Book news…

Recently, Apolonio opined in a combox here that Catholic philosophy can and ought take a step forward by using the tools of analytic philosophy more consciously. His words were ringing in my ears just as I googled upon the following publishing announcement:

Thought and World: The Hidden Necessities
James Ross

FORTHCOMING IN NOVEMBER 2008 Available for pre-ordering

James F. Ross is a creative and independent thinker in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of mind. In this concise metaphysical essay, he argues clearly and analytically that meaning, truth, impossibility, natural necessity, and our intelligent perception of nature fit together into a distinctly realist account of thought and world.

Ross articulates a moderate realism about repeatable natural structures and our abstractive ability to discern them that poses a challenge to many of the common assumptions and claims of contemporary analytic philosophy. He develops a broadly Aristotelian metaphysics that recognizes the “hidden necessities” of things, which are disclosed through the sciences, which ground his account of real impossibility as a kind of vacuity, and which require the immateriality of the human ability to understand. Those ideas are supported by a novel account of false judgment. Ross aims to offer an analytically and historically respectable alternative to the prevailing positions of many British-American philosophers.

James F. Ross is professor of philosophy and law at the University of Pennsylvania.

“In Thought and World, James F. Ross synthesizes and develops much of his work from the last two decades; and as he did in his two other major works (Philosophical Theology and Portraying Analogy) he challenges many of the common dogmatic assumptions from the mainstream of analytic philosophy. While relentlessly challenging these assumptions from a unique and unorthodox perspective, he is nonetheless able to masterfully articulate his position using the dialect of philosophical discourse in analytic philosophy.” — John Zeis, Canisius College

You may have noticed a certain ambiguity, or ambivalence, in the uses of “analytic” in the above-cited matter. Is Ross a critic of analytic philosophy, or an adherent? The answer, I think is, Yes. A seemingly ambivalent deployment of analytic methods seems only right, since I take Professor Ross’s work to be just the kind of creative integration (where possible) of traditional Catholic metaphysics and modern analytic thought, which is what Apolonio was urging for, I think. William Vallicella aka the Maverick Philosopher has also given kudos to Ross.

Perhaps the best place to see Ross’s respectful disdain, as it were, for the analytic tradition, is his stimulating essay, “THE FATE OF THE ANALYSTS: ARISTOTLE’S REVENGE*: SOFTWARE EVERYWHERE.” Another fine place to see how Ross employs analytic philosophy to show its own limits, and thus, its proper relationship with more traditional metaphysics, is his essay, “Immaterial Aspects of Thought” (available via JSTOR… or me, but copyright…); I credit that essay with my decision to go into philosophy as a life-path. (Pardon the circumlocution; I’m skittish about using the term “professional philosophy”).

It goes without saying that I am a big fan of Ross’s work, so I am very excited to see this book of his finally coming to press. A rough draft of it, along with many of Ross’s other works, is available at his webpage. It may be the case that Dr. Liccione, as a former Ph.D. candidate under Professor Ross, can tell you more.

8 Responses

  1. Elliot:

    By 1988, Ross had me convinced of the thesis of the essay you cite. That the same essay inspired you to do philosophy is a sign we were meant to work together.

    I’ve added a link to his publications page in the blogroll.


  2. Elliot,

    Thanks for posting the link to Ross’ essay, THE FATE OF ANALYSTS…It was, uh, rather stimulating, to say the least. To say the very least. As I have access to JSTOR I’m going to track down THE IMMATERIAL ASPECTS OF THOUGHT. I hate to sound like I’m piling on a bandwagon, but suffice to say Ross’ line of thinking seems like the way towards crystallization an argument I feel like I’ve been trying to form for several years. It all starts with the simple intuition that human consciousness can’t be just brain states.

  3. Elliot,

    Thanks for the heads up. I enjoyed the essay, and I just printed out the article on immateriality and thought from Jstor, and I’ve read a little bit of it.

    I’ve noticed that I don’t really understand some of the concepts he uses in it. I would very much appreciate if you, Elliot, or Dr. Michael Liccione would do a close reading of the article as a post, or a series of blog posts. Just a suggestion, but I think it very much could fit within the intended subject matter of this blog.

    It goes without saying that I’d be very interested in that. I’m still an undergraduate student in philosophy and I would love to get a firm grasp of any and all philosophy which is suited for and compatible with the Catholic religion.



  4. Interesting…I should give it a look

    On related note, I thought David Oderberg’s Real Essentialism is pretty good. Klima’s work is also great.

  5. For anyone who has read John Searle’s arguments in such works as MINDS, BRAINS, AND SCIENCE, Ross’ piece is not unlike a much more technically detailed analysis (while certainly broader in the scope of the questions it deals with) of the basic claim by Searle that intentionality (direct discernment of meaning and purpose) is a primary difference between human and artificial intelligence, and this difference must be one in principle, not merely resulting in deficiency of speed or dimension according to the current state of technology.

    I’m deep into the Ross article “Immaterial Aspects of Thought.” It sheds much light on the previous shorter piece linked by Elliot.

    By the way guys, FWIW to you, I think this blog has a very bright future.

  6. Apolonio:

    Yes, Klima is also a treasure trove of sorts!


    By the “shorter piece” I previously linked, do you mean “Aristotle’s Revenge” or some post I added to this blog?


    The ‘grue’ problem is important for Ross’s essay, as is the issue of Gödelian undecidability, though he doesn’t mention the latter. In a word, there is no physical way to determine a formal operation, like addition or modus ponens, and, yet, plenty of formal operations occur physically (i.e., in the physical world); ergo, there must be some power in the human person which allows us to perform abstract, formal operations in a non-physical, immaterial manner. In Gödelian terms, there is no member of any physical set of operations or attributes which can decide for that set under which formal heading it belongs (i.e., which set is formally for all possible cases).

    This is an analytically revised through which/ by which (in quod/ in quo?) argument straight from ArisThomism. To paraphrase from memory a key line from the essay, “The brain is the means through which but not by which we think intellectually.” Cf. ST Ia, qq. 79, 84, 85, 86.

    If you want more, look at Fr. S. Jaki’s Brain, Mind and Computers (esp. the latter 1/3 in the 1989 edition) and M. Adler’s Intellect. The former I reviewed here:

    I have posted a fair share about this topic on my blog, FCA, and maybe we can have a little walk through of “Immaterial Aspects”.

  7. “By the “shorter piece” I previously linked, do you mean “Aristotle’s Revenge” or some post I added to this blog?”

    Yes, “Aristotle’s Revenge.”

  8. OPEN INVITATION to discuss the works of the the late Catholic philosopher, James F. Ross, and World and Thought, Hidden Necessities, in particular::

    The works of James F. Ross and Aquinas are our starting point, but we would enthusiastically welcome participation from anyone with an interest in exploring the implications of science for faith.

    John Strong (

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: