Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Five Proofs preview


By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed will be out from Ignatius Press next month.  Later in the year, and also from Ignatius, comes my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  Having told you, dear reader, a bit about the former, let me say something about the latter.

It is not a book about Aquinas’s Five Ways.  I have already treated that topic at some length in my book Aquinas and in several of the essays collected in Neo-Scholastic Essays.  Rather, it is a book about what I personally take to be the five most compelling arguments for God’s existence.  Naturally, there is some overlap with the Five Ways, but the book largely stakes out new ground. 

The arguments in question are what I call the Aristotelian proof, the Neo-Platonic proof, the Augustinian proof, the Thomistic proof, and the Rationalist proof.  As those labels indicate, each of the arguments has a long history in the tradition.  They can be found in some form or other in thinkers like Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, and Leibniz.  However, the specific formulations are my own.  I am not presenting the arguments exactly as any of these thinkers presented them, and I am not doing exegesis of any of their works.

That is deliberate.  In Aquinas and in The Last Superstition, I treat the question of God’s existence by way of expounding and defending Aquinas’s own arguments.  That was appropriate given the specific aims of those books, but it has a downside.  As readers of those books know, properly to understand Aquinas’s Five Ways, you first have to understand all the background philosophical theses he presupposes in the arguments but actually develops and defends elsewhere.  For example, you need to understand his account of what change is, of how efficient causation works and the different kinds of causal series that there are, of the structure of a material substance, and so on.  You also need to disentangle these background philosophical theses from the dated and mistaken scientific claims Aquinas sometimes used to illustrate them, but which are not in fact essential to them.  That is why, in both books, the reader has to work through seventy pages or so of fairly abstract general metaphysics before getting to the specific topic of what Aquinas had to say about God’s existence.

In the years since writing Aquinas, I became convinced that there was a need for a book that approaches things differently.  In particular, there was a need for a book that just gets straight to the main thrust of each of the best arguments for God’s existence, introducing the relevant background metaphysical notions along the way rather than in a separate prolegomenon, and without getting bogged down in exegetical questions or being limited to discussing what some particular writer of the past had to say.  That’s what Five Proofs does.  I defend an Aristotelian proof, but not Aristotle’s own formulation exactly; a Neo-Platonic proof, but without doing any exegesis of Plotinus’s Enneads; and so on.

The Aristotelian proof, as you might expect, is an argument from the distinction between actuality and potentiality to the existence of a purely actual actualizer of the existence of things.  The Neo-Platonic proof is an argument from the existence of things that are composite to a first cause that is absolutely simple or non-composite.  The Augustinian proof is an argument from realism about universals, propositions, possible worlds, and purported abstract objects in general to the existence of an infinite divine intellect in which these entities must reside. The Thomistic proof is an argument from the existence of things whose essence is distinct from their existence to a first cause which is subsistent existence itself.  The Rationalist proof is an argument to the existence of an absolutely necessary being from the principle of sufficient reason, where the latter is interpreted in Scholastic rather than Leibnizian terms.  Each of these arguments is developed and defended at much greater length than I have treated any of them elsewhere.

Each of the first five chapters of the book is devoted to one of these arguments, and the structure of each of these chapters is as follows.  First, I argue in a discursive or informal way for the existence of something fitting a certain key description – being a purely actual actualizer, or an absolutely simple or non-composite cause, or what have you.  Second, I argue in a discursive or informal way that anything fitting this key description must also possess the key divine attributes – unity, immutability, immateriality, omnipotence, omniscience, and so forth.  Third, I then recapitulate the argumentation of the first two sections in a more formal way, showing how the reasoning can be set out carefully in a long step-by-step demonstration that lays bare its basic logical structure.  Fourth, I address all the main objections that have been or might be raised against the argument.  Again, I follow this procedure for each of the arguments in these first five chapters.

In the sixth chapter of the book, which is quite long – almost a short book by itself – I treat in much more detail all of the key divine attributes, as well as God’s relationship to the world.  In particular, I argue at length for God’s unity, simplicity, immutability, immateriality, incorporeality, eternity, necessity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, will, love, and incomprehensibility.  I also defend the doctrines of divine conservation and concurrence.  These issues will all have been dealt with to some extent in the earlier chapters, but the sixth chapter is intended to probe them at greater depth, to address all the main objections, and so on.

The seventh and final chapter of the book is an “omnibus” treatment of all the main objections to arguments for God’s existence of the sort defended in the book.  Once again, these matters will have been dealt with to some extent in the earlier chapters, but the aim of the seventh chapter is to probe them at much greater depth, and also to deal with objections that aren’t treated in the earlier chapters.

The book is, then, a general work of natural theology, as concerned with the divine nature as it is with God’s existence.  Naturally, it is written from the point of view of a Thomist, but it also interacts critically and in some detail with the literature in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion, both theist and atheist.  Essentially it does for natural theology what my book Scholastic Metaphysics did for that subject.

More information to come…

257 comments:

  1. Very much looking forward to reading your arguments for God's unity!

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  2. Very much looking forward to this.

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  3. Very much look forward to reading it!

    I'm sorry but I will digress a bit to the topic of supernatural faith. I'm wondering Prof Feser, will you also write at least a blog article on how does one go from admitting a philosophical proof for the existence of God to belief in the God of the Bible?

    Aquinas says that faith is a supernatural virtue by which we believe in God who reveals, believe what is revealed concerning God, and believe in God. These three formulations actually express one single supernatural act of the intellect, prompted by the will which is itself moved by grace. Faith in the God of Revelation is impossible without God Himself moving us.

    Aquinas says that this is so because faith's formal motive is "first truth", i.e. God Himself. On their own our natural faculties cannot attain to God Himself, only grace makes us capable of this. (The same is true of the other theological virtues of hope and love).

    Moreover, the formal motive of acquired (natural, philosophical) faith is convincing reasoning, but the formal motive of supernatural faith is the authority of God - we believe in Revelation because God Himself said these things - including that He is the author of Revelation - and God does not deceive. Now this presupposes that we accept the existence of Revelation, because if we don't accept that the Bible is the Word of God, then we cannot believe in it on God's authority.

    The question is, how do we come to accept the contents of Revelation as Revelation? This topic belongs to the theology of grace - we cannot come to have this faith through arguments, even miracles, which are just motives of credibility, not formal causes.

    So in temporal terms, coming to have faith would look something like this: a formerly indifferent man comes to accept that God exists based, say on Aquinas's proofs or on Prof Feser's new book's arguments. Then the same man begins reading the Gospels. He cannot develop faith in their truth as revelation in the same way as he acquired a natural faith based on Prof Feser's book. God has to move the man, but his freedom nonetheless remains unviolated. God moves him both in natural and supernatural modes: praemotio physica and actual grace, sufficient and effective, yet his disposition and reaction to God's graces has to be good. But in the end if he comes to have faith it is primarily through God's action, not his own. Am I describing this correctly?

    Many thanks.

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    1. When moral or "practical" certainty is established (accomplished at the level of natural reason, but aided in some sense by grace) about the claims of revelation, the practical intellect is offered a sufficient grace to assent. If it does not resist, God moves it to make an act of Faith, having as its motive the infallible authority of God. This motive has its own perfect certainty, apart from the practical certainty possessed by reason.

      I think Garrigou-Lagrange's volume on Theological Faith was just released on Amazon recently. I'm sure it's quite good.

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    2. In this case, what is the moral/practical certainty exactly about? Isn't this kind of certainty rather applied to moral cases (e.g. I ought to obey my superior even though I can't be sure the outcome of my action will be good), than to the case of faith?

      Moreover, it seems that the stories in the Bible are not that easy to believe based on natural reason, especially in the 21st century. One might see that the miracles could have happened and that the witnesses' testimony is trustworthy, given their standing to suffer rather than benefit from their confession, but I don't see why a non-believer needs practical certainty before being given the grace by God to believe in at the supernatural level.

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    3. Paul,

      The practical certainty is here just distinct from speculative certainty. The truths of Faith cannot be deduced because they are gratuitous. A practical certainty is often the kind of certainty the average man off the street has that solipsism is false. No prudent or reasonable person would deny what they are practically certain about, although they may not themselves know the speculative reasons for thinking so.

      Moral certainty can be obtained in different ways. I'm not sure that it hardly ever occurs in going through all the claims of revelation and affirming each one. As you mention, the Church has often put forth miracles -- but she stresses that they are events which produce practical certainty. Many theologians have stressed the four marks of the Church. Others have given the witness of the martyrs. I myself think the congruity of Catholic doctrine with reason (such as A-T) can at least aid the process. "If there were any true religion, it really would probably look quite like that."

      A non-believer needs practical certainty, otherwise they would be acting against their conscience. Their action would not be materially sinful, but formally sinful. For example, if a Lutheran knows that religion is a serious matter, but is not practically certain that Catholicism is the true religion, and joins anyway -- that is morally reckless. It seems odd to say, but they would be acting against their conscience. Moral certainty has to be formed first. We cannot do evil that good may come of it, even if that keeps people out of the Church. It's best to leave the rest to God's grace, which aids those who are invincibly ignorant.

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  4. Sounds exhausting, Ed! Thanks for all you do. Looking forward to it immensely.

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  5. You accept the Torah because of the eyewitness testimony of a nation. It's called the Kuzari Principle. "Faith" doesn't enter into the equation. The Torah is the only self-authenticating Revelation in history: http://www.aish.com/jl/p/ph/Did_God_Speak_at_Sinai.html

    The 5 Books of Moses were never canonized by any mortals. They were given directly to the Jewish people, an "everlasting covenant" binding for "all generations" consisting of "eternal statutes." Out of 613 commandments, not one says a peep about being on the lookout for the Messiah, much less worshiping him. When he comes it will be obvious.

