Friday, April 5, 2013

Philosophy on radio


The other day I was interviewed by Frank Turek for his show CrossExamined.  The show will be broadcast tomorrow, Saturday April 6, at 10-11 am Eastern time.  The podcast is also available at the American Family Radio website.  Among the topics discussed is the argument from motion for an Unmoved Mover.  (Frank had to cut me off at one point because I couldn’t hear the bumper music that would have alerted me that it was time to shut up!)

66 comments:

Chris said...

Prof. Feser -- A question about the argument from motion: Once the causation issues are clarified, the argument rests on Aquinas' assumption about the essentially ordered causal series (i.e., that it cannot be infinite). This trips me up. Calculus shows that some infinite things can have finite properties. For example, the function sin(x) can be represented as an infinite series of terms. Also, some real wave forms have Fourier series representations that include an infinite number of constituent sinusoidal wave forms.

How do modern Thomists distinguish essentially ordered causal series from these known infinite series with finite effects? Can you recommend any reading on this point?

Thank you in advance.

grodrigues said...

@Chris:

"How do modern Thomists distinguish essentially ordered causal series from these known infinite series with finite effects?"

Perhaps you should put the question the other way around. Why do you think the particular mathematical concepts you cite (and I suppose many others could be cited as well) throw any doubt on the cogency of the concept of essentially ordered series? Do you understand why Aquinas concludes (it is not an "assumption", it is a conclusion argued for) that an essentially ordered series must be finite?

I should add that the to me, the crux of the argument lies not in establishing the finiteness of the essentially ordered series, but that it must have a first member -- first, in the specific, relevant sense that Aquinas intends. This follows easily from finiteness, but let the series run off into the transfinite realm; surpass whatever large cardinal you may fancy; have it loop backwards. All immaterial as long as you can guarantee that it has a first member, and as far as I can see, Aquinas argument essentially establishes that even if we grant for the sake of argument these metaphysical impossibilities.

Chris said...

@grodrigues

Thank you for your reply. I used the word "assumption" sloppily in my first comment.

I do not understand why Aquinas concluded that an essentially ordered series must have a first member, but I would like to.

Martin said...

Chris,

Why must an essentially ordered series have a first mover? Dr Feser presents numerous examples to illustrate.

A train is a good example. Boxcars don't have their own power of self movement, so if a boxcar is moving it is only moving because another train car must be pulling or pushing it.

But if that second train car is itself a boxcar, then there must be a third car pulling it as well, because boxcars don't have the power of self movement.

Whatever is pulling the boxcars must be a car that is capable of self movement: a car that can pull without having to BE pulled by any further train cars. Namely, the locomotive.

Note that it doesn't matter if there is an infinite number of boxcars, or a loop, or a complex network. Boxcars can't move themselves no matter how many there are.

Edward Feser said...

Chris, search the site for "Cosmological argument roundup" and look for the group of posts that includes the one responding to Paul Edwards. That post and others in that group deal with the question you're asking.

Anonymous said...

I think that it makes a lot of sense to argue for the existence of God by looking at the major features of the physical laws: diversity, complexity and coordination. While diversity and complexity could in principle be explained by a non-intelligent and enormously creative agent, it is obvious that coordination cannot exist unless there is a mind coordinating. One unsuccessful way to avoid this solution is postulating a multi-verse; which requires a enormously creative agent producing diversity and complexity in such degrees that coordination would appear not as a result of the action of a powerful coordinating mind but as a consequence of the existence of every possible world, including many in which agents with powerful god-like minds would exist; which is not a very economical explanation, just the say the least.
I think I know the objections of Dr. Feser regarding Paley’s “design argument” for the existence of God but the I wonder if Dr. Feser has objections against “coordinated laws of the universe” type of argument.

Anonymous said...

I should have said “Mind of the Universe” argument; as put forward by Keith Ward and John Lennox.

rank sophist said...

Anon,

The fine-tuning argument or "anthropic principle" you're citing is something that modern Christian apologists use fairly regularly, but it's more-or-less an argument from design. Out of the modern arguments for God, I find it to be one of the more compelling, but it really only gets us to Paley's Watchmaker. And atheists have come up with some pretty clever objections to it, on top of that.

Anonymous said...

