Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rosenberg roundup

Having now completed our ten-part series of posts on Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, it seems a roundup of sorts is in order.  As I have said, Rosenberg’s book is worthy of attention because he sees more clearly than most other contemporary atheist writers do the true implications of the scientism on which their position is founded.  And interestingly enough, the implications he says it has are more or less the very implications I argued scientism has in my own book The Last Superstition.  The difference between us is this: Rosenberg acknowledges that the implications in question are utterly bizarre, but maintains that they must be accepted because the case for the scientism that entails them is ironclad.  I maintain that Rosenberg’s case for scientism is completely worthless, and that the implications of scientism are not merely bizarre but utterly incoherent and constitute a reductio ad absurdum of the premises that lead to them.
  
I first reviewed Rosenberg’s book in the November 2011 issue of First Things.  My series of blog posts on the book began around the same time.  Here are links to each of them, together with a brief description of the specific subject matter of each post:

Part I [On the content of Rosenberg’s book, which is primarily about the implications of scientism rather than a critique of theism or a defense of atheism]

Part II [On Rosenberg’s characterization of, and central argument for, scientism, and his treatment of teleology]

Part III [On Rosenberg’s attempt to account for the existence of the universe in terms of quantum mechanics and the multiverse theory]

Part IV [On Rosenberg’s account of the origins of biological adaptation, and its unintended but implicit biological eliminativism]

Part V [On Rosenberg’s attempt in his book Darwinian Reductionism to avoid eliminativism in the philosophy of biology]

Part VI [On Rosenberg’s attempt to show that Darwinism is incompatible with theism]

Part VII [On the incoherence of Rosenberg’s nihilistic approach to morality]

Part VIII [On Rosenberg’s appeal to neuroscience, and in particular to “blindsight” phenomena and Libet’s free will experiments, in order to cast doubt on the reliability of introspection]

Part IX [On Rosenberg’s failure to make his denial of the intentionality or “aboutness” of thought coherent]

Part X [On Rosenberg’s treatment of those arguments, from Thomas Nagel and others, which he regards as “among the last serious challenges to scientism”]

Rosenberg’s 2009 article “The Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality” was a precursor to the book.  A number of philosophers commented on the article, and I wrote up my own response here:


Rosenberg then responded to his critics here.  I posted a couple of replies to this response:



Finally, just to pile it on, some links to critical reviews of Rosenberg’s book by philosophers otherwise sympathetic to his naturalism: Michael Ruse, Philip Kitcher, and Massimo Pigliucci.

UPDATE: Some time after the publication of The Atheist's Guide to Reality, Rosenberg posted online a draft of a paper, "Eliminativism without Tears," which tries to answer the incoherence objection against eliminativism.  I examined the arguments of this paper in some detail in a series of posts:




268 comments:

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JA said...

I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but at least one of those (sarcastic and derisive) comments following Rosenberg's 2009 article is by a fellow faculty member of his at Duke.

By the by, Professor Feser, did he ever stop protesting your arguments via email? Did he cry uncle?

machinephilosophy said...

Ed,

I finally ordered the book, and your right about his honesty and candor.

Merely from the preview on Amazon, it's virtually a catalog of lameness, the refutation of which needs to be fleshed out in the finest detail. I'll be comparing your review posts closely when I go over the book with a fine-toothed comb.

I swear they created the book cover by taking a picture of the tie-dyed T-shirt of a old wino in Denver who regularly pees publicly at the bus top at Broadway and Colfax. I'm going to buy him a new one that says "Relief is Spelled: A-t-h-e-i-s-m".

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Edward,

Doesn't Aquinas' "primary or first cause" argument imply physical indeterminism?

Anonymous said...

Paisley,

The Unmoved Mover argument is built on the metaphysical framework of act/potency and the four causes. Since the fourth cause--"directedness", "final cause", "telos"--holds that all substances (aside from humans) move deterministically toward certain ends, the Unmoved Mover argument does not in any way imply indeterminism.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous,

> The Unmoved Mover argument is built on the metaphysical framework of act/potency and the four causes. Since the fourth cause--"directedness", "final cause", "telos"--holds that all substances (aside from humans) move deterministically toward certain ends, the Unmoved Mover argument does not in any way imply indeterminism. <

I said "PHYSICAL" indeterminism.

The materialistic worldview is based on the premise that everything is physically determined.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Aquinas' primary cause, first cause, or uncaused cause (a.k.a. "God") is nonphysical. Right?

So, if the primary cause is nonphysical, then this implies physical indeterminism.

DNW said...

"Finally, just to pile it on, some links to critical reviews of Rosenberg’s book by philosophers otherwise sympathetic to his naturalism: Michael Ruse, Philip Kitcher, and Massimo Pigliucci."

All were interesting, especially Ruse's remarks and Pigliucci's other comment on Krauss found on the same blog.


Ruse's was the most informative however when it came to answering the question as to how progressives ground their interpersonal moral claims. Basically they don't in any conventional sense.

"I hope also that my agreement with Rosenberg about morality shows that I think that we don’t need a lot of God talk to get ethical thinking and behavior. And that Darwinian evolutionary biology shows that the call for foundations is mistaken and unnecessary."

They "will" them. Or evolution "wills" them. Or since there is no such thing as intentionality, these impulses or preferences just randomly appear in populations and manage to persist as part of some scheme of reproduction which may or may not be distributively (like the right to keep and bear arms) taken to apply. (Of course it isn't really distributive. Only some benefit by for example, tolerance and mercy, while others lose ...)


And so, you either accept their framework of interpretation and submit, or you don't. That is all there is to it.

Another interesting remark of Ruse's was his notion of "random":

"Mutations are random, in the sense of not appearing to order or need ..."

Note the interesting logical form that this definition takes; its construction : random merely equals ~ purposive.

That may explain part of what seems so puzzling about the use of the term random by naturalists, when one tries to reconcile the naturalist's idea of absolute hard determinism with randomness and chance in their metaphysics.

Chance must merely mean to them then, something about the psychological acceptability to an observer of a given calculation within a system of incomplete knowledge, rather than something about a real tendency of nature to manifest itself in intrinsically unpredictable ways.

I also enjoyed Pigliucci's comments on that same blog.http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2012/04/lawrence-krauss-another-physicist-with.html

He managed to say some of the same things I said about Krauss without misspelling his name and without indulging in the implied dehumanization I pictured washing back over Krauss as a result of his own theory of who and what is inferior in a take no prisoners world of ruthless evaluation.

Thus: "Still, I wonder if Krauss is justified in referring to Albert as a “moronic philosopher,” considering that the latter is not only a highly respected philosopher of physics at Columbia University, but also holds a PhD in theoretical physics. "


No sneering mention of glabrous cheeks and beady eyes. Must be why Pigliucci gets paid for what he writes.

Eduardo said...

I think the inttention of the first cause is not determined .... MAYBE, I think.

Oh but Alastair a non-physical first cause does not entail physical indeterminism. There, I think no corrlation between a non-physical entity that doesn't have all it's "states" determined by previous states and a physical entities being determined

Anonymous said...

The bastardized conception of "physical" posited by contemporary philosophy would probably be unrecognizable to Aquinas. All substances are "non-physical" on some level, seeing as how they're combinations of act and potency, of prime matter and substantial form--things that do not exist in the "physical world" as it's defined today.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous,

> All substances are "non-physical" on some level, seeing as how they're combinations of act and potency, of prime matter and substantial form--things that do not exist in the "physical world" as it's defined today. <

What do you call "matter" in the hylomorphic duality of "form/matter?" Also, does the primary cause have a material cause?

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Eduardo,

> A non-physical first cause does not entail physical indeterminism. <

It most certainly does. If the physical is completely self-determined (i.e. every event has a physical cause), then there would be no need to invoke a nonphysical first cause. And whether the "first cause" (i.e God) could have chosen otherwise is completely immaterial (no pun intended).

Eduardo said...

Right, that makes no sense. Just notice you are pressuposing that every physical cause has physical cause???

Right i dont how determism means every physical event has a physical cause. You are just making a weird bait and switch.

If there a furat non physical cause then determism in your sense is wrong.

And then.... ????

And don't bait and switch huh! Determism here is causual closure of reality into one realm the physical.

Eduardo said...

The post went all wrong.

So isee what you mean, yes you are right i think.

But what you call determism I call causual closure.

Where are you trying to get at?

Worry about the last post, using iPhone

Anonymous said...

What do you call "matter" in the hylomorphic duality of "form/matter?"

Prime matter isn't matter in the current understanding of that word. It isn't physical. It does not change. It is not a combination of act and potency. It isn't even "something or other", to quote David Oderberg. Rather it's, for lack of a better word, the undifferentiated "energy" that underlies all substances at the bottom level. It's pure potentiality, in other words. Substantial form is the actualizing principle that "sections off" (again, for lack of a better term) prime matter into distinct substances.

Of course, the hylomorphic system is applied at all levels--prime matter is merely its lowest-level incarnation. In most examples, the material cause would be a substance (and therefore an act/potency hybrid). But it is demonstrably true that any "physical" substance, being both matter (material) and form (immaterial), is not truly "physical" at all. So I don't see where the problem is with stating that the ground of being is non-physical.

Also, does the primary cause have a material cause?

Are you referring to "primary" as in "prime matter"? If so, no. Prime matter is not a substance, and so would have no material cause.

If the physical is completely self-determined (i.e. every event has a physical cause), then there would be no need to invoke a nonphysical first cause.

If every event is caused by another event (every move from potentiality to actuality is caused by something actual), then positing the non-existence of a grounding actuality (God) gives you an infinite regress that fails to explain how anything changes.

Anonymous said...

What do you call "matter" in the hylomorphic duality of "form/matter?"

Prime matter isn't matter in the current understanding of that word. It isn't physical. It does not change. It is not a combination of act and potency. It isn't even "something or other", to quote David Oderberg. Rather it's, for lack of a better word, the undifferentiated "energy" that underlies all substances at the bottom level. It's pure potentiality, in other words. Substantial form is the actualizing principle that "sections off" (again, for lack of a better term) prime matter into distinct substances.

Of course, the hylomorphic system is applied at all levels--prime matter is merely its lowest-level incarnation. In most examples, the material cause would be a substance (and therefore an act/potency hybrid). But it is demonstrably true that any "physical" substance, being both matter (material) and form (immaterial), is not truly "physical" at all. So I don't see where the problem is with stating that the ground of being is non-physical.

Also, does the primary cause have a material cause?

Are you referring to "primary" as in "prime matter"? If so, no. Prime matter is not a substance, and so would have no material cause.

If the physical is completely self-determined (i.e. every event has a physical cause), then there would be no need to invoke a nonphysical first cause.

If every event is caused by another event (every move from potentiality to actuality is caused by something actual), then positing the non-existence of a grounding actuality (God) gives you an infinite regress that fails to explain how anything changes.

Tony said...

If the physical is completely self-determined (i.e. every event has a physical cause), then there would be no need to invoke a nonphysical first cause.

Alistair, that isn't quite right. ST. Thomas posits the possibility that for purposes of the First Way, our universe could have an infinite past, and (though he doesn't take "physical" causes as "material" cause) there is no essential reason why physical events involving bodies could not be all deterministic events (if, for example, there were only rocks in the universe). And this STILL would not upset the First Way proving that there is a God. The proof is completely independent of the question of whether all physical causes and their effects come about through deterministic modes of causality or not.

Also, as a separate answer, creation (as a special moment starting a new universe, as opposed to an infinite past) does not require an answer about physical causality being deterministic. If at the first moment of time all bodies were set by the Creator in a certain state of affairs (moving, etc), the fact that the creative act itself is not deterministic says NOTHING about whether all the subsequent motions are deterministic. Causing physical bodies to be, from nothing prior, is not moving them. All subsequent motions can be deterministic without the creative initiation of all motion being deterministic.

machinephilosophy said...

If every event is caused by another event (every move from potentiality to actuality is caused by something actual), then positing the non-existence of a grounding actuality (God) gives you an infinite regress that fails to explain how anything changes.

What needs to be fleshed out is precisely what constitutes an explanation or explanatory adequacy and a detailed rundown of why an infinite regress fails.

And concerning the infinite reqress issue, it does seem like there is a precisely analogous situation that people like Craig have to deal with in defending the finitude of a temporal series instead of a simultaneous causal one that AT theism deals with.

I was thinking that Ed had dealt with this, but will have to go back over my notes on The Last Superstition and check.

Also, any suggestion of books or articles on these issues will be greatly appreciated.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous,

> But it is demonstrably true that any "physical" substance, being both matter (material) and form (immaterial), is not truly "physical" at all. So I don't see where the problem is with stating that the ground of being is non-physical. <

I never argued that positing the "ground of being" as nonphysical is problematic. What I have argued is that Aquinas' "primary or first cause" argument implies PHYSICAL indeterminism.

> If every event is caused by another event (every move from potentiality to actuality is caused by something actual), then positing the non-existence of a grounding actuality (God) gives you an infinite regress that fails to explain how anything changes. <

You're making my point here.

Merriam-Webster defines "indeterminism" as "a theory that holds that not every event has a cause."

If something is PHYSICALLY indeterminate (e.g. quantum events), then it doesn't have a PHYSICAL cause. So, if Aquinas' "primary or first cause" argument holds true, then it necessarily implies that there are some events happening right NOW that do not have any physical cause. That's the point!

Codgitator said...

Leiter reports that Fisher defends Krauss about e everything coming from "somenothing": http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2012/05/a-philosopher-defends-krauss.html Interesting irony how Krauss adverts to ordinary folk language to defend his rigorously scientific account of "nothing".

I recommend Dr Feser next go through Richard Carrier's "Sense and Goodness without God", not because Carrier is really worthy of the time, but because he has had lots of press lately and, well, it would just fun to see what Feser "does" with Carrier. ;) Personal request, I guess.

Codgitator said...

Alastair:

You're confusing necessity with determinism. The first way grounds determinism as a contingent order. The determinism D we see need not have been, even though any sequence in it could not have not been, given D.

Even so, who cares about physical determinism? It's moot in its own right. E.g. what causes the emission of a plutonium particle in its stochastic half-life decay? If it's actually random, it happens without a per se cause, though it is per accidens caused "by" the plutonium itself.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Codgitator,

> Even so, who cares about physical determinism? It's moot in its own right. <

Who cares? I do. That's why I asked the author of this blog the question.

> E.g. what causes the emission of a plutonium particle in its stochastic half-life decay? If it's actually random, it happens without a per se cause, though it is per accidens caused "by" the plutonium itself. <

If it is truly random, then it is an event that happens without any cause. I would think that is an issue that Thomistic metaphysics would have to address. Because what we have here is "potentiality" being "actualized" without anything "actual" actualizing it. And if you argue that it is caused by the particle itself, then you are apparently ascribing some kind of mentality to the particle (because the event in question doesn't have any physical cause). And if you deny that, then the "pure Act" itself (a.k.a. God) qualifies as the "uncaused cause" of the event by default.

Gyan said...

Alastair,
I believe the 'quantum events' require an observer to actualize aka the wavefunction collapse.



Some kinds of 'quantum events' such as pair production processes that occur as terms in
power series expansion of quantum probability calculations are merely mathematical 'virtual' processes. The term 'virtual' being used by physicists themselves.

The quantum mechanics was formulated as a theory to predict interaction of microscopic systems with a measuring apparatus.
Its extension to the wavefunction of universe for instance is an extrapolation for which no empirical justification exists, strictly speaking.
Let me end with a wise quotation:
Without a parable modern physics speaks not to the multitude. Sometimes, they do not illustrate but merely suggest, like the sayings of the mystics.An expression such as 'the curvature of space' is strictly comparable to the old definition of God as 'a circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference is nowhere'. Both succeed in suggesting; each does so by offering what is, on the level of our ordinary thinking, nonsense. By accepting the 'curvature of space' we are not 'knowing' or enjoying 'truth' in the fashion that was once thought to be possible.
CS Lewis (A discarded image)

Crude said...

Codg,

Interesting irony how Krauss adverts to ordinary folk language to defend his rigorously scientific account of "nothing".

What's funny is that Krauss' only defense at this point is to deny he was trying to answer the very question his book said he'll answer, that Dawkins' foreword said he answered, and that even professional philosophers are taking him as saying he answered. (And doing this while harshly coming down on philosophers over the question.) The only way for his defense it work is to make his book not only theologically and philosophically uninteresting, but to do so while while either exposing himself as a bad writer or a liar, and Dawkins as a fool either way.

That's the best part. Even that defense you linked pitches Dawkins over the edge of the freaking boat. He's the biggest loser in all of this, since all sides basically agree (From Horgan to Albert to otherwise), 'Well, there's one thing we know: Dawkins has no idea what the hell he's talking about.'

