Monday, April 23, 2012

Steng operation

I recently linked to philosopher of physics David Albert’s take down of Lawrence Krauss’s book A Universe From Nothing.  (My own review of Krauss will soon appear in First Things.)  A reader calls my attention to this blog post in which Victor Stenger -- Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, and author of several atheist tomes -- rides to the rescue of Krauss against Albert.  (If only the other philosophically incompetent New Atheists had such a knight in shining armor!  O Dawkins, where is your Stenger?  O Coyne, where is your Victor?)

Unfortunately for Krauss, the intrepid Stenger shoots only blanks.  And misses.  Krauss, as you may know, argues that the laws of quantum mechanics (QM) show how a universe can arise from nothing.  Albert demurs, and Stenger responds:

[Albert] asks, “Where, for starters, are the laws of quantum mechanics themselves supposed to have come from?”  Krauss admits he does not know, but suggests they may arise randomly, in which case some universe like ours would have arisen without a prescribed cause.  In my 2006 book The Comprehensible Cosmos, I attempt to show that the laws of physics arise naturally from the symmetries of the void.

Later Stenger tells us that the “void” or “nothing” in question “can be described mathematically,” “has an explicit wave function,” and “is the quantum gravity equivalent of the quantum vacuum in quantum field theory.”

Of course, the problem with all of this is the same as the problem with the original suggestion that the laws of QM show that a universe can come from nothing.  The laws of QM are not nothing, and neither are “the symmetries of the void” nor anything that “can be described mathematically,” “has an explicit wave function,” etc.  In general, if you can characterize it in terms of physical law -- which Krauss, Stenger, and like-minded atheists all want to do vis-à-vis “nothing” -- then it isn’t nothing.  It’s something physical, and thus something rather than nothing.  Obviously.

Obviously, that is, unless you are a New Atheist dogmatically attached to the utterly groundless proposition that all genuine questions simply must be susceptible of a scientific answer.  At this juncture Stenger does what an increasing number of atheists do when it is pointed out to them that their “explanations” of how the universe arose from nothing merely change the subject -- they feign ignorance of English.  Writes Stenger:

Clearly, no academic consensus exists on how to define “nothing.”  It may be impossible.  To define “nothing” you have to give it some defining property, but, then, if it has a property it is not nothing!

But this is the muddleheaded stuff of a freshman philosophy paper -- treating “nothing” as if it were an especially unusual, ethereal kind of substance whose nature it would require tremendous intellectual effort to fathom.  Which, as everyone knows until he finds he has a motive for suggesting otherwise, it is not.  Nothing is nothing so fancy as that.  It is just the absence of anything, that’s all.  Consider all the true existential claims that there are: “Stones exist,” “”Trees exist,” “Quarks exist,” etc.  To ask why there is something rather than nothing is just to ask why it isn’t the case that all of these statements are false.  Pretty straightforward.  

To admit the obvious, though, would be to admit that there are questions that physics cannot answer, such as where the laws of physics themselves came from -- or more precisely, since “laws” are just abstractions from a concrete physical reality that behaves in accordance with the laws, where this concrete physical reality itself comes from.  That nothing in physics answers this question was Albert’s point, and Stenger says absolutely nothing to answer it.

Of course Stenger thinks otherwise, and the answer he thinks physics provides is contained in these remarks:

Krauss also describes how cosmology now strongly suggests that a “multiverse” exists in which our universe is just one member.  So, the real issue is not where our particular universe came from but where the multiverse came from. This question has an easy answer: the multiverse is eternal.  So, since it always was, it didn’t have to come from anything.

Well, maybe there’s a multiverse, and maybe there isn’t.  “Some cosmologists like to speculate that…” would be a good bit closer to the truth than “Cosmology now strongly suggests that…”  But even if the existence of the multiverse were established conclusively, that would of course just raise the question of why any eternal multiverse exists at all.  Stenger thinks he has an answer to that too, but his answer merely suggests that -- like the better-known New Atheists, and like Keith Parsons and other atheist philosophers of the sort who seem never to have read a theistic book published before 1970 -- Stenger does not understand what the cosmological argument has, historically, been all about.  Here’s what he says:

Albert is not satisfied that Krauss has answered the fundamental question: Why there is something rather than nothing, that is, being rather than nonbeing?  Again, there is a simple retort: Why should nothing, no matter how defined, be the default state of existence rather than something?  And, to bring religion into the picture, one could ask: Why is there God rather than nothing?  Once theologians assert that there is a God (as opposed to nothing), they can’t turn around and ask a cosmologist why there is a universe (as opposed to nothing). They claim God is a necessary entity.  But then, why can’t a godless multiverse be a necessary entity?

But this simply ignores, without answering, the central arguments of the Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, Thomistic and broader Scholastic traditions, and indeed of modern Leibnizian rationalism -- all of which put forward principled reasons why God alone, and not the material universe, can be a terminus of explanation.  For the Aristotelian, the things of our experience undergo change because they are composed of actuality and potentiality, where change is just the actualization of a potential.  The ultimate explanation of how change occurs can in principle (so the argument goes) lie only in what can actualize without having to be actualized -- a purely actual actualizer, devoid of potentiality (or to use the more traditional but potentially misleading expression, an “unmovable mover”).  For the Neo-Platonist, whatever is in any way composite or made up of parts must depend for its existence on something which combines the parts.  The ultimate explanation of all things can in principle (so the argument goes) therefore only be what is utterly simple or non-composite (in the sense of “simple” operative in the doctrine of divine simplicity) and thus not in need of explanation by reference to something outside it.  For the Thomist, whatever is made up of an essence distinct from its act of existence must be caused by something which combines these metaphysical parts.  So the ultimate explanation of things (so the argument goes) can in principle only be that whose essence just is existence, something which is subsistent being itself.  For the Leibnizian, whatever is contingent can have its ultimate explanation (so the argument goes) only in that which is absolutely necessary, that which could not in principle have been otherwise.

Now, that is just to summarize the arguments, not to state or defend them.  I have stated and defended some of these arguments myself at length -- in The Last Superstition, at greater length in Aquinas, and in my 2011 American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly article “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways.”  The latter article also contains an account of why, given the general metaphysical conception of the natural world enshrined in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, it is impossible in principle for the material world or any part of it to persist in being for an instant without a divine sustaining cause.  (It seems you can currently read this article online if you go to this page of Google search results, scroll down to the sixth item, and click “Quick View.”)  

Whether or not you agree that any of these arguments succeed, however, there is no question that they provide answers to Stenger’s query.  The reason God is necessary and the material universe is not is that he is pure actuality while the material universe is composed of potentiality and actuality, and thus in need of something to actualize it; that he is absolutely simple while the material universe is composite, and thus in need of something to compose it; and that his essence just is subsistent existence itself whereas material things (and indeed anything other than God) have an essence distinct from their acts of existence, and thus stand in need of something to cause them.  No doubt some atheists will be inclined simply to scoff at the metaphysical ideas underlying such arguments.  But to scoff at an argument is not to produce a rational criticism of it.  And since the arguments in question are the chief arguments in the Western tradition of philosophical theology, to fail to produce a rational criticism would simply be to fail to show that atheism really is rationally superior to that tradition.

Stenger also errs in thinking that the proponents of classical philosophical theology suppose that nothing is the “default state” of things.  Who ever said that?  In fact what the chief traditional arguments for theism imply is just the opposite.  Since that which is pure actuality, absolute simplicity, and subsistent being itself cannot possibly have not existed, there could not possibly have been nothing.  The classical theist’s claim is not “There could have been nothing, but there isn’t, and the reason is theism”; it is rather “There could not have been nothing, and the reason is theism.” 

[Some earlier, related posts on bad philosophy disguised as physics and the like can be found here, here, here, here, and here.]

236 comments:

1 – 200 of 236   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

Since this is a post primarily on cosmology I wanted to ask about le poidevin's book "arguing for atheism". I've been hearing some atheists parade it around in regards to undermining the cosmological argument.

What are people's opinions on that? Also, are there any responses to his criticisms (in books or articles) available?

Thanks

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see that analytic philosophers like Strenger are finally getting around to Parmenides. Perhaps in a couple of centuries they'll find their way to Plato and Aristotle.

Anonymous said...

Science or more correctly the now world dominant ideology/paradigm of scientific materialism is the "religion" of the left brain.

In the realm of politics and culture its ultimate expression is capitalism which is at root a "culture" of death. Expressed and now dramatized all over the planet as the war of all against all and everything in which everyone loses, including the presumed "winners", and the planetary eco-system or biosphere too.

Scientific materialism has deprived humankind of all profundity of view relative to the nature and significance of what we are as human beings, the nature of the World Process, and of course the nature of the Living Divine Reality.

Scientific materialism is a global cultural program/ideology/paradigm, which has so effectively supported the ego's motive to achieve a perfectly independent state of self-sufficiency that, as a result, the human collective has brought itself to the point of global destruction and universal despair.

Tresfortin said...

@Anonymous 8:49,

You may want to start here:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html

Anonymous said...

The sloppiness and intellectual dishonesty characteristic of contemporary philosophy shocks me more by the day. You would expect that someone like Stenger would be able to understand the meaning of "nothing", but apparently that is not the case. I fear for the educations of his students.

PhilR said...

I sense that Anonymous @9.43 has been devouring Iain MacGilchrist's 'The Master and his Emissary.' Am I right?

Aquinas3000 said...

Because this is on the cosmological argument I wanted to ask Feser a question that has been on my mind for a while which should be a quickie (I hope).

Just today William Rowe's book "The Cosmological Argument" arrived. It is supposed to be the fairest lengthy treatment of it by an atheist. Rowe, as I understand where he sits from general reading, believes the argument is flawless and perfectly follows when properly understood except for one thing. He does not think the principle of sufficient reason can be known to be true and has long critique of it. Now I can already think of some thing to say to that but the question I have is this. Is Feser/anyone aware of any response that has been made to Rowe? I can't find anything on the internet or in other books that I have. I want to critique it as part of a larger project I'm working on but wanted to know if there was any prior work done on this. Thanks if anyone knows anything.

Cale B.T. said...

I don't know why Stenger didn't just "consign the argument to the flames", as it were, with this old gem of his:

"...every one of the endless series of "proofs" of the existence of God that has been proposed, from antiquity to the present day, is automatically a failure because, as I have mentioned, a logical deduction tells you nothing that is not already embedded in its premises."

Lol@theism said...

There is no evidence that the PSR applies only to positive states of affairs. If nothing existed we'd have theists saying 'Why is there nothing rather than something? Something might have existed but it doesn't. Couldn't God have created something? What is the reason for the absence of something?'

The mere fact that we can conceive of of something poping into existence uncauserd out of nothing should falsify the PSR. (Assuming that conceivability entails possibility-and most theists assume that in order to run the Plantinga's ontological argument).


All this illustrates that the PSR is a methodological (not ontological) principle. That this is the best argument theists can muster demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of theism.

Anonymous said...

[Albert] asks, “Where, for starters, are the laws of quantum mechanics themselves supposed to have come from?”

Atheists can see natural laws but fail to see the Lawgiver behind. Richard Dawkins for instance in The Blind Watchmaker rejoices in the thought that his mind can create something (his “weasel program”) that rudimentarily resembles the natural laws that direct evolution but refuses to see how reasonable it is to conclude that the natural laws (the archetypes for his program) most probably come from a mind too. For him it works for something simple, but cannot possibly work for something complex.

Science is tremendously important but it is kind of reverse engineering. God thoughts the world into being and we enjoy and profit from exploring that small part of His thoughts.

Juan

Anonymous said...

LOL

Did this atheist just say all that nonsense?

Did he then calim that we can conceive of something coming into existence uncaused therefore it happens?

Someone tell him instead of embarrassing himself he should read up what Anscombe has to say about his pathetic excuse, which was conjured up by Hume.

Also tell him that that is not the best argument Theists have (although no one has been able to undermine it as of yet) and also inform him of how naturalism is intellectually indefensible and incoherent and has been since the day of the Ancient Greek sophists. It doesn't matter how many thousands of years have passed since. Nonsense will always be nonsense. That's the basic story of naturalism. In other words, educate the poor lad.


In response to Aquinas 3000:
A good defense of the PSR can be found in Alexander Pruss book named after said principle.

Codgitator said...

Goodness me, LOL@LOL@THEISM, could you parody yourself any harder?

If nothing existed- er, yet you mention expectant theists & atheists exist, waiting- and who is this "we" that can fathom sheer and utter pop-out-of-nothingness? Dig around for Anscombe on Hume. In my deepest discussions with atheists, they've granted, at times even insisted, that sheer non-existence is incoherent, hence an 'eternal universe'. Get your Gnu bullet points in order then try again.

Of course, I'm probably to blame since I referred this post via my massively popular (errrmm...) Twitter feed, so expect some surly n00bs in the near future.

Ray Ingles said...

"Atheists can see natural laws but fail to see the Lawgiver behind."

"[T]he whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave..." - Bertrand Russell (emphasis added)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Lil' Alvin:

Cool, now that you've established a radical discontinuity between human actions/principles and natural/physical principles.... #IHaveToSpellItOut?

Syllabus said...

Yeah, they are descriptions. Except when one wants gravity be endowed with the ability to ignite blue paper to create the universe - or the "laws" of mathematics, or the "laws" of quantum physics, or whatever. In that case, they're self-existent forms or brute facts or what have you. We really ought to get the definitions straight. So much sophistry would thus be avoided.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Honestly, that may be the worst passage I've ever read by Russell. Then again, I haven't read his musings on adultery & pacifism for myself, so there's still hope I can enjoy greater stupefaction. What Groans May Come! (o_.)

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - Sure, spell it out. I think you'll find there are a few extra premises needed.

Syllabus - Which is the 'true' geometry - Euclidean, hyperbolic, or elliptical?

goddinpotty said...

They claim God is a necessary entity. But then, why can’t a godless multiverse be a necessary entity?

Let's say there is a necessary entity. You can call it "God" and bring along all the association with persons that the word implies, and make theists happy, or you can call it an impersonal system of mathematical laws and make atheists happy.

All this fuss over "nothing" is a distraction from this main issue, which is that theists believe that they can push personhood down into the foundations of the cosmos and atheists believe that it is a late emergent phenomenon. Neither side can make sensible statements about nothingness.

PatrickH said...

@Aquinas3000:

In addition to the Pruss book mentioned above, he has an essay in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology on the Leibnitzian cosmological argument that goes into some detail about the PSR. Pruss is a very challenging thinker and writer, and his arguments can be extremely intensive, despite their superficially conversational tone. I believe he even mentions Rowe (IIRC).

By the way, all of the Blackwell volume is very intense and is a real humdinger to get through. Maydole's Ontological Argument is there, Robin Collins has a treatment of the teleological argument that I'm still struggling with...and there are others just as tough. Check it out.

Gene Callahan said...

[T]he whole idea that Bertrand Russell was a decent philosopher is due to a confusion between profundity and chowderheadedness.

Note that Russell cannot cite a single instance of any significant philosopher actually confusing human law with scientific laws. He has simply made up a confusion and baldly asserted it is the root of something he can't accept.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

gip:

Erm, uhh, well...

That's kind of the whole point, isn't it? SHEER AND UTTER is incoherent (though I'd love to see you prove otherwise). There is no knowable universe apart from personhood (again, I'll don my 3D goggles to watch you show me otherwise). Sp the universe is radically based in personal being. Is that really so hard to grasp?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Baby Platninga:

Kay. Well. If human behests are utterly different from "what natural law is", then you've effectively grounded theism. Thanks!

If not, well, then... Russell's quotation is just verbose piffle.

Then again, I'm inclined to say your M.O. is argument by link, or "someone-smart-said-it-so-it's true"ism.*

* I leave aside the issue of you citing only "smart dudes" with whom you agree.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

gip:

Sorry, I left out "nothingness" after "UTTER" and wrote Sp for "So". orz

(Does anyone here get orz, btw? While I'm at it, I must admit the Forest Whitaker eye was taken from a friend on Twitter.)

(o_.)

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - Dude. If human behests arise as a consequence of natural law, then they are different from "what natural law is". You've got a hidden premise there - "grounding theism" needs at least one more syllogism.

Anonymous said...

Gene,

Get real. One the face of it, calling someone who wrote the Principia Mathematica a bad philosopher is laughable; it is ultimately not a judgment of him, but a judgment of you. Sure, Russell was an idiot regarding certain subjects, e.g., philosophy of religion. But modern logic and the philosophy of language would be nowhere today were it not for his philosophical contributions.

Ray Ingles said...

I'm inclined to say your M.O. is argument by link, or "someone-smart-said-it-so-it's true"ism.*

If it's been said well, why not quote it? And I'm perfectly willing to quote people I disagree with - C.S. Lewis and William Paley, for example.

Anonymous said...

Codgitator, though the posts are still substantive, you're acting rather silly these days. What happened to you?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ray:

I know I'm being silly, and I DO APOLOGIZE if it detracts from anything I might possibly add to the conversation (#seriously). So, honest diagnosis? 1) My wife gave me a "snazzy" mobile phone for Valentine's day and I went a bit crazy with all that access, 2) I hate smothered, acrimonious dialogue so I've tried spicing things up, and 3) I had a daughter not even two months ago so I'm naturally a bit dippy. (o_.)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

(Along with all that, Ray, it's probably a case of me feeling like 'I honestly have no time for all that', so I've tended to write like it's 'all that' is just a distraction. I've seriously contemplated doffing my name, since maybe by now I've become a mere theistic android. I like you, Ray, and I respect your brand of skepticism. So, pardon me as I try to figger out what my place is on this blog and others. Maybe it's just too much on the go– work, study, family, visa & passport apps, bus tickets, etc.)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Actually, Ray, I've got an argument about materialism which ties in, but obliquely, to the idea that human nature arises from mere matter and becomes its own unique class. The gist is that all things on materialism are material and causally interconnected. As such, there is no entropic 'slack' for a different order of being to emerge; but a different order of being HAS emerged, so materialism is false. In short, you want to fault me for a missing syllogism, but I think your whole approach is just a failed syllogism.