RS,

Another anon here. What are some of these good objections, and who made them? And why must it imply Paley's God, and not merely a God that wants human life to emerge in the universe? I thought that the FTA was pretty iron-clad, as far as arguments for God go, and have been pretty satisfied with Bill Craig's and Robin Collins' defense of it.

Anonymous said...

What I was satisfied with, specifically, was this:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Collins-The-Teleological-Argument.pdf


How would an intelligent atheist respond? Perhaps more interestingly, how would a Thomist directly engage the argument?

Anonymous said...

I would start by pointing out the striking similarities between the laws of the universe and a computer programme. These similarities become even more striking when you have a look at software packages designed to simulate natural processes: plate tectonics, weather, ocean temperature & currents, oil & gas reservoirs, planetary movement, natural selection, etc. I don’t know how anyone can argue for the existence of a programme like system that does not require a mind.

Eduardo said...

Man I was wondering how shitty the conversation would be in the combox but HEY, it is a PDF, so nothing to hold me back let's read this shit XD.

Eduardo said...

Oh .... so it is not a critique but a defense of the argument XD, ohh shoot all you anons get me all mixed up XD.

Anonymous said...

Moderator, please remove the last 3posts.

rank sophist said...

How would an intelligent atheist respond? Perhaps more interestingly, how would a Thomist directly engage the argument?

I can give you my take, for whatever that's worth.

First, the fine-tuning argument presupposes the existence of physical laws. But Thomism doesn't acknowledge the existence of physical laws. They're something left over from the Watchmaker. Second, the more persistent and learned atheist could merely throw Goodman's grue/bleen paradox at any attempt to discuss laws. What is a law but an inductive generalization? And inductive generalizations, without a Thomistic framework, are made totally uncertain by grue and bleen. And that, right off the bat, undermines Collins' statements here:

"(i) the claim that the laws and values of the constants
of physics, and the initial conditions of any universe with the same laws as our universe,
must be set in a seemingly very precise way for the universe to support life".

But what meaning does a "constant" have in a grue-infected universe? None. It's impossible to say one way or the other what the make-up of the universe really is if the universe is grue-ified, and so it's impossible to say whether or not there's fine-tuning in it. It's also impossible to measure the probability of life being generated by chance or design, because all probabilities are grue-ified.

But, since grue eats science and most atheists are followers of scientism, perhaps they wouldn't want to use the grue argument. A more popular objection is that, given an infinite amount of time, the conditions of fine-tuning could come about by chance. This one is as old as the Greeks. And the fine-tuning argument, on its own, really can't tell us why we shouldn't believe this. Given an infinite amount of time in which physical laws are subject to change (the multiverse theory gives us this, as do certain versions of the bang-and-crunch universe), there will be configurations that allow for life. The probability of this is extremely small, but we're talking about an infinite amount of time. We would be living in a speck of that time. Is this fundamentally less probable than the universe's design by a creator? Yes. But then we have to ask why the most probable explanation is the most likely to be true. Probability equations are mathematical fictions: they don't necessarily apply to the real world. Even statisticians (William Briggs is a good example) admit as much. The prettiest model in the world has no worth unless it has predictive power. So... why are we using it to prove an argument? If there is a 0.12% chance (say) that the universe was fine-tuned versus a 0.02% chance (say) that the current configuration arose by chance, this is statistically but not logically significant. I could still without contradiction accept that chance caused the universe. I have no reason to be persuaded unless the fine-tuning model actually has predictive power, which it fundamentally cannot have. The EAAN's probability games have a lot more weight, since they entail a contradiction if one accepts that our beliefs are possibly false.

Now, you can attack the infinite universe argument, but you have to use variations of the cosmological argument. And then you aren't using the fine-tuning argument anymore. So, I'd say that the fine-tuning argument is far from being "iron-clad", but I don't take that as a reason to worry about whether or not God exists--we have older, better arguments.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

RS:

"grue eats science"

I need to make this into a T-shirt.

rank sophist said...

Codg,

I seriously laughed out loud. Thanks.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Me too, ditto!

monk68 said...

RS,

"Now, you can attack the infinite universe argument, but you have to use variations of the cosmological argument. And then you aren't using the fine-tuning argument anymore. So, I'd say that the fine-tuning argument is far from being "iron-clad", but I don't take that as a reason to worry about whether or not God exists--we have older, better arguments."

Exactly. Thanks for that entire comment-post.

Pax

Anonymous said...

Why do you have to use the cosmological argument to prove the universe's past wasn't infinite? Won't a reference to modern physics suffice?

