Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Christmas gift to you…

We’ve had some things to say about nothing (here, here, and here), or at least about how some people who themselves claim to have something to say about nothing in fact have nothing, or at least nothing of importance, to say about nothing.  Or something like that.  One thing’s for sure, and that’s that this is a subject about which one had better have a sense of humor.

So, for the blog reader who has everything, here’s a little more about nothing, and on the lighter side.  (Nothing can be pretty heavy, after all.)  For something on nothing written along philosophical but humorous lines, there’s nothing better than P. L. Heath’s article “Nothing” from the 1967 Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Paul Edwards.  Something also worth reading about nothing is Jim Holt’s “Nothing Ventured,” from the November 1994 issue of Harper’s.  Holt’s book on the subject, Why Does the World Exist?, is due to appear (not out of nothing, presumably) next year.  I’ll no doubt have something to say about it when it does.  (Holt’s little book Stop Me If You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes, about which I’ve long been meaning to write up a blog post, is terrific.)

No need to thank me.  It was nothing.

43 comments:

Bobcat said...

Speaking of a question to which I hope the answer is NOT "nothing", what do you have next in the pipeline, books-wise?

Edward Feser said...

Hi Bobcat,

Far from nothing. Four book projects of various sorts under way at the moment, two of them under contractual deadlines. I'll save the details until I'm ready formally to announce each, but between them they will address some key topics in metaphysics, philosophy of nature/science, and applied ethics.

Any readers who've been waiting forever for me to respond to your emails and combox remarks, now you know why...

Anonymous said...

It seems that we'll be seeing quite a lot of books about nothing... Physicist Lawrence Krauss has a book coming out next January, which will supposedly demonstrate how a whole universe can come out of nothing. Apparently he'll use the same old argument of "nothing is not really nothing, you see" that physicists love so much. Dawkins, who wrote the afterword, seems to think that this is it, the book that will bury God and philosophy for good.

I think it will probably do nothing of the sort. I'll look forward to a devastating review by Prof. Feser.

Anonymous said...

Moar political philosophy! Moar political philosophy! Or maybe that falls under applied ethics...

CQC said...

Dawkins already said that Hawking's book flushed God out of physics. Krauss doesn't have nearly the reputation or notoriety that Hawking does or did, and Hawking's book fell out of public awareness remarkably fast.

Even better is the fact that Krauss is not a fan of string theory, while Hawking's book was cheerleading for M-theory to the extreme. So it's starting to look like Dawkins will just endorse any scientist claiming to cast doubt on God, no matter what they're actually saying. Big surprise, right?

CQC said...

Regarding Krauss, here's the dead giveaway to his book.

"“Nothing is not nothing. Nothing is something. That's how a cosmos can be spawned from the void -- a profound idea conveyed in A Universe From Nothing that unsettles some yet enlightens others. Meanwhile, it's just another day on the job for physicist Lawrence Krauss.”

-- Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History"

That says it all: nothing is not nothing. Nothing is something. So long as you accept that, you can see how a universe can come from nothing.

Thanks, Krauss! Why don't you get back to doing science, and please make it the form of science that yields something useful for the engineers. If I want philosophy and theology, I'll go to the philosophers and theologians.

Bobcat said...

I have it as a general principle that if some reviewer says something like,

"[X's] book conclusively refutes [millennia-old philosophical view that still has numerous adherents today]",

then that reviewer is probably not to be trusted, at least on that particular issue.

man with a computer said...

I sincerely hope you guys are trolling. These people cannot be redefining 'nothing'.

This isn't even sophistry.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Kant who said that all possible and actual arguments for God's existence are parasitic on the ontological argument, and that if the ontological argument fails, then all arguments and possible arguments for God fail (i.e. God's existence can never be demonstrated)?

I mention this because lately, in a few quarters, I've been encountering this one-size-fits-all response to theism, specifically classical theism, where people say, "Look, all proofs for God are dependent on the OA, and since the OA clearly fails or is nowhere close to being established, nontheism is vindicated," and on that basis they don't even bother to learn natural theology in depth, let alone the detailed thought of Aquinas.

CQC said...

"I mention this because lately, in a few quarters,"

When it comes up, just give any argument you want and say "And this is not an argument that rests on the OA." 19 out of 20 times they'll sputter and not know how to respond if you ask them to show how it is. They're parroting, so engage them like you would a parrot.

BenYachov said...

How did some Atheists mutate into Gnus anyway?