Anonymous said...

I recommend Dr Feser next go through Richard Carrier's "Sense and Goodness without God"

Christian philosopher David Wood did a pretty entertaining demolition job of the book a while ago:

http://www.answeringinfidels.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=86

Codgitator said...

Alastair:

I asked why you care about PD physical determinism because in my mind it's compromised on grounds much removed from the first way, but I guess I let my own hobby horse butt in there. Nonetheless, I think you should approach the question with a clear grasp of how and why PD and N necessity differ, and how each ties into the first way.

As for randomness, well, this gets back at my instinct here: why do you care? I assumed you have a decent grasp of TM Thomistic metaphysics, since you raised a fairly abstract point about one of its central arguments. Your perplexity about randomness, however, suggests you are only coming to gain a basic grasp of TM. Randomness was addressed by Aristotle himself so, rightly or wrongly, it wasn't a source of perplexity for Thomas at all as he mounted the first way. Randomness is basically what happens when two chains of deterministic causation intersect. The result is not uncaused but it is nondeterministic, since, in its own right, it follows from neither chain in its own right. That such PI physical indeterminism was allowed for by Aristotle and Thomas in the physical-natural domain should give pause to the claim that PI was/is problematic for their larger metaphysical project. Per accidens effects are not, then, wholly uncaused (what in the world is?), but simply not ascribable to lawlike, properly teleological causes. A white doctor may build a house but it is not his whiteness or doctorhood per se that causes the house: those are per accidens causes relative to his per se causation qua builder.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Gyan,

> I believe the 'quantum events' require an observer to actualize aka the wavefunction collapse. <

I agree that consciousness clearly plays a role due to "observer effect and/or "measurement problem".

> Some kinds of 'quantum events' such as pair production processes that occur as terms in
power series expansion of quantum probability calculations are merely mathematical 'virtual' processes. The term 'virtual' being used by physicists themselves. <

Virtual particles are not merely mathematical devices; they really are popping in and out of existence (see link to a Scientific American article below).

"Are virtual particles really constantly popping in and out of existence? Or are they merely a mathematical bookkeeping device for quantum mechanics?"

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Tony,

> ST. Thomas posits the possibility that for purposes of the First Way, our universe could have an infinite past, and (though he doesn't take "physical" causes as "material" cause) there is no essential reason why physical events involving bodies could not be all deterministic events (if, for example, there were only rocks in the universe). And this STILL would not upset the First Way proving that there is a God. The proof is completely independent of the question of whether all physical causes and their effects come about through deterministic modes of causality or not. <

I fully understand that Aquinas' argument concerns the present, not the past. This implies that physically uncaused events are occurring right now.

Professor Clarke (a Thomistic scholar) explicitly states in his book that "primary matter" or "pure or radical potency" is the "ultimate non-formal, quantitatively extended "stuff" that underlies and supports all forms in our material world, which has no form of its own but is open to all forms." (emphasis mine)

(source: pg. 143, "The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics" by W. Norris Clarke S.J.)

All physical existents are a combination of "act and potency" (actuality and potentiality). God, as "pure act," is not physical.

It should be noted that the "theory of relativity" holds that "matter (mass) and energy are interchangeable."

Professor Feser explicitly states in his book that the "nervous system [is] actualized by its molecular structure, which in turn is actualized by its atomic structure, etc. - what we have is the potential existence of one level actualized by the existence of another, which is in turn actualized by another, and so forth." (emphasis mine)

(source: pg. 96, "The Last Superstition" by Edward Feser)

He then goes on to argue that the regress must stop somewhere and where it stops is at the "Pure Act." Of course, the "Pure Act" is the "primary cause or first caause or uncaused cause" (a.k.a. God). So, I will assume the "Pure Act" is actualizing something. If not, then what we have here is an infinite regress.

It should also be noted that, according to the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics, all matter reduces to possibility waves (mathematical abstractions representing "potentialities"). That's "ground zero."

Crude said...

By the way, just to comment on the OP: I really enjoyed the entire series. Really, the whole thing was downright devastating to Rosenberg, as well as to the positions he holds. And I get the feeling that this thorough treatment is going to go a long way towards making Rosenberg, and materialism generally, seem a lot more toxic in online discussion.

Eduardo said...

Alastair.

I ... think I might be getting what you mean.

But and then ?

It sounds like it follows that G*d is active in the world.

Is that what you mean ?

* sheesh XD no typos this time! *

Tony said...

This implies that physically uncaused events are occurring right now.

Merriam-Webster defines "indeterminism" as "a theory that holds that not every event has a cause."

If something is PHYSICALLY indeterminate (e.g. quantum events), then it doesn't have a PHYSICAL cause. So, if Aquinas' "primary or first cause" argument holds true, then it necessarily implies that there are some events happening right NOW that do not have any physical cause. That's the point!


There is a potential equivocation possible here. I don't know if you are falling into it or not. The term "physical cause" can either refer to a cause that is itself physical in nature, OR, it can refer to a cause that is causing by a physical process, a physical sort of causality.

A rock hitting a stone and pushing it over is a "physical cause" in both senses, because the rock is itself physical and because the "hitting and pushing it over" is a physical sort of causality.

One of the seraphim instructing another angel would be a sort of non-physical cause in BOTH senses, of course.

But clearly it is possible to have non-physical things that cause physical objects to do things that they were doing before hand: if one of the seraphim commands Joseph to flee to Egypt, it is not clear that we want to call the causality a physical causality, even though the thing that happens is a physical event - Joseph travels to a new location.

The webster dictionary definition is unsufficient: a physical effect can be fully DETERMINATE in outcome without being caused by a physical thing, and a non-physical cause can cause a physical effect in a non-deterministic manner - in both cases the effect has a cause. What we generally mean by "deterministic" is that the sort of cause and effect relationship is present that the cause could not have produced some other effect than this specific effect. Non-deterministic causes and events exist, it doesn't mean their effects are uncaused.

But the ongoing fiat act of God holding the universe in existence isn't "causality" in quite the same sense anyway. For a rock "to be" because God intends it so is neither a physical action with a physical cause, nor a physical action with no physical cause, because it isn't a "coming to be X state", it isn't a coming to be at all. It is an equivocation to refer to physical causes - which cause a coming to be (of X condition) simply - and the creative "fiat" as "causing" any coming to be. The FIAT doesn't cause its effect by making its effect come to be, so that referring to God's creative fiat as causing physical events with a non-physical cause is, at best, an equivocation.

Yes, other sorts of ways in which God operates in the world bring about physical differences to occur, through non-physical causes.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Codgitator,

There are only two options here: "determinism" or "indeterminism."

Determinism holds that every event has a cause. Indeterminism holds that some events do not.

By the way, determinism and dualism are not necessarily incompatible. (This is why I have been qualifying the term "determinsim" with the term "physical.")

> Randomness is basically what happens when two chains of deterministic causation intersect. The result is not uncaused but it is nondeterministic, since, in its own right, it follows from neither chain in its own right. <

What you are describing is determinism. As to whether it constitutes physical determinism depends on whether the two chains of determinisitc caustion are both physical.

> Per accidens effects are not, then, wholly uncaused (what in the world is?), but simply not ascribable to lawlike, properly teleological causes <

Quanutm events are considered to be uncaused.

"According to this interpretation, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is not a temporary feature which will eventually be replaced by a deterministic theory, but instead must be considered a final renunciation of the classical idea of "causality".

(source: Wikipedia: Quantum mechanics)

Crude said...

Alastair,

Quanutm events are considered to be uncaused.

As of now, and quite possibly in principle, any interpretation of quantum mechanics is just that - an interpretation of the formalism, and multiple interpretations are possible. The interpretations are not scientific findings, but philosophical and metaphysical interpretations of said findings.

Anonymous said...

Paisley,

You are extremely confused. The point you're raising is coherent only to you--it makes no sense.

There is no such thing as "physical" in the sense that you mean it. All things are both physical and non-physical. Also, both physical and non-physical things change via necessary connections. Even souls change, per Oderberg. The only things that do not change are those which are either pure potentiality or pure actuality, and the former is not a candidate for God. So I have no idea of what you're talking about.

BenYachov said...

>Quanutm events are considered to be uncaused.

i.e. "Atheism-of-the-gaps".

How is this any better then an Intelligent Design neo-Paley Theist saying "Quanutm events are miracles caused directly by Paley's God"?

Enough of the Scientism already!

Crude said...

In Alastair's defense - at least, if we're taking him right - the 'things pop into existence uncaused and science shows this' line is repeated a lot, usually by popularizers who don't stress (and often, don't know) much of the science involved, or the difference between science and interpretations of science.

I think he's just offering up what he's heard and what he understands. Quantum physics is just loaded with nonsense as a popular topic.

Anonymous said...

I'd actually like to ask Alastair's question a different way: Bracketing the question of whether quantum events occur uncaused or not, if such were the case, as some suggest in regard to stochastic events like atomic decay, then does this invalidate the Thomistic account of causality? In other words, can the Thomistic metaphysical account of causation hold together without efficient causality? If so, what does this do to the five ways?

Eduardo said...

Quantum events occur in some cases without another particle being involved. In some cases at least.

However, I don't that invalidates the Thomistic view of causation. see the "Classical view" of causation is actually mechanistical view of causation. Something like no piece can move without another piece moving it. Pretty much the good and old block problems you see in physics.

So that is how we think everything in physics ( actually is noit reallllly true but we always go back to this idea when trying to make sense of experiments ). So I don't know, if Thomism is okay with causes arising from the entity itself, it doesn't seem to be a problem.

Now if the only entity that can do such thing is G*d than ... well G*d is just active in the whole universe then XD.

Anonymous said...

The Thomistic view of causation may be different than the classical, but don't they both require an external agent, i.e. an actualizer to actualize the potency, in the former, and a deterministic cause in the latter? Sure, a Thomist can argue that material, formal, and final causation is still there if an atom decays on its own, stochastically. He certainly has that over the the mechanist who needs a deterministic cause. But doesn't the Thomist still need an efficient cause?

This is not an attempt to disprove Thomism. I'm asking for clarification.

Eduardo said...

u_u calling all thomists!

sorry but I know about thomism just a bit above from the regular troll XD.

So I really don't fully undertand the 4 causes, is hard to think of atoms and know where we have each

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

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Tony,

> There is a potential equivocation possible here. <

There is no equivocation here. A "physical" cause is physical; a "nonphysical" cause is nonphysical. We generally refer to nonphysical causation as mental causation.

> The webster dictionary definition is unsufficient: a physical effect can be fully DETERMINATE in outcome without being caused by a physical thing, and a non-physical cause can cause a physical effect in a non-deterministic manner - in both cases the effect has a cause. <

There are only two options here: "determinism" or "indeterminism." (If there is another option, then no one seems to be able to give an intelligible articulation of it.)

The dictionary definitions seem to be fairly clear.

Merriam-Webster defines "determinism" as...

"1 b: : a theory or doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws"

Merriam-Webster defines "indeterminism" as...

"1 a: a theory that the will is free and that deliberate choice and actions are not determined by or predictable from antecedent causes."

"1 b: a theory that holds that not every event has a cause"

Merriam-Webster defines "free will" as "freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention."

It should be noted that free will implies an element of chance. (If this were not the case, then our choices would be completely predetermined.) So, we can properly characterize "free will" is an "uncaused cause."

> The FIAT doesn't cause its effect by making its effect come to be, so that referring to God's creative fiat as causing physical events with a non-physical cause is, at best, an equivocation. <

Are you are arguing that God is not the efficient cause of the world? That God is not nonphysical (sorry for the double negative...it was unavoidable)? That God is not the ultimate source of all potentiality?

rank sophist said...

The Thomistic view of causation may be different than the classical, but don't they both require an external agent, i.e. an actualizer to actualize the potency, in the former, and a deterministic cause in the latter? Sure, a Thomist can argue that material, formal, and final causation is still there if an atom decays on its own, stochastically. He certainly has that over the the mechanist who needs a deterministic cause. But doesn't the Thomist still need an efficient cause?

This is not an attempt to disprove Thomism. I'm asking for clarification.


The Thomist does indeed need an efficient cause. I had a long discussion on the subject of QM and the First Way at Victor Reppert's blog. I ended up by concluding that, aside from their sheer metaphysical insanity, uncaused/truly random events would not be constrained by anything, and would therefore not happen within any kind of measurable range. If something is measurable, then it isn't uncaused/random--which means that it's ultimately deterministic (like with the stuff measured by chaos theory). Whether or not we are capable of understanding this unknown cause is a different matter. All I know is that QM interpretations that posit "uncaused" events are patent nonsense at the metaphysical level.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Eduardo,

> It sounds like it follows that G*d is active in the world. <

Well, "Pure Act" dose seem to imply some kind of activity. Right?

rank sophist said...

There are only two options here: "determinism" or "indeterminism." (If there is another option, then no one seems to be able to give an intelligible articulation of it.)

This is the standard argument against free will, but it's useless against Aquinas. See below.

It should be noted that free will implies an element of chance. (If this were not the case, then our choices would be completely predetermined.) So, we can properly characterize "free will" is an "uncaused cause."

Not at all. Will is a part of the human rational soul, and is therefore not determined by lower-level phenomena. There is also no element of chance: it is merely one thing exercising power over another thing. The rational soul itself is caused and sustained by God.

Eduardo said...

Well if were to uphold that pure act is a trait that only G*d has, than I think so XD.

But you never know, Dr Feser could do the grace to pop up uncaused and say his 2 cents.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Crude,

> As of now, and quite possibly in principle, any interpretation of quantum mechanics is just that - an interpretation of the formalism, and multiple interpretations are possible. The interpretations are not scientific findings, but philosophical and metaphysical interpretations of said findings. <

I presented the Copenhagen interpretation (a.k.a. the standard interpretation) - the one traditionally accepted by the majority of physicists.

Of course, the intepretation of quantum mechanics is not really the issue here. What is at issue here is the interpretation of Aquinas' metaphysics and what implications that may have. And if Aquinas' metaphysics doesn't imply physical indeterminism (as I have argued), then there really is no plausible way for God to interact in the world. Because in a world where everything is physically determined, then God becomes superfluous.

Crude said...

Alastair,

I presented the Copenhagen interpretation (a.k.a. the standard interpretation) - the one traditionally accepted by the majority of physicists.

First, I've heard that a lot, but I think the data indicating that is extremely sparse at best.

Second, it's moot. The majority of physicists may accept that interpretation, but it's still non-scientific. It's in the realm of philosophy and metaphysics, not science. It's absolutely not due to scientists being able to test all the various interpretations, all the rest were falsified, and Copenhagen was not - or worse, that the relevant Copenhagen claims were observed. (That's exactly why they're interpretations. They are philosophical interpretations of for formalism, not observations themselves.)

And if Aquinas' metaphysics doesn't imply physical indeterminism (as I have argued), then there really is no plausible way for God to interact in the world. Because in a world where everything is physically determined, then God becomes superfluous.

Have you read The Last Superstition, or Aquinas? What's the extent of your reading on these topics?

Tony said...

Quantum events are considered to be uncaused.

I thought that (some) quantum events come about without a known cause, and the theory posits no room for a cause (in the usual physical mode of (efficient) causality). The theory doesn't posit that there is no cause at all. It doesn't even speak to other types of causality. And it would have no way of proving or disproving whether there are other types of causes for the quantum event.

Some interpretations of the situation involve that there is an uncaused event, but the interpretations are problematic.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous,

> There is no such thing as "physical" in the sense that you mean it. All things are both physical and non-physical. <

Agreed. Quantum mechanics holds that nature is fundamentally "dualistic" (i.e. it is both physical and nonphysical).

> Also, both physical and non-physical things change via necessary connections. Even souls change, per Oderberg. The only things that do not change are those which are either pure potentiality or pure actuality, and the former is not a candidate for God. So I have no idea of what you're talking about. <

This really doesn't address anything I have argued. That being said, I believe that Aristotle had basically an "animistic" view of the world. He believed that everything was "ensouled", that everything had a "form" or "essence".

Alastair F. Paisley said...

BenYachov,

> i.e. "Atheism-of-the-gaps". <

"Materialism of the gaps" or "promissory materialism" is the preferred term.

> How is this any better then an Intelligent Design neo-Paley Theist saying "Quanutm events are miracles caused directly by Paley's God"? <

Well, if you allow a materiaist (e.g. Lawrence Krauss) to invoke what essentially amounts to "materialism ex nihilo," then you really have no defense. That's basically my point here. You have to take a stance.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Crude,

> In Alastair's defense - at least, if we're taking him right - the 'things pop into existence uncaused and science shows this' line is repeated a lot, usually by popularizers who don't stress (and often, don't know) much of the science involved, or the difference between science and interpretations of science.