    The only reference to the son of G*d is in Exodus 4:22. The sole reference to G*d being human is in Numbers 23:19. An entire chapter is devoted to miracle-workers who want to start new religions (Deut 13). The trinity is addressed in Deut 6:4. And Deut 28:14-69 gives a synopsis of why Jews aren't big on new stuff.

    The arguments in Dr. Feser's book + the Kuzari = the 7 Noahide Laws for Gentiles and Orthodox Judaism for Jews. You can't just assume the NT is an intrinsic part of the Bible. The people charged with guarding the Torah and perpetuating its observance adamantly reject it and always will. Just sayin.

    Dr. Feser, I can't wait to read this book! I pray for your health.

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    1. This was a response to Paul's question: "How does one go from admitting a philosophical proof for the existence of God to belief in the God of the Bible?"

      Is the philosophic neglect of the Kuzari owing to the hostility of the 5 Books of Moses to all sequels?

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    2. Thank you for the interesting response. I haven't heard this argument before. So essentially the Jewish stance is purely natural, i.e. you accept the Torah because of eyewitness evidence, the evidence's special merit being the number of eyewitnesses?

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    3. Maimonides writes: "For this event is the pivot of our faith, and the proof which demonstrates its veracity. Recognize the true significance of this, for G*d pointed out its importance, as it says: 'For ask now of the days past, which were before you, since the day that G*d created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other. Has anything as great as this ever happened? Has there ever been heard anything like this?' (Deut. 4: 32)."

      His challenge to all other claims: “If you can furnish us with something like the Revelation on Sinai, in which the camp of Israel faced the camp of the Divine Presence – then we will espouse your doctrines.” The Epistle to Yemen

      All other Western religions presuppose this bedrock and claim to add to it: https://ohr.edu/special/books/truth-6.htm


      Great link on two dozen theistic arguments: https://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/two_dozen_or_so_theistic_arguments.pdf

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    4. Out of 613 commandments, not one says a peep about being on the lookout for the Messiah, much less worshiping him. When he comes it will be obvious.

      O rly?

      "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him." (Deut. 18:15)

      There is a post-Christian Jewish interpretation that says that Moses is talking about prophets in general, but I don't buy this because the verse SPECIFICALLY says that God will raise a prophet "like me [Moses]," meaning a new lawgiver.

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    5. Then where did Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, etc. derive their authority? And the text doesn't say "new lawgiver." It says "prophet," the purpose of which is to encourage observance of the Torah. No prophet was greater than Moses: "And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. 34:10)

      IF J*sus was a prophet, Deut. 13 reflects poorly on his mission and followers: "Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it. If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, 'Let us go after other g*ds which you have not known, and let us worship them,' you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your G*d, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your G*d, with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deut. 13:1-4)

      - Did the Israelites believe G*d had a junior partner in creation? Where, other than Exodus 4:22, does the Torah mention the son of G*d? Where does it command his worship?!

      - Did they believe the Torah had an expiration date, as Hebrews 7:18 says? Where does it mention the chosen-ness of the Jewish people being lost or transferred?

      - Did they worship a G*d who consisted of 3 persons?

      - Did they ever pray in the name of an intercessor who said no one can approach HaShem except through me? (John 14:6)
       
      Absolutely not! HaShem displayed none of these attributes. Therefore, J*sus and Paul represented a g*d whom their "forefathers did not know."

      "And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your G*d Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your G*d, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst." (Deut. 13:6)

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    6. Then where did Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, etc. derive their authority?

      From God.

      And the text doesn't say "new lawgiver." It says "prophet," the purpose of which is to encourage observance of the Torah.

      The text does say that God will raise up a prophet LIKE MOSES. But regardless of whether or not it says that he will also be called almighty God (Isaiah 9:6), you're absolutely wrong in claiming that the 613 mitzvot claim nothing at all about being on the lookout for the Messiah.

      No prophet was greater than Moses: "And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. 34:10)

      Then Deuteronomy 18:15 contradicts Deuteronomy 34:10, BECAUSE IT SAYS THAT THIS NEW PROPHET WILL BE LIKE MOSES. So you have a much bigger problem than having to deal with a Messiah: you have a contradictory text.

      Did the Israelites believe G*d had a junior partner in creation? Where, other than Exodus 4:22, does the Torah mention the son of G*d? Where does it command his worship?!

      "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

      Where does it command his worship?!

      If a father has a son, then that son is human, because the father is. So if God has a son, then that son is God, because his father is. That's the whole point of the title "Son of God."

      "Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!" (Proverbs 30:4)

      Did they believe the Torah had an expiration date, as Hebrews 7:18 says?

      "'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.'" (Jeremiah 31:31)

      Where does it mention the chosen-ness of the Jewish people being lost or transferred?

      That is part of the good news, namely, that God never did forsake physical Israel. Physical Israel has had an important part (although unfortunately not one of leadership) in the Christian Church, and will again take over the role of leadership in the Church, instead of the Gentiles in the future.

      But part of the plan of taking the Gospel to Gentiles is to give salvation to everybody, not just Israel. Did you think God would be so mean so as to forsake the rest of humanity?!

      Did they ever pray in the name of an intercessor who said no one can approach HaShem except through me? (John 14:6)

      "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days [i.e. God the Father] and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him." (Daniel 7:13-14)

      Obviously this "Son of Man" couldn't have been exactly identical to God the Father, but nonetheless God the Father gave him permission to be worshipped and receive glory from all the people of the Earth.

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    7. “… you're absolutely wrong in claiming that the 613 mitzvot claim nothing at all about being on the lookout for the Messiah.”

      Prove it: http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm

      Regarding Isaiah 9:5
      "For a child has been born to us, a son given to us, and the authority is upon his shoulder, and the wondrous adviser, the mighty G*d, the everlasting Father, called his name, 'the prince of peace.'" http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15940#v=5&showrashi=true

      Regarding the New Covenant, why didn’t you quote ALL of Jeremiah’s prophecy? "And no longer shall they teach, a man his neighbor, and a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord', for they shall all know Me, from their smallest to their greatest," says the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will no longer remember."

      This refers to a universal knowledge of HaShem, where debates like the one we’re having won’t be necessary. The simple fact that we’re trying to teach each other about G*d reflects poorly on your interpretation. (And where does it say anything about a covenant with Gentiles or some “predestined elect”?)

      Universal knowledge of G*d is one sign of the Messianic era, so is world peace, so is an anointed King of Israel who builds the Temple and gathers all the exiles. Here’s a few more that J*sus didn’t accomplish: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/letter-to-sy-about-messiah

      Regarding Proverbs 30:4, the son’s name is Israel: Exodus 4:22: “Israel is My son, my firstborn”; Hosea 11:1: "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

      The term used in Daniel 7:13 is k'var ĕnash, which means “something like a human being." It does not say the "son of man" is coming (it was a dream that had to be interpreted). My original question was when did Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob pray through an intermediary or worship a son of G*d? Deut. 13 commands the Israelites to kill any prophets who encourage them to worship g*ds their forefathers didn’t know.

      “Did you think God would be so mean so as to forsake the rest of humanity?!”

      Please learn about Judaism through a source other than the c*tholic church. http://noahide.net/index.html

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    8. Moses was a law giver. You are confounding prophets who encouraged proper observance to the Mosaic covenant with that prophet that same covenant commanded obedience to.

      Furthetmore, the Jewish theory of national revelation is contradicted by the prophets. What is Jonah doing in Nineveh or why are the other prophets working miracles for gentiles?

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    9. Melchizedek. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek and received a blessing from him. Abraham's meeting with Melchizedek is pivotal in the story: just read the things that follow right after it.

      And Daniel does say Son of Man. That was the whole point of Christ's using it. The Book of Daniel was not written in Hebrew.

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    10. Israel means Prince of God i.e. Son of God. How Christ was and is Israel hardly needs explanation.

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    11. This is what the “Old Testament” IS and why it precludes all sequels and new-fangled interpretive spins. The chrstian-mslim treatment of the Torah should make a postmodernist blush. The following thumbnail sketch is by Zionist Conspirator:

      The TaNa”KH (“Old Testament”) is divided into three distinct sections. The first and most important is the Torah. Only the Torah was written directly by G-d Himself; Moses was only a stenographer. The Torah was originally written “974 generations” before the Creation, in “letters of black fire on a scroll of white fire.” It is what chrstians call the “logos.” The entire creation is derivative of the Torah.

      The Nevi’im (Prophets) are a step lower than the Torah. They were not written by G-d Himself. They were written by the Prophets in their own words under the spirit of nevu’ah (prophecy). They are not higher than the Torah, nor do they amend it in any way. If any prophet had ever prophesied that one day the Torah would be “fulfilled” and replaced by something else, he would have been put to death as a false prophet; and certainly his “prophecy” would not have been canonized by the ‘Anshei-HaKeneset HaGedolah. Furthermore, many prophecies are conditional; ie, they may be mitigated. One example is the prophecy of Jonah. Jonah declared that Nineveh would be destroyed. He didn’t say “unless you repent;” he said it would be destroyed. But the people repented (at least to a certain extent) and HaShem granted them a reprieve.