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - I dunno who called your posts 'silly' but it wasn't me. I never post anonymously if I can help it.

And your style doesn't bug me. I'm really hard to offend. :)

(Congrats on the newborn, btw.)

Syllabus said...

Ray:

Yes. But DUDE, does this smack of an Abbott and Costello routine.

Gene Callahan said...

@Anonymous: "Get real. One the face of it, calling someone who wrote the Principia Mathematica a bad philosopher is laughable; it is ultimately not a judgment of him, but a judgment of you."

No doubt Russell was very good at formal logic; I just don't confuse that with philosophy. That you would disagree with me on this is ultimately not a judgment of me, but of you. (Just to show anyone can play that stupid game.)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ray.

Had you called me silly, it'd've been the least offensive thing you could manage, I reckon. #ImAlsoVeryHardToOffend (And thanks for the congrats.)

Meanwhile I'd love to see your best argument for atheism.

I've tried crafting my best arg for atheism before but since atheism is (erm…welll…) a purely negative doctrine, all I end up with is "a strong theistic argument that still admits of some conceivable, perhaps-slightly-douchey-and-probably-ill-informed objector".

Anonymous said...

"No doubt Russell was very good at formal logic; I just don't confuse that with philosophy."

Strange. I wonder, then, why every philosophy department in the country - secular or otherwise - offers courses in formal logic, the foundations of logic, mathematics, and computation, etc. Perhaps you should let them know that they're all confused about what is and what is not a properly philosophical subject. I mean, even the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which asserts that "logic is both a branch of mathematics and a branch of philosophy," is apparently in error! I also wonder why Principia Mathematica is widely considered by philosophers to be not only one of the most important works of mathematical logic, but of philosophy, as well (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/principia-mathematica/#SOPM). I also wonder why you make no distinction between *mathematical logic* and *philosophical logic*, seeing as Russell was proficient in both and in fact was the one who coined the term "philosophical logic." I suppose that's all otiose in your view.

And I note that you don't dispute my claim about Russell as a philosopher of language. Even if he'd never published Principia Mathematica or any other work of philosophical logic, On Denoting would have been enough to secure him a place as one of the 20th century's top philosophers.


Cheers.

Lol@theism said...

Nobody has yet replied to my point that the PSR applies to negative states of affairs as well. Anyway the argument committed the fallacy of composition by reasoning that because the universe contains contingent things it as a whole must. be contingent. The PSR has also been falsified by quantum physics which shows that virtual particles can pop into existence uncaused. Yet more proof that theism is a joke.

Anonymous said...

"[T]he whole idea that natural laws do not imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between reality and the atoms randomly shashing in the brain of bertrand russell. [the rest is irrelevant]"

A much more honest approach.

Anonymous said...

A “quantum vacuum” is not the same as “nothing”. If there are a set of laws, then there is already “something”. If there is a set of laws it is quite reasonable to suppose that there is a mind that creates them. This is not anthropomorphism this is proportional causation. How can anyone rule out a mind as the cause of the natural laws when in our daily experience we see that minds are so good a producing rules (laws, computer programs, game rules). What else is so good at producing rules? What is the alternative to a mind?

Anonymous said...

@codgitator

"I've got an argument about materialism which ties in, but obliquely, to the idea that human nature arises from mere matter and becomes its own unique class. The gist is that all things on materialism are material and causally interconnected. As such, there is no entropic 'slack' for a different order of being to emerge"


Hey can you elaborate on that a bit. Specifically on the whole notion of "entropic slack" and how that ties in with the aparent rigid interconnectedness found in mater.

BeingItself said...

What is the theist's answer to the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

Edward Feser said...

A few comments:

The arguments of Aristotelians, Neo-Platonists, Thomists and other Scholastics and classical philosophers in general do not depend on PSR as that is understood in the modern rationalist (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) tradition. PSR is typically presented as a "law of thought" and stated in terms of explanation, which is a logical notion.

Classical philosophers appeal instead to what is sometimes called the principle of causality, which is a metaphysical notion. That principle can be stated in several ways -- as the principle that no potential can actualize itself, or that what is contingent requires a cause -- but however it is stated, it is a statement about objective reality, not a statement about the structure of thought, about our explanatory practices, etc. It is also not a principle that entails that negative states of affairs require an explanation.

The difference between the principle of causality and PSR is just part of a broader set of deep metaphysical and epistemological differences between classical and Scholastic writers on the one hand, and modern writers on the other. (You will find some Neo-Scholastic philosophers using the expression "principle of sufficient reason," but what they mean by it is essentially the principle of causality rather than a Leibnizian rationalist principle.) Most contemporary philosophers knowledge of the history of philosophy extends back no further than Descartes, with perhaps a smattering of Plato and Aristotle. Hence on teh rare occasions they bother with them, they tend to read into medieval writers (and the ancients too, for that matter) modern notions that the ancients and medievals would not have agreed with. E.g. they assume that Aquinas's Third Way is more or less the same as a Leibniz or Clarke style cosmological argument, read Aristotle as a kind of "functionalist" vis-a-vis the mind/body problem, suppose that ancient and medieval ethicists naively blurred "fact" and "value," etc.

Neither, BTW, do arguments like those of Aquinas commit a fallacy of composition. E.g. Aquinas's argument for an uncaused cause of the existence of things in On Being and Essence assumes only that something or other contingent exists -- a stone, your left shoe, whatever. No claim about the universe as a whole is necessary.

In short, if you're going to understand the arguments of classical and Scholastic philosophers, you're going to have actually to read them, and also to understand something about the classical and Scholastic metaphysics and epistemology that form the background to the arguments. (I give a primer in the works referred to in the main post.) Awful luck for folks who think serious and complex philosophical issues can be settled with a few half-educated smartass combox remarks, but there it is.

Re: Russell, not only as a logician and philosopher of language but also as a metaphysician, epistemologist, and philosopher of mind, I think he was a great figure indeed. (I wrote my dissertation in part on Russell's neutral monism.) Unfortunately, as a philosopher of religion he was completely hopeless, and on that subject wrote nothing of value.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

"[Edward Feser] 'No doubt Russell was very good at formal logic; I just don't confuse that with philosophy.'

Strange. I wonder, then, why every philosophy department in the country - secular or otherwise - offers courses in formal logic, the foundations of logic, mathematics, and computation, etc. Perhaps you should let them know that they're all confused about what is and what is not a properly philosophical subject. I mean, even the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which asserts that "logic is both a branch of mathematics and a branch of philosophy," is apparently in error! I also wonder why Principia Mathematica is widely considered by philosophers to be not only one of the most important works of mathematical logic, but of philosophy, as well (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/principia-mathematica/#SOPM). I also wonder why you make no distinction between *mathematical logic* and *philosophical logic*, seeing as Russell was proficient in both and in fact was the one who coined the term "philosophical logic." I suppose that's all otiose in your view.

And I note that you don't dispute my claim about Russell as a philosopher of language. Even if he'd never published Principia Mathematica or any other work of philosophical logic, On Denoting would have been enough to secure him a place as one of the 20th century's top philosophers.


Cheers."


This, if you read closely is a peculiarly forced response. A kind of parsing exercise, performed in search of an opportunity to become indignant.

Anonymous looks to be someone Feser has probably trodden on in the past, hoping to get a little of his own back. There's no reason to have gotten so worked up over the remark that was quoted. Very trollish, the "Cheers" business and all.

George R. said...

Lol@theism,

Good stuff. You’re a real credit.

Btw, since the universe depends on having things in it in order to exist, and the things in are contingent, then the universe depends on contingent things to exist. But that which depends on contingent things is itself contingent. Therefore, the universe is contingent.

Aquinas3000 said...

Well Lol@theism

You miss the point right at the start by saying:

"If nothing existed..."

My response: LOL.

You then say what theists would be saying "why isn't there nothing rather than something.." Um but there would be no theists to be asking that question. Your problem is nothing is a being of reason it doesn't have actual entitative existence since that is kind of the meaning of the word...

If "nothing existed" there would be well, nothing to ask a question so no need to look for any cause or reason.

If you read some good books Hume's "I can conceive something popping into existence" ruse is thoroughly refuted in many places. Being able to imagine one thing in your head one moment and then another thing in your head another moment does not mean it is ontologically intelligible for that to happen for no reason whatsoever without a cause.

It is also not true that QM shows such things happening. Rather some people have mistakenly drawn such an conclusion from some QM experiments which inference is by no means required. I'd recommend Anthony Rizzi's book "The Science Before Science" which answers this in more detail. Rizzi was a physicists who was the first to find a way to describe angular momentum in the theory of general relativity so he knows his mathematical physics.

Also thank you Ed for pointing that out. Yes, Rowe deals a lot (looking at the chapter titles) with Clarke et al which I am not so familiar with. The Thomism I have learned (from the sources) certainly teaches what you say about the PRS. Keeping this in mind will help me immensely with reading it and critiquing it. Thanks to the other reader as well for their suggestions.

Aquinas3000 said...

sorry that should be "why is there nothing rather than something"

Ray Ingles said...

"For what we have here is an essentially ordered causal series, existing here and now, not an accidentally ordered one extending backwards into the past. And an essentially ordered series, of its nature, must have a first member."

What if the B-series model of time is right, though?(Sure seems that way per relativity, anyway.) The 'present' could extend eternally in exactly the same way the past does... so a 'first member' wouldn't be necessary?

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous looks to be someone Feser has probably trodden on in the past, hoping to get a little of his own back. There's no reason to have gotten so worked up over the remark that was quoted. Very trollish, the 'Cheers' business and all."


DNW, you haven't a clue what you're talking about. First off, I am a classical theist and an Aristotelian, and as such I happen to agree with almost everything Feser writes. So there goes the plausibility of your "trodden" remark. Second, Feser just agreed with me that Russell was a great 20th century philosopher in the post directly above yours, so there's another nail in the coffin for the plausibility of your "trodden" remark.

And re: "There's no reason to have gotten so worked up over the remark that was quoted." Yeah, well, chalk it up to me just being in the mood to lash out at a completely asinine comment, and an even more asinine attempt to justify said comment.

Apologies if my manner upset you, you nag. I'm simply not accustomed to seeing such bumbling incompetence from my fellow theists here.

Codgitator said...

Ray:

Actually, the B series seems to be a splendid case of an essentially ordered series. Each 'phase' of time depends intrinsically on the other phases. Eternity is beside the point. The argument does not require a succession of contingency, like dominoes on a number line. I like to picture it is as a triangle, in the sense that the number line (1,2,3...) has been enclosed in an intrinsic unity and the properties of the triangle depend on each corner and line as an essential order. But maybe I'm way off.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the B-theory of time, is there an online or published rebuttal of Craig's contention that a) Aquinas affirmed B-theory and b) if so, such a position is unintelligible on Thomism?

Thanks, in advance.

BenYachov said...

Remember Ray the First Way is not a Kalam Cosmological Argument. Thomists can for philosophical purposes believe the Universe & or creation in general had an infinite past and always existed without a formal beginning.

So we can assume an eternal universe but the First Way shows us how & why the Universe exists now.

Indeed Aquinas himself believed neither Philosophy nor science could prove Creation had a formal beginning.
He believed only divine revelation could tell us that.

Back when I was a freshman I read Russell and for years thought that if the Universe always existed then at best Pantheism was the only religious view that could be true. After studying Scholastic Philosophy of Nature I see even a past eternal Universe given it's contingent nature requires a Theistic God to keep it existing for all eternity. Or more precisely the Universe is nothing more than a very large set of objects (including space and Time) that have potency and actuality & whose existences each have a distinct essence.

Thus it requires something that is Purely Actual thus whose existence is the same as It's Essence to keep it going for all eternity.

Cheers.

thoughtfulfaith said...

I don't think redefining words is going to make this problem go away. When Dawkins mentioned Kraus' redefinition of nothing, the audience laughed. Intelligent people will always be asking why there is something rather than nothing, and always find redefining "nothing" to be an unsatisfactory answer.

Toot said...

nothing

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - Eternity is beside the point.

Sorry, not seeing it. Eternity seems to be central to the whole concept of a B-series. (And the word 'series' is kinda misleading there, anyway.)

BenYachov - Thomists can for philosophical purposes believe the Universe & or creation in general had an infinite past and always existed without a formal beginning. So we can assume an eternal universe but the First Way shows us how & why the Universe exists now.

But in a 'b-series' conception, present causality is, in a sense, a timelike direction orthogonal to 'past' and 'future'. And Thomists can accept an infinite regress in one direction. It's not clear to me that the arguments ruling out infinite regress in the other direction are valid.

BenYachov said...

>But in a 'b-series' conception, present causality is, in a sense, a timelike direction orthogonal to 'past' and 'future'. And Thomists can accept an infinite regress in one direction. It's not clear to me that the arguments ruling out infinite regress in the other direction are valid.

Ray are you assuming an AT view of causality or a Humean one?

Do you think that might make a difference?

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - Meanwhile I'd love to see your best argument for atheism.

I'm an atheist in the specific and a "non-gnostic" in the general. That is to say, of the religions I've looked at, I find them unconvincing or incoherent. As to "Ultimate Causes", an agnostic (by Huxley's definition) would consider them forever unknowable. I'm what I call a "non-gnostic" 'cause I just think we can't answer those questions yet.

For Christianity, for example, I see the 'argument from evil' as pretty conclusive. (Note: moral evil isn't really the issue there; it's the claim that an omniscient, omnipotent being produced at least one universe that didn't meet Its standards).

Eduardo said...

ASSUMPTIONS

1. There is a being called "God" which created the universe. This is taken to mean:
1. This being had complete control over the initial conditions of the universe.
2. This being had and has complete control over the laws of operation of this universe.
2. This being posseses omnipotence - the ability to do anything that is logically consistent.
3. This being posseses omniscience - the knowledge of everything that can be known. This includes, for example:
1. Knowledge of the future of the universe, in every detail.
2. Knowledge of how to do every logically consistent thing.
4. This being has standards, whatever they may be; some beings and actions please It, and some do not. I.e. some outcomes are desirable to It, and some are not.
5. At least one logically consistent possible universe meets God's standards.
6. At least some elements of the existing universe, particularly humans, do not satisfy God, do not meet God's standards.


___________________________________

CONCLUSIONS

1. God knows how to make universes that meet Its standards. This follows from (A3,2) and (A5).
2. God has the ability to make universes that meet Its standards. This follows from (A2), and (A5).
3. God has the motivation to make perfect universes that meet Its standards. This follows from (A4).
4. The only universes God will make will be universes that satisfy God's standards for universes. This follows from (C1), (C2), and (C3).
5. From (A1) and (C4), we conclude that this universe meets God's standards.
6. However, this contradicts (A6).
7. We must conclude that at least one of our assumptions, or steps of the proof, are in error.
8. I do not see an error in (C1-7), so I can only conclude that the error(s) lie in (A1-6).
9. Assumptions (A4), (A5), and (A6) do not seem to be a problem. I conclude that the problem must lie in the first three assumptions. I personally figure that (A1) is the problem.

Eduardo said...

There you go Ray, now everybody can see your basic syllogism huhu!!!!

emanuel. said...

The idea that "the universe" isn't contingent, is problematic in a lot of ways. Another observation might be that a lot of nominalists are prepared to abandon nominalism temporarily. For for the universe to be not contingent it would at least have to be some real thing with a real unity. (Or maybe I'm misunderstanding something?)

BenYachov said...

@Ray

>For Christianity, for example, I see the 'argument from evil' as pretty conclusive. (Note: moral evil isn't really the issue there; it's the claim that an omniscient, omnipotent being produced at least one universe that didn't meet Its standards).

Not really pre-enlightenment Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Judaism and Islamic Classical Theism do not postulate any type of God who is a Moral Agent.

The modern "argument from evil" presupposes God is a Moral Agent with obligations to us and Theodicies are employed to "justify" God for allowing evil.

But if God cannot coherently be conceived of as a moral agent in the first place then moral objection to his non-action in immediately stopping evil are non-starter objections.

God is ontologically good and metaphysically good but He is not a moral agent unequivocally compared to a human moral agent.

The "problem of evil" as dealt with by Aquinas was not a moral dilemma. Rather it was more akin to asking "How could matter and anti-matter exist in the same container without whipping each other out?".

Or to too put it in actual metaphysical terms "How could an All Good God ontologically exist alongside evil"?

Aquinas said it was part of the Goodness of God that he allows evil to bring good out of it.

"Good" here is understood as causing being not a Theodicy that says "God's gonna make every bad situation better".

God is metaphysically and ontologically Good. God is the Ground of All Being & or Being Itself. Since according to Aquinas's doctrine of the Transendentals Beign & Good are interchangeable God is the source of all the good in the universe ultimatly.

But it doesn't follow God is a good moral agent with obligations to us.

BenYachov said...

Here Ray this might show why your "argument" is a non-starter here.

http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html

You can use it on the followers of Plantinga or Swinburne. They believe God is a moral agent(i.e. unequivocally compared to a human moral agent).