I think he's just offering up what he's heard and what he understands. Quantum physics is just loaded with nonsense as a popular topic.
<

"Are virtual particles really constantly popping in and out of existence?" <=== This is a "Scientific American" article written by Gordon Kane - director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Crude said...

Alastair,

"Are virtual particles really constantly popping in and out of existence?" <=== This is a "Scientific American" article written by Gordon Kane - director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

I'm aware of that article and others. But my response is the same: the relevant portion of what's being described isn't observed, and cannot be observed even in principle. No one observes something 'popping into existence from nothing, uncaused'. They, at the absolute most, observe the effects of something that can have (obviously) an observable effect.

A scientist can think any number of things. But the moment they get into interpretations of quantum mechanics, or start to postulate things coming into existence uncaused from utter nothingness, they're out of science and into metaphysics and philosophy, and possibly into incoherence besides.

That's all.

Mr. Green said...

Alastair F. Paisley: So, if Aquinas' "primary or first cause" argument holds true, then it necessarily implies that there are some events happening right NOW that do not have any physical cause. That's the point!

That is an incomplete understanding of Thomism. Given your definition of "physically indeterminate", yes, it's possible for some things to have no physical determinant, in terms of efficient causality. However it's not a game of who-hits-the-buzzer-first, where if you can cite a physical cause, that's the end of the story. There are both primary and secondary causes: God is the primary cause of everything, but physical entities also genuinely cause their proportional effects. Secondary causes are real, not imaginary or metaphorical. The Five Ways are arguments to show that no cause or causes apart from Pure Being can be sufficient on their own; but it in no way follows that there are no secondary causes. Ordinary physical events are caused by God and by the material creatures involved.

E.R. Bourne said...

Alistair,

People are confused by your posts because you are not stating clearly why you think this distinction is of any importance.

A Thomist is not necessarily threatened by the notion that all physical things have physical causes because a physical cause, as such, is always a proximate cause, meaning that it is instrumental and therefore not what we most mean by cause. No physical thing can be a cause simpliciter. Rather, it must also be an effect of some prior cause. So to say that all physical things have physical causes does not obviate the need for God because no physical cause can exhaustively account for its supposed effect. In other words, explaining the physical causes of all things will never be fully comprehensive. Notice, though, none of this rules out that all things might, in some way, have a physical cause. Our science is not under any burden of arriving at a phenomenon that is seemingly uncaused in order to demonstrate that something possesses a non-physical cause.

Tony said...

"1 a: a theory that the will is free and that deliberate choice and actions are not determined by or predictable from antecedent causes."

You need to remember that at least in principle the notion of an effect being DETERMINED by a cause as a necessary result and an effect being CAUSED by a cause are distinct, and in the realm of philosophy we are willing to consider potential situations where an event is caused but is not caused in a deterministic manner. That is, it is caused under a contingent mode of causality, which lacks the necessity aspect of a deterministic cause.

(Example, if I teach a child to distinguish between a good act and a better act, and encourage her to do the better, I am a cause of her doing the better act but I do not cause her to do the act under a necessary mode of causality. To be a cause is distinct from to be a necessary cause.)

"1 b: a theory that holds that not every event has a cause"

is an expression that hinges on the (false or at least unproven) assumption that "to be caused" is the same as "to be caused deterministically". Thomism allows for causes that cause non-deterministically. The underlying assumptions are limiting your ability to explore the questions fully.

Are you are arguing that God is not the efficient cause of the world?

I am saying that according to Thomism, God's FIAT and maintaining the universe as an existent is NOT an example of efficient causality. Efficient causality (at least, the best instances we can describe well) are all CHANGES. A change requires a substrate, a subject, that has one condition and then comes to have a different condition instead. God's creative fiat isn't like that: there is no pre-existing what that undergoes a change to a new condition. If his fiat were efficient causality as we usually understand it, what would be the subject *receiving* the action of "to be" that it didn't have earlier?

I certainly do uphold that God can (and presumably does) act as an efficient cause within the universe, IN ADDITION to his fiat.

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: Sure, a Thomist can argue that material, formal, and final causation is still there if an atom decays on its own, stochastically. He certainly has that over the the mechanist who needs a deterministic cause. But doesn't the Thomist still need an efficient cause?

I believe so, but remember that physics is restricted not only to matter, but to scientifically observable matter; and it is at least possible that there are material causes at work that are not observable, repeatable, etc., and thus would be "invisible" to science. But even without that, all it means is that certain physical effects would have a non-physical efficient cause. If a certain quantum event is under-determined in terms of secondary causes, God is still the primary cause, and can cause the event efficiently, so there is no problem for Thomism.

E.R. Bourne said...

And I am happy to know that Mr. Green and I have had similar reactions. His post has made mine redundant. Good man!

Orange-kun said...

It's hard for me to fully throw my lot in with Thomism, for the sole reason that its "wholly integrated" conception of human beings appears to entail that all of our actions are predetermined (and I take libertarian freedom to be a precondition for any sound morality). Granted, our intellects lead our wills in deliberating and choosing, but the physical sequence of efficient causation is independent of that rational sequence, and the physical sequence extends far back into the past, long before we were born and our intellects began to exist. And since the rational sequence must, according to Thomism, be in complete harmony with the physical sequence (and vice versa), it seems to follow that the rational sequence is necessitated by the physical sequence.

rank sophist said...

Orange-kun,

I had concerns similar to yours initially, but they turned out to be unfounded. I recommend Prima Pars article 83 from the Summa Theologica. In it, Aquinas states quite clearly that man has free will as a result of his rationality. I believe that the will on this view is immaterial--being part of the rational soul--and so is not subject to determinism as we understand it. Here's the article: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1083.htm

Alastair F. Paisley said...

rank sophist,

> This is the standard argument against free will, but it's useless against Aquinas. See below.

Not at all. Will is a part of the human rational soul, and is therefore not determined by lower-level phenomena. There is also no element of chance: it is merely one thing exercising power over another thing. The rational soul itself is caused and sustained by God.
<

This is not difficult. Either everything (mental or physical) is predetermined or everything is not. The former presupposes determinism; the latter indeterminism. To reiterate: If you think there is another option, you haven't presented an intelligible account of it yet.

The "two-stage model of free will" is the only intelligible account of free will.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Crude,

> First, I've heard that a lot, but I think the data indicating that is extremely sparse at best. <

"According to a poll at a Quantum Mechanics workshop in 1997,[13] the Copenhagen interpretation is the most widely-accepted specific interpretation of quantum mechanics, followed by the many-worlds interpretation.[14]"

(source: Wikipedia: Copenhagen interpretation)

> Second, it's moot. The majority of physicists may accept that interpretation, but it's still non-scientific. It's in the realm of philosophy and metaphysics, not science. It's absolutely not due to scientists being able to test all the various interpretations, all the rest were falsified, and Copenhagen was not - or worse, that the relevant Copenhagen claims were observed. (That's exactly why they're interpretations. They are philosophical interpretations of for formalism, not observations themselves.) <

This is in and of itself a philosophical debate - namely, "realism" vs. "instrumentalism." Of course, we are discussing metaphysics here. And if you believe that your metaphysical position can simply ignore science, then your metaphysical position will not be scientifically informed.

> Have you read The Last Superstition, or Aquinas? What's the extent of your reading on these topics? <

I've read Feser's "The Last Superstition" and Clarke's "The One and Many" (which I believe is considered a textbook on contemporary Thomistic metaphysics).

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Crude,

> I'm aware of that article and others. But my response is the same: the relevant portion of what's being described isn't observed, and cannot be observed even in principle. No one observes something 'popping into existence from nothing, uncaused'. They, at the absolute most, observe the effects of something that can have (obviously) an observable effect. <

"A quantum fluctuation is the temporary appearance of energetic particles out of nothing, as allowed by the Uncertainty Principle."

(source: Wikipedia: Quantum fluctuations)

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Mr. Green,

> That is an incomplete understanding of Thomism. Given your definition of "physically indeterminate", yes, it's possible for some things to have no physical determinant, in terms of efficient causality. However it's not a game of who-hits-the-buzzer-first, where if you can cite a physical cause, that's the end of the story. There are both primary and secondary causes: God is the primary cause of everything, but physical entities also genuinely cause their proportional effects. Secondary causes are real, not imaginary or metaphorical. The Five Ways are arguments to show that no cause or causes apart from Pure Being can be sufficient on their own; but it in no way follows that there are no secondary causes. Ordinary physical events are caused by God and by the material creatures involved. <

Questions:

Is God, as primary cause, a physical cause or a nonphysical cause?

What exactly is God, as primary cause, causing?

rank sophist said...

This is not difficult. Either everything (mental or physical) is predetermined or everything is not. The former presupposes determinism; the latter indeterminism. To reiterate: If you think there is another option, you haven't presented an intelligible account of it yet.

The "two-stage model of free will" is the only intelligible account of free will.


Incorrect. I recommend reading this thread: http://catholicforum.fisheaters.com/index.php?topic=2155063.0

Alastair F. Paisley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alastair F. Paisley said...

E. R. Bourne,

> People are confused by your posts because you are not stating clearly why you think this distinction is of any importance. <

I asked one simple question:

"Doesn't Aquinas' "primary or first cause" argument imply physical indeterminism?"

If Aquinas' "first cause" argument does not imply physical indeterminism, then his argument is not a very compelling one. Why should I believe a nonphysical "primary cause" is required to ground a world where everything is physically determined? Why should I believe a "pure Act" is required in a world where each and every physical existent is being actualized by another physical existent? Why should I care about a little "infinite regress" problem? Right?

On the other hand, if my point is valid, then what makes you think that science can't observe an "uncaused cause?" Why are "uncaused causes" actualizing potentia beyond the purview of science?

I suggest you think about that and then maybe you'll begin to see the relevance of my question.

rank sophist said...

Why should I care about a little "infinite regress" problem? Right?

Is this a joke? An infinite regress would fail to explain how anything was capable of change, and would therefore ruin your argument.

Crude said...

Alastair,

"According to a poll at a Quantum Mechanics workshop in 1997,[13] the Copenhagen interpretation is the most widely-accepted specific interpretation of quantum mechanics, followed by the many-worlds interpretation.[14]"

I've read these entries. This is what worries me: did you read them? Specifically, did you read the sources, specifically linked footnote 13?

Here's the salient portion: "A (highly unscientific) poll taken at the 1997 UMBC quantum mechanics workshop gave the once all-dominant Copenhagen interpretation less than half of the votes."

That 'highly unscientific' is not added by me - it's from Tegmark's paper. This is exactly why I said I've heard these numbers thrown around, but I've never really seen them substantiated.

This is in and of itself a philosophical debate - namely, "realism" vs. "instrumentalism." Of course, we are discussing metaphysics here. And if you believe that your metaphysical position can simply ignore science, then your metaphysical position will not be scientifically informed.

No, it's not "realism vs instrumentalism". Nor did I say that the metaphysical position can "simply ignore science".

What I said was that that the interpretations of quantum mechanics are themselves not science - they are philosophy and metaphysics. I'm not ignoring science by pointing this out. I'm trying to prevent people from mangling science by failing to understand where science ends and philosophy/metaphysics begins.

What I said regarding the observational status of 'things coming into existence from utter nothingness without cause', holds.

"A quantum fluctuation is the temporary appearance of energetic particles out of nothing, as allowed by the Uncertainty Principle."

Except, as we've seen with Krauss getting hammered at all angles, A) the 'nothing' of physics is not the 'nothing' that is relevant to these debates, and B) this is not an observation. These are interpretations of the formalism, and the interpretations go back to the issue I've already described.

I'm sorry, but you've been radically misinformed about the state and nature of science and quantum physics both. We can actually do a great job of illustrating that here:

On the other hand, if my point is valid, then what makes you think that science can't observe an "uncaused cause?"

"Science" doesn't do any observing. People do. And 'observing a lack of cause' is an impossibility.

Imagine an apple suddenly appears in front of you. You saw nothing which placed it there. Did you observe the uncaused? Well, no. The only thing you observed was the sudden presence of the apple. You didn't observe its lack of cause - and you can't observe that. If you speculate, "Well, perhaps this apple had no cause. It just popped into existence without a cause!", you're off into the land without science. And hey, go there if you like - just know where you're going.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Mr. Green,

> But even without that, all it means is that certain physical effects would have a non-physical efficient cause. If a certain quantum event is under-determined in terms of secondary causes, God is still the primary cause, and can cause the event efficiently, so there is no problem for Thomists <

I hope you understand the implications of what you just stated.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Crude,

> "Science" doesn't do any observing. People do. <

This is brilliant.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

rank sophist,

> Is this a joke? An infinite regress would fail to explain how anything was capable of change, and would therefore ruin your argument. <

I guess you don't know what a rhetorical question is.

Sean Robsville said...

Any phenomenon that cannot be reduced to algorithms probably isn't accessible to scientific investigation or understanding.

Perhaps the mind is such.

grodrigues said...

@Alasdair Paisley:

"Agreed. Quantum mechanics holds that nature is fundamentally "dualistic" (i.e. it is both physical and nonphysical)."

Nonsense.

Some more random comments:

1. the Copenhagen interpretation does *not* commit one to uncaused events, and as already explained by other people this is the bone of contention, not the indeterminacy.

2. the fact that the majority of physicists favor the Copenhagen interpretation (CI) means very little; the physicist's business is to do physics not philosophy. Physicists, if nothing else, are very practical people, and are little worried by such philosophical foundational issues. They pick CI from their teachers, per osmosis as it were, and hold onto it as the default option, having neither motive nor motivation to look for anything else.

3. quotes from wikipedia are not impressive. The nothing in "A quantum fluctuation is the temporary appearance of energetic particles out of nothing, as allowed by the Uncertainty Principle." is like Krauss's nothing, it is actually something, namely the quantum vacuum.

E.R. Bourne said...

Alistair,

In turn, I suggest that you think about what I and others have pointed out to you. I guess that is not as entertaining, though, as needlessly repeating your misunderstandings without any effort to see why no one is impressed.

Aquinas' First Way establishes that physical causes, as such, cannot ever ultimately account for the existence of motion. Therefore it is simply uninteresting that things have physical causes because, again, this does not at all entail that there then cannot be some non-physical cause.

What caused or causes me? As a son, my father and mother did. As a human being, my soul did. As something which exists at all, I am an effect of God. The First Way proves that no physical cause can exhaustively account for any of its effects. Physical causes, therefore, do not act to the exclusion of non-physical causes.

Finally, the idea that we can "observe" an uncaused cause is false. Physics, as all natural sciences, pertains to what is natural. In so doing, it is limited to that which can be known first through sensation, meaning that it must be limited to substances which are, in some way, in potency. God, as Pure Act, cannot contain within Himself any potency and therefore cannot be material. This is why humans cannot observe an uncaused cause.

Benyachov said...

>"Materialism of the gaps" or "promissory materialism" is the preferred term.

Are you aware "Gap" arguments are both bad science and bad philosophy?


>Well, if you allow a materiaist (e.g. Lawrence Krauss) to invoke what essentially amounts to "materialism ex nihilo," then you really have no defense. That's basically my point here. You have to take a stance.

Rather both Krauss and Paley have their heads up their arses. The brute fact is God, materialism, etc..are metaphysical questions. They must be answered by philosophy. The are not questions to be answered by physics.
To claim otherwise is rationally incoherent.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Sean Robsville,

> Any phenomenon that cannot be reduced to algorithms probably isn't accessible to scientific investigation or understanding.

Perhaps the mind is such
<

Penrose argued that consciousness cannot be reduced to an algorithm and therefore is noncomputable. It should also be noted that Penrose and Hameroff have proposed perhaps the most fleshed-out hypothesis of consciousness - a testable "quantum mind" hypothesis.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Alastair F. Paisley

The strange interactions of fundamental particles with the mind of the observer ('quantum weirdness') have long been of interest to philosophers. There are two opposing views:
(i) Quantum weirdness produces the mind, versus
(ii) The mind produces quantum weirdness.

Penrose and Hameroff favor the first view, whereas Buddhist philosophers favor the second.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

grodrigues,

> Nonsense. <

Simply saying that my claim is "nonsense" does not actually refute it. The quantum "wave/particle duality" is a well-established fact of quantum mechanics. (You will note that I have supported this claim with appropriate documentation.)

> 1. the Copenhagen interpretation does *not* commit one to uncaused events, and as already explained by other people this is the bone of contention, not the indeterminacy. <

You're wrong. The Copenhagen interpretation most certainly does.

