# A subjective-objective question: How do you know that I exist?

No, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that the “essence” of something is what someone considers important about the object. Essence is a certain subset of the attributes. There is no objective “essence”.

Explanation means to reduce something to an even more basic “something”. The material world is the basis of all explanations. It does not require an “explanation”. Just like the axioms of mathematics cannot be “explained”.

Funny you would say that. There are a few threads, where the posters vehemently argue that there is nothing “natural”, rather everything is “designed”.

Can it be experienced? If it can be, we are home, scot-free. If it cannot be experienced, then how can you find out if a proposition about it is true or false?

And that is all you have access to, its external behavior. You can subject that other “something” to the Turing test, and “it” will pass the test with flying colors. On what ground would you say that “it” is not a person? I am sticking to the “duck-principle”. What is your preinciple? I would be delighted to hear about a set of “rules” or methods, which you can apply to person “A” and person-look-alike “B” and come to the conclusion, that “A” is a person, while “B” is just an emulation.

Very well. Let’s say that the question is irrelevant to contemplate, it is a waste of time. And what is this nebulous “truth”? Truth is not an object, it is a concept. A proposition is true if it reflects reality, or if it is a corollary of axioms.

That’s very strange since, as clear as day, there are attributes/parts/principles related in an objective (existential—but not the school of thought) hierarchical manner in all objects. If you wish to claim it’s all just in someone’s head you’d have to argue that we really don’t experience reality and that our senses are not reliable. And it only gets more bizarre from there.

Explanation means to reduce something to an even more basic “something”. The material world is the basis of all explanations. It does not require an “explanation”. Just like the axioms of mathematics cannot be “explained”.

Then what is one doing when they try to explain anything material… spinning their wheels. Explanation is to give the reasons behind how something came to be, what it is made of, what it is, and/or what it is for or where it is going.

Funny you would say that. There are a few threads, where the posters vehemently argue that there is nothing “natural”, rather everything is “designed”.

On the surface this is interesting, but to hold my interest both parties would have to define their terms. I do not see any contradiction between natural substances and design. Design doesn’t have to be framed in the non-scientific ID mold, that treats God as merely a very intelligent created being.

Can it be experienced?

Yes. We experience certain objects to have a natural unity (tree) and some objects to not have a natural unity (hammer). Have you read the book The Last Superstition by Edward Feser? It’s a good book that shows the problem (well, at least one of the problems) with rejecting all final causality in nature.

And that is all you have access to, its external behavior. You can subject that other “something” to the Turing test, and “it” will pass the test with flying colors. On what ground would you say that “it” is not a person? I am sticking to the “duck-principle”. What is your preinciple?

I’m not arguing that you can construct a situation where someone is fooled into believing a copy is an original. What I am saying is that doing follows being and therefore expresses what something is… so if the behavior was close enough (very close) then it actually would be the same kind of thing. In the case of persons I don’t think this is possible to make such a copy due to the individuating principle of matter and the formal quality of the soul with its inherent functions (formal uniqueness in every case once the being is formed). Does the behavior in the copy have to be that close in order to fool us? No. But just because something fools us doesn’t mean that it is what it appears to be.

ciao,
Michael

It sure would, IF I would assert something like this. But I don’t. The concept of “essence” is something that separates “important or essential attributes” from “not important or accidental attributes”. And what is essential and what is accidental is subjective.

Consider a phone line. On the phone line there are many conversations being performed, but also there is some noise. For the people who conduct the conversations, the “essential information” is the conversation itself. For the engineer who examines the line for clarity, the actual “information” is the noise… and the actual noise (the clarity of the line) is the information. What is important is subjectibe, not objective.

Came to be? Made of? All that is material information. What are you talking about?

“Designed” means that the object is the result of a conscious, deliberate planning process. If everything is “designed” then the word “designed” has no meaning.

No, I did not. If you wish to give a short summary of his views, I will be happy to read them.

I am not talking about “fooling” someone. I am talking about the futility of trying to made a distinction between the original and a perfect copy. By the way, I am still very much interested in finding out your method of differentiating between a “real” person and a “simulated” person. Please concentrate on that problem.