Not us Thomists. It's a non-starter like point out alleged errors in the Koran to a Baptist.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

" 'Anonymous looks to be someone Feser has probably trodden on in the past, hoping to get a little of his own back. There's no reason to have gotten so worked up over the remark that was quoted. Very trollish, the 'Cheers' business and all.'


DNW, you haven't a clue what you're talking about. First off, I am a classical theist and an Aristotelian, and as such I happen to agree with almost everything Feser writes. So there goes the plausibility of your "trodden" remark. Second, Feser just agreed with me that Russell was a great 20th century philosopher in the post directly above yours, so there's another nail in the coffin for the plausibility of your "trodden" remark.

And re: "There's no reason to have gotten so worked up over the remark that was quoted." Yeah, well, chalk it up to me just being in the mood to lash out at a completely asinine comment, and an even more asinine attempt to justify said comment.

Apologies if my manner upset you, you nag. I'm simply not accustomed to seeing such bumbling incompetence from my fellow theists here.
April 24, 2012 8:54 PM "


Anon,

I wasn't addressing you originally, but I will now.

Why you delusively imagine that frantically waving your "classical theist" and "Aristotelian" fellowship flags around will serve to obscure your peevishness and petulance, is best known to you.

The same would go for your imaginings regarding the prophylactic value of your ostensible philosophical agreement with Feser. That you might agree with him on certain philosophical points in no way negates the aptness of my description of your appearance as peculiarly "trodden upon" and "worked up".

If you feel a need to fence with Feser over the off-hand way way he might have phrased a comment - you are a fellow Aristotelian and classical theist after all - and you believe that characterizing Feser's remark as "asinine" permits you to more freely indulge yourself, then go right ahead. Feser's a big boy, and he can defend himself.

I was just marveling at your posturing indignation.

As for Feser's actual regard for and knowledge of Russell's work, it was simply never a matter in any doubt as even semi-regular readers of his blog know; and, especially as any who might have troubled themselves to communicate with him on certain points regarding Russell's work on definite descriptions would also well know.

You probably knew it too ... before you launched off regardless.

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - then moral objection to his non-action in immediately stopping evil

Eduardo posted the basic argument. Note that the word 'moral' doesn't appear. The 'standard' to which I refer doesn't have to be a moral one.

BenYachov said...

@Ray

I should not have rushed in.

Sorry.

>(Note: moral evil isn't really the issue there; it's the claim that an omniscient, omnipotent being produced at least one universe that didn't meet Its standards).

This is still only meaningful if you postulate a Paley type "deity" who is a Cosmic Artisan. It is still a non-starter in the face of a Classic view of God.

The Classic Theistic God merely causes things "to be". He doesn't have "standards" in the Paley anthropomorphic sense.

It is the nature of material things to compete with other material things for their own perfection at the expense of the perfection of other.

The only "standards" God can impose on material things is they obey physical laws or operate according to certain regularities according to their nature.

God is not an Artisan.

Ray Plantinga's and Swinburn's ID "god" has no place here.

This is still a non-starter.

BenYachov said...

@Ray

How can God as understood by Aquinas have "standards" in regards to material things?

There can be no "Universe" that God might create where material things are judges by "standards".

Material things can't fail at being material things. Universes can't fail at being universes.

This is an Anti-Paley "deity" argument. Along the lines of "Why didn't God design this animal more efficiently then this one?

Sorry for ignoring the moral thing disclaimer. But it's still a non-starter objection to a Thomist view of God.

Read the link on the "Best of All Possible worlds".

Aquinas rejects the idea God is in any way obligated to make (even on the material non-moral level) the best of all possible worlds.

BenYachov said...

>4. This being has standards, whatever they may be; some beings and actions please It, and some do not. I.e. some outcomes are desirable to It, and some are not.

Unless we are talking about Moral Agents that fail God (& you deny a moral component here) then 4 is simply not true. God has no "standards" in the creation of material objects. God just causes them to be.

Plus there is no reason to believe God would have a "standard" against creating a moral being he knows will misuse it's free will.

So this isn't an argument from Evil in any recognizable form.

BenYachov said...

@Ray

OTOH

So what you are Ad Hoc postulating here is God has moral standards for his creatures but would somehow have a "standard" against creating any that would use their free will to violating those standards?

How then does this not then not smuggle the idea that God is a moral agent who is "obligated" not to create beings who violate his moral standard in the back door?

Ray you really have to forget all your polemics against ID and Paley type "deities" and start from scratch.

BenYachov said...

Another criticism.

>an omniscient, omnipotent being produced at least one universe that didn't meet Its standards.

Do you really mean produce at least one universe where all the moral agents without exception misuse their free will?

Well God can produce any Universe He likes & isn't obligated to produce any particular one.

If he wanted to he could produce a universe where every moral being freely choose to rebel against him.

But of course that universe by Thomistic standards would still be good as far as it participates in being. God is under no moral obligation to not create such a universe since he is still not a moral agent.

So I don't get this version of the "Problem of Evil".

Eduardo said...

Well I think that the whole problem.... actually the argument is all about this. Is the word Standards. Now let's just think G*d as a Super-Human, or a Perfect-Human if we can actually conceive that with accuracy that is.

This G*d here creates a universe that has creatures, Humans, that do not please It. Now there is just a ting here, and it has something to do with hidden assumptions, or other assumptions that change the whole context of your argument. If G*d gave Humans free will, G*d knows everything that could happen but has no control over History. Just this destroys you argument, because deep down your argument hinges on a History tat is like a Cassete tape, without branching and without Free Will. And it does because Because your argument goes into something like "G*d knew this would happen, as in, THIS WAS THE ONLY OUTCOME!".

Without Free Will, G*d isat best retarded, It has just created creatures which he knows what they will do and somehow he is still pissed at how they act, of course this is not the G*d which you are talking about, so I suppose your argument either is "Why I don't believe in these religions given that there is NO free will" .......... the other I thought would make you attack a straw man.

Another thing, The standards of G*d may change, and as apparently the Bible shows * educated guess of mine * G*d change his relation towards Humans. Soooo, still the Universe pleases G*d is Human's latest actions that don't, or certain actions at least.

So Ray your argument is... No free will, therefore no Christianity, Islamism or Judaism must be correct, or at best the have conceived G*d in wrong terms. And yes some Christians ( Vox Day comes to mind here ) to not hold certain doctrines such as Omniscience.

Anonymous said...

@ eduardo

"Your whole syllogism is wrong and rest on the "here's what I expect God to do and since he didn't I believe there is no God"

Although no reply is needed due to the fact that this is yet another desperate attempt at Theodicy one can simply say that God created the world to be free and THAT is what satisfies Him evidently. The possibility for transgression by humans is therefore irrelevant.

Of course, as others stated such objections do not work against Classical Theism

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

Ray Ingles

This is a curious one (I added italics for emphasis): "But in a 'b-series' conception, present causality is, in a sense, a timelike direction orthogonal to 'past' and 'future'. And Thomists can accept an infinite regress in one direction. It's not clear to me that the arguments ruling out infinite regress in the other direction are valid."

What makes you think this?

I always thought that Thomists would not accept an infinite regress or, more accurately, would insist that no existing quantity can be infinite. Eg, if Time stretches for an infinite number of years into the past, then it also stretches for a more than infinite number of months into the past which is clearly absurd.

Also you cannot reach the end of an infinite series, so how did anything get from the past into the present?

I think you might be confusing eternal as in "from the beginning of time" with infinity, but I'd be interested in finding out why you think "Thomists can accept an infinite regress in one direction".

Eduardo said...

Anon @ 11:11

Really I have never got in contact with Classical theism, sooo I can't really showany credentials there. I always thought Theology in terms of Cosmic Artisan that I can't fully grasp his reasons.

So all my defenses are always some form of .... analogy to human behavior or Theoretical Perfect-Human.

Sooo if my reply is ... must be no doubt, sub par I apologize hahhahaha

Michael Brazier said...

Ray -

On essentially ordered causal sequences: the definition of such sequences is that, for every member of them, if it's in act, its immediate successor must be in act; equivalently, that if a member is not in act, its immediate predecessor cannot be in act. By induction it follows that if a member of such a sequence is in act, all its successors are also in act; and if a member is not in act, all its predecessors are also not in act; and this induction holds even for a sequence with an infinite number of members, if there are any such.

Now, as a hypothesis, consider an essentially ordered causal series that has a last member but no first member (isomorphic to the natural numbers) in which the last member is not in act. By induction no member of the sequence can be in act, which entails (by the general premise of Aristotelian metaphysics that nothing can bring itself to act) that the whole sequence is inert, unless some cause not listed in it intervenes. But if such a cause does intervene, it becomes the sequence's real first member, using either the whole infinite sequence or a finite suffix of it as an instrument.

The argument is not that an infinite tower of instruments is impossible, but that such a tower, if it has no limit, is not capable of causing anything; so any per se causal sequence that has real effects must have a first member.

Codgitator said...

Ray:

McTaggart's piece on time (MT) is one of my favorites in philosophy so I'm not answering just to be contrary.

1. Am I right that you feel the import of MT I'd that it disposes of change and thus of contingency?

2. a. How do you think MT differs from Zeno's arguments again motion? b. What has MT shown us that Zeno did not? c. Are you of one mind with Zeno?

3. a. What do you think MT means for you as a scientific realist? Viz. if time doesn't exist, then, at least given Einstein GR, neither does space. b. Do you see the same irony I find in hearing a materialist like yourself advert to a radically idealist argument to deflect the cosmological argument?

4. David Braine has a book-length treatment of precisely these issues (McTaggart, time, cosm arg, etc.), so I wonder, Have you read that book?

Codgitator said...

Ray:

5. a. How could a B-theorist parse this (GB): "G said, 'I've changed my mind on x: I've come to believe x after having held y'"? Surely GB is describable in a B-theory lexicon, yet it is irreducibly tensed. b. IOW, how can anyone use tensed grammar in a B-series universe? Whither tense?

Codgitator said...

And a big hear hear to Michael Brazier. Why debate across incommensurate metaphysics? Until critics of Aristhomism stop giving mere lip service to its first principles ("Yeah yeah, act vs. potency, I get it, whatever, let's talk about an evil god...."), dialogue is vacuous. By a show of hands, how many commenters in this thread have actually read Aristotle's Physics? 'Kay, well, yeah. Forcing is in that book that Aristotle argues against the actual existence of infinity. Indeed, infinity on Aristhomism might be called a pinch-hitter, placeholder word for sheer potency. (Ponder the link between "the mind boggles" and "endless computation".) It is STILL the M.O. of his detractors to reify the infinite, even though the scientistic heirs of Democritus and Zeno insist actual facts should trump mere conceptions. "We can imagine an endless Oresme, therefore it might as well exist." (o_.)

Codgitator said...

ERRATA:

I'm either doomed for obscurity or destined for greatness, based on this one bizarre fact: my smartphone replaced a typo of "series" with "Oresme". #nerdistry #ThePhiliad

As for "Forcing it", I meant "For it". #laboroflove

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - Ray Plantinga's and Swinburn's ID "god" has no place here.

Codgitator invited me to post an argument for atheism. So I did.

I'm aware of (at least the basics of) the A-T framework, but that argument wasn't aimed directly at that framework. (Which, to be fair, I should have made more plain; but I posted it late, before bed.)

To tackle the sort of A-T seen around here, you have to find problems with the positive arguments, like questioning the premises or finding gaps in the logic. The b-series bit is looking at one of the premises.

goddinpotty said...

@Codgitator: There is no knowable universe apart from personhood (again, I'll don my 3D goggles to watch you show me otherwise)

True enough. But that doesn't mean that pesonhood is metaphysically fundamental.

In other words, while any perceived universe necessarily has to contain a perceiver, that doesn't imply that any such universe had to be *created* by the same kind of entity.

Again, it's a question of whether you think a "person" is the kind fo thing that was there from the beginning of existence, or is something that is a late emergent production of a largely impersonal process. The latter appears to be more consonant with the findings of science. If life was made by a person rather than a blind, impersonal, and random process, than that person is extraordinarily cruel and careless.

BenYachov said...

@Ray

I would be the last person to tell you what you can or cannot do on Prof Feser's blog. It's not my house.

We Thomists are for the most part Atheists against Swinburne's, Paley's and Plantinga's view of God.

So polemics against any such God are non-starters.

As long as you realize that we can have a discussion.

BenYachov said...

>If life was made by a person rather than a blind, impersonal, and random process, than that person is extraordinarily cruel and careless.

God is not a "person" unequivocally compared to a human person anymore than God is a moral agent.

Seriously enough of the Paley Theistic Personalist s*** "deity".

Nobody here believes in that stupid thing.

Attack the Thomistic God or confess Him.

There is no third choice.

Ray Ingles said...

Eduardo - You didn't copy and post where I discussed free will.

goddinpotty said...

If God isn't a person, but some ineffable abstraction, then atheists don't really have a quarrel with it. There is some x such that x is the ultimate and absolute ground of being? Why not? But then don't go attributing personal attributes like love and anger to that x, or asserting that x has some deep concern and strong preferences about what humans do with their genitalia.

Eduardo said...

I figured as much ... but I suppose you don't even need your argument to refute said religions.... just to show that there is no free will would bury them.

BenYachov said...

>If God isn't a person, but some ineffable abstraction, then atheists don't really have a quarrel with it.

What about a Third Alternative? God is a Transcendent Unknowable Unfathomable Intelligence analogous to a human person in that He has Intellect and Will but not unequivocally so?

>There is some x such that x is the ultimate and absolute ground of being? Why not?

Exactly!

>But then don't go attributing personal attributes like love and anger to that x,

Love in God is merely His "willing the good" it's not some emotional sentiment like a human & anger in God is nothing more then his "will to Justice".

God is compared analogously to his creatures not unequivocally or wholly equivocally.

>or asserting that x has some deep concern and strong preferences about what humans do with their genitalia.

Rather God created things to move toward their natural end. Acting contrary to nature is harmful.

Eating food by putting it up your nose is a bad idea. Anal Sodomy is objectively unhealthy even in a godless universe. Humans are also spiritual creatures and acting contrary to the will of God is unhealthy for the Spirit.

Dude your Cosmic Santa Clause Anthropomorphic "god" has nothing to do with the historical Catholic Christian, Eastern Orthodox, early reformers & or Orthodox Jewish Classical view of God.

We believe here in the God of Abraham and Aquinas.

Anonymous said...

Huh, more genitalia concerns from goddinpotty.

btw, we are not saying God is not a person. We are saying God is not unequivocally a person. God, according to classical theism and to Catholicism, can, say, love. He is love. This follows from the fact that he is pure act.

BenYachov said...

I bet dollars to donuts goddinpotty literally believes God is either Cosmic Gandalf, a disembodied but unequivocally human like mind with unlimited magical preternatural powers or a Q like alien from Star Trek The Next Generation.

Dude you have so much brain dead bullshit to unlearn before you can even begin to be an Atheist towards Our God.

Start by burning your copy of THE GOD DELUSION and forgetting all it's lame arse arguments.

You have so much to unlearn to become a real Atheist guy.

Arthur said...

"If God isn't a person, but some ineffable abstraction..."

I can't claim to speak for the Thomists here, GIP, but I'll suggest that this is a hasty dilemma. I've heard this kind of thing before atheists all over the place, so it seems worth discussing.

Firstly, surely Thomists don't think that God is entirely "ineffable" in the first place. Indeed, they discover His attributes through argument and discuss them. If you think that they should consider God "ineffable", I'd like to know why.

You also seem to be missing the distinction between univocal comparison and analogy. No-one (here, at least) is saying that God is straightforwardly a person, nor is it straightforwardly the case that He "isn't a person". Think of it as logical overlap rather than a yes/no thing.

Like I say, I'm not a Thomist myself and I'm only giving my understanding of the Thomist position.

Eduardo said...

We are assured that God would never, ever betray us or do anything remotely evil. God's 'nature' is such that It has never done, nor will It ever do, evil. It follows, therefore, that God does not possess free will
____________________________

Wrong .... just because one doesn't do something does not follows that one couldn't do it.

I think your critique does seem to be a average critique of a Personalist type ... don't know how it flies with classical theism.

The whole problem is that how can we argue without end up on mystery of G*d's nature of the Mystery of Its deeds.

--------------------------------
If God can define 'good' and 'evil' however It likes, then of course there's no problem with God always being 'good' - 'good' is whatever God does by definition. Ordering people to kill babies isn't immoral if God does it (1 Samuel 15:3, Joshua 10:40). But now we simply have the ultimate case of "might makes right". There's no real difference between "Speed Limit 55" and "Thou shalt not kill" except that presumably God enforces Its rules better.

_________________________________

So the thing here is that morality is relative to a certain measure, in other words, we see if it is in acordance to G*d's word or Its Nature. Now you are sort of pressuposing that man have no freedom after all. G*d doesn't necessarily enforce Its will all the time, and the Nazis was not in accordance with G*d's word, c'mon is not use whatever G*d do as example but use the Word as your guide towards morality. you are confusing things, although I see why you going there.

-----------------------------------

This isn't terribly satisfying to me and many others, though apparently some monotheists aren't bothered by it. So far as I can see, in this case the only difference between a 'good' action and an 'evil' one is God's arbitrary whim. Even if you assume that God can't change Its mind now, there's no reason why It couldn't have decided that torturing children was the greatest 'good'. God just didn't happen to have chosen that way.

