Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nagel and his critics, Part X


It’s time at long last to bring my series of posts on the critics of Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos to a close, before it becomes a lot longer than the book itself.  There isn’t, in any event, much more to say about the naturalist critics, most of whom raise objections similar to those on which I’ve already commented.  But I’ve long intended to finish up the series with a post on reviewers coming at Nagel’s book from the other, theistic direction.  So let’s turn to what John Haldane, William Carroll, Alvin Plantinga, and J. P. Moreland have said about Mind and Cosmos.

Though objecting to materialist forms of naturalism, Nagel agrees with his naturalist critics in rejecting theism.  All of the reviewers I will comment on in this post think he does so too glibly.  Naturally, I agree with them.  However, as longtime readers of this blog know, the arguments and ideas often lumped together under the “theism” label are by no means all of a piece.  Thomists and other Scholastics develop their conception of God and arguments for his existence on metaphysical foundations derived from Aristotelian and Neoplatonic philosophy.  But most contemporary philosophers of religion do not, relying instead on metaphysical assumptions deriving from the modern empiricist and rationalist traditions which defined themselves in opposition to Aristotelianism and Scholasticism.  This is a difference that makes a difference in the reviews of Nagel now under consideration.  Haldane and Carroll, like me, are Thomists, and their approach to Nagel reflects that fact.  But the objections raised by Moreland and Plantinga are to a significant extent different from the sort a Thomist would make.

Moreland and Plantinga

Let’s consider the latter first.  Moreland reviewed Nagel’s book in the Winter 2012 issue of Philosophia Christi, Plantinga in the December 6, 2012 issue of The New Republic.  Here’s how they describe the debate between theism and atheism.  Plantinga characterizes theism as “the belief that there is such a person as the God of the Abrahamic religions” and atheism as the view that “there is no such person as God or any other supernatural being.”  He also tells us that God is “the premier person and the premier mind.”  What Nagel fails to see, Plantinga says, is that while materialism “cannot account for the appearance of life, or the variety we find in the living world, or consciousness, or cognition, or mind,“ theism by contrast “has no problem accounting for any of these.”

How so?  Plantinga writes:

As for life, God himself is living, and in one way or another has created the biological life to be found on Earth… As for the diversity of life: God has brought that about, whether through a guided process of evolution or in some other way.  As for consciousness, again theism has no problem: according to theism the fundamental and basic reality is God, who is conscious...

And so forth.  Moreland’s approach is more detailed (since he is writing for an academic journal) but very similar.  He speaks of making a “cumulative case for God” on the basis of the same “evidence” that Nagel tries to explain in non-theistic terms, and says that “the theistic argument can be understood as an inference to the best explanation.”  Continuing in this vein he writes:

[T]he alleged limits of appealing to theistic intentions are, in fact, what characterize an appeal to any unobservable, theoretical entity (for example, a quark) -- we attribute to that entity what and only what is needed to explain the data.  This alleged limitation is also characteristic of personal explanation.  We attribute to a person those and only those intentions needed to explain his behavior.  Moreover, in the case of God, we have other factors -- for example, religious experience, revelation, other arguments in natural theology -- that allow us to fill out God’s intentions for bringing our cosmos and us into existence.  (p. 432)

Now the way all this strikes me, and I think the way it would strike any atheist reader, is as follows.  There are, Plantinga and Moreland seem to be arguing, several phenomena which might at least in principle be given a non-theistic explanation but for which theism is in fact a better explanation.  And “theism” is understood as a hypothesis postulating an unobservable theoretical entity which instantiates such properties as the property of being a person, the property of being alive, the property of being conscious, etc.  But it instantiates them in a way that is different from the way that natural things do, making it a member of the class of “supernatural beings.”  But it is not just any old member of this class, but the “premier” member.  The way this is supposed to explain the evidence in question is as follows.  Since God, like us, instantiates properties like being alive and being conscious, he could plausibly be what imparted those properties to us if he had the intention of doing so.  That he did have such intentions is something Christian revelation and the like tells us.  And so on.

Now I am not certain that Plantinga and Moreland would accept this summary without qualification.  Perhaps there are aspects of it that they would rephrase.  And obviously they would add a great deal in the way of argumentation for theism so construed.  But as I say, this is what strikes me as a natural reading, and how I think it would strike the typical atheist reader.  And with all due respect to Plantinga and Moreland, I have to say that if this is what I thought theism and the “case” for theism really amounted to, I wouldn’t find theism any more philosophically interesting or challenging than Nagel and his critics do.  (Indeed, it pretty much is what I thought theism amounted to in my atheist days.) 

The main reason is not so much that I think Plantinga and Moreland fail to show that the existence of God, so understood, is sufficiently probable, though their remarks do smack of a “god of the gaps” approach.  The main reason is that God so understood is in my view not terribly philosophically interesting, and in particular not terribly God-like.  Certainly the approach just sketched has nothing to do with the way Augustine, Anselm, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, and classical theists more generally have historically approached these issues.   For the classical theist, God is not “a person” or “a being” -- not because he is impersonal or lacking in being, but because he is not “an” anything.  He is not an instance of any kind.  He is not in any genus.  He does not merely participate in or “have” mind, life, existence, or anything else, the way we do.  In that sense he doesn’t “have properties.”  Indeed, he has no parts of any sort, but is absolutely simple.  If he were not, then he would be just one more piece of furniture in the universe among all the others, requiring an explanation of his own -- an explanation of why he instantiates the properties he does.  Even if he instantiated them in every possible world, if he were a substance distinct from his properties, or had an essence or nature distinct from his existence, he would not have the absolute metaphysical ultimacy that, for classical theism, is definitive of God and that only what is absolutely simple can have.  For the classical theist, God is unparticipated being or subsistent being itself, unparticipated goodness or goodness itself, and whatever else we can attribute to him can be attributed only in an unparticipated sense rather than as the instantiation of a property. 

Furthermore, the main arguments for God’s existence in the classical theist tradition are not mere “arguments to the best explanation” or “cumulative case” arguments, and the reasons have to do precisely with what God is for classical theism.  The Aristotelian approach to arguing for God’s existence holds that whatever is a mixture of potentiality and actuality -- and thus less than fully actual, and needing actualization -- can in principle be explained only by reference to that which is, already as it were, pure actuality and thus need not and could not have been actualized by anything else.  The Neoplatonic approach holds that whatever is in any way composite -- and thus in need of some principle to account for the combination of its parts -- can in principle be explained only by reference to what is absolutely simple and thus need not and could not have any parts needing combination.  The Thomistic approach holds that anything whose essence is distinct from its existence -- and which thus could have failed to exist and requires something to impart existence to it -- can in principle be explained only by reference to that which just is existence itself, and thus need not and could not have had existence imparted to it.

