is). The identification of a determinate reality is irreducibly triadic, requiring us to know something from each of these categories in order to identify it.

These 2 syllogistic modes, together, would comprise a single semi-formal heuristic, epistemically.

When we “unbracket” the primitives, there’s nothing that would a priori commit one, in principle, to applying this heuristic to a monist, dualist or pluralist ontology vis a vis distinct modes of being, each with different primitives & axioms, wholly related or unrelated one to the next.

A monist ontology, though, could represent a single formal system (of nondeterminate & determinate characteristics) modeled by a single semi-formal heuristic.

A pluralist ontology would seem to indicate multiple formal systems (determinate formalities), which may or not indicate singular or multiple nondeterminate nomicities, which may or not indicate singular or multiple semi-formal heuristics. There could be many worlds, variously overlapping, field-like, envisioned by venn diagrams & modeled in part by set theories.

A/theological Conceptions of the Ens Necessarium and the Actus Purus

Among those with various a/theological Peircean stances, some have argued that the architectonic is either inherently atheistic or theistic. For example, certain theists may point to Peirce’s “Neglected Argument for the Reality of God,” wherein he abducted the Ens Necessarium, as evidence that it’s theistic.

As an informal, inductive-abductive inference, to me, Peirce’s Ens Necessarium could justifiably be conceived as closely related to or perhaps even derived from the First Principles. As such, it would intuitively draw a distinction between determinate and nondeterminate realities.

What the abduction of the Ens Necessarium wouldn’t a priori implicate, however, is whether or not the nature of such necessity would merely nomological or also clearly ontological. We could say that the former implicates an Analogia Axiomata, while the latter further intuits an Analogia Entis.

So, the Ens Necessarium conception presents a metaphysical a la carte menu – not only to diverse monist, dualist, pluralist & dipolarist meta-ontologies, but also – to various idealist, materialist, physicalist, naturalist & supernaturalist ontologies.

In other words, conceptually, it’s a bring your own ontology heuristic.

For example, a materialist monist intuition of being, which might locate an Actus Purus in a physical dynamical energy plenum, ontologically & immanently, would conceive any transcendent Ens Necessarium in strictly nomological terms. Such a minimalist conception of transcendence would, therefore, further employ the Peircean methodology solely in terms of a search for reality’s necessary boundary & limit conditions, essentially probing physical reality’s manifold & multiform generalities, probabilities & regularities to specify which might be necessitarian in nature.

A minimalist transcendent methodology would interrogate physical reality, for example, asking such questions as whether it’s NECESSARILY

  • volumetrically in/finite,
  • geometrically un/bounded or un/closed,
  • topologically un/re/curved, spatialized temporally,
  • temporalized spatially,
  • essentially or emergently spatio-temporal,
  • a/symmetric,
  • essentially non/inflationary,
  • quasi/exponentially expansionary,
  • dimensionally 2/3/4/more-D,
  • homo/hetero/genous,
  • an/isotropic,
  • uni/multi/versial,
  • with dimension/less physical constancy,
  • with non/universal constancy,
  • nomologically im/mutable
  • and on and on and on.

Answers to certain of these questions will necessarily implicate answers to certain others.

Methodological stipulations of putative answers generate interpretive models, variously testable, empirically, and variously falsifiable, theoretically and/or practically.

Such an approach to an Actus Purus would necessarily conceive all existents and most regularities nominalistically. The Ens Necessarium, alone, would be conceived essentially per an Analogia Axiomata, accounting for regularity-like necessities.

Or, for example, a supernaturalist intuition of being, conceiving both an Analogia Axiomata, nomologically, and Analogia Entis, ontologically, would conceptually locate an Actus Purus in a robustly transcendent way. There are as many competing interpretive models of this Ens Necessarium conception as there are, well, just for one example, inflationary models of the cosmos:

Is The Inflationary Universe A Scientific Theory? Not Anymore

The problem with inflation isn’t the idea per se, but the overproduction of useless inflationary models. There are literally hundreds of these models, and they are – as the philosophers say – severely underdetermined. This means if one extrapolates the models that fit current data to regimes which are still untested, the result is ambiguous. Different models lead to very different predictions for not-yet made observations. Presently, it is therefore utterly pointless to twiddle with the details of inflation because there are literally infinitely many models that one can think up, giving rise to infinitely many different “predictions.” ~ Sabine Hossenfelder

Regarding, then, those putative Analogia Axiomata & the Analogia Entis

So much turns on whether nature’s contingent existents are mute, brute or fruit vis a vis their primal being (materially), primal support (efficiently), primal ground (formally) & primal goal (finally).

They, thus far, appear mute regarding same, at least, in terms of our modeling attempts, which remain referential & descriptive, exploratorily, but not finally interpreted, explanatorily.

Whether they are brute or fruit turns on whether or not a final mereological interpretation of nature explains a model of reality as a whole as the mere brute sum of its parts, or as either greater than the sum of its parts or even hierarchically transcended by some supernatural reality, of which both the whole of nature and its parts, would be the clear fruit.