__________________________________

Well I guess people go with, "it is Its creation."; it is not amazingly nice for me too, but if G*d gives, G*d takes. Of course that "type" of personalist G*d anyways. Now the whole thing is that eventually I will fall into some kind of Craig defense of genocide or something like that, but about the this whole thing of morals are what G*d chooses is not entirely "wrong" or incoherent.

___________________________________


Just an addendum to thiss whole problem of understanding what G*d has done, that problem of "Wow have no idea why G*d did that way!!!".

The problem is that you have to understand ( not that might be possible, but let's just pretend it is ) how G*d sees the Universe. I mean, we complain, and in my opinion rightfully so, when G*d does things that we consider evil, buuuut, there is one thing. Things that you see as unbearably evil might look to G*d as something absolutly normal just like letting your children have their teeth taken off ( the first ones which I can't remember the name ).

Sooo, let's say that there is another life since it is a Christian belief/doctrine as well, G*d decides that a person may die, which i unbearable to most of us ( some people are sociopathic in nature sooo ... ) but to G*d the whole thing is just a small trip from this to the other life, It didn't eliminate you, nor It did driven by the need to hurt it's creation. I mean it might be bad to us, but in the long run... who knows ( see we always fall in to some kind of a mystery part ).

Eduardo said...

was too big... continuation


Well anyways, I see the whole point, of course the arguments seem to have some drive against the Personalisst version, dunno know with the rest really, but I think the problem is to understand how G*d sees the world, or to have a general idea what G*d "sees".

So my personal opinion to solve this ( the whole especulation and ad hoc that show up a long the discussions ) is to systematically test out ideas of G*d, you know work with characteristics of G*d ,until you find something that makes sense. If nothing makes sense, then we can just say that there is either No G*d or if there is we have absolutelly no idea what It would be

Daniel Smith said...

I have a rather simplistic take on the "problem of evil" and I'd like some criticism of it...

1. If God is ultimate being/good, then no other being exists who is also ultimate being/good (else God is not God.)

2. All other beings therefore are less than ultimate being/good

3. Evil is a privation of good.

4. All other beings therefore are evil to some extent.

5. There is no "problem of evil".

Eduardo said...

Daniel

The Problem of Evil is "class" or argument that says something like this

A can't exist since B exists and B generates some inconsistency in the existency of A

Of courssse the are tons of different types of problem of evil .... the evidence is Ray's argument of evil which really is NOT an argument of Evil. Evil just play an important role on the Posteriori defense.

So the problem Evil is:

God exists
Evil exists
Evil ( some "model" of it) contradicts the model of God

Conclusion : God doesn't exist

Or evil does not exist, but usually there is more then just Evil and God

JA said...

I would only echo and emphasize a point made by others and Professor Feser: approaching classical theism and classical philosophical thought from the view of modern philosophy is a considerable mistake.

Take all this talk about the PSR, for instance. The reason that it is irrelevant to classical philosophy is because the ancients began from a different starting point. The moderns center philosophy on the human person, thus turning persons into subjects who must reflect the objects of nature in the mind as if it were a mirror. This move leads to epistemological skepticism and the need for doctrines like the PSR. The ancients, on the other hand, centered philosphy in nature or the One/First Cause/God/etc. From this approach, epistemology and metaphysics are not easily separable and to know something is to participate in its reality--in its being--rather than mirror it in the mind. This is certainly the way that Aquinas thinks of it. For him, there are no things, no "objects"--that's a creation of Ockham (there are only discrete particular singulars) and Descartes (the creation of the object as a discrete thing outside the mind). For Aquinas, there are relations. All things are really composites: of form and matter, neither of which exists on their own, but in a unity of distinctions through relation; of essence as the unity and relation of substance and accident; and of anything instantiated as the unity of existence and essence. To know about these relations that stand apart from us is to participate in them, not mirror the object in our minds. In reality, this is a trinitarian metaphysics: harmonious unity of distinctions within relation that would not exist independently. All reality thus mirrors God in this respect.

Possession of absolute and final knowledge is not the goal of knowing, but interpenetration, experience, and participation. Classical theism then rejects epistemological skepticism as frivolous because it begins with very different assumptions about the philosophic enterprise, anthropology, and knowledge: instead of the nihilism of making man the "measure of all things" who must possess absolute knowledge in order to dominate nature and rule as a god against God, classical theists embrace their finitude as the opportunity to endlessly participate in the mystery of reality as it mirrors God through analogy.

And so this is the problem for the atheists here: Until one understands the assumptions, the drives, and the spirit animating these different views, one will be unable to bridge the gap, as it were.

goddinpotty said...

@JA -- that was very nice, and made a lot more sense to me than a lot of the material here. That's probably because the view of the mind as a mirror of reality has been under attack by other people than Aristotleans -- eg from pragmatists like Rorty and a variety of people working around the idea of embodied cognition. So you don't need to be a theist or a classicist to cure yourself of that particular idea.

JA said...

gip,

I'm glad you liked it.

One does not need be a classical thinker to criticize the mind as a mirror of nature, but there is a stark difference between them and postfoundationalists, postmoderns, and poststructuralists. The former consider the move to modern philosophy a gross error and are thus not bound to it. The latter will have nothing but modern thought. If they can't have that then would rather have whatever is left after the pomo scourgings are done and through, which isn't much of anything but "critique." Part of this is because they mistakingly project modern categories onto classical thought, as has been the tendency by some of the commentators here. Another part is just sheer ignorance and a bluff and dismissive attitude toward what is viewed as antiquarian and odd. But, at least I think, much of it is that moderns do not want to relinquish a human-centered philosophy that makes "man the measure of all things" and enables an amoral technologization of nature. I'll save this Heideggerian criticism for another time though.

SR said...

@JA and godinpotty,

Owen Barfield would agree completely to how you (JA)characterize the difference between the Thomist and the modern points of view, in particular the role that participation plays -- and doesn't play for the moderns. However, where he would disagree is that we cannot completely go back to the Thomist view. For according to Barfield (see his Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry for the reasoning), the loss of participation was not just a matter of theory, but of experience. We no longer consciously participate with the objects of our senses as we used to, which is why modern philosophy could be accepted, and why science was able to bust out all over. If you want to know where philosophy should be headed, you would need to understand this evolutionary process, of going from original participation (the kind that medievals still had an inkling of), to our present state of being unconscious of our participation, to final participation (not final in the sense of the end of evolution, but in the sense of the end of our current state of separation.)

Of course, the moderns have an even greater need for this understanding.

Aquinas3000 said...

Eduardo,

The problem is your definition of evil as "the privation of good." If that were true then Aquinas says it would be "evil" for a man to not be as strong as an ass or fast as a lion. Evil is the privation of a good that ought to be there or of a due good not merely the lack of good.

Eduardo said...

ahhaha not really my definition.

Well I see the huge difference between these two definitions but since I have not extensively read about Aquinas * the accurate claim would be, I haven't read anything *, I can only think of more "Human" cconcepts

BenYachov said...

>Evil is the privation of a good that ought to be there or of a due good not merely the lack of good.

That is why a blind man is suffering an evil for his lack of sight but a rock, which also lacks sigh, is not suffering evil.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

[BTW, I want to apologize if I've lowered the quality of the conversation at this blog by being humorous or too terse. I've been trying to work on not sounding not a blowhard, and maybe have gone too far in the other direction. Plus, I think good wit is, if not the better part of wisdom, at least a fruit of it. I feel comfortable at this blog, so at times I like loosening my collar with a little Zorbatic zaniness. This blog has a uniquely advanced and civil quality of interaction, and I think we're privileged for such a venue. Thanks to many of your making these comboxes a rarity: a parlor of more light than heat in most cases. So, again, apologies if I'm been too recondite. I almost never intentionally write to be snarky, and my lapses are, I hope, just lapses.]

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

ERROR:

*not sounding LIKE a blowhard

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

(But if anybody calls for a group hug, I'll cut your eyelids off!) ;)

BenYachov said...

>BTW, I want to apologize if I've lowered the quality of the conversation at this blog by being humorous or too terse.


I liked it! But then again look whose talking!;-)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Oh, I'm not recanting all of it, I just wanted to keep my tone on point.

I figure if you can't laugh, you can't think. #zombies

Eduardo said...

Let's just Hope that Zach a.k.a. mister Rational comes back to saves us ALL!!!

Ray Ingles said...

Eduardo - "just because one doesn't do something does not follows that one couldn't do it."

My statement was in the context of Lewis' claim that "Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot." In other words, if there is free will, then there is the possibility of evil".

Thus, if there is no possibility of evil, then there is no free will. It's an argument of the form,

P->Q
!Q
Therefore, !P

There is no possibility of God doing evil, therefore... (As I note elsewhere in the argument, if heaven is to be free of evil, this also implies that free will won't be present there, either.)

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - IOW, how can anyone use tensed grammar in a B-series universe? Whither tense?

In a b-series universe, tense is a relative, not an absolute. For your example, you'd express it in b-series terms as something like "At time a, I hold opinion alpha, at subsequent time b, my opinion is beta."

Relativity seems most naturally interpreted in terms of a b-series; depending on motion, you experience different 'slices' of the b-series.

Ray Ingles said...

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie - You can read Feser himself in TLS where he notes that Aquinas didn't think there was a fundamental problem with an "accidentally ordered series" going back 'forever' or 'infinitely' in time. His problem was with "essentially ordered series".

if Time stretches for an infinite number of years into the past, then it also stretches for a more than infinite number of months into the past which is clearly absurd.

Nope, sorry.

Infinite quantities are counterintuitive but that doesn't mean they are inherently contradictory. For example, there's an infinite number of integers. There's also an infinite number of real numbers (numbers with a decimal fraction after the decimal point). And it's possible to show that there are more real numbers than integers. Yes, there are different classes of infinity.

(For real fun, look up Hilbert's Hotel - which, while seriously counterintuitive, isn't actually contrary to logic.)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ray:

A. "Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot."

B. "Some people think they can imagine a creature which is able to know absolutely everything about itself even before it had been born; I cannot."

C. "Some people think they can imagine a creature which was able to make a stone so large it couldn't lift it; I cannot."

I was not aware Lewis thought of God as a creature.

Oh. (o_.)

Finite creatures are by nature subject to corruption and change, which are marks of the indeterminacy required for free will. Such mutability is not a bad per se, since we were CREATED THAT WAY. It does become bad, though, once our nature implodes, falls in on itself, which is fundamentally what Original Sin means (cf. Luther's curvatus in se, or my own analogy of an ingrown toenail). The life we know now as human history/culture is nothing more than human nature left to its own devices. And they are devices which we are still FREE to pursue: good or evil means to good or evil ends.

All the same, our freedom is still a pale, pale (not Paley!) analogy, more dissimilar than similar, of God's freedom. The analogical cord that runs through both modes of freedom, however, is this: the power to do good. A man who is susceptible to the possibility as real option for his will is ipso facto not as free as he could be. Liberty of indifference is a so to speak 'concession' to finite being, since such liberty is the only way in which creatures like us can participate in God's own freedom. We can't be made to will absolutely only evil, since we'd be as nonexistent as evil itself, AND NOT EVEN GOD CAN CREATE THE UNCREATABLE, OF WHICH CLASS EVIL IS A MEMBER. Nor could we be made to will absolutely only good from our first instant, since that level of good-will requires perfect knowledge of what good is and perfect power to attain it. Only God has those such knowledge and power, but of course God IS UNCREATED.

We're getting in extremely deep waters here, but the Beatific Vision is the mystery by humans have their intellect and therefore will filled with the unmediated glory of God and thus, in diversely proportionate degrees, find literally nothing repugnant in God which might tempt or distract them from willing good by willing communion with Him. There is nevertheless genuine liberty involved, based not on the earthly indeterminism (between good or evil, or, as is more often the case, between imperfectly known goods), but rather on an indeterminism with respect to an infinitude of perfectly intelligible overlapping goods. Buridan's Ass is irrelevant in this case, since the two metaphorical carrots he imagined were imperfect goods, and thus imperfect objects of the rational appetite.

I'll shut up now with a simple analogy:

You ever play Portal? Ever chase yourself or jump down after yourself in a portal loop? The beatific Vision is like that, I'd say: being perfectly drawn to God in any one of His myriad perfections would pull us through one portal only to find ourselves faced with another portal of similarly attractive power. Indeed, you don't even have to keep running, since beholding one perfection is just as compelling as pursuing any others. That we literally can't fathom a PERFECTLY AND ENDLESSLY GOD WORLD is our problem not God's, and is one more sign of what the reality of Original Sin means.

DNW said...

" My statement was in the context of Lewis' claim that "Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot." In other words, if there is free will, then there is the possibility of evil".

Thus, if there is no possibility of evil, then there is no free will. It's an argument of the form,

P->Q
!Q
Therefore, !P

There is no possibility of God doing evil, therefore... (As I note elsewhere in the argument, if heaven is to be free of evil, this also implies that free will won't be present there, either.)
April 26, 2012 8:42 AM "



It may seem simplistic to say so, but if you define evil as a moral category, I don't see why this necessarily follows.

Natural "evil" then would be privation, decomposition, destruction and conceptually, nothingness, as apprehended by a moral being.

Moral evil would be the direction of such phenomena by one moral being at other moral beings ... probably, usually, for somekind of aggrandizement.

If you deny any real distinction between "moral beings" and the material in which they are imbedded, then evil of course disappears and moral nihilism follows.

But conceptually, and from a commonsense point of view, a relative vacuum or absence within the framework of what generally is, would be necessary for any change to take place. A unity could experience no change, according to ordinary definitions.

It seems, that in the usual way of thinking about it, absences and voids are necessary for anything to take place or rearrange. Imagine trying to move around precision formed one inch cubes completely filling a cubic foot box.


A Christian might say that nothingness is a fire only God can play with without performing "evil". Kind of a forbidden fruit to contingent beings - from that perspective.

It's one thing when nature sends a moral being out of being; it experiences an evil but is not done one by a peer.

One monkey send another into the nothingness and it's another matter.

Unless you think it's all mere matter; and it makes no matter how it is arranged.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ray:

"At time a, I hold opinion alpha, at subsequent time b, my opinion is beta."

[Who or what and especially when is this 'I' that is speaking of relative times from a present perspective?]

Eduardo said...

Ray

I suppose if, the laws have no context and apply all the time everywhere into reality, and humans maintain their overall perception of reality even in Heaven, and maybe some other assumptions. Yeah I would agree with you.

Well about not being able to do evil is rather detrimental to free will. But is doesn't eliminate free will completely. Well I don't know. Like I said before, I had to analize all "types" of G*d in order to come to something conclusive instead of just perhaps A or perhaps B remarks

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

ERRATA:

"A man who is susceptible to the possibility of EVIL as a real option for his will is ipso facto not as free as he OTHERWISE could be."

"ENDLESSLY GOOD WORLD"

IOW, we're the freest things in the universe at this point, but that still ain't much of a feather in our caps.

Alyosha said...

"O Dawkins, where is your Stenger? O Coyne, where is your Victor?"

The allusion to 1 Corinthians 15:55 here was brilliant.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Alyosha:

So true! Like I said, if wit and a splash of vinegar now and then aren't allowed in philosophy, I'd just get an MBA and drink Tiger's Blood. Now that I think about it, though, the unexpected bursts of humor I've found so many times in academic texts kept me going for years.

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - You could read the whole linked essay. A not completely random sentence from it:

One possible response is that Lewis specifically meant the word
"creature" (that is, something created) rather than the more generic
term "being".

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ray:

I will read it, now that I see you're hanging you're hat on it. I mean this genuinely: I, like most people, get so many links tossed at me on a daily basis, that I've become mostly inured to their function. Honestly, most of the time when I see a link, I think things like "argumentum ad verecundiam", "hoping to hide behind someone smarter?", "so he admits he's said it better elsewhere yet he keeps chatting HERE", etc. So I apologize, I did not know it was one of your ACTUALLY important links. Maybe a new custom can emerge whereby general links are given for fact checking or supplementary details, but crucial, argumentative, you-must-read-this-to-get-me links can be bracketed in asterisks, or something.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

BTW, if it turns out that your citation of Lewis shows he claimed God COULD perform evil, it's not going to mean much. Lewis was a Protestant and therefore only imperfectly joined to the Church. His rhetorical and apologetical skills are on thing; his occasional flare bursts of heresy quite another. (The same goes for other role models of mine who, nonetheless, are "in the doghouse" now and then: Plantinga and Inwagen at ND.) IOW, you too could engage the substance of what I wrote, perhaps and preferably after reading the latest Catholic Catechism about evil and free will. Cf. §§1731–1734, 1739–1742. ** http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm **

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Lest I forget to mention it, Ray, one of the best ways one can find his way into the Church is by arguing against much of the best of Protestantism. Honestly––and with trepidation, given recent flare-ups about this issue––I won't say it speaks well of your philosophical prowess that you commonly cite Lewis and Russell as key references for your args (indeed, I'm inclined to say Russell just was Yin to Chesterton's Yang, and that McTaggart was their incestuous offspring, as it were), but it does very well of your value as an interlocutor that you cite guys like them. Once you start tackling Aristotle, Basil, Augustine, Anselm, other great Scholastics, Trent, and the recent Catechism––then, and only then, shall I start to think you're on your way home. Till then, keep bappin' dem Prots!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Meanwhile, Ray, must I keep assuming that you're naive to the REAL thrust of McTaggart's B-series, etc.? As I see it: we have a materialist (a Yin-monist) citing an absolute idealist (a Yang-monist) against theistic dualism (the Yin-Yang, happy medium, mama porridge, 中庸 of ontology).

