Two Questions from Jim F. (2)

Second question (go here for the first): This question is more philosophical. Driving through the West Desert, Professor Juffé and I had ample time to talk as well as to see the scenery. We talked a lot about Spinoza, his favorite philosopher and someone about whom I am almost ignorant. By the time we got to Temple Square (where, surprisingly, it seemed that every other missionary had a French flag on her lapel), the topic of conversation had shifted naturally to the Church. I was telling him about Joseph Smith’s vision and noted that one thing Joseph learned from the experience was that God is embodied.

Professor Juffé was startled—philosophers and theologians usually are—but for the reason opposite that of most: I said we believe that, in some sense we are not clear about, everything that is is material. “Of course,� he said. “You are a kind of Spinozist.� He found admirable that we are materialists without being reductionists (reducing everything to the merely mechanical understanding of material, à la Descartes).

We accept that the Father and the Son have bodies and that the Holy Ghost will someday have one. We accept that our resurrection is literal and that our exaltation is as much a bodily matter as any other kind. Yet we most often talk about these kinds of things with language inherited from the Christian tradition filtered through Descartes and those who followed him. What are the implications of our insistence on materiality? But before that, where do we find the language to talk about those implications?

39 comments for “Two Questions from Jim F. (2)

  1. Jack
    October 20, 2004 at 12:25 am

    Wow, I’m not sure that we can find the language to talk about materiality any more than we can for spirituality. We can use a mix of gestures and grunts to convey a feeling about them, but by and large, communication is achieved because those involved in the “conversation” have personal life experience with the ‘abstract’.

    Fun question. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll have to keep thinking about it…

  2. Rosalynde Welch
    October 20, 2004 at 12:31 am

    Jim, I am somewhat out of my (very small) disciplinary pond here, so please forgive inadvertent stupidity. But I’m not sure that our theology is “materialist,” at least not in the ways that current critical theory uses the term. The British equivalent of cultural studies, “cultural materialism,” of the lineage of Marx, relies on a (very qualified, constantly caveated, but ultimately determinative) base/superstructure model of history, in which the causal engine of history is fueled by material (not cultural or personal) phenomenon: various populations’ relationships to the means of production leads not only the slow march of history but also the ephemeral excursions of individual subjectivity. In this view, assertions of human agency independent of causal materialism, while troublingly persistent in historical narratives, are merely obfuscatory.

    Clearly, this sort of materialism is at odds with our particularly Mormon emphasis on moral agency (though I, influenced by said cultural materialists, have a somewhat more tempered view of agency’s independence).

    You’re talking about a philosophical tradition of materialism, I realize–but I assume there are intellectual connections.

  3. Jim F.
    October 20, 2004 at 12:35 am

    Jack: Though there is no question that we have to have experience to talk about either one, we have experiences of both. And we use a traditional Christian and quasi-Cartesian language that we have adopted from our intellectual and cultural tradition to talk about spiritual matters: a language that includes the “fact” that mind and body are ontologically different (from the Christian tradition) and the equation of spirit and mind (from Descartes). Though there is not a very good fit between the language we use to talk about spirit and body, etc. and LDS teachings, we use that language anyway. My question is whether there might not be a language–perhaps from Spinoza, perhaps from somewhere else like the scriptures–that would help us talk about spirit, body, and their relation better. What would that kind of talk be like?

  4. Nate Oman
    October 20, 2004 at 12:40 am

    Rosalynde: I am not sure which disciplinary pond that you splash in, but I am not sure that there is any necessary connection between the sort of Marxist materialism that you are talking about, the sort of materialism that Jim is talking about. I take it that the claim that our materialism makes us Spinozist is a claim about our particular approach to metaphysics. It seems to me that it takes a lot of intervening steps to get from metaphysics to social theory. I would be curious as to what connection you see?

  5. Jim F.
    October 20, 2004 at 12:44 am

    Rosalynde: I am sure you’re right that current critical theory uses the term “materialism” differently than I do, but that’s just a difference between ponds. In addition, my suspicion is that the current use of “materialism” in the kinds of discussions you are engaged in is, ironically, Cartesian: take the Cartesian split between mind and body (which makes the body merely mechanical), delete the mind, and you have the ancestor of those ideas. But that is what is interesting about Spinoza: he thinks that split was itself a mistake, so the derivative understanding of materialism that comes from it is no less mistaken. The short way to say this: Cartesian materialism (the kind I think we find in Marxist theories of various sorts) is reductionist; Spinozist materialism is not. For Spinoza “mind is matter” and “matter is mind” are equally true. Not for the materialist descendants of Descartes. For them only the first is true.