Whether nature’s brute or fruit, there must be some necessary aspect transcending any mere regularities. If brute, its models must still specify some nomological necessities. If fruit, its models must specify additional ontological as well as nomological necessities. The vigilant observer will note an implicit explanatory tension that presents, here, in terms of which model properly avoids any fallacy of composition. That cannot be known a priori. While we wouldn’t deny the in principle knowability of the fallacy’s applicability, a posteriori, practically, it could remain extremely problematic indefinitely.

Once stipulating to specific, static, essentialist nomological necessities, if nature as a whole is defined in terms of an eternal dynamical plenum, whether of physical energy and/or energy plus consciousness (as primitives), then its remaining properties, existents & relations will admit only of nominalist characterizations and all of nature’s efficient, material, formal & final causes will be emergently closed, i.e. both epistemologically & ontologically reducible, solely in terms of that plenum’s fundamental nature.

For example, if a physical energy plenum, its forms & ends would be, ultimately, wholly determined & capturable, in principle, in their mathematical formulations, i.e. physical equations, even if not wholly predictive due to intrinsic observer constraints, as the model couldn’t escape the self-referentiality that would inhere due to its modeler being modeled therein.

The physical energy plenum’s dynamical properties & existents would, via a nonstrict identity, functionally & structurally perdure, i.e. efficiently & materially, solely in terms of their relations to sources of energy, i.e. formally appropriating energy & finally dissipating it, entropically.

Even in an idealist model, which would take consciousness as a primitive, a nonstrict identity would apply to the practical (not essentialist) self, efficiently & ideally, solely in terms of its relations to the primal source of consciousness, i.e. formally appropriating it via participatory dynamics & finally dissipating it, entropically, as it substratively & creatively diffuses.

I will not further explicate, for example, Thomist supernaturalist accounts, for example, with their appropriations of Aristotelian hylomorphism. (Other accounts can be semiotic, analytic, process and so forth). Those hardly require the explication that I provided in the causal account, above, providing analogues for efficient, material, formal & final causation for physical & idealist monist conceptions, because many more are already, at least somewhat, familiar with those Thomist approaches.

We mustn’t pretend, however, that the entropic accounts take us any further toward ultimate explanatory adequacy than competing models of nature. They, too,  remain mere exploratory heuristics, for, in the very same way that analogous telic realities present vis a vis new qualities of existence, so, too, the concept, entropy, is way too vague to accomplish the explanatory heavy-lifting that some naively imagine they’ve accomplished employing it.

 

Thermodynamic systems entropy, information systems entropy & evolutionary entropy (rate of organismal environmental energy appropriations & reinvestments in survival & reproduction) are indeed formally homologous & certainly hierarchically interdependent entropieS. We can describe that interdependency but that doesn’t EXPLAIN it!

Actually, I need to edit this one & will do so explicitly to better reinforce the point:

THIS: We can describe that interdependency but that doesn’t EXPLAIN it!

S/H/B: We can successfully REFER to that interdependency but that doesn’t mean we have even successfully DESCRIBED it, yet, much less EXPLAINED it!

And, when we do proffer explanations, that doesn’t mean they can’t be LAYERED (as Jack Haught has accessibly explained for decades). They may even need to be layered in order to make proper contextual sense of it all. (And no, we don’t employ Occam’s Razor to adjudicate competing accounts that don’t already enjoy explanatory adequacy.)

A Reply to “First Mover is also the Universal Governor”

https://strangenotions.com/how-aquinass-first-mover-is-also-universal-governor/

Perhaps the problem with merely “emergent phenomena” is the “merely“?

It’s certainly not with the emergentist account, itself. It’s when one further characterizes the phenomena in terms of variously weak & strong emergence and strong & weak supervenience.

Otherwise, emergentism is “merely” a heuristic device, which bookmarks determinate reality’s most intractable aporia, locating various origins of novelty in terms of “aboutness.” The most familiar include quantum, cosmic & biogenetic origins as well as those for consciousness (sentience) and symbolic language (sapience).

At each level of increasing complexity or ontological density, novel nomicities present, which suggest, in my view, analogous teloi & not some univocal telos. This is to say that not all of reality appears telic in a robustly teleological sense, which implicates end-intendedness.

Nomologically, we also encounter realities that are variously end-unbounded, at quantum origins, let’s say teleopotent; end-stated, at cosmic origins, or teleomatic; end-directed, at biogenetic origins, or teleonomic; and end-purposed, when sentience emerges, or teleoqualic.

Now, these are just phenomenological denominative connotations that don’t imply anything robustly denotative in a determinative sense. They aspire to successfully refer, semantically, to some rather distinct aboutnesses that we’ve encountered along our way, but without pretending to successfully describe, ontologically, those same realities in terms of various primitives, givens, axioms & such. They’re only vague nomological categories, where different law-like properties emerge, none of which completely lend themselves to either epistemic or ontological reduction.

Now, if those vaguely referenced teloi serve as a mere exploratory heuristic rather than a robustly explanatory account, how much more vague is our Aristotelian telos & how much less should anyone pretend it’s an explanatory system?

As CS Peirce noted, it’s easy to be certain; all one has to do is to remain sufficiently vague!