Howzat?

(o_.)

I'm not very savvy with #memes but I KNOW there's a #rageface begging to be deployed here.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

IOW.

Anonymous said...

Codgitator,

I don't mind the levity. We all need that kind of break now and then. What bothers a budding Thomist like myself is the wholly inadequate replies to the resident skeptics. Until literally weeks ago, I was a mechanistic IDer until I stumbled upon this site. I quickly purchased and read Dr. Feser's Aquinas and The Last Superstitition. I have been trying to "devour" this site for information, but the concepts are so new I find myself having a difficult time wrapping my brain around all of it.

What would help those of us newbies in the background are more detailed replies. Even if the skeptic you're replying to refuses to be helped, your replies (and those of other regulars here) are immensely valuable to novices. Even a link to what you've previously written (to avoid repeating yourself) would be a great help.

I am not saying you always do this. I've been so impressed by many of your replies, I regularly look for them in every new thread.

Thank you for your contributions and a big thank you to all of the regulars here. I'll get there eventually.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ray:

My first nab:

Your premise 5 and conclusion 4: "At least one logically consistent possible universe meets God's standards. … The only universes God will make will be universes that satisfy God's standards for universes."

What if THEY ALL MEET HIS GOAL?

Did you read Ben's link to Magee's piece on the best of all possible worlds?

See if you can dig up Liccione's piece on a similar theme, and, especially, Liccione's piece on creation and mystery in Aquinas.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

No, Ray, I'm afraid I see mad misfires as soon as you delve into refuting Lewis, after having laid out your premies.

Effectively, you're faulting Lewis for conclusions he didn't draw from your opening syllogism. (o_.)

"Of course God knew what would happen if [free creatures] used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk.

"Perhaps we feel inclined to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty in disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on."

Where does Lewis say God has power to "do" evil?

I think, once again, like most naturalists, you are reifying what is actually a logical dsitinction. There is evil but evil IS not. I.e. empirically the world is such that its created capacity for good is diminished, skewed, but that does not entail logically that the diminution of created order is itself a tangible stuff. We "see" evil in the world by seeing inadequacy in the world. This, however, is rather like saying e see the luminiferous ether when we see photon propagation. No. We see evil as our forbears "saw" the ether: it's an unreal abstraction from what doesn't make sense to us. The better (Einsteinian?) path is to reduce "evil" to a theoretical glitch.

That's deep, and I need to sleep, so I'm sorry again for being recondite.

Daniel Smith said...

Eduardo: So the problem Evil is:

God exists
Evil exists
Evil ( some "model" of it) contradicts the model of God

Conclusion : God doesn't exist


I'm going to assume either that you didn't read my argument OR that I stated it so poorly that you couldn't understand it - because my argument boils down to this...

If the God of classical theism exists, then evil must exist.

Jesus said "only God is good". Jesus was a classical theist.

There is no problem of evil.

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - You don't have to refute it; like I said, it isn't aimed directly at the type of A-T theism here. I just ask that if you do, you read the whole thing first. :)

Eduardo said...

Perhaps is more... I am not understanding what you mean ???


Ohhhh right, SO GIVEN that a classical theist G*d exists ... alright. Then I think it could be said in that way. Dr Feser once spoke something about argument of Evil wayyyyy baaaaacckkkk when a women ( a secular conservative ) was talking about religion and G*d.

So it should be there somewhere in the first year of the Blog I think

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

Ray

I've read TLS enough times to know without looking that the section you're talking about (in Getting Medieval, right?) doesn't support the assertion: "And Thomists can accept an infinite regress in one direction."

As Michael Brazier very clearly explained there is a difference between accidentally-ordered series and essentially-ordered series. And an accidentally-ordered series doesn't introduce an infinite regress because each member of the series has its causal powers independently of the the operation (or even existence) of prior members.

Just because Aquinas didn't believe he could prove a beginning of time doesn't mean you can claim he accepted infinite regress into the past.

Thanks for your links about Cantor's arguments: counter-intuitive is one description, controversial might be better. Either way I don't see how it responds to anything I wrote. I took care to be clear that scholastics would, following Aristotle, insist that no existing quantity could be infinite. Existing as in actual.

Since what is infinite is greater than any determinations, an actual or fully determinate or definite infinite quantity is a logical self-contradiction. Yet Quine showed that Cantor presupposes that infinites were already definite; this may not be justified. To avoid this Cantor must be read as either (a) addressing potential infinities; or (b) redefining sets previously considered infinite as definite or so-called "transfinite".

Maybe one of the mathematicians (paging grodrigues?) could correct my mistakes and add colour, but basically you still haven't supported the idea that "[...] Thomists can accept an infinite regress in one direction."

goddinpotty said...

@JA there is a stark difference between them and postfoundationalists, postmoderns, and poststructuralists.

Well yeah, they are coming from very different places, but the points of commonality are interesting.

There is a broad spiritual element lurking in all of those post-toasties. The embodied cognition people tend to Buddhism. If modernism is a failed attempt to replace spirit with reason, then postmodernism may be seen as an effort to salvage something from the wreckage. Despite the problems with this I prefer it to trying to return to classical point of view. Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together again, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Re: "So the ultimate explanation of things (so the argument goes) can in principle only be that whose essence just is existence, something which is subsistent being itself."

Yes, exactly. This is the Biblical "I am that I am." The essence of the supreme Principle is that it "is" absolutely.

So, in short, the absolutely Real is alone that which cannot not be. This is actually self-evident to the intelligence, and in fact it is its very pivot. One could say it is the essential content of "the light that shineth in every man," since the essence of the knowledge of the Logos is the Knowledge of God, which is communicated to the spiritual kernel in man as imagio Dei. That is why men "have no excuse."

Cale B.T. said...

"Dude your Cosmic Santa Clause "Anthropomorphic "god" has nothing to do with the historical Catholic Christian, Eastern Orthodox, early reformers & or Orthodox Jewish Classical view of God."

Ben Yachov, I am not deliberately attempting to be quarrelsome, but how do you reconcile passages like Genesis 6:6, Ephesians 4:30 and 2 Chronicles 36:16, (to name but a few) with your view of God not being a moral agent? Do you dismiss these as "crude anthropomorphisms"?

I am just trying to get a handle on Aristotelean/Thomistic theology, but at the moment I can't help agreeing with Alister McGrath that, for example the doctrine of the impassibility of God is "an example of the influence of a Hellenistic milieu upon Christian... ...which clearly suggests a subordination of a biblical to a philosophical version of God".

And, before you ask, yes I have read TLS. Oh, and P.S. Paley's Natural Theology is much-maligned ;)

Cale B.T. said...

Codgitator:

"Howzat?

(o_.)

I'm not very savvy with #memes but I KNOW there's a #rageface begging to be deployed here."

Try this instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfFQ7d3GqEE

E.H. Munro said...

70s ANZAC music is awful, Cale. Well, aside from these guys...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAoiZL7dHkY

Anonymous said...

Anonymous -- re: Russell and logic v. philosophy

Yes, you do raise an interesting question. Perhaps Duns Scotus can help.

As best I remember, for Scotus the "transcendentals" (being and unity, truth, goodness, beauty) are notions which are about all possible beings. Hence their extension covers everything. (You might call them super-universal notions.)

There are three disciplines which cover everything -- metaphysics is about the transcendentals in themselves, logic is about reasoning about everything, and philosophy of language is about saying what can be said about everything.

Perhaps the problem is the name of philosophy departments -- they should be called "Departments of Transcendental Disciplines".

Sorry I don't have a reference for this -- I learned it about 50 years ago in a course of Fr. Allan Wolter's. You might check out his writings for more.

Anonymous said...

All cosmological arguments are nonsense because they extrapolate our experience of causality to an area where we have no reason to think it applies. To apply causal laws to an area where there were no laws (because nothing existed before the universe existed), to claim that because everything inside the universe is subject causality you can apply causality outside the universe is nonsensical speculation.

Indeed the notion causality in play here is absurd. All instances of causality we no of occur when an event preceeds another, where the cause is a material object and where the thing created is made out of pre existing material. Here the cause does not preceed the effect and we are invited to believe that a non material mind magically 'caused' a material object (the universe) out of no pre existing stuff.

Theists often say that something popping into existance uncaused out of nothing is absurd because nothing has no potentiality. But then they say that the universe popped into existance out of nothing because God did it! Lolwhut?! He did it using a magical notion of 'causality' that violates all our previous experience. No wonder nobody takes you seriously. You people are advocating magic! The universe was made by a magic man with super powers! And of course, all instances of design by an intentional agent occur where the mind is inside time and space. There is no evidence that a mind could exist outside of time. Yet another example of something it is clearly incoherent and violates our previous experience.

Even worse-if we were grant that your magic man was real it simply doesn't follow that the impregnated a virgin 2000 years ago to father himself so that he gets tortured to death and worshipped in the cult of human sacrifice that is Christianity.

If someone started whispering over a piece of bread believing that it would turn into the body of Elvis we would regard him as insane. But when people do the same thing thinking that they're dining on the meat of desert preacher it's accapetable? You should be ashamed of yourselves.

There is no evidence that Christianity is true. Your god is a projection of human ideals onto a mindless universe. And Even granting that the universe was made by an agent with super powers the move from that to the bizare doctrines of christianity is untenable. Grow up.

Peter said...

Mr Krauss responded to David Albert's article here: (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/has-physics-made-philosophy-and-religion-obsolete/256203/).
He concedes that he may have been rude and given the wrong impression, but that "something from nothing" was really just about physics, and was not intended, nor very effective, as an argument for God's non-existence.

Eduardo said...

Not all cosmological arguments are based in causality, so Anon must be talking abouto the kalam in the case. Physics is also nonsense extrapolating laws thatvwere found in some obkects to all objects, other atuff that os nonsense is weellll all historical sciences and thinkng that peoPla have Pasts because I did. When should we think that it is justified to extrapolate ????? What are the reasons tO think the extrapolation is wrong ???? Or is this just, we must be atuck to our most direct experience in order to believe in something ????

Actually God existed before the universe, is this not a critique of a theistic argument??? Is nonsense to tAlk about the universe which i scomposed of all contingent objects and say that because you group them, they are not bound to causation. Well there are works on metaphysics to reply to your metaphysical claim, and who cares what you believe or doesnt believe ?

Theists say that god is pure action, the unmoved mover, God didnt transformed nothing into something, because nothing ia not a thing seee. Use of straw men wont help you really. Yeah the beginning of the universe by anything is not within our experiences, i thought that much should be obvious.

So it mustnt be God because the argument doesnt show that it impregnated a virgin ???? That is it ??? A pseudo refutation ? Congratz I think

You come here just speaking crap and you wanna tell prlple how they should feel about themselvrs ????? You my dear asshole should be ashamed of you!!!

Grow up anon, take your intimidation to your mother or your equally stupid friends If you actually have any

byebye n_n!!!

Arthur said...

"To apply causal laws to an area where there were no laws (because nothing existed before the universe existed)..."

Surely this is question-begging. That something existed before the Universe existed (namely, God) is precisely what theists are disagreeing with you about.

"...if we were grant that your magic man was real it simply doesn't follow that the impregnated a virgin 2000 years ago..."

So? No-one's saying that the Cosmological Argument alone is sufficient to believe that. Oh, and no theist worth talking to will tell you that God is a "magic man". The comparison is analogous, not univocal. But something tells me you don't know what that means.

"There is no evidence that Christianity is true."

You mean apart from all the argument of thinkers like Aquinas and Feser? Let me guess; those aren't "real" arguments, right? That's easily said.

Cale B.T. said...

"You come here just speaking crap and you wanna tell prlple how they should feel about themselvrs ????? You my dear asshole should be ashamed of you!!!"

Grow up anon, take your intimidation to your mother or your equally stupid friends If you actually have any"

Eduardo, as He who has called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

machinephilosophy said...

"clearly suggests a subordination of a biblical to a philosophical version of God"

The problem is that YOU are the one doing the reasoning about this and making the pronouncements. To use reason to argue that the Bible says X is to use a higher criteria than the Bible to justify making that move in inference. In fact, any argument for the Bible being the word of God is itself necessarily held to be higher in epistemic authority than the Bible itself. That's why arguments are attempted, instead of just making claims without them.

Arthur said...

"Theists often say that something popping into existance uncaused out of nothing is absurd because nothing has no potentiality.
If you're trying to use Aristotelean terms here, I think you should say "actuality", not "potentiality".

"But then they say that the universe popped into existance out of nothing because God did it!"
Surely not "out of nothing", but "out of God". The difference being that, in Thomist, God is pure act, whereas the Universe is a composite of potency and act.

"He did it using a magical notion of 'causality' that violates all our previous experience."
I think it's additional to our experience rather than violating it. We experience temporal causation, but I fail to see how we experience that non-temporal causation is impossible.

"The universe was made by a magic man with super powers!"
Can you quote anyone on that? No, of course you can't. It's just a convenient bit of mockery.

"And of course, all instances of design by an intentional agent occur where the mind is inside time and space."
Isn't this is more question-begging?

"There is no evidence that a mind could exist outside of time."
You mean apart from all the argument that Thomists like Feser use? Further, no-one's saying that God's mind is a mind just like ours. As I've mentioned, the comparison is analagous.

"Yet another example of something it is clearly incoherent..."
How so? You've objected on the grounds of "no evidence", but I fail to see any argument for its incoherence.

Eduardo said...

Sorry, Im just tired pf people like anon. Without saying that I am sort of sociopathical, i bet anon is just a knot nuttier than me

BenYachov said...

No worries Cale B.T.

>Ben Yachov, I am not deliberately attempting to be quarrelsome, but how do you reconcile passages like Genesis 6:6, Ephesians 4:30 and 2 Chronicles 36:16, (to name but a few) with your view of God not being a moral agent? Do you dismiss these as "crude anthropomorphisms"?

Protestant Thomist Dr. Norman Geisler said it best & I paraphrase from memory "Just because the Bible says the Lord will enfold you in his wings does not mean God is literally a giant chicken". So yeh they are anthropomorphisms and as Aquinas said the more crude they are is deliberate so the reader will know not to take them
hyper-literally. God's love for me is not a mere emotion it's his will for my ultimate good. His anger is His Will for Justice.etc.

God can freely choose to do temperal goods for us (which he is not obligated to do because he is not a moral agent). If God will's X He must then do X by neccesity.
God's can't change His mind but he can appear to do so by willing conditionally.

>I am just trying to get a handle on Aristotelean/Thomistic theology, but at the moment I can't help agreeing with Alister McGrath that, for example the doctrine of the impassibility of God is "an example of the influence of a Hellenistic milieu upon Christian... ...which clearly suggests a subordination of a biblical to a philosophical version of God".

Catholics reject Sola Scriptura but Dr. Norman Geisler is as much of a Sola Scriptura guy as McGrath and as he shows Neo-Theists(aka his term for Theistic Personalists) do not interpret the Bible appart from philosophy.

He says there is nothing wrong with interpreting the Bible threw the light of philosophy as long as you use a good philosophy. St Clement of Alexandra once said God gave the Torah to the Jews to know him but gave philosophy to the Greeks for the same reason.

Cheers.

Cale B.T. said...

Hi Machinephilosophy, I enjoy your blog a great deal. I am not sure if I fully understood you, especially the last sentence, but I shall attempt to reply.

When I quoted McGrath's phrase, "subordination of a biblical to a philosophical version of God"
I was not attempting to say, "I don't have a philosophy, I just stick with what the Bible says." defense.

I was trying to say that if the Aristotelian picture of God conflicts with that of Scripture, perhaps... so much the worse for Aristotelianism specifically. Not philosophy wholesale.

Sorry again if I have misunderstood you.

Cale B.T. said...

*Ignore the word defense in my previous post
Ben Yachov

"there is nothing wrong with interpreting the Bible threw the light of philosophy as long as you use a good philosophy"

I concur. But I am not convinced that an Aristotelean picture of God does justice to the Biblical data.

Also, Mr. Yachov, I'm pretty sure I remember reading ages ago in a combox that you said the main thing that irked you about the BioLogos guys is that they didn't affirm the existence of a literal Adam. Denis Alexander, who is associated with BioLogos, in his book "Creation and Evolution: Do We Have To Choose?" does affirm the existence of a literal Adam as I am fairly sure the pastor Tim Keller does in his article "Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople". I am not actually that sympathetic to the folk at Biologos, and I'm sorry if this seems like maddening nitpicking, but I just thought I should say it while I have your attention.

P.S. I used to play in a brass band with a Roman Catholic called James Scott. Small world, huh?

SR said...

"There is no evidence that a mind could exist outside of time."
You mean apart from all the argument that Thomists like Feser use? Further, no-one's saying that God's mind is a mind just like ours. As I've mentioned, the comparison is analagous.


But our minds exist outside of time (as well as inside it): otherwise, we could not be aware of time's passage.

BenYachov said...

>I concur. But I am not convinced that an Aristotelean picture of God does justice to the Biblical data.

I doubt Aquinas took everything Aristotle said as gospel either. After all Aristotle believed the world always existed alongside God & had no creation event.

Aquinas agreed with him in so much that he thought you couldn't prove the world had a beginning philosophically you could only know it did via the Bible.

Cheers.

I still love bagging on Theistic Evolutionists who deny a literal Adam. They are as useless as teats on a bull.

I accept Evolution and Adam. It's not a problem.

JA said...