"According to this interpretation, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is not a temporary feature which will eventually be replaced by a deterministic theory, but instead must be considered a final renunciation of the classical idea of "causality""

(source: Wikipedia: Quantum mechanics)

> 2. the fact that the majority of physicists favor the Copenhagen interpretation (CI) means very little; the physicist's business is to do physics not philosophy. Physicists, if nothing else, are very practical people, and are little worried by such philosophical foundational issues. They pick CI from their teachers, per osmosis as it were, and hold onto it as the default option, having neither motive nor motivation to look for anything else. <

But the fact is that the majority of the physicists do accept it (as you yourself have already acknowledged). Apparently, you would have us consult only physicists who simply do the math and never bother to reflect on what the math implies, physicists who deny any need for an explanation.

"The Copenhagen interpretation was traditionally the most popular among physicists, next to a purely instrumentalist position that denies any need for explanation (a view expressed in David Mermin's famous quote "shut up and calculate"

(source: Wikipdia: Interpretations of quantum mechanics)
"

> 3. quotes from wikipedia are not impressive. The nothing in "A quantum fluctuation is the temporary appearance of energetic particles out of nothing, as allowed by the Uncertainty Principle." is like Krauss's nothing, it is actually something, namely the quantum vacuum. <

The following is from Scientific American, not from Wikipedia:

"Are Virtual Particles Really Constantly Popping In and Out of Existence?"

Just FYI. The quantum vacuum is a field of potentialty. But how something becomes actualized from this field has no physical cause or explanation. (It should be noted that the terms "actuality" and "potentiality" are basic categories in Aquinas' metaphysical scheme. In fact, Aquinas' "first cause" argument seeks to establih that a nonphysical "primary cause" is the ultimate source of all potentiality.)

Alastair F. Paisley said...

E. R. Bourne,

> Aquinas' First Way establishes that physical causes, as such, cannot ever ultimately account for the existence of motion. <

You're making my point - namely, that Aquinas' "first cause" argument implies physical indeterminism.

> Finally, the idea that we can "observe" an uncaused cause is false.<

The fact is that we already have; it's called quantum indeterminacy.

"The central feature of the quantum theory is indeterminism. The old physics linked all events in a tight chain-mesh of cause and effect. But on the atomic scale the linkage turns out to be loose and imprecise. Events occur without well-defined causes."

(source: pg. 135, "The Matter Myth" by Paul Davies - physicist)

> God, as Pure Act, cannot contain within Himself any potency and therefore cannot be material. This is why humans cannot observe an uncaused cause.
<

You raise up another issue - an interesting one. And although discussing this may be view as a digression from the subject matter of this thread, I will grant myself a little bit of indulgence here.

As I understand Aquinas' metaphysics, God does not contain any potency within himself because he is immutable. In fact, God's immutability is exactly what Aquinas' is endeavoring to establish. (Only finite beings are mutable (subject to change) because they are comprised of both "act and potency.") That being said, we have something of a paradox here. Why? Because Aquinas also considers God to be "omnipotent." And God's omnipotence (which literally means "all potency") logically follows from Aquinas' metaphysical scheme because God must ultimately be deemed the source of all potency.

Benyachov said...

>That being said, we have something of a paradox here. Why? Because Aquinas also considers God to be "omnipotent." And God's omnipotence (which literally means "all potency") logically follows from Aquinas' metaphysical scheme because God must ultimately be deemed the source of all potency.

Pure bullshit.

It merely means he can actualize any conceivable potency not that he contains all potency. He is the creator of all things that contain potency.

Enough of the sophistry already.

Sheesh!

Benyachov said...

>You're wrong. The Copenhagen interpretation most certainly does.

What is your authority for making this loony claim?

Hume's bogus philosophy postulates the existence of uncased events which of course Anscombe devastatingly refuted.

There is in principle no science to back up your weird claim about the Copenhagen interpretation of QM.

Eduardo said...

errr there more than one interpratation of quantum phenomena.

Just a reminder, before things get out of hand

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Benyachov,

> The brute fact is God, materialism, etc..are metaphysical questions. They must be answered by philosophy. The are not questions to be answered by physics.
To claim otherwise is rationally incoherent.
<

Several points:

1) The "demarcation problem" (which is a well-known problem in the philosophy of science) holds that the boundaries betweewn science and nonscience and between physics and metaphysics are not clearly drawn.

2) What constintutes "methodological naturalism" is a philosophical question - a question which cannot be divorced from metaphysics. For example, what exactly constitutes the "natural" and the "supernatural?" These are metaphysical questions.

3) What constitutes a scientific explanation is not black and white. This is why "realism," "anti-realism," and "instrumentalism" are hotly debated issues in the philosophy of science.

4) Science itself was originally known as "natural philosophy" (it still is in some English-speaking countries). In fact, science is basically a form of "experimental philosophy." A scientist makes a philosophical argument (known as a hypothesis or a theory) and then presents empirical evidence to support that argument. Whether one finds the evidence to be compelling is ultimately subjective.

5) We are having a METAPHYSICAL debate here. And there certainly are no ground rules that preclude one from employing scientific evidence to make a metaphysical argument.

Sean Robsville said...

My understanding of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics is that there are two processes at work:

(1) The development of a probability distribution of the location of a particle in three dimensions with respect to time.
(2) The 'collapse' of that distribution into a defined instance of a particle observed at a specific location.

The first of these processes is deterministic, the second is random, though if a large enough sample of collapse events are observed they will be found to have a distribution corresponding to the probability function.

The decay of an individual radioactive atom appears to be random and 'uncaused', yet if a large enough number of observations are made, they obey the mathematical functions for the half-life of that particular isotope.

What remains a mystery is how does an individual atom 'know when its time is up'?

BenYachov said...

>We are having a METAPHYSICAL debate here. And there certainly are no ground rules that preclude one from employing scientific evidence to make a metaphysical argument.

Bullshit, Sophistry and a category mistake! We are not having a metaphysical debate. You are trying to have a scientific discussion and you are committing the fallacy of equivocation all over the place!

To claim that God or Materialism can be know via scientific evidence is equivalent to claiming you can discover a new galaxy with a microscope.

You are not having a philosophical discussion here. You are giving us sophistic platitudes.

BenYachov said...

>The central feature of the quantum theory is indeterminism. The old physics linked all events in a tight chain-mesh of cause and effect. But on the atomic scale the linkage turns out to be loose and imprecise. Events occur without well-defined causes."

BTW genius has it never occurred to you that being un-caused is not synonymous with not being a well-defined cause?

Good grief!!!!!

I'm loosing it here with the sophistry!

Somebody talk me down.

Crude???

grodrigues said...

@Alasdair F. Paisley:

"Simply saying that my claim is "nonsense" does not actually refute it. The quantum "wave/particle duality" is a well-established fact of quantum mechanics."

You said and I quote: "Quantum mechanics holds that nature is fundamentally "dualistic" (i.e. it is both physical and nonphysical)." The wave-particle duality is a well-established fact of QM, but it has nothing to do with the physical, non-physical divide.

"1. the Copenhagen interpretation does *not* commit one to uncaused events, and as already explained by other people this is the bone of contention, not the indeterminacy.

You're wrong. The Copenhagen interpretation most certainly does."

While it certainly is a common, popular offshoot of CI, none of the core principles of CI (there are variations among the adherents of CI, e.g. Heisenberg and Bohr differed on important aspects, and as far as I know, there is no definitive, complete statement) implies it, not in the sense relevant to Aquinas' arguments. Now, we can keep naysaying each other until hell freezes over, but unless you have something more tangible than an ambiguous Wikipedia one-liner, that really makes the case that CI implies an overthrow of the metaphysical idea of causality, I will stick to what I said.

"Apparently, you would have us consult only physicists who simply do the math and never bother to reflect on what the math implies, physicists who deny any need for an explanation."

That the "shut-up and calculate" attitude is widespread among physicists, and that they are bound to not devote much thought to the matter, was what I was trying to explain, so I do not understand what exactly you are objecting to.

"3. quotes from wikipedia are not impressive. The nothing in "A quantum fluctuation is the temporary appearance of energetic particles out of nothing, as allowed by the Uncertainty Principle." is like Krauss's nothing, it is actually something, namely the quantum vacuum.

The following is from Scientific American, not from Wikipedia:

"Are Virtual Particles Really Constantly Popping In and Out of Existence?"

Just FYI. The quantum vacuum is a field of potentialty."

You are just proving my point. If the quantum vacuum, the ground state of the quantum system, is a "field of potentiality" it is not nothing. Since it is the ground state of a quantum system, it has some definite properties like having lowest energy, being described by certain laws, having certain symmetries, etc.

"But how something becomes actualized from this field has no physical cause or explanation."

Having no explanation is right or wrong depending on how you interpret "explanation". But even sticking to the narrowest possible sense, it may just be epistemological limitation and thus has little bearing on the *ontological* matter. Having no "physical cause" is right or wrong depending on how you interpret it. Suffice to say, as has already been said by other people, that it does not scratch Aquinas' arguments one bit. In other words, if you indeed want to use QM as a springboard to refute them, physics alone cannot help you and you have to step into the metaphysical battlefield.

BenYachov said...

>"Are Virtual Particles Really Constantly Popping In and Out of Existence?"

Is that a link?

You need to fix it bro!

Cheers grodrigues.

Anonymous said...

I'm not up to speed on the latest developments of QM, so I guess that's why I don't see the point of all of this. According to Geisler:

Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty does not say there is no cause of events, but simply that one cannot predict the course of a given particle. Hence, it is not to be understood as the principle of uncausality but the principle of unpredictability.

Adler writes,

At the same time that the Heisenberg uncertainty principles were established, quantum physics acknowledged that the intrusive experimental measurements that provided the data used in the mathematical formulations of quantum theory conferred on subatomic objects and events indeterminate character...It follows, therefore, that the indeterminacy cannot be intrinsic to subatomic reality.

This led Geisler to note, "Hence, unpredictable behavior may result in part from the attempt to observe it."

(Taken from Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Indeterminacy, Principle of, p. 356).

Craig observes,

The recent use of such vacuum fluctuations is highly misleading. For virtual particles do not literally come into existence spontaneously out of nothing. Rather the energy locked up in a vacuum fluctuates spontaneously in such a way as to convert into evanescent particles that return almost immediately to the vacuum. As John Barrow and Frank Tipler comment, ". . . the modern picture of the quantum vacuum differs radically from the classical and everyday meaning of a vacuum-- nothing. . . . The quantum vacuum (or vacuua, as there can exist many) states . . . are defined simply as local, or global, energy minima (1986, p. 440). The microstructure of the quantum vacuum is a sea of continually forming and dissolving particles which borrow energy from the vacuum for their brief existence. A quantum vacuum is thus far from nothing, and vacuum fluctuations do not constitute an exception to the principle that whatever begins to exist has a cause

So, what gives? Why all this talk of uncaused events and objects popping into existence out of nothing? Has there been a recent demonstration that such things occur?

Thanks, in advance,
Bill

Crude said...

I'm going to focus on this for now, because I've seen it come up so often, and the responses in this thread haven't encouraged me.

It's been repeatedly said that the Copenhagen Interpretation is the most popular one among physicists. I agree with grodrigues' regarding its application to Aquinas' ideas, but I want to ask this again: where is the evidence that most physicists accept CI?

The wikipedia link, I already responded to - its source is a pdf by Tegmark talking about what he himself calls an unscientific poll. And even THAT poll was of a handful of people at a workshop, with the assumption that 'the CI interpretation used to be the most popular one'.

But where's the source of this claim? Where's the poll, and where's the data?

Now, I don't think it matters insofar as the discussion goes - my comments about the relations of interpretations to science and observation remain. But I've just seen this particular claim come up so often I'd either like to see it substantiated, or flagged as hearsay once and for all.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Sean Robsville,

> The strange interactions of fundamental particles with the mind of the observer ('quantum weirdness') have long been of interest to philosophers. There are two opposing views:
(i) Quantum weirdness produces the mind, versus
(ii) The mind produces quantum weirdness.

Penrose and Hameroff favor the first view, whereas Buddhist philosophers favor the second.
<

Hameroff states on his "Quantum Consciousness" website: "In recent years I have considered that such a connection to the basic proto-conscious level of reality where Platonic values are embedded is strikingly similar to Buddhist and other spiritual concepts."

In fact, Hameroff compares "objective reductions" to Whithead's "actual occasions of experience" and Buddhist "moments of experience."

"Consciousness, Whitehead and quantum computation in the brain: Panprotopsychism meets the physics of fundamental spacetime geometry" by Stuart Hameroff

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Benyachov,

> Pure bullshit. <

Your employment of an expletive would suggest that I struck a chord.

> It merely means he can actualize any conceivable potency not that he contains all potency. He is the creator of all things that contain potency. <

Pray tell where exactly the potency is conceived?

Also, you have failed to explain why Aquinas ascribed the attribute of "omnipotence" (which, as you have learned, means "all potency") to God.

Has God fully expressed his "omnipotence?" Or, does it simply exist in potentiality?

As you can see, I am asking some very legitimate questions here.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Ben Yachov,

> Bullshit, Sophistry and a category mistake! We are not having a metaphysical debate <

Of course we are.

> To claim that God or Materialism can be know via scientific evidence is equivalent to claiming you can discover a new galaxy with a microscope <

Scientific evidence (like all evidence) is subject to interpretation. And I believe we have enough scientific evidence to postulate an all-pervading consciousness.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Sean Robsville,

> My understanding of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics is that there are two processes at work:

(1) The development of a probability distribution of the location of a particle in three dimensions with respect to time.
(2) The 'collapse' of that distribution into a defined instance of a particle observed at a specific location.

The first of these processes is deterministic, the second is random, though if a large enough sample of collapse events are observed they will be found to have a distribution corresponding to the probability function.

The decay of an individual radioactive atom appears to be random and 'uncaused', yet if a large enough number of observations are made, they obey the mathematical functions for the half-life of that particular isotope.

What remains a mystery is how does an individual atom 'know when its time is up'?
<

Agreed.

By the way, I also agree with a statement that you made in your blog.

"The act of observation turns potentiality into actuality, resolving the question of what the particle actually "is""

Aristotle's metaphysical theory was fairly prescient. I don't think it is that much of a stretch to say that he anticipated quantum mechanics (as made evident by the central place "act and potency" held in his scheme). Unfortunately, most Thomists are too blind to see it.

"Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." Matthew 13:13

Anonymous said...

Alastair,

Can you:

(1) Elaborate on the claim that there is an "all pervading consciousness"? Is this the panpsychism of, say, Spinoza? Process philosophy/theology? Buddhism? Platonism?

(2) Elaborate on the claim that "we have enough scientific edifence to postulate" this claim?

I would also add that, depending upon the interpretation of this claim, it isn't necessarily inconsistent with Christianity, even plain old orthodox and classically theistic Christianity. The early platonizing Christian tradition, still thriving in the Eastern Church and extant in the Western, certainly can sympathize with the a variant of your claim.

However, if you mean to suggest some form of pantheism, then, of course, that's a different story.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Ben Yachov,

> BTW genius has it never occurred to you that being un-caused is not synonymous with not being a well-defined cause? <

It would appear that English is not your first language.

"According to this interpretation, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is not a temporary feature which will eventually be replaced by a deterministic theory, but instead must be considered a final renunciation of the classical idea of "causality""

(source: Wikipedia: Quantum mechanics)

> I'm loosing it here <

What you're having is called a "crisis of faith."

> Somebody talk me down. <

I suggest you learn how to meditate.

Anonymous said...

"According to this interpretation, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is not a temporary feature which will eventually be replaced by a deterministic theory, but instead must be considered a final renunciation of the classical idea of "causality""

The "classical idea of 'causality'" does not refer to premodern, platonic or aristotelian views of causation, but early modern mechanism and materialism. You have a habit of quoting wikipedia's references to modern ideas, and then extending those conclusions to premodern modes of thought. This is a forced projection that won't do. "Causality" in a premodern sense is equivocal to "causality" in the modern, and "nothing" in a premodern, metaphysical sense, is equivocal to "nothing" in the way that contemporary physicists use it. You have to do the footwork of actually translating these concepts from one framework into another to see if they apply.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI. The quantum vacuum is a field of potentialty. But how something becomes actualized from this field has no physical cause or explanation.

Something that is not actual cannot be "something or other", and the quantum vacuum is most definitely "something or other". So, no. That is completely off-base, and betrays a lack of familiarity with the territory. I suggest reading more on the subject before arguing about this further.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous,

> 1) Elaborate on the claim that there is an "all pervading consciousness"? Is this the panpsychism of, say, Spinoza? Process philosophy/theology? Buddhism? Platonism? <

I prefer the term "panentheism" (which is the term employed in process theology). I believe the thought is succinctly expressed in the following quote.