BeingItself said...

"so if a boxcar is moving it is only moving because another train car must be pulling or pushing it."

This is false. Google "inertia".

E.H. Munro said...

Do you have a magical boxcar that decides to move all on its own despite its lack of a motor?

Anonymous said...

In response to the inertia objection:

http://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/SMLM/PSMLM10/PSMLM10.pdf

See "The medieval principle of motion and the modern principle of inertia"

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Yeah, when I saw BeingItself's comment, I was like, "Good grief, here we go again." And again.

Tom Carroll said...

Before Prof. Feser swoops back down and carries us off to another topic, I’d like to take this opportunity to pose a question about the Cosmological Argument that has puzzled me for some time. Maybe Prof. Feser can help me out, or perhaps one of the many interesting denizens of these Feserland comboxs.

I understand the essence-and-existence point. I understand God — Being itself — must actualize contingent being, moment to moment, holding the world in existence ‘here and now,’ to use Feser’s formula. And I see how God’s holding the world in being is an instance of a casual series per se, albeit a short casual series — i.e., God immediately causing/preserving the being of each individual thing, moment to moment, here and now.

But Feser’s exposition of the cosmological argument seems to go beyond this, if I understand his point correctly. He holds there are also causal series per se that apply to physical, hylemorphic entities over and above the causal series per se through which God immediately holds them in being.

In other words, Feser seems to say that, in addition to the being of this thing and that thing, there is also (or may be, or may be in certain cases) a causal series per se on which these physical, hylemorphic entities also depend. And here is where I run into my problem. I can’t see clearly why this extra series per se follows from his arguments. Prof. Feser will give examples like muscles actualizing the potency in the hand, the neurons simultaneously actualizing potencies in the muscles, the dendrites (or whatever) simultaneously actualizing potencies in the neurons, and so on down to the subatomic level, all here and now. Is he saying that there is a causal series per se that begins with the quarks, or whatever exists at that ultimately subatomic level? That an physical, hylemorphic chain is being immediately actualized here and now, starting with quarks and ending with my hand? Over and above (and in addition to) the existential conservation that is going on here and now, per the whole essence/existence scheme?

If this is the argument, then I don’t think I fully see the force behind it. I don’t know. I really have a hard time with this. I think he’s saying that, in this great act/potency system that is the hylemorphic world, there must be here and now some kind of pure act in the system somewhere. Is that correct? Again, if this is (approximately) correct, I’m really not seeing it cohere like I think it should.

What am I missing? Thanks in advance.

John Quin said...

Put me down for a
"Grue eats science T-Shirt"

BTW killer line at the end of the podcast Ed!

Martin said...

BeingItself,

For the boxcar to begin moving, something else has to pull it. And of course, the actua argument itself is talking about change. E.g., how water changes to ice. A situation where the law of inertia doesn't apply.

The point of the train example is simply to illustrate an abstract concept: that if there is a receiver, there must be a source.

All this stuff is explained in Feser's writings. Again, I don't understand why you participate on these blogs while also refusing to read anything your host's have actually written.


Eduardo said...

Beingitself the lol giver

LOL

BenYachov said...

@BI

Would it hurt you to learn philosophy? Would you loose control of your bowels if you did?

dguller is giving some good challenges to the Thomistic doctrine on analogy over on the other thread if only because he bothered to do the back round reading. He has encouraged me to do more reading on analogy and differences between the analytic Thomistic school vs Cajatan on the matter.

It's fascinating stuff.

You OTOH don't say anything that is even remotely challenging.

What is the point of you Gnu?

Anonymous said...

"What is the point of you Gnu?"


To further the Gnu cause. Duh.

rank sophist said...

Tom,

We're having a fistfight on a related topic in the previous combox. I'll give you a quick run-down here.

I understand the essence-and-existence point. I understand God — Being itself — must actualize contingent being, moment to moment, holding the world in existence ‘here and now,’ to use Feser’s formula. And I see how God’s holding the world in being is an instance of a casual series per se, albeit a short casual series — i.e., God immediately causing/preserving the being of each individual thing, moment to moment, here and now.

But Feser’s exposition of the cosmological argument seems to go beyond this, if I understand his point correctly. He holds there are also causal series per se that apply to physical, hylemorphic entities over and above the causal series per se through which God immediately holds them in being.


