Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Churning out links


At First Things, philosopher Patrick Toner takes issue with a recent biography of painter Norman Rockwell.

David Oderberg’s article “The Morality of Reputation and the Judgment of Others” appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Practical Ethics.  (Don’t miss the accompanying podcast.)

Metaphysician Stephen Mumford blogs about pop culture and the arts at Arts Matters.  Check out his posts on his preference for paper over digital books, and on comic book artist Jim Steranko.

Some new titles are out from Critical Reprints, including works by Aquinas, Alexander of Hales, and Albert the Great.  And from The Aquinas Institute, a parallel Latin-English hardcover edition of the Summa is available.

More titles are also regularly appearing from Editiones Scholasticae.  They are available through Transaction Publishers

Over at the Claremont Review of Books, the annual Christmas recommended reading list

Also from the CRB, James Piereson on the political myths surrounding the Kennedy assassination.

Is anyone or anything really alive?  Scientific American thinks not.  The Maverick Philosopher, who is very much alive, begs to differ

Catholicism + The Onion = Eye of the Tiber

Critical Review examines Hayek: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

49 comments:

zmikecuber said...

Hah! I'm glad you put the eye of the tiber on there.

zmikecuber said...

Also, does anyone know where I can read about Aquinas' view on time? Particularly, how would A series and B series time affect Aquinas' five ways? Thanks

Anonymous said...

Check out this post if you haven't already:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/08/edwards-on-infinite-causal-series.html

It doesn't address the metaphysics of time, but it does show that the first of the five ways does not depend on simultaneous causation, but rather instrumental causation.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks for the links. I've been reading the Maverick Philosopher's response to the "Scientific American" article, and while it refutes the article's eliminativism, it fails to address the central question: how do we define life? Your criterion is a simple one: do the parts have an inherent tendency to function together? How would you apply that to the case of a virus (is it different in kind from a parasitic worm?), a ribozyme that can make a copy of itself, and a genetic algorithm that can evolve and reproduce? Putting it another way: if you were advising a team of NASA exobiologists working on Mars, what would you tell them to look out for?

I raise these questions because I don't think it's satisfactory to define life in teleological terms if we don't have clear-cut formal and material criteria for identifying which entities have the requisite teleology and which don't.

George R. said...

VJ,

Interesting questions.

I, myself, would follow Aristotle and Aquinas as say that life is defined as the capacity of a substance to move itself. And since viruses are unable to move themselves, I would say that they are not alive at all, nor are they even substances, but are purely artificial, that is, they are artifacts "manufactured" by an intelligence.

Kjetil Kringlebotten said...

"I, myself, would follow Aristotle and Aquinas as say that life is defined as the capacity of a substance to move itself."

I would be very interested to see where, exactly, Aristotle and Thomas defines life as "the capacity of a substance to move itself."

George R. said...

I would be very interested to see where, exactly, Aristotle and Thomas defines life as "the capacity of a substance to move itself."

St. Thomas Aquinas, "Commentary on Aristotle's De Anima," Book Two, Lecture I:
"However, life is essentially that by which anything has the power to move itself, taking motion in its wide sense so as to include the 'movement' or activity of the intellect. For we call those things inanimate which are moved only from the outside."

NoshPartitas said...

In other words, immanent causation. Something I recently read in the volume "Aristotle on Methods and Metaphysics":

"The essence [of life], I claim, is what Aristotelians and Thomists sometimes call immanent causation. This is causation that originates with an agent and terminates in that agent for the sake of its self-perfection. It is a kind of teleology, but metaphysically distinctive in what it involves. Immanent causation is not just action for a purpose, but for the agent's own purpose, where "own purpose" means not merely that the agent acts for a purpose it possesses, but that it acts for a purpose it possesses such that fulfillment of the purpose contributes to the agent's self-perfection. Hence, in immanent causation, the agent is both the cause and the effect of the action, and the cause itself is directed at the effect as perfective of the agent." (italics his)

David Oderberg, Chp 11, pg. 213 "Synthetic Life and the Bruteness of Immanent Causation"

zmikecuber said...