Fair enough with the accidental attributes vs essential attributes terminology; I follow. I still say that without any philosophical tradition essence means just ‘what something is’ and nothing more. But of course, bringing to the fore the accidental versus essential distinction, there are some instances of objective distinctions (to deny this is intellectual suicide, just consult with the nominalists). For an example of an objective distinction, take an instance of a triangle. Change the triangularity of a triangle to something else like circularity and you no longer have a triangle. Change the color of a triangle and you still have a triangle—it’s not just subjective. Nice phone example though.

No, I did not. If you wish to give a short summary of his views, I will be happy to read them.

I don’t know if I could give a short summary of all his views. He is a philosopher of the aristotelian thomistic tradition. But his book The Last Superstition is meant to be a polemical work against books such as Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion. Despite this, the book stands on its own as a good introduction to aristotelian metaphysics. In the book he gives extremely brief highlights of the history of philosophy and focuses on final causality as he enters the era of modern philosophy. He corrects many of the misunderstandings of what many think final causality or teleology is, and ultimately shows how rejection of final causes ends up destroying reason—and necessarily so.

I am not talking about “fooling” someone. I am talking about the futility of trying to made a distinction between the original and a perfect copy. By the way, I am still very much interested in finding out your method of differentiating between a “real” person and a “simulated” person. Please concentrate on that problem.

How many ways must I say it. I’m not arguing against you on this point: I probably could not make such a distinction in practice given extremely similar behavior. However, you are talking about two distinct entities, therefore, in principle, there must be some distinction—to deny this is lousy philosophy. I also think that a perfect copy of a person could not be made. I also do not think we can make something that is truly alive (that has its own natural unity), only something that mimics.

Of course there is some distinction. As an example, one is a biological human, while the other one is an adroid driven by computer program. But you do not have access to this difference. You only have access to its behavior. The two entities may even look alike, though that is not important.

And I did not say that they are the “same”. Only that both of them share one aspect: they are both persons. That is why I insist: what is your defintion of “personhood”, and what method do you use to say that one is a person, the other one is not.

That is your opinion. I happen to differ. But since the technology is simply “not there”, we cannot decide the question. By the way, if some day there would be a computer program, which would pass the Turing test, would that event finally get rid of the idea of the “soul” (at least for the rational believers)?

Then here we agree.

And I did not say that they are the “same”. Only that both of them share one aspect: they are both persons.

And that’s what I cannot understand. The jump from something behaving in some degree similar to a person to something necessarily being a person. Sure, in practice we might be fooled. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’d be fooled.

That is your opinion. I happen to differ. But since the technology is simply “not there”, we cannot decide the question.

Yes we can decide the question because it is a question about the philosophy of nature and not dependent upon technological advance.

By the way, if some day there would be a computer program, which would pass the Turing test, would that event finally get rid of the idea of the “soul” (at least for the rational believers)?

I don’t think so. Because even though you have a being that behaves very similar to a person it would in fact not be a person. That we are fooled doesn’t change the nature of what’s fooling us.

In the aristotelian thomistic philosophical tradition the soul is very specifically defined as the form of a living being (yes, that mean’s plants and animals have one as well). The soul is merely a particular kind of form, both matter and form being necessary to explain change, any change at all. And living things change…

That is why I recommend you checking out that book. It will be a good introduction to something that could take you on a long, long journey. I am still looking for holes in much of aristotelian metaphysics and I can’t find much of anything, and it’s not because I’m not trying or haven’t been at this philosophy thing for very long. There’s something very solid there that has been refined over many centuries. Something that has its roots in the real world we experience every day.

ciao,
Michael

You keep using the word: “fooled”. The point is that if you cannot find a way to differentiate (not even in principle!) the real McCoy from being “fooled” into believing that it is the real McCoy, then to assume that you are “fooled” is totally irrational.

Until you can give a method, an algorithm to make that distinction, it is just an unsubstantiated assertion. That is why I am asking for the method.

First: “what is a person?”.
Second: “how do you know if an entity is a person or just an emulation?”

I asked these question many times now. If you can answer them, I will be interested. If you cannot, just say it. But don’t say that we can be “fooled” if you cannot decide if we are “fooled” or not. It is like two people walking in the desert and seeing something that looks like a mirage. When approaching the phenomenon, they can see the water, drink from the water, swim in the water (performing all the possible physical experiments) and yet one of them keeps saying: “but it is possible that we are fooled” - and that would be you.