Why don't Atheist Philosophers tell the likes of Krauss(who got his ass kicked by Craig when they debated) what to go do with himself?

Arthur said...

I see the book is described on Amazon as "A fascinating antidote to outmoded philosophical and religious thinking".

Somehow, "outmoded" is one of my least favourite buzzwords. I also suspect that Krauss may be a sciencist on the basis of this passage. The implication seems to be that "philosophical" and "religious" thinking is "outmoded", but "scientific" thinking isn't. Questions that used to be answered with religion and philosophy can now be answered with good, reliable science, etc. In other words, familiar stuff.

Anonymous said...

Bad time to ask, I know, but while I think of it.

Franciscan University Science and Faith conference:
http://www.franciscan.edu/scienceandfaith/

Feser, Carroll, Plantinga, Barr, et al.

I've emailed them re: public release of video or transcripts but no word. If anyone happens upon it please post.

Merry Christmas.

Untenured said...

@anonymous 7:15:

I am afraid that Kant's reputation on this score is wildly inflated. Kant is a very suggestive and brilliant philosopher, but it is an open secret that many of his most celebrated arguments and are riddled with lacunae. Examine the literature on his transcendenatal deduction of the categories if you don't believe me.

I suggest taht you ask your friends to reconstruct Kant's antinomies and explain how, in specific and not in general terms, they undermine any of the Five Ways. I'll bet dollars to donuts that they can't do it, and that they fall back on scholarly sounding vaguaries peppered with lots of academic Kantsprach.

Untenured said...

Ugh! Lots of typos in that comment. I'm blaming the sticky keyboard here...

Ismael said...

Hah thanks for the witty Christmas post Prof. Feser!

Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and your family!

DNW said...

Edward Feser said...

Hi Bobcat,

Far from nothing. Four book projects of various sorts under way at the moment, two of them under contractual deadlines. I'll save the details until I'm ready formally to announce each, but between them they will address some key topics in metaphysics, philosophy of nature/science, and applied ethics.

Any readers who've been waiting forever for me to respond to your emails and combox remarks, now you know why...

December 21, 2011 5:27 PM"


Since you have so much time on your hands, write a book on the desperate floundering of the progressive left to recover what they imagine is a semblance of an "objectively binding" morality in the face of their undercutting assumptions.

Plenty of opportunity to generate laughs by poking deserved fun at a frantic scramble.

Bill Clinton's recommended reading list provides a good recent example of this anxious impulse, with number eight. http://www.politico.com/blogs/click/2011/12/bill-clintons-mustread-books-108212.html Reminds me of Hillary's romance with Tikkun a few years back.

It's like watching rats run through a maze. You know where they are going to be forced to go, before they even go there.

Bobcat said...

Kant said that the cosmological and design arguments for God's existence depend on the OA. He furthermore thought that the OA didn't work, so the CA and DA don't work either. Furthermore, Kant didn't think that God's existence could be proved theoretically.

That said, Kant did think that his own, "moral" argument for *belief* in God's existence worked. That is, Kant didn't think we could demonstrate that God existed, but he did think that *belief* in God was a condition of having a stable commitment to the moral law.

Finally, in his lectures on religion, Kant seemed to think that the cosmological argument was a "subjectively sufficient" proof of God's existence, albeit objectively insufficient. Just what that means, though, I'm still trying to figure out.

Ray Ingles said...

CQC - "That says it all: nothing is not nothing. Nothing is something. So long as you accept that, you can see how a universe can come from nothing."

Heath, as linked by Feser: "This is either the deepest conunddrum in metaphysics or the most childish, and though many must have felt the force of it at one time or another, it is equally common to conclude, on reflection, that it is no question at all. The hypothesis of theism may be said to take it seriously and to offer a provisional answer. The alternative is to argue that the dilemma is self-resolved in the mere possibility of stating it. If nothing whatsoever existed, there would be no problem and no answer, and the anxieties even of existential philosophers would be permanently laid to rest. Since they are not, there is evidently nothing to worry about."

As Heath might put it, perhaps nothing is impossible.

Brandon said...

Anonymous,

Kant indeed does argue something like this; for example, at the end of his discussion of the physico-teleological proof (design argument), he says (Kempe translation, which is the only one I currently have handy):

"Thus the physico-theological is based upon the cosmological, and this upon the ontological proof of the existence of a Supreme Being; and as besides these three there is no other path open to speculative reason, the ontological proof, on the ground of pure conceptions of reason, is the only possible one, if any proof of a proposition so far transcending the empirical exercise of the understanding is possible at all."

The chief problem with using this as a general argument is that Kant's arguments (that the ontological argument is fundamental, as well as his criticisms of each type of argument identified, as well has his view that all such arguments fall into these three categories) have some very distinctively Kantian, and as it happens at points rather controversial, premises. A true-blue Kantian has excellent reason to agree with Kant, but most people are just not that Kantian, and are helping themselves to the conclusions of arguments whose premises they wouldn't actually accept, or wouldn't be able to defend, or don't even know, as CQC and Untenured suggest.

Of course, if you do have a true-blue Kantian on your hands, and he is also an atheist, the next step would be to ask him why he doesn't accept Kant's arguments that practical reason requires God as a postulate.

Brandon said...

I see Bobcat got a comment on the subject in while I was still typing mine.

It's been so long since I've read Kant's lectures on the philosophy of religion that I hadn't remembered the part about subjective sufficiency and the cosmological proof; the relation between that and the later criticism will definitely be something to think about this Christmas.

George R. said...

Finally, in his lectures on religion, Kant seemed to think that the cosmological argument was a "subjectively sufficient" proof of God's existence, albeit objectively insufficient. Just what that means, though, I'm still trying to figure out.

Bobcat,
You should stop trying to figure that out. You'll never figure it out. It's unintelligible rubbish.

Edward Feser said...

Franciscan University Science and Faith conference:
http://www.franciscan.edu/scienceandfaith/

Feser, Carroll, Plantinga, Barr, et al.

I've emailed them re: public release of video or transcripts but no word.


My understanding is that videos of the talks will be posted soon and that a conference volume containing the papers is planned.

Ismael said...

Anonymous said...
It didn't come from nothing. It's always been here. No beginning.

December 22, 2011 8:35 AM



1- You must be really unfamiliar with the Cosmological Argument.

Only SOME CA's argue that the universe had a beginning (like the Kalaam Cosmological Argument), but other CA's (like Aquinas') do imply or rest on the assumption that the universe had a beginning

2- To say 'it's always been there' it is quite along shot... since you cannot verify that in any way ;)


"So it's starting to look like Dawkins will just endorse any scientist claiming to cast doubt on God, no matter what they're actually saying. Big surprise, right?"

Just as you'll support anyone who supports your belief in god. Nope. No surprise.

December 22, 2011 8:33 AM



Even so the feeble attempt to pass 'something' (without ever explaining where thsi something comes from) for 'nothing' and say 'the universe came from nothing by itself' is still quite pathetic... not only that it is DISHONEST and UNSCIENTIFIC!

Dawkins is ridiculous. He might be a good biologist but if he steps just outside his field he immediately starts speaking out of his ass... not only in philosophy or theology, but also in phjysics... since he clearly seems to have no grasp of it.

Lawrence Krauss on the other hand is truly a good scientist, just like Hawking and it is sad to see how such great minds can fall so low.

Matthew G said...

Apropos nothing,
have you read the paper by Adolf Gr├╝nbaum titled "Why is there a world at all (rather than just nothing?)"

George R. said...

Upon further review, I have to admit that there can be such a thing as a "subjectively sufficient" proof of God's existence that may also be objectively insufficient. But clearly the cosmological argument is not such a case; it either stands or falls on objective validity.

Xerces said...

@Bobcat, Brandon, Untenured

I'm a tad confused. Isn't it true that Kant later unequivocally rejected the doctrine of postulates in his final work, the Opus posthumum? One prominent Kantian scholar, Eckart Forster, whom I'm told is the world's leading expert on the Opus posthumum, apparently thinks this is so. He writes in his book, Kant's Final Synthesis: An Essay on the Opus postumum:


"Whereas the Religion had still maintained that morality leads ineluctably to religion, through which it extends itself to the postulate of a divine being outside of mankind, in the Opus posthumum Kant endorses only the first part of this claim, and with an important qualification. Of religion he now asserts that it does not consist in the belief in a substance (see also 21:143) and explains: 'Religion is conscientiousness. The holiness of the acceptance and the truthfulness of what man must confess to himself. Confess to yourself. To have religion, the concept of God is not required (still less the postulate 'There is a God')' (21:81, Op. 248).

In the end, then, ethics and religion coincide. In the Opus postumum, the classical doctrine of the postulates of pure practical reason is finally put to rest." [pg.147]

Xerces said...

Looks like I misspelled "postumum" several times in my last post. Sorry.

Brandon said...

Xerces,

I'm sure Bobcat can give a more precise answer, but my two cents: There are definitely changes in Kant's account of the postulates across time, and keeping track of these is a bit difficult, especially when we get to the Opus postumum, which is difficult to interpret in its own right. I believe Forster's argument is controversial -- I know Guyer has an article somewhere arguing against it. I take it, though, that Forster is not arguing that the posulate is not there, but that Kant has reconceived its role, in such a way that it no longer underwrites the objectivity of claims like 'There is a God' -- God becomes, so to speak, a functional notion and this notion is not understood in the same way it had been earlier. That is, it really is the account of the postulates that is put to rest on Forster's view. And that may well be; I'm certainly not sufficiently up on the finer details of the late Kant to be certain about it, but it's certainly true that Kant seems to me to suggest here and there that God is needed only as an idea and as no more -- it's the content of the idea 'God', not God's existence, that is treated as important.

Most people are not thinking of the OP, though, when they are talking about Kant's philosophy of religion, and given the difficulties of pinning down what Kant is sometimes doing in that work, I think it can usually be left to the side in talking about the Kantian view, by which most people mean the three Critiques and so forth.

Untenured said...

@Xerces:

As far as I know, Brandon has it correct when he writes:

"...Kant seems to me to suggest here and there that God is needed only as an idea and as no more -- it's the content of the idea 'God', not God's existence, that is treated as important"

This is what I take to be the core Kantian position with respect to God's existence. We cannot, in Kant's view, provide any solid theoretical reasons to think that God exists. Nevertheless, we are in some way justified in "positing" God as a kind of working pragmatic assumption in order to make certain kinds of moral endeavors intelligible.

To give one example, Kant argues that we must "posit" God and immortality in order to make our obligation to strive for moral perfection intelligible. He thinks that the demands of morality obligate us to seek perfection and that obligation implies possibilty. i.e. "Ought implies can". It follows from this that we must retain some notion of God and immortality in order to make our standing obligation to seek moral fully comprehensible. But, again, it seems more important for Kant's view that we retain the notion of God than it is to say that God really exists. To say that God really exists would be to wrongly suppose that we are epistemically positioned to assert things about en sich reality.

And this isn't the case with God only. I think that Kant argues similarly with respect to free will. I think Kant believed that we couldn't give any good theoretical justifications for the existence of free will, but at the same time we could not make our own rational agency intelligible unless we supposed that we acted freely. As with God, Kant seemed to think that we had to rely upon practical postulates in lieu of any compelling theoretical reasons.

Or, at least, this is how I read Kant. If someone better versed wishes to correct my interpretation I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

What is the lasting importance of Kants bastardised version of empiricism and rationalism, anyway? Are there any deep and significant truths or methods which he has uncovered and for which we owe him gratitude?

Bobcat said...

Untenured writes,

"But, again, it seems more important for Kant's view that we retain the notion of God than it is to say that God really exists. To say that God really exists would be to wrongly suppose that we are epistemically positioned to assert things about en sich reality."

Well, at one point -- I can find out later, but I think it's in his later, 1790s writings on religion -- Kant writes that you cannot say "it is certain that God exists", but you can say, "I am certain that God exists". The point is, to say that it is certain is to treat God like any other theoretical entity, and thus as provable (or disprovable) by empirical methods. However, Kant thinks that you can say that you are certain God exists, because in order for people's moral commitments to become stable, they have to believe that God exists. Note that they have to believe that God *exists*. Indeed, Kant says that they can *practically* know that God exists, but just what it means to practically know something is something I'm still thinking about.

As for the Opus Postumum, I'll get to that in a bit.

Bobcat said...

OK, so let's look at the full context of the quotation from the OP:

From the right margin of page 3 of sheet VI of the 1st fascicle:

[1] "Transcendental philosophy is the system of the ideas in an absolute whole.
"God, the world, and the being in the world endowed with free will [sic]
"With respect to what is formal [in them], the principles are not to be transcendent, indeed, but must be immanent." (OP, 21:80-81)

[2] "Transcendental philosophy is the philosophical system of knowledge, which presents a priori all objects of pure reason necessarily combined in one system.
"These objects are God, the world, man in the world, subject to the concept of duty. Totality of beings." (OP, 21:81)