Now, I’m personally drawn to an hylomorphic heuristic with its formal causal acts in potency to final causes. But I use it to help me keep my modal ontological categories straight, not to adjudicate competing quantum interpretations, cosmogonic accounts, biogenetic hypotheses, philosophies of mind or language origin theories. For sure, it doesn’t tell me which of reality’s generalities & nomicities are merely regularist or clearly necessitarian, which indeterminacies are epistemic or ontic, in/determinable or in/determined. Sure, some are ontologically suggestive but none are metaphysically decisive.

Bottomline, we mustn’t be too quick to charge other heuristic accounts with all manner of irrationalities, as long as they employ, in my view, a weak principle of sufficient reason in the form – not of the epistemic equivalent of a 1st Principle, but – of a “mere” metanomological heuristic, which honors both the laws of nature and of logic and not, instead, some inflated sense of rationality, which flirts with a metaphysical rationalism & naive realism.

Any coherent metanomological heuristic or PSRmn would not deny that there must, in principle, necessarily be some noncausal ultimate explanations that would refer, denominatively & determinatively, in different ways and to various extents, to some primal-ultimate reality, which, lacking a causal explanation, must be explained in terms of its own nature. Who, though, is to a priori specify whether that nondeterminate nomicity would govern, bound & condition divine energeia versus some dynamical energy plenum?

I appreciate that certain philosophies of mind & cosmologies & philosophical anthropologies prove too much. But they all seem to deny too much, too, sometimes. Those flaky accounts, whether deflationarily ignostic & eliminative of various true aporia or inflationarily gnostic & apodictic with their expansive use of self-evidentials, deserve cursory dismissals. But there are other highly nuanced & self-critical competing a/theological accounts that are, in my view, equiplausible, which can serve us all as much better foils to tighten up our competing tautologies?

This approach is further developed here:

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/how-the-principle-of-sufficient-reason-bolsters-theism-and-not/

How the Principle of Sufficient Reason bolsters Theism (and not)

Just because naturalism is an indispensable methodological presupposition doesn’t mean it necessarily holds, metaphysically, it only means that we will be unfortunate if it does.

Just because some (weak) Principle of Sufficient Reason is an indispensable methodological presupposition doesn’t mean it necessarily holds, metaphysically, it only means that we will be unfortunate if it does not.

While I resonate more with a Scotistic/Peircean approach, properly understood, it reconciles well enough with an Aristotelian hylomorphism. I wonder, though, how many would agree that its strength does not present as much in terms of any explanatory adequacy but, instead, as an exploratory heuristic device?

And it properly guides one via analogia from determinate modes of being to the threshold of nondeterminate modes of identity, at which point, claims would not yet be distinctly a/theological? That particular step gets rather tacitly imported into one’s implicit or explicit PSR, which can embed one’s a/theological conclusions in its very definitions, which then rather sneakily implicate non/intentional realities. And this happens, perhaps, when one imports some un/reflectively preconceived philosophy of mind stance, as if they’ve some gnostic access to a Consciousness Explained?

Effectively, such a philosophy of mind takes hold as soon as one presupposes either a univocity of telos or an equivocity of teloi or even an analogia of teloi, which I take as an Analogia Axiomata in order to recognize reality’s plurality of aboutnesses.

Because it’s rather inescapable that a novel and robust teleo-logic presents in the emergence of Homo sapiens, there should be nothing terribly controversial, semantically, in referencing that phenomenon of symbolic consciousness by predicating it in terms of formal & final causes.

 

The problem comes, instead, when one metaphysically grounds this telos as if it were necessarily an ontological primitive, essentially placing consciousness along side space, time, mass & energy, for example. Whether this gets accomplished via some Cartesian dualism, idealist monism or even an Aristotelian hylomorphism that would further hypothesize the reality of disembodiable souls matters little. One has thereby invoked a univocity of telos in a reality where causes are pervasively intentional in origin.

 

Alternatively, one could metaphysically ground this telos as if it were necessarily epiphenomenally emergent, hypostasizing reality’s plurality of aboutnesses as if they ontologically derive, unidirectionally, from only upwardly causal material primitives. Whether this gets accomplished via some eliminative materialism, reductive physicalism, strongly supervenient emergentism or materialist monism matters little. One has thereby invoked an equivocity of teloi in a reality where causes are pervasively mechanistic in origin.

 

Finally, one could invoke an analogy of teloi, which semantically (grounds) employs a univocity to refer to reality’s plurality of aboutnesses using sufficiently vague causal references but which metaphysically grounds telos using analogies of proportion & attribution to properly distinguish determinate causal nomicities from putative nondeterminate noncausal nomicities. Whether this gets accomplished via some Aristotelian hylomorphism, weakly supervenient nonreductive physicalism or pragmatic semiotic realism matters little. One will have prescinded from any robust ontological account to a vague phenomenological heuristic.

 

At this point, in an Analogia Axiomata, due to a proper metaphysical bracketing, all ontological bets are still on vis a vis monisms, dualisms & pluralisms, im/materialisms, non/reductive physicalisms, idealisms, agnosticisms, atheisms, any of which, when properly articulated with logical consistency, external congruence, internal coherence, hypothetical consonance & interdisciplinary consilience, can compete equiplausibly with the others.

 

How, then, does anyone epistemically bust a move past an essential metaphysical agnosticism?