      The Ketuvim (Writings or Hagiographa) is a step lower than the Prophets. It was not written under the spirit of prophecy but under ruach haqodesh (Divine inspiration of “holy spirit”). The prophecies in the Ketuvim are even more conditional than those in the Nevi’im.

      In addition to all this, the Nevi’im and Ketuvim are only in the Bible “temporarily.” Only the Torah is eternal. The books of the Na”Kh were put there by the ‘Anshei-HaKeneset HaGedolah (the Men of the Great Assembly) until Mashiach would come. They are still there because he hasn’t. When he does, only the Torah (and the Scroll of Esther) will still be read publicly as Scripture (though this doesn’t mean we will lose the others, G-d forbid).

      The Torah (from which the Prophets and Writings derive all their authority) warns over and over and over not to deviate from it one iota to the left or to the right. Horrible punishments are prophesied for failing to keep it, and these prophecies have been fulfilled. Not once does the Torah warn about the consequences of “rejecting the messiah.” Not once! All punishments are for deviating from the Torah. Parashat Ki-Tavo’ (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8) contains a long portion of warnings precisely about the current Exile. The consequences of deviating from the Torah are blood-curdling. And you want Jews to replace the Torah with something else? Something “new?” The chrstian claim that the Torah is “kept” by violating it and “violated” by keeping it is one of the most oxymoronic and counterintuitive teachings in the religious world. There isn’t even a mitzvah (commandment) to “accept the messiah!” Because when he comes it will be obvious; no “faith” will be required.

      The Torah is the Ultimate and Authoritative Revelation. The “new testament” does not have the authority to pop up and interpret it unless the Torah plainly says it does. And it does not.

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    12. Tomislav OstojichApril 29, 2017 at 2:36 PM

      In addition to all this, the Nevi’im and Ketuvim are only in the Bible “temporarily.” Only the Torah is eternal.

      Even if we grant that the passage in Jeremiah isn't speaking about Christ (I am out of my mind to speak like this), it still talks about a NEW covenant replacing the OLD covenant at SOME future time. So unless God is "just kidding", it is clear that the Torah could not and would not last forever.

      Not only that, but the Torah says nothing at all about eternal life: all of its rewards and punishments, blessing and cursing are for this world only. So if God is going to grant his people eternal life, it couldn't have been on the basis of the Torah, simply because the Torah never mentions the topic.

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    13. "For THIS is the covenant
      that I shall form with the
      House of Israel after those
      days," says the Lord; "I WILL
      PLACE MY TORAH WITHIN THEM, and I will inscribe it upon their heart; and I will be their G*d and they shall be a people for Me.

      Where do you see the word REPLACE? It says no such thing. THIS NEW COVENANT = PLACING MY TORAH WITHIN THEM.

      Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron were gathered to their people. Just because the chrstian idiom "eternal life" isn't used doesn't mean it's not there. And Exodus 31:14 and Genesis 17:14 speak of sinners being "cut off" from their people.

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    14. THIS NEW COVENANT = PLACING MY TORAH WITHIN THEM.

      How is that "new" in any sense?

      And Exodus 31:14 and Genesis 17:14 speak of sinners being "cut off" from their people.

      That means being killed or exiled. Again, for this world only.

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    15. Anonymous,

      Just out of curiousity, is the ark of the covenant necessary if the temple were rebuild?

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  6. Prof. Feser,

    you did Avicenna dirty by not including him in this list. Especially since (1) the main elements of the Thomistic proof come from him and (2) Rationalist proof is more or less his own argument.

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    1. I don't think Dr. Feser intended to give Avicenna disrespect. Perhaps Avicenna will be mentioned along the way?

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  7. Dr. Feser,

    You're a ledge. Scholastic Metaphysics is *the* manual and I can't wait for this (and philosophy of nature!)

    Out of interest, do you address how an immutable a God can cause miracles?

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  8. Sounds great! I'll be buying a copy. My only request is that it be easy to read and understand: along the lines of your blog or William Lane Craig's book "On Guard", and not along the lines of your metaphysics book.

    Please "dumb it down" for us.

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  9. Interesting news but first of all why choose such a generic name for such an interesting book? It sounds too straight forward and sloppy... at least the names of your previous books were cool enough even if arguments weren't compelling at all..

    and secondly it seems way too cocky to slap the label of Proofs on such controversial and esoteric philosophical claims I think it would be more reasonable and modest to label them merely Five Arguments as they can only ever attain partial success and all they can ever show is that there is a slim chance that if such and such metaphysical theses are true then we can reasonably infer the existence of a God-like being but they can't ever legitimately "Prove" anything ...

    So arguments aside I find the name of the book very odd..

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    1. I think it depends how one uses the term "proof". If by "proof" one means something like absolute certainty, then there's probably nothing (or almost nothing) that can satisfy that description.

      But if by proof one means something like "beyond a reasonable doubt" or "more probable than not" or "more probable than it would have been otherwise", then clearly proofs can be had in most domains.

      But, I must say that if one is looking for a sound or compelling deductive argument for God's existence (or even against God's existence), then one would be hard-pressed to find such an argument. But even if you grant some of Feser's deductive arguments, one's confidence level in the conclusion can still be relatively low (unless you think all of the premises are known with certainty).

      That's mainly why I prefer to look at abductive/inductive arguments for and against God's existence.

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    2. Yes, I think natural theological argument should always be articulated in such a manner that they can afford a defeasible but still reasonable reading..

      unfortunately its precisely the strict deductive nature of the kind of arguments Dr.Feser defends that renders it quite unconvincing.
      Even the slightest reason to doubt a single premise in such an arguments can sufficiently undermine them and there exist many..

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    3. You're right about Feser's arguments coming across as unconvincing. It seems that they won't be convincing to people who don't already believe the conclusion. Even many theists don't find Aquinas' arguments particularly persuasive (much less sound)

      However, this has not been my experience with abductive arguments (i.e. the opposite experience). For instance, one can grant that the existence of suffering counts as at least some evidence against the existence of God without giving away the whole deck. And it's for that very reason why abductive arguments can be very persuasive.

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    4. Only sophists and con men think an argument is tested by how easily it convinces people. It is simply irrelevant to the actual status of an argument, because what people find convincing depends heavily on factors that have nothing to do with argument -- temperament, upbringing, character traits, whether one wants to be convinced. And even reasons, insofar as they contribute, may be bad reasons as well as good, and that can only be assessed by considering how they relate to the objective features of the arguments. Treating indubitability as a standard of proof is a useless move in a world in which any idiot can make up a reason to doubt anything.

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    5. Perhaps you shouldn't label anyone an idiot just because you think his reason to doubt a certain argument is bad. neither is anyone treating indubitability as a standard of proof..
      what instead the issue is that these particular arguments crucially depend on certain very controversial philosophical assumptions that can't be really shown to be true(at least more true than its negation) for example the reason I find particular arguments characterised as cosmological arguments is that they presuppose some robust dynamic conception of change/time or that they use an extremely strong PSR or that they assume some Actualist theory about modality none of which are particularly well argued or well supported by philosophical consensus, leads to some unpalatable consequences and also have counter examples..
      so finding these arguments unconvincing has nothing to do with considering how easily it convinces people but instead with how reasonable are its underlying assumptions

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    6. (1) I didn't label anyone an idiot; (2) I didn't identify any group as a group of idiots; (3) I pointed out what is obvious and easily proven, that idiots can make up reasons to doubt anything. So back off your poorly reasoned high dudgeon.

      Whether assumptions are controversial is, again, irrelevant; either they are controversial for reasons they have nothing to do with the argument, in which case only a sophist or a con man would consider them to matter, or the controversy arises because of objective and rationally provable features of the arguments in question, in which case it is the objective features of the argument, not the controversy, that matters. We get the absurdity:

      so finding these arguments unconvincing has nothing to do with considering how easily it convinces people but instead with how reasonable are its underlying assumptions

      So finding these arguments unconvincing has nothing to do with how it convinces people? This is directly a sign that you are misusing terms. If you mean that the arguments are not proofs because they are simply unreasonable, say so, and stop obscuring the matter by talking about how convincing they are -- which is irrelevant.

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    7. "Only sophists and con men think an argument is tested by how easily it convinces people. It is simply irrelevant to the actual status of an argument..."

      I never said any of that, and I don't think I really disagree.

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    8. Tbf Red, i'm a long time reader of this blog even though I have just recently begun commenting. I've noticed your posts and followed your conversation over at the classical theism forum.

      I find that major themes like theories of time, humean accounts of causation and different approaches to modality you bring up to fit the description you use. That is 'none of which are particularly well argued or well supported by philosophical consensus, leads to some unpalatable consequences and also have counter examples'. Especially Humean causation, which is well described by all of those points.

      That's the problem with appealing to consesus. There rarely is in philosophy. Majorities sure! But not consensus. And you can bet your bottom dollar even if some theory does reach consesus it will rarely last.

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    9. I am not sure what you mean here, I haven't merely appealed to authority to establish anything..I was merely saying that its a mistake to label these arguments "proofs" because the key premises aren't "known" to be true I only brought consensus here once when talking about dynamic theories of time(which are scientifically and philosophically,big time suspect, but that debate is off topic here) ...so I don't know what you're trying to say here...

      indeed as other users point out there infact are serious objections to these arguments, many theists find these arguments unconvincing..

      do you deem an argument sound even if its premise aren't known to be true?

      I only made one light comment on the name of the book Ok, no need to get into any serious debate here ..

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    10. Red this id Ed Feser's blog, there is always a need for serious debate ;)

      I deem an argument sound if it's premises are true. I think saying 'known' to be true, when unpacked, means little.

      TBH, i've never come across any 'serious' objections by users here and I have yet to hear a theist who disagrees with them show, at the same time, he actually understands them.

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    11. Red,

      many theists find these arguments unconvincing

      Again, this is completely irrelevant. Either all the objections fail, in which case they are simply wrong to be unconvinced, and thus the fact that they are unconvinced is irrelevant; or some of the objections succeed, in which case it is also irrelevant whether they are convinced or not, because then we are talking about the objective failure of the argument.

      I only made one light comment on the name of the book Ok, no need to get into any serious debate here

      But your 'light comment' is about the very nature of good philosophical argument, and on a point that obviously raises questions about the entire project. It's worth getting precise about what's actually being said.

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    12. I deem an argument sound if it's premises are true. I think saying 'known' to be true, when unpacked, means little.

      If you think a premise is true then you must first need to know its true ,don't you? you would need to know if objections to it are sound or not
      in a deductive argument the premises needs to be true if the conclusion is to be deemed acceptable.

      TBH, i've never come across any 'serious' objections by users here and I have yet to hear a theist who disagrees with them show, at the same time, he actually understands them.

      Well thats surprising , from what I observe most theists presently reject the classical brand of theism anyway ..

      as I've said previously a successful cosmological argument could only be that which eschews any dynamic conception of change/time and which would make use of explanatory principle which is evidently plausible,weak enough to avoid counter examples and unpalatable consequences(e.g modal collapse) and strong enough to get to the existence of God-like being without vicious circularity and boot strapping... are Thomistic arguments anything like that?

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    13. What do you mean by most theists? Classical theism is the position of the Catholic, Orthodox, and mainstream Protestant churches. It was the position of the Fathers, Schoolmen, major reformers, and just about all the pre-19th or even 20th great divines of the orthodox branches of the church. A few contemporary evangelicals and analytical philosophers hardly seems to compare to that, to me.

      I suppose you can question whether the average theist in the pews truly grasps classical theism, but as they aren't usually interested in philosophy, and they do usually accept their church's teachings, it doesn't seem that enlightening to me.

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    14. Red I was using 'known' in the same sense you seemed to be alluding to. I.e something that most people 'know' to be true. There's a fallacy for that thinking I tried to avoid. Hence "when unpacked, means little'.

      Also, I think you would find the position of 'most' theists who reject classical theism to be less surprising when you take into account my last sentence you quoted! When someone demonstrates they actually understand classical theism, they may be relevant. A tad question begging there.

      Well I think every argument Feser lists avoids those issues (or can). The Augustinian one of course is not cosmological. I don't even think Pruss' Leibnizian argument suffers modal collapse but you focused on Thomistic so.

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    15. Incidentally, as you said theists and not Christians, much the same can be said of Muslims and Jews. In India it is more complex, but even here the distinction is usually between something like classical theism and positions (whether they count as classical theism, I am unsure) that hold God is even less, not more, anthropomorphic.

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    16. Dear Brandon, you seem to be reading my comments between the lines.. I am not even trying to make the point that you are taking...

      Hello Jeremy,
      I was clearly talking about theists presently..clearly there are many prolific christian philosophers who not only reject classical theism but also strongly argue against possibility or even desirability of God being anything like Classical theism pictures it ...

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    17. Dear Brandon, you seem to be reading my comments between the lines.. I am not even trying to make the point that you are taking..

      It can't be reading between the lines if the point is that the words you are literally saying introduce something entirely irrelevant. I already noted the point:

      "So finding these arguments unconvincing has nothing to do with how it convinces people? This is directly a sign that you are misusing terms."

      If you are not intending to say anything about whether people are convinced or unconvinced, stop saying things like 'many theists find these arguments unconvincing' and that they use 'very controversial philosophical assumptions' and that their claims are not 'well supported by philosophical consensus' and criticizing them for 'unpalatable consequences' and saying that arguments are undermined when there is 'even the slightest reason to doubt them' and that their deductive structure renders them 'unconvincing'. What I have been criticizing is what you literally are saying, over and over and over again.

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    18. Aristotle's jedi(cool name btw)

      No, I was using 'known' in the sense that I can know truth of something with certainty... Sorry I couldn't make that clearer

      Also, I think you would find the position of 'most' theists who reject classical theism to be less surprising when you take into account my last sentence you quoted! When someone demonstrates they actually understand classical theism, they may be relevant. A tad question begging there.

      Well you might be right here but note that this could go both ways..it might turn out to be the case that classical theists don't understand the tensions in their world views ..indeed an open theist would argue that.

      Well I think every argument Feser lists avoids those issues (or can). The Augustinian one of course is not cosmological.

      well we'll have to see his defense in order to see weather they do or not but surely the way he has presented these arguments in his earlier books don't ..like he simply makes a jump from existence of change to alleged distinction between act/potency without taking in account alternative ways to characterize change...

      anyway my intention when bringing up these consideration was just illustration of some point ..I wasn't trying to offer any knock down refutations here..though I think they could be developed along these lines..

      I don't even think Pruss' Leibnizian argument suffers modal collapse but you focused on Thomistic so.

      Well that argument is certainly one of the stronger ones but whether it avoids the problems is debatable..I would point you too Angra Mainyu's reply to Pruss's argument ..

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    19. It can't be reading between the lines if the point is that the words you are literally saying introduce something entirely irrelevant.

      No, you are reading between the lines, you are quote mining me without paying any attention to who am I addressing in a given comment and what I am trying to say..

      I am not trying to say that an argument is bad because people find it unconvincing, I was merely pointing out that if vast amounts of people who are familiar with and who specialize is relevant metaphysic disagrees with key underlying assumptions and who accept and "defend" with arguments of their own some alternative accounts then it surely puts a lot of pressure on defenders of these arguments to conclusively "show" superiority of their account over that of their rivals. and it would be unreasonable for them to put undue confident on their own arguments and it would be unreasonable for them to suppose that they would have last words on these arguments...
      I only made the relevant point in one little comment I am not sure why you're trying to push me in some sort of debate on that ..

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    20. Again, you say I get you wrong, and then your explanation is exactly what I have been criticizing in every comment. Whether people disagree is utterly irrelevant. Either their disagreement is incorrect, in which case only sophists and con men care about the disagreement, or it is correct, in which case the only thing that matters is the actual objective flaw in the argument. Their disagreement has no bearing on what it is reasonable to do or not to do. The one and only question is: Are they right?

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    21. Their disagreement has no bearing on what it is reasonable to do or not to do. The one and only question is: Are they right?

      Well their disagreement does matter because they are your interlocutors so they have that relationship with you,they are students of metaphysics and philosophy of nature just like you,its their job to study the same thing as you, so if those people disagree and reach some totally different conclusion with their own arguments that you haven't refuted conclusively.. then it surely means that they possibly have good arguments against you..so their disagreement is not utterly irrelevant but a prima facie evidence that we should not be over confident on our own accounts..so a disagreement among specialists and existence of alternative plausible accounts does point toward there possibly being objective flaw in the argument...

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    22. I was merely pointing out that if vast amounts of people who are familiar with and who specialize is relevant metaphysic disagrees with key underlying assumptions and who accept and "defend" with arguments of their own some alternative accounts then it surely puts a lot of pressure on defenders of these arguments to conclusively "show" superiority of their account over that of their rivals. and it would be unreasonable for them to put undue confident on their own arguments and it would be unreasonable for them to suppose that they would have last words on these arguments

      Serious objections apply to almost every philosophical position under the sun. So what? The presence of disagreement, no matter how well-informed (or seemingly well-informed) means nothing. So when you say...

      as I've said previously a successful cosmological argument could only be that which eschews any dynamic conception of change/time and which would make use of explanatory principle which is evidently plausible,weak enough to avoid counter examples and unpalatable consequences(e.g modal collapse) and strong enough to get to the existence of God-like being without vicious circularity and boot strapping... are Thomistic arguments anything like that?

      the fact that there are lots of knowledgeable people who have serious objections to this type of argument should give you pause, right? You can't appeal to some sort of consensus or majority view on this- it was shown that you're running a bunch of metaphysical positions to support a view that is neither self-evident nor warranted. All this talk of "controversial philosophical assumptions" is the pot calling the kettle black since any view in metaphysics, AT or not, will have to rely on something that someone deems controversial at some point. Hell, all those well-informed experts disagree with each other on all kinds of things besides AT. By your logic, we shouldn't take their other views seriously either. But whatever, I'm 90% sure that you're trolling at this point.

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    23. Serious objections apply to almost every philosophical position under the sun. So what? The presence of disagreement, no matter how well-informed (or seemingly well-informed) means nothing.

      ohh wow..serious objections to an argument means nothing, go figure

      the fact that there are lots of knowledgeable people who have serious objections to this type of argument should give you pause, right? You can't appeal to some sort of consensus or majority view on this-

      Well I am not appealing to any consensus or majority view in the passage you quote I am talking to another user about what an ideal cosmological argument would be like...you are totally quote me..

      Hell, all those well-informed experts disagree with each other on all kinds of things besides AT. By your logic, we shouldn't take their other views seriously either.

      well if they were presenting some deductive logical "proof" of some very substantive philosophical thesis then we would be in our epistemic right to reject their conclusion if we have reasonable objections to their premise..

      But whatever, I'm 90% sure that you're trolling at this point.