Divinity is the enfolding and unfolding of everything that is. Divinity is in all things in such a way that all things are in divinity." - Nicholas Cusa

> 2) Elaborate on the claim that "we have enough scientific edifence to postulate" this claim? <

The following features of QM allow us to postulate this:

1) quantum indeterminacy
2) quantum entanglement/nonlocality
3) quantum duality
4) the observer effect and/or measurement problem

These so-called "anomalies" are only anomalies because they don't fit within a materialistic paradigm. Once you adopt the view that consciusness is fundamental, everything falls into place.

> I would also add that, depending upon the interpretation of this claim, it isn't necessarily inconsistent with Christianity, even plain old orthodox and classically theistic Christianity. The early platonizing Christian tradition, still thriving in the Eastern Church and extant in the Western, certainly can sympathize with the a variant of your claim <

Agreed. Mysticism is fairly consistent among disparate traditions. Aquinas' metaphysics not only employs Aristotelianism but also Neoplatonism (which is grounded in Plotinus' emanationism and mysticism).

> However, if you mean to suggest some form of pantheism, then, of course, that's a different story <

The term "pantheism" is a much maligned word. It depends on how you define it.

Naturalistic pantheism is simply atheistic materialism emloying a "God-concept" to peddle a spiritually-impoverished worldveiw.

Dualistic or idealistic pantheism is a religiously and spiritually valid view.

Daniel Smith said...

Alasdair F. Paisley: As I understand Aquinas' metaphysics, God does not contain any potency within himself because he is immutable. In fact, God's immutability is exactly what Aquinas' is endeavoring to establish. (Only finite beings are mutable (subject to change) because they are comprised of both "act and potency.") That being said, we have something of a paradox here. Why? Because Aquinas also considers God to be "omnipotent." And God's omnipotence (which literally means "all potency") logically follows from Aquinas' metaphysical scheme because God must ultimately be deemed the source of all potency.

God has no passive potency, he is supreme in active potency.

The difference - passive potency must be actualized by something else, active potency requires no other to actualize it.

This comes straight from Dr. Feser himself.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Paisley, are you going to reply to my post?

Bill

Anonymous said...

Alastair,

I would have to correct you somewhat on your characterization of Cusa and Aquinas. While they can certainly be broadly understood as platonizing Christians in certain respects, it would be incorrect to suggest that they were vulgar platonists or neo-platonists with a full blown emanationism. The early Christian Fathers, while certainly making use of neo-platonism (and their interpretation of Aristotle), redefined and recalibrated them in light of the revelation of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Alastair,

Let me extent that last comment at 4:28. The platonizing Christian tradition allows for "conscioussness" to pervade reality without reality actually becoming deified in the same way that God is a deity--though it is a type of "divinization" or "theosis," but one that safeguards God's essence, which is beyond finite reality. It does, however, dismiss the distinction between nature and grace, natural and supernatural, that you seem to be targeting in Thomism.

BenYachov said...

>> BTW genius has it never occurred to you that being un-caused is not synonymous with not being a well-defined cause? <

>It would appear that English is not your first language.

>"According to this interpretation, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is not a temporary feature which will eventually be replaced by a deterministic theory, but instead must be considered a final renunciation of the classical idea of "causality"".

Except you where quoting The Matter Myth" page 135 by Paul Davies -not the wikipedia."

Which was what I was responding too.

Pretending they are the same quote is not honest or smart.

(BTW I can't find that quote on page 135 in my copy of THE MATTER MYTH but on page 141 & it is clearly not a direct quote but a self-serving paraphrase. Davies talks about it in reference to classic Newtonian physics which of course is mechanistic. Not Aristotelian metaphysics).

So it seems English really is not your first language.

Some advice if you are going to try to bullshit me don't be forgetful or gamble your critic doesn't already own a copy of the book you misquote.

>What you're having is called a "crisis of faith."

No it's getting pissed at an arrogant liar who obviously can't read and projects his deficiencies on others.

BenYachov said...

>Pray tell where exactly the potency is conceived?

What does this even mean? Are you asking when God creates from nothing he is
actualizing a potency?

No He is not. He is radically causing something "to be" from nothing not out of nothing as if nothing where a material substance.

Creation Ex Nilo is not actualizing a potency from a substance called "nothing".

>Also, you have failed to explain why Aquinas ascribed the attribute of "omnipotence" (which, as you have learned, means "all potency") to God.

I just explained what it meant and is doesn't mean God contains any substantial potencies. God has the "potential" to create A or not but that is no different than a Cambridge Property. God is still purely actual even though He may potentially create what he wants or not without containing any potency in his substance.

>Has God fully expressed his "omnipotence?" Or, does it simply exist in potentiality?

God's omnipotence is purely actual. The things he creates are potential his substance remains purely actual.

>As you can see, I am asking some very legitimate questions here.

Some of them are intelligent but some are base sophistry and I don't take kindly to bull-shiting. Especially bull-shiters who swap quotes I respond too and think I won't notice it.

>Scientific evidence (like all evidence) is subject to interpretation. And I believe we have enough scientific evidence to postulate an all-pervading consciousness.

Knock yourself out your efforts are on the same level as the ID people's efforts IMHO but your arguments are still category mistakes and not philosophy or metaphysical arguments.

BenYachov said...

BTW Alastair my conscience is bothering me maybe calling you a "liar" was a bit harsh and uncalled for.

I apologize.

Mind you any other insults I may have hurled still stand till further notice.

Keep you noise clean buddy.

I'll be watching.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

grodrigues,

> You said and I quote: "Quantum mechanics holds that nature is fundamentally "dualistic" (i.e. it is both physical and nonphysical)." The wave-particle duality is a well-established fact of QM, but it has nothing to do with the physical, non-physical divide. <

The wave is a probability wave - a mathematical abstraction representing a set of possibilities. It is NOT physical. That's what you're failing to grasp!

"It is important to resist the temptation to regard electron waves as waves of some material substance, like sound waves or water waves. The correct interpretation, proposed by Max Born in the 1920s, is that the waves are a measure of probability...The fact that electron waves are waves of probability is a vital component of quantum mechanics and in the quantum nature of reality."

(source: pg. 202, "The Matter Myth" by Paul Davies - physicist)

> While it certainly is a common, popular offshoot of CI, none of the core principles of CI (there are variations among the adherents of CI, e.g. Heisenberg and Bohr differed on important aspects, and as far as I know, there is no definitive, complete statement) implies it, not in the sense relevant to Aquinas' arguments. Now, we can keep naysaying each other until hell freezes over, but unless you have something more tangible than an ambiguous Wikipedia one-liner, that really makes the case that CI implies an overthrow of the metaphysical idea of causality, I will stick to what I said. <

Tranlation: "I know that the Wikipedia article states emphatically and unequivocally that quantum mechanics is the "FINAL RENUNCIATION of the classical idea of "CAUSALITY". However, I cannot bring myself to publicly acknowledge it. Therefore, I will simply deny it, characterize it as "ambiguous," and hope no one will notice my intellectual dishonesty."

> That the "shut-up and calculate" attitude is widespread among physicists, and that they are bound to not devote much thought to the matter, was what I was trying to explain, so I do not understand what exactly you are objecting to. <

My objection is that a theory is supposed to provide an EXPLANATION. "Shutting-up and calculate" is not an explanation.

> Having no explanation is right or wrong depending on how you interpret "explanation". <

I said it has no PHYSICAL explanation.

> But even sticking to the narrowest possible sense, it may just be epistemological limitation and thus has little bearing on the *ontological* matter. <

It's not an epistemological limitation. According to quantum theory, we KNOW that it doesn't have any physical cause.

> Suffice to say, as has already been said by other people, that it does not scratch Aquinas' arguments one bit. <

I never argued that it does refute Aquinas' argument. My argument is that Aquinas' "First Cause" argument implies PHYSICAL indeterminism, that some POTENTIALITY is ACTUALIZED by something that is NOT PHYSICAL!

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous,

> Mr. Paisley, are you going to reply to my post?

Bill
<

I am trying my best to respond to all posts that have been addressed to me. But using "Anonymous" as your identity is not helping matters.

Eduardo said...

I think it would be best if you people were to reboot the conversation

Maybe use some syllogisms.

I see that Alaistair is leaving some questions behind, but the other people is sometimes failing to grasp his point.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Daniel Smith,

> God has no passive potency, he is supreme in active potency.

The difference - passive potency must be actualized by something else, active potency requires no other to actualize it.

This comes straight from Dr. Feser himself
<

Thank you. This is very helpful. I knew that there was an apparent discrepancy here that needed clarification. God's "omnipotence" is "active potency."

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Professor Clarke also described these two types of potency:

"A) receptive (or "passive") potency = the potentiality to receive from without." pg. 118

"B) active potency = the capacity to act from within." pg. 118

(source: "The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics" by W. Norris Clarke, S.J.)

All agents (both human and divine) have "active potency." This is a key that will enable me to translate some Thomistic terms into Whiteheadian terms and vice-versa.

Mr. Green said...

Alastair F. Paisley: I hope you understand the implications of what you just stated.

Sure, I even explained about it in my comment. If you want to disagree with the Thomistic view, feel free to present a proper argument. However, the way you are throwing around references to act and potency, wave and particle, matter and energy, makes me pretty sure you do not quite grasp the Thomist position in the first place.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous,

>
The "classical idea of 'causality'" does not refer to premodern, platonic or aristotelian views of causation, but early modern mechanism and materialism. You have a habit of quoting wikipedia's references to modern ideas, and then extending those conclusions to premodern modes of thought. This is a forced projection that won't do. "Causality" in a premodern sense is equivocal to "causality" in the modern, and "nothing" in a premodern, metaphysical sense, is equivocal to "nothing" in the way that contemporary physicists use it. You have to do the footwork of actually translating these concepts from one framework into another to see if they apply.
<

This is a red-herring. Efficient causation is employed in both modern science and Aristotelianism. The "primary cause" qualifies in Aquinas' scheme, at the very least, as an efficient cause.

The "nothing" is "potentiality." Potentiality is not physical unless it is actualized.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Mr. Green,

> Sure, I even explained about it in my comment. If you want to disagree with the Thomistic view, feel free to present a proper argument. However, the way you are throwing around references to act and potency, wave and particle, matter and energy, makes me pretty sure you do not quite grasp the Thomist position in the first place.<

My original argument on this thread was that Aquinas' "First Cause" argument implies physical indeterminism.

Previously, you posted...

> But even without that, all it means is that certain physical effects would have a non-physical efficient cause. If a certain quantum event is under-determined in terms of secondary causes, God is still the primary cause, and can cause the event efficiently, so there is no problem for Thomists <

Your previous post implies that God is the efficient cause of the indeterminism. You're tacitly agreeing with my argument.

By the way, I never said that there was a problem with Thomism per se. I simply argued that Thomism implied physical indeterminism. Why this is causing such a stir is really beyond me.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Ben Yachov,

> BTW Alastair my conscience is bothering me maybe calling you a "liar" was a bit harsh and uncalled for.

I apologize.
<

I understand. It's called guilt.

> Mind you any other insults I may have hurled still stand till further notice.

Keep you noise clean buddy.

I'll be watching.
<

Okay. I guess you really don't feel that guilty.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, what a mess you've made here alister.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Paisley, I did leave my name. Although my posting is Anonymous, I left my name at the end of the message; it is Bill.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Ben Yachov,

> What does this even mean? Are you asking when God creates from nothing he is
actualizing a potency?

No He is not. He is radically causing something "to be" from nothing not out of nothing as if nothing where a material substance.

Creation Ex Nilo is not actualizing a potency from a substance called "nothing".
<

It appears that I was right (more or less). God has what is called "active potency." And his "active potency" is omnipotent (all potent). What this means is that God, as "pure Act," does actualize potentiality. This is creation ex nihilo. And the "nothing" here actually does refer to "potentiality."

> Except you where quoting The Matter Myth" page 135 by Paul Davies -not the wikipedia."

Which was what I was responding too.

Pretending they are the same quote is not honest or smart.
<

Is this what you're whining about?

I only cited the Wiki quote (which is crystal clear concerning quantum mechanics and "causality") because you were claiming that Davies' employment of the phrase "without well-defined causes" wasn't exactly clear.

> (BTW I can't find that quote on page 135 in my copy of THE MATTER MYTH but on page 141 & it is clearly not a direct quote but a self-serving paraphrase. Davies talks about it in reference to classic Newtonian physics which of course is mechanistic. Not Aristotelian metaphysics). <

There's more than one edition. Try this one.

"The Matter Myth"

> Some advice if you are going to try to bullshit me don't be forgetful or gamble your critic doesn't already own a copy of the book you misquote.<

Why do you think the book is entitled "The Matter Myth?" THINK!

BenYachov said...

>Okay. I guess you really don't feel that guilty.

For once you are correct.

Will said...

The issue here is determinism. That Thomism entails its falsity is clear from the Thomist affirmation of free will as a power of rational choice following from the intellect, which is immaterial.

(1) If materialism is true, then a) only matter exists and b) matter is governed by the laws of physics and nothing else.
(2) A law of physics is either stochastic (based on randomness) or deterministic (based on rule).
Therefore, (3) rational choice, which is neither determined by rule nor random, is incompatible with materialism.

(1) If humans can make rational choices, then materialism is certainly false.
(2) Humans can make rational choices.
Therefore, (3) materialism is certainly false.

Consistent materialists deny (2). Continuing to argue with them is like trying to shake hands with an amputee.

There are only two kinds of reasons suggested for our not having free will. Both are bullshit.

The first is the claim that our actions are either determined or else just chance. That's ridiculous: as Aquinas et al. said, free will is tertium quid - a third kind of thing.

The second is that 'science' somewhere, somehow, has shown us that humans are determined entirely by heredity and environment. It hasn't. And science itself would be rationally unaffordable if determinism were true.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Just sharing a theological insight here. The "nothing" in "creation ex nihilo" is actually "potentiality." (BTW, the quantum vacuum is simultaneously a quantum plenum.)

Why? Because God, as "Pure Act," is actualizing potentiality. (According to Thomism, God has "active potency.")

What does this mean? It means that there has to be a multiverse (an infinite number of universes). Why? Because God, who is "omnipotent," must actualize all of his potentiality. And since God's potentiality is infinite, an infinite number universes are required. (Actually, an infinite set of an infinite set...ad infinitum.)

"Oneness is simply the idea God is. And in His Being, He encompasses all things. No mind holds anything but Him. We say "God is," and then we cease to speak, for in that knowledge words are meaningless." - A Course in Miracles

BenYachov said...

>It appears that I was right (more or less). God has what is called "active potency."

No you just threw terms around in a willy nilly fashion like a monkey flings poop.

You wouldn't know "active potency" from your own arsehole till Daniel Smith pointed it out to you.

>This is creation ex nihilo. And the "nothing" here actually does refer to "potentiality."

No it does not. Nothing means an absence of anything. God does not create from potentiality. He creates by causing there to be being where there was no-being.

THE 24 THOMISTIC THESIS

Thesis One: Potency and Act divide being in such a way that whatever is, is either pure act, or of necessity it is composed of potency and act as primary and intrinsic principles."

Nothing is not composed of potency and act since there is nothing to be composed of anything. God can potentially create anything he wants but that is not the same as saying "nothing" refers to potentiality.

Good grief enough of the fallacy of equivocation already!

>Is this what you're whining about?

You whined first jerkoff. I only responded and nailed your inconsistency.

>I only cited the Wiki quote (which is crystal clear concerning quantum mechanics and "causality") because you were claiming that Davies' employment of the phrase "without well-defined causes" wasn't exactly clear.

Or more likely I caught you misreading your own post and my post thus showing it is in fact you who does not have English as his primary language.

You are just too proud to admit it.

>There's more than one edition.

No doubt but never the less the quote in my addition doesn't match the one you provided.

>Why do you think the book is entitled "The Matter Myth?" THINK!

I am thinking & I think you don't have a clue what you are talking about.

BenYachov said...

>What does this mean? It means that there has to be a multiverse (an infinite number of universes). Why? Because God, who is "omnipotent," must actualize all of his potentiality. And since God's potentiality is infinite, an infinite number universes are required. (Actually, an infinite set of an infinite set...ad infinitum.)

Now you are just making shit up and flinging more poop.

BenYachov said...

Somebody else deal with this clown I have no more patience left.

Anonymous said...

Alastair,

So are you following process theology then? Or is God, in some sense, immutable and transcendent, but, in another, also immanent and pervading? Or perhaps you have a different idea? Or you don't know?

grodrigues said...

@Alasdair F. Paisley:

"The wave is a probability wave - a mathematical abstraction representing a set of possibilities. It is NOT physical. That's what you're failing to grasp!"

The probability wave is a vector in a complex Hilbert space, the state space of the quantum system. In the CI interpretation it is viewed as an artifact of the formalism (it is not so, in other interpretations), not as a real, objective, extra-mental entity -- but even here, opinions diverge between those who view it as completely subjective and those who are agnostic. So, employing your own favored interpretation of QM, the conclusion still does not follow.