Cale,

Classical theists make a distinction--real, formal, or virtual--between the transcendent Trinity and the economic Trinity, which has the effect of both securing Divine impassibility and the suffering of God. Without this doctrine, one is forced, like many Protestants such as Robert Jenson, to propose a heavily anthropomorphisized God that needed to create, and needed to be incarnated, and needed to be crucified, in order to truly express God's love, goodness, benevolence, and justice. In other words, God is not sufficient within the inner perichoresis of Trinitarian life--and God needs the world as much as we need Him. The result is a quasi-Hegelian approach to Trinitarian thought that has God and the world forming some new synthesis.

Is that philosophical lens for interpreting the Bible better than classical theism?

Further, it really needs to be said that Divine impassibility is not uniquely a conclusion from Aristotelian philosophy. (Really, the assertion that Aquinas was an Aristotelian is extremely problematical. What he did was synthesize elements of the new Aristotelianism of the 13th century with traditional Platonizing Christianity.) This is the conclusion of classical theists of all stripes, including that of the Church Fathers.

BenYachov said...

Cale,

What JA just said simplified to appeal to your Protestant sensibilities.

Salvation is by Grace right? If God needs to save me then I got something on him.

Classic Biblical God doesn't need anything & thus any Salvation He offers is pure grace.

Cheers.

DNW said...

Peter said...

" Mr Krauss responded to David Albert's article here: (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/has-physics-made-philosophy-and-religion-obsolete/256203/).
He concedes that he may have been rude and given the wrong impression, but that "something from nothing" was really just about physics, and was not intended, nor very effective, as an argument for God's non-existence.



Thanks for the link.

After reading the article it looks as though rudeness might be standard operating procedure for Krause.

He thinks he has good positive reasons in some cases.

For example, he's maybe a little rude or provocative toward segments of the public he says, because he wants to wake them up to the awesomeness of whatever it is he believes should evoke feelings of awe in them. So that justifies that.

His reviewer in the Times [presumably Albert] on the other hand, is "moronic" and a "moron" for reasons that are a bit less clear.

Though Albert is apparently a graduate theoretical physicist, he's also a moron nonetheless. Apparently it's because he is currently operating in a field where no one reads anything he would write other than people in the same unimportant field - or possibly other kinds of morons who Krause is sure wouldn't understand what Albert is saying, anyway.

Well, it's good to have it on Krause's authority that we can call people morons if we suspect that their intelligence is less than ours.

Given purely materialist assumptions however, it also seems less than clear why other annoying human defects ought not to qualify for openly expressed scorn as well.

Maybe unbecoming emotionalism in a male, emotionalism of the kind that generates rudeness would deserve a kick. Or maybe even more obviously physical characteristics, such as squint eyes, say, or a thumping nose, qualify for contemptuous mention. Who knows what such characteristics might indicate concerning the quality of someone's thought processes, or what underlying psychological disorders they might signal.

Now I would never go so far as that.

But if one does Krause - who is obviously not the kind of man to think of himself as a moron - the honor of taking him seriously as an example of what is permissible in the way of human evaluation and what is not, there may be something there to consider.

JA said...

gip,

If one were to historicize the late medieval and early modern rejection of classical theism for modern philosophy, one would find that it was less about Humpty Dumpty breaking and more about the politics of the period. Feser discusses this directly in his book, along with other philosophers such as Michael Allen Gillespie, whose recent The Theological Origins of Modernity illustrates this quite well.

I would be remiss at this point if I did not take a knock at analytic philosophers, who need to be faulted for ahistoricity and the consequential inability to question their own absolute assumptions that follows it. A historical perspective is something that both continental and classical philosophers have over them, which is why philosophers from both of those schools tend to view analytic ones as partisans of the Enlightenment who have stuck their fingers in their ears and closed their eyes while their Humpty Dumpties are smashing all around them.

So the challenge for you then is to actually investigate the relevant periods and why classical philosophy was discarded. Then you have to evaluate the arguments (or lack thereof) that justified (or didn't) this shift. Doing philosophy well requires nothing less than both scrutinizing the arguments on their own terms and investigating their historical contingency and the traditions from which they arose.

machinephilosophy said...

Cale,

Sorry, I misunderstood *you* in quoting McGrath. And thanks for the kind words about my blog.

But in that case I would make the same remarks to McGrath, namely that logic and general reason, and therefore philosophy, are *epistemically* basic to belief in God, belief in and interpretation of the Bible, and so on.

In fact, and this is partly in relation to what Ben said about Geisler, Geisler makes a great comment in his book, Christian Apologetics (1976), where he says, "It makes no sense to speak about an *act* of God (i.e., a miracle) confirming that Christ is the *Son* of God and that the Bible is the *Word* of God unless of course there is a God who can have a Son and who can speak a Word. What is more, an adequate test for truth is a methodological prerequisite to establishing theism." (page 7, "Preface")

So Geisler seems to come down on side of the Thomists in his view of God, and then in anything beyond that is sola scriptura.

McGrath, then, seems to conflate ontological priority with epistemic sequencing, and both seem to use "faith" equivocally, whereas the Catholic Thomists use the term "faith" to mean belief in those things which are revealed by God but without specific arguments provided for them. And I think the Catholics have it right on this issue. It's the Protestants and independent Christians who have screwed things up and made "faith" into some kind of beyondananda blik term that can mean just about anything, especially as an excuse to not have to do any thinking and/or ward off objections.

goddinpotty said...

@JA So the challenge for you then is to actually investigate the relevant periods and why classical philosophy was discarded. Then you have to evaluate the arguments (or lack thereof) that justified (or didn't) this shift.

Why do I have to?

There's certainly nothing wrong with devoting oneself to scholarship of cultures that are far away in space or time. But I don't see any particular reason why such knowledge is obligatory, or why I should spend time on Aristotle rather than, say, Mayan cosmology or Tibetan epistemology.

I exaggerate a bit, because obviously Aristiotle has had a more direct influence on my own culture so there's more reason to be familiar with his works. But purely as an system of ideas on its own terms, if it doesn't speak to me, why should I bother with it?

More broadly, I think you are mischaracterizing the shift from classical thought to modernism as driven by "arguments" that can be revisited and reargued. That shift comprised a whole host of related developments in culture, technology, and politics. We live in a different world now and that fact won't be undone because you have some quarrels with Descartes' or Kant's arguments.

JA said...

gip,

This has nothing to do with whether "it speaks to you" or not. Since when did something as fatuously subjective and vacuous as that become the yardstick by which philosophical truth is measured? Rather, you are so obligated because your dismissal of classical thought is based upon the claim that "Despite the problems with this I prefer it to trying to return to classical point of view" because "Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together again." In this, you are making an historical argument, one which I challenged. It will simply not do to shift the reason for your position from "it fell apart in the past" to "it's just not my bag, baby." This just looks pitifully evasive, especially when you generalize by comparing Aristotelianism (instead of classical thought in general, which is what I'm talking about) to other metaphysical traditions based on the premise that these are historically distant.

You also grossly misrepresent my last comment in claiming that I "mischaracterize" the "shift from classical thought to modernism as driven by 'arguments' that can be revisited and reargued." Rather, I claimed that it was "more about the politics of the period" and then in a later point I argued that "Doing philosophy well" requires two things: first, "scrutinizing the arguments on their own terms," and then secondly, "investigating their historical contingency and the traditions from which they arose." In this I clearly separate the arguments themselves from an historical investigation into the circumstances within which those shifts arose.

Finally, you seem to be question begging a radical historicist framework when you argue that certain arguments are irrelevant to us because they are not presently embedded in our cultural, political, and technological ways of life. This perspective represents another suspicious shift in your criteria for evaluation: first you argued that classical thought crashed like "Humpty Dumpty," then you asserted that it doesn't "speak to you," as if philosophy was some quietistic and solipsistic enterprise, and now you claim that "we," as opposed to just you, "live in a different world now." Which is it? If it's the first, you need to demonstrate this claim argumentatively and historically, and not merely dismiss a position you disagree with; if the second, then you need to validate your emotivistic and quietistic view of philosophy; or if its the last, then you need to make the case for historical relativism. You are not permitted to simply shift your views when it becomes convenient.

In short, your response was an exercise in shifting evaluatory standards of philosophical discourse without warrant and mischaracterization of my argument. Do you now see why others here neglect to treat your arguments with respect? They are downright sophistical.

Cale B.T. said...

JA and Ben Yachov:

"that needed to create, and needed to be incarnated, and needed to be crucified... "

"Salvation is by Grace right? If God needs to save me then I got something on him."

"Is that philosophical lens for interpreting the Bible better than classical theism?"

Does even the most open of open theists believe such things? Surely not believing in classical theism ≠ believing that God is some sort of valet for us?

"Classical theists make a distinction... between the transcendent Trinity and the economic Trinity, which has the effect of both securing Divine impassibility and the suffering of God."

If you could direct me to some literature which fleshes out this distinction that would be greatly appreciated, but to me at the moment it seems like the two ideas stand in conflict.

Machinephilosophy:

Re: Alister Mcgrath

http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/mcgrath/textbook/chap1Q_A/chap009a.asp

Scroll down to the section on "Why do so many Christians believe that God suffers?" to get a fuller exposition of McGrath's ideas on the subject.

Thank you everyone for your comments. Obviously, trying to nut out good systematic theology raises a whole host of different concerns, and I realise my replies may seem terse and ignorant given the depth of the issues raised here.

I hope this isn't seen as a "cop-out" but I am having a bit trouble getting a grasp on a lot of the issues involved.

(Disclaimer: My brain went through 13 years of public education and 3 years of being a Gnu.)

As I mentioned above, if someone could post some links to some important works in the areas discussed, so that I might peruse them at my leisure, that would be much appreciated.

Perhaps it's time to buy Feser's "Aquinas"...

JA said...

Cale,

David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, has recently dealt with this topic in depth. You can see his Beauty of the Infinite or this article online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/46770946/David-B-Hart-No-Shadow-of-Turning-on-Divine-Impassibility

Hart makes the argument that the doctrines of Divine apatheia and impassibility are not philosophical residues, but an implicit and necessary implication of Christian theology.

Furthermore, you are quite incorrect to claim that no one espouses the view that I described regarding the necessity of creation and the dialectical relationship between God and creation that this necessitates. I have already mentioned Robert Jenson, who is comfortable with this view; but there are other theologians whose views tend to necessarily lead to this conclusion but they do their best to deny it, such as Jurgen Moltmann. Wolfgang Pannenberg's theology probably also leads in this direction.

Look, you cannot treat the issue of Divine im/passibility apart from the issue of the transcendence of God's ousia. Either God in some sense--again, formal, virtual, or real--is apart from the creation, secure in apatheia, or God (1) required creation in order to demonstrate his Divinity and (2) has been and continues to be irrevocably changed by the creation. The latter implication is that the world and God are engaged in dialectical process that vitiates against Divine transcendence. This is, over any other, the most damning implication of Divine impassibility and every single theologian who advocates it has to contend with it. Thus far, the only options have been to accept it, effectively eroding the boundaries between God's ousia and creation, or employ a technical or rhetorical argument to avoid this position--none of yet which has been very satisfying. You are, of course, free to try to address this problem in an alternative fashion. Good luck if that's your goal. But you do need to address it as Divine passibility, if true, has profound implications, to say the least.

Alternatively, you could reevaluate the manner in which you read scriptural passages. You don't apply a hyper-literalist reading to the commandment instructing you cut off your hand in order to avoid sin, and I'm sure that you do not believe that God is literally a rock or a shelter. Similarly, we can affirm that in a sense God does suffer along with creation, but not in a way that effects the Divine ousia--otherwise, you're stuck negating God as "I Am Who I Am" and turning God into "I Am Becoming What I Am Becoming."

JA said...

Mea Culpa. That last comment was poorly worded. I'm about to get off to bed and my writing degrades substantially after one glass of wine. (I know, I know, I'm a lightweight. So sue me.)

machinephilosophy said...

Cale,

Once again I'm in agreement with the Thomists about the nature of God, and McGrath is floundering in a morass of personalism.

God's character is completely self-contained, having within itself all the conditions of its existence and facing no limitations which are not self-involved.

God transcends the temporal series because he is changeless and devoid of succession. Any change would come from either God's own nature or some extraneous cause. But changing because of some extraneous cause would negate the necessity of God's being, which stands in no necessary relation that is not self-involved by the character of God's being.

Any alleged change in God due to his own being would have to either come from a condition that is *itself* changeless and eternal, or else from a change that was originated. But an originated change would merely explain one change by another, thus only shifting the problem without solving it.

If the change came from some changeless and eternal condition, then some condition that is itself changeless and eternal must have produced it's necessary effect changelessly and eternally---but in that case no change is involved.

And therefore since change in God could not obtain either due to either an extraneous *or* a self-involved factor, God must be changeless and hence not subject to temporal succession.

Nor could God experience suffering or other features of finite personhood, since that would contradict the already-known and necessary transcension of the temporal series and be subject to the same problems I mentioned above.

The Thomistic view of God's equivocal analogy to finite personhood in relation to this issue is the only way, as I see it, to correctly understand God's relation to the world. It does not diminish God's love or any other characteristics, but properly places our understanding within the context of God being as the absolute ground of such relations and activities as finite beings must experience them.

This also guarantees that God's nature is not and cannot be compromised by the negative possibilities of finite personhood, such as willful defection from the moral ideal of God's being, the tendency toward self-contradiction, using emotions as if they were intellectually determining factors, and so on.

JA said...

Cale,

Another thing you should consider is whether McGrath's presuppositions are justified. He seems to be positing an opposition between Hellenistic and Jewish thinking that would be quite foreign to the New Testament authors, themselves quite open to making use of Hellenism, which was natural given the circumstances of first century Palestine as a Roman province. The Gospel of St. John, as well as his letters and Revelation, St. Paul's writings, and Hebrews, all make use of Hellenistic thought. Any biblical literalist will have to reckon with that if they want to posit such an opposition.

As for McGrath, he seems to be relying upon a rather recent thinker in this regard: Adolf von Harnack, who dealt with the problem outlined above by rejecting the Gospel of St. John. This is what your view may require, given St. John's use of Hellenistic metaphysics.

And there is another complication for the opposition thesis: the writers of scripture, the Greek Fathers, and St. Augustine did not assimilate Greek thought into Christianity willy-nilly, but very consciously and cautiously modified and redefined it in light of Christian theology and the revelation of God in Christ. If this thesis is really legitimate, why don't we find it in a strong form and repeatedly in scripture? This should be likely as it was the Greek world that the Apostles were converting, after all. Why do we see the Apostles making use of Greek thought? Further, what about the influence of Greek thought elsewhere in Christian theology that you depend upon, consciously or not, as a Protestant? The Nicene Creed, which settled the great debate over Christ's Divinity, was settled by the efforts of St. Athanasius, whose arguments were rooted in Hellenistic Christian thought. In fact, even scripture proved to be insufficient to settle this debate, as both the Arians and the Orthodox thinkers had scriptural passages on their side. Rather, it was the Hellenistic argument that because Christ joins us to the Father that He has to be both fully Man (to be joined to us) and fully God (to be joined to the Father) in order for salvation as Theosis/Divinization/Sanctification to make any sense.

JA said...

Cale (and machinephilosophy will probably also enjoy this),

I should clarify the claim that the Church Fathers did not adopt wholesale the idea of Divine impassibility without first modifying Greek thought. Let's first look at McGrath and then see where he goes wrong:

"One such issue is the imposition of the dualistic Greek notion of an ‘impassible’ understanding of deity which is removed from human passions (equated with materialism). Thus, cuing more from Plato’s perfect and unchanging (as passions were changeable) ‘deity’ of the Forms, Christianity came to understand God as unchangeable and thereby perfect. God, in short, could not change nor be moved from perfection lest in doing so God becomes less perfect and thereby, by definition, no longer divine. To suffer would be to ‘feel’ change, and immutability of substance or will becomes confused with immutability of experience."

The Greek view in Neoplatonism was that "God," the One, was an indistinct, changeless, perfect, and static being beyond being. In a platonized cosmography, this means that creation, the product of the flowing abundance disseminating from the One, is engaged in a dialectical process upon its return. Because the One is indistinct in essence, the return movement of the world to the One must necessarily require shedding particularity and multiplicity in order to reach a point of stasis and perfection. (This is, by the by, common in many metaphysical traditions outside of Greece.) The Christian Fathers, while adopting this basic structure, jettisoned the dialectical element. Since God is a Trinity, the source of reality is not an indistinct and static unit, but a unity of distinctions. In short, God is ultimately relational and exists in harmonious participation in what God is. The three Persons of the Trinity do not exist apart in any way; God does not exist apart from the Persons. What we now have is not the static and indistinct One of the Neoplatonists, but a God that is unified and self-contained in His essence, eternally existing in a state of perichoresis, that is interpenetration, intimacy, and harmony. This replaces the Greek static view of being with one that is relational: the participation of distinctions in Unity. And because the natural world mirrors God, this also revises the ontology of the created world. Therefore, upon its return to God, the multiplicities and particularities of the created world are not becoming indistinct and static, but rather conforming to perfection by realizing harmonious participation in the same unity, while maintaining the multiplicity of distinctions intact. This goes for Aquinas, too, who McGrath has disastrously wrong. For Aquinas, like many of the Church Fathers, there are NO static things. Rather, what we experience and what we are are terms of relation that, like God, do not exist on their own: form and matter, substance and accidents, essence and existence.

continued . . .

JA said...