      WOW..nice, and exactly what have I done that you characterize as trolling?
      I wasn't even talking to so many users ...I was asked to provide justifications for some comments I made..it isn't my fault that any user can quote-mine any passage of mine, extract what ever inference they want to and then label me as a troll for offering a reply.. thats hardly fair


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    24. ohh wow..serious objections to an argument means nothing, go figure

      Yeah, this is why I think you're trolling. After all, you said "Even the slightest reason to doubt a single premise in such an arguments can sufficiently undermine them."

      That's nonsense. That's why I pointed at that no philosophical position is without criticism, let alone serious criticism. You can't use the presence of said criticism as a substitute for an evaluation of a philosophical position. This standard undermines everything in philosophy

      Well I am not appealing to any consensus or majority view in the passage you quote I am talking to another user about what an ideal cosmological argument would be like...you are totally quote me..

      No, I'm just turning your argument back on you, as well as pointing out that you're in no position to telling people what arguments are compelling or non-compelling. And you completely ignored my point about everyone having some sort of "controversial assumptions" in philosophy. Every major and minor philosophical school of thought is controversial.

      well if they were presenting some deductive logical "proof" of some very substantive philosophical thesis then we would be in our epistemic right to reject their conclusion if we have reasonable objections to their premise

      Reasonable according to who? And do you think all these people give the same objections, give said objections the same weight, have the same reasons for their objections, etc? And why should I restrict your standard to deductive arguments anyways? Because it's convenient? You can make "reasonable objections" to almost any philosophical argument, deductive or not.

      WOW..nice, and exactly what have I done that you characterize as trolling?

      It's your pattern of constantly denigrating other people's arguments combined while acting like your own arguments (more like assertions, really) don't have serious criticism. Maybe I'm wrong, but you're not giving me any reason to think so.

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    25. "That's nonsense that's why I pointed at that no philosophical position is without criticism.you can't use presence of criticism as substitute for an evaluation of philosophical position.this standard undermines everything in philosophy"

      OK CZ, but let ask you how do you evaluate philosophical arguments? What in your personal opinion is a good or bad argument? Do you accept that in a deductive argument conclusion is only true if premise are true?

      Neither your effort to shift the burden of proof would be of any help , I am not the one trying to prove any substantive philosophical thesis..so I even afford to stay agnostic about coherence of these alternate views
      And I haven't denigrated anyone's argument...if merely disagreeing with an argument is your definition of troll then generally philosophers are trolls by this account..as they disagree all the time..

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    26. if those people disagree and reach some totally different conclusion with their own arguments that you haven't refuted conclusively

      This is exactly the irrationalist gibberish I have been criticizing. Whether one has refuted something conclusively is entirely a matter of the objective characteristics of one's purported refutation. If they disagree, either they are disagreeing on correct grounds, in which case those grounds would be correct regardless of their agreement or disagreement, and thus their disagreement is not itself relevant; or their disagreement is due to a mistake on their part, in which case only a sophist would regard this as a problem for the conclusiveness of the argument.

      their disagreement is not utterly irrelevant but a prima facie evidence that we should not be over confident on our own accounts

      Nonsense. It is a motive for further inquiry. What something is prima facie evidence of cannot be determined without preliminary inquiry -- something is evidence only in the context of inquiry, and all the 'prima facie' does is say that the inquiry is preliminary. It could very well be that it is prima facie evidence of a failure on their part; or a prima facie evidence of an honest mistake; or any number of other things.

      And even if we do inquire, we will never find that the disagreement is prima facie evidence of truth or falsehood, or quality of argument; only the reasons for disagreement can possibly be such. Their agreement or disagreement is not a structural part of the argument; it is irrelevant to assessing the objective features of the argument. If they have reasons, those may be relevant, but only if they are correct recognitions of objective features of the argument.

      What you are advocating is anti-philosophical sophistry; it is literally one of the things that Socrates and Plato were attacking when they attacked the sophists.

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    27. Red,

      Mate, there is no need to quibble over facile points (e.g. name of book), and don't worry whether some people disagree with this or that position/argument, and making appeals to the masses/authority. What matters is the arguments themselves. Forget the red-herrings.

      If you have any substantive objections to the relevant metaphysical principles and arguments, then great - let us all discuss them openly and charitably. Otherwise, there really is not much to say.

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    28. Neither your effort to shift the burden of proof would be of any help , I am not the one trying to prove any substantive philosophical thesis..so I even afford to stay agnostic about coherence of these alternate views

      I'm not shifting the burden of proof for anything. I'm pointing out the need for people to make arguments, and that disagreement doesn't mean that arguments are wrong. If it did, then all of philosophy is useless. You're the one shifting the burden of proof (so-and-so says this, someone else says this in response, so maybe we can't take so-and-so argument seriously). You may not be trying to prove any substantive philosophical thesis, but you sure are trying to prevent anyone else from doing so.

      And I haven't denigrated anyone's argument

      This is exactly why I think you are trolling.

      "at least the names of your previous books were cool enough even if arguments weren't compelling at all."

      "and secondly it seems way too cocky to slap the label of Proofs on such controversial and esoteric philosophical claims I think it would be more reasonable and modest to label them merely Five Arguments as they can only ever attain partial success and all they can ever show is that there is a slim chance that if such and such metaphysical theses are true"

      I can go through the other posts and find similar comments.

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    29. If there were any conclusive philosophical proofs for the existence of God then almost all philosophers would be believers. The majority being non-believers suggests the arguments against the existence of God are more compelling. Isn't it therefore morally wrong to choose to believe in God? I know that a tenet of Catholicism is that it is based on reason and that fideism is wrong, but ultimately it seems that even if the existence of God as Being could be satisfactorily proven through argument, there is still a leap of faith to get to Catholicism and revelation and there seems no way to justify this leap intellectually? It seems to rely on things like an intellectual assent to the will to believe, or is attributed to things like God acting in the believer, but nothing that seems persuasive to non-believers or has moral force.

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    30. Red,

      Off the top of my head, I can think of a handful of analytical philosophers, if that, and some evangelical theologians. The contemporary philosophers, theologians, and divines would still far outnumber them. Not that I am sure why Christians would put more weight and authority in today's thinkers than the Fathers and divines of the Church throughout its history (of course, as noted, what really matters most is the arguments themselves).

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    31. Sorry, that should be the contemporary philosophers, theologians, and divines of the churches I mentioned.

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    32. Red . . . Come back.

      Come back Red . . . .

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    33. I'm not shifting the burden of proof for anything. I'm pointing out the need for people to make arguments, and that disagreement doesn't mean that arguments are wrong. If it did, then all of philosophy is useless. You're the one shifting the burden of proof (so-and-so says this, someone else says this in response, so maybe we can't take so-and-so argument seriously). You may not be trying to prove any substantive philosophical thesis, but you sure are trying to prevent anyone else from doing so.

      Alright Mea Culpa, I thought to find out whether a valid argument is right I need to know if its premise are true or not..to bad,turns out thats not the right way to evaluate an argument..
      but thats why I have kindly asked you that how do you think we should approach philosophical arguments? and How does your account saves philosophy?
      It wouldn't be my fault if philosophy starts crumbling under the weight of its own commitment to rigour...

      This is exactly why I think you are trolling.
      Alright so since when does offering the remark that one doesn't like a particular name amount to trolling? last time I checked there were no restrictions regarding that..
      an when does the remark that something smacks as being too overconfident, has produced lots of arguments against it, represents the thinking of a group and has only partial chance of success amount to trolling?

      I can go through the other posts and find similar comments.
      Sure, quote-mine thats what you're very good at..

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    34. Red,

      Mate, there is no need to quibble over facile points (e.g. name of book), and don't worry whether some people disagree with this or that position/argument, and making appeals to the masses/authority. What matters is the arguments themselves. Forget the red-herrings.


      Jason, I am not quibbling about it I am only answering the questions your friends here are asking me.. if you wish I rather not, I would be happy to obliged..

      If you have any substantive objections to the relevant metaphysical principles and arguments, then great - let us all discuss them openly and charitably. Otherwise, there really is not much to say.

      Well maybe other readers would also be interested in knowing whether Philosophical arguments are even capable of proving anything substantive in the first place...I have discussed objections to A-T metaphysics elsewhere and thats not even my intention here.

      Not that I am sure why Christians would put more weight and authority in today's thinkers than the Fathers and divines of the Church throughout its history (of course, as noted, what really matters most is the arguments themselves).

      but the issue is that all sides have substantive amounts of arguments and no one ever has last words on anything...
      for example divine simplicity strikes many contemporary philosophers as being obviously incoherent..All sides accuse each other for not really understanding their position...All sides have their own set of intuitive principles they take as self evident ..so how can someone neutral ever decide if the issues are so thorny that one can't ever hope to have adequate knowledge of relevant thesis ?

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    35. Nonsense. It is a motive for further inquiry. What something is prima facie evidence of cannot be determined without preliminary inquiry -- something is evidence only in the context of inquiry, and all the 'prima facie' does is say that the inquiry is preliminary. It could very well be that it is prima facie evidence of a failure on their part; or a prima facie evidence of an honest mistake; or any number of other things.