    Here’s another way to put the difference, a way I’ve stolen from Michel: Descartes understands the self as the cogito, which he necessarily distinguishes, radically, from the body (material). Spinoza understands the self as conatus–the drive, force, desire to continue–which he does not divide from material. In fact, without material the conatus makes no sense: something must be driven, and to be (material) is to be a force.

  6. October 20, 2004 at 4:20 am

    I actually agree with the view – although I think most would be uncomfortable with the pantheism in Spinoza. Personally I prefer Leibniz, whose views are surprisingly close to Spinoza (although that wasn’t readily apparent at the time) There are differences, of course, but the basic emphasis on materialism is quite pronounced.

  7. Keith
    October 20, 2004 at 5:07 am

    What if the throw “spirit” and “spiritual” into the mix? The New Testament says God is spirit (not a spirit, just spirit in the Greek). D&C 93 says man is spirit. (We are also told all spirit is matter, but I’m not sure how to fit that in this context.) What are we to make of both God and Man being spirit? It’s not clear to me, but the phrase that follows the NT passage says man must worship God in spirit and truth. What if we were to take spirit to mean something like relatedness, or always already in relation, or always conversing or interacting with? I take my clue here from Kierkegaard and his assertion that we are not inherently anything except established by God. There’s no reason to accept him, any more than there is to accept Spinoza as a base for theology of course, but it may prove useful as a help nonetheless, especially if it helps us get what theology we need from scripture or other non-philosophical things. (This always already relatedness may also have something to say with respect to the Sartre/Heidegger individual conversation in the other blog, in which, by the way, I always thought Being and Nothingness was largely Kierkegaard again but without God. Agency is established by God, so perhaps the individual is an individual before God and with others. To exist is to (inevitably) be in relation.)

    Additionally, in D&C 88 and in I Corinthians, resurrected bodies are called “spiritual” (not spirit) bodies. I’m not certain what all of this might imply for materialism as you say here, though it strikes me that something important is lurking. Bodies appear to be resurrected with a kind of glory fit for the kingdom where they will be (D&C 88). Perhaps one view of the “spiritualâ€? body is that it will be fit for the kind of relatedness or the “socialityâ€? of the particular kingdom.

    We usually think of bodies as implying separation–especially material bodies. Some of that separation seems inevitable and necessary, but I wonder if there isn’t a way to a greater connectedness, or potential for oneness in them than we usually think. (Brandie’s blog has got me wondering about this.)

    So, no real conclusions here. Just puzzling over what might happen by throwing spirit and spiritual into the mix–words we use often but without always being clear about what they mean or how they are used in Scripture.

  8. October 20, 2004 at 9:26 am


    I read the D&C passages in the way you do—that resurrected bodies are glorified to different degrees. (My mission trainer’s Mother used to tell her that she better be shining like the sun on resurrection morning) This, of course changes the nature of the final judgment too. Reading these verses in this way make it seem like the glory of our resurrected body will make it obvious where we belong and with whom. It is not like Christ will interview you to determine something that isn’t abundantly clear to both of you, not just because you and He will have a perfect memory of your earthly life but because your physical body will be a manifestation of your spiritual attainment. I’ve always thought that the “intelligence” we are supposed to diligently work to acquire here and that we will take with us into the next life is relevant here too. I don’t think that verse is talking about knowledge in the way we usually think of knowledge—I think it is knowledge of spiritual things which we acquire through faithful practice and which will be evident in the glory of our resurrected bodies.

    I think that two other concepts are relevant here as well although I can’t comment on them right now. First, the idea that body and spirit inseparably connected produce a fulness of joy. Second, that the separation of the spirit from the body is considered “bondage.”

  9. Kevin Winters
    October 20, 2004 at 9:38 am


    I’ve been reading this blog off and on for a few months and thought I’d start posting. On materialism, Spinoza and Leibniz have been brought up but no one has yet mentioned Alfred North Whitehead or Charles Sanders Pierce. I understand that Whitehead is more obscure in current philosophical interests, but surely Pierce could be a valuable source in discussing this issue. I imagine that I am the only Whiteheadian here (or at least, now, the only Whiteheadian that is posting), but I think that Whitehead’s greatest contribution is how his metaphysic deals with the mind-body problem. Clark has commented in the past that Whitehead’s ‘actual occasions’ are Leibniz’s ‘monads with windows’ (and Whitehead admits as much).