It's important to keep the distinctions between the various forms of the Cosmological Argument. The First, Second and Third Ways are all different versions of the same core idea. Prof. Feser says that the Second Way is the argument from contingent being, which you summarize in the first paragraph I quoted. The argument you're talking about in the second paragraph is the First Way, which is the argument from change.

In other words, Feser seems to say that, in addition to the being of this thing and that thing, there is also (or may be, or may be in certain cases) a causal series per se on which these physical, hylemorphic entities also depend.

He's transitioning from the argument from existence-at-all to an argument from the existence of change. If hylemorphic compounds are going to change, they have to do more than just exist. Parmenides acknowledged existence but denied change.

Is he saying that there is a causal series per se that begins with the quarks, or whatever exists at that ultimately subatomic level? That an physical, hylemorphic chain is being immediately actualized here and now, starting with quarks and ending with my hand?

No. Prof. Feser uses this example as a metaphor, to help materialists understand the argument. The First Way as it's traditionally been understood posits that causal series begin at the macroscopic level. This means that your hand brings about the motion of the quarks--not vice versa. However, the reductionistic example is helpful, in that it shows that the materialist explanation of causality doesn't work. If each cause is supported by causes underneath it, then where does it end? It's an infinite regress. Even the materialist explanation of causality has to start somewhere.

rank sophist said...

If this is the argument, then I don’t think I fully see the force behind it. I don’t know. I really have a hard time with this. I think he’s saying that, in this great act/potency system that is the hylemorphic world, there must be here and now some kind of pure act in the system somewhere.

This next bit can be hard to wrap your head around if you come from a materialist background, so bear with me. Aristotle and Aquinas believed that efficient causality (i.e. one thing moving another) didn't drive anything. If you ask a materialist why a rock moves if a stick pushes it, he'll tell you that it's because the rock is being "bumped" forward by something prior to it. For Aquinas and Aristotle, this is backwards. The rock moves because it has been given a final cause: it tends toward a forward motion. And the stick moves because it tends toward a forward motion. Here's an example I used in the last combox:

"In the case of the iceberg and the sun, what would happen if the sun moved to melt the iceberg? Let's say there was a Greek god who took an interest in seeing this iceberg melt. His final cause (interest in seeing the iceberg melt) determines his efficient motion toward that end. When he moves the sun, the sun moves because it has been given a final cause in that direction, like when I give a rock a final cause by throwing it."

And this, ultimately, cashes out in the Unmoved Mover argument: everything is "pulled" to motion, at every moment, by its desire for the Unmoved Mover. Efficient change of quarks and whatnot is a side-effect of this pulling. I hope this makes sense.

Tom Carroll said...

Rank,

Thank you for your time on this. Your explanation was certainly enlightening. Just a bit more clarification on a couple points, and I think I’m there.

You said, Aristotle and Aquinas believed that efficient causality (i.e. one thing moving another) didn't drive anything. If you ask a materialist why a rock moves if a stick pushes it, he'll tell you that it's because the rock is being "bumped" forward by something prior to it. For Aquinas and Aristotle, this is backwards. The rock moves because it has been given a final cause: it tends toward a forward motion. And the stick moves because it tends toward a forward motion.

Yet, an efficient cause does do something, right? It actualizes a potency. A final cause by itself will never do that, if I understand things correctly. I get that there is a tight connection between final cause and efficient cause, and that final cause does have priority in some sense (the “cause of causes,” etc.) But your statement that efficient causality doesn’t “drive anything” seems sort of like an exaggeration for emphasis, i.e., to focus attention on the importance of the final cause. Am I correct in this?

I liked your illustration of the Greek god and the melting iceberg. Very helpful. With a little effort, I can see how it would apply to other cases of reduction-of-potency-to-act as well.

And this, ultimately, cashes out in the Unmoved Mover argument: everything is "pulled" to motion, at every moment, by its desire for the Unmoved Mover. Efficient change of quarks and what not is a side-effect of this pulling. I hope this makes sense.

Okay, I think I see your point here. However, it sounds to me much like the 5th way, i.e., St Thomas’s teleological argument. If I have that theory more or less straight, it holds that the final cause cannot exist in the end state (i.e., in the future act of the currently existing potency), since that end state does not yet exist. Instead, the final cause exists (here and now) in the Unmoved Mover. In other words, if I understand your point, you are saying the cosmological arguments of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Ways are connected fairly directly to ideas in the 5th Way. Right? I suppose it’s not surprising they are related, but just want to make sure I understand you on this.

Again, I really appreciate your taking the time to lay this out.

Tom

Kiel said...

For Aquinas and Aristotle, this is backwards. The rock moves because it has been given a final cause: it tends toward a forward motion. And the stick moves because it tends toward a forward motion.

This is a different and interesting articulation as I'd never wondered what the definition of "instrumentality" really is. Can anyone share an accurate definition?

E.H. Munro said...

I understand God — Being itself — must actualize contingent being, moment to moment, holding the world in existence ‘here and now,’ to use Feser’s formula.

BeingItself is God? Does this mean that we need to add omniscierunce (sic) to the universals?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

In so far as all the Five Ways are existential in character, and are, I think, but various 'modes' of arguing for the same claim––that the existence of finite essence is contingent upon a Being of infinite essence––I don't think too strict a barrier should be put between them. That's why, Tom, one argument may "sound like" another.

Indeed, it just came to me that perhaps the Five Ways all intend to analyze the esse-essentia distinction in the matrix of fourfold causation.

First Way: material causation (intrinsic) depends on God.

Second Way: efficient (extrinsic) causation depends on God.

Third Way: directly argues from the esse-essentia distinction. The fulcrum of the other two outlying arguments.

Fourth Way: formal causation (intrinsic) depends on God.

Fifth Way: final causation (extrinsic) depends on God.

In this schema, the third way is the lens for the other proofs, which argue in tandem about the (intrinsic) character of things and their (extrinsic) operations.

This is just an intuition, still very rough.

BeingItself said...

Martin,

I have read Feser's arguments in TLS. He, like you, cocks up the physics.

I know I know. Y'all are talking about about metaphysics not physics.

If so, stop writing silly things about boxcars and balls and sticks, which are real physical objects. Your folk physics does not describe anything in this actual universe.

Anonymous said...

Where does he "cock up the physics"?

BeingItself said...

Martin said:

"so if a boxcar is moving it is only moving because another train car must be pulling or pushing it"

That is just ignorance.

I'm pretty sure I learned about inertia when I was 6 or 7 years old. But I realize that for many people, all the science education in the world does not rid them of their intuitive folk physics.

Eduardo said...

BI

They are talking about change, not the appearence of something moving, you critique is worthless LOL, inertia doesn't affect what they are saying.

All the science in the world can't save you of being completely unable to understand what other people are saying....

Eduardo said...

Let me explain this, to the passerby because I know you BI hae no desire to understand.

They are saying, the boxcar is in the state of moving because another boxcar moved it, let's rephrase, to reach the state of movement, this box car must have been influenced by something else.

Now BI's understanding, the boxcar is in a state of moving necause some other boxcar is moving it means, that a boxcar can only be in a state of movement if another car is right there moving it, which is false because the car could be just moving on its own due to inertia provoked by a previous force.... (of a boxcar xP)

End of the line...

BeingItself said...

"that a boxcar can only be in a state of movement if another car is right there moving it, which is false because the car could be just moving on its own due to inertia provoked by a previous force"

Thank you for acknowledging that what Martin wrote is bollocks.

Eduardo said...

His choice of words isn't exactly clear and does create more then one possible interpretation but people have explained to you what they were saying they were very clear about it too, even I understood them...your critique is still shit, why don't you acknowledge that huh hahahhaha.

Eduardo said...

What Martin seems to be correct given that the braindead idiot that is reading what he is saying knows what content each word is refering to xP

grodrigues said...

@BeingItself:

"I have read Feser's arguments in TLS. He, like you, cocks up the physics."

In another thread at DI I asked you for examples of these alleged cock-ups and you have not given a single one.

You sir, are nothing but a liar.

"But I realize that for many people, all the science education in the world does not rid them of their intuitive folk physics."

And I have *forgotten* more physics and mathematics than you will ever learn in your whole sorry life, and it is a fact that you are a liar, nothing but a liar.

Anonymous said...

For BI, it's clear that his politics and ethical code determine his philosophy, not the other way around.

Susan said...

Amazing comments. I had never known that final cause literally meant final cause in that movement was directed from the future. Pulling. Physical things move because of the Final Cause's pull. It's mind blowing.

And it could also undermine the rightness of logic. Logic is like moving forward because of being pushed. Whereas love is like moving forward because of being pulled.