 

Speculatively, we all end up employing – not deductively conclusive, but – inductively & abductively suggestive cumulative case-like approaches. Logically, first principles, common sense notions of causality & principles of sufficient reason nondeductively ground our rationality. Ontologically, laws of nature & other regularities nomologically ground reality’s intelligibility, ampliatively guided by analogical heuristics. A problem regarding the nature of universals presents, including which nomicities are non/determinate, non/causal, in/finite, eternal or ephemeral, or real, conceptual or nominal. Here it is that we must start leaping, existentially, reasoning practically under speculative uncertainty regarding options that William James recognized as forced & vital. Here we turn over our bucket of epistemic frogs to see them leaping at various heights & distances and in every metaphysical direction.

How do we justify our leaps?

We all, in essence, appeal pragmatically to basic pre-propositional stances, which some refer to as self-evident but which turn out to be methodologically indispensable inductive-abductive inferences, which beg no deductive proofs & serve our episteme axiomatically. While it is one thing to evade deductive demonstration, it’s a wholly different matter to survive a reductio ad absurdum or parody of one’s particular stance regarding the nomological reliability of one’s “epistemically privileged” inductions & abductions.

More concretely, when eliminative materialists deny the exploratory necessity & explanatory adequacy of formal & final causes, at the same time, they are not denying the relations that obtain between various physical entities. They are, rather, suggesting that both the laws of nature & of logic, metanomologically, are nondeductive equations that model reality while, in principle, not delivering explanations, because they are, unavoidably, inductive-abductive deliverances, just like first principles, common sense causality, belief in other minds and principles of sufficient reason. For them, the Analogia Axiomata terminate in these noncaused nondeterminate axioms, dying an explanatory Godelian death in the energy plenum, itself, where its nomic realities lack a causal explanation but are otherwise “explained” in terms of their own nature, i.e. noncaused, nondeterminate & axiomatic. Necessary Axiomata.

I know what you’re thinking: “Explained? Really?”

Now you know how question begging appeals to Necessary Being come across to many?

Still, faced with forced & vital options in our practical reasoning under uncertainty, how do we otherwise adjudicate, before leaping, between epistemic & ontological options that, speculatively, all remain live?

 

Well, beyond further plausibilistic, cumulative case-like reasoning, evidentially, inductively testing our competing hermeneutics, pragmatically, we all employ, aware or unawares, an equiplausibility principle, which is not inconsistent with either evolution’s biological, sociological & anthropological imperatives or religion’s transcendental imperatives: Do the most life-giving & relationship-enhancing thing you can do in each present moment.

Thus, with Reason as our guide & Love as our imperative, when faced with Kant’s interrogatories: What can I know? What may I hope for? What must I do? —

We can reasonably hope to know what we must do, which is to love!

 

As we each aspire to the most eminently actionable existential leap, let us patiently forbear with one another’s existential orientations. In my worldview, not only has special revelation gifted a gratuity of grace, which others may not have doxastically appropriated and others may have mystically encountered, I believe the Spirit processed forth in a gratuity of creation, which has underwritten all human reason & values, which most have indeed appropriated, if formatively fortunate. Others, whose worldviews differ from my own, even if greatly, who display reason and proceed in love, have something to offer me. And, I believe, they deserve in kind reciprocation.

A wise man, Dan Fogelberg, once sang:

I have these moments
All steady and strong
I’m feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I’m all worried and weak
And I feel myself starting to crumble
The meanings get lost
And the teachings get tossed
And you don’t know what
You’re going to do next
You wait for the sun
But it never quite comes
Some kind of message
Comes through to you
Some kind of message comes through
And it says to you. . .
Love when you can
Cry when you have to
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand

 

 

Meanwhile – 

What makes some theistic formulations controversial, i.e. not universally compelling, is that they implicitly invoke some principle of sufficient reason but without specifying which version.

Stronger versions are untenable such as regarding free will & determinism. Propositional versions can conflict with our conceptions regarding the divine will and often reify propositions and then treat them as we do subsistent substances. Existential or causal versions must refer to more than materio-energetic causations. All versions will typically be argued variously employing formal syllogisms, semi-formal heuristics or even quasi-formal possible world semantics in conjunction with premises that are variously un/controversial, some representing supposedly self-evident abductive-inductive inferences refutable only by reductio appeals.

Even when such arguments are logically valid and employ relatively noncontroversial premises, however, too often, their conclusions don’t so much follow from their fallacy-free logic or uncontroversial premises but moreso lie rather tacitly embedded in the definitions of their terms, which craftily (or maybe, sometimes, even unreflectively) will variously employ either overly broad or overly narrow conceptions, which then, to the more vigilant, will come off as variously incoherent, mutually incompatible or downright dubious, leading to the conclusion that the argument is unsound. And this applies to such conceptions as “basic propositions” or “necessary entity” or even “sufficient reason,” itself.

Weaker metaphysical or metanomological versions seem indispensable & eminently defensible!

Still, it would be highly controversial to elevate same from a common sense, provisional, methodological stipulation to an ontological, first principle & metaphysical verity (something we dare not do with, for example, our commitment to methodological naturalism).