    To discuss the above in relation to Keith’s statement, I think the Hebrew connection of ‘spirit’ with ‘life’ (nephesh) is illuminating. I think that the meaning of nephesh corresponds to Keith’s statement on life being ‘relational,’ but I also think that it goes beyond mere relationships and also appeals to the dynamic way in which those relationships are sustained. Thus, perhaps ‘spirit’ should be defined more along the lines of ‘dynamic relationality’ to include the ‘creative’ aspect. If this is granted, I think we have a very workable (though not complete) definition of ‘mind/spirit’ (admittedly, Whitehead’s definition of ‘mind’). To be ‘mind’ is to be dynamically related to other things, to be intentionally concerned with other things. If this is true, I think that Merleau-Ponty also has some valuable things to say about embodiment (as does Samuel Todes–_Body and World_) and how a materialism might look. Incidentally, I find it interesting that Merleau-Ponty, in his last works, finds Whitehead’s thought useful in discussing naturalism (see particularly his _Nature_).

    For me, this has admittedly been one of the central topics in my philosophical studies (it is actually the topic of my very first philosophy paper), one that I plan on addressing in my graduate studies.

    Kevin Winters

  10. Rosalynde Welch
    October 20, 2004 at 10:04 am

    Nate–I wish I had the training to trace a detailed genealogy from Spinoza to Marx (if such a genealogy even exists–which it likely does not). But it’s not so hard to get from metaphysics to social theory–think Kant-Hegel-Marx, for example. And I have vague memories (I’m an early modernist, so Spinoza is within my period if not my pond) that Spinoza himself produced some political works, as an early theorist of the state.

    Jim, I guess I’m slightly resistant to your question because I’ve heard too many facile conflations of, say, quantum physics with gospel truth, e.g. “Quantum particles are bound together by strong forces, and Mormons are bound together by the sealing power, and thus quantum physics is good and the restoration is true.” (I’m thinking in particular of a certain BYU forum address here, which in the interest of charity I will not specify, but which seemed to set forth precisely this argument.) However, knowing you, I can assume that your project is more subtle and logically sound than this.

    Spirit/matter monism (a la Spinoza) does bring to the fore some interesting possibilities. Matter is both persistent and mutable, for example, perhaps bearing on the way we can theorize eternity. Matter decays, but is not governed by an inexorable teleology–might this help us understand cause and choice? I like Keith’s suggestions on relationality and spirit, and mteriality requires us to relate intellectually rather than mystically or ascetically.

  11. October 20, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    I kind of feel like the kid at the adults table, so forgive my banality. Melissa: are we sure that resurrection and glorification are synchronous. I’m not so sure that one’s “body will be a manifestation of your spiritual attainment� upon resurrection. The disparity between mortal spirituality and eternal glory is great, and we know that the reception of a fullness of glory is a process.

  12. Gilgamesh
    October 20, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    I feel a little out of my league, but I feel we have a strong material based on D&C 88:15 “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” We are not complete soul without spirt and body, spritual and temporal, etc…

  13. Will
    October 20, 2004 at 1:11 pm

    I am also out of my league, as I know nothing of philosophy or law, I don’t live in New York, and I’ve never been to Korea.

    As a physics buff, I’ve always been puzzled by the fundamentals of materialism. Does anyone have a good definition for matter? If you ask a physicist for a definition, you might get one of several answers:
    – Anything that has a spatial location.
    – Anything with mass.
    – Anything that takes up space (i.e. made of fermions).

    It’s doubtful that Joseph Smith had any of these definitions in mind when he taught that spirits are made of refined matter. What, then, did he mean? What is the difference between matter and non-matter?

  14. October 20, 2004 at 1:51 pm

    Will, I too have spent a considerable amount of time considering materialism from a physical perspective. Matter vs. Energy or particle vs. wave. Can’t we say that:
    -Everything has mass (fermions, bosons, leptons)
    -Everything can be in more than one place at a time.

    It is not my intent to go on a tangent, so I would love a link/essay/book that is a good description of Materialism as it relates to this thread. Cheers.

  15. October 20, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    Will, there really isn’t a definition of matter, primarily due to the lack of a theory of quantum gravity. General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics each treat matter differently. In particular QM allows many different views of matter. In general though matter isn’t viewed in anything like the way it was prior to the rise of field theories. Indeed one might say that matter is a somewhat misleading and antiquated way of thinking.

  16. Will
    October 20, 2004 at 3:21 pm

    Clark, this is why I’m puzzled. What does the word material mean to philosophers?

