Monday, April 7, 2008

Love of substances

Thesis: Necessarily, it is appropriate to love x in the primary (or focal) sense of "love" if and only if x is a substance.

Why? Maybe because of the Augustinian and Thomistic doctrine of the interchangeability of being and love, and the Aristotelian doctrine that substances are what has being in the primary sense.

If the Thesis is true, this has metaphysical and ethical consequences. Metaphysical consequence: All persons are substances. Ethical consequence: We shouldn't love countries, nations, ecosystems, galaxies, ideas, etc. in the primary sense of "love". If, further, we add the Aristotelian claim that the only real substances there are beings that have life, we get the useful fact that we shouldn't love our non-living material possessions in the primary sense of "love". (I am open, however, to particles being substances. It's odd to say that I should love particles in the primary sense. But less odd when one considers the fact that they do have a sort of "life", and even less odd when one adds that love needs to be proportioned to the dignity of the beloved, so that particles, though lovable in the primary sense, are lovable in only a little way.)

11 comments:

Scott Carson said...

So, should I love Socrates or his essence?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Socrates. (Am I falling into a trap by saying that?)

Nacisse said...

what about truthfulness?

Scott Carson said...

Only if you're serious about invoking a literally Aristotelian doctrine of substance.

Alexander R Pruss said...

In Aristotle, "substance" is "said in many ways". I am actually inclined think that the focal sense restricted in the case of a material being is the composite of form (or essence?) and matter, despite some remarks in Meta Z that might suggest that the form is primary. My support for this is how I read Meta H6. But it is probably also true that for Aristotle the immaterial substances are even more truly substances. There, there is no distinction between individual and essence. And I am willing, if I have to, to say, though with some hesitation, that the immaterial substances are more lovable than the enmattered ones.

But I see your point, and I think it's a good one.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think truthfulness is lovable in a derivative way. We love truthful people, and a part of loving a person is desiring that she have genuine goods, and truthfulness is one of these goods.

Though there is a deeper sense in which truthfulness, like all positive properties, is a participation in God, and God is lovable in the primary sense.

Nacisse said...

what if there were a clash of goods so that in some rare case it was good overall to be untruthful rather than be truthful. so now in loving a person (desiring what is good for them) in that situation we desire that they be untruthful - because of loyalty, prudence or something.

wouldn't the fact that we feel bad about the lying even when it is better overall for a person to lie than tell the truth show it is proper to love truthfulness itself in a primary way and not just derivatively desiring what is genuinely good for a person?

so isn't it proper that a primary love of truthfulness lead us to be regretful about untruthfulness even when it is genuinly good for us or someone to be untruthful?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I would think that what it is proper to be regretful about is that the person is untruthful, which is always bad for the person. I think lying is always wrong, but the point doesn't depend on this. Even if lying weren't always wrong, lying would still be always bad for a person in some respect, though in other respects there might be a benefit. (Even permissible killing can be bad for the agent.)

Nacisse said...

ok. but it still seems right to me to love things (in the primary way) that are good or beautiful whether they are substances or not. i think in recognizing that truthfulness itself is good, we rightly care about and admire it (love it) and so hope and care about people becoming truthful because we rightly love them too.. so it seems right to love things just because they are good - or potentially good whether they contribute to well being or not.

but on your view would all substances have at lest some dignity? i'm thinking of viruses, for example, are they substances? do they thereby have at lest some dignity?

Enigman said...

I'd love (in a blurry way) to know why Thesis, what supports it: We know directly the metaphysical consequence already; more usefully it might follow that love of God implies realism in religion, but why Thesis? (I ask because maybe Thesis because love is primarily an attachment to another animal or group of animals, due to the physical instantiation of the genetic information about it, for an inconvenient possibility.)

Alexander R Pruss said...

If love is a response to the good, and goodness is being, and substances are what primarily has being, then it is plausible that primarily love is a response to substances.