But even leaving the above aside, you are making the mistake of reifying abstractions, of confusing the abstract mathematical formalisms of QM for reality. On top of that, you use non-physical in an equivocal way -- so I suggest you clarify it, first.

"Tranlation: "I know that the Wikipedia article states emphatically and unequivocally that quantum mechanics is the "FINAL RENUNCIATION of the classical idea of "CAUSALITY". However, I cannot bring myself to publicly acknowledge it. Therefore, I will simply deny it, characterize it as "ambiguous," and hope no one will notice my intellectual dishonesty.""

Ah yes, the "intellectual dishonesty" trump card. When all one knows is to link to Wikipedia and bluff, I suppose you have to grab for something. Look, all you quoted is a one-liner from Wikipedia. The word "causality" is between quotes. The Thomistic metaphysical notions of causality are different and wider than the shrivelled carcass of a notion of efficient causality employed in the modern empirical sciences. So yes, it is ambiguous. You do not know what you are talking about, neither about QM nor about Thomism. I have with me the volumes of Jauch, Piron and Isham on the foundations of QM, and the textbooks of Landau-Lifschitz and Merzbacher, and all of them are silent on the issue. I never read an explicit statement that CI interpretation overthrew the Scholastic, metaphysical notions of causality, and I have read a fair bit on the subject, so if you know of anything please do inform me. Until then, I will stick to what I said.

"My objection is that a theory is supposed to provide an EXPLANATION. "Shutting-up and calculate" is not an explanation."

I never said it was. My point was simply to defuse your argument from popularity when appealing to CI. Are you really this obtuse?

"I said it has no PHYSICAL explanation."

Irrelevant to my point.

"It's not an epistemological limitation. According to quantum theory, we KNOW that it doesn't have any physical cause."

Wrong again, we do not know such thing. It is neither true of QM as a physical theory nor of the CI interpretation of it. You simply do not know what you are talking about.

" My argument is that Aquinas' "First Cause" argument implies PHYSICAL indeterminism, that some POTENTIALITY is ACTUALIZED by something that is NOT PHYSICAL!"

You are equivocating. Again.

"The "nothing" is "potentiality." Potentiality is not physical unless it is actualized."

Here is Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange on potency (see http://www.thesumma.info/reality/reality6.php):

"a) Potency, that which is determinable, transformable, is not mere nothing. "From nothing, nothing comes," [155] said Parmenides. And this is true, even admitting creation ex nihilo, because creation is instantaneous, unpreceded by a process of becoming, [156] with which we are here concerned."

Methinks you have some reading to do.

"Just sharing a theological insight here. The "nothing" in "creation ex nihilo" is actually "potentiality." (BTW, the quantum vacuum is simultaneously a quantum plenum.)"

Wrong again. See above.

Tony said...

Alastair: The "nothing" is "potentiality." Potentiality is not physical unless it is actualized.

Alastair, there might be a philosophy in which the term "potential" is like "nothing", but Thomism isn't it. For you to keep insisting that it is, without having read extensively in St. Thomas and using SOMEHTHING in his work to support your claim, means that you are just being an armchair sophist, and doing a damn poor job of it here where many of the commenters have read extensively in St. Thomas's works.

Hopefully for the last time, (at least in Thomism) "potential" refers to a mode of reality that approaches to being so that it fundamentally differs from "nothing". In Thomism there is absolutely no way one can equate them. Thomas takes great pains to differentiate them.

It appears that I was right (more or less). God has what is called "active potency." And his "active potency" is omnipotent (all potent). What this means is that God, as "pure Act," does actualize potentiality. This is creation ex nihilo. And the "nothing" here actually does refer to "potentiality."
....
What does this mean? It means that there has to be a multiverse (an infinite number of universes). Why? Because God, who is "omnipotent," must actualize all of his potentiality. And since God's potentiality is infinite, an infinite number universes are required.

"B) active potency = the capacity to act from within." pg. 118

Thank you. This is very helpful. I knew that there was an apparent discrepancy here that needed clarification. God's "omnipotence" is "active potency."

No. And again, a thousand times no. Not if the term "pure act" means what Thomas means by it. You are spouting some other philosophy. Go and study further, study first Aristotle and then St. Thomas for a couple years, and hopefully you might realize the differences.

Potential being refers to Act as incomplete being refers to complete being. Incomplete being is "being in a sense, but not being in the fullest sense" and cannot EVER be equated with "nothing". Real beings that have "Potential being" in the real world can only be potential with respect to some type of act, because they are already actual with respect to some other type of act. All beings that have potential are potential insofar as they are ready and prepared for some further act that they do not enjoy. "Nothing", on the other hand, is not ready and prepared for some further act. It has no act and it has no potency, it has nothing.

"Pure act" isn't the same as a being all of whose potentialities have been actualized. In God the notion of "potency" is only analogous to the notion of potency in other things, the terms are not used the same way. In God, "Active Potency", defined as "the power to act from within", is not a power that "gets actualized" when He acts from within, and acting so isn't fulfilling some potency in Him. Indeed, the very expression "ACT" is used only analogously in God, between when we say He is "pure act" and when we say he "acts from within" to create. Those two uses of act are not the same concept. God's creative act is "act" under a different sense than His being in act.

God is absolutely free, and thus is free to create or not create. There is no necessity in God to create "the best of all worlds" (indeed there is no such thing), nor that God create all possible worlds. Since creating does not actualize any potential in God, his being wholly actual does not imply ANYTHING AT ALL about whether he creates, only that He may freely choose to do so.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous Bill,

> So are you following process theology then? Or is God, in some sense, immutable and transcendent, but, in another, also immanent and pervading? Or perhaps you have a different idea? Or you don't know? <

I have a faily good understanding of process theology. Whiteheadian metaphysics espouses that God is both immanent and transcendent. (I believe that Thomistic metaphysics espouses the same things.)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Paisley, you're replying to the wrong message.

Bill

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Will,

> There are only two kinds of reasons suggested for our not having free will. Both are bullshit.

The first is the claim that our actions are either determined or else just chance. That's ridiculous: as Aquinas et al. said, free will is tertium quid - a third kind of thing.
<

There are only two options: "determinism" or "indeterminism." (If you believe there is another option, then please furnish us with an intelligible explanation of it.)

I should also point out that there is a difference between a "mechanistic" worldview and a "deterministic" worldview. While a mechanistic worldview is necessarly deterministic; a deterministic worldview is not necessarily mechanistic. The mechanistic worldview is defined strictly in terms of deterministic external relations. A deterministic worldview may include determinisitc interal relations as well as deterministic external relations.

Why is this distinction important? Because it important to understand that a nonmaterialist (someone with some kind of spiritual worldview) may hold a worldview that is deterministic (e.g. Calvinists subscribe to a theologically deterministic worldview).

In order to intelligently discusss "free will," we have to define some basic terms in which the philosophical debate of free will is typically framed.

Some Basic Defintions:

"Compatibilism" holds that "free will" is compatible (hence the term) with determinism.

"Incompatibilism" holds that "free will" is incompatible (hence the term) with determinism.

Some incompatiblists believe in free will; some don't.

"Libertariansim" espouses incompatibilist free will - free will that is not compatible with determinism. This is the dictionary definition of "free will." This is also the type of free will that most people presuppose they have. (Most people do not believe that their decisions are completely predetermined. However, most people never bother to seriously reflect on what such a belief entails.)

Libertarian free will entails an element of randomness or chance. If this were not the case, then our choices would be completely predetermined. (Remember, there are only two options here: determinism or indeterminism.)

The only intelligent explanation of libertarian free will is the "two stage model of free will." (If you believe there is another intelligent explanation or model of free will, then please furnish us with it. Simply spouting off that "free wll is tertium quid - a third kind of thing" doesn't really explain anything.)

BenYachov said...

>I have a faily good understanding of process theology. Whiteheadian metaphysics espouses that God is both immanent and transcendent. (I believe that Thomistic metaphysics espouses the same things.)

I have no doubt you can find points of contact or some similarity. But they are not the same on the relevant particulars. That is simply a brute fact.

BenYachov said...

BTW grodrigues from my observations has forgotten more Mathematics then you have ever learned in your lifetime Alastair.

He certainly has an above average knowledge of Quantum Mechanics (I was over at the Dangerous Idea blog where some of the Usual Suspects tried to invoke Quantum events as defeaters to causality, he stumped them) and the philosophy of science.

Your nonsense resembles the rants of a Young Earth Creationist with a 7th grade understanding of biology and a handful of INSTITUTE OF CREATIONIST STUDIES tracks going toe to toe with someone like Richard Dawkins on the truth of Evolution.

Hilarity & bad thinking ensues.

But not from either grodrigues or Dawkins on the equivalent subject matters.

PS. "Nothing" does not have any potency. Since there is nothing potentially there to actualize.

From Nothing Nothing comes.

Get over it.

BenYachov said...

BTW I think I know what Will is talking about. One need only read Brian Davies explanations of free will.

Tragically too many modern evaluations of Free Will have a hidden Mechanistic assumption about reality.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Ben Yachov,

> I have no doubt you can find points of contact or some similarity. But they are not the same on the relevant particulars. That is simply a brute fact. <

Well, I didn't say that were the same. But there are commonalities between the two. And they are not exactly antithetical to each other as some would have us believe.

Alastair F. Paisley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alastair F. Paisley said...

The standard interpretation of QM holds that nature is fundamentally indeterminate. I have furnished you with numerous sources that clearly substantiate this claim. Choosing to deny this fact doesn't help your cause. It simply reveals to me that you are given to intellectual dishonesty. And I have learned through past experience that it is not possible to have an honest debate with individuals who engage in such intellectual dishonesty. Any attempt to do so would amount to nothing more than an exercise in futility. And I certainly do not intend to waste my precious time on futile endeavors.

Anonymous said...

Paisley,

The only "precious time" that has been wasted in this debate is ours. You are incredibly confused--I must question whether or not you are trolling. If you are not trolling, then you are in desperate need of professional instruction, which you will not receive here. Either way, I recommend that you leave.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Paisley,

grodrigues has demolished your argument (he's actually familiar with QM mathematics/physics, whereas you're just parroting Wikipedia articles), and your latest reply is a transparent attempt retreat from the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Ben Yachov,

Will you please provide the link to the Dangerous Idea thread where grodrigues discusses QM? I have twice asked Paisley to reply to my post and he got it wrong both times (not that it amounts to anything great). I just don't know what's changed in QM that's made Paisley think that the universe is indeterminate in the manner he suggests.

Thanks, in advance,
Bill

Daniel Smith said...

Alastair F. Paisley: Just sharing a theological insight here. The "nothing" in "creation ex nihilo" is actually "potentiality." (BTW, the quantum vacuum is simultaneously a quantum plenum.)

Why? Because God, as "Pure Act," is actualizing potentiality. (According to Thomism, God has "active potency.")


You are confusing the terms here I think.

God has supreme active potency because he is God. There is no other thing that God needs (else he is not God). If God requires potential (outside himself) to create, then he is not God. He can create something from nothing because he is God. He literally needs nothing - hence he creates from nothing. He doesn't need some other thing (a quantum vacuum or a potential) in order to create. He creates both act and potency from nothing.

God, who is "omnipotent," must actualize all of his potentiality.

God is not bound in any way by his omnipotence. This is the same fallacy the 'argument from evil' makes - that God is somehow bound by his omnipotence to not allow evil.

If this rationale where true it would mean that God must be using all of his powers all of the time. Of course if God is bound by his potency, then every other thing is bound by its own potencies also - meaning that you and I would also be bound to use all of our power all of the time.

This is incoherent. No theology or metaphysical argument holds that to be true.

grodrigues said...

@Alasdair F. Paisley:

"The standard interpretation of QM holds that nature is fundamentally indeterminate. I have furnished you with numerous sources that clearly substantiate this claim."

"Indeterminate" can mean non-deterministic, which the the abstract mathematical formalism of QM definitely is. Whether the indeterminism is purely epistemological or ontological is a matter of contention, but since it does not affect Aquinas' arguments, it is neither here nor there. If by "indeterminate" you mean without a cause, in the metaphysical relevant sense, then you have to surpass several hurdles to really establish your claim. Here are some of them:

1. You have to give an argument to show that the CI interpretation does entail such indeterminacy, once again, in the *relevant metaphysical sense*. The "numerous sources" you gave was an ambiguous one-liner from Wikipedia and a tiny quote from a book by Paul Davies. Two quotes do not add up to "numerous sources", and certainly not to an informed argument.

2. Then you have to give an argument for why we should accept the CI interpretation in the first place. The only argument you gave was an appeal to popularity, which is an argument from authority, the weakest argument in the domain of reason, and a very dubious one at that, because 1. as Crude pointed out, you presented scant evidence for it 2. as I pointed out, the pervasive "shut up and calculate" attitude among physicists makes popularity hardly a meaningful indicator. Since the matter cannot be decided by experiments, what are you going to appeal to?

3. Then after establishing 1. and 2., since reality is one and undivided, and *all* reality is quantum-mechanical, you have in fact established that all events are without causes. Congratulations, you have just destroyed science, since science is knowledge via causal explanations and you have just accomplished the marvelous feat of proving that there are no such thing as causes in nature, as an objective matter of fact -- at best, they are just artifacts of our descriptions. It now becomes a mystery how scientific theories are possible in the first place, since reality is at bottom causeless and without order.

grodrigues said...

@Alasdair F. Paisley (continued):

But let me take one step back: is it really true that "The standard interpretation of QM holds that nature is fundamentally indeterminate"? The evolution equation for the state of a quantum system is a first-order differential equation. It follows that the time evolution of the system is completely *deterministic* and reversible, just as in classical physics. So Mr. Paisley's statement is at best, only half true.

So where does the famous indeterminacy of QM come from? In QM, the state space is a complex Hilbert space and a state is a vector in this space (note: technically speaking, it is a line, but this is irrelevant for what follows). An observable T is a *self-adjoint operator* and the possible values T assumes are the points of the *spectrum* of the operator. This entails that the value of an observable is *not* well-defined on a state and there are even theorems, the so called no-go theorems (e.g. Kocken-Specker), that say, in a very rough, crude way, that it is impossible to assign operators to observables in such a way that they all have well-defined values on all states. Instead, in a given state, an observable has, in general, more than one possible value, even an infinite set, possibly even with the cardinality of the continuum. CI tells us that the value of T is undefined, but when you measure T and you do get one of the possible values back, the state is projected onto the eigenspace corresponding to the valued measure -- this is the famous collapse of the wave function. And contrary to the time-evolution, this is a non-reversible transformation (trivially, since any projector different from the identity has no inverse).

Now, the projection postulate, essential to CI, *creates* a problem: the observer and the observed themselves constitute a quantum mechanical system and thus are subject to the same deterministic evolution equation, so why is the measurement process, which after all is just an interaction between parts of the system, non-reversible and non-deterministic? As I said, the collapse postulate is essential to CI, but its significance is far from clear. For one, CI does not define measure or observer in a rigorous way. But things get worse. CI is powerless to deal with truly closed systems (e.g. the universe) because no meaning can be attached to an external observer (and please, let us leave God out of this) and its instrumentalist use of counterfactual statements. In other words, if you want to do quantum gravity you must throw away CI.

For my part, this last observation alone is sufficient to render CI ultimately unacceptable, and I did not even have to dirty myself with the real meat of the issue, which is a metaphysical one. You can check any QM textbook for the accuracy of my description -- but pray tell me, Mr. Paisley, how do you bridge the gap from the abstract mathematical formalism of QM, whose primary job is to correctly predict the measured correlations, and the categorical, *metaphysical* statement that "nature is fundamentally indeterminate"?

Since Mr. Paisley really holds that quantum events are uncaused, and since reality is one and undivided, and *all* reality is quantum-mechanical, it follows that the post to which I am responding to also had no cause. In particular, Mr. Paisley is not the cause of said post. Since he is not the cause of his own posts, I am excused of further replying to them; but given my "intellectual dishonesty", which did not cause my posts as there are no causes, I am sure he will not be troubled by it. Not that he could be troubled by it, be*cause* to be troubled by it would mean that the current uncaused post would be a cause of his being troubled, which Mr. Paisley has already proved impossible. Of course this latter statement is also unintelligible because...

Anonymous said...

grodriguez,

This is off topic, but since you're a PhD and a classical theist I have to ask: What would be a good series of texts for a thorough mathematical self-study, to the point where I'd be able to easily grasp the math of QM? I was mathematically talented in high school (qualified for the USAMO my senior year), but gravitated towards non-quantitative subjects (philosophy and neuroscience) all through college. Canon-wise, the extent of my knowledge is vector calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and (to a lesser extent) applied PDE.

Any rec's would be greatly appreciated.

Crude said...