      Thats what you're failing to understand Brandon, that when we are in the process of inquiry we can only ever remain agnostic about the objective status of soundness of argument..Someones reason for rejecting an argument could be bad but you can't ever really know that while you're in the process of enquiry...and in these example what kinds of disagreement I am talking about are of Philosophical theses which are just so much up up the air that no single person can ever intelligibly say that they have "proved" anything regarding it or they had the last words..

      suppose for example in free will debate Libertarians just never find compatiblist freedom anything even close to free will..
      In philosophy of time Four-dimensionalist contend that their account of change is more consistent with science and things possessing incompatible properties lead credence to their view in response three-dimensionalist say that if my car is blue at the front and green at the back there is no way it changes from blue to green..
      About author will himself would have to show that something he calls Motion or Change really exists in the first place,is not merely being different at different times,is not just artefact of pre-relativistic view of the world and is itself not some trivial or incoherent thesis...this is a tall enough order on its own.
      Just think about Identity vs counterpart theory ..that issue can't ever be really settled
      So if any argument depends on this kind of controversial thesis...is it successful or not?
      Its this sort of controversy that should compel us to be sceptical of our own ability to Philosophically really "prove" anything ...
      We can maybe make things much more rationally plausible then before by our inquiry but we can't really "prove" anything
      And Thats all what I was remarking when I said that maybe our author should not really use the word "proof" in the name. there is nothing so crazy or baffling about, is there? You keep saying over and over again that what matters is that whether anyone is objectively right or not..I ask you how you can ever come to really know that?

      What you are advocating is anti-philosophical sophistry; it is literally one of the things that Socrates and Plato were attacking when they attacked the sophists.

      Ok, so how do you evaluate a philosophical argument? how do you decide when has an argument proved anything and when It hasn't?

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    36. Alright Mea Culpa, I thought to find out whether a valid argument is right I need to know if its premise are true or not..to bad,turns out thats not the right way to evaluate an argument..
      but thats why I have kindly asked you that how do you think we should approach philosophical arguments? and How does your account saves philosophy?


      And you complain about me quote-mining? This is what I said about arguments- that you can’t use the presence of disagreement or the presence of serious objections to evaluate the argument (which is what you have been doing). If you take this approach, it will undermine every school in philosophy, whether it is AT, platonism, etc. So if you want to evaluate an argument, you know, you have to actually evaluate the argument. It won't do you any good to say something is controversial, since every school has some controversial assumptions.

      It wouldn't be my fault if philosophy starts crumbling under the weight of its own commitment to rigour...

      I don’t think philosophers have anything to fear from you. It looks like you don’t have a good understanding of metaphysics, so you pull stuff from other sources to make your case for you without understanding the sources in question.

      Alright so since when does offering the remark that one doesn't like a particular name amount to trolling? last time I checked there were no restrictions regarding that..

      That's not what you did. Read your whole quote.

      “at least the names of your previous books were cool enough even if arguments weren't compelling at all

      You do this a lot.

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    37. And you complain about me quote-mining? This is what I said about arguments- that you can’t use the presence of disagreement or the presence of serious objections to evaluate the argument (which is what you have been doing). If you take this approach, it will undermine every school in philosophy, whether it is AT, platonism, etc. So if you want to evaluate an argument, you know, you have to actually evaluate the argument. It won't do you any good to say something is controversial, since every school has some controversial assumptions.

      Well the controversy arises in the first place because usual premises used in the arguments aren't self evident at all..their is no way of settling the truth of certain philosophical theses even after carefully evaluating every single argument for and against it..all sides rely on their own set of pre conceived intuitions
      like I said previously think of free will debate..libertarians just never seem to grasp that how can compatiblism ever even come close to free will..but compatiblists have their own intuitions that theirs is the only free will worth having..
      Just ask yourself ..how can one ever come to know with any sort of certainty if there exists genuine change or an ersatz one?
      and I don't understand your quip that this undermines everything in philosophy..first I would ask you what should be done if this really seems to be the case that we can't just seem to find anything conclusive?
      And secondly why would it undermine everything? I have only said that it would follow that every school of thought ought to be sceptical of truth of their thesis..and it would be unreasonable for them to claim to proof anything with certainty..but where does it follow that they are unjustified in their presumptions? they are free to practice what ever they want...

      .

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    38. So if you want to evaluate an argument, you know, you have to actually evaluate the argument. It won't do you any good to say something is controversial, since every school has some controversial assumptions.

      what do you mean by if you want to evaluate an argument,you know,you have to actually evaluate the argument?
      Do you mean I have to look into all arguments for or against certain theses?
      its precisely about that I am saying that it could never be clear to me that I have exhausted all the objections...and even doing that I might never be able to eliminate the uncertainty or the possibility that I have made mistakes in my evaluation..
      so For an argument to count as a legitimate proof it needs to be a Philosophical Success that would mean that could succeed in an Ideal debate in front of Ideal Audience of agnostics..
      an there are almost no philosophical arguments for any substantive theses that could claim to be anything like that...

      I don’t think philosophers have anything to fear from you. It looks like you don’t have a good understanding of metaphysics, so you pull stuff from other sources to make your case for you without understanding the sources in question.

      Well metaphysicians them selves recognise this inherent shortcoming of their field of enquiry.. I really recommend reading Peter Van Inwagen's "Problem of evil" its an excellent book against the thesis that philosophy can ever actually conclusively establish anything substantive..(infact its where my inspiration comes from)
      So disagreement among philosophers isn't a fact to be ignored like you do..its a revelation from God himself that philosophy is inadequate
      So.Some kind of Faith, be it in some theistic dogma or in Scientism/Positivism always seems to trump any substantive philosophical argumentation ..so maybe we shouldn't label a piece of argument "a proof" of anything..and thats all that I have originally said...its just my opinion and atleast it doesn't seem all that crazy to me ..but again seems like everyone have their own intuition about what counts as Anti-Philosophical crazy sophistry...


      That's not what you did. Read your whole quote.


      again if I said that I didn't find arguments compelling at all won't mean I was trying to troll anyone.. you can't just pick any of my passage that seems to diss you and claim that I have that intention..

      It would be better if you talk less about me and more about the issue at hand..

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    39. Red, did you really just say "Scientism/Positivism always seems to trump any substantive philosophical argumentation"?!

      I don't think it's logically valid to go from Van Inwagen's view that philosophy does not prove anything substantive to concluding a demonstrably false philosophical theory trumps metaphysics!

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    40. Anon,
      I said faith in anything and could include scientism...whether or not its demonstrably false also depends on how you formulate it..

      Delete
    41. Well the controversy arises in the first place because usual premises used in the arguments aren't self evident at all..their is no way of settling the truth of certain philosophical theses even after carefully evaluating every single argument for and against it..all sides rely on their own set of pre conceived intuitions

      The premises of this argument are not self-evident. Your judgment about the premises of other arguments is not self-evident either. By your own admittance, this is all based on your preconceived intuitions. By your standards, there’s no way I can know if your judgment is accurate or your argument works or not.

      and I don't understand your quip that this undermines everything in philosophy

      Because you’re saying that we can’t use arguments to support substantive philosophical theses. Obviously, every school in philosophy depends on substantive philosophical theses.

      I have only said that it would follow that every school of thought ought to be sceptical of truth of their thesis

      That’s not what you said.

      “Even the slightest reason to doubt a single premise in such an arguments can sufficiently undermine them."

      This is clearly (or should I say self-evidently) a nonsensical standard. Like Brandon said, any idiot can come up with a reason to doubt something. It doesn’t mean it’s a good reason.

      For an argument to count as a legitimate proof it needs to be a Philosophical Success that would mean that could succeed in an Ideal debate in front of Ideal Audience of agnostics..

      No, a proof is just another word for demonstration, and a demonstration is to make something evident. Arguments can’t magically compel assent.

      Well metaphysicians them selves recognise this inherent shortcoming of their field of enquiry.. I really recommend reading Peter Van Inwagen's "Problem of evil" its an excellent book against the thesis that philosophy can ever actually conclusively establish anything substantive

      Has Van Inwagen’s argument succeeded in an ideal debate in front of an ideal audience of agnostics? No? I thought as much.

      So disagreement among philosophers isn't a fact to be ignored like you do

      I don’t ignore it. I expect it. I just don’t think it is relevant to evaluating arguments.

      .Some kind of Faith, be it in some theistic dogma or in Scientism/Positivism always seems to trump any substantive philosophical argumentation

      So all philosophy is just rationalization and motivated reasoning. I think this says more about you than it does anybody else.

      again if I said that I didn't find arguments compelling at all won't mean I was trying to troll anyone.. you can't just pick any of my passage that seems to diss you and claim that I have that intention..

      Like I said, it’s a pattern of behavior. You constantly refer to your opponent’s arguments in bad terms while talking up your own arguments.

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    42. The premises of this argument are not self-evident. Your judgment about the premises of other arguments is not self-evident either. By your own admittance, this is all based on your preconceived intuitions. By your standards, there’s no way I can know if your judgment is accurate or your argument works or not.

      Yes, thats exactly what I am saying neither can I "prove" to you anything nor you can..anyone of us can be right but that can't itself be decided on "philosophical argumentations" that has to be took on instincts...

      Because you’re saying that we can’t use arguments to support substantive philosophical theses. Obviously, every school in philosophy depends on substantive philosophical theses.

      well so whats the problem with that?
      they depend on it,some of them are true,some false,I haven't disagreed with that I've only said that they can't claim to have a strict sound deductive "proof" that they are the right ones, I haven't said that they have no right to believe what they believe,quite the opposite...

      That’s not what you said.

      “Even the slightest reason to doubt a single premise in such an arguments can sufficiently undermine them."

      This is clearly (or should I say self-evidently) a nonsensical standard. Like Brandon said, any idiot can come up with a reason to doubt something. It doesn’t mean it’s a good reason.