Logic looks like it is always correct. But it is a tool for thinking. The actual Truth is the love that pulls, so consequentialism could very well have an upside.

I wonder if people who speak Spanish are better able to understand esse vs. form because their language contains that difference?

E.H. Munro said...

Where does he "cock up the physics"?

Not even really relevant. Analogies are meant to illustrate broader principles, the Chris Hallqvist objections are the height of stupidity. BI's "The boxcar could be moving right now on its own inertia so therefore I've disproved causal relations!" argument is considered the height of intellectualism amongst the undereducated gnutheist crowd. But at the end of the day their "argument" rests on their ignorance of whan an analogy is.

Martin said...

BeingItself,

>If so, stop writing silly things about boxcars and balls and sticks

Again, the boxcars are to illustrate an abstract concept: A causes C, by way of intermediate C. If A stops, then C stops. If B goes to infinity, then that is in effect no A, and thus there would be no C either. But there is a C, so there must be an A.

The argument is not talking about Newtonion motion, but about existence. Existence of change, existence of final causes, existence of anything at all. The physical law of inertia does not apply to "existence in general", since "existence in general" isn't a "thing" that can move from one location to another.

Now, some have argued that there IS in fact existential inertia. That once in existence, an object doesn't need to be sustained constantly. That is what Dr Feser answers in his article "Existential Inertia and the Five Ways."

That perhaps could be a good objection, if one can respond to Feser's article. But pointing to the analogy that is merely to illustrate an abstract concept and criticizing it is, in fact, not a good objection.

All this is explained thoroughly in all of Feser's works, so I do not believe that you have read them, despite what you say. In fact, he even gives no less than THREE responses to the inertia objection in TLS, expanded on in Aquinas, and the above-linked article that expands even more. You should read those before trotting out a zombie argument like that. If you wish to do that, you can go join the creationists where they too will use zombie arguments ("If humans came from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?") that NEVER die because the people using them refuse to absorb new information.

Martin said...

Here, BI, I'll summarize Dr Feser's answers to "inertia" from his book Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide,

* The word "motion" in the argument refers to all kinds of change, and not just movement from place to place. So even if movement from place to place is excluded, the argument only needs an example of any other type of change to get off the ground.

*It is often said that the law of inertia is a "law of physics", and objects just behave that way. But what is it to be a law of physics in the first place?

Instrumentalist view:

* One could say that while the law of inertia is a convenient and useful mathematical model of the motion of objects, it does not reflect anything in reality. If the instrumentalist view is correct, and the tendency of objects to remain in motion without any cause is not real, then they must have some cause after all.

Realist view of inertia:

* Objects just have that property, to remain in motion. But then something else would have to actualize the potential of such objects to exist, and the argument is unaffected. The potential existence of "objects that remain in motion" must be actualized by...?

Inertial motion as a state:

* Inertial motion is often described (by physics) as a "state" rather than an example of true change. Feser provides numerous examples of how "motion" only really "exists" in relation to an observer. In which case there really isn't any such thing as "motion", in which case "motion" is just a state, not an example of actual change.

So there are multiple answers for you.

Sobieski said...

Would anyone here like to comment on Rank's contention regarding the First Way and Unmoved Mover being about final vs. efficient causality -- "pulling" vs. "pushing" (Dr. Feser)?

rank sophist said...

Tom,

Yet, an efficient cause does do something, right? It actualizes a potency. A final cause by itself will never do that, if I understand things correctly. I get that there is a tight connection between final cause and efficient cause, and that final cause does have priority in some sense (the “cause of causes,” etc.) But your statement that efficient causality doesn’t “drive anything” seems sort of like an exaggeration for emphasis, i.e., to focus attention on the importance of the final cause. Am I correct in this?

Here's a way to think about it. Let's say that one thing is in act, and another in potency. For clarity's sake, the sun is the act and the iceberg is the potency in this example. Now, for the sun to melt the iceberg, something has to place the iceberg and the sun into the proper proximity. This much should be obvious: unless the sun is in a position to melt the iceberg, it can't melt the iceberg.