Anon,

Thanks. Checking that one out...

Also, I understand it takes something which is actual to raise some potency to actuality, but why can't it be the actuality of the thing itself? I mean, an actual thing has potentials, so why can't the actualities of the thing raise the potential to act?

And another thing. Isn't this a false dichotomy? Either something is moved by another or it's moved by itself.. Well what about the possibility that something could be moved for no cause whatsoever?

Aquinas seems to think that it's either one or the other, but I don't see why this is the case exactly.

Scott said...

@zmikecuber:

"I understand it takes something which is actual to raise some potency to actuality, but why can't it be the actuality of the thing itself?"

It can, if by that you mean the actuality of one part of itself raising to actuality the potency of some other part of itself. In fact that's exactly the Aristotelian-Thomist account of animal locomotion.

"Well what about the possibility that something could be moved for no cause whatsoever?"

What about it? If something happened for no cause whatsoever, why would it occur at one time rather than another?

Carlos F. said...

Sorry for the plug, Good Doctor Feser, but I making a blog in which I cynically rant against smelly-hippie-liberals and village atheists:

http://sovereigndream.blogspot.com/

zmikecuber said...

@Scott

"It can, if by that you mean the actuality of one part of itself raising to actuality the potency of some other part of itself. In fact that's exactly the Aristotelian-Thomist account of animal locomotion."

I meant more like the actuality of the whole raising a potency of the whole to actuality.

My rubik's cube is sitting here on my desk.. Can the actuality of the whole rubiks's cube act on the potency which the Rubiks's cube has to be on the other side of my desk?

"What about it? If something happened for no cause whatsoever, why would it occur at one time rather than another?"

Well why wouldn't Aquinas also address this possibility? I'll admit it seems counter-intuitive, but there's lots of scientists who would claim that it is a possibility. And as long as it's a possibility, I don't see how the first way can succeed.

Kjetil Kringlebotten said...

George R.,

St. Thomas Aquinas, "Commentary on Aristotle's De Anima," Book Two, Lecture I:
"However, life is essentially that by which anything has the power to move itself, taking motion in its wide sense so as to include the 'movement' or activity of the intellect. For we call those things inanimate which are moved only from the outside."


But in that sense viruses do ‘move themselves’ (as seen from the fact that they do replicate by themselves). Just as plants, who has no locomotion, but which ‘move themselves’ in the wide definition. By the Aristotelian-Thomistic view of life, viruses are a lifeform.9548

Anonymous said...

Well, viruses replicate because they fasten onto certain cells (based on what extracellular receptors the cell has) and inject genetic material inside, which then replicates. The process is somewhat passive (as opposed to, say, a wolf stalking its prey). I'm not sure whether or not I would call that immanent movement, but I don't see the existence of gray areas as a huge issue for the essence of life.

FZ said...

"What about it? If something happened for no cause whatsoever, why would it occur at one time rather than another?"

Couldn't one just respond that there is no explanation why something spontaneously changes at one time or another? I mean, if there is (presumably) no explanation for the "why" or "how, then why not say that there is no explanation for the "when"? Or is there something contradictory about that?

zmikecuber said...

@Scott

"It can, if by that you mean the actuality of one part of itself raising to actuality the potency of some other part of itself. In fact that's exactly the Aristotelian-Thomist account of animal locomotion."

I mean the whole actuality acting upon one of its potencies. My whole rubik's cube has the potential to be on the other side of my desk. Why can't the whole actuality act on this potency?

"What about it? If something happened for no cause whatsoever, why would it occur at one time rather than another?"

Who knows? But as long as it's a possibility, I don't see how the first way can succeed.

Scott said...

@FZ:

"Couldn't one just respond that there is no explanation why something spontaneously changes at one time or another?"

One could, if one didn't mind violating the self-evident principle of causality.