God is, in short, precisely that in which everything else participates for its actuality or being.  To say that what is pure actuality or being itself is not the only possible explanation for the existence of other things but is still “the best explanation,” for which we might make a “cumulative case,” is a bit like saying of a certain triangle that its instantiating triangularity-as-such is not the only possible explanation for why it is a triangle, but is still the “best explanation,” for which we can make a “cumulative case.”  This gets the nature of both the explanans and the explanandum just fundamentally wrong.  The relationship between a particular triangle and triangularity-as-such is not a contingent one, and not something we know of via empirical hypothesis formation and the weighing of probabilities.  And neither is the relationship between the world and God -- between that which has participated existence and that which just is subsistent or unparticipated being -- of that sort.

Perhaps Plantinga and/or Moreland could agree with some of this, and not wish their remarks to be interpreted in a way incompatible with it.  On the other hand, Plantinga has famously been critical of the doctrine of divine simplicity, which is one reason Brian Davies classifies him as a “theistic personalist” who is at odds with classical theism.  (See Peter Weigel’s useful IEP article on divine simplicity for critical discussion of Plantinga’s objections.)   Both Plantinga and Moreland do in other contexts describe God as “exemplifying” properties.  What Moreland (writing with William Lane Craig) says about divine simplicity and immutability in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview is in my view also irreconcilable with classical theism.  And Plantinga’s and Moreland’s general metaphysical commitments are in any case very different from those of Thomists and other more classically inclined metaphysicians.

For instance, in arguing for theism Moreland makes heavy use of the notion of “possible worlds.”  While there is nothing wrong with possible worlds talk per se, its utility is, from a Thomistic point of view anyway, very limited.  In particular, it is no good to make claims about the nature or essence of a thing by trying to conceive what it might be like in various possible worlds, because in fact we can know what could conceivably be true of it in various possible worlds only by first knowing its nature or essence.  (I have addressed this issue before.  See chapter 1 of David Oderberg’s Real Essentialism for detailed discussion.)

Moreland claims:

Since our natures/capacities are contingent (they didn’t have to be this way), how is it that they are able to gain contact with the realm of necessary truths of, for example, logic and mathematics, when we can easily imagine worlds in which they fail to have this ability? (p. 435)

But is it in fact “easily imaginable” that rational animals (which is what we are) could lack the ability to know any necessary truths at all?  I would say it is not only not easily imaginable, but that it is impossible for a rational animal not to have the ability to know at least very basic necessary truths, such as the law of non-contradiction.  I would say that it is partially constitutive of rationality to have such an ability, so that to be a rational animal is ipso facto to have that ability.

Of course, it is easily imaginable that a rational animal could be either insufficiently mature or disabled in such a way that it cannot exercise the ability to know such necessary truths -- indeed, not only is it imaginable, it happens all the time (fetuses and people with severe brain damage being rational animals who cannot exercise this ability).  But that is very different from not having the ability.  It is just one example among others of the commonplace phenomenon of a thing not manifesting all the properties or proper accidents that flow from its essence (such as a dog, whose nature it is to have four legs, which is missing a leg due to an accident; an oak tree, whose nature it is to sink deep roots, which fails to do so because of a barrier that has been placed around it; and so forth). 

Moreland, it seems to me, has mischaracterized the problem he is addressing because he has been misled by what we think we can “imagine” in various “possible worlds” (say, a human-looking creature who never does even basic math -- which is simply not the same thing as a human being who lacks the ability in principle to do even basic math).  The problem isn’t: “Why do rational animals, who could in other possible worlds have failed to have the ability to know necessary truths, in fact have that ability in the actual world?”  The problem is: “Could rational animals, who could not have lacked the ability to know certain necessary truths, have arisen through purely material processes?”  The correct answer to that question, I would say, is: “No, not even in principle.”  (See e.g. my recent ACPQ article “Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought.”)  And arguing for that answer has nothing to do with any appeal to possible worlds, or to what we can imagine or conceive, etc. 

Similarly, Moreland says that “the existence of immanent teleology” of the sort posited by Nagel is “surely an improbable state of affairs across relevant possible worlds” (p. 431).  As an Aristotelian, I would say that, on the contrary, the existence of immanent teleology is a necessary precondition of there being any natural substances at all, so that it is its non-existence that is not only improbable, but impossible, across relevant possible worlds.  For Thomists and other Aristotelians, immanent teleology is partially constitutive of what it is to be a natural substance in the first place.  For example, that an oak tree has an inherent tendency to sink roots into the ground -- which is an instance of immanent teleology or goal-directedness -- is just part of what it is to be an oak tree. 

Again, Moreland has in my view mischaracterized the problem he is addressing.  The problem isn’t: “Why do natural substances, which could have lacked immanent teleology in other possible worlds, in fact have it in this one?”  The problem is: “Could immanent teleology, which couldn’t possibly have failed to exist in the natural world, exist even in principle entirely apart from the direction of any intelligence whatsoever?”  Here too I would answer: “No, not even in principle.”  But the reason has nothing to do with possible worlds, “design filters” (to which Moreland also appeals), Paley’s watch, “specified complexity,” or any other such red herrings.  It has to do with the reasons summarized (though only summarized) in Aquinas’s Fifth Way, an argument I have developed and defended in several places (such as in Aquinas -- and which I expound and defend at much greater length than I have elsewhere in my article “Between Aristotle and William Paley: Aquinas’s Fifth Way,” forthcoming in Nova et Vetera).

It does take some philosophical work to show that immanent teleology presupposes a divine intellect, however, contrary to what Plantinga implies.  In his review of Nagel, he writes:

As for natural teleology: does it really make sense to suppose that the world in itself, without the presence of God, should be doing something we could sensibly call “aiming at” some states of affairs rather than others—that it has as a goal the actuality of some states of affairs as opposed to others? Here the problem isn’t just that this seems fantastic; it does not even make clear sense. A teleological explanation of a state of affairs will refer to some being that aims at this state of affairs and acts in such a way as to bring it about. But a world without God does not aim at states of affairs or anything else. How, then, can we think of this alleged natural teleology?