  17. October 20, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    I don’t think philosophers really talk about material so much as materialism. That’s certainly how I talk. If philosophers talk of material it generally is a vague term more or less synonymous with “stuff.” Now historically materialism was the view that all that exists is matter. However generally philosophers now speak of physicalism both to deal with things like forces (which often aren’t taken to be matter) as well as to deal with the complexities physics have introduced the last 150 years. If you are interested in physicalism, the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a great entry on it. Still lots of people loosely speak of materialism whereas they probably intend something more akin to physicalism. (I’m guilty of that myself – I almost always use the term materialism – even though I recognize the problem with a literal reading of the term)

    Probably the easiest way to understand it is to ask what is opposed within a discussion to material. If one believes in a real mind that isn’t reducible to physical phenomena – like Descarte’s mind or Plato’s soul – then material basically just means the stuff in our universe. But what material means really depends upon context. For instance we might talk about atoms as material, even though we recognize that atoms themselves aren’t simple and really are best seen as a field and not a “substance” per se.

  18. David King Landrith
    October 20, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    I’ve always understood Joseph Smith to be more of a monist than a materialist/physicalist. It’s hard for me to place him in the same camp as (say) Ryle. He seems to be to be much closer to William James’ neutral monism.

    That said, given philosophical leanings, it’s tempting for me to view Smith’s statements about matter as a stipulation about the most productive way to discuss perceptions.

  19. Ben Huff
    October 20, 2004 at 11:25 pm

    I think Aristotle is a pretty interesting place to look for a non-dualist “materialism”. “Materialism” is a natural word for LDS because the D&C says everything is matter. Obviously the D&C isn’t refering to 20th century physics for its notion of matter, so physics is of limited relevance. Plus, definitions taken from physics like, “anything made of fermions”, seem to presuppose a reductionism that is philosophically dubious. Why shouldn’t we look to chemistry or geology or biology or another natural science to contribute to our notion of matter? One of the great things about Aristotle is the way he avoids reductionism.

    For Aristotle, “materialism” is a positively nutty term, since “matter” for Aristotle is a relative term: the matter of a statue is marble or bronze; the matter of a sentence is words. But Aristotle has a very interesting notion of the relation of soul and body: the soul is a property of the body, a state of order of the body which qualifies the body as a living body. That’s just the beginning; I’m working on how to deploy the rest, particularly in the case of humans.

  20. Jim F.
    October 21, 2004 at 12:00 am

    Keith: As you well know, I’m much more sympathetic to Kierkegaard than to Spinoza, and Kierkegaard would have very little patience with the kind of discussion I’ve opened up here. I probably should have been paying more attention to that side of me when I wrote the post. Nevertheless, talking with Professor Juffé about Spinoza and Mormonism and talking with my students in intro to philosophy about metaphysics got me thinking along these lines.

    As I hinted in my post, I would prefer to find scriptural terms that we can use rather than another philosopher’s terms. Your suggestion of “spiritual� may give us a toehold. Or perhaps the D&C’s definition of soul as spirit and body (D&C 88:15) shows us that we should try to rehabilitate the word “soul� to mean what that teaches.

    Rosalynde: Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. The attempt to identify “matter� as the scriptures use it with “matter� as scientists may use it and, so, to theories like that of quantum mechanics rely, I think, on equivocation. As Clark points out, there isn’t really a good definition of matter in physics; as David King Landrith points out, the LDS use of the word “matter� probably really suggests a monism rather than what usually counts as a materialism; as Ben Huff points out, however, the scriptures refer to matter as the basic stuff enough that “materialism� seems an apt title for LDS monism. So, in a Mormon context “materialism� doesn’t mean the same as in a scientific or ordinary language context.

    It is the monistic character of LDS ideas that makes me interested in Spinoza (and, of course, Leibniz, to whom Clark pointed). As I said earlier, my problem with most materialisms today are that they are not really monisms. Instead, they are dualisms with half of the dualism denied. Monisms try to keep all of the phenomena and properties that dualists recognize, but they try to do so by postulating only one basic entity. Dualists with half of the dualism denied reduce all phenomena and properties to mechanical or quasi-mechanical (or, nowadays, sometimes quantum) forces. But that reduction isn’t really monism. It’s lame, limping dualism. The lecture you heard was, I think, that kind of dualism.

    In contrast, philosophers like Spinoza and Leibniz retain the full force of things that we call mind, life drive, etc., not reducing them to mechanical interactions and not dividing them off from gross matter.

  21. Kevin Winters
    October 21, 2004 at 12:30 am


    But wouldn’t it be fair to say that materialism at least means that something is spatial (even if it doesn’t have width, if such things there are) and temporal? Of course, once we attempt to define that problems occur, but it seems that some mode of spatial and temporal existence are part and parcel to any form of materialism, Leibnizian or Whiteheadian. Perhaps those concepts would be the place to start in defining a materialism.