Maritain accepts the PSR as among the first principles (applying to all being, created & uncreated) , but Gilson, properly in my view, sees the formula as leading back to noncontradiction (applying to things both necessary & contingent).

Even as a first principle, we can distinguish between denying whether such as noncontradiction or a PSR is true and denying whether or not it’s applicable or limited in scope, e.g. modally (noncontradiction holds for probabilities & necessities but folds for possibilities).

So, we must be thoughtful regarding which common sense intuitions we imagine to be (or elevate to) explanatory primitives or absolute first principles, after which we must properly restrict the scope of their application, such as when, modally, we aspire to move from the vague to the precise (Peircean firstness), from the conceptually possible to the existentially actual (secondness), from the general to the specific (thirdness), where both noncontradiction & excluded middle may variously hold or fold and we may have to metaphysically prescind from necessity to probability.

We must not reify “nothing,” as “from nothing” (“ex nihilo”) means, rather, “not from anything.”

A contrastive account of the PSR fits well with Peirce’s description of abductive inference, which addresses: why this state of affairs & not otherwise? Hence, the PSR indicates that contrastive questions always have answers (an approach not adequately justified by Della Rocca’s & Pruss’s arguments). On its own terms, the PSR requires contrastive explanations (sometimes in terms of sets of reasons). And, if expanded to include explanations of a thing in terms of its own nature, such existential properties will require synthetic exploration beyond mere analytic explication.

As such, the PSR best be understood as a metanomological heuristic, which guides our causal explanations of variously indeterminate modal realities, whether overdetermined or vague possibilities, underdetermined or generalized probabilities or wholly determined necessities, not a priori taking any given indeterminacy as epistemic and/or ontic, i.e. merely methodologically constrained vs ontologically occulted, in principle.

Nomic determinism entails that events & states change – not in isolation, but – always via relations but doesn’t entail causal determinism, for not all events are causally related and not all processes are causally originated by, for example, new materio-energetic conversions or expenditures, even though they may well otherwise be influenced, nomically, by a variety of teloi, e.g. including previously embedded material formal causes.

A suitably restricted PSR will not raise objections from considerations of the divine will, quantum mechanics, Godelian incompleteness and objective randomness (and of course needn’t counter nonsensical objections like the modal quandaries of “grand conjunctive propositions”).

Further, when any given PSR version algorithmically maps to theism, then that PSR, itself, can in turn be undermined by any charges of incoherence in various theistic conceptions. Of course, if a given PSR maps only to a necessary entity, it wouldn’t necessarily also lead to a personal being (at least not uncontroversially).

It’s best to receive the PSR – not as an indubitable metaphysical theorem, but – as an indispensable metanomological heuristic.

The more generalized we make such a principle, the less work it can actually accomplish, epistemologically, and the more antinomies it will occasion ontologically, as it gets misappropriated to prove too much & say way more than we could possibly know.

Weaker claims vis a vis the PSR will be more universally compelling. For example, Scotus modally restricts it to “real possibilities,” i.e. those consistent with the basic laws (nomicities) and structures (forms) of the physical world. And he primarily applies it – not to accidentally, but – essentially ordered series.

As with Scotus’ argument, the real work to be accomplished by any PSR version vis a vis theism will not result in a conclusive demonstration (e.g. of an absolutely first efficient cause associated with any essentially ordered series), but instead will provide compelling intuitive support for theism’s possibility.

Few accept the strong Principle of Sufficient Reason – that there’s indeed a sufficient explanation for any fact in the world, but most embrace a weak version of PSR, e.g. as a metanomological heuristic, which entails that POSSIBLY such facts have an explanation. (e.g. Pruss employs a weak version like Scotus, but Pruss’ version might still entail a strong PSR.)

While this weak version can’t sustain the deductive cosmological argument (as it doesn’t finally require an explanation for the contingent), it does demonstrate that, if the contingent does have an explanation, its best version would be based on God-like activity, certainly consistent with classical theism but requiring further arguments to get there and even more to conclude to the requisite attributes.

This weak PSR locates its justification in both the pragmatics of explanation & metaphysics of contingency (for me, Peirce’s modal ontology & semiotic realism).

As long as one doesn’t deny the reality of eternal necessities, a priori, and of temporal nomicities, a posteriori, they will be affirming reality’s intelligibility & demonstrating their own rationality, implicitly subscribing to a principle of sufficient reason by the fact of their explicit employment of just such an indispensable metanomological heuristic. And they wouldn’t surrender their own rationality if, after the affirming the necessities & nomicities of a weak (e.g. Scotistic-Peircean more so than Gale-Pruss) version of the PSR, they don’t otherwise find subsequent cosmological arguments & divine attributions to be sufficiently compelling.

A fine little encyclopedia entry:
https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sufficient-reason-principle

Afterward – Who’s Irrational and Whose Irrationalism?

Atheism is implicitly irrationalist insofar as it must deny PSR so as to avoid theism. Ed Feser

I’m certain Feser would follow in a manner like DBH, who, himself, does not see philosophical atheism as an intellectually valid or cogent position but as fundamentally irrational?