Now, if the Greek god moves the sun, then (to my understanding) he's the efficient cause of the sun melting the iceberg. But we have to remember that the Greek god's desire (i.e. final cause) to move the sun is what caused him to move, and the sun moved because it was given a final cause (a direction) by the god. So, it's absolutely true that efficient causes do something. The sun only melts the iceberg because it was given a final cause in the direction of the iceberg. (Alternatively, the iceberg could have been moved toward the sun, with the same result.) What gave the sun that final cause was the Greek god's final cause. So, the efficient cause of every change is the final cause of another change, which places final causality prior to efficient causality.

I apologize if the above is too abstruse. The general point is that all efficient causality is traceable to an earlier final cause, which drew the action out in the first place. The conclusion of this argument is that every contingent being contains a motive principle prior to all efficient causality--a desire for the Unmoved Mover. This final cause is what draws them to act on one another as efficient causes.

Okay, I think I see your point here. However, it sounds to me much like the 5th way, i.e., St Thomas’s teleological argument. If I have that theory more or less straight, it holds that the final cause cannot exist in the end state (i.e., in the future act of the currently existing potency), since that end state does not yet exist. Instead, the final cause exists (here and now) in the Unmoved Mover. In other words, if I understand your point, you are saying the cosmological arguments of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Ways are connected fairly directly to ideas in the 5th Way. Right? I suppose it’s not surprising they are related, but just want to make sure I understand you on this.

Yes. They're tightly bound together. The key differences between Aristotle's Unmoved Mover argument and the Fifth Way come from Aquinas's more transcendent conception of God, which he got from the Church Fathers. Aristotle's Unmoved Mover was co-eternal with prime matter and the celestial spheres, and in fact created nothing. This means that Aristotle didn't really explain existence as such: being was always taken for granted, and only the coming-and-going of lower bodies was explained. Because Aquinas's God is the origin of being, he must create and sustain everything at every moment. This means that, since nothing can have a final cause prior to existing, God has to be called in to explain the presence of final causes in the first place. So, while the Unmoved Mover merely draws beings to himself, Aquinas's God creates and sustains beings and their final causes. These final causes, in turn, draw beings to him.

Anonymous said...

BI won't dare spout his piffle for too long in a philosophically competent environment like this blog, unless he wants to be eviscerated. He's degenerated into a less blustering version of Papalinton.

George R. said...

Rank Sophist writes:
"Aristotle's Unmoved Mover was co-eternal with prime matter and the celestial spheres, and in fact created nothing."

This is far from certain. It is not at all clear that Aristotle did not consider the heavens to have been caused by God. His writings on this issue are rather obscure. The more probable interpretation, imo, is that when he talks about "unmoved movers" moving the celestial spheres he is not talking about God, but rather about those intellectual beings acting for the sake of God. It seems that when he does talk about God Himself, he considers Him, in fact, to be so transcendent a Being that He would not deign to do anything Himself, but that all things that exist, act, and move do so for His sake. This is why the better interpreters of Aristotle claim that he considered that all creation to have been the result of a kind of emanation from God. Therefore, while Aristotle's God did not create all things in the strictly orthodox sense of the term "creation," He is nevertheless the Cause of all things.

BenYachov said...

@BI

>I have read Feser's arguments in TLS. He, like you, cocks up the physics.

>I know I know. Y'all are talking about about metaphysics not physics.

I reply:If he is not talking about physics by metaphysics then how can he cock up the physics?

Wow BI you are really stupid.

>If so, stop writing silly things about boxcars and balls and sticks, which are real physical objects. Your folk physics does not describe anything in this actual universe.

I reply: So one cannot use the known behavior of physical object as an analogy for a metaphysical model of being?

Since when? Is that a scientific claim in which case which peer-reviewed journal did an experiment proving this is the case?

Or is it a philosophical claim then which peer-reviewed journal argued this point and what are the arguments?

Fess up Gnu you are bad at faking you know either science or philosophy. You can memorize passages from THE GOD DELUSION. That is your sole skill set!".

>This is false. Google "inertia"

>that a boxcar can only be in a state of movement if another car is right there moving it, which is false because the car could be just moving on its own due to inertia provoked by a previous force"

>Thank you for acknowledging that what Martin wrote is bollocks.

I reply: So BI how does an un-powered boxcar cause the caboose to be in this initial state of motion?

Do tell Mr. "science".

No one is disputing how an object in inertial motion stays that way till acted upon.

Wow BI all this time and you haven't learned anything other then repeat objections Feser & other here have smashed to bits.

You are really very stupid.

What is the point of you Gnu?

BenYachov said...

The grod man is right.

BI you are a pathological liar.