. . . continued


To reject Divine impassibility--defined either as the unity of the self-containment of God as Trinity or the One as a static indistinction--is to reintroduce a very different dialectic. It is very literally a swing in the opposite direction of the Greeks that embraces change as the only constant. God then actually suffers in His transcendence, that is in His essence. He is no longer self-contained but engaged in a quasi-Hegelian dialectic with the world, radically altering both in the process and breaking down the distinctions between them. In this way, God's nature as absolute Good cannot be preserved because it changeable--and there is nothing to guarantee that God will be loving tomorrow. With an eternity of interaction with humanity, God could even perhaps become altered to spurn humanity.

The point I'm trying to make is that there is a balance that needs to be made between an emphasis on staticity and change. Classical theism preserves this with a relational ontology that posits the Trinity as a self-contained unity (essence) of distinctions (persons). This relational configuration remains static, but it is not the staticity of the Neoplatonists that views change, movement, and distinction as imperfections. Thus, McGrath is arguing against a straw man--and he is embracing the opposite extreme in doing so. His view makes God a part of reality which is guided by a dialectic that then stands above God. At its heart, this is a return to Heraclitus: all of reality is constantly in flux, but a flux guided by a principle of unity. God then becomes part of the flux and the the principle supplants Him and becomes God--unfortunately, a cruel, impersonal, and mechanical, and, if I may, "static" one.

Classical theism not only avoids the extreme of Protestants like McGrath, Jenson, Moltmann, Pannenberg, etc., who overemphasize change, but it also avoids the overemphasis on indistinction and staticity of the Neoplantonists. Finally, it also allows explains those passages in scripture that trouble you and McGrath with a distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity (between Essence and Energies in the East). And, if your aversion is to Thomism in particular, one does not have to be a Thomist to affirm this. Platonizing Christians such as the Greek Fathers, Augustine, or Bonaventure also get you there.

Anonymous said...

JA,

What are the main differences between the Catholic and the Eastern doctrines of God?

JA said...

Anon,

That's a good question and the answer depends upon who you ask. Some Eastern Christians, David Bentley Hart comes to mind, view most of the differences as a product of different grammars and differing circumstances, but that the traditions are essentially on the same page at important points; others position the East and West as diametrically opposed to one another, the so-called "Neo-Patristic" or "Neo-Palamite" synthesis. If you want to explore this issue in more depth, a good place to start is Orthodox Readings of Augustine, edited by George E. Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou. To simply, the question comes down to how the distinction between God's Essence and Energies is formulated in Eastern thought, in comparison to a given distinction between the Economic and the Immanent Trinity is understood. The options are real, formal, or virtual: a real distinction completely separates the two, the formal separates them, but not absolutely, and a virtual treats the distinction as one that exists only in mind. This issue is further complicated by differing views on the nature and grace that both Churches hold--though it should be noted that there are Westerners, such as de Lubac and Balthasar, who hold positions closer to the Eastern view. Finally, there is also the issue of the Filioque, but that depends upon how a Westerner formulates it (double procession or procession from the Father and through the Son) and partially turns upon politics (the legitimacy of changing the creed apart from Eastern participation).

goddinpotty said...

@JA This has nothing to do with whether "it speaks to you" or not. Since when did something as fatuously subjective and vacuous as that become the yardstick by which philosophical truth is measured?

What other yardstick is there? Philosophy is not an empirical discipline with non-subjective criteria for quality or truth. This is one reason why there is no real progress in philosophy, it is more a matter of styles and trends than a cumulative search for truth.

IOW, I am not saying that the modernists are right and the classical philosophers are wrong, just that the moderns are addressing questions that seem relevant to their times while the classical ones less so.

You also grossly misrepresent my last comment in claiming that I "mischaracterize" the "shift from classical thought to modernism as driven by 'arguments' that can be revisited and reargued." Rather, I claimed that it was "more about the politics of the period"

Sorry, when you said:

Then you have to evaluate the arguments (or lack thereof) that justified (or didn't) this shift.

I interpreted that to mean that somehow the arguments can stand apart from the politics. I don't believe they can, or should, be considered outside of their social context.

Finally, you seem to be question begging a radical historicist framework...

Sorry, I could not make much sense out of that rather detailed paragraph that lays out the options that are supposedly open to me.

...now you claim that "we," as opposed to just you, "live in a different world now." Which is it?

Well, I can't speak for you, but "we" in general seem to live in a world in which Aristotelian ideas like the distinction between potentiality and actuality, or natural kinds, don't seem to carry much water, except in the service of retrograde politics. I try and live in the world as it is or as it is just about to become, rather than what it was a thousand years ago. So when I say "we", I mean people like that, who are interested in understanding the present and creating the future.

JA said...

gip,

If you really held to this position consistently, you would not even be here, arguing with Classical Theists over specific issues, such as intentionality, as you have been doing for some time. In such cases, you assume that there is an actual point of disagreement worth contending and actually engage the arguments. Yet in this discussion, you claim that there is no way to evaluate our arguments because most contemporary Westerners do not find Classical Theism relevant, and thus it is not captive to our grammars, technology, or society. One can almost hear Richard Rorty whispering in the background that our views are not "useful," and thus irrelevant. Which is it? Pick one and stick with it--otherwise, you will be accused of conveniently shifting your standards to suit your conclusions, which is essentially what you have been doing in this exchange thus far.

Arthur said...

"Philosophy is not an empirical discipline with non-subjective criteria for quality or truth."

Really? So, say, the law of identity, a philosophical principle, cannot be known to be true in a "non-subjective" way?

""We" in general seem to live in a world in which Aristotelian ideas like the distinction between potentiality and actuality, or natural kinds, don't seem to carry much water, except in the service of retrograde politics."

GIP seems to be flat out admitting that he's confusing philosophy with politics here. And if philosophy doesn't have a "non-subjective criteria for quality or truth", then how can we assess whether Thomist distinctions "carry much water"?

"I try and live in the world as it is or as it is just about to become, rather than what it was a thousand years ago.
Textbook Chronological Snobbery, if you ask me. Most of Aquinas' relevant ideas are timeless metaphysical ones that can be disentangled from his outdated scientific ones.


What GIP seems to be doing is a textbook example of confusing politics with philosophy, Chronological Snobbery and Appeal to Popularity. Thomism is politically irrelevant, old and unpopular, so we should reject it, even though there aren't any "non-subjective" ways of assessing philosophy in the first place.

Arthur said...

>"This has nothing to do with whether "it speaks to you" or not."

>"What other yardstick is there?"

Looking further up the page, this comment alone makes me think that it's not worth engaging with GIP. Once you've decided that "it speaks to me" is a good reason to believe something, you're lost. I made the mistake of trying to engange him rationally when, no doubt, my objections won't "speak to him".

Eduardo said...

well considering that all over the net, the greatest arguments for not accepting other arguments usually go like:

"It doesn't compell me"
"It doesn't convince me"
"It doesn't seen..."

I mean, really, how the heck is this kind of "argument" an argument at all ???

Who the heck knows what compells me, for all everybody else knows I am nutz hhahahahha

Not that GIP is doing the same thing, haven't read the talk throughly but what Arthur said ringed a bell

machinephilosophy said...

why there is no real progress in philosophy, it is more a matter of styles and trends than a cumulative search for truth.

Is the above statement just a trend or style you're following?

Or is it supported by that glorious empirical evidence you're always talking about but never have specified for a single claim you've ever made?

Codgitator said...

As I suggested couple posts back, gip's transcendental arg seems to be the greatest philosophical arg ever, and sadly nothing else.

http://consc.net/misc/univ-joke.html

machinephilosophy said...

JA,

Well done. I agree with most all of what you've said, I even think there may be something irreducibly basic in the idea of the trinity that is core to the notion of finite as well as divine personhood. Those are some high-flyin heavy metal posts there, which I greatly appreciate, and I've copied them all for later analysis.

I'm just so neck deep in studying everything by Feser, Flew, and Nielsen right now that I don't have much time to pursue it further.

For the moment I'll just say that I think God's so-called interaction with finite being is solely the effect of God's timelessly necessary being and nature on contingent reality. I even think that, apart from any special revelation, the "God is our salvation" claim can be proved as a moral corollary of metaphysical (AT), epistemological (criterial a la yours truly) and possibly onto-modal (to be announced in the next year of so by a mathematician and quantum theorist) arguments for God's existence. In other words, if the God of classical theism exists, then God necessarily must and will save the world, just as God---and only God---already necessarily sustains it in being, as AT metaphysics has demonstrated.

So the pervasive biblical "God is our salvation" theme rings true philosophically, not just as a matter of theology derived from that special revelation.

Codgitator said...

Marechal, Lonergan, Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame,

You've not cited them, AFAIK, machinephilosophy. Just curious, genealogically speaking.

machinephilosophy said...

Anonymous of April 23, 2012 8:49 PM,

You're either a freakin shill (and you haven't heard any atheist say squat about Le Poidevin's book) or else you are hopelessly dated and deluded. A quick glance at the amazon reviews reveals even some atheists who are embarrassed by this cursory 146-page bookette from 1996, as having, among other things, misrepresented both atheism and theism.

Check the preview of the book on amazon, folks, and judge for yourselves. Le Poidevin's monumental point of departure for analyzing cosmological argumentation is:

"In this chapter we shall look at three versions of the cosmological argument. The first I shall call the basic cosmological argument, because the other two are modifications of it. It goes as follows:

"The basic cosmological argument

1. Anything that exists has a cause of its existence. . . ."

What the hell? Sheesh. And of course no atheist book would be
complete without ignoring Thomistic arguments, which this booklet faithfully (and predictably) does.

But I will read the book at some point---like when I come across it at a used book sale for 5 cents or in the free bin at Goodwill Outlet World among among the Danielle Steel and Harlequin novels.

Mr. Green said...

The Profeser wrote: That nothing in physics answers this question was Albert’s point, and Stenger says absolutely nothing to answer it.

I was almost taken in by this seemingly irrefutable response — until I realised that if you can describe Stenger's response then it's not Nothing, and if it is Nothing then you cannot describe it and thus cannot know just how powerful it really is!

And if that doesn't prove his point, then Nothing will!

Mr. Green said...

GoddinPotty said: Let's say there is a necessary entity. You can call it "God" and bring along all the association with persons that the word implies, and make theists happy, or you can call it an impersonal system of mathematical laws and make atheists happy.

Indeed you can. And then you can investigate the implications to see what sort of characteristics might be attributable to that entity and discover that it doesn't sound very much like "physics" or the "universe" at all, but it does sound rather like what we call God, and then the atheists won't be happy any more. And they'll make up new metaphysical systems that don't work very well but give them the answer they want and when challenged on it will claim that the existence of all these different schools of thought just goes to show that philosophy never makes any progress and it's all subjective and anyway theists are wrong so there.

(You can call this "Modern Philosophy" and nobody will be particularly happy, but most people will be too philosophically ignorant to know any better.)

SR said...

Let me repeat a question I have for A-T so as to partially support godinpotty's accusation that modern Thomists are doing just what he says: supporting an out-of-date metaphysics for political purposes.

That question is: why assign to form the role of "actualizer", and not that-which-is-not-form (in physical things). Of course, by calling it 'matter', the question is begged, in that one takes matter to be some inert stuff that form stamps into shape. (Or one can say that 'prime matter' is just a concept, it being "pure potential". However, if one takes that angle, then the whole form/matter "explanation" for change boils down to "Things can change because they have a potential to change", which is a molierism.)

So why would one assign to form the role of 'actualizer'. As I see it, it is so that one can define one's definition of 'goodness' as 'conforming to essence', which is the basis of natural law -- which is what makes Thomism "compelling" to a certain kind of person, but not to others.

If, instead, one rejects the concept of 'prime matter', and looks on the formless part of form/formless composites as the agent, natural law goes out the window (as a moral basis), since now all law (i.e. form) is seen as temporary manifestation of the formless in its unceasing creativity.

(Actually, I prefer a third option, which sees form and formlessness as a 'polar relation', in Coleridge's sense, which is to say that the same polar logic that JA has just given for the Trinity applies to explaining physical reality.)

The above is more polemical than I actually feel about Thomism. I think Thomas got a lot right that later philosophers got wrong. But I also see some justification in GIP's criticism, though I reject his naturalism entirely.

Mr. Green said...

Ray Ingles said: What if the B-series model of time is right, though? (Sure seems that way per relativity, anyway.)

Here, the theory of Relativity is irrelevant. It may in certain respects be more convenient to think of time that way when doing physics, just as sometimes it's convenient to think of the earth as a fixed point, or sometimes it's convenient to think of the Sun as a fixed point, etc. (though neither one really is). But by itself it is no help in deciding whether time "really is" like that in a metaphysical sense. Though since the original point was about a present moment, I don't think A vs. B theories come into it anyway.

The 'present' could extend eternally in exactly the same way the past does... so a 'first member' wouldn't be necessary?

Well, you could hold the whole thing up to a mirror and call it the "last" member… in general, yes, an infinite series that has a beginning but no end is as possible as one with no beginning. When considering essentially ordered series, all we're interested in is that there is [at least] one member that is special insofar as it is actual without being actualised by something else in the series. If you're talking about a chain of causes-producing-effects, then that makes it "first", but all that matters is that we can identify that particular entity.

Mr. Green said...

The Profeser said: You will find some Neo-Scholastic philosophers using the expression "principle of sufficient reason," but what they mean by it is essentially the principle of causality rather than a Leibnizian rationalist principle.

I guess that's how I've always interpreted it, because I don't see what the difference is. If it's not talking about the same thing in the mode of being vs. the mode of understanding or something like that, then what is it that Leibniz means by it?

Anonymous said...

Krauss appeared on the Christian discussion program Unbelievable? the weekend just gone. He was in conversation with Rodney Holder, an astrophysicist turned member of the clergy. Krauss address some of the criticisms aimed at his book, including the article by David Albert which he dismisses on the grounds that Albert is a philosopher/ ins't a cosmologist.

It might provide some interesting lines of discussion for your First Things article, Mr Feser.

http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={02949395-E52F-4784-BF29-3A3138738B0B}

lightninlives said...

This is the problem with a philosophical approach to understanding the nature of physical reality; One long blog, 177 comments, 0 definitions for this god thing everyone seems to be arguing does or doesn't exist, and 0 pieces of empirical evidence presented.

Want the correct answer to what gave rise to the physical laws of the known universe? It's "I don't know." Anything beyond that is opinion.

As an atheist, I'm ok with that answer, and can move onto to more productive pursuits like:
1) Making music with my friends (art)
2) Reading up on the evidence that is currently available to us regarding the physical nature of the universe (e.g. scientific inquiry)
3) figuring out the best way to raise and provide for my son as well as make society better and generally improve my own behavior (e.g. morals and ethics)

And I don't need to believe in god(s) to do any of those things effectively

machinephilosophy said...

[As usual, here we go again, boys and girls]

"Anything beyond that is opinion."

Is the above statement itself a correct item of knowledge about "anything beyond that"?

Also, how did your ignorance of an answer get the "correct" label?

Let us know as soon as you can and we'll all immediately starting using that technique for each of our arbitrary unargued universal claims!

Everyone ready?

Eduardo said...

I don't get what is the point of coming into a blog telling what you think you should do with your life and thinking that somehow goes as an argument ??? I mean the best we got here is intimidation from someone who needs attention.


and what was the piece of evidence you gave ??? none as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

"And I don't need to believe in god(s) to do any of those things effectively"

I can't help noticing that you (a) didn't define "god(s)", and (b) provide absolutely no empirical evidence for your unsubstantiated claim. Don't worry, though, it's not necessary to define "irony" or prove it exists in order to post clueless responses all over the Internet effectively.

lightninlives said...

@machinephilosophy - Yes, it is itself a correct item of knowledge about "anything beyond that." And how can I make such an extraordinary claim (not as extraordinary as unfalsifiable claims like god or afterlife but we'll get back to that later)?

Because the scientific community does not, as of May 1, 2012, have any sort of consensus, much less a well-established theory, on the origin of the physical universe, which is comprised of physical laws. There are certainly some hypotheses being pokes and prodded and some interesting theoretical math, but that's it.

Therefore, anyone who claims to knowledge of what gave rise to the physical laws of the universe would in fact be stating a personal opinion (no matter how hard they tried to convince others otherwise)

P.S. I don't blame you for attempting to use philosophy and logic to address these "big" questions or my statements on them. I'm sure this approach has served you well in life, and I respect that. I just think it's much less effective than a skeptical approach to evaluating assertions, based on the scientific method of inquiry and the enormous burden of empirical evidence said method requires.

lightninlives said...

@machinephilosophy - P.S. I can see how you might think that my claim was unargued and universal. I presented my argument in my last comment and let me address the "universal" bit:
When I say "anyone" I'm implying any human beings on Earth (didn't think that needed to be stated, but let's go ahead and state it now for the sake of clarity). I can't assert that I know what other sentient beings in the universe know or don't know. So to be clear, any human being on Earth in 2012, including yourself, that makes an assertion about what brought about the physical laws of the known universe is, in fact, stating a personal opinion.

lightninlives said...

@Eduardo - let me know what you will accept as evidence that I can:
1) play music
2) read
3) use the consciousness that arises out of my biological brain to try and figure out the best way to raise my son, make society better, etc.
4) not believe in god

I'm assuming simply stating them will not suffice.

I will do my best to provide that evidence, and will happily acknowledge if I find legitimate gap between those assertions and the empirical evidence available to us.

P.S. I'm curious to know why you would characterize my assertion as intimidation. I'd be equally interested to know why my comment should be categorized as "seeking attention" as opposed to anyone else that has shared an opinion on this article?

lightninlives said...