By the way, even today there is an “alternate way” create a person - by cloning. The technology is there. Since according to the recent teachings of the CC humans get “ensouled” at the moment of conception (in prior times the teaching was different) this new, cloned person does not have a soul. And yet it is a human, and as such a person.

To substitute one meaningless phrase with another one is not helpful. I am most emphatically not interested in the speculation of those people whose actual knowledge was less than that of a bright student in elementary school today, who thought that the brain was just a device for cooling the blood.

You misunderstand me. The situation you bring up is obviously from an outsider’s god-like viewpoint. Construct the copy however similar you want, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a copy, regardless if we can know it or not as characters in the scenario.

Also, you are abusing what “in principle” means. There is a distinction in principle in the scenario you bring up, otherwise you would not go through the pains of constructing it with a person and a similar-behaving copy.

I grant that you could construct a possible scenario where I could not tell the difference. So what, it still doesn’t change the metaphysics of the situation and allow you an open door to lousy philosophy. In that situation, if I had no way to tell the difference between the two, I would think both were persons. But objectively I’d be wrong. I wouldn’t know I’d be wrong, but it doesn’t change the fact.

First: “what is a person?”.
Second: “how do you know if an entity is a person or just an emulation?”

For the first question, I take person to be synonymous with rational animal in the traditional philosophical meaning.
For the second, it would depend on how good the emulation was. If the emulation was good enough, then I would not know.

By the way, even today there is an “alternate way” create a person - by cloning. The technology is there. Since according to the recent teachings of the CC humans get “ensouled” at the moment of conception (in prior times the teaching was different) this new, cloned person does not have a soul. And yet it is a human, and as such a person.

Well it will be surprising news to you that the Catholic Church thinks that a cloned human being, precisely because it is a human being, is still ensouled. If you look at conception, it is the first time that the entities involved unite to become distinctly human. The Church would just say that in this case, the conception took place in a lab. Look at it this way: every instance of a human being you point to, necessarily it will have a soul.

Don’t worry, loads of people make all kinds of silly mistakes about what the Church believes. I often wonder if it’s because the pope has a funny hat (just kidding, well, sort of). But at least you are making an effort by opening up the catechism.

To substitute one meaningless phrase with another one is not helpful. I am most emphatically not interested in the speculation of those people whose actual knowledge was less than that of a bright student in elementary school today, who thought that the brain was just a device for cooling the blood.

Fine, then act like you are too good (or lazy) for philosophy, because believe it or not, science has a foundation built upon metaphysics and not the other way around. Much of Aristotle’s metaphysics still stands. Hey, it’s your life.

The concept of “not even in principle” still holds. The atom-perfect hypothetical copy the Mona Lisa cannot be differentiated from the original. Yes, there is the difference, since one of them was touched by Leonardo’s hand, and the other one was not. But neither you nor anyone else can tell which is which. And unanswerable questions are not worthy to be contemplated.

Actually that would be “good philosophy” because it would be gounded in reality, and the other way round.

Thank you very much! At last a straight answer. But it is only a good start.

What does the word “animal” mean here? A biological organism? Or does it include a partly biological and partly artificial “composite” being? Does it include a fully artificial entity (made of silicon perhaps)? And what does “rational” mean? How do you know that the being is rational? I have only one method to decide it: “rational is as rational does” - to paraphrase Forrest Gump. In other words, using the duck principle.

So how fo you know if the entity is “really” rational, or just acts like it? But, let’s make no mistakes about it. Even though your answer was inadequte, at least you did go through the “pains” of making an answer. That is a very rare exception to the rule around here. And I appreciate it.

Indeed. So you cannot tell if that “rational animal” is really rational? That means that your epistemology is insufficient to answer such questions as: “Is this being a rational being or not?”.

I was aware of it. Of course that means that the CC changes its stance according to how the wind blows. However, the CC also states that it is infallible in the question of “faith and morals” and that its teachings never change in the field of “faith and morals”. And if the question of “soul” is not a matter of faith, then I don’t know what is. And if the differing opinions are not changing opinions, then I will eat my hat.