End quote.  I would say that this is simply too quick.  To see why, compare final causality and efficient causality.  We know from everyday experience that natural efficient causes have real causal power -- that heat really does melt ice, falling rocks really do break glass, and so forth.  Does this causal power necessarily derive from a purely actual uncaused cause, who imparts such causal power without itself deriving it from anything else?  Absolutely (so we Thomists would argue), for such causes are on analysis relevantly like the stick that moves the stone -- something which can bring about an effect (the motion of the stone) only insofar as it is being used to do so by something else (a hand, say, of which the stick is an instrument).  But it takes some philosophical work to see this -- it isn’t blindingly obvious just from the perception of melting, glass shattering, etc.  Similarly, we know that teleology is real just from our everyday awareness of natural regularities.  We know that heat “points to” melting things, that trees “tend toward” sinking roots, etc., just from everyday experience.  It doesn’t require a fancy “design inference,” a theory of “specified complexity,” or any other such hoo-hah to know this.  But showing that such natural teleology presupposes an ordering intelligence does take work.  And it takes it precisely because natural substances are not like watches or other artifacts, whose functions require a designer precisely because they are not built-in the way the natural tendencies of heat, oak trees, etc. are.  (I have, in an earlier post and in my First Things review of Plantinga’s book Where the Conflict Really Lies, criticized his tendency to conflate function -- which we do directly see in natural phenomena -- and design -- which we don’t, and which must therefore be inferred.  Though it is not to be inferred after the fashion of Paley and ID -- see my many posts critical of those approaches.)

Haldane and Carroll

This brings us to Haldane and Carroll.  Haldane reviewed Nagel’s book in the print edition of First Things, and Carroll in Public Discourse.  Haldane and Carroll commend to Nagel Aquinas’s approach to teleology, which is very different from the approach one sees in Paley, Plantinga, “Intelligent Design” theory, and the like.  Many suppose that you either have to see teleology as entirely extrinsic to the natural world -- the way the time-telling function of a watch is entirely extrinsic to it, existing only in the intentions of the watchmaker and the watch’s users -- or you have to see it as immanent to the natural world in a way that completely divorces it from any divine directing intelligence.  The former option is that of “Intelligent Design” theorists, who would effectively transform certain parts of natural science into the enterprise of trying to discern the intentions of a cosmic engineer.  The latter option is that of Nagel, who, understandably wary of the first alternative, maintains that theism need play no role whatsoever in accounting for the existence of teleology.

But this is a false choice.  To see why, consider again the analogy of efficient causes.  We can study what Scholastics call “second causes” without constantly adverting to the intentions of the “first cause.”  For instance, we can study chemical reactions and gravitation without constantly asking what God, as the source of all causal power, has in mind in making a world with chemical reactions and gravitation in it.  That is why atheists and theists can do chemistry and physics and get the same results.  To affirm God as “first” cause in the sense of being the source of all causal power is not say that only God ever really causes anything (as the occasionalist holds), and to say that second causes are true causes is not to say that they could operate even for an instant in the absence of God’s concurrence (as the deist holds).  There is, for Aquinas and other Scholastic philosophers, a middle-ground position: Because second causes are true causes, they have causal power that can be studied and partially understood all on their own, even if a complete understanding of their causality as such (as opposed to merely their causality qua specifically chemical phenomena, their causality qua specifically biological phenomena, etc.) requires reference to the first cause.

In the same way, we can we study the teleological processes immanent to natural phenomena without constantly adverting to a divine designer’s intentions.  The study of natural teleology is not a kind of disguised divine psychology.  To study the natural tendencies of tree roots is the study of a feature of trees themselves, not an indirect way of trying to read God’s mind.  Natural teleology really does depend upon the divine intellect directing things to their ends (as the Fifth Way shows, and contrary to Nagel’ position) but this does not mean that such teleology is not really built into natural things and knowable just by knowing the things themselves, whether or not one also affirms a designer (contrary to what ID supposes).  As Carroll writes:

An account of divine agency in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas would allay some of Nagel's concerns. Aquinas thinks that science begins not from God's intentions, but with an analysis of nature as we discover it. God creates a universe in which creatures, inanimate and animate, have their own particular natures, their own intrinsic principles of characteristic behavior. There is a real, albeit created, self-sufficiency to nature. This is so because God's continuing causal activity, which is necessary for the ongoing existence of whatever is, operates on a radically different level from the kind of causality that creatures exercise. In fact, even to speak of a different level of causality fails to capture the radical otherness of divine agency. It is true, as Nagel suggests, that theism understands the intelligibility of the world ultimately in terms of God's purpose, but this does not require, as he seems to fear, the denial of an intrinsic intelligibility in nature that the natural sciences discover.

Of course, whether this approach to teleology and to theism in general is correct cannot be settled without evaluation of the Thomistic arguments.  Haldane takes Nagel to task for not seriously engaging the arguments for theism -- Nagel being content for the most part to express his aversion to the idea of God.  As Haldane writes: “Saying ‘I don’t want to go there’ hardly counters the suggestion that this may be where the reasoning leads.”

In fairness to Nagel, though, the arguments of Aquinas and other classical theists, however much they have dominated Christian thought historically, are not the ones most likely to be heard by someone dipping into the contemporary philosophy of religion literature.  And you can’t follow even the best reasoning where it leads until you first hear it.  Here’s hoping that Nagel, who has at least in a rudimentary way recapitulated some of the themes of Aristotelian and Scholastic metaphysics, will at some point consider the best arguments in natural theology -- those of the Aristotelian and Scholastic traditions.

44 comments:

davidtchua said...

"the main arguments for God’s existence in the classical theist tradition are not mere “arguments to the best explanation” or “cumulative case” arguments, and the reasons have to do precisely with what God is for classical theism."