Short of that, no, one couldn't. Change is the reduction of potency to act. Potencies don't reduce themselves to act, or they wouldn't be potencies to begin with.

zmikecuber said...

@Scott

"One could, if one didn't mind violating the self-evident principle of causality."

But it's perfectly possible for something to happen without a cause. I mean it doesn't seem to have any logical impossibilities entailed with it, so we should accept it as a possibility. As long as it's a possibility, the first way can't be said to necessarily work.

"Short of that, no, one couldn't. Change is the reduction of potency to act. Potencies don't reduce themselves to act, or they wouldn't be potencies to begin with."

Sure. To say "X is caused by Y", while Y has no causal powers is absurd. Potencies have no causal powers. Neither does "nothing."

But saying "X is caused by nothing" is different than saying "X has no cause." One assumes causality, and attributes a "cause" to "nothing," which is absurd, the other just says that there isn't a cause to begin with.

So one can accept the principle of causality that "nothing cannot cause anything." However, to accept the principle that "every event (or generation, or motion, or essentially ordered efficient causation) has a cause" is different.

And doesn't modern physics undermine this "every effect has a cause"?

Scott said...

Search this site for the phrase "principle of causality."

zmikecuber said...

Scott,

Most of what I'm seeing seems to be defenses against so called "counter examples" to the principle of causality. Do you know which one would argue for causality in the first place? I'm not sure I see why the principle of causality should be a "staring point" in the first place.

Scott said...

See also here.

Scott said...

Heh, zmikecuber, you posted while I was typing my own post, so I wasn't directly replying to you, but I might as well have been.

Scott said...

There's also a good very short discussion here, starting in the middle of the right-hand page.

Daniel said...

'I mean it doesn't seem to have any logical impossibilities entailed with it, so we should accept it as a possibility.'

In this case why may we not just accept that God exists anyway as well as everything else that involves no contraction?

Joking aside Modern Physics has given us no reason to doubt the Principle of Causality though it has raised counter examples to the Principle of Sufficient Reason via Quantum Indeterminacy.

Timotheos said...

A couple thoughts about zmikecuber…

Firstly, the principle that Aquinas uses in the first way is simply this; that any potential A can only be made actually A by some actual B distinct from any potential or the thing being made actually A. However, this is talking exclusively about beings and not substances, so there can be lots of internal casual chains within substances, but each of the actualities and potentials will be distinct beings within the substance.

As far as a whole moving a whole, I can only see that being a relevant problem if you mean that the whole is making the whole actual (i.e. giving it existence).

The problem with this though is that it makes the casual chain circular, like circular reasoning, A’s existence comes from A already existing, or the truth of A being shown by the truth of A.

To answer your question about “nothing” bringing something into existence, I’m going to define the two senses of nothing you are using.

You think it obvious, and it is, that nothing can positively come from nothing, in the sense that the existence of something is caused by a non-existent being.

You don’t think it obvious however, that something might not come from nothing negatively, that is, not from another, but not getting its existence from nothing.

Do I have you right?

If I do, then the second sense of nothing is the one that you are inquiring about.

In response, it should be noted that if something doesn’t get its existence from another, whether or not that thing exists, and it doesn’t have its existence of itself, in what way can we say that it has existence? If something in no way has a relation to existence, then how can it possible exist?

In terms of potential and actual, if a potential is not actualized, and it’s not already actual, then how is it in any way actual now?

Finally, the arguments given by the first way are supposed to be purely logical and metaphysical, so, if the argument is conclusive, nothing in science, correctly interpreted, can contradict it, by definition. This is the same case in mathematics; we don’t say that seeing two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom combining together into one water molecule suddenly makes 2+1=3 false. Similarly, if metaphysics really shows us that from nothing nothing comes, then anything we find in science that says something to the contrary must be false or interpreted incorrectly. (Unless of course you take the Hegelian route and deny that something can’t both be and not be at the same time in the same way)

Timotheos said...