Alasdair,

Just to be friendly here.

People are reacting pretty sternly in this conversation. But honestly, don't take it too hard. The fact is we get a lot of quantum BS around here (it's a popular atheist talking point), and between that and you acting very certain of your claims, I think that's making the conversation seem more aggressive than it needs to be.

I've long learned to be very skeptical of quantum claims, especially when popularizers are discussing it. Actually, skeptical of scientific claims in general when popularized.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

If the "wave" aspect of the "wave-particle" duality refers to something that is actually physical (and not to something that is nonphysical), then Aristotle's "law of non-contradiction" would not hold true.

"[The law of non-contradiction] states that contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true, e.g. the two propositions "A is B" and "A is not B" are mutually exclusive."

(source: Wikipedia: Law of non-contradiction)

"In quantum computing, a qubit or quantum bit is a unit of quantum information—the quantum analogue of the classical bit...

Like a bit, a qubit can have two possible values—normally a 0 or a 1. The difference is that whereas a bit must be either 0 or 1, a qubit can be 0, 1, or a superposition of both.
"

(source: Wikipedia: Qubit)

"Quantum superposition is a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics. It holds that a physical system -- such as an electron -- exists partly in all its particular, theoretically possible states (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously; but, when measured, it gives a result corresponding to only one of the possible configurations (as described in interpretation of quantum mechanics)"

(source: Wikipedia: Quantum superposition)

"The much-vaunted wave–particle duality of quantum mechanics conceals a subtlety concerning the meaning of the terms. Particle talk refers to hardware: physical stuff such as electrons. By contrast, the wave function that attaches to an electron encodes what we know about the system. The wave is not a wave of ‘stuff,’ it is an information wave. Since information and ‘stuff’ refer to two different conceptual levels, quantum mechanics seems to imply a duality of levels akin to mind-brain duality."

(source: pg. 8, "The Physics of Downward Causation" by Paul Davies - physicist)

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Crude,

> People are reacting pretty sternly in this conversation. But honestly, don't take it too hard. The fact is we get a lot of quantum BS around here (it's a popular atheist talking point), and between that and you acting very certain of your claims, I think that's making the conversation seem more aggressive than it needs to be. <

Please furnish me with an example where I have made a claim that I did not substantiate with documentation.

Anonymous said...

Paisley, your dependence on Wikipedia is warping your understanding of certain things. That is NOT the definition of non-contradiction. Simply stated, it is 'A' does not imply the negation is 'A' in the same respect. The qualification "at the same time" is a nuance that does not accurately reflect that law.

Gyan said...

Alastair,
As CS Lewis complained, the underlying reality in Quantum Mechanics and Modern Physics generally is mathematical and there is nothing underlying it. The founders of quantum mechanics, Bohr, Heisenberg, etc make this point repeatedly.

The pair production is a mathematical term in the power-series expansion of a calculation of quantum probabilities. It is interpreted as spontaneous creation of a pair of "virtual" particles. The word "virtual" is crucial.

Also, I think you need to carefully define the terms "physical" and "determinism". These words have become moot in 20C.

Gyan said...

grodrigues,

"CI is powerless to deal with truly closed systems (e.g. the universe)"

Very true. But this does not invalidate CI but quantum cosmology.

The QM is formulated for a small system that is measured by a macroscopic device.
Its extrapolation to the universe is unjustified, by the fundamental tenets of quantum mechanics itself.

I know that physicists have resorted to the Everett interpretation but that violates the Principle of Economy in Nature for one, and also is problematic wrt the Measurement problem. Please tell me what determines the point of split of the universal wavefunction? There is a ghost of measurement even in the Evertt Interpretation.

Or perhaps you will resort to decoherence and say that interaction with any macroscopic object is sufficient to collapse a quantum wavefunction, Does that solve the measurement problem? Physicists still seem to be divided.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymoous,

> Paisley, your dependence on Wikipedia is warping your understanding of certain things. That is NOT the definition of non-contradiction. Simply stated, it is 'A' does not imply the negation is 'A' in the same respect. The qualification "at the same time" is a nuance that does not accurately reflect that law. <

It would appear that you did not grasp the difference between a "classical bit" and a "quantum bit."

A classical bit is either "true" or "false."

A quantum bit is both "true" and "false."

Did you get that?

Anonymous said...

What I "get" has no bearing on your inaccurate definition.

Codgitator said...

Lately I met a virtual quark-- one that didn't really exist.
In nothing it virtually waited, "To be!" it virtually wished.
"I'm an unbegun becoming!" cried the virtual quark, uncaused.
"My quantum powers do mock logic, puny reason is but the cost."
"But," said I, "that which is not caused, is surely not an effect,
And what is not effected, surely we cannot detect."

Will said...

Alistair,

That free will is a third kind of thing is almost a matter of definition. An act is free only to the extent that it is neither random nor determined by rule. Like random behaviour, it is not predictable, but unlike random behaviour it is the product of rational choice rather than chance.

If determinism were true, then matter would be under the rigid control of cause and effect. Choice would be impossible.

But indeterminism, the alternative, does not entail that all our actions are merely random.

This is the part of my previous post you didn't understand. It's a false dilemma to say that all our actions are either determined (so we have no choice) or else entirely random (so they are not rational).

Free will is a faculty arising, at least in part, from something that is non-physical: the intellect. Quantum indeterminacy allows the intellect to operate. One can choose between alternatives. More than one outcome is possible in a particular situation.

(I am using the term 'quantum indeterminacy' in its standard sense here, not in the sense in which you have been using it.)

You're a slippery writer and sloppy thinker. You didn't discuss any of the premises or conclusions of either of the two arguments in my last post. Here they are again:

(1) If materialism is true, then a) only matter exists and b) matter is governed by the laws of physics and nothing else.
(2) A law of physics is either stochastic (based on randomness) or deterministic (based on rule).
Therefore, (3) rational choice, which is neither determined by rule nor random, is incompatible with materialism.

(1) If humans can make rational choices, then materialism is certainly false.
(2) Humans can make rational choices.
Therefore, (3) materialism is certainly false.

Even if you don't want to argue, please clarify what you're trying to say by answering either yes or no to these questions:

Is the universe uncaused?
Can human beings make rational choices?

BenYachov said...

Here you go Will.


>Will you please provide the link to the Dangerous Idea thread where grodrigues discusses QM?

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=10584495&postID=9132965424432865717

It's found in the month of April. "A defense of the First and Second Ways".

Our hero grodrigues goes at it with an Atheist/Skeptic/Agnostic (I never ask him what his actual beliefs where) physicist named Robert Oerter. IMHO it was a rigorious but civil exchange. Oerter actually has a professional understanding of QM & didn't have to fake it like Alastair or prooftext the wiki. Also I thought Oerter was a little more restrained and in spite of his obvious kneejerk Scientism did understand to a limited degree the difference between Science vs Philosophy.

Though there was some backsliding there but Oerter sometime pulled back at grodrigues salient points. Especially when he got all Realism on him.

So far Alastair is just a more polite version of djindra at least on the level of knowledge of the subject matter.

The CI of Qm is simply not an example of "un-caused" events. He needs to get over it and stop arguing from wiki authority and read some real physicists.

grodrigues said...

@Anonymous (May 6, 2012 7:00 PM):

"What would be a good series of texts for a thorough mathematical self-study, to the point where I'd be able to easily grasp the math of QM?"

I doubt I am qualified to give good recommendations, but given your background, C. Isham's "Lectures on Quantum Theory - Mathematical and Structural Foundations" is probably a good pick.

He only deals with non-relativistic QM and only with systems having finite-dimensional state spaces. Practically all "real-world" examples of quantum systems have infinite-dimensional state spaces, but to rigorously treat these you need some solid grounding in functional analysis. He develops all the needed linear algebra, striking a good balance between mathematical rigor and excess of extraneous detail. And while he does not treat the philosophical foundations (but he does give some references to such treatments) he handles all the major structural and conceptual issues of QM (the meaning of probability, the collapse of the state vector, entanglement, the measurement problem, the Kocken-Specker theorem, non-locality and the Bell inequalities, etc.), even including some brief philosophical excursions contrasting for example, instrumentalist and realist interpretations.

C. Isham is one of the world experts in quantum gravity and a practicing Christian. In a paper with one of his collaborators, A. Doring, he has a footnote saying that (quoting from memory) "Kant's philosophy runs strong in our veins". Oh well, nobody's perfect.

grodrigues said...

Gyan:

"CI is powerless to deal with truly closed systems (e.g. the universe)

Very true. But this does not invalidate CI but quantum cosmology."

There are all sorts of reasons that justify the need for a theory of quantum gravity, quite apart from cosmological issues. But taking your statement at face value (and if I am misinterpreting you, please correct me), what you are saying implies a very schizophrenic view of reality. The parts of it are "ruled" by QM but its totality, which is the identifiable, recognizable whole of space-time with all it contains, is not. This is surely a hard pill to swallow. At least quantum cosmologists will find it hard to swallow.

Regarding your questions, I will content myself in saying that coming up with a theory of a quantum gravity is a task facing enormous, vast difficulties on all fronts: technical, as we simply lack the mathematical tools to deal with this type of systems (an indication of this is to survey the major mathematical developments in the last 20 or 30 years and realize how a sizable portion of them is related, more or less directly, with problems of quantum physics), empirical, as we do not have enough data to guide us in the search through the humongous maze space of possible theories (the dearth of empirical data is probably one of the explaining factors for why String theory, which is what, 30 years old? has not produced a single empirical test and yet it still has a very strong and vibrant community working on it) and philosophical (the questions you posed and then some more).

grodrigues said...

@Alasdair F. Paisley:

"A quantum bit is both "true" and "false.""

Wrong again. A quantum bit is a *linear superposition* (with complex coefficients) of the "true" and "false" states, "true" and "false" being (somewhat arbitrary) labels for the elements of an (orthonormal) basis of a 2-dimensional space. You are using the connective "and" equivocally.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ben Yachov. I'll check it out.

Regards,
Bill

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

1. Situational context matters: Be advised that Alastair's (AP) profile indicates he is a self-designated Agent Provocateur and that his only listed interest is debating. But he's not a troll, of course.

1a. AP, you should realize why many of us who frequent this blog are not as jazzed as you seem to be about the philosophical pronouncements of any passing scientist. The Krauss fiasco, for one, is only now simmering down and this combox, for another, is based on a wrap-up of a massive rebuttal of unflinching, uncompromising scientism. As such, most of here realize it's par for the course that good scientists often make awful philosophers (and vice versa!). Your citations tend to confirm our cynicism.

2. As I've remarked before, we're dealing with a kind of medicated, suburban skepticism-- profitable sophistry, in the old style-- for while AP has no qualms about jettisoning a fundamental law of truth and being (non-contradiction), if the latest scientific oracle-article demands it, he is adamant about the truth of CI. Run CI on a qubit computer, and it will be both true and false. Run it on our AP-droid here, and it's just true, true, I tell you! And DETERMINATELY SO! The conclusions of CI (cCI) are either true or false. If they are true, then it is curious AP would insist they entail a rejection of "truth". If cCI are false, then they are false, and AP is just being a provocative agent, indeed. If, however, cCI are both true and false, well, then AP is both right and wrong, and we all agree and disagree. Come again?

3. CI has lately struck me as a kind of rarefied naive realism (NR). NR goes something like this: "I observe sweet red apples in the world, therefore there are intrinsically sweet red apples in the world's ontology, even apart from my observations." CI goes like this: "I observe a quantized indeterminacy in the world, therefore there's an intrinsic indeterminacy in the world's ontology, even apart from my observations." Yet as early as 1930 it was observed, by J. E. Turner in Nature: "Every argument that, since some change cannot be 'determined' in the sense 'ascertained', it is therefore not 'determined' in the absolutely different sense of 'caused', is a fallacy of equivocation." If AP still cares about the logic by which we mortals live in our lowly cave, it would be appreciated if he shows explains why CI does not amount to more than an elaborate, massively funded fallacy of equivocation. (Let me guess, because it's been corroborated in countless observations. Riiiight.) Notice the last word in grodrigues's reply to AP on May 7 at 7:09AM.

4. And, to get things somewhat back on course, AP is just mangling the first way if he thinks God's active power (GP) is incompatible with physical determinism (PD). The point is that GP *grounds* PD as a determinate order, rather than as an inchoate, indeterminate materia signata inquantitate. Indeed, as Fr. Jaki never tired of pointing out, it is precisely the quantifiable, exact nature of the physical world that signifies its contingency. Jaki was not only a theologian and scholar of the first rank, but also a staunch defender of PD contra CI, yet he saw no conflict between it and the first way; that AP thinks he's qualified to see one is as laughable as it is tedious.

Mr. Green said...

Alastair F. Paisley: Your previous post implies that God is the efficient cause of the indeterminism. You're tacitly agreeing with my argument.

No, I'm explicitly saying it's wrong, because Thomism denies that. Hence all that stuff about secondary causes, which you seem to be ignoring. If you want to accept the arguments to First Cause and deny the arguments for secondary causes, then you are saying there is a problem with Thomism. As I said, that's not the problem; but if you want to support that claim, you need to lay out your argument clearly, and define your terms. (I don't mean paste in quotations. You need to use consistent definitions and show that you are doing so. In Aristotelian terms, "wave", "particle", "matter", "energy" are all matter, despite what physicists call them.)

Dr. Dolittle said...

"[The law of non-contradiction] states that contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true, e.g. the two propositions "A is B" and "A is not B" are mutually exclusive." (source: Wikipedia: Law of non-contradiction)

"Like a bit, a qubit can have two possible values—normally a 0 or a 1. The difference is that whereas a bit must be either 0 or 1, a qubit can be 0, 1, or a superposition of both." (source: Wikipedia: Qubit)

[…](source: Wikipedia: Quantum superposition)
(source: Wikipedia: Copenhagen interpretation)
(source: Wikipedia: Quantum fluctuations)
(source: Wikipedia: Quantum mechanics)
(source: Wikipdia: Interpretations of quantum mechanics)

etc.


Hey, does anyone else here get the impression that Paisley is really some sort of "Elizabot" that wanders the Internet scanning for keywords and then cobbling together lines from Wikipedia to make "arguments"?

"Please furnish me with an example where I have made a claim that I did not substantiate with documentation."

Don't you believe that we can furnish you with an example where you have made a claim that you did not substantiate with documentation?

Codgitator said...

String theory says we can untie bowed shoes with a single tug. But in the real world, we find that impossible. Mathematical formalism != ontological reality. CI says observed indeterminacy is really in the world. But my itchiness us just as much in the world. Equivocal fallacy != ontological reality. HT to Matthew Crawford.

DNW said...

"Hey, does anyone else here get the impression that Paisley is really some sort of "Elizabot" that wanders the Internet scanning for keywords and then cobbling together lines from Wikipedia to make "arguments"? "



I get the impression that his hobby is disputing, and the documentation for this impression is found in his own profile.

The Wikipedia citations which he uses not so much as classical citations which buttress personal arguments, as consensus authorities for a process of argument by proxy, are another indication.

It's a pretty common technique in internet "discussion" nowadays, and has even found advocates who claim that it represents the future.


In addition, citing "A course in Miricles", ... "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Course_in_Miracles


Well, draw your own conclusions.

DNW said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

" 1. Situational context matters: Be advised that Alastair's (AP) profile indicates he is a self-designated Agent Provocateur and that his only listed interest is debating. But he's not a troll, of course."



I guess I should have read all the way down the thread first.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

Alastair F. Paisley.

Argument From Proxy.

And then there were bells!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

And of course:

Alastair F. Paisley.

Argument From Proxy.

Agent F'ing Provocateur.

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

AP: "…there has to be a multiverse (an infinite number of universes) … [b]ecause God, who is 'omnipotent,' must actualize all of his potentiality. And since God's potentiality is infinite, an infinite number universes are required."

Plotinus lives!

Thus, God must create a world in which He doesn't exist! I THINK I'M IN LOVE!

Alastair F. Paisley said...

gordrigues,

> Wrong again. A quantum bit is a *linear superposition* (with complex coefficients) of the "true" and "false" states, "true" and "false" being (somewhat arbitrary) labels for the elements of an (orthonormal) basis of a 2-dimensional space. You are using the connective "and" equivocally <

It would seem like you have conveniently ignored some keys points in my previous argument.

Please explain how a quantum superposition exists in all "possible states (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously." (That was documented.) Or more specifically, please explain how an electron can be in a state of "spin up" and "spin down" at the same time without violating the law of non-contradiction?

Also, please explain why Davies (physicist) said the "wave is not a wave of ‘stuff.'" And why he said the duality "seems to imply a duality of levels akin to mind-brain duality." If a quantum wave is really physical (like an ocean wave), then why did he say that?