When? The cloning process is a long one. It starts with a living human cell. Now a living human cell either has an “immortal, rational soul” or it does not. I don’t think that even the CC is irrational enough to contend that every living humal cell has its own “rational soul”. And in that case when (during the process) does the “ensoulment” happen?

Nope, actually it is again the reverse that is true. The speculation what we call metaphysics is just a distillate of the actual experiences. Nihil est in intellectu… you know.

You’re fooling yourself. This is doublespeak. If they were exactly the same in principle, then there would be one entity instead of two. Instead, what you mean is something akin to formal identity.

Actually that would be “good philosophy” because it would be gounded in reality, and the other way round.

So our thoughts wholly determine reality… that is what your position entails.

What does the word “animal” mean here? A biological organism? Or does it include a partly biological and partly artificial “composite” being? Does it include a fully artificial entity (made of silicon perhaps)? And what does “rational” mean? How do you know that the being is rational? I have only one method to decide it: “rational is as rational does” - to paraphrase Forrest Gump. In other words, using the duck principle.

I don’t really care what the animal is made of. If it is an animal it is a living creature (hence some aspect of it falls under biology). Not only is it a living creature, but it has the capacities of nutrition/growth and appetite (in the sense of the will).
A rational animal has all of the above, but also includes the capacity of intellect (whether developed and usable or not developed and not usable). Since every human being has this capacity, by virtue of being human (human nature), if I identify something as a human biologically, I can know that this being is a rational animal in the philosophical sense. I’m not saying this is mathematical knowledge, but it is knowledge nonetheless.

I’m all for Forest Gump as your mentor. But I don’t think he meant to propound a metaphyiscal theory of identity that equates doing with being.

How much philosophy have you read? And how much history of philosophy have you read? Basically, I want to know if you are “old enough to know better” so-to-speak or bluffing. Answering this question won’t shed any negative light on your positions, it will just help me better craft my responses to you.

That is a very rare exception to the rule around here. And I appreciate it.

Give me a break. You’re too young to know (in internet years on this forum) :). Many people on this forum put up with a gnu-atheist materialist types who think they know everything all the time (not saying you fall under the category, I don’t really know yet). And often times there is a great patience in dealing with them because we ourselves (in general) have been there. And of course there are all other kinds of people here thrown into the mix.

Indeed. So you cannot tell if that “rational animal” is really rational? That means that your epistemology is insufficient to answer such questions as: “Is this being a rational being or not?”.

I most certainly can tell if a rational animal is really rational. I just cannot do it with the mathematical certainty that you erroneously require.

I was aware of it. Of course that means that the CC changes its stance according to how the wind blows.

Then your post was misleading. However, given this as your stance, it still fails to grasp the bigger picture. The Church has always held that human life is an ensouled creature. What was at issue is when human life began. And that was something that fell under the purview of biology and wasn’t discovered until relatively recently. Let me know if you didn’t get the “aha” moment from my post and I’ll try to reword things differently.
This limitation in understanding didn’t pose any moral threat for the people at the time. I’m just glad that our moral understanding today has progressed with the new insights that biology has given us.

What is your attitude when you come to these forums and read the CCC? If it is negative and closed-minded (ie. that you think you’re right and the Church is wrong no matter what), then I predict you’ll have many more of these misunderstandings.

And if the question of “soul” is not a matter of faith, then I don’t know what is. And if the differing opinions are not changing opinions, then I will eat my hat.

1. Use barbecue sauce on your hat, it will go down much easier.
2. The soul is and is not a matter of faith depending on your definitions. Basically, not all truths contained in revelation are only known by revelation… some can be known by reason (in principle) such as the soul and the existence of God.

When?

The moment whatever you have becomes human. If it is the case that one already starts with what is human, well… then… there ya go. Not much of a creation of a human, though, if I don’t say myself.

Nope, actually it is again the reverse that is true. The speculation what we call metaphysics is just a distillate of the actual experiences. Nihil est in intellectu… you know.

Yes I do know, and your quotation is a perversion of what was actually meant.
I hope you agree that some observations about the world do not fall under the scientific method and yet are true (ie. that the physical world exists and that change exists to name just two). That said, what is science doing if the physical world doesn’t exist? Could the project get off the ground without a subject?