A liar for Dawkins!

Anonymous said...

dude ben, over at DI BI is claimin' that no catholic can be a philosopher...i was expecting a hilarious response from you

Eduardo said...

Oh, no Gnu can be a philosopher too XD, he is just happy he had found people like him ... or so he hopes.

benYachov said...

In my awesome awesomeness I have granted Anon his/her wish.

E.H. Munro said...

I have to ask, what is DI?

Glenn said...

Wondered the same thing myself. So I googled "BeingItself", and scrolled through the results looking for something in the URLs that might qualify as DI. Found it at the bottom of the third page of results.

Glad to help. ☺

PatrickH said...

In terms of “pulling” and “pushing” and final vs efficient causes in the First Way, Aquinas uses two intriguing terms to define/describe what is to “move” and “be moved.” I’m going to quote the Latin to get across the peculiar but significant (to me) verbs Thomas uses.

First: Movere enim nihil aliud est quam educere aliquid de potentia in actu.

Roughly: To move (‘movere’: active voice, active sense, i.e., Act not Potency) is nothing other than to draw/lead out (‘e-ducere’, active voice, active sense, Act not Potency) something from Potency into Act.

The ‘nothing other’ indicates definitional intent, and the definition is exhaustive. To (actively) move something just is to draw or lead it out from potency into act. And it is done only by something insofar as it is in Act, never by something insofar as it is in Potency.

Next sentence: de potentia autem non potest aliquid reduci in actum, nisi per aliquod ens in actu…

Roughly: nothing can be lead/drawn back (‘re-duci’ passive voice, therefore Potency not Act) from Potency into Act, except by something in Act…

The key thing to notice, in my opinion, is that neither pulling from a final cause, nor pushing from an efficient cause is what it is (what it is nothing other than!) to move or change something.
The present/past component of a change in progress (i.e., that which is in Act) moves something in Potency by drawing or leading the potential component back from Potency into Act. So there is pulling…but it comes from behind. It’s not like Act moves forward into Potency, thereby actualizing it. It’s more like Act draws Potency back into itself.

So my own (perhaps idiosyncratic) take is that the First Way is all about the “pulling” indeed, and not about the “pushing”, but the pulling goes from now/past to future, from Act to Potency, and not the other way around. Act pulls Potency to itself, it doesn’t push itself into Potency. Which is, kind of, the opposite of final cause doing the pulling and efficient cause the pushing, isn’t it?

BeingItself said...

Here is how Feser cocks up the physics. He makes a clear distinction in TLS between an essentially ordered series and an accidentally ordered series. No problems so far.

However, when he attempts to give examples from the real world of an essentially ordered series, he provides examples that are accidentally ordered. It's adorable that he thinks Folk Physics is true!

No amount of metaphysical obscurantism can solve this problem for him. It's right there in black and white.

What I would like is an example from the real physical world of an essentially ordered series, using Feser's definition in TLS. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

"However, when he attempts to give examples from the real world of an essentially ordered series, he provides examples that are accidentally ordered. It's adorable that he thinks Folk Physics is true!"

What examples, and why are they accidental rather than essential?

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous, you are right to demand specifics, but don't hold your breath waiting for a meaningful response. You may not be aware that your disputant is a known troll, who can not or will not understand the points he persists in "debating". If he can't figure out what is an essentially-ordered series and what is an accidentally-ordered one, replacing the simplified example with one that is physically detailed will not make it clearer. What's worse, he seems to think that it's a problem for Feser's argument that there might be no such thing as a physical essential series... but of course, if any proposed physical solution can be dismissed beforehand, that only gets us to God all the quicker.

BenYachov said...

>However, when he attempts to give examples from the real world of an essentially ordered series, he provides examples that are accidentally ordered. It's adorable that he thinks Folk Physics is true!

BI is so incompetent he can't even come up with any original criticisms of TLS(a book he has never read) he has to steal from other Gnus who are just as brain dead as him & twice as emotionally unbalanced.

What he is doing here is channeling an old objection by a brain dead Gnu named UnBeguiled who after he was owned by Feser, Crude, The OFlynn and others had a little meltdown and ran back to his blog crying like a bitch.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/07/beguiled-by-scientism.html

Like I said all he can do is repeat shit Feser & others have smashed to bits.

Now let's wait a week or two for him to sneak in a response after this post falls off the front page.

Lightweight!