I see that the main arguments begin with indubitable truths/metaphysical principles and establish that God's existence follows certainly from those premises. But can/should a Thomist countenance some methodological principle akin to "inference to best explanation", say, in giving an account of our access to the metaphysical principles themselves?
I realise that "inference to best explanation" is often criticised as being an unseemly title to adopt, in part due to its generally being viewed as a methodology for arriving merely at hypotheses, not full-blown metaphysical truths. (And the the metaphysical principles of A/T are metaphysical truths, not hypotheses). But then again, Plantinga, Moreland et al. wouldn't be using "inference to best explanation" in such a sense; after all, they *would* surely acknowledge the metaphysical necessity of God and so on, and take IBE to simply reflect a particular methodology by which they arrive at it. This seems like an important thing for a Thomist to be clear about, because if IBE does in fact feature in some form in our methodology of arriving at truth,—say, some of the metaphysical first principles,—then the difference between someone like Moreland and someone like Aquinas isn't so much the use of IBE itself, so much as which metaphysical truths IBE gets us to and from. On the other hand, if IBE doesn't feature at all, then that would be yet another hugely significant point by which Thomists in general differ from their counterparts—indeed, it would set them apart from all of contemporary metaphysics as is currently practised, given that IBE features so heavily in the main metaphysical arguments one comes across.

What's the answer?

Steven Garmon said...

Dr. Feser,
Not that I assume you're not busy but could you write a post sometime in the future addressing the recent lecture by Physicist Sean Carroll entitled God Is Not a Good Theory. He seems to address some of classical theism in the first half of the lecture: http://youtube.com/watch?v=ew_cNONhhKI

ingx24 said...

Carroll is an intellectual lightweight when it comes to anything outside the field of particle physics. He's one of the most dogmatic, scientistic, and arrogant materialists I've ever seen, and dogmatically assumes that everything has to be made of physical particles interacting through physical forces (in one of his articles he "refutes" life after death by claiming that "spirit particles" interacting with ordinary particles would violate the laws of particle physics, and in another he "refutes" parapsychology by assuming materialism from the outset, which completely and blatantly begs the question). Carroll also assumes that everything has to be a scientific hypothesis: he claims that God is not needed to explain anything in physics, and therefore we should conclude that God doesn't exist. I did a four-part series on Carroll on my blog a while back, and after doing the reading needed to do that series I concluded that he's just not worth arguing with.

Anonymous said...

Watched the first half. He lumps the unmoved mover argument in his first (metaphysical) category. He complains about armchair philosophy. Here we can bring up scientism and the division of metaphysics, philosophy of nature and science. Next, if I remember right, he claims something along the lines of "theologians say that God is a necessary being because they can't imagine a possible world without God. I have no idea how that response and his following "counterexamples" are supposed to refute something like the First Way or the Contingency argument. Also, he himself admitted that he was equivocating between arguments, which is a good move I guess. He also claims that Aristotlelian metaphysics depends on Aristotelian physics, and therefore the argument from motion is false. Regular readers know that the First Way does not limit itself to local motion, and more importantly, Aristotelian metaphysics does NOT depend on Arisotelian physics. Inertial motion and QM have been dealt with on this blog in older posts.

Steven, if there are any other parts where he discusses classical theology, just give us the time point in the video. But from what I watched, he misses the mark.

Bilbo said...

I've only read as far as your critiques of Plantinga and Moreland, so far, Ed, but thanks. I keep trying to understand Thomism, and somehow this helps.

Anonymous said...

Another awesome article! Dr. Feser, would you have plans in the future of writing an updated version of Mortimer Adler's "Aristotle For Everybody"? Or perhaps also his "Ten Philosophical Mistakes"? I think these would be great to have and read. Thanks! ~ Mark

George R. said...

Ed writes:
"In the same way, we can we study the teleological processes immanent to natural phenomena without constantly adverting to a divine designer’s intentions."

The problem is that there's a world of difference between considering teleology without considering the divine intellect and considering a "teleology" that denies a divine intellect. The former is perfectly legitimate. The latter, on the other hand, is completely unintelligible, and that, unfortunately, is the kind of "teleology" that Nagel professes. In fact, it's just as absurd to believe that nature can order itself toward an end without an ordering intellect as it is to believe that nature could come into being uncaused; for both these examples of what I like to refer to as "the usual atheistic jackassery" are guilty of denying fundamental principles reason, without which all philosophy is impossible.

Edward Feser said...

George,

If you are saying that on analysis, natural teleology necessarily depends on a divine intellect, then of course I agree, since I'm a defender of the Fifth Way.

But if you're saying that its dependence on a divine intellect is as blindingly obvious as (say) the existence of the material world itself, then you're just wrong, and certainly begging the question against what I argued in the post. And the reason is one that any Aristotelian or Thomist has to acknowledge: natural objects are not relevantly like human artifacts, because the former have substantial forms and the latter only accidental forms. It's because the latter have only accidental forms and thus a finality that is non-intrinsic that the existence of a designing intellect is evident. It wouldn't be an artifact in the first place without an artificer. But natural substances, having substantial forms, have their finality intrinsic to them, just by virtue of being the kinds of things they are. Hence they are not relevantly like artifacts, and hence establishing their dependence on an intellect requires another stage of reasoning that isn't required in the case of artifacts.

I know that for some reason you really, really want to be able to accuse all atheists not merely of grave error, but of manifest insanity, on this particular basis. But it ain't gonna work, at least not if you accept the Aristotelian nature/art distinction (which as a Thomist you must, on pain of making the entire system incoherent).

Hijo Puta said...

I guess I'm just a tad frustrated after reading this post. Before my discovery of Thomism, I read much of the work of Christian philosophers like Plantinga, Craig, Moreland et al. and though I found their arguments more compelling than the atheists,' the whole "cumulative case" and "inference to the best explanation" things continually left me with the feeling that the theistic arguments were really not too strong. By nature I am more hostile toward merely probabilistic arguments, and it seems to me that the atheist who honestly and sincerely engages in dialogue with defenders of such arguments is, at the end of the day, justified in at least remaining agnostic. It always comforted me to know that "God gives us just enough light so as to step into faith," but, I now realise that this is a relatively new (and erroneous) view of faith. By contrast, it seems to be the case that those who actually take the time to understand Thomism have a hard time objecting to it. Furthermore, those who do engage Thomists raise objections that are easily dealt with. As you know well, Dr. Feser, the vast majority of critiques and objections come from poor understandings of Aquinas' thought. And as Etienne Gilson said in his classic "God and Philosophy," natural theology was perfected with Aquinas when he discovered that his philosophical God was one and the same as the God revealed to Moses in Exodus, "I AM THAT I AM" (pure act).