This is enough to show that the scientific method has at least one presupposition.

So, if I would say that “1 = 1”, and the two “1-s” on the two sides are the same, would you argue that there are not the same, since it they were the same, there would be just one of them?

Not in the least. What I say is that if the thoughts about reality do not reflect reality, then they are just empty musings.

Even biologists cannot agree where is the dividing line between the “living” and “not-living” entities. So the application of “animal” does not say anything. How about a rational plant? How about a human, who lost many parts of his body, which were then replaced by properly designed protheses? How about a test-tube grown android, not the result of a cloning process? How about a being made of silicon chips?

Cool… and my question still is: “how do you know it”? Just to repeat that “you know it”, is not sufficient. I don’t doubt that you know it.** HOW? By observing its behavior?**

Appearances can be deceiving. Suffice it to say that I had conversations with you before. During the many real life years when I was around here on these boards, I met a very few smart theists, a few mediocre ones, but the overwhelming majority simple beloged to the “Mene, tekel, ufarsin” category (to use a language which is within the forum rules).

How? What is your epistemological process?

Are you kidding? The saying simply confirms that observation is primary - as opposed to the empty contemplation of one’s belly-button within some ivory tower.

I did not say anything about science. The fact that science happens to use the one and only rational epistemological method (observe, ponder, hypothesize, test and verify) is the result of the realization that there is no substitute for it. But this belongs to a different thread. I am still awaiting your answer to the question: “how do you know that some entity is rational” - unless you know it by observation and then by applying the duck principle.

Put simply: were you using “same” to mean identity or formal identity (following your mathematical example will probably confuse things more)?

Not in the least. What I say is that if the thoughts about reality do not reflect reality, then they are just empty musings.

Then that is another thing we have in common. Good.

Even biologists cannot agree where is the dividing line between the “living” and “not-living” entities. So the application of “animal” does not say anything.

It intersects biology. It does not have to fall entirely under its purview. It is a philosophical understanding rooted in observation.

That would be a contradiction. It would be the same as saying it both has and has not appetitive capacities.

How about a human, who lost many parts of his body, which were then replaced by properly designed protheses?

Did he die? Is he still a living creature? Is he the kind of creature that by nature exercises nutritive, appetitive, and intellectual capacities?

How about a test-tube grown android, not the result of a cloning process? How about a being made of silicon chips?

If it truly exercises those capacities listed above (instead of merely mimics), then it falls under the definition of a rational animal. But I don’t think all materials are equally conducive to life… so good luck making a rational animal out of lollipops. Heck, good luck making something living. The problem is that living things have a natural unity. When we create things we impose order from without to necessarily make an artificial unity.

Cool… and my question still is: “how do you know it”? Just to repeat that “you know it”, is not sufficient. I don’t doubt that you know it.** HOW? By observing its behavior?**

Yes, of course, in part I need to observe its behavior. The activity of the mind is also involved.

Appearances can be deceiving. Suffice it to say that I had conversations with you before. During the many real life years when I was around here on these boards…

Sure, you don’t have to tell me about your experience with the history of philosophy—it would only make things easier for me. But welcome back. I too, am in and out on these forums. I hope our previous conversations were beneficial and cordial.

Are you kidding? The saying simply confirms that observation is primary - as opposed to the empty contemplation of one’s belly-button within some ivory tower.

I don’t think I should have used the word “perversion”; I got a little excited as the saying is sometimes abused (for instance, think logical positivists). Yes, observation is primary, but observation is not the same thing as science. In fact, there are some observations that science presupposes.

The fact that science happens to use the one and only rational epistemological method (observe, ponder, hypothesize, test and verify) is the result of the realization that there is no substitute for it. But this belongs to a different thread.

This is not a sound argument.

I am hoping that you aren’t the old “Spock” come back to haunt.

I am still awaiting your answer to the question: “how do you know that some entity is rational” - unless you know it by observation and then by applying the duck principle.

Yes, like I said, by observation. As for the the duck principle, it is very useful. However, the duck principle has its limitations, that is, unless one thinks there are innate ideas.

Basically, the only point I wish to make with your original post is that doing is not the same as being. To think so is lousy philosophy. I don’t think this is what you actually believe, it’s just the impression you gave.

