Skip to main content

What it Means to Be a Human Person – Part 9 – The Human Person and Change

            Of course, as soon as we observe the material world the question of change comes up. If everything in the sensible world is constantly changing, how can we claim to have any knowledge of it? How can we have any knowledge of human-beings, as they are part of this changing world? Some philosophers, Platonists, for example, accept the problem by saying that it is true that the sensible world is entrenched in change, and therefore unknowable. In order to get around the problem of how we can have knowledge if everything is in constant flux, they claimed that this world is just the flittering shadow of the world of the forms. True knowledge is gained by knowing the immaterial forms. Moving from the ever-changing world of the senses, the mind is drawn to, or reminded, or pointed towards, the world of the forms. If this answer to the problem of change is true, then Naturalism is clearly false, because not only do scientific methods not give us a lot of certain information about the sensible world, but scientific method is concerned with studying particular cases, and then inferring general, or universal, laws. However, if the platonic answer to the problem of change is true, then the particulars cannot give us any knowledge, they can only remind us of true reality—the immaterial world of the forms, which is the source of all our knowledge.  Naturalism cannot explain such a world, and would contradict itself if it tried.

The Naturalists response to the problem of change, to simplify a little bit, is to make change the substratum of all reality. For the extreme empiricist, we can only know each individual instance which presents itself to our senses, without knowing any connecting factor, or cause, between the instances. As David Hume notes, “…upon the whole, there appears not, throughout all nature, any one instance of connexion which is conceivable by us. All events seem entirely loose and separate. One event follows another; but we never can observe any tie between them. They seem conjoined, but never connected.”[1] One problem that arises is that we then can have no unified body of knowledge and therefore, no science, no philosophy, no history, etc. Another problem, is that Naturalists end up possessing the object of knowledge, the particular changing thing, but can have no intentional knowledge of it.

In the next post we will look at a third, and in my view the most promising and coherent, way of explaining change.


[1]David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and concerning the Principles of Morals, 3rd ed. (1975; repr., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 74.

Popular posts from this blog

How Kant’s Synthesis of Empiricism and Rationalism resulted in Agnosticism

Immanuel Kant, presented with the extreme empiricism of Hume and the extreme rationalism of Liebniz, which he discovered through the writings Wolff, sought to take a middle road between these two extreme philosophical positions. I would submit that Kant’s synthesis of these two views leads to an agnosticism about what Kant called “the thing-in-itself”, and ultimately to the philosophical positions known as Atheism, determinism, and nihilism.


Kant’s Sources
First of all, Kant was influenced by Hume’s empiricism and Newton’s physics. He saw that the physical sciences, in contrast to rationalistic metaphysics, were actually making advances. They were making discoveries, and building a system of knowledge that accurately described the world of our sense perceptions. Rationalistic metaphysics, on the other hand, was floundering amidst the combating systems that the philosophers were erecting. It did not provide new knowledge, and only led to unacceptable conclusions, such as the Absolute Mon…

A Short outline of Charles Taylor's: The Malaise of Modernity

CHARLES TAYLOR’S THE MALAISE OF MODERNITY[1]
            This is simply an outline of Taylor’s basic argument in this short work written by Charles Taylor. The idea of this outline is to help the reader understand the book by providing a simple outline of the basic argument that Taylor is presenting here. The book, which is essentially the manuscript is the fruit of a series of presentations that Taylor made at the Massey Conferences which are hosted by Massey College and Radio-Canada, is divided into 10 chapters. In the first chapter Taylor essentially proposes three causes (recognizing that there may be more) of the Malaise of Modernity: (1) Individualism or the Loss of Sense, (2) The Primacy of Instrumental Reason or the Loss of Ends, and (3) The effect on society and politics in general of the loss of sense to an inauthentic individualism and the domination of instrumental reason, or, the loss of true freedom. Taylor considers the first Malaise in chapters 2 to 8, the second in c…

LEISURE: THE BASIS OF CULTURE – A BOOK REVIEW

Leisure: The Basis of Culture & the Philosophical Act. Josef Pieper. Translated by Alexander Dru. 1963. Reprint, Ignatius Press, 2009. 143 pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-58617-256-5.
            This book is composed of two articles written by the German philosopher Josef Pieper. Though the two articles are intimately connected, they form two distinct works; as such, this book review will begin by giving a brief introduction to the works in question, followed by and exposition of each of the works individually. The two articles that are included in this book, Leisure: the Basis of Culture and The Philosophical Act, were both published in 1947, and, as such, were written during the cultural crisis in Germany that followed the Second World War. Not only did Pieper have the cultural crisis in mind when he wrote these articles, but he was also writing in light of the works of the most well-known German philosopher of the time – Martin Heidegger. As such, any reader who is familiar with Heidegg…