Also, zmikecuber, a good book that covers many of these issues is God: His Existence and His Nature; Vol. 1, by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. (unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a copy online, but you can buy a printed copy for around $25 at Lulu press)

Another good book is Principles of natural theology by George Joyce, which is the one Scott linked to earlier in the thread, so make sure to check that one out too.

zmikecuber said...

"In this case why may we not just accept that God exists anyway as well as everything else that involves no contraction? "

No. I'm just saying it's a possibility. As long as it's a possibility, the first way can't be said to necessarily work.

Timotheos said...

@ zmikecuber

You do realize that Daniel was joking , right?

zmikecuber said...

"You think it obvious, and it is, that nothing can positively come from nothing, in the sense that the existence of something is caused by a non-existent being."

Correct. Saying "X was caused by: nothing" is absurd.

"You don’t think it obvious however, that something might not come from nothing negatively, that is, not from another, but not getting its existence from nothing."

Correct. The whole idea of "getting existence from somewhere" assumes the principle of causality. I'm not saying "X gets its existence from nothing" or whatever, I'm saying maybe "X exists and does not get it's existence from anything."

"In response, it should be noted that if something doesn’t get its existence from another, whether or not that thing exists, and it doesn’t have its existence of itself, in what way can we say that it has existence? If something in no way has a relation to existence, then how can it possible exist?"

I'm not quite sure I see what you mean. "X exists" is obvious. Why does it have to "get it's existence" from anywhere? Doesn't that assume it needs a cause?

"In terms of potential and actual, if a potential is not actualized, and it’s not already actual, then how is it in any way actual now?"

But doesn't that beg the question that it needs to "get it" from somewhere, in other words, "needs a cause"?

"Finally, the arguments given by the first way are supposed to be purely logical and metaphysical, so, if the argument is conclusive, nothing in science, correctly interpreted, can contradict it, by definition."

I agree. The findings in science don't seem to be relevant necessarily. However, if it's possible that something can begin to exist, or exist, or be moved, without a cause, and we can explain the physical world like this, why assume there's something "supernatural"? I mean, if acauality is a possible option, wouldn't Occam's razor favor acausality?

Also, thanks for the references. I've read some of Garrigou Lagrange before, but never that one. I really should get it...

Thanks for your thoughts!

zmikecuber said...

Err... No I didn't realize he was joking... *feels stupid* lol

zmikecuber said...

And I'm not an atheist at all. I'm just presenting some objections to the five ways I'd like to see answered.

Anonymous said...

But it's perfectly possible for something to happen without a cause. I mean it doesn't seem to have any logical impossibilities entailed with it, so we should accept it as a possibility.

You might find James Ross's Philosophical Theology interesting. If one weakens the principle of causality such that it is just possibly true, then it still follows that God possibly exists, in which case one can construct a modal argument to show that God exists necessarily.


This discussion also reminds me of something I read in Pruss's book on the Principle of Sufficient Reason, to the effect that Aquinas seemed to have seen the two possibilities as the principle of causality and causa sui, without considering the objection that there might not be a cause at all.

Mr. Green said...

Zmikecuber: But doesn't that beg the question that it needs to "get it" from somewhere, in other words, "needs a cause"?

Perhaps think of it this way: something can't "happen" without a cause, because "happening" is going to have to be cashed out in terms of some sort of causes. All right, so why not skip the causes altogether and suppose something can just "be", without needing any cause at all? Well, with no causes it can't be this or that, it can't be here or there, now or then. It has to just plain be. In other words it is pure Act. So sure, not only is that possible, Aquinas shows that it's necessary. It's not a way around his argument, it just is his argument, reworded!

The findings in science don't seem to be relevant necessarily. However, if it's possible that something can begin to exist, or exist, or be moved, without a cause, and we can explain the physical world like this, why assume there's something "supernatural"? I mean, if acauality is a possible option, wouldn't Occam's razor favor causality?

