Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.


  1. trinities - Linkage: Disproving the existence of Hooloovoo? (Dale)
    February 7, 2010 @ 5:46 am

    […] a well-argued recent guest post and follow up comment, Greg Spendlove argued that for all we know, there could be a property […]

  2. Greg
    February 5, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

    @JT: I am sorry to say that there will be many _tsujigiri_ as I prepare my sword for our ensuing battle. 😉

    @Dale: Your advice is well received. And, in fact, I agree with you. It’s not necessary for one to show that X results in a contradiction before they believe X is impossible. But, I do think that there should be “strong” (maybe non-overriding) intuitions in these cases. For instance, I believe that it is impossible for it to be morally permissible to torture infants for pleasure. I don’t think the denial of this, however, can be shown to result in a contradiction. But, I have a strong (non-overriding?) intuition, as do most, that this is impossible. So, I guess, I just don’t share your intuition that properties can’t be persons. In which case, I require that a contradiction be demonstrated.

    Another way I can think of putting this is like this: if I can say to myself “Wouldn’t it be really cool if X were the case” then I don’t have a strong (non-overriding) intuition that it can’t be that way. I do think it would be really cool if the Wonder Twins were real, or there was a hyper-intelligent shade of blue, or properties that are also persons. But I don’t think it would be really cool if torturing infants for fun were morally permissible. And so, because I’d like reality to be this way, before I believe that it can’t, I require that someone demonstrate it.

    @Scott: I suppose the above applies here, too. It’d be totally cool if we could beam places. So, I require a demonstration that we just can’t before I’ll believe we can’t. Put more academically, I don’t have any strong or non-overriding intuition that beaming is impossible and so I require that a contradiction be demonstrated before believing that it is impossible.

  3. Scott
    February 4, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

    Also, this “logos” theology seems to go against Augustine’s theological prohibitions:

    “But now I have already argued earlier on in this book that the trinity which is God cannot just be read off from those three things which we have pointed out in the trinity of our minds, in such a way that the Father is taken as the memory of all three, and the Son as the understanding of all three, and the Holy Spirit as the charity of all three; as though the Father did not do his own understanding or loving, but the Son did his understanding for him and the Holy Spirit his loving….” Cf. AUGUSTINE, De Trinitate, XV, 17, 28, pp. 502, 28 – 34. (E. Hill (trans.), St. Augustine, The Trinity, New York 2002, p. 419). There are other passages like this in De Trin.

    I’m raising a theological concern here. _Should_ we believe that the Son really was an attribute of the Father’s prior to the incarnation? The philosophical work depends on whether we want to affirm this _theological_ position. For my money, clever work needs to be done to work out a ‘neo-Logos theology’ that coheres with Augustine’s theological prohibitions.

  4. Scott
    February 4, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

    @Greg: When you say that “If I learned anything watching the Wonder Twins as a kid , it’s that things like this are possible.”

    So, are they possible to imagine (and hence draws pictures/cartoons), or they are metaphysically possible? For my part, I thought it a nice trick when Mike TV (in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) transported through the air and showed up in a TV. But, I also didn’t believe that some advance in technology could pull it off (or again, with Star Trek— how nice would it be to “beam” into my office on a cold snowy day, and thus avoiding the need to put on shoes, drive a car, etc.).

  5. Dale
    February 2, 2010 @ 7:26 am

    Aha – I suspected Ninjas! You’re just daring me to go and find Ninja pics, aren’t you, JT? Seriously, anonymous posting is absolutely fine.

    OK, there’s a lot here. One fundamental point, I think, is that we have intuitions about what is absolutely impossible. And to reasonably believe that something is impossible, we don’t have to be able to derive a contradiction from it. That’s sufficient, of course, but not necessary. I think my original claim was sloppily stated – the point which torpedos the two-stage logos theory, in my view, is that it is impossible for a thing to be a property of a person at t1 and a person itself at t2.