Certainly, like DBH he would qualify it as a much more limited assertion than it appears on the surface, for example, acknowledging that atheism’s neither intellectually contemptible nor suffers any deep logical inconsistency in its embrace of an ultimate absurdity. He’d also say that naturalism simply entails that nature equipped our brains for survival but not for access to abstract truths about the totality of things, but that none of this makes atheism untenable in any final sense and that it may be perfectly rational to embrace absurdity. (Cf. David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (2013) Yale University Press)

Now, others might counter that God similarly equipped our brains regarding the totality of things, which is why the lexicon of believers necessarily includes words like faith, hope and dogma?

And the astute philosophical observer might suggest that Feser and Hart’s chief complaint is not really that it’s epistemically irrational but that atheism’s realist philosophy is (unacceptably to them) implicitly pragmatic and nonfoundational, that, rather than proceeding from indubitably self-evident premises, instead, it plausibilistically but fallibilistically employs inductive-abductive inferences, both prior and subsequent to its deductive clarifications, in an ongoing irreducibly triadic inferential cycling, which progressively enhances the modeling power of reality for both individuals and earnest communities of inquiry. And that it even aspires to a plausible articulation of more nearly ultimate truths but in a more informal cumulative case-like approach rather than one that gifts them with the apodictic certainty, which some seem to embrace. Regarding such certainties, while I would hesitate to rob anyone of certain consolations that might flow from such attitudes (yes, essentially dispositions not propositions), at the same time, the existential dangers some can pose for societies or even ultimately our species compel me to dispossess any and all of such notions.

They may further object that some forms of pragmatism are vulgar in the Rortyian sense, but that’s a separate concern and not exhaustive of other nonfoundational or even weak foundational critical realisms, none of which elevate the postmodern critique into a system but most of which incorporate responses to same, responses which essentially jettisoned any remnants of metaphysical rationalisms and naïve realisms.

And, I’m quite certain that philosophers as astute as Feser and Hart have epistemologically followed suit even though, perhaps due to a rare combination of erudite eloquence and pugnacious polemics, their charges of epistemic vice are often intended to be more limited and less offensive than they can initially appear to us metaphysical luddites, who, by the way, have a very difficult time distinguishing the foundationalists’ self-evident truths from the nonfoundationalists’ pragmatically justified inductive-abductive inferences, which makes it really difficult to further distinguish their manifold and multiform rational proofs from pragmatically motivated cumulative case-like arguments.

Thus, they’ll forgive those who struggle to discern the very fine nuances involved in how it is they distinguish the rational and irrational, effectively very narrowly conceiving the former, expansively so – the latter?

Notes on Situating Meta-Nomological Heuristics

Below are emergentist categories that are agnostic to ontological primitives, in other words, neither invoking supervenience nor distinguishing weak & strong emergence, hence, consistent w/panpsychism, non/reductive physicalism, etc. Where one stops, explanatorily, will associate one with various causally non/reductive stances, for example, regarding a philosophy of mind.

  • Quantum Origins are Teleopotent – end-unbounded: materio-energetic & quantumly causal
  • Cosmic Origins are Teleomatic – end-stated: spatio-temporal & materially-efficiently causal
  • Biogenetic Origins are Teleonomic – end-directed: sensori-perceptive & instinctually abductive w/experience = mereological sum of parts functioning per meta-nomological heuristics
  • Sentient Origins are Teleoqualic – end-purposed: instinctually abductive & formally causal (downward) w/experience > mereological sum of functioning parts but still computational
  • Sapient Origins are Teleologic – end-intended: symbolically inferential & finally causal w/ experience > mereological sum of functioning parts & non-computational

Metaphysical Stances for Sorting

methodological stipulations

metaphysical presuppositions

modal identities

modal ontologies

semantic & metaphysical grammars & groundings (roles of first principles)

epistemological justifications (roles of PSRs, common sense, noninferentials & other axiomata)

ontological primitives

mereological efficacies

nomological realities

axiological origins

moral realisms

philosophies of mind

an entity’s intelligence (degrees)

reality’s intelligibility (degrees)

absolutist, necessitarian & infallibilist vs in/determinate, probabilistic & fallibilistic (role of principle of excluded middle)

conceptions of freedom

a/theological

One simply can not a priori pretend to know to which metaphysical stances another subscribes solely from, for example, which worldview they hold regarding putative primal origins and ultimate realities, as if, for example, a particular philosophy of mind would necessarily be entailed by a given a/theological stance. At the same time, where one chooses to stop, explanatorily, for example, invoking various ignosticisms, will indeed logically foreclose on certain worldviews, for example, an eliminative materialism forecloses on all theistic stances (pantheism, panentheisms, classical theisms).

It’s best to categorize Naturalism > Physicalism > Materialism – because

Naturalism needn’t a priori define ontological primitives, e.g. consciousness could be a primitive.

Physicalism needn’t a priori entail causal reductionism, e.g. Nancey Murphy’s conception of the soul.

Materialism does a priori exclude metaphysical teloi, e.g. metaphysical ignosticism.

Also, one must be clear whether these categories are being applied strictly in a modal ontology of being, e.g. anthropologically, or for all metaphysical modes of identity, e.g. for reality writ large, primally & ultimately.