@anonymous - Just wanted to respond to this passage:
"I can't help noticing that you (a) didn't define "god(s)", and (b) provide absolutely no empirical evidence for your unsubstantiated claim. Don't worry, though, it's not necessary to define "irony" or prove it exists in order to post clueless responses all over the Internet effectively."

1) I don't believe in any god concept that I've ever defined for myself or have had defined for me by someone or some existing theistic doctrine, so frankly, take your pick (e.g. define the god you believe in, if you believe in one) and I'll be glad to explain why I don't believe in that defined version of god
2) As I explained to the other commentor that asked for evidence, my apologies for not being more thorough. Just let me know what your threshold for evidence is (since I'm assuming my assertion that I don't believe in god and yet can engage in those behaviors I listed won't cut it for you) and I'll work on providing it for you.

P.S. My favorite part of your comment, by far, is the part where you assert that I "post clueless responses" all over the internet. Not only does that reveal a lack of compassion, respect, and humility; it's also reveals a bit of a perhaps subconscious bit of preferential treatment since you didn't bother to define "clueless" or present any evidence to either support or falsify your claim.

It's all good, though. Compassion, respect, and humility are beautiful concepts and my hypothesis is that all three are contagious.

machinephilosophy said...

Because the scientific community does not, as of May 1, 2012, have any sort of consensus, much less a well-established theory, on the origin of the physical universe, which is comprised of physical laws. There are certainly some hypotheses being pokes and prodded and some interesting theoretical math, but that's it.

The problem with your argument is that the conclusion (as well as each premise) is *itself* a claim that either pertains to the beyondananda everything's-mere-opinion-from-this-point-on claim or it does not.

If it does pertain to that realm, then it is itself an instance of what it precludes, an item of knowledge about what was originally claimed to be "beyond" current knowledge and therefore mere opinion.

So what we have here is a designated "There can be no knowledge here, only opinion." area.

Aside from that, the usual: no mention of criteria for parsing the universals claimed, no mention of the claims' status or self-implications, etc. zzzzz....

But what's with exempting that claim itself yet acting like it is itself something known about that realm and therefore knowledge in that realm?

Beyondananda doctrines, whether about faith or dismissive epistemic reductionism in science, are always instances of that which they claim is impossible.

Didn't anyone learn anything from the fall of logical empiricism because of it's self-exempted criterion that couldn't live up to itself?

Cale B.T. said...

Hello again, machinephilosophy. Sorry to be a pain, but could you explain what a "Beyondananda doctrine" is. A quick google reveals that Beyondananda is a guru of some sort, but what did he teach?

lightninlives said...

The problem with your argument is that the conclusion (as well as each premise) is *itself* a claim that either pertains to the beyondananda everything's-mere-opinion-from-this-point-on claim or it does not.

If it does pertain to that realm, then it is itself an instance of what it precludes, an item of knowledge about what was originally claimed to be "beyond" current knowledge and therefore mere opinion.

So what we have here is a designated "There can be no knowledge here, only opinion." area.

Aside from that, the usual: no mention of criteria for parsing the universals claimed, no mention of the claims' status or self-implications, etc. zzzzz....

But what's with exempting that claim itself yet acting like it is itself something known about that realm and therefore knowledge in that realm?

Beyondananda doctrines, whether about faith or dismissive epistemic reductionism in science, are always instances of that which they claim is impossible.

Didn't anyone learn anything from the fall of logical empiricism because of it's self-exempted criterion that couldn't live up to itself?


First off, you're not doing yourself any favors with hubris-filled remarks like "zzzzz..."

Acting like you've been there and done that doesn't win you any extra points in my book (and hopefully, nobody else's).

Secondly, either you missed my addressing "universals" or are simply ignoring it. I'm only referring to human beings in 2012. This is not a universal claim.

Lastly, and don't take this the wrong way, as a skeptic, I could give two shits about "the fall of logical empiricism" because I don't rely on philosophical logic as my foundational critical thinking skill for evaluating claims. Instead, I prefer to use empirical, replicatable peer-reviewed evidence.

The reason I do that is that at this point in time (e.g. 2012) the scientific method, while imperfect, has by far the best track record of deciphering what's real (e.g. it actually exists in the physical universe) and what's abstraction (e.g. make believe, the stuff in your head, intricately weaved personal opinion, etc. and so forth).

If you'd like, I could detail of the current research on the origins of the known universe and then compile it in an easily digestible manner, so that you can see for yourself that, in fact, we do not have a widely accepted theory for the origin of the universe and the physical laws of said universe.

But even then, I suspect that you would continue to use philosophy and logic. That's ok. As long as you realize that no matter how hard you try, those tools can't substitute for knowledge derived via the scientific method of inquiry.

machinephilosophy said...

I prefer to use empirical, replicatable peer-reviewed evidence.

That's precisely what is in question, which you don't seem to be able to realize. You're coming into a blog that has your robo-empiricism repeated in generic self-exempting statements almost on a daily basis, and then wondering why oh why am being attacked, etc. We could cut and paste from previous troll posts here, and it would read exactly like your unargued comments.

Nor do any of your own claims have the least evidence, since they are universals about empirical evidence. Supervisory claims specifying the status of empirical evidence generally, do not and cannot evince themselves. And then when this is pointed out, you revert to first-order claims about meta-theoretic issues in logic and empiricism, continuing of course with the equally typical and predictable avoidance of self-referential issues.

I could give two shits about "the fall of logical empiricism" because I don't rely on philosophical logic as my foundational critical thinking skill for evaluating claims. Instead, I prefer to use empirical, replicatable peer-reviewed evidence.

That's why you repeat logical empiricism's childish self-referential error and merely repeat the same empiricist reductionism over and over when challenged.

Repeating empiricists claims when empiricism itself is what was just brought into question, is not just an often-repeated mantra technique that the commenters here are tired of. They are themselves merely non-empirical claims thumped like some new gospel that everyone else should cow-tow without any argument or even mention of their own status.

Baking bread and gassing the Jews are equally empirical, by the way. Or do you have some of that precious empirical evidence to show that there's any preferential distinction to be made between the two?

And as I've noted before, we never see scientism cultists on this blog make a single comment about the cut-throat politics of journal publishing, research funding, and day-to-day operations of actual scientific research environments. It's just the usual robo-empiricism commandment thumping, with any challenge to it getting a repeat of the original claims, complete with a lack of any mention of empirical evidence for those claims themselves.

Such self-exempted universals, especially when repeated daily in fundy-thump fashion, makes a number of us sleepy. zzzzz....

lightninlives said...

@machinephilosophy -
That's pretty classic stuff my friend. Let'start by addressing some of your unfounded assertions:
1)I am most definitely not "wondering why oh why am being attacked." In fact, since I do this often (e.g. engage with people that don't agree with my stance) I expect to be challenged. However, what I did want to point out was the behavior that you and some of the other commentors displayed (and that you continue to display) was, for lack of a better word, immature. Mind you, there are plenty of atheists and skeptics that behave in a similar manner. Belief in gods or lack thereof does not guarantee emotional maturity.

2)You keep asserting that my claims are unargued but that's not true. The fact of the matter is that we (e.g. humans in 2012) are able to ascertain objective truth by applying the scientific method. The mere fact that we're using a blog, on the internet, supported by both telephony and electricity attests to that fact. You can question empiricism all you want but the fact remains that the corroborating evidence from various fields is overwhelming. And by the way, that leads to an honest question I have for you: how much of an impact does your belief in an unfalsifiable concept (e.g. god, the afterlife, soul, etc.) have on your rejection of impiricism? This is not a rhetorical. I'm truly interested in getting your take on particular compartment of your psyche.

3) You keep asserting that I'm making universal claims, but again, that's simply not true. I'm only addressing one particular topic (e.g. that any human being on Earth in 2012 can profess to have knowledge about the origin of the physical universe). For other areas of knowledge, say PHP programming, I do believe that people can assert knowledge about the laws governing that particular system. Asserting knowledge about the origins of the physical laws of the universe? No dice.

As for your comment on baking bread and gassing Jews, I must admit that I have no idea of where you're trying to go with that. Please feel free to elaborate. If you mean that we can use empiricism to, for example, reject the holocaust deniers. Then yes I agree. I also agree that we can use empiricism to figure out the process by which bread rises and so forth. Not sure what that has to do with the origins of the physical laws of the universe, but I digress.

Sorry my man, but there's no gospel-thumping or robo-empiricism going on here. Just simple evidentual skepticism. You can make claims about knowledge regarding the origin of the physical laws of the universe, but I will reject those claims due to lack of empirical evidence.

I would do the same if you attempted to use philosophical logic to assert knowledge of a great many other things for which there is no real body of evidence such as:
-fortune telling
-astrology
-heaven
-hell
-afterlife
-soul
-god

Granted, I would need for you to define those things before I could provide my reasons why I'm rejecting the assertion(s).

At the end of the day, I realize that it's extremely unlikely that either of us will change our perspective. In fact, empirical studies show that debates and challenges to an individuals world view actually help to strengthen that pre-existing worldview. I just think it's worthwhile to present a contrasting perspective for folks that might be reading this and sitting on the fence. And I like to do so in a respectful and compassionate manner. Have a good one and feel free to hit me up anytime. You clearly seem to know where to find me ; )

P.S. I'm also curious on your thoughts as to whether or not humans will ever build computers with artificial intelligence that surpasses that of humans? And if so, would you accept evidence-based skepticism if one of these computers asserted it and provided you with ample evidence?

lightninlives said...

@machinephilosophy - you've got yourself a new blog subscriber. Looking forward to learning more about philosophy from you. Just because I don't use it as my primary means for perceiving physical reality doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the discipline and recognize that you and others clearly have a much stronger, academic background on said discipline.

Codgitator said...

There it is, that good ole promissory Science of the Gaps, c/o Lightninlives.

LL, you don't seem to realize that your self-anointed humble empiricism is indeed of a universal character, which is exactly where mach.phil. is faulting you. The validity of empiricism requires not only the universality of certain operational categories (causality, temporal coherence, linguistic comprehensibility, logical entailment, etc.), but also the amenability of any and all queries to the scientific method. (Never mind the principles and axioms that deliver that method apart from and before it can be employed.)

Meanwhile, you denigrate philosophy (which in your eyes apparently means critical rational analysis that hasn't been vetted by Science's editorial board), yet you do so precisely by means of philosophical reasoning. It's also the most exquisite irony that a rationalist- who runs a blog called Logic Speaks, no less!- denies he bases his views on philosophical logic. I suppose obsequious conformity to your scientific keepers is more rational. In any case, we're miles from actual philosophical logic in this thread. I'll assume you were being hasty, otherwise it's a shibboleth that shows your ignorance about philosophy. Don't let that stop you from not giving two shots about it, though, whatever "it" is in your non-philosophically logical mind. Ignorance is bliss, and all that.

Lastly, do you mean to sound so sanctimonious? Zzzz is basically a kind of emoticon. Would you prefer mach.phil. typed out "Yawn"? You're a newcomer here, methinks, so howzabout lighten up a bit about how others rank "in your book"? Thx

machinephilosophy said...

we (e.g. humans in 2012) are able to ascertain objective truth by applying the scientific method.

What method did you apply to ascertain the above statement? If scientific method, then what are the steps? How do you even recognize the scientific method as distinct from any other method without using some kind of underlying prior notion of logic to do so? That's just a part of the quandary of empiricism as a reductive theory of knowledge: you end up being a rationalist about it, in spite of its own assertions limiting the possibility of knowledge to empirical data. The theory itself is not empirically based. No empirical data could ever distinguish empirical data itself from anything else.

Anonymous said...

lightninlives: But even then, I suspect that you would continue to use philosophy and logic.

Um, yeah. I'm going to continue to use logic, thanks very much. And you can continue to use... whatever the heck it is you're using. Knock yourself out.

machinephilosophy said...

Looking forward to learning more about philosophy from you. Just because I don't use it as my primary means for perceiving physical reality doesn't mean that I don't appreciate . . ."

Thanks for the kind comments about my blog. It's not interactive, because I decided to do most all of my discussion of issues here at Ed's bar.

I'll be posting a complete refutation of empiricism at some point on my blog, but here's several key objections to it that Codgitator and others have touched on (and probably have more more to say about it):

1 Any attempt to derive intellectual categories and concepts from empirical data presupposes their use in that attempted derivation.

2 Logical laws cannot have been derived from empirical data because the notion of derivation is itself already a supervisory logical relating of inference between such data and those laws themselves.

3 Universal and necessary judgments would be impossible on a purely empirical basis because any approach to empirical data requires a cognitive structure already as a vantage point of knowledge acquisition, in terms of which such universal and necessary claims are possible. And our knowledge of the principles that make up this structure cannot themselves be based on empirical data for precisely the same reason, among others.

lightninlives said...

I'm really enjoying all of this back and forth. Please keep it coming, and if you'd like to express your thoughts on logicspeaks.com, feel free to do so. Gabe and I encourage different points of view. Our most recent exchange is with a Christian apologist. We didn't agree on much, but at least the conversation was thorough and respectful.

@Codgigator - I'm not sure how you define empiricism, so I can't say for sure if I agree with your assertion about what's needed validate said definition. What I do know is, by far, the most effective means for understanding the physical universe (both in terms repeatable results and predictive ability) is the scientific method of inquiry. Philosophy is really cool, but it's not responsible for curing polio, synthesizing LSD, producing a working nuclear bomb, or providing the framework for this wonderful blog and its resulting comment section.

Not sure if empiricism = the scientific method in your book, but if it does, then I will once again assert that based on the evidentual track record of said method, I opt to use it as my primary means of evaluating any and all claims to knowledge.

Also, I'm not denigrating philosophy. What I actually said is that I appreciate the domain of philosophy even though I don't rely on it as my primary means for perceiving physical reality.

As for the "zzzz" comment, you can use an emoticon, etc. I'll still apply the "real life" test. If I were to do that in response to something a family member, friend, co-worker, or even complete stranger said (without it being in obvious jest) I wouldn't be surprised if they told me I was a douchebag to my face or at least think it to themselves. Kind of goes back to that golden rule thing I mentioned in my original comment.

Spend some time hanging out with me online or in person and I think you'll find that I'm light as a feather. But that doesn't mean that I can't point out when somebody's behaving in an anti-social manner. No biggie either way. I'm guilty of similar poor behavior on an almost daily basis, as my wife is quick to point out ; )

@anonymous - I encourage you to continue using logic (I do, after all, contribute to a site called logicspeaks.com) just as long as you realize that logic can and often is proven to flawed when contrasted against empirical data (both in the real world and in closed systems like computer programming language).

@machinephilosophy - you're very welcome. I noticed that you don't allow comments, but that's cool. I really just want to read up on what you post and consume the links you create in your posts. At this point, with regards to the academic domain of philosophy, I need to listen much more than I talk.

Gotta get back to work but will think through your refutations and get back to you on that at some point (let me know if you're interested in posting them over at logicspeaks.com...I can set you up with an author login). I also look forward to reading your expanded take on the topic.

Good stuff and keep doing what you do, especially if it helps make your life and the life of those around you better. And remember to vote democrat (or at least Libertarian) ; )

Eduardo said...

@Eduardo - let me know what you will accept as evidence that I can:
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O_o I asked evidence that you knew nobody knew how the universe came to be. Are you juust not INventing something without any physical evidence ???? I am pretty certain you are. You have a Epistemological Thesis and think that people that dows not follow that are automatically wrong.
___________________________________

P.S. I'm curious to know why you would characterize my assertion as intimidation. I'd be equally interested to know why my comment should be categorized as "seeking attention" as opposed to anyone else that has shared an opinion on this article?

-----------------------------------

No doubt anyone that writes want attention, but how many of them just simply come out of no where, simply tells his opinion on some matter * no argument necessary and therefore no evidence * and starts talking WHAT HE thinks is important when nobody have asked him ......

I guess just a few maybe, but that is seeking attention, O_O wayyyyy too much attention. Because if you interested in simply discussion the matter and presenting your point that last part of your initial post would never be there

So the whole point is, one thing is wanting attention because you desire to add something to the conversation ... another thing is wanting attention simply because you have to say something and people have to listen to you.

* not that .... I am the first type *

lightninlives said...

I had several follow-up comments go into moderation but they have not gone live on the site. I really hope that they weren't selectively moderated.

Anyhow, @Eduardo - I provided you with the evidence to support my assertion (or rather lack of evidence). There are no peer-reviewed papers that outline what gave rise to the physical universe and its laws. There is no well-established theory in the scientific community; just some preliminary hypotheses and a lot of theoretical math. If you know of any peer-reviewed papers on the topic please feel free to share.

Being that this was my first time visiting this blog, I had no choice but to come "out of nowhere" (e.g. share my position which is very much in opposition that of most of the commentors as well as the author). I provided those examples to provide context, since the primary topic of the article is attempting to refute atheism on philosophical grounds even though the fact of the matter is that there is no empirical evidence that supports ideas like "god" or "the afterlife" or "the soul." Try as you may, these will remain nothing more than mental constructs unless we come upon verifiable, repeatable, controlled, peer-reviewed (e.g. empirical) evidence supporting them. And not just a little bit of it. We'll need mountains of it, because as our buddy Carl Sagan once said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

That, in my opinion, is the way to go when evaluating claims. And if the claim is that god, etc. exists beyond the reach of empirical evidence, that would make said god unfalsifiable, and as far as I and many others are concerned, unfalsifiable claims cannot be distinguished from fantasy or delusion.

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