Well, there's no such thing as an explanation without a cause, because a (metaphysical) explanation just means identifying the cause of something. And without explanations, Occam's razor doesn't have anything to shave against, so there's no warrant for bringing it in. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about that because the most science could ever say is, "some causes lie outside the scope of physics", which does absolutely nothing to show they don't exist. More than that, Aquinas's "causes" cover a broader definition than what physicists typically mean, and on that broad usage physics is utterly and necessarily jam-packed with causality (yes, even quantum physics).

zmikecuber said...

Anon,

That's very interesting about the modal argument. Good point.

Yes, and that seems like a false dichotomy. Unless we assume a watered down principle of causality in the first place.

zmikecuber said...

Mr. Green,

Why can't the universe "just be"? Why assume that anything that "just is" without a cause is pure act? Something with a distinct essence and existence would not be pure act, correct? Why can't the universe, having a distinct essence and existence, just persist in existence without any cause? It seems to me that you're question begging again. Sure, if we assume the principle of causality, then anything that "just is" is pure act. But if we don't assume causality, something that's not pure act can "just be."

Well the way I see it is there's two possibilities:

(i) QM can be explained to operate without any (natural or supernatural) causes.
(ii) QM can be explained to operate with (supernatural) causes.

If acausality is possible, why not choose i instead of ii? Ii seems to make unnecessary assumptions. However, if it's proved that acausality is impossible, then yes, we ought to accept the second alternative.

Timotheos said...

“I'm not quite sure I see what you mean. ”X exists" is obvious. Why does it have to "get its existence" from anywhere? Doesn't that assume it needs a cause?”

Ah, but that’s not what I said; I said that if something doesn’t get its existence from something else, and doesn’t have it of itself, then it can’t in any way be said to exist. This is basically an application of the Law of the Excluded Middle; something must have its existence from one of these options or else not exist.

To show you what I mean, let’s go through the possibilities of how something might have existence.

As I’ve said, something that has its existence of being can have it intrinsically or extrinsically. If something does not have its existence of being, perhaps it can have it of non-being. Finally, if something does not have its existence of being or non-being, then it has its existence of nothing, in the sense that it does not have its existence in any way. And if something does not have its existence in any way, then it does not exist, so something cannot have its existence of nothing.

So, since non-being cannot be the ground of anything’s existence (I won’t bother arguing for that since you already have accepted it), the only ways something can have its existence is of being, intrinsically or extrinsically, which is to say, that everything has its existence of itself or of another.

Scott said...

Just adding to Timotheos's point:

If something doesn't have its existence of itself, then even its continued existence still requires it to get its existence from another. The fact that it has come into being doesn't account for the fact that it stays in being. (George Hadley Joyce, op. cit., makes a lot of hay out of this point in his discussion of the proofs of God's existence.)

Scott said...

Incidentally, the preceding point also suggests that all we need for the cosmological argument to go through is that there is at least one causally produced being. That there might also be other beings that were not causally produced would be irrelevant even if it were true.

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

Thanks for the follow-up comments; they helped to refine my point.

Also, if you want to be real techincal, you don't have to know that some contingent being exists to have a cosmological argument go through; all you need to know is that some being exists, whether or not it has existence of itself or another. (of course, if you know that some being exists, presumably you would know if it had its existence of itself or not, so this isn't a particularly important point)

Scott said...

Heh, yeah, that's true: if we knew that a being existed, then if it had its existence of itself, we'd be done. Mr. Green made a similar point earlier in the thread.

zmikecuber said...

"Ah, but that’s not what I said; I said that if something doesn’t get its existence from something else, and doesn’t have it of itself, then it can’t in any way be said to exist. This is basically an application of the Law of the Excluded Middle; something must have its existence from one of these options or else not exist."

Makes sense. So either an extant thing gets its existence from something, or it does not? But wouldn't "having being of itself" be a form of the first option?

"As I’ve said, something that has its existence of being can have it intrinsically or extrinsically"

I'm not entirely sure what you mean here. Aren't we sortof jumping from "either it gets its existence from somewhere or it does not" to "it either gets its existence intrinsically or extrinsically"?