    I don’t see how your (1) and (4) are incompatible. But, it doesn’t matter. I was being lazy – just throwing out a few widely held views. A better way to put it is this: whatever your position on “properties” (universals) is, it is probably going to imply my claim above. If like me you’re hostile to the theory of properties, that is, if you’re a nominalist, it is perhaps easier to see. No person could ever have been a word-type, concept, or a mode of a thing (intrinsic way it is).

    “Property” is of course a term of art. I have no doubt that someone as clever as Alex can come up with a sense of it that allows person (or something analogous to a person?) to be, or to have been a property. Still, most realists say some things about properties which when combined with their theory of persons implies that no person could ever have been a property. One crucial assumption, which I share, is that any person is essentially so. But other obvious problems include properties being thought of as necessarily timeless and unchangeable, and as possible (or just, conceivably) instantiable.

    But I think the important point is that people have intuitions about “properties” quite independently of whether or not they accept realism. And most will, deny that a self could ever have been a feature of something. This puts a steep uphill climb in front of people who want to claim that a person can have been a property. I agree that this point about common sense doesn’t end the conversation. But you’ll have to take all your evidence for the views which entail that a person can have been a property, and weigh it against that intuition of impossibility.

    There’s something implicit in your reply that I urge you to rethink – the idea that one shouldn’t believe that X is absolutely or metaphysically impossible unless one can construct a proof deriving a contradiction from X. It seems to me that no one actually believes this, though some may profess it…

    About the “hyper-intelligent shade of blue” – I believe you when you say that it doesn’t appear contradictory to you – that you see no way of deriving a contradiction from it. I don’t believe that you have any positive intuition that it is *really* possible. It is interesting that we do have such positive intuitions about many non-actual scenarios (e.g. humanoid animals who are ten feet tall with blue skin) but I think you’ll have to admit that you lack one here. *Imagining* a patch of blue light with a voice coming out of it won’t do, mind you. 🙂 For the record, it does seem impossible to me. if it is intelligent, it is a self. Necessarily, no shade of blue is a self – on any plausible view of what a “shade of blue” amounts to. Honestly, if some seemingly sane scientist claimed to have found an intelligent shade of blue, would you look into to it at all (I mean seriously, not for laughs)?

    Thank for the tip about Pruss’s discussion – I’ll link that in a future post.

    Argue on, noble Ninja!

  6. JT Paasch
    February 1, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    I’m so glad that Senor Spendlove is an explicit conversant here (he’s been commenting under pseudonymns for some time now — though he might kill me for revealing that ninja secret).

  7. Greg
    January 29, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    Hi, Dale

    Thanks for the comments. Here are my thoughts.

    Why should one concede your necessary truths? Again, denying them is not contradictory. So, it seems that you will have to say that the denials of your necessary truths are implicitly contradictory when combined with some further necessary truth(s). But what are these? To establish the first, namely, that “Anything with powers is a substance”, you might try something like:

    (1) Necessarily, anything with properties is a substance.
    (2) Powers are properties.
    (3) Therefore, necessarily, anything with powers is a substance.

    In fact, it seems you make this move when you refer to powers as “intrinsic abilities.” But this suffers from the same problem. Denying (1) is not contradictory and so it will have to be justified by some further “necessary” truth.

    Furthermore, it gets you too much, viz., if you use this line of defense then it’s incompatible with your second necessary truth that “No power is a substance.” To see this, consider how you might justify your second necessary truth. It seems that you would have to argue something like,

    (4) Necessarily, no property is a substance.
    (5) Powers are properties.
    (6) Therefore, necessarily, no power is a substance.

    Again, it should be noted that the denial of (4) is not contradictory and, thus, you will need to appeal to some further necessary truth to establish it. But even more problematic is that (1) and (4) are inconsistent, that is, if (1) is true then (4) is false and vice versa. Consider the following:

    (1) Necessarily, anything with properties is a substance.
    (7) Green has the property of _being a color_.
    (8) Therefore, necessarily, green is a substance.
    (4) Necessarily, no property is a substance.
    (9) Green is a property.
    (10) Therefore, necessarily, green is not a substance.