By the way, I am not particularly wedded to the Copenhagen interpretation. I simply employed that interpretation because it is considered to be the standard interpretation (your objections notwithstanding). However, since you seem to have problems with the standard intepretation, perhaps you can share with us what exactly you believe is the correct interpretation.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

AFP (whatever it might really mean) demands more links! He can't be bothered with mere logical fallacies and non sequiturs. Hurry now, the Rancor is waiting!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Address the fallacy.

Address the mangling.

All the best,

Larry David

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Watch AFP ride, that randomly incessant link-bandit! Smashing down doctoral students in mathematics and physics with his scary-like mastery of combox HTML! Democracy never felt so good! ;)

BenYachov said...

Is it me or is AFP proof-texting physicists and the Wiki the way a fundie proof-texts the KJV?

Anonymous said...

Not only that, but he has the cheek to demand that others reply to his arguments while ignoring requests to logically spell out his own. Odd to say the least.

grodrigues said...

@Alasdair F. Paisley:

"Please explain how a quantum superposition exists in all "possible states (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously." (That was documented.) Or more specifically, please explain how an electron can be in a state of "spin up" and "spin down" at the same time without violating the law of non-contradiction?"

I am not going to explain anything whatsoever to you for two reasons:

1. You simply do not know what you are talking about. Violating the law of non-contradiction? For heaven's sake... Look, that an "electron can be in a state of "spin up" and "spin down" at the same time" is just plain nonsense. The electron's state *is* a linear superposition of the "spin up" and "spin down" states; period. Can you spot the difference? In fact, what you say directly contradicts CI, since the state of the electron is not an existing, objective extra-mental reality, but merely an artifact of the theory, a reflection of our knowledge of the system and the value of the spin along an axis is *undefined* in a such a linear superposition. In a garden-variety realist interpretation of QM, the spin is either up or down and we simply do not know which, and in an operational, instrumentalist interpretation nobody gives a crap anyway.

So I suggest that you simply stop, sit down and slog through a QM textbook (or textbooks, since your knowledge of Thomism is equally poor as amply demonstrated) and actually learn, as opposed to quoting and quoting and quoting without showing the least tincture of understanding. Or maybe you just like to embarrass yourself in public; either way, I have already had my share of battling cranks and crackpots that have an elementary "proof" that ZFC is inconsistent, that abuse Goedel's incompleteness theorems or that peddle unscientific tosh about QM.

2. According to you, I am intellectually dishonest. Now, I do not know about your habits, but I personally do not engage in debate with intellectually dishonest people. I limit myself to correct their errors and, if I am in a particularly un-charitable and un-Christian mood, have a good laugh at their expense.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Mr. Green,

> "No, I'm explicitly saying it's wrong, because Thomism denies that. Hence all that stuff about secondary causes, which you seem to be ignoring. If you want to accept the arguments to First Cause and deny the arguments for secondary causes, then you are saying there is a problem with Thomism. As I said, that's not the problem; but if you want to support that claim, you need to lay out your argument clearly, and define your terms. (I don't mean paste in quotations. You need to use consistent definitions and show that you are doing so. In Aristotelian terms, "wave", "particle", "matter", "energy" are all matter, despite what physicists call them.)"

My argument is not necessarily that Thomism has a problem. My argument is that Aquinas' "primary or first cause" argument implies physical indeterminism.

Professor Feser states in his book that the "nervous system [is] actualized by its molecular structure, which in turn is actualized by its atomic structure, etc. - what we have is the potential existence of one level actualized by the existence of another, which is in turn actualized by another, and so forth." (emphasis mine)

(source: pg. 96, "The Last Superstition" by Edward Feser)

He then goes on to argue that the regress must stop and that the only way to stop it is by positing an actuality that (and I'm quoting him) "does does not need to be actualized by anything else." This "unactualized actuality" is referred to as the "pure act" (a.k.a. the primary cause, the first cause, the uncaused cause, or God). So, there we have it. The nonphysical "pure act" is actualizing something and that something is physical - something that is apparently below the atomic structure. Therefore, the physical must necessarily be indeterminate. If not, then what we have here is an infinite regress that Aquinas' first cause argument doesn't resolve.

Hitherto, no one has refuted my argument.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

grodrigues,

> I am not going to explain anything whatsoever to you for two reason. <

I will take this as your way of conceding the point.

Anonymous said...

Men of gentle birth--
So, I recently stumbled upon this blog and am really interested in learning more about Thomistic metaphysics, but have no background. Apart from the primary sources (which I don't feel ready to tackle) any recommendations for getting my feet wet?

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Anon @2:43,

Try Ed Feser's Aquinas and/or The Last Superstition. They are both available on Amazon and are inexpensive.

You may also run a search on this site's main page where truncated versions are found.

Regards,
Bill

grodrigues said...

@Alasdair F. Paisley:

"I am not going to explain anything whatsoever to you for two reason.

I will take this as your way of conceding the point."

You could at least have given a decent comeback response. I am not asking for the equivalent of Cyrano de Bergerac's response to the trifle of an insult to his nose, but you know, a little something to add up on the entertainment value your antics already provide. But as Cyrano remarks (English translation): "Unfortunately, you're totally witless and a man of very few letters: only four that spell the word "fool.""

Anonymous said...

AP writes,

I will take this as your way of conceding the point.

Typically dishonest. Why don't YOU reply to HIS requests?? Don't bother answering the question; we already know the answer.

Anonymous said...

Really bizarre to see grodriguez being called intellectually dishonest. He's always been one of the more stand-up posters around here.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Daniel Smith,

> You are confusing the terms here I think. <

I disagree. I'm engaging in creative thinking. It is important to recognize that our metaphysical systems (whatever they may be) are simply "works in progress."

> If this rationale where true it would mean that God must be using all of his powers all of the time. <

We are in time; God is not. We are in the process of actualizing our potentiality; God is not. Although, from our perspective, it would appear that God is actualizing God's potential.

It may be possible that "pure actuality" and "pure potentiality" are one and the same. And since God's potentiality is both eternal and infinite, it follows that God's potentiality is eternally actualized in an infinite creation (something along the lines of the "many-worlds" and "many-minds" interpretations of QM).

"Out of nothing comes nothing" ("ex nihilo nihil fit").

I'm also entertaining the idea that "Creation ex nihilo" and "creation ex deus" may both be true.

> This is incoherent. No theology or metaphysical argument holds that to be true. <

John Leslie (philosopher/theologian) has already developed a similar line of thought in his writings (e.g. "Immmortality Defended" and "Infinite Minds").

BenYachov said...

Alastair F. Paisley,

>I disagree. I'm engaging in creative thinking. It is important to recognize that our metaphysical systems (whatever they may be) are simply "works in progress."

Sophistry does require some creative thinking but in the end it's still sophistry.

In the end you are full of shit & have nothing coherent or profound to say.

Rejecting the Law of Non-contradiction renders your blather meaningless.

Guys ATP is nothing more then a more polite version of djindra.

Anonymous said...

And you BenYachov are nothing more than a trigger-happy, petulant Feser-bot whose mind is permanently stuck on the "Believe whatever Massa Feser says!" setting. And you're a heretic, too.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

grodrigues,

> You could at least have given a decent comeback response. <

Okay. How's this?

"Critics who object...fail to appreciate the nature of quantum randomness: identical situtations give different results. That's all there is to it."

(source: pg. 119, "Quantum Reality" by Nick Herbert - physicist)

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Ben yachov,

> Rejecting the Law of Non-contradiction renders your blather meaningless. <

Why do you believe that I have rejected the "law of non-contradiction?"

Daniel Smith said...

Alastair F. Paisley,

Thomas Aquinas always presented the objections to his arguments first - and in their strongest form - thus showing that he understood them and respected them. He did not argue against strawman arguments. Thus he came at his arguments from a position of strength - not weakness. That is how honest philosophy is done.

I think you came here with, what you thought was, a silver bullet - but found instead that you were shooting blanks.

Many here have raised serious objections to your arguments (mine being the least among them) and you have just stopped your ears and continued to shout your arguments at everyone - as if somehow that proves they aren't being answered.

You'll only get disdain from this crowd with that attitude.

If, OTOH, you actually engaged those arguments in good faith - showing that you understand them -and if you attempted to answer them directly, you'd be met with patient acceptance.

That's just an observation from someone who lurks here a lot.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Daniel Smith,

> Many here have raised serious objections to your arguments. <

The argument that I first posted on this thread was that Aquinas' "primary or first cause" argument implies physical indeterminism.

To date, no serious objections have been forthcoming...just some lame personal attacks.

If someone can actually show me the flaw of my argument, then I am more than willing to listen.

Tony said...

It may be possible that "pure actuality" and "pure potentiality" are one and the same. And since God's potentiality is both eternal and infinite, it follows that God's potentiality is eternally actualized in an infinite creation (something along the lines of the "many-worlds" and "many-minds" interpretations of QM).

Alastair, God's "potentiality" isn't actualized by creating anything at all. Because creating isn't fulfilling to God in the least. Because when God creates he is neither improved nor better off nor "completed" thereby. Because when God creates, the good thus brought about is wholly and totally extrinsic to God, so that it cannot be a relation of His. Because "potency" in God can only be said equivocally, and that's what you are doing, equivocating. Have you ever heard the term "equivocation"? Are you aware that it means your concatenated notion is invalid? Do you know what an invalid argument is?

And the only state of being where pure actuality and pure potentiality are the same is the black whole of your mind, where all light and meaning disappears without a trace. Do us all a favor: take your new-age claptrap mumbo jumbo elsewhere, where your insane terminology might be taken for something other than oxymoronic nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Paisley, please stop the dishonesty. Your cut and paste "thoughts" have been addressed and shown to be incoherent. When challenged to present them more coherently, and when shown exactly why they were flawed, you simply ignored your challengers, especially grodrigues. You then have the gall to demand that others reply to you. Typical narcissistic saphead.

Codgitator said...

AFP:

Your discussion of the nervous system and p. 96 of TLS gets at heart of the issue, and exposes your key error, which I've said, twice now, I think, is to confuse indeterminacy with contingency. You can't cite Feser as grounding the nervous system's determinate functionality as the effect of GP God's active power AND THEN argue as if GP weren't in effect. But that's what you're doing. You seem to think that if PDO the determinate physical order can't exist IN ITS OWN RIGHT according to Thomism, then PDO can't exist on Thomism. Another fallacy.

As for the personal issue, your claims of not being answered are rather how adults, dare I say trolls?, say, "Neh neh neh, you can't catch me!" You've made this thread about yourself, about your pet argument, so you've made it personal with your one-man fallacy juggling act. If I or others have a little fun at your expense, well, consider it no worse than cracking the window after a guy drops ass on a long road trip in a small car. You're a bore, even if you don't know that about yourself. This is why, for instance, I find it either fatuous or disingenuous for you to go on and on about CI but then, when trounced about it, to turn coat and claim it's merely incidental to your "argument". In fact, though, quotations about CI just are your argument. It's likewise fatuous or phony in the extreme to trifle with the law of non-contradiction, as you have, as if it were just the most uncontroversial result of QM, and then, when challenged, to ask when you've rejected that law. From here on out I'll go back to just watching your act. It's more fun than pretending you're open to correction or instruction. Provoke on!

Gyan said...

grodrigues,

"schizophrenic view of reality"

No more schizophrenic than standard naturalism on which all physics is based. Ignoring the readily observable fact that Agents exist that may have non-material aspects (i.e. human intellects), the physics seeks to explain the entire universe such that to exclude the Agents.
That is, it is presumed that the Agents along with their immaterial intellects can be either ignored or explained away somehow.
It is even more schizophrenic when the basis of quantum mechanics is found to depend on Agents in a fundamental way.

Also, physics is supposed to be an empirical science, not a philosophy.
So do we have any empirical reason to postulate the wavefunction of the universe?

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Tony,

> Alastair, God's "potentiality" isn't actualized by creating anything at all. Because creating isn't fulfilling to God in the least. Because when God creates he is neither improved nor better off nor "completed" thereby. Because when God creates, the good thus brought about is wholly and totally extrinsic to God, so that it cannot be a relation of His. <

This is more of dogmatic statement taken on faith than a rational argument. You're entitled to believe whatever you choose. But your beliefs have religious and spiritual implications. Personally, I believe God is love. And creation is what love does.

"To create is to love. Love extends outward simply because it cannot be contained. Being limitless it does not stop. It creates forever, but not in time." - A Course in Miracles

Anonymous said...

Pais, it's not taken on faith. Aquinas clearly explains why. Tackle the argument. Oh yeah, you ignore arguments you cannot answer.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Codgitator,

> Your discussion of the nervous system and p. 96 of TLS gets at heart of the issue, and exposes your key error, which I've said, twice now, I think, is to confuse indeterminacy with contingency. You can't cite Feser as grounding the nervous system's determinate functionality as the effect of GP God's active power AND THEN argue as if GP weren't in effect. But that's what you're doing. You seem to think that if PDO the determinate physical order can't exist IN ITS OWN RIGHT according to Thomism, then PDO can't exist on Thomism. Another fallacy. <

Most words have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. Something that is "contingent" generally means something that is "dependent" or "conditional." But something that is contingent can also mean something that "happens by chance." Having said that, I fail to see your point. What relevance does this have to do with my argument?

Feser argues that the "potential existence of one level [is] actualized by the existence of another, which is in turn actualized by another, and so forth" (pg. 96 "The Last Superstition"). So, if the "nervous system [is] actualized by its molecular structure, which in turn is actualized by its atomic structure" (pg. 96), which in trun is actualized by its subatomic structure, which in turn is actualize by what?

At some point God is actualizing the physical constituents upon which everything depends. And this
"actualizing" is the creative act - the exercising of the divine will.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Anonymous,

> Pais, it's not taken on faith. Aquinas clearly explains why. Tackle the argument. Oh yeah, you ignore arguments you cannot answe <

Aquinas may have clearly explained why, but Tony didn't. Besides, my argument in relation to that post was that an omnipotent, infinite mind should be capable of an infinite creation. Anything less than that seems...well...un-Godlike.

grodrigues said...

@Gyan:

"schizophrenic view of reality

No more schizophrenic than standard naturalism on which all physics is based. Ignoring the readily observable fact that Agents exist that may have non-material aspects (i.e. human intellects), the physics seeks to explain the entire universe such that to exclude the Agents."

Your analogy fails because while Agents (immaterial intellects) are not amenable to be studied by the modern empirical sciences, the whole of space-time and the material bodies in it is, and we already have a classical theory: General Relativity (GR). If everything else has been quantized why not GR? So, yes, I stick by my "schizophrenic" charge.

"It is even more schizophrenic when the basis of quantum mechanics is found to depend on Agents in a fundamental way."

This depends on how you interpret QM. As a metaphysical realist I would reject such an interpretation (but I would most probably also have to add some qualifications).

"So do we have any empirical reason to postulate the wavefunction of the universe?"

The correct question is whether we need or not to quantize GR, a.k.a. a theory of quantum gravity (QG). Whether this implies positing a wavefunction for the whole universe depends on the form QG ultimately takes; it certainly does *if* no fundamental revisions to QM are deemed necessary. Which, if you bring along CI, actually forms a reductio proving that *something* must be thrown away. There are all sorts of arguments that can be made, from informal heuristics to more rigorous ones tied with extreme regimes of GR, e.g. in the order of the Planck scale.

As far as empirical data goes, given my previous comments on the dearth of evidence and the scales at which QG effects are non-negligible, the data can only be, in the very best of cases, very scant. Well, as far as I know there is no confirmed observation of QG effects, although there are some proposals for where to look them. There is however, some experimental evidence suggesting that gravity can be made to show quantum effects giving further motivation for the need to quantize GR. See for example: Quantum states of neutrons in the Earth's gravitational field.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Ben. Very interesting reading over there.

Bill

Daniel Smith said...

Alastair F. Paisley: To date, no serious objections have been forthcoming...just some lame personal attacks.

I've been reading the same thread as you and I've seen several well reasoned challenges to your argument from a number of angles. (The personal attacks came after you ignored the meat of those challenges for the most part.)

Perhaps you should go back and reread the thread with more detachment. Sometimes just knowing that someone is challenging us can spark defensive emotions that blind us to what they're actually saying. It happens to me all the time - especially if it's a position I'm passionate about. Step back and calmly read what's been said. Then comment.

Anonymous said...

I second what Daniel Smith has said. I thought the AFP dialog was interesting until I noticed he would not admit to some obvious errors and would ignore serious challenges to his argument. That's when I concluded he was either a troll or just stuck on himself.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

Daniel Smith,

> I've been reading the same thread as you and I've seen several well reasoned challenges to your argument. <

Okay. If you truly believe that, then present me with one of these well-reasoned challenges to my argument...just one.

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