perjantai 29. tammikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Rational psychology

A central message of Wolff's rational psychology was that the empirically observed nature of human soul is explained best, if it is assumed to be a force for representing the world, and most of this side of Wolff's system was spent showing how each distinct faculty could be reduced to such a force. With Baumgarten, on the other hand, this is more of an assumption already shown in the empirical psychology. Thus, Baumgarten uses most of the pages of his rational psychology for pursuits that overstep the limits of what we can experience, while with Wolff, these seemed more like an afterthought.

A commonality in Wolff's and Baumgarten's rational psychology is their belief that nothing material or no complex substance can account for soul's capacity to represent even itself. Baumgarten can then simply note that a soul as a simple substance is a Leibnizian monad. Although soul as such is then not a complex substance, it is attached to several such substances. Firstly, all the souls in the world form what Baumgarten calls a mystical body – this is evidently a reference to the idea of the church as the mystical body of Christ. Secondly, every soul is also tied up with some corporeal substance or body. This necessary relation to a body makes soul finite – its representations are limited by the position of its body.

An important matter for Baumgarten is the freedom of human soul. Baumgarten thinks that human soul must be free, because it can move its own body consciously. Of course, he notes, this is only possible, if pre-established harmony is accepted, because only then the (ideal) causation of the movement of human body is dependent only on the human soul. If either the influx theory or the occasionalism is accepted, the responsibility for bodily movement is taken away from the soul, because in both theories the decisions of the soul are determined externally, either by other bodies or by God.

After these relatively mundane concerns, Baumgarten heads straight into theological speculations. He at first notes that soul cannot have been generated by the parents – indeed, soul as a simple unit cannot have been formed out of a union of other substances. Then again, it might have been transferred to the body at the time of conception.

As for the end of a soul, as monads they cannot be taken apart and will continue their existence as long as world endures. This still does not mean that all souls would be immortal, since this requires some kind of personality, that is, conscious memory of having been alive before. Humans have such a personality and therefore probably continue their existence in the afterlife – Baumgarten also supposes that they will continue their moral progress, vicious people becoming more and more unhappy and virtuous people becoming more and more happy. Animal souls, on the other hand, are not personal in this sense – and Baumgarten speculates about a possibility of a whole hierarchy of souls, with different levels of awareness, in which human souls form only one stage.

So much for Baumgarten's psychology, next time I'll take a look at his theology.

torstai 21. tammikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Empirical psychology

Just like Wolff, Baumgarten divides psychology into two parts, empirical and rational. Yet, just like with the previous parts of his metaphysics, the interesting thing is to see where Baumgarten deviates from Wolff's examples. Like in many previous cases, the first obvious change is the lack of full proofs in Baumgarten's text. The existence of soul is almost just assumed from the fact of our self-consciousness – there must be something, which can be conscious of itself. Then, by just noticing that this soul must be that which underlies all states of being conscious of something – that is, of representing something – Baumgarten at once concludes that the soul must be a force or activity of representing things.

Just like with Wolff, in Baumgarten's psychology my body is not really mine at all, but just the material body that I happen to represent most often. Still, Baumgarten at least makes it clear that representations of a human soul are somehow directed by the position of its body – if my body would now be in Lincolnshire, I would have very different representations of the world around me.

Baumgarten assumes from Wolffian philosophy the hierarchy of different levels of clarity and distinctness of representations. A striking novelty is Baumgarten's idea that there are actually two different scales, according to which the clarity of a representations could be evaluated. Firstly, there is the intensive clarity, which measures how well we can distinguish a thing through that representation – this is the basis of what in Wolffian philosophy distinguished clear and eventually distinct representations. Secondly, there is extensive clarity, which measures how many individual characteristics of a thing are represented – in effect, it tells how vividly we experience some object. Extensive clarity is something that even non-distinct representations might have in abundance, and for evaluating such vividness Baumgarten suggests a completely new science, which he calls aesthetics. In effect, such aesthetics would include what we understand by the term, but it would in general be a science investigating all non-distinct or sensitive cognition.

Baumgarten's account of the sensitive cognition is somewhat more scholastic than Wolff's - while Wolff is often satisfied with indicating that several cognitive skills are somehow interrelated, Baumgarten tries to make clear divisions and thus presents far more individual faculties. Both philosophers have fairly similar stories to tell about the basis of all cognition, that is, sensation, which for Baumgarten refers to a cognition of the present state of the soul and the body (and thus mediately of the world), in which levels of intensive and extensive clarity are different.

Baumgarten's account of imagination shows already the scholastic tendency I mentioned. With Wolff, imagination was a name for a complex of interrelated skills, such as memory and invention, which all rely on our ability to represent things which are not present to us. With Baumgarten, on the other hand, imagination is merely this ability to represent things, which are not present us – and in fact, it is precisely an ability to represent past states of soul, body and world. Memory, or the ability to recognise an imagined representation as past, is already a distinct ability for Baumgarten. In addition to memory, Baumgarten also distinguishes such faculties as perspicacity (ability to perceive identities and diversities of things – note that this happens already at a level, in which we don't really have distinct thoughts) and innovation (ability to combine imaginations to form new representations). Especially the faculty of innovation comes with an interesting twist. Both Wolff and Baumgarten admit that even imaginations represent individual things, but whereas Wolff included innovation as one type of imagination and thus implied that even such fictional combinations of phantasms, like centaurs, are individuals, Baumgarten could conceivably state that such fictive innovations are no individuals, since innovation as a faculty differs from imagination.