THEREFORE:

It may be more coherent to apply degrees of ir/rationality (variously adequate or sufficient) to only one type of reality, the personal, while describing reality writ large in terms of degrees of nomicity (variously adequate or sufficient) and perhaps of absurdism.

There simply are no Necessary Mutual Entailments for Atheism and any particular Anthropological Heuristic but there are some unilateral entailments where a given heuristic will entail atheism and/or absurdism/irrationalism.

Eliminative materialism entails atheism but does not entail irrationalism (a rejection of metanomological heuristics as a weak PSR) unless one uses a rather narrow conception of reason and expansive one of irrationality. Metanomological heuristics don’t require an epistemic resolution of whether laws of natures & logics are necessitarian or regularist, eternal or temporal, perduring or ephemeral.

Anthropological (Personal) Frame

Descriptive Heuristics – Epistemological: Radical Skepticism, Solipsism, Foundationalism (strong, weak) Nonfoundationalism (coherentist, radically deconstructivist), Evolutionary Epistemology

Interpretive Heuristics – Metaphysical Nominalism, Essentialism, Conceptualism, Pragmatism (vulgar, semiotic, etc)

Ontological Heuristics – Realism (naturalist, physicalist, materialist), Idealism (panpsychist), Hylomorphism

Evaluative Heuristics – Voluntarism, Intellectualism, Intellectualist Voluntarism (Scotist) or Voluntarist Intellectualism (Thomist), Sociobiological, Evolutionary Axiology

Normative Heuristics – Moral Relativism, Moral Realism, Moral Absolutism, Moral Probabilism

Transcendental Frame – Existentialism, Nihilism, Absurdism, A/theisms, Agnosticisms, Ignosticism

Im/Personal Heuristics – a/theological & anthropological

Modes of Identity Heuristics

Modes of Being Heuristics

Concerning Modes of Identity for Nondeterminate Realities

Ultimate Explanations are noncausal.
A reality lacking a causal explanation would be explained in terms of its own nature.

First principles & PSR are nondeductive but are intelligible in the context of inductive & abductive processes.

Feser writes:
When philosophers employ inductive reasoning they are essentially rejecting the claim that the future will not be relevantly like the past nor the unobserved like the observed, on the grounds that this would make future and otherwise unobserved phenomena inexplicable.

Perhaps some do, but most are essentially relying on the possibility that the future will be relevantly like the past, on the grounds that, if it is, the future and otherwise unobserved phenomena will be explicable, while, if it is not, it will be inexplicable in terms of past inductive & abductive processes.

But, this would not be to claim that future realities would be, in principle, inexplicable, only to recognize that our inductive-abductive processes may not be equipped to reliably explain unobserved phenomena from either the distant future or past, much less atemporal regularities and/or necessities.

This is also to recognize that we can’t a priori say which present nomological realities are by their very nature merely regularist or robustly necessitarian, but that it’s unreasonable to deny that, at least, some formal realities are necessary.

Applying Abelardian-like modes of identity & being, as we do, for example, in divine (nondeterminate) & determinate syllogistics, any such necessary reality that lacks a causal explanation and is to be explained in terms of its own nature would be explicable using – not determinate, but – nondeterminate syllogistics (semi-formal heuristics), where modes of identity (not being) apply, including the essential, exemplificatory and formal.

Essential identity, a semantic connotation or ground, refers to an immanent universal (not a Platonist standard form), a numerically singular or individual reality that is communicable to—predicable of— any exemplificatory (nonsubstantial & nondeterminate) supposita, which refer to metaphysical denotations or grounds, that fall under it.

Formal identity refers to connotative-denotative realities, i.e. real relations, e.g. regularities, generalities & neccesities.

Any coherent metanomological heuristic or PSR would not deny that there must, in principle, necessarily be some noncausal ultimate explanations that would refer, denominatively & determinatively, in different ways and to various extents, to some primal-ultimate reality, which, lacking a causal explanation, must be explained in terms of its own nature.

At the same time, that would not necessarily implicate, 1) essentially & connotatively, propria that are divine attributes; 2) exemplificatorily & denotatively, idiomata that are divine persons or, in any other way, personal; or 3) formally & nomologically, energeia that implicate divine vestigia & oikonomia. While such implications are undeniably rational, consistent & coherent and would flow, even necessarily, from some strong PSR versions, from less controversial PSRs a cosmological argument would not entail a personal first cause. That would require further argumentation, after which attributes would require additional derivations.

One would not want to deny that primal energeia must necessarily be conditioned by noncausal realities that could, in principle, be explained in nondeterminate terms of modal identity: essential propria, exemplificatory idiomata & formal energeia (energy in relationship). And such an explication would model whether or not such a dynamical energy plenum is necessarily volumetrically in/finite, manifoldly un/bounded, geometrically un/curved, topologically simple/complex and so on and locate any putative noncausal conditions, which we could hypothesize through abduction, hypothetically, and test through induction, experimentally, but not prove via deduction, formally, as such noncausal realities would be explained merely in terms of their own nature.

If such a noncaused reality were, however, personal & self-determinate, then such a divine esse naturale & intentionale would invite further reflection regarding PSR implications.