[3] "Transcendental philosophy is the system of synthetic knowledge from a priori concepts.
"It is (or rather, makes) a system objectively and, at the same time, subjectively. Not mathematical.
"Transcendental _ideas_ are different from ideals.
"Man is himself a world-being who constitutes himself into a member.
"Autonomy of ideas, insofar as they form an independent whole, in contrast to experience.
"*Religion is conscientiousness*. The holiness of the acceptance and the truthfulness of what man must confess to himself. Confess to yourself. To have religion, the concept of God is not required (still less the postulate: 'There is a God')." (OP, 21:81)

So, there are at least three things to note about this:

(1) The writing is, obviously, not polished. It is instead a series of notes, pretty much uncompleted. Thus, it's hard to tell what definitive conclusions we can draw from all this. That said ...

(2) Kant is clear that we need the idea of God as a part of transcendental philosophy (see [1] and [2] above). Without the idea, the system is incomplete. Note, though, that transcendental philosophy can be a system in both an objective and a subjective sense (see the beginning of [3]). That is, it's part of the nature of reason that it has these three ideas (God, the world, and man in the world). However, not everyone is aware that they're committed to these three ideas. So, although transcendental philosophy can be a system in a subjective sense, it doesn't have to be. That is, it's possible to be a reasonable being who doesn't have a concept of God. That said ...

(3) Religion, as Kant makes clear in all his other religious writings, must be something that is universally available to people. By "religion", Kant doesn't mean particular institutional religions (he calls such things "cults"; he doesn't think you need to be a member of a cult to be religious); instead, he means something internal. In Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, religion is conceiving of all your duties as divine commands. However, in the OP, it appears that Kant has changed his mind about that; you can have religion without conceiving of your duties as divine commands, because religion is simply conscientiousness. Conscientiousness, though, is trying your best not to be self-deceived, and to confess, whether before a formal tribunal or to yourself, only those things you truly believe. So, he's changed his concept of religion from conceiving of your duties as divine commands to mere conscientiousness. Since you can have conscientiousness without having a concept of God, it follows that to have religion, you don't need a concept of God. And of course, if you don't have a concept of God, then you can't be committed to the third postulate, which is belief in God.
None of that means, though, that Kant has given up on the postulates. He may very well still be committed to the idea that, in order to have a stable commitment to morality, you need to believe in God and the afterlife.

Sami said...

Hey Mr. Feser, I am moving to this combox since it is more appropriate to my question from earlier. Sorry about using the wrong post.

Anonymous said...

Since Dr. Feser made a reference about light-hearted comments, I went to www.ratemyprofessor.com to read what his students say about him. He may be confrontational with his critics, but he is apparently quite patient, kind, and humorous with his students.

I've had professors, who, notwithstanding their brilliance, were harsh, humorless, and cold.
I regard Dr Feser even more highly now that I know how his students rate him.

Anonymous said...

The Nature of Reality Itself can be said to be Spherical, without center or bounds.
It is not elsewhere. It is not a point. It is not separate.
The ego versus object - mind - is a mental fiction. It is not a description of Reality Itself, not a description of what experiencing is in any moment.
Experience is not based on point and separation.
There are no points.
There are no centers.
There is infinite association.
Boundless Touch.
Centerless Being.
Everything is organized in the manner of spheres - NOT points. What appears to be a point is an apparent conjunction of spheres.
There is no point, no center, no finality, no dilemma, no ego.
All difficulty can be transcended, because everything is a Sphere - Boundless, Centerless Being, Bright.

George R. said...

All difficulty can be transcended, because everything is a Sphere - Boundless, Centerless Being, Bright.

Far out, man.

Anonymous said...

Jim Holt says:

"The problem with this theistic resolution of the mystery of existence is that it hangs rather precariously close to the ontological argument. It was by that bit of scholastic jugglery, you will recall, that a self-existent divinity was conjured into being in the first place. Theologians were chary of Anselm's reasoning from the moment it was articulated. Could a being whose existence is grounded in pure logic really be the God of faith, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? The argument fared better with philosophers. Leibniz plumped for it; so did Descartes, so did Spinoza. It was not until the eighteenth century, after hundreds of years of muddled controversy, that Immanuel Kant nosed out the fallacy. Simply put, it is this: Existence is not a property of things, like size or color. It adds nothing to a concept. If it did, all kinds of entities could be defined into existence. Suppose, for instance, a unicorn were to be defined as the most perfect horse there could be; would it not follow then, by the very reasoning Anselm employed, that unicorns exist? No logical bridge can be built between a mere abstraction and concrete existence. True, there are some philosophers around today who defend the ontological argument on various eccentric grounds. I have even met one rabbi who swore that he based his belief in God on a version of Anselm's reasoning. Most, though, would agree with Schopenhauer's assessment of it as a "charming joke.""