    Kevin Winters

  22. Jim F.
    October 21, 2004 at 12:47 am

    Kevin Winters: The problem with trying to understand materialism in terms of space in Leibniz is that the monads are not spatial. His criticism of Descartes amounts to saying, “Hey, extension is merely mathematical, so it has no place for force. But you also can’t locate force in the mind because it is clearly an attribute of bodies. The theory of monads accounts for spatiality by reducing it to a property of force and relation between forces (monads).”

    I think temporality is a different matter, though (pun intended). It seems to me right to say that every materialism is associated with a notion of temporality, whereas the Cartesian mind is, in the end, modeled on the atemporal God and finds itself most powerfully in atemporal reason.

  23. Steve Burt
    October 21, 2004 at 1:42 am

    Well, folks, I am woefully out of my element here. I have checked back on this site with increasing frequency, and I am afraid that this post may end up being a gateway drug to more serious addiction.

    I have taken only two philosophy classes in my life. It was during Jim F.s introductory course on Modern Philosophy during my second-to-last semester at BYU that I realized I have what Jim describes as “the sickness”; however, I did not embrace my malady and graduated as scheduled. I have since recommended to everyone I know that they spend at least six years in college.

    Enough prefacing.

    Jim’s question was as follows:

    We accept that the Father and the Son have bodies and that the Holy Ghost will someday have one. We accept that our resurrection is literal and that our exaltation is as much a bodily matter as any other kind. Yet we most often talk about these kinds of things with language inherited from the Christian tradition filtered through Descartes and those who followed him. What are the implications of our insistence on materiality? But before that, where do we find the language to talk about those implications?

    To the first question: I think the implications of our insistence on materiality, insofar as I understand it, is that we first subdivide and then compartmentalize every distinguishable facet of our existence. Dividing the mind from the body leads us, wittingly and unwittingly, to divide the mind and body into smaller and smaller portions).
    Insistence on materiality in the Gospel has a similar effect. This gets to the next question, about the language to talk about it. I have noticed that when most people talk about the gospel in general they do so as if it were an itemized list of things. We have the sense that the Gospel just is but we don’t know how to say so, so we just give a list of moving parts that when put together look like what we feel the Gospel really is.
    The same goes for our individual existence. The vast majority of Church members that I know speak of man as body and spirit, and some enterprising members speak of man as the trinity of mind, body, and spirit and draw analogies between this triality and the Holy Trinity. Again, this understanding feels inadequate but it seems to be the best we can do.
    I had an interesting experience that led me to think about the way to talk about the implications of our insistence on materiality. I was at the temple and participated in initiatories for the first time for years. I started thinking about the blessings involved and how they did not make sense to me, that they were not consistent, that they seemed to mix up mind and body too much and talk about them as if they are the same thing. Toward the end I remembered that Jim had mentioned that Cartesianism had become our common sense; I suspended that “common sense” momentarily and found that I understood it better.
    I think the Temple may have some answers to the question of how we can get away from language inherited from the Christian tradition filtered through Descartes and those who followed him.
    One other thought. I think a large part of the problem with understanding “things that we call mind, life, drive, etc.” as monistic without falling into “lame, limping dualism” is that we unconsciously attempt to order all things linearly/chronologically. We know that our Heavenly Father lives in a state where all things are present before him. Is his state, a state without time, the real one? Does linearity/chronology lead us to reduce everything to mechanical interactions? Is it even possible to conceptualize things like mind, life, drive, etc. within a linear/chronological context without dividing them off from gross matter?

  24. Kevin Winters
    October 21, 2004 at 8:42 am

    Jim: I didn’t know that about Leibniz, but it seems that current theory demands a spatiality, if anything in terms of Relativity Theory and the inseparable uniting of space-time. If Leibniz was viewing reality in terms of “force and relation between forces” then the restriction of temporality (i.e. the speed of light) would have to be present. But of course, then we do have the problem of (the possibility of) Faster Than Light communication and non-locality, so I guess the above may not be as necessary as might be thought. Hmm…will have to think about that more.

  25. Jack
    October 21, 2004 at 12:57 pm

    This thread is beyond me.