      First of all I was talking about the case of some argument which is claimed to be a strong non-defeasible deductive logical proof of a controversial philosophical theses..so that reasoning clearly does apply

      and secondly I have made it clear multiple times that I am talking about peer disagreement among professional philosophers who's job is to inquire such theses, and I've also made it clear that I am talking about those arguments that depend on
      thesis that are always so much up in the air ..cases like those in philosophy of mind, debate about universals,debate about time,tense or persistence and vagueness...in those special cases there just isn't no clear cut final words or 'proofs' anywhere.. their are just arguments to the effect which could increase plausibility of anything than before ..but no decisive "proofs"...
      So there is no fact of the matter about any "idiot" doubting these thesis ... its about it something being not settled among the experts who study it..so we are unable to really decide if they are true or not

      No, a proof is just another word for demonstration, and a demonstration is to make something evident. Arguments can’t magically compel assent..

      well proof couldn't be said to be demonstrated or made anything evident unless its succeeds.. otherwise its just an argument or some piece of reasoning.

      Has Van Inwagen’s argument succeeded in an ideal debate in front of an ideal audience of agnostics? No? I thought as much.
      well he isn't presenting any argument for anything substantive in the first place he is just telling us what he believes count as a philosophical failure or success..so I guess he might be happy to concede you your point and it wouldn't still make a difference to his theses..

      So all philosophy is just rationalization and motivated reasoning. I think this says more about you than it does anybody else.
      What does it say about me ?
      and someone very famous(and notorious) once believed that reason alone cannot motive to the will but rather is slave of passion..
      though he believed in other context
      I am not sure but maybe that really is true..

      Like I said, it’s a pattern of behavior. You constantly refer to your opponent’s arguments in bad terms while talking up your own arguments.

      Look I am very sorry.if you felt like that but.. believe me I am not trying to troll anyone..

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    43. and look you said that I am making philosophy just rationalizations and motivated reasoning ...I tell you I am genuinely nervous and seriously anxious about these kind of ramifications of disagreement and uncertainty.. thats why I have asked you multiple times what do you think I should do? How should I decide between irrational presupposition or unpalatable Skepticism ? are these the only options?

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    44. Yes, thats exactly what I am saying neither can I "prove" to you anything nor you can..anyone of us can be right but that can't itself be decided on "philosophical argumentations" that has to be took on instincts...

      Then your argument is self –defeating

      First of all I was talking about the case of some argument which is claimed to be a strong non-defeasible deductive logical proof of a controversial philosophical theses..so that reasoning clearly does apply

      and secondly I have made it clear multiple times that I am talking about peer disagreement among professional philosophers who's job is to inquire such theses,


      A few things

      1) I reject your description of how proofs work.

      2) The fact that some premises in an argument might require further argumentation in response to objections does not mean that the original argument doesn’t work.

      3) If it is just our intuitions driving our evaluation of arguments, your skepticism is just as corrosive towards non-deductive arguments. After all, our intuitions apply just as much to these arguments.

      4) Likewise for trained philosophers- they are just as much prey to intuitions as we are. If you think they aren’t, then there must be something more than intuitions that help them come to their conclusions.

      well proof couldn't be said to be demonstrated or made anything evident unless its succeeds.. otherwise its just an argument or some piece of reasoning

      Not all persuasive arguments are good arguments. Not all good arguments are persuasive (for a variety of reasons).

      well he isn't presenting any argument for anything substantive in the first place he is just telling us what he believes count as a philosophical failure or success..so I guess he might be happy to concede you your point and it wouldn't still make a difference to his theses..

      What? He has a thesis but he doesn’t argue for it? You’re not making any sense.

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    45. Then your argument is self –defeating
      Why?

      1) I reject your description of how proofs work.
      Ok how do you think proofs work?

      2) The fact that some premises in an argument might require further argumentation in response to objections does not mean that the original argument doesn’t work.

      Right, but until further argumentation is provided the objection remains unanswered and good reason to doubt the argument..think of any argument you reject..you're not waiting for its proponents to provide further argumentation,are you?

      3) If it is just our intuitions driving our evaluation of arguments, your skepticism is just as corrosive towards non-deductive arguments. After all, our intuitions apply just as much to these arguments.

      well it shouldn't generally but that could depend on how strong or weak(exception permitting) a premise
      is.

      4) Likewise for trained philosophers- they are just as much prey to intuitions as we are. If you think they aren’t, then there must be something more than intuitions that help them come to their conclusions.

      I am not sure what you mean by that..I've also been saying that the reason that we can't seem to reach any decisive conclusion is because everyone seems to be prey to intuitions ...

      and thats what I am trying to ask you that if our chief aim should be upholding philosophy then how should we go about deciding between incompatible,controversial but equally plausible philosophical thesis, without commitment to presuppositionalism or embracing self defeating global skepticism?

      it seems to me that either optional would be irrational,













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    46. Thats what you're failing to understand Brandon, that when we are in the process of inquiry we can only ever remain agnostic about the objective status of soundness of argument.

      You see -- you were wrong to claim that your comment was a light comment about a title; you were actually attacking the very possibility of Ed's entire project without saying so. Because that's what this quite clearly is.

      You are, of course, confirming exactly what my criticism was all along. Indeed an irrationalist and a sophist, and any pretense you have of making a rational contribution to a discussion is nothing other than fakery. You have no proof of this claim; indeed, the claim is so blatantly stupid that it makes it impossible for itself to be put forward as anything more than an unprovable bare assertion about which we should always be agnostic.

      And since something only exists as evidence within the context of inquiry, and the character of evidence is expressed in arguments, the above claim is also equivalent to saying that nothing can ever function as real evidence. Hence you are in fact an active irrationalist and a sophist.

      If we cannot assess arguments, we cannot assess reasons; if we cannot assess reasons, we never have any grounds for considering someone's disagreement as reasonable or unreasonable, well founded or poorly founded; if we cannot whether their disagreement is well founded or poorly founded, we have no reason to take their disagreement as being of any importance whatsoever to the argument. On the other hand, if you should take people's disagreements with an argument seriously, it can only be because on further inquiry their disagreement might turn out to be based on reasons that prove the existence of an objective problem with the actual objective features of the argument.

      Ok, so how do you evaluate a philosophical argument? how do you decide when has an argument proved anything and when It hasn't?

      By using reason instead of appealing to people's opinions: you analyze the argument and look at specific reasons. You ask these questions as if they were somehow a trap, but the argument you have been giving literally requires bypassing all actual analysis of the actual argument, since whether or not people agree with an argument, or find it plausible, is not part of the argument itself, but a fact about the psychology of the people you are talking about, and is something that we know for a fact can be flawed due to mistake, bias, malice, or confusion. This point was previously made: someone's disagreement with an argument may be due to reasons that show that the argument is wrong or that they are wrong, and thus there is no way to use disagreement as "prima facie evidence" that the argument is wrong without looking at whether their reasons are right. Which requires looking at the objective features of the argument, and not subjective impressions of it. You are indeed an irrationalist; you keep trying to treat as absurd the claim that rational analysis of actual reasons, in the actual way they rationally lead to conclusions, is possible.

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    47. You see -- you were wrong to claim that your comment was a light comment about a title; you were actually attacking the very possibility of Ed's entire project without saying so. Because that's what this quite clearly is.
      Why is that the case? Where does it follow that he is necessarily wrong or have no right to believe what he believes ?

      You are, of course, confirming exactly what my criticism was all along. Indeed an irrationalist and a sophist, and any pretense you have of making a rational contribution to a discussion is nothing other than fakery. You have no proof of this claim; indeed, the claim is so blatantly stupid that it makes it impossible for itself to be put forward as anything more than an unprovable bare assertion about which we should always be agnostic.

      And since something only exists as evidence within the context of inquiry, and the character of evidence is expressed in arguments, the above claim is also equivalent to saying that nothing can ever function as real evidence. Hence you are in fact an active irrationalist and a sophist.


      Are you serious ? I told you many times I am talking about specific cases where we know there exist seemingly unresolvable controversy such as naturalism vs non naturalism debate or debate about abstract objects.. Its about those I was trying to say we can't really claim an upper hand ..its not as if I have excluded any possibility of us having basic belief,its not as if I am saying that if some one believes that external world doesn't exist because he doesn't have a cat means we should all doubt it, its not as if I have said that we can't prove anything period. instead I've told you I am talking about very specific cases where we know that rational,well-meaning experts who do spend all their time evaluating reason for or against somethings..reach different conclusions have their own extensive argumentation for rejecting a certain doctrine..its about that I am saying that in context of that sort of debate we can't easily prove anything conclusively ..
      so it has nothing to do with any idiot just making up his own reasons for doubting something.. does no way amount to the claim that is also equivalent to saying that nothing can ever function as real evidence..
      I can be agnostic about whether I have free will or not,whats blatantly irrational about that?
      You say little of any relevance and instead repeat same stuff you've told me previously. and my comment remains a light one..

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    48. By using reason instead of appealing to people's opinions: you analyze the argument and look at specific reasons.

      thats right but sometimes an issue is just so much up in the air that its very unlikely that we will attain sufficient knowledge or grasp of other people's intuitions behind their disagreement to assert that we have decisively shown ourselves to be right.

      but the argument you have been giving literally requires bypassing all actual analysis of the actual argument,

      No, it doesn't because I am not claiming that disagreement necessarily refutes an argument..

      since whether or not people agree with an argument, or find it plausible, is not part of the argument itself, but a fact about the psychology of the people you are talking about, and is something that we know for a fact can be flawed due to mistake, bias, malice, or confusion.

