A Dialogue

Th.     To investigate the Substance-Accident structure still further? You mean, to investigate whether it is really true that the World possesses this structure? Well, that appears to me a settled question for already a long time : I, a substance, change, but I nevertheless stay the same. What, if any, is still left to investigate about these matters?

J.     It doesn't seem so clear to me, as maybe it appeared in those days, for you and your associates, but nowadays we know a lot more about things. Look for instance what Newton has found out, and not to forget Ockham, Hume, Russell, Heisenberg and Darwin. It has turned out that things are not so simple after all.
But in spite of that I think that you had already accomplished quite a lot at the time. And I assume that all of you are in for new developments.

Th.     Yes, but these are mainly developments within Natural Science, and isn't it true that Natural Science later turned out to be a completely different enterprise? Philosophy is something quite different, it is a contemplation about man, insofar as he is a human being, a contemplation concerning his conduct and (supernatural) origin, and about his final destination. The latter is dependent on his behavior in this sublunar world. And this is clearly not something Natural Science is all about, or is it?

J.     That is true, but you wrote De Ente et Essentia [On Being and Essence], and that treatise was about the metaphysics of Aristotle, which you wanted to pass on to your students. And that metaphysics concerned ALL things, didn't it? I have understood that in that treatise man only figures as an instance to be generalized, because your knowledge of other things was still fragmentary in those days. Even of man your knowledge was still insufficient, or do I see it wrongly?

Th.     No, you see it rightly. But you cannot after all melt together Philosophy with Natural Science again, after they have gone, later on, their own separate ways? Philosophy wants to get some final insight into immaterial things like the human spirit. It must however start such an undertaking with the investigation of material things, that is what Aristotle made clear to me. But in the long run we have only a minor interest in the material world. Let it be treated by Natural Science, there it is, as it has turned out in later centuries, in good hands. And that harping upon the theory of evolution all the time, I mean that theory of -- what is his name -- Sarwin, has nothing to do with Philosophy anyhow.
You should not confuse different levels of contemplation with each other. The theory of evolution does not say anything about Being as such. Ah, his name was Darwin, not Sarwin!
I have seen that your Natural Science is now also meddling in the social and cultural development of man, which it wants to "explain" by means of -- if I'm correctly informed -- the theory of dynamical dissipative systems.
That is totally ridiculous! How can these theories, which are after all just physico-mathematical theories, explain the development of the Spirit, which belongs to a totally different domain?
I also heard that you moderns try to recreate the human spirit in a mechanical way, or, how you call it, to simulate. This is preposterous, it degrades human dignity!

J.     Yah, maybe you're right, maybe today we think in too simplistic a fashion, by willing to explain everything from one and the same origin, namely the 'natural' (what is that anyway?), implying that everything should have the same ontological status, and, by assuming that Natural Science can in principle explain everything, and that it comprises everything, except of course the first principles on which it is based.
I do however not agree with what you just said about a degradation of human dignity. Now YOU are guilty of confusing disparate contemplation levels!
With respect to that other domain of which Philosophy treats, I just now realize that your 'Substantial Form' could have something to do with meaning, and meaning is not to be found at the syntactic level which is the proper domain of Natural Science. Can it nonetheless be investigated by the latter? According to the American philosopher, Peirce, Natural Science possibly could do so, as far as my information has it.
But in that case the meaning of meaning is weakened and loses thereby everything that is meaningfull for it.
Perhaps especially Philosophy is most suitable to investigate this semantic level with its concepts of 'substantial form', 'totality', 'substance', 'identity', etcetera, and maybe this constitutes the difference between Natural Science and Philosophy, a difference which we nowadays can see more clearly because Natural Science has developed itself so strongly since your days. Don't you think?

Th.     Well, that could certainly be the case. And because of that your conception of Philosophy has gotten ever more relief. So for God's sake don't confuse them!

J.     I will try not to do that, but you will nevertheless agree with me that if I want to investigate and further elaborate on your universal substance-accident theory, I must look to the very things themselves in order to test it in some way, and this very 'looking to the things themselves' Natural Science has done and is still doing, and that's why all kinds of results of it constantly pop up in my philosophical considerations, of course only those results which bear relevance for the substance-accident theory. These results of Natural Science never of course enjoy a definitive status, like you and your colleagues of those days -- I believe -- maintained with respect to Aristotle's doctrine of Nature. That doctrine was considered to be definitive.

Th.     Yes that was indeed the case, but I understand that you think different about that since Galileo.
By the way, this conversation clearly shows me that together we can have very nice and fruitful discussions about fundamental issues, and that we can learn from each other very much.

J.     Oh yes I feel the same way too!