    But for what it’s worth, Jim’s question causes me to consider the importance of ritual as a materialist expression of faith. I have often thought: why all the rigmarole over redeeming the dead? And yet, for some reason, which I don’t fully understand, the ordinances seem to lose their meaning without the expession of the body. I think we’re striving for an intrinsic relation between flesh and spirit. The ultimate goal is to be one, whether in spirit and flesh, Father and Son, man and women, etc., there being a similarity between all of these relations. I like the metaphor of man and women because it implies a balance of two “living” personas acting as one (ideally). Often, we intuitively view the flesh as “dead” and animated only as it is acted upon be the spirit. While, the scriptures may warn that spiritual death is the result of allowing the flesh to dominate, they also indicate that spiritual death would be our lot if not for the resurrection – thus implying that both are essential for life. That said, gospel ritual, while it may not necessarily be a language of words only, does express things both spiritual and physical in the same gesture. Indeed, I wonder if a separation of the two was ever really intended. It seems that the rituals – particularly those of the Temple, make no distinction between them. Just some thoughts.

  26. Jim F
    October 21, 2004 at 3:59 pm

    Jack, you just proved that this thread is not beyond you. This is exactly the kind of response that goes to the heart of the discussion.

  27. David King Landrith
    October 21, 2004 at 10:22 pm

    Why are has this discussion of monism so heavily emphasized philosophers outside the traditions more typical of English language philosophies? (Simplistically, this would be include the emperical, pragmatic, or analytically oriented schools.) Is this because of the philosophical orientation of the participants? Is it because of the orientation of the question toward Spinoza? Or is there some other compelling reason to relate Joseph Smith’s outlook to continental schools? (I’m not complaining here, I’m just curious.)

    Jim F. hits the nail on the head when he explains why a physicalist theory like Gilbert Ryle’s functionalism doesn’t jive with Joseph Smith’s outlook. But there are other monistic theories. Both empiricism and pragmatism lend themselves to monism. And here’s my (very rough) go at trying to say how:

    Melissa brings up intelligence, and this is a very interesting point. The D&C tells us that “Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence…. The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth.”

    I can’t pretend to understand the full import of this scripture. But as best as I can tell, it seems to say that intelligence has real existence and is not created (perhaps it can be destroyed). Is intelligence therefore material? or is it the other way around? or is it a property of matter? If it is the other way around or if it is a property of matter, then this would seem quite consistent with the empiricist strains of idealism, and even some forms of positivism.

    It also seems to imply that truth is the same as knowledge and light (and as best as I can tell, this really means light, the stuff that we read by). This seems to fit with a redundancy theory of truth (a la Ramsey), which states that truth and falsity are not properties of beliefs, but rather that truth is indistinguishable from belief. For example, I would seem paradoxical to say, “I believe that Oxford is the capital of England, but this is false.” Perhaps omnipotence means never having to be corrected.

    The scripture says something like God puts truth in certain places where it acts on its own. Perhaps our current conception of the learning is overly simplistic in the same that Aristotle’s theory of embryology was overly simplistic. Aristotle believed that the woman is a largely passive participant in the embryonic development, but we now know that women play an active role in process. It sounds kooky, but the above passage seems to allow for truth to be much more than a passive participant in learning. This seems to me to be more consistent with an idealistic approach. Imagine Quine’s surface irritations or Ayer’s sense qualia seeking you out (there’s something oddly dualistic about that last sentence, but I hope you all know what I mean–it’s very difficult to escape language that doesn’t tacitly assume dualism.)

  28. Jim F.
    October 21, 2004 at 10:57 pm

    David King Landrith: I assume the fact that my specialty is 20th century European philosophy and my sub-specialty is the history of philosophy has something to do with the absence of references to English-lanugage philosophers, though I think that Clark has referred to pragmatism, and Kevin Winters referred to Whitehead.

    When you ask “Is intelligence therefore material? or is it the other way around?” aren’t you being tempted by dualism? A thorough-going monism might well say “yes” to both “intelligence is material” and “material is intelligence.” (Some early Church thinkers seem to have done taken that route, ascribing intelligence to everything.)

    Footnote 1: What the D&C has to say about truth is strange enough that I’m not sure what to make of it. It tells me that I don’t know what truth ultimately is more than it tells me what it is. Equally puzzling is the claim that truth is knowledge of things as they are, were, and will be (D&C 93:24), though perhaps that brings us close to something like Ramsey’s theory.

    Footnote 2: Buyt speaking of Ramsey, isn’t the problem of saying “I believe that Oxford is the capital of England, but this is false” a problem of indexicals? After all, it isn’t paradoxical to say, “He believes that Oxford is the capital of England, but that is false.”

  29. October 22, 2004 at 12:10 am

    Kevin, I don’t have time to write much, but Einstein with relativity was actually attempting to follow Leibniz and his physics. (Well, he was following Mach who was following Leibniz, although Einstein is explicit about basically being a Spinozan – which is important to note when he talks about God) The problem is that there are fairly strong arguments that Einstein failed in his quest (although he managed better than Mach). Thus most see space-time as substantial.