      Thats also right but considering an argument you reject,how do you know
      your own rejection is not based on mistake,bias,malice or confusion because it seems to follow that then your opponents are committing these mistakes?


      thus there is no way to use disagreement as "prima facie evidence" that the argument is wrong without looking at whether their reasons are right.

      I haven't done that

      You are indeed an irrationalist
      Yea,keep trying to use that word,thats more convincing than actual argumentation anyway right?

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    49. Red,

      One of your problems is you keep running together issues of the psychology of belief and the place of expertise and authority with how we judge arguments themselves. You need to disentangle these. Issues about our confidence in our knowledge and reasoning power are separate (though there are links) with assessing the validity and soundness of arguments.

      I find such failures to disentangle these issues are quite common against those who would damn all metaphysics or philosophy because of disagreements amongst philosophers.

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    50. Yea,keep trying to use that word,thats more convincing than actual argumentation anyway right?

      Since I have repeatedly argued exactly why and in what way you are, and you have actually not addressed any of these arguments, this is merely useless posturing. As to the rest, moving backwards:

      Thats also right but considering an argument you reject,how do you know
      your own rejection is not based on mistake,bias,malice or confusion because it seems to follow that then your opponents are committing these mistakes?


      (1) Again, this is simply irrelevant, for exactly the reason I already noted: plausibility or agreement are not themselves features of arguments, nor are they reliable indicators of those features, regardless of whose plausibility or agreement is involved. You seem to have the mistaken idea that insisting that the objective features of argument are all that matter is equivalent to claiming that some particular person's subjective opinion is what matters. No, what matters are the objective features of the argument, not what anyone finds plausible or agree with.

      (2)Even if one ignored that, your point directly leads to my consideration. The only way one can learn of one's own biases and failings when it comes to argument, is the same way you learn about other people's: you look at the objective features of the argument.

      No, it doesn't because I am not claiming that disagreement necessarily refutes an argument.

      This is not relevant to the issue, since we aren't talking about what is necessarily required for refutation; evaluation of argument in terms of plausibility or agreement, being a psychological issue extrinsic to the actual argument, bypasses analysis of the objective features of the argument.

      I can be agnostic about whether I have free will or not,whats blatantly irrational about that?

      Your claim was not that you personally might be agnostic about a particular topic, but, and I quote, "Thats what you're failing to understand Brandon, that when we are in the process of inquiry we can only ever remain agnostic about the objective status of soundness of argument." Note the 'we', the 'only ever' and what specifically we can only ever be agnostic about. This is a blatantly irrationalist position.

      I told you many times I am talking about specific cases where we know there exist seemingly unresolvable controversy such as naturalism vs non naturalism debate or debate about abstract objects.. Its about those I was trying to say we can't really claim an upper hand .

      And, again, the way you have repeatedly explained what is meant by the 'seemingly unresolvable' has been purely psychological, and not in terms of any specific objective features of the argument, and this is precisely the problem.

      Why is that the case? Where does it follow that he is necessarily wrong or have no right to believe what he believes ?

      I have no idea what you mean by this. The claim to which you were responding was that your position on the nature of proof and inquiry is certainly inconsistent with Ed's very project: which it is, since everything you've said on the subject is inconsistent with even very broadly and loosely scholastic positions on these subjects. 'Proof' is not a word that Ed just threw into the title to make it interesting; it is part of the point, and your criticism of it is in fact a criticism of the whole project.

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    51. (1) Again, this is simply irrelevant, for exactly the reason I already noted: plausibility or agreement are not themselves features of arguments, nor are they reliable indicators of those features, regardless of whose plausibility or agreement is involved. You seem to have the mistaken idea that insisting that the objective features of argument are all that matter is equivalent to claiming that some particular person's subjective opinion is what matters. No, what matters are the objective features of the argument, not what anyone finds plausible or agree with.

      (2)Even if one ignored that, your point directly leads to my consideration. The only way one can learn of one's own biases and failings when it comes to argument, is the same way you learn about other people's: you look at the objective features of the argument.

      ...evaluation of argument in terms of plausibility or agreement, being a psychological issue extrinsic to the actual argument, bypasses analysis of the objective features of the argument


      Perhaps I should ask you what you even mean by objective features?

      Your claim was not that you personally might be agnostic about a particular topic, but, and I quote, "Thats what you're failing to understand Brandon, that when we are in the process of inquiry we can only ever remain agnostic about the objective status of soundness of argument." Note the 'we', the 'only ever' and what specifically we can only ever be agnostic about. This is a blatantly irrationalist position.

      I don't understand what you're trying to say here sorry.
      I was talking about specific arguments pertaining to controversial philosophical thesis not every philosophical argument ever in existence..

      And, again, the way you have repeatedly explained what is meant by the 'seemingly unresolvable' has been purely psychological, and not in terms of any specific objective features of the argument, and this is precisely the problem.

      Again,what do you mean by objective features? and How does one access them?
      If two sets of philosophers have different intuitions about causation,that drives their extensive argumentation,is it relevant or not that deciding between them seems like a tall order?

      I have no idea what you mean by this. The claim to which you were responding was that your position on the nature of proof and inquiry is certainly inconsistent with Ed's very project: which it is, since everything you've said on the subject is inconsistent with even very broadly and loosely scholastic positions on these subjects. 'Proof' is not a word that Ed just threw into the title to make it interesting; it is part of the point, and your criticism of it is in fact a criticism of the whole project.

      OK, I remarked that word proof sound to me to be overconfident...because if extensive amounts of criticism exists then there is a possibility that its cogent..How does Ed's project gets threatened by that?
      Its not like I have said that such possibility is what undermines the argument.
      I didn't even offer any objections to scholastic metaphysics here, just a light personal remark. What does he have to fear from that?














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    52. I can't speak for Brandon, but I presume he meant things like validity and soundness when he mentioned objective features.

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    53. Red, you keep asserting that it is intuitions behind the arguments that philosophers give that seems to be the main driver, not the arguments themselves. Could you expand on that? Do you understand the Scholastic position on the role of intuition in metaphysics (using metaphysics in the modern sense).

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    54. I didn't even offer any objections to scholastic metaphysics here, just a light personal remark. What does he have to fear from that?

      He has nothing whatsoever to fear from your criticisms of any kind; why would one fear criticism? This is, again, irrelevant; the point is that your 'light comment' has turned out to be an attack on the very possibility of scholastic philosophy, regardless of what you intended. Scholastics agree with Plato in his criticism of the Sophists; your approach to proof and inquiry is a return to the approach of the Sophists.

      I remarked that word proof sound to me to be overconfident...because if extensive amounts of criticism exists then there is a possibility that its cogent.

      Yes. You keep trying to treat this as if I don't understand what your claim is, and as if I would somehow agree that this is obvious if I understood it, whereas I am pointing out that it is precisely this, particularly given how you've defended it, that involves a fundamental confusion that is destructive to rational evaluation of argument.

      If two sets of philosophers have different intuitions about causation,that drives their extensive argumentation,is it relevant or not that deciding between them seems like a tall order?

      The word 'intuition' is used in a lot of different ways, but if intuitions are taken to be appearances of some sort or other, nothing even requires that two apparently conflicting appearances are even really conflicting, and thus they are never the sort of thing that we are deciding for or against; and, again, if they are how things appear to someone, they are not parts of their arguments at all, and thus not part of what we are evaluating. If they are conclusions of some kind, then the things that actually matter are the arguments behind them (they do not, if so, 'drive' arguments), and therefore those arguments are what actually matter.

      On the one side, it's as if you incessantly asked how to adjudicate between conflicting arguments, one of which was made in a good mood and one of which was made in a bad mood; this has nothing to do with evaluating the arguments themselves, and involves no puzzle at all. Taken the other way, it's as if you kept asking how you evaluate matters when people are getting different conclusions; there is no puzzle about this either, because you look at the arguments.

      Again,what do you mean by objective features? and How does one access them?

      I don't even understand the second question -- either you know what the argument is, in which case you are already accessing the argument, or you have no business pretending to be evaluating it or whether it can be a proof or not. If you think there is any problem with accessing arguments in the former sense, that would be, again, a blatantly irrationalist position. If you are claiming that nothing about the argument is objective, that is again an irrationalist position. So, short of irrationalism, there are objective features of the argument itself, which are neither subjective nor extrinsic to the argument. What they are may very, because they are what constitute the argument. But someone's opinion of whether an argument is a proof is necessarily always going to be extrinsic and subjective.

      I was talking about specific arguments pertaining to controversial philosophical thesis not every philosophical argument ever in existence.

      'Controversial' can only be glossed here and in the context of your comments as subjective evaluation; and to distinguish the two classes of noncontroversial and controversial at all necessarily means that all arguments have to be put to this subjective test in evaluation. The criteria for telling that an argument is controversial are the same as for telling that an argument is noncontroversial. Subjective criteria are irrelevant, however, to evaluating arguments in themselves, as I have pointed out.

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    55. I am pointing out that it is precisely this, particularly given how you've defended it, that involves a fundamental confusion that is destructive to rational evaluation of argument.

      Well you've just vaguely asserted that it somehow is destructive or involves bypassing the evaluation ..

      there are objective features of the argument itself,which are neither subjective nor extrinsic to the argument. What they are may very, because they are what constitute the argument.

      rest of your muddled comment aside you haven't really answered the important question of what are objective features of an argument for instance what are objective features of Aristotelian argument?

      'Controversial' can only be glossed here and in the context of your comments as subjective evaluation....
      Subjective criteria are irrelevant, however, to evaluating arguments in themselves, as I have