    Now, of course, (8) and (10) are contradictory and, thus, both cannot be true. But it was (1) and (4) that lead to them. So, they too are contradictory and, thus, cannot both be true.

    As for your appeal to common sense, it seems to me that the average person on the street probably holds to something like (1) and (4). But, if that’s the case, then this just shows that the average person holds contradictory beliefs and we shouldn’t trust their intuition.
    As for “shininess” being transformed, I see no reason to deny this possibility. To use another sci-fi example, in the _Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy_, Douglas Adams has a character that is a hyper-intelligent shade of blue, namely, the Hooloovoo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Hooloovoo#Hooloovoo). This seems entirely possible to me.

    On a more serious note, metaphysical realism certainly seems possible. In fact, it seems to me to be true. And if so then properties can be and are substances and properties can and some do have powers. I’ll take it for granted that metaphysical realism entails that properties are substances. But it also seems to me to entail that properties have powers. Michael Loux, I think, gives a good example of this in his book _Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction_. He asks you to consider the property of _being incorporeal_ and then states “Presumably, the property of being incorporeal exemplifies itself: it has no body and so is incorporeal.” Thus, it seems that the property of _being incorporeal_ has the power of _exemplifying itself_ or the power of _self-exemplification_.

    Interestingly, I just saw that Alex Pruss is discussing something similar to this over at his blog (http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/

    Thanks, again, for the stimulating conversation. 🙂

  8. Dale
    January 28, 2010 @ 11:04 am

    Thanks for the guest post, Greg.

    My statement in the previous post was “This is contradictory: to be a power of a thing at and earlier time t1 and to be a thing with powers at a later time t2.”

    I do think it is implicitly contradictory, and that we can see this, if we consider it along with a few necessary truths. The important point, though, is that states an occurrence which is absolutely impossible.

    This could go different ways. Here’s one. Necessary truths: Anything with powers is a substance/individual. No power is a substance/individual. And anything which is a substance/individual is essentially so.

    So take this thing which is a mere power at t1. Then, it is not essentially a substance. But we suppose that at time t2, it is one, and essentially one. But it is a contradiction that something lacks an *essential* feature during any part of its career.

    Here’s a simpler way, friendly to the nominalist. There are things, and modes of things – intrinsic ways they are. Necessarily, no example of one can become an example of the other.

    Here’s another way. Anything which is a self is essentially a self. But in the scenario, at t1, this power is not a self. Thus, it isn’t numerically identical with the expressed word which exists at t2, and is a self.

    Now each of these could be wiggled out of, if you’re willing to make enough necessary adjustments. But when I’ve presented the Willy story to people, they seem to universally reject it, and they seem to think it out of the realm of possibility. I’d claim that this is part of common sense, quite apart from metaphysical theories.

    Also, if you granted this possibility in the realm of the divine, you’d want to come up with some excuse to exclude it from the realm of the mundane. Otherwise, you’d have to grant that someone could take the shininess of my metal thermos, and transform it into, I don’t know, a sidekick for me, a mini-me. Surely, we don’t want to grant that possibility, or the story about Willy the Gnome.

    In the bicycle example, you can be called “the power of” your bike – I guess its power of moving. But you aren’t literally a power of it. Your riding it doesn’t change its powers in the sense of its intrinsic abilities – they are just what they were before. Power-talk is very flexible – Joey the Enforcer is “the power of” his mob boss. I take it this means that in a sense the boss can do things through Joey – like knock off his rivals. But Joey is not literally a power possessed by his boss – like the power of walking, of thinking, of sinning, etc.

    Though I love the Zan and Jayna example, I’d consider it a case of amusing nonsense, which is common in sci-fi, and even in the old Saturday morning cartoons. What I mean is, a man couldn’t become a jolt of electricity (nor could a woman become a radio). Whatever you views on human beings are, I can almost guarantee that they imply that these scenarios are impossible. So, I don’t see that example as giving any support to denying my principle above.