torstai 25. helmikuuta 2016

Joachim Georg Darjes: The existence of freely existing necessary human actions (1739)

We have already seen one book of Darjes, namely, an interesting text book on logic, which deviated slightly from the normal Wolffian manner of presentation. De necessaria actionum hominis liberarum existentium existentia is just a short text of under ten pages and its topic seems rather worn out in the field of German philosophy: how to reconcile the principle of sufficient reason with the apparent freedom of human action. Yet, although Darjes' solution to this question is far from original, it at least is a refreshingly clear and straightforward account of one position in this dilemma.

Darjes begins, like a good Wolffian, by accepting the principle of sufficient reason. We have many times seen how difficult it is to read this principle, and in many cases, to decide what it actually means. Darjes has a very strict understanding of the principle – if a sufficient reason exists, then that which it is reason of must also exist. In effect, sufficient reason becomes with Darjes almost the same thing as determining cause.

How does such a determinism then combine with free actions? Well, it all comes down to how freedom is defined. For Darjes, freedom of human actions lies in the fact that it is the human itself, who gets to decide what she will do from several equally possible actions. Although such free actions cannot be based on anything outside humans, they can be based on something inside humans. This basis of action must be, Darjes concludes, a representation of maximal good in human mind.

Combining determinism and freedom becomes then quite easy. Human being has a representation of highest good and her actions are determined only through that representation – hence, they are free actions. Then again, this representation determines necessarily what the action following it will be, and so the determinism is retained.

One might think that Darjes's attempt to break the Gordian knot is as effective and as against the rules of the game as the fabled original was. Indeed, it all seems to depend on Darjes merely assuming what freedom of actions means. Yet, Darjes does have other arguments for his position. Notably, he says that his definitions are believable, because they agree with some of our important intuitions. We do think it is possible to know from the values and beliefs of a person how she will act in certain situations – the whole popular psychology is based on this assumption. Unless our representations truly determined our actions, none of this would be true.

As interesting as Darjes's defense of his deterministic position is, the shortness of the text makes it a bit undeveloped. Next time, we shall see what Wolff had to say about free actions in his writings on natural law.

maanantai 15. helmikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Divine deeds

Like majority of the German philosophers at the time, Baumgarten was quick to distance his ideas from Spinozism. Thus, he insists that God is not just a passive source of emanation, but an active creator. Of course, God has not created everything, Baumgarten says. Essences of all things are necessary and thus in need of no creation. Since essences of things contain their necessary limitations, Baumgarten can also say that God is not the cause of these limitations – whatever evil there is in the world, is then ultimately no fault of God.

What God has done then is that he has given existence to some of the essences and their complex or the world. With the world, he created all its parts, down to the simple substances or monads. Because God knows best, this world must be the best possible, even though it necessarily has some evil due to the limitations of the substances. Quite traditionally, Baumgarten suggests that the end of the creation is to reflect the glory of divinity, especially in the eyes of all substances with intellect to comprehend the perfection of the world and its creator.

Baumgarten also states, again quite traditionally, that God has not just created the world, but also sustains its continued existence. This means especially that God makes sure that world follows certain stable physical laws. Such stable laws might allow some evil to happen – a human being might be killed, because a bullet follows a certain trajectory. Still, this is not something that God would have positively wanted to happen, but just something he has allowed as a consequence of the working of natural laws.

God can have more specific influence in world's events. Such special influence cannot then have any bad effects, since it is something God has positively willed to happen. Indeed, Baumgarten assures us, the aim of these divine interventions is often to help the frail worldly creatures and prevent them from succumbing to their limitations. One particular type of such interventions is revelation, which in strict sense means for Baumgarten God speaking supernaturally to finite beings. The content of such revelation is usually something that humans could not have found out by themselves, but it can never contradict what philosophy has to say about world and God.

With such traditionally religious notions ends Baumgarten's Metaphysics. Next time, I shall take a look at how to combine necessity with freedom.

sunnuntai 7. helmikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Pulling God out of the hat

It is especially in his rational theology where Baumgarten diverges most from standards set by Wolff. As we should know by now, for Wolff, it was the cosmological argument that ruled the field of theology. With Baumgarten, we find no traces of this argument. Instead, Baumgarten starts straightaway with the ontological argument, which with Wolff clearly played a second fiddle.

The two gentlemen don't just have different taste in arguments, but their very arguments are different. Indeed, when with Wolff, ontological argument was essentially dependent on cosmological argument, with Baumgarten, the ontological argument obviously has to work on its own.

There's already a clear difference in the manner, in which Wolff and Baumgarten try to prove the possibility of God. With Wolff, the proof was based on the fact that he defined God as a sum of known possibilities that are also known to be possible in combination – it requires just quick analysis to see that this proof must work. Baumgarten, on the contrary, bases his proof on more spurious ideas. He defines God as a sum of positive characteristics, which have no negations or limitations in them. He then suggests that contradiction could only occur, if such a combination of characteristics would have some negations in them. This leap of thought seems to require a more careful justification – after all, one might think that characteristics might restrict one another without being literal negations of one another. Yet, it seems that with Baumgarten, development of a thing in one dimension is completely indifferent to its development in another dimension – basic characteristics are independent of one another.

Now, with Wolff, it is then all about knowing whether his combination of perfect possible characteristics is just a contingent entity or also necessary – in the former case, we can say nothing about its existence, in the latter case, we can conclude infallibly that it does exist. The only manner in which Wolff could decide this was to show that necessary things existed – this is where the cosmological argument came in.

Baumgarten, on the other hand, simply assumes that existence is one of the independent dimensions, of which the sum of all positive characteristics consists of. As one knows well, Kant was very much against this idea and denied that being or existence would be even a characteristic in the same sense as other characteristics of things. Wolff did not go as far, because he noted that Baumgartenian line of thought could not lead very far – even if you added existence as a characteristic of some possible entity, it would still be just possible existence (this is why he had to prove a stronger notion that he could add necessity to the required possible combination of perfect characteristics). With Baumgarten, actual existence is something you can just add to a possible thing and make it exist – indeed, existence is defined by him as a completeness in the combination of all characteristics of a thing.

Baumgarten then thinks that he has shown the necessity of God's existence – God comes out, when you start to add all sorts of perfections and finally existence. God cannot then fail to exist, because that would mean contradiction. Baumgarten's final account of all the properties of God is rather traditional (he is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good), but one should not even expect originality in such carefully observed part of education.

Next time, I shall wrap up Baumgarten's natural theology, and with it, all of Baumgarten's metaphysics.