Hence my question: why is it that so few Christian philosophers actually take the time to investigate Thomism when it is far and away the more reasonable position? How is is that these 'premier' Christian philosophers themselves fail to understand the arguments given by the best in the Christian tradition? The overwhelming majority of Catholic philosophers seem to be Thomists, so might it have something to do with Catholic/Protestant tensions?

Thanks

ingx24 said...

Hijo Puta,

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Thomism seems prima facie incompatible with modern science (not saying that it is, just saying that it seems that way on the face of it), as well as the fact that Thomism comes a bit too close to materialism about consciousness than is comfortable for most theists (although I'm not a theist, this is my main reason for rejecting Thomism).

ingx24 said...

However, I've heard from Ed directly that one can consistently maintain the aspects of Thomism that are conducive to theistic conclusions while rejecting those antithetical to dualism about consciousness, as these are separate issues. Most people, though, will not realize this, as people usually take the whole Thomistic system at once rather than taking some aspects and leaving others.

A. R. Diaz said...

Hijo (de?) Puta,

I recommend two articles:

1. Brian Davies OP, 'Letter from America', New Blackfriars, 84//989-90 (July/August 2003): 377.

2. James F. Ross, 2008, 'Simplicity and the Talk About God,' in Dewi Zephaniah Phillips (ed.), Whose God? Which Tradition? The Nature of Belief in God, (Aldershot, Hants., UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd), pp. 81–91.

Both discuss these issues, and Ross's article is particularly interested in the origin of and persistence of that division between "theistic personalists" (or "reformers", as Ross calls them) and "classical theists" (the "analogists" or, loosely, the "catholics" –– also Ross's words). Also, there are in Ross's article some insightful and rather ingenious comments as to how Simplicity might be adequately explained (as Ross says, this is a "catholic" or "analogist" task, since the "reformers" do not have to worry about Simplicity, since they deny it. But they have to worry about other things "catholics" or "analogists" do not, such as the rather absurd consequences that obtain upon dejecting divine simplicity). It's worth the reading.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Ed writes: “But most contemporary philosophers of religion do not, relying instead on metaphysical assumptions deriving from the modern empiricist and rationalist traditions which defined themselves in opposition to Aristotelianism and Scholasticism.

Could it be that scholastics are after knowledge about the nature of God as what is metaphysically ultimate (such as that God is simple, eternal, etc), whereas modern philosophers of religion are after knowledge about the nature of the person of God we relate with in the human condition (such as that God is love, God sent His only begotten son to us in atonement, etc)? I mean, perhaps there is not really opposition, but difference in emphasis.

George R. said...

Ed,

Teleology implies intelligence.

True or false?

Glenn said...

points DehnonaDianelos,

Could it be that scholastics are after knowledge about the nature of God as what is metaphysically ultimate (such as that God is simple, eternal, etc), whereas modern philosophers of religion are after knowledge about the nature of the person of God we relate with in the human condition (such as that God is love, God sent His only begotten son to us in atonement, etc)? I mean, perhaps there is not really opposition, but difference in emphasis.

If all one sees of scholastics and modern philosophers of religions (as they, the latter, are portrayed in your question) is that there is a difference merely in emphasis, then one either is not cognizant of or is ignoring the facts that: a) each of the two has a different starting point (as to what or who God is); and, b) their respective starting points are antipodal (the former holds that God is not a person, while the latter holds that God is a person).

Further, as the world does not cease to exist when one closes his eyes, so the antipodal nature of the two starting points does not cease to exist when one is unaware of, opts to overlook or willfully blinds himself to it.

Glenn said...

(I put something in the wrong 'box', and look what happens--a mistake with consequences (admittedly minor in the present case (which is that "points DehnonaDianelos" s/b "Dianelos")).)

Edward Feser said...

A.R. Diaz,

I was at the conference for which Ross wrote that paper and forgot about it. I'll have to go back and look at it.

George,

Sure, just like Socrates' being a man entails his being mortal. But you need a middle step.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Glenn,

That God contingently and out of love and for a purpose created the world, that God personally cares for and partakes in creation, that God incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ to live and suffer among us, that God has a Trinitarian personal nature, and finally that through prayer we are called to realize a personal relationship with God – are all fundamental dogmas of Christianity, which I am completely certain St Augustine and St Thomas agree with. I also feel certain that whatever it is that Ed exactly means by his criticism of the personalist conception of God it does not entail that God is not personal.

I think that theists of all stripes should not make the error many physical scientists do, namely to think like a hammer and see everything as nails.

Scott said...

@Dianelos:

"I also feel certain that whatever it is that Ed exactly means by his criticism of the personalist conception of God it does not entail that God is not personal."

It does, however, entail that God is not "a person," which is how both Ed and Glenn have been careful to phrase the point. And that is a real difference from the view of e.g. Plantinga, who expressly describes God as "a person."

Whether God is in some sense "personal" is a different question, to which the possible answers include, for example, that God is more than personal rather than less (or "transpersonal" rather than merely "impersonal"), but is not "a" person among others.

Your original question was whether what appeared to be opposition was really just a difference in emphasis. The answer Glenn gave is, I think, correct; there is genuine opposition between the view that God is "a person" and the view that He isn't. The fact that both views acknowledge that God can in some sense be said to be "personal" doesn't make them differ only in emphasis.

George R. said...

Sure, just like Socrates' being a man entails his being mortal. But you need a middle step.

Even though men are mortal, an immortal man would not be unintelligible. A "teleology", however, that denies intelligence is unintelligible, and is, in fact, no teleology at all, at least in any real sense of the word. But hey, Ed, if you think it requires a middle term to show that teleology implies intelligence, please do tell us what it is. Better yet, why don't you let your buddy Nagel know what it is so he can stop writing rubbish? I think that what be the charitable thing to do.

But let's face it, everybody (except for some academic philosophers) already knows that teleology implies intelligence. That's why for the last 200 years atheists have been denying that there is any teleology in nature: because they know that as soon as they admit it their goose is cooked. That's what Darwinism and modern cosmology is all about, an attempt to show that the teleology that we see all around us is merely apparent and not real.

Scott said...

@George R.:

"But let's face it, everybody (except for some academic philosophers) already knows that teleology implies intelligence."

That's not what's at issue here, though. Ed's point, with which I agree (and, far more importantly, so does Aquinas), is that the implication isn't so blindingly obvious that anyone who doesn't see it must just be flat-out batshit crazy; it takes a bit of argument to get from one to the other.

Glenn said...