As far as I understand...

(i) EITHER A (extant thing) exists because of something, OR A (extant thing) does not exist because of something.

So far so good.

And...

(ii) IF A exists because of something, THEN either A exists because of something extrinsic or A exists because of something intrinsic.

But wouldn't this second statement fall under the first option of our EITHER/OR statement? Can't something be said to exist without reference of "where" or "why" it gets existence from?

"If something does not have its existence of being, perhaps it can have it of non-being."

What does having existence of non-being mean?

"Finally, if something does not have its existence of being or non-being, then it has its existence of nothing, in the sense that it does not have its existence in any way"

Isn't "A has existence" different than "A has its existence OF _______"?

If I'm misunderstanding the point, please, guide me through.

Scott said...

@zmikecuber:

I think the most basic point you're missing here is just that something's having existence requires explanation.

What we mean by "existence" today is considerably "thinner" than what Aristotle and the Scholastics meant. (We say, for example, that "there exists" a solution to a certain differential equation or that "there exists" a "possible world" in which water has a different chemical formula.) And with this highly attenuated concept of "existence," it may well be hard to see why the "existence" of this or that requires an explanation.

But in Aristotle and in medieval philosophy, existing is a pretty active affair. To exist is to be "in act" or to be "actual"; in order for something whose essence doesn't involve existence to exist anyway, the essence in question has to be joined to an act of existence. (We can, for example, understand what a unicorn is without knowing whether any unicorns exist. For most things, "existence" is therefore something beyond or in addition to essence, and for e.g. unicorns positively to exist, something has to be added to their essence.)

I think that if you reread Timotheos's posts with that in mind, they may make better sense.

Timotheos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zmikecuber said...

Thanks for the help so far guys. I really do appreciate your replies.

The reason I'm asking this is because I've ran into these objections so many times. I'm very inclined to agree with you all, but I hate to just dismiss an argument or counter-argument as incorrect without showing why. It's always a good idea to give a position a fair shot, which is why I'm also re-assessing the ontological argument at the moment.

Anonymous said...

That was the the best set of links that I have ever found! Thank you Edward Feser! Joel Richmond

Timotheos said...

Replying to zmikecuber…

“So either an extant thing gets its existence from something, or it does not? But wouldn't "having being of itself" be a form of the first option?”

To the second part of that question, no, a thing "having being of itself" does not get its existence from something; it already has it. Thus, the first part of that question would be better put as everything that has its existence of some being has it either of itself or of another.


ME: "If something does not have its existence of being, perhaps it can have it of non-being."

zmikecuber: “What does having existence of non-being mean?”

This is parallel to something having its existence due to nothing positively, in the sense that its existence comes from something that does not exist. While you explicitly denied that something could come from nothing in this sense, I retained that distinction for the purpose of thoroughness. In any case, it’s pretty easy to prove that this is not an option that really works, so for your purposes, you can ignore it.

Finally...
The goal of my previous post was to lay out all of the logical possibilities in which something could have its existence, and then dwindle them down to the options I mentioned in the beginning of the post (which was, something having its existence of itself or of another)

Here is my simpler layout of those options (in the original post, I listed the options from bottom to top, which I think confused you zmikecuber, so here I reproduce them from top to bottom)

(i) EITHER A (extant thing) has its existence of something OR A (extant thing) has its existence of nothing.
(ii) IF A (extant thing) has its existence of something, A (extant thing) EITHER has it of being OR has it of non-being.
(iii) IF A (extant thing) has its existence of being, then A (extant thing) EITHER has it of itself OR has it of another (aka intrinsically or extrinsically).

Given this is an accurate sketch of the playing field, the ones I don’t think are really possible are the second options of both (i) and (ii).

The second part of (ii) is something you yourself have crossed out before, since that would be to say that non-being could produce being, which is absurd.

The second part of (i) is a different matter however; you wonder if it might still be an option.