So we’re peachy.

Why so? We could imagine a plant with a nervous system. And rationality presupposes a nervous system.

Well, let us play a tought experiment. The person we are talking about suffered multiple accidents. All of his body parts were replaced by artifical counterparts - except his brain, which is kept alive and in good working condition. Is this “someone” still a person? I would think he is. Now let’s play more, and start to replace each neuron in the brain with a silicon counterpart - one at a time… Does this process somewhere remove the personhood? If you think it does, then I will have to ask: “when”?

We are back to square one. What is the difference between “truly having those capabilities” or merely “mimicking” them. That is the central question. My answer is: there is no difference. Your answer (so far) was: yes, there is a difference, but it cannot be measured.

And the same question: what is the difference between the “natural” and the “artificial” unity?

How?

It is a contradiction because of the definitions involved. If you’d like to change the definitions then do it. Certain capacities are associated with the definitions, and not for no reason either. Having a rational soul in this case does not presuppose a nervous system. Sure, all human beings have a nervous system, and all human beings are by nature rational (capacity as part of its nature, not necessarily able to exercise it whether it is fully developed or not). But from that you don’t get to the conclusion that a rational nature simpliciter requires a nervous system. That’s bad philosophy and not very scientific either.

Well, let us play a tought experiment…

Yes, I’ve heard that one before, it’s basically the Ship of Theseus. It’s force, however, is geared towards those objects that lack a natural unity, say, artifacts. But I have no problem with agreeing it’s still a person, and the same one at that. The definition for rational animal doesn’t care that much about what the being is made out of… rather its natural capacities are most important.

We are back to square one. What is the difference between “truly having those capabilities” or merely “mimicking” them. That is the central question. My answer is: there is no difference. Your answer (so far) was: yes, there is a difference, but it cannot be measured.

Hey, you’re the one saying that those capacities are being mimicked. The way you set up the scenario precludes those capacities which are being compared from being formally the same. If they are formally the same then there is no mimicry.

And whether or not I am able to figure out if one of them is not the real McCoy is another story.

And the same question: what is the difference between the “natural” and the “artificial” unity?

It was in the paragraph you quote. One unity is imposed from without a substance or collection of substances, the other is merely a substance.

How?

I don’t really have time right now to get into universals, abstraction, and the mind. It’s not a scientific explanation (though it is based on observation) so it’s probably not that important to you…?

I hope you are having a good day.

• Michael

How do I know? The same way you know.

Cogito: ergo tu es.

Hmmm, what does it presuppose then?

The same problem arises. How do you find out if something is “natural” or artificial?

Hold it right there! This is almost exactly what I am saying. You say “natural” capabilities, but insofar you did not show a method to differentiate between natural and artificial capabilities. I would not use the word “animal” for obvious reasons, since it presupposes a biological origin. I would use “rational entity”, because entity is neutral.

Since you said that you do not care about the material that entity is made of, I don’t see any reason to deny that rational beings are rational, even if they are test-tube made, or composed of silicon chips or wharever. If it acts as a rational being, it is a rational being. That is what you said now, and that is what I said all the time… Isn’t it time to open a bottle of champagne?

Actually I used quotes around the “mimicked” to indicate that the distinction is baseless.

A being which exists and can change. There might be more.

The same problem arises. How do you find out if something is “natural” or artificial?

How do I find out if something has a natural or artificial unity (I think that’s what you meant to say)? Through experience of that something. But depending on the scenario, it doesn’t mean that one will always be able to tell for sure (and definitely not with mathematical certainty since that is a category mistake). For instance, one may have only a brief moment in contact with the object or have contact with the object in a way that stretches outside the reliable operating range of the senses. But all in all, artificial unity can be distinguished from natural unity. If a being tends to be the thing that it is without our continual help (if it expresses an inner tendency to exist as the thing it is), we would say that it has a natural unity. Say salt versus a car. Or a tree versus a building.

Hold it right there!

Is this a stick up!?

This is almost exactly what I am saying. You say “natural” capabilities, but insofar you did not show a method to differentiate between natural and artificial capabilities.

Actually, I say natural capacities (whether an individual can exercise those capacities or not is besides the point). I think I meant to highlight those capacities associated with a being which has a natural unity. See above for my answer to natural versus artificial unity.