Scott,

I don't know if you "think like a hammer", but you sure as heck "saw" the correct nail, and hit it soundly.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

I also feel certain that whatever it is that Ed exactly means by his criticism of the personalist conception of God it does not entail that God is not personal.

1. Nonetheless, if Dr. Feser's criticism of the personalist conception of God is to have any meaning, then his criticism does entail remarking upon, as well as speaking from, that position of classical theism which holds that God is not a person.

2. Also, since we ourselves are persons, it is as persons that we relate to God. But it does not of necessity follow from the fact that we as persons relate to God that He Himself is a person.

3. Neither does it of necessity follow from classical theism's position that God is not a person that there isn't any sense in which a classical theist would agree that He is personal. Indeed, Dr. Feser himself had this to say in his (Craig on theistic personalism):

Nor do classical theists deny that God is personal in the sense of having the key personal attributes of intellect and will. However, classical theists would deny that God stands alongside us in the genus "person." He is not "a person" alongside other persons any more than he is "a being" alongside other beings. He is not an instance of any kind, the way we are instances of a kind. He does not "have" intellect and will, as we do, but rather just is infinite intellect and will. He is not "a person," not because he is less than a person but because he is more than merely a person.

4. As a kind of 'side-bar', consider, too, the following quotation from Dr. Feser's God, man, and classical theism:

It is in any event a serious mistake to think that classical theism is motivated by purely philosophical considerations (and "Greek" or "pagan" ones at that) while theistic personalism is more sensitive to specifically Christian and biblical concerns. Consider the central theistic personalist thesis that God is a person like we are, only without our bodily and other limitations. As Brian Davies points out in The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil, one of the most remarkable things to note about this sort of claim is how foreign it is to what has historically been regarded as Christian orthodoxy[.]

5. I think Scott's response is better than mine.

(But, hey, "variety is the spice of life".)

Scott said...

Glenn, thanks for your kind remarks.

George R. said...

Ed's point, with which I agree (and, far more importantly, so does Aquinas), is that the implication isn't so blindingly obvious that anyone who doesn't see it must just be flat-out batshit crazy

Scott, I wasn't aware that Aquinas had ever addressed the question of the hypothetical threshold of "flat-out batshit crazy" with respect to teleology. Could you cite the passage? I'd be interested in reading it.

it takes a bit of argument to get from one to the other.

Well, I'm all ears. Let's hear the argument.

Scott said...

@George R.:

"Well, I'm all ears. Let's hear the argument."

It's usually called Aquinas's Fifth Way, and I believe Ed has made reference to it in the present context. If you're unfamiliar with it, I'm sure you can look it up yourself instead of wasting Ed's, my, and everyone else's time with pointless snark.

George R. said...

Uh Scott, the Fifth Way demonstrates the existence of God from purposefulness in nature; it doesn't demonstrate that teleology implies intelligence. In fact, it is by means of this very principle that teleology implies intelligence, which is treated in his argument as being self-evidently true, that Aquinas proves the existence of God.

I suggest you go read the Fifth Way again.

Scott said...

"Uh Scott, the Fifth Way demonstrates the existence of God from purposefulness in nature; it doesn't demonstrate that teleology implies intelligence. In fact, it is by means of this very principle that teleology implies intelligence, which is treated in his argument as being self-evidently true, that Aquinas proves the existence of God.

I suggest you go read the Fifth Way again."

Uh, George, I think that if you look beyond Aquinas's brief summary of the argument in ST IQ2a3, you'll find that he had more to say on the subject. You'll also, and perhaps more importantly, find that the point of his offering such arguments/demonstrations at all was that he held that some truths may be "self-evident" in itself but not to us, that the existence of God was such a truth, and that he therefore thought it was necessary to spell everything out so that this truth could become self-evident to us.

At any rate, I'm done here and I'll leave you to it. Ed has made his point, and nothing you've said has countered it in any way that I can see. If he has more to say on the subject, he can say it.

Scott said...

"In itself" = "in themselves."

George R. said...

Ed has made his point, and nothing you've said has countered it in any way that I can see.

Really? I wonder what his point could have been that he might be considered to have made it. All he's done is assert that intelligence is known to belong to teleology only by means of "a middle step." Well, I doubt that's true, so I asked him what that middle step could be. No response. Then I pointed out that Thomas treats the connection between teleology and intelligence as self-evidently true. And I don't see that anyone has gainsaid me on that point.

Look, I'm not saying that some valid syllogism couldn't be slapped together "demonstrating" that teleology implies intelligence. All I'm saying is that even before such a demonstration people already know intuitively that there is such a connection, and they also know that to deny this connection is to render unintelligible the whole concept of teleology.

Glenn said...

There are two basic ways to see the truth of something:

a) you see that it is so upon hearing that it is so; or,

b) you come to see that it is so by way of explanations and reasons as to why it is so.

One way (a)) does not involve a 'middle step', the other way (b)) does.

But for no given subject S is there a reliable, failsafe method for determining beforehand whether a) or b) will be the case for some particular person P.

So, my surmise is that when Dr. Feser says, "But you need a middle step", it is supposed to be obvious--and I know for certain that it was for at least one reader--that, to use the context of what is said above, if you want to get through to those for whom a) is not the case, or is not likely to be the case, then a middle step is needed.

If I'm reasonably close to the gist of the meaning meant to be conveyed by Dr. Feser's frugal statement, then I don't see how a reasonable person could reasonably object to it.

George R. said...

If I'm reasonably close to the gist of the meaning meant to be conveyed by Dr. Feser's frugal statement, then I don't see how a reasonable person could reasonably object to it.

Glenn, here's what's at issue:

In philosophy, there are 2 kinds of propositions: 1)immediate propositions and 2) propositions that depend on immediate propositions. Immediate propostions are self-evidently true, and do not depend on other propositions in order to be known. Non-immediate ones, on the other hand, do.

Now I maintain that the proposition that teleology implies intelligence is an immediate proposition, that is, self-evidently true. Ed, on the other hand, denies this, arguing that "a middle step" is required to know this, in other words, that it is a proposition that depends on other propositions. He also gives an example of what he means when he says that "Socrates is mortal." This is clearly not an immediate proposition, because it depends on othe propositions, namely, "Socrates is a man," "Men are composed of contraries," and "Things composed of contraries are subject to corruption." All of these must be known before it can be known that "Socrates is mortal." So Ed is saying that that the proposition "teleology implies intelligence" similarly requires other propositions in order to be known. This is why I keep asking him to tell us what these other propostions are, so we could all know why it is that teleology implies intelligence.