Descartes didn't argue that existence is a predicate, nor does his argument depend on it. Descartes talked about necessary existence. I can't imagine why someone would think Anselm's argument(s) depend on this idea either.

Tony said...

It was not until the eighteenth century, after hundreds of years of muddled controversy, that Immanuel Kant nosed out the fallacy.

Oh, brother. You mean, half a millennium AFTER Aquinas also pointed out the problem with the ontological argument?

What is the lasting importance of Kants bastardised version of empiricism and rationalism, anyway? Are there any deep and significant truths or methods which he has uncovered and for which we owe him gratitude?

Kant's only lasting value for us is to exemplar a gravely defective approach to philosophy and mind. We thank him for being a (now) sign-posted minefield that we can readily avoid if we have our eyes open. Those who wish to tread in the mine-field anyway are Darwin-award winners, philosophically speaking.

As will easily be shown in the next section, what we have alone been able to show is that, indeed, the objects in space and time constitute a body of demonstrated doctrine, and all of this body must be known a priori. However, metaphysics, indeed, is a body of demonstrated doctrine, and none of it must be known a priori, since all of our faculties are deductive. For these reasons, the transcendental aesthetic, for example, is a representation of the phenomena. What we have alone been able to show is that, insomuch as the employment of our faculties relies on our sense perceptions, the intelligible objects in space and time, in particular, occupy part of the sphere of metaphysics concerning the existence of our sense perceptions in general, and the employment of the phenomena would be falsified. By means of analytic unity, I assert, therefore, that the transcendental unity of apperception, so far as regards time and our a priori concepts, occupies part of the sphere of our experience concerning the existence of the Antinomies in general; for these reasons, transcendental logic teaches us nothing whatsoever regarding the content of our sense perceptions. Our ideas have nothing to do with, therefore, the architectonic of natural reason, as is proven in the ontological manuals. We thus have a pure synthesis of apprehension.

With thanks to the RKG.

Sami said...

Dear Mr. Feser,
I know it was a while ago, but I asked you to help me with this question:
"Suppose, for the sake of argument, that nothing existed. Then, in particular, there would be no laws. (Laws are something, after all, despite what the nothing theorists seem to think.) If there were no laws, then everything would be permitted. If everything were permitted, then nothing would be forbidden. Therefore, if nothing existed, nothing would be forbidden. Therefore, nothing, if it existed, would forbid itself. Therefore there must be something."
I would appreciate any input you have on this argument and a defense of ex nihilo nihil fit
Thanks

Arthur said...

"Suppose, for instance, a unicorn were to be defined as the most perfect horse there could be; would it not follow then, by the very reasoning Anselm employed, that unicorns exist?"

This sounds suspiciously like Gaunilo's Criticism. The problem is that the first premise in that argument isn't true; the idea of a Greatest Conceivable Unicorn, or island (or "peerless stinker" to include Dawkin's version) is inconsistent in a way that the Greatest Conceivable Existent is not. For a start, all horses, islands and "stinkers" are inherently finite, and cannot become a GCE without losing their finiteness, and, thereby, their horse-ness, island-ness, or "stinker"-ness. The phrase "infinite horse", for instance, I think is a contradiction. Thus, there are principled reasons to reject a "Perfect Horse" argument that don't apply to the GCE.

More simply, then, it wouldn't follow from "the very reasoning Anselm employed" that unicorns, or any other non-GCE thing, exist. The argument works only with a GCE and nothing else.

For what it's worth, I do think the Ontological Argument fails, but it doesn't fail for this reason.

Arthur said...

"If there were no laws, then everything would be permitted."

I'm not Feser, but the problem with your argument seems to be this stage. If there were no laws, and nothing at all, nothing would be permitted, not "everything".

From nothing, nothing comes.

raiziak said...

As a preface to an extremely naive question, I know very little about philosophy or physics (I do know a bit of math, tho).

Of course, I have an intuitive idea of what ``nothing'' entails, but is there a concrete philosphical definition? It seems that the scientists and the philosophers are simply utilizing two different definitions, thereby leading ones arguments to look ridiculous to the others. I can *imagine* the physicists definition is something akin to ``a system with no energy (or mass or whatever)."