I would not use the word “animal” for obvious reasons, since it presupposes a biological origin. I would use “rational entity”, because entity is neutral.

Or maybe biology presupposes philosophy.

Since you said that you do not care about the material that entity is made of, I don’t see any reason to deny that rational beings are rational, even if they are test-tube made, or composed of silicon chips or wharever.

Agreed, that is, if they are rational beings.

If it acts as a rational being, it is a rational being. That is what you said now, and that is what I said all the time… Isn’t it time to open a bottle of champagne?

If its capacities are formally identical with other rational beings, it is a rational being yes. But if its capacities are only similar, then it is not. We aren’t always able to pick up on this difference due to certain limitations.

Actually I used quotes around the “mimicked” to indicate that the distinction is baseless.

Then in effect you are setting up a scenario where two beings have formally identical sets of capacities. Fine.

But yes, let’s break out the champagne because we do have at least some agreement. I think the main thing we differ is that where you think it’s possible to create something with a natural unity, I think it impossible, that we can only modify things that have a natural unity because we cannot change the laws of nature.

There should be more. Plants exist and can (do!) change.

Indeed it would be, and I never asked for that. I am more than happy to stipulate that given sufficiently long time for a thorough test, the evidence supports the hypothesis beyond reasonable doubt. The same assurance we need to convict someone on criminal charges.

That does not help. We know a-priori that a car was “made”, and therefore artificial. But we do not know if a cave (sort of a crude dwellig) was artifically excavated, or was formed naturally. The difference between “natural” and “artifical” in not a simple question. Looking at a crystalline structure (a snowflake, perhaps) we see some nice, symmetrical arrangement. If someone would not be familiar with the process, he might assume artificial origin. Looking at three wooden sticks on the beach, which form a triangle, we are unable to decide if that triangle was formed by someone (artificial) or the random movement of the tide and the wind formed it (natural).

If we are unable to find difference, then it is irrational to assume that there is difference.

A partial agreement is much better than none. Cheers!

You asked for the presuppositions, not for what is explicitly contained in the definitions.

That does not help. We know a-priori that a car was “made”, and therefore artificial. But we do not know if a cave (sort of a crude dwellig) was artifically excavated, or was formed naturally. The difference between “natural” and “artifical” in not a simple question.

I don’t think a cave, either formed naturally or artificially, fits the bill of something with a natural unity. The kinds of rock that make up the cave, perhaps. External forces are necessary to make the cave what it is. Basically, it’s taking the different substances of rock and adding an extra layer of order or configuration to them. But caves are not inherent to the nature of rocks.

Looking at three wooden sticks on the beach, which form a triangle, we are unable to decide if that triangle was formed by someone (artificial) or the random movement of the tide and the wind formed it (natural).

Something that is formed naturally is not necessarily something with a natural unity.

If we are unable to find difference, then it is irrational to assume that there is difference.

First, please note that I said “we aren’t always able to pick up on” the difference. It’s not so cut and dry as what you attribute to me.
Second, I’m okay with that. Especially since you set up the scenario with the sets of capacities formally identical. But if the sets of capacities were not formally identical in principle, and I was not able to find out the difference, it would not change the fact that there is an objective formal difference. Also, it does not change the fact that a being’s actions are not identical with its being.

Perhaps you were not disagreeing to my last two sentences, but that is what I have been concerned about throughout. Anything different from this is lousy philosophy on pain of contradiction.

A partial agreement is much better than none. Cheers!

Surely.

Sorry, I am still not sure what do you mean by natural “unity”. Something is either natural (it simply is) or artificial (it is made) and that is the cruical problem. The triangle of the sticks formed on the beach presents an important problem. Just because something exhibits order is not indication that it is artifical. You said that artificial and natural can be told apart. I am giving you examples when they cannot be differentiated. Just because something is artificial is not “inferior”.

Why do you say that the capacities are “not” identical? If there is no method to find a difference - even in principle - then to assume that there is a difference is nonsensical.

As long as the only information you have access to, is the being’s actions, you must draw your conclusions based upon that. The fact that you may draw an incorrect conclusion is beside the point. And yes, the sum of the actions actually defines what the being is. What else would it be?

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