Friday, October 28, 2022

Does our ignorance always grow when we learn?

Here is an odd thesis:

  1. Whenever you gain a true belief, you gain a false belief.

This follows from:

  1. Whenever you gain a belief, you gain a false belief.

The argument for (2) is:

  1. You always have at least one false belief.

  2. You believe a conjunction if and only if you believe the conjuncts.

  3. Suppose you just gained a belief p.

  4. There is now some false belief q that you have. (By (3))

  5. Before you gained the belief p you didn’t believe the conjunction of p and q. (By (4))

  6. So, you just gained the belief in the conjunction of p and q. (By (5) and (7))

  7. The conjunction of p and q is false. (By (6))

  8. So, you just gained a false belief. (By (8) and (9))

I am not sure I accept (4), though.


James Reilly said...

Hi Professor Pruss. My apologies if this is off topic, but I wanted to ask a question about the Eucharist. Specifically, what do you think of the claim that it is metaphysically impossible for accidents to exist in the absence of the substance of which they are accidents? Also, do you have any particular objections to the consubstantiation view common among Anglo-Catholics (including myself)?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I am an eternalist. I think it's OK for the accidents of a substance to be located at a time where the substance does not exist. In one sense this isn't, however, a case of the accidents existing without the substance, because when the accidents exist presently, the substance exists, too, albeit pastly.

As for consubstantiation, here are some worries.

1. When Jesus says "This is my body", it seems like he is pointing to the visible thing, namely bread. If there is bread there, then he is pointing at the bread. Thus, if there is bread there, he is making the incorrect or at least non-literal statement that that thing, the bread, is his body. But the Tradition likes to take Jesus's words here literally.

2. According to Scripture and Tradition, we eat Christ's body and drink his blood. But on a consubstantiation view, it's not clear that this is the right way to describe it. It seems that what we really eat and drink is the co-present bread and wine, and the body and blood just happens to come along with it. Here's my image of consubstantiation. Suppose that magnetic fields are substances. Then where there is a magnet, we have something like consubstantiation: there are two substances, a magnet and a magnetic field, in the same place (I am talking of the magnetic field inside the magnet, not the one that extends outside of it). But suppose now you foolishly eat the magnet (DON'T DO IT; children have died from eating two magnets and having them pinch through intenstines). I don't think it's correct to say that you eat both substances. It seems that what you eat is the magnet, and the magnetic field comes along for the ride.

James Reilly said...

I agree with your eternalism; still, I think this particular worry might remain. It seems that the idea of a substance's accidents existing at a time at which the substance itself does not exist pushes against the very same intuitions that might have bothered us to begin with. In other words, it seems that the problem can be restated in eternalist terms.

Thanks for the two points on consubstantiation; they're both interesting, and I'll have to give them more thought.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't know that it does. The main worry is that accidents depend on their substance. But dependence can be cross-temporal, at least if eternalism is true. See today's post, too.