The problem with this one is that it seems to say that something has its existence of nothing, in the sense that it doesn’t have its existence of anything, yet somehow still has its existence. But if something has its existence of nothing in this sense, I’m having trouble seeing how this doesn’t say that it doesn’t have its existence. And of course, if something doesn’t have its existence, how could it exist?

Regardless, this does shift the game from your question earlier; which was whether or not something may have been caused by nothing in a negative sense, that is to say, not caused by anything.

Your worry was that IF something could exist while not being caused by another THEN the principle of causality could be false.

However, this, by itself, won’t due, since something could exist without a cause and not be a counter-example to the principle of causality if it had its existence of itself and without a cause.

The real worry is IF something could exist while not being caused by another AND not have its existence of itself THEN the principle of causality could be false.

A subtle refinement to be sure, but one that is indeed crucial.

Scott said...

Elaborating on Timotheos's point again:

"[S]omething could exist without a cause and not be a counter-example to the principle of causality if it had its existence of itself and without a cause."

And, indeed, that there is such a something, namely God, is exactly what the argument in question purports to show. So as Mr. Green said earlier, that something could exist without a cause isn't a way around the argument; it is the argument.

(Moreover, once the existence of God is established, it can further be shown that He is unique, so that there can't be anything else that exists uncaused.)

PatrickH said...

Excellent discussion. As for the First Way, my understanding is that it is not concerned with things getting their existence, but rather undergoing a change in terms of the acquisition of an accidental form. The coming-to-exist kind of "change" is in the Third Way.

So the questions zmike was asking about "wholes" might apply to the Second and Third Ways, but don't to the First Way. The wood is in potency with respect to being hot, not to being wood. It is "moved", which is to say, changed when it becomes actually hot, not when it is burned to ashes. Aquinas' point, if I understand him correctly, is that the wood cannot raise its heat by giving itself heat, since it only has the heat it has, which means it must receive its heat from some other, that is to say, the fire.

Timotheos said...

Even though this thread has died down, I want to add something that might help clarify why I think the second part of (i) won’t work for the sake of future readers.

Zmikecuber was fine with my inference from “A has its existence of nothing (negatively)” to “A doesn’t have its existence of anything.” However, he was confused about my inference from “A doesn’t have its existence of anything” to “A doesn’t have its existence”. To him it seemed to assume exactly what I set out to prove, which is that A can’t have its existence of nothing.

The key to seeing the truth of my inference is in the way that I use nothing. Since I used it negatively, this inference is valid, and it takes a separate argument to prove that it can’t come from nothing positively, which I only passingly gave since zmikecuber already saw that as absurd.

To help show the validly of my inference I’ll give an example*.

(1) Either A is caused by something or A is caused by nothing (negatively)
(2) If A is caused by something, Either A is caused by a being or A is caused by a non-being (aka nothing positively)
(3) If A is caused by a being, then A is either caused by itself or by another

*Note that this is not a restatement from the division in my last post, because this is the logical division of how something may be caused, not how it may have its existence, which is different.

Now to say that A is caused by nothing in the case of (2) is to say that nothing literally causes A to exist; it gives A its existence. In the case of (1) however, to say that A is caused by nothing is to say that A is not caused by anything, thus A is not caused. The argument I give against (i) is like the one I give against (1) and not (2).

So my inference from (i) is like the following one made from (1); if A is caused by nothing (negatively), then it is not caused by anything, which is the same as saying that it is not caused.

So to re-hash my inference from (i), if A has its existence of nothing (negatively), then it does not have its existence of anything, which is to say that it does not have its existence, period.

And unlike in the case of (1), (i) is impossible, because what good would it be to say that something that exists doesn’t have its existence? But (1) is possible; in fact, it’s the whole point of the cosmological argument to prove that something exists in that way, since God is not caused.

I hope this might help clarify my argument for anyone that might be or has been confused about it. From here, you can add the divisions of contingent/necessary, act/potency, caused/uncaused, etc, so this is a useful principle to help ground all of Aquinas’s five ways.