    David, I agree with Jim. Indeed I personally think that Joseph was speaking of matter in very neoPlatonic ways. I don’t have time to pursue this further, but check out the following neoPlatonic comment from Edgar Allen Poe and compare it to our scripture. (About halfway down the page) Quinn brings up similar ones as does Brooke.

  30. October 22, 2004 at 1:20 am

    One more quick point before bed. For monism, check out Davidson’s anomalous monism. I’m very persuaded by it in ways that most of the other philosophies of mind don’t convince me.

    Note that Davidson admits his view is somewhat similar to Spinoza.

  31. David King Landrith
    October 22, 2004 at 11:12 am

    Clark Goble:

    You’re Davidson passage is interesting. I don’t find his premises to be particularly intuitive. Specifically, I find fault with premise two, because there are no strict causal laws under his definition; all cause and effect relationships require a defining framework and a set of baseline conditions which constitute, I believe, “other things being equal.”

    Moreover, I don’t think that the brand of reductionism that Davidson is espousing really succeeds. On the one hand, I could say, mental things are things such that “certain psychological predicates are true of them.” On the other hand I could say that mental properties are properties such that “certain psychological predicates are true of them.” I’m not sure this clarifies things. Moreover, either way we end up with two categories of things (mental things and physical things vs. physical things with mental properties and physical things without). You point out that this is “conceptual dualism,” but I have a hard time understanding the difference.

    I find neutral monism to provide a better explanation of what “mental” means. Although it doubles the problems associated with mental or physical monism (it must explain both, rather than just one) by trying to find neutral ground. I temperamentally sympathetic to a thoroughgoing phenomenalism, where phenomena are neither physical nor mental, but they yield mental and physical construction depending how they are grouped (Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic is perhaps the clearest exposition of such a theory, and also has the advantage of making it’s weaknesses more obvious.)

    A neutral monism strikes me as more in line with Smith’s outlook and the assumed limitations of mortal knowledge/perception.

  32. David King Landrith
    October 22, 2004 at 11:15 am

    Jim F.

    I take the upshot of the redundancy theory of truth to be something like this: the truth and falsity of a proposition, when considered from a purely epistemological point of view, simply amounts to whether it is accepted or rejected.

  33. David King Landrith
    October 22, 2004 at 11:20 am

    Clark Goble and Jim F.:

    One last point: neutral monism can be platonic. Phenomenalists do tend to focus on the epistemology, and so they don’t spend a lot of time addressing the metaphysics of phenomena. But aside from my general phobia of metaphysics, I certainly see no inconsistency in identifying phenomena with platonic universals.

  34. Jack
    October 22, 2004 at 12:30 pm

    Perhaps a key (not the only key) to understanding section 93 is equating man as intelligence with that same intelligence which glorifies God. If we utilize the body as an example of this phenomenon, then what we have are various intelligences working together in one hierarchical system. It is almost frightening to view one’s own body as a collection of 70 some odd trillion living cells – each cell having some degree of intelligence. However, we know (or at least assume) that every “particle” has the capability of responding to the word (or will) of God. Therefore, the body may be viewed as a grouping of intelligent particles. Going a step further, today we don’t really draw a distinction between energy and matter. (I’m not a physicist, correct me if I’m wrong) Now, I don’t want to suggest that eventually we’ll have the capability of viewing “spirit” through a microscope, but I do find it interesting in a metaphorical way, that the coarsness of matter is an effect of relations between particles or “waves”. So, perhaps the perceived dualism is merely a distinction between a coalescence derived from a change or augmentation in relations between “particles”, and the particle or wave in its primal state. Is it possible that intelligence, spirit, matter etc. are all the some stuff, and that distinctions between them are merely a matter of relations which can be discerned by means of a more (spiritually) refined or comprehensive study in “chemistry”? (for lack of a better term)

  35. October 22, 2004 at 3:15 pm

    David, Davidson isn’t spouting reductionism. Indeed he and Putnam are two of the main anti-reductionists. However to be fair Jaegwan Kim has provided attacks on his monism as being somewhat incoherent. I’ll have to go back and reread his attacks as I can’t recall how persuasive I found them. (Obviously not that persuasive since I still like Davidson’s approach) Also note that, like Williamson’s view of knowledge, Davidson’s approach is fairly externalist. i.e. we shouldn’t consider mental properties to just be internal to the person – they may include stuff outside the person. One implication is that if we talk about minds (recognizing that Davidson doesn’t want to) that the mind of a person isn’t bound by that person’s body.

  36. David King Landrith
    October 22, 2004 at 4:30 pm

    Clark Goble:

    I should be more specific when I use the term reductionism, since that term can mean so many different things.