Lastly, it's important to know, Glenn, that there must be self-evident principles or immediate propositions; for if there were not, nothing could ever be demonstrated; all propositions would depend on other propositions ad infinitum.

Edward Feser said...

George,

Perhaps you haven't read what I (and other Thomistic writers) have written about the Fifth Way. Or perhaps you have read it and have just forgotten. Since I don't like re-writing for the combox stuff I've already set out in detail elsewhere, I'll direct you to the section on the Fifth Way in Aquinas for a fuller answer. Briefly, though, the argument for an intelligence behind finality is that a cause has to exist in some way in order to be efficacious, and this is as true of the end toward which a thing is naturally directed as it is of other kinds of cause. Now this end could exist in the natural order itself, in a Platonic realm, or in an intellect. The first option is ruled out by hypothesis since the whole point is that certain ends exist which haven't yet been realized in nature. The second option is ruled out by the defense of Aristotelian realism over Platonic realism. The third follows as the only remaining alternative.

Now this argument needs to be developed -- I've only summarized the overall strategy here -- and I do develop it in several places, such as in Aquinas and at much greater length in the forthcoming Nova et Vetera paper referred to in the original post. Even this much suffices to make the point, though, which is that tying natural finality to intelligence requires an argument. It is not self-evident.

Someone who thinks it is self-evident is evidently working with an anti-Aristotelian, modernist conception of finality of the Newton/Paley sort that reduces all teleology to the sort found in artifacts, which of course do self-evidently require an intelligence just because they are artifacts. But the Aristotelian nature/art distinction makes a self-evident connection impossible for natural substances.

George R. said...

Ok, let's take a look at your argument, Ed:

1)Briefly, though, the argument for an intelligence behind finality is that a cause has to exist in some way in order to be efficacious, and this is as true of the end toward which a thing is naturally directed as it is of other kinds of cause.

How true! I’m with you so far.

2)Now this end could exist in the natural order itself, in a Platonic realm, or in an intellect.

Hmmm.

3)The first option is ruled out by hypothesis since the whole point is that certain ends exist which haven't yet been realized in nature.

You can send that memo to Nagel.

4)The second option is ruled out by the defense of Aristotelian realism over Platonic realism.

Absolutely, Platonic realism was refuted by Aristotle.

5)The third follows as the only remaining alternative.

Indeed it is, but unfortunately for your argument #2 seems merely assumed to be a exhaustive list of alternatives. But I would suggest that the reason the argument comes off as cogent is because everyone already intuitively knows that “the only remaining alternative” is true even before hearing the argument that “proves” it. That’s because, imho, it’s self-evident that teleology is an accident of intellect, and to deny this renders the term unintelligible. So even if Aristotle did not disprove the Platonic realm, it would still make no sense to talk about teleology existing there if there were no intellect to cause it.

Here's another way to look at it, Ed. Would a teleology not caused by an intellect be in the same genus as a teleology that is? I wouldn't think so. Therefore, the use of the term "teleology" for both would be equivocal.

Glenn said...

George R.,

1. Glenn, here's what's at issue:

In philosophy, there are 2 kinds of propositions: 1)immediate propositions and 2) propositions that depend on immediate propositions.


Your 1) and 2) seem to be instantiations, both particular and lucid, of my a) and b) respectively.

2. Here is Aquinas:

On the contrary, No one can mentally admit the opposite of what is self-evident; as the Philosopher (Metaph. iv, lect. vi) states concerning the first principles of demonstration. But the opposite of the proposition "God is" can be mentally admitted: "The fool said in his heart, There is no God" (Ps. 52:1). Therefore, that God exists is not self-evident.

Let's substitute, and see what happens:

On the contrary, No one can mentally admit the opposite of what is self-evident; as the Philosopher (Metaph. iv, lect. vi) states concerning the first principles of demonstration. But the opposite of the proposition ["teleology implies intelligence"] can be mentally admitted[.] Therefore, that [teleology implies intelligence] is not self-evident.

Mr. Green said...

Scott: @Dianelos: "I also feel certain that whatever it is that Ed exactly means by his criticism of the personalist conception of God it does not entail that God is not personal."
[...]
Whether God is in some sense "personal" is a different question, to which the possible answers include, for example, that God is more than personal rather than less (or "transpersonal" rather than merely "impersonal"), but is not "a" person among others.


Indeed. And of course, that's the reason why "theistic personalism" is such a bad name. Any reasonable interpretation would expect the phrase to distinguish impersonal or "sub-personal" views from personal or "transpersonal" ones.
(Alas, it's probably too late to hope that it doest catch on. But then, what's more philosophically traditional than misunderstanding terminology...?)

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Glenn,

You write: “[God] is not "a person" alongside other persons any more than he is "a being" alongside other beings.

I agree, and I don’t think that Plantinga or Craig or any other “personalist” philosopher would disagree with that.

But consider this: By the same measure God is not an existent alongside other existents (such as apples, propositions, etc). Nevertheless it would be misleading to claim that “According to classical theism God does not exist.”

Natural language is not well adapted for speaking about matters metaphysical. We all agree that God is the metaphysical ultimate, but our everyday concepts refer exclusively to instances. Philosophers, while doing metaphysics, must therefore be especially careful with the way they use language. Theistic philosophers though whose primary concern is not metaphysics do not suffer from the same linguistic problem. In the hugely relevant existential field (including in matters of personal salvation) the fact remains that it makes sense to say that God *is* a person, and that the only way to relate to God or to love God or to experience God is as a person to a person.

Ed writes: “Consider the central theistic personalist thesis that God is a person like we are, only without our bodily and other limitations.

I don’t think that’s the best way to describe the personalist’s view. Rather one would say first that God is a person, and we are persons because we are build in God’s image and are called to become similar to Him. What grounds our own personal nature is the personal nature of God.

But should we therefore call God a person? In the end it depends on what exactly we mean by “person”. Consider the following argument:

1. Only persons love.
2. God loves.
3. Therefore, God is a person.

In reference to #1 the personalist theist can simply state that the concept of personhood entails it. Or, in other words, that capacity for love is a defining property of what it means to be a “person”. And #2 is grounded in a plethora of quotes in the NT, in the writings of the church fathers, in liturgy, in tradition – as well as in one’s experience of God.