In Baumgarten, our capacity to represent past things is based on the fact that all past and present things form a causal nexus. Because a similar nexus connects present to future states, Baumgarten concludes that we must have a faculty of representing future things and events, although this appears to be more obscure than representing past things. Just like Baumgarten distinguished sharply between imagination as representing past and memory as recognising something as past, he also points out a further faculty for recognising some representation as being of a future event – this is the faculty on which prophesising is based. A more mundane example of such a ”vision of future" Baumgarten presents in connection with another faculty or judgement, which means for Baumgarten representing or perceiving how perfect or imperfect something is (all of this happens still at the level of non-distinct cognition). If such a judgement is turned on future events, it can be used in practice for deciding how to act.

Just like with Wolff, intellect or understanding is not a completely distinct faculty separate from sensation, but more of a higher level of human mind, born out of sensations through attention, reflection and comparison. In difference to Wolff, Baumgarten points out that intellect forms only a one possible way to improve our cognition. Intellect or understanding is generated by purifying our sensations, that is, through clarifying our ideas, but it is also possible to make our representations more vivid – this makes our mind more in tune with what is beautiful.

Following Wolff, Baumgarten explains human feelings of pleasure and pain through the notion of perfection – perceiving something as perfect makes us feel it pleasurable, while perceiving something as imperfect makes us feel pain (of course, it is also possible that an object is not regarded as either). Expectations of pleasure and pain make our soul strive for something and thus act like motives.

Baumgarten is quite clear that our soul requires such a motive to do anything at all – if we are not forced to do anything, we will follow our own motives. Such motives could be generated either by mere sensations and other indistinct representations – then they are mere impulses – while conscious motives are caused always by distinct representations. Here a real freedom means then action instigated by such conscious motives.

The final topic of Baumgarten's empirical psychology is the interaction between soul and its body. Baumgarten says that on basis of mere psychology we cannot say which is better, the idea of a true causal interaction or the idea of a pre-established harmony. Yet, as we already know, his idea of the perfect possible world points towards the Leibnizian idea.

So much for Baumgarten's empirical psychology, next we shall see what he has to say about rational psychology.

tiistai 12. tammikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Such a perfect world

The account of world in general and its parts completes the independent part of Baumgarten's cosmology. There is still one section of cosmology we haven't dealt with, but it still requires to be fulfilled by an important proposition, proven only in theology. The section concerns the perfection of the world and the proposition to be proven states that the world is perfect, because it is created by God.

We have already seen that the notion of perfection in Baumgarten is quite aesthetical – the more things we have following the same laws, the more perfect world we have. This notion by itself rules out certain worldviews as being clearly imperfect. We already know that Baumgarten holds materialistic world to be an impossibility. Furthermore, egoistic world is clearly not perfect, because in such a world exists only one entity. Similarly, a dualistic world is more perfect than idealistic, because idealism allows only the existence of spirits, while dualism accepts also the existence of matter and its simple parts – that is, if matter and spirits are just something that can exist in the same world.

One part of the notion of perfection rules then that there should be as much entities in the world as possible, while the other part states that these entities should be governed by same laws. An interesting question is whether the other part speaks against the possibility of events happening against natural laws, that is, miracles. One thing is certain – the inclusion of spirits in Baumgarten's world does not violate natural laws, but instead just extends the notion of natural from mere material universe to spiritual entities. Thus, whatever spirits do, it is not in any way miraculous. Indeed, it is only God who could act in any way against the laws of nature.

We might think that as an avid Leibnizian Baumgarten would be quite against the notion of miracles – in a perfect world God needs not wind the clock from time to time. Yet, as a Wolffian, Baumgarten is still willing to leave the possibility of miracles open. Supernatural events might be possible even in the perfect world, if they just somehow improved the world. If some perfections could not be achieved through mere natural means or if they could not be achieved as perfectly, then miracles might be in order.

Interestingly, Baumgarten uses the notion of perfect world to decide the topical question of interaction between substances. If we begin from the least acceptable alternative, occasionalism would state that no finite substances would actually act, but everything would be done by infinite substance or God. This view would contradict a proposition Baumgarten takes to be self-evident, that is, that when a thing is in some respect passive toward another thing, it must be in another respect active. Hence, occasionalism would fall to a contradiction and would be unacceptable even on that account.

The decision between causal influx, Leibnizian pre-established harmony and some mixture of the two is not as simple. Before Baumgarten can decide between these alternatives, he must obviously explain what they all mean. Causal influx, Baumgarten says, means that all interactions are real, that is, when substance A is active in respect to a change in passive substance B, B is in no respect active in respect to this same change. Then again, pre-established harmony states that all interactions are ideal, that is, when substance A is active in respect to a change in passive substance B, B is also active in respect to that same change – in other words, it is just a matter of perspective, whether A has caused something in B or whether B has caused it in itself. In mixed positions, some interactions are real, some ideal.

Now, Baumgarten insists that the system of pre-established harmony does not deny that causal interactions do occur between different substances – it just states that at the same time these substances, in a sense, act for themselves. Similarly, a system of universal causal influx does not deny that world would contain universal harmony, and indeed, causal influx would glue all the parts of the world as well together as pre-established harmony. Then again, causal influx does have its problems. Particularly, since an activity of a thing must always be derived from some other substance, eventually no finite substance would be active in the sense that its activity would be consequence of its own nature.

But the final proof Baumgarten accepts is based on the notion perfect world. If the world would be glued by a universal causal influx, all the reasons for some event would be external to the things involved in the event. Then again, in pre-established harmony, all events have two different types of influence – the events are really caused by the things themselves and ideally by other things. Because of this consideration, Baumgarten is willing to accept pre-established harmony, except in case of God, who obviously is a real cause of the whole world.

So much for cosmology! Next time I will turn to questions of psychology.