Closing Remarks

My late friend, Jim Arraj, explicated Maritain’s degrees of knowledge. He explored philosophical contemplation, objective intuition of being, subjective intuition of being, mysticism of self & mystical contemplation — none set over against the other, all furnishings of our holistic epistemic suite, all consonant with Lonergan’s theological anthropology.

Whatever our discursive or nondiscursive experience, prerational, nonrational, rational, suprarational or irrational, in order to best realize its fruits as well as to avoid any value-frustrations, human rationality must engage it in post-experiential processing and must do so in a community of earnest inquiry, wherein communal discernment can apply normative criteria to our descriptions, interpretations, evaluations, norms & transformations, justifying them in terms of – not only right believing, but – right belonging, right desiring, right behaving and right becoming.

Down thru millenia, even whole communities have gone astray, when they’ve traded any earnestness of inquiry for the expediencies of tribal exigencies. One hallmark of such epistemic-axiological perversity will typically involve both excessive broadenings & narrowings of criteria for epistemic & moral virtues & vices, excluding as many others from all manner of virtues, which must be reserved to one’s tribe, including as many others in all manner of vices, which just never afflict one’s tribe.

It has been a long considered opinion of mine that we simply cannot use a/theological criteria, alone, to a priori sort individuals from various worldviews into either epistemic or moral categories of either vice or virtue, including charges of irrationality, however absurd the ultimate consequences of their particular stances, which are seldom monolithic & often highly nuanced. This is not to deny that, for most every hermeneutic, there are cases of doxastic disaster & moral catastrophe, but those must be teased out, point by point, person by person & school by school, and not by categorical dismissal.

As a case in point, consider:

https://strangenotions.com/how-aquinass-first-mover-is-also-universal-governor/

Perhaps the problem with merely “emergent phenomena” is the “merely“?

It’s certainly not with the emergentist account, itself. It’s when one further characterizes the phenomena in terms of variously weak & strong emergence and strong & weak supervenience.

Otherwise, emergentism is “merely” a heuristic device, which bookmarks determinate reality’s most intractable aporia, locating various origins of novelty in terms of “aboutness.” The most familiar include quantum, cosmic & biogenetic origins as well as those for consciousness (sentience) and symbolic language (sapience).

At each level of increasing complexity or ontological density, novel nomicities present, which suggest, in my view, analogous teloi & not some univocal telos. This is to say that not all of reality appears telic in a robustly teleological sense, which implicates end-intendedness.

Nomologically, we also encounter realities that are variously end-unbounded, at quantum origins, let’s say teleopotent; end-stated, at cosmic origins, or teleomatic; end-directed, at biogenetic origins, or teleonomic; and end-purposed, when sentience emerges, or teleoqualic.

Now, these are just phenomenological denominative connotations that don’t imply anything robustly denotative in a determinative sense. They aspire to successfully refer, semantically, to some rather distinct aboutnesses that we’ve encountered along our way, but without pretending to successfully describe, ontologically, those same realities in terms of various primitives, givens, axioms & such. They’re only vague nomological categories, where different law-like properties emerge, none of which completely lend themselves to either epistemic or ontological reduction.

Now, if those vaguely referenced teloi serve as a mere exploratory heuristic rather than a robustly explanatory account, how much more vague is our Aristotelian telos & how much less should anyone pretend it’s an explanatory system?

As CS Peirce noted, it’s easy to be certain; all one has to do is to remain sufficiently vague!

Now, I’m personally drawn to an hylomorphic heuristic with its formal causal acts in potency to final causes. But I use it to help me keep my modal ontological categories straight, not to adjudicate competing quantum interpretations, cosmogonic accounts, biogenetic hypotheses, philosophies of mind or language origin theories. For sure, it doesn’t tell me which of reality’s generalities & nomicities are merely regularist or clearly necessitarian, which indeterminacies are epistemic or ontic, in/determinable or in/determined. Sure, some are ontologically suggestive but none are metaphysically decisive.

Bottomline, we mustn’t be too quick to charge other heuristic accounts with all manner of irrationalities, as long as they employ, in my view, a weak principle of sufficient reason in the form – not of the epistemic equivalent of a 1st Principle, but – of a “mere” metanomological heuristic, which honors both the laws of nature and of logic and not, instead, some inflated sense of rationality, which flirts with a metaphysical rationalism & naive realism.

Any coherent metanomological heuristic or PSRmn would not deny that there must, in principle, necessarily be some noncausal ultimate explanations that would refer, denominatively & determinatively, in different ways and to various extents, to some primal-ultimate reality, which, lacking a causal explanation, must be explained in terms of its own nature. Who, though, is to a priori specify whether that nondeterminate nomicity would govern, bound & condition divine energeia versus some dynamical energy plenum?

I appreciate that certain philosophies of mind & cosmologies & philosophical anthropologies prove too much. But they all seem to deny too much, too, sometimes. Those flaky accounts, whether deflationarily ignostic & eliminative of various true aporia or inflationarily gnostic & apodictic with their expansive use of self-evidentials, deserve cursory dismissals. But there are other highly nuanced & self-critical competing a/theological accounts that are, in my view, equiplausible, which can serve us all as much better foils to tighten up our competing tautologies?