Or consider this argument:

1. Whatever has a personal nature is a person.
2. God has a personal nature.
3. Therefore, God is a person.

Some might object to #1, but the personalist theist will happily affirm it as analytically true.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is how the Aristotelian approach actually refutes Platonic Realism. In Platonism the sensible is caused (and has it being in, is grounded in, participates in, and so forth) have by particular ideas (through the intermediary of mathematical and psychic entities) , which are caused by more general ideas, which are caused by qualitative number or meta-ideas, which are caused by the One and the Dyad, which has its root in the One that is Beyond Being.

Aristotelian seems to simply jump to the Divine Intellect, ignoring the intermediaries without really addressing them. To get from the Divine to the sensible the same process seems to have to be got through, but it is simply ignored by Aristotelianism.

Glenn said...

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

1. Glenn,

You write: "[God] is not "a person" alongside other persons any more than he is "a being" alongside other beings."

I agree, and I don't think that Plantinga or Craig or any other "personalist" philosopher would disagree with that.


It is true, in a sense, that I wrote that.

However, that which you say I wrote--and which, in a sense, I did 'write'--is taken from a paragraph which is immediately preceded by my writing, "Indeed, Dr. Feser himself had this to say in his Craig on theistic personalism:". (Original, irrelevant parentheses have been removed).

So, something has been attributed to me which, in actuality, does not belong to me.

There is, as already has been acknowledged (see third para back), a sense in which it could be said that I wrote, "[God] is not 'a person' alongside..."

But this sense is a minor sense, has far more to do with the appearance than the actual reality, and could lead to one or more future difficulties (which shall be left to the reader's imagination).


2. But consider this: By the same measure God is not an existent alongside other existents (such as apples, propositions, etc.). Nevertheless it would be misleading to claim that "According to classical theism God does not exist."

But no one is using Platinga's or Craig's (or any other "personalist" philosopher's) lack of disagreement with the assertion that "God is not 'a person' alongside other persons..." to make the misleading claim that, "According to theistic personalism God is not a person."

Nor are they using said lack of disagreement to make the claim that, "According to theistic personalism. God is a person like we are, only without our bodily and other limitations."

The last claim indeed has been made. In fact, it'll be recalled that I quoted Dr. Feser making it. But his foundation for making the claim wasn't the said lack of disagreement, so, I'm unclear as to what it is that the "same measure" is supposed to have been patterned after.


3. Philosophers, while doing metaphysics, must therefore be especially careful with the way they use language. Theistic philosophers though whose primary concern is not metaphysics do not suffer from the same linguistic problem.

If theistic philosophers whose primary concern is not metaphysics needn't be especially careful with the way they use language, then:

a) how do they convey whatever meaning it is they wish to convey? and,

b) how do they convey it in such a way that the potential for a garbling and distortion of their meaning is minimized?

Or is that the case that it is something other meaning which said theistic philosophers are supposed to be primarily involving themselves in conveying?

(cont)

Glenn said...

4. In the hugely relevant existential field (including in matters of personal salvation) the fact remains that it makes sense to say that God *is* a person and that the only way to relate to God or to love God or to experience God is as a person to a person.

a) It'll be recalled that no one has said that there does not exist some sense in which the statement "God is a person" is perfectly fine. The question, point of dispute, the hinge about which two opposing views move in antipodal step, etc., has to do with: In what sense, i.e., how, is the statement "God is a person" to be taken or understood? Classical theists take one stance, and theistic personalists take another.

b) And since this comment of yours places us outside the domain of philosophers facing a linguistic problem, and inside the domain wherein theistic philosophers need not be especially careful about the way they use language, I'm rather curious to know how members of the domain in which we now are might understand the language used by Jesus, i.e., what He might have meant, in saying, No man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6), in saying, And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)?, as well as in saying, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven...Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock...And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand (Matt. 7:21-26). I'm also curious to know: where amongst His sayings we are told to love God as a person?


5. Ed writes: “Consider the central theistic personalist thesis that God is a person like we are, only without our bodily and other limitations.”

I don’t think that’s the best way to describe the personalist’s view. Rather one would say first that God is a person, and we are persons because we are build in God’s image and are called to become similar to Him. What grounds our own personal nature is the personal nature of God

But should we therefore call God a person? In the end it depends on what exactly we mean by “person”.


Right. In the end it depends on what exactly we mean by "person".

But surely this isn't being offered as some new consideration just now introduced?

a) Aquinas addressed it long ago in his article Whether the word "person" should be said of God? and,

b) Dr. Feser addressed it not too long ago in both his Craig on theistic personalism and his God, man, and classical theism.

c) And you raised the issue recently in suggesting that the difference between classical theism and theistic personalism, vis–à–vis what is meant by 'person' (in the statement "God is a person") is merely one of 'emphasis'.


6. Consider the following argument:

1. Only persons love.
2. God loves.
3. Therefore, God is a person.


This argument reduces God to being one member of a class with multiple members, thus renders God "'a person' alongside other persons". **


7. Or consider this argument:

1. Whatever has a personal nature is a person.
2. God has a personal nature.
3. Therefore, God is a person.


This argument involves a reduction and rendering similar to the reduction and rendering involved in the prior argument.

(cont)

Glenn said...

** Btw, you have the personalist theist making his case through the use of an argument which renders God "'a person' alongside other persons", while you yourself simultaneously assert that personalist philosophers would not disagree that "God is not 'a person' alongside other persons" (see 1. above). So, some clarification seems to be in order.

Glenn said...

Also, the above notwithstanding, your heart seems to be in the right place.

Moi said...

kind of off topic but since we are on the topic of the mind:

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-forgotten-link-between-free-will-honesty-12077072.html?cat=72

Charles said...

I have two questions: 1) wouldn't the confusion with attributing any properties or considering God as an instance be ok in light of Christ? After all, He was both fully man and deity. So, when Moreland, per se, speaks of God without relying on simplicity, could it be his references to God are always in light of the incarnation? Prior to the incarnation, God is simple. However, the incarnation makes one Person of the Trinity, composite. 2) Wouldn't Paul take issue with the conclusion that arguments for God aren't that simple? He states as much in Romans 1. Perhaps the skeptic thinkers and subsequent apologetic responses may have overly complicated evidence for God, that could be easily understood by a child.

Love your stuff and hope those two questions make sense.