    Restatement: Davidson’s redefinition of mental states as qualities of physical states is methodologically reductionist, and I don’t think that his redefinition works.

    [I’ll leave the remainder of the paragraph without revision for the time being.]

    And I’m aware that Davidson eschews several reductionist approaches. (Though I have but a paltry background in philosophy, studying Davidson constituted some portion of it.)

  37. October 22, 2004 at 7:40 pm

    BTW – I do agree neutral monism can be Platonic. Indeed I’ve read numerous papers comparing either Spinoza or Leibniz to both various forms of Kabbalism and various forms of neoPlatonism. (And to be fair, especially in the late medieval era, Kabbalism was a form of neoPlatonism) Indeed the parallels are so striking that many people asserted a direct influence between Spinoza and various Rabbis.

  38. David King Landrith
    October 23, 2004 at 10:37 am

    Here’s my attempt to answer the questions Jim F. poses the top of this page using Russell’s neutral monism (and a non-platonic realism, to boot).

    Before Russell moved to neutral monism, he believed that one could be directly acquainted with some platonic universals (a la his Principal of Acquaintance; roughly, this states that we can only understand a statement when we are acquainted with its constituents). But once he moved to neutral monism, Russell’s chosen monistic entities, “sensibilia,” were not actual objects of acquaintance. Being outside of acquaintance, we know sensibilia by description; viz., actual or possible sensory experiences. (This seems to include all sensory experiences that are, were, and will be. Perhaps this jives with latter-day revelaton on truth.)

    Explained in very simplistic and un-Russellian terms, sensibilia are the objects that give rise to perceptions in the correct context, and they participate on both ends of the perceptual chain–subject and object are composed of sensibilia.

    Russell embraced Lockean realism when he began identifying sensibilia (now referred to as events) with the particle/wave packets out of which science constructs matter. This cuts primary and secondary qualities from the same cloth; they are sensibilia occurring in different locations and contexts. The sum total of these sensibilia will result in percepts, which are the objects of direct acquaintance. And it is Russell’s Principal of Acquaintance that (according to most philosophers) makes this scheme utterly confused. But it seems to me that injecting this principal prevents Russell’s oddly materialist framework from collapsing into simplistic physicalism.

    I don’t view Russell’s monism as primarily aimed at solving the mind/body problem. Instead, Russell uses it to view objects through the lens of scientific realism without robbing them of phenomenal properties (e.g., color), and vice versa. For Russell, it’s OK to contrast mind and matter–in some sense they are different. The mistake is viewing mental (phenomenal) and physical (scientific) outlooks as fundamentally different. Whether they are competing (as in Eddington’s table) or relativistically localized to a theoretical framework or perceptual milieu (as with Carnap or Strawson).

    Extrapolating, I tentatively submit the following implication of our insistence on materiality/monism: It is not a mistake to contrast matter and spirit. The mistake occurs when we see physical/material/secular and spiritual outlooks as somehow competing, localized, or mutually exclusive. Each outlook is brought about by the interaction of sensibilia in different contexts and locations. And each outlook gains validity from the context and location of the sensibilia that gave rise to it. Just as Lockean realists call properties primary or secondary based on where they originate; perhaps calling something physical or spiritual speaks of where they originate, not their basic quality.

    And the language to discuss this implication? We must now use the word spritibilia to refer to possible spiritual experiences as well as actual ones.

  39. Joe Spencer
    October 26, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    Realizing that comments seem to have dried up on this post, I thought I would add a thought.

    Jim F: I think any discussion of embodiment from within the LDS canon has to begin with D&C 130, “flesh and bones.” But that may take us in any number of directions. It is interesting, for example, that Merleau-Ponty uses the very term, “flesh,” but Joseph’s use of the word, “bones,” may make Merleau-Ponty’s discussion of flesh a little too conceptual to work with this reference. I also wonder about Paul’s comparison of the veil to the flesh of Christ, and what that might mean for traditional dualism. Margaret Barker’s discussion of Paul’s comparison, I must admit, strikes me as too dualistic when I read it. I’m not sure which direction to take with the idea of embodiment, but it does seem clear that something like D&C 130 makes this more… crude?… than would at first appear. I feel the same tension in Sunday School, though, when Cartesian dualism is taken as the undergirding for discussion of the dialectical wrestle between body and spirit. It only complicates things further when Joseph says the “mind” is eternal in the King Follett discourse, rather than the spirit. I’m not sure. I suppose I’m only assessing the problem here, but perhaps this paints up some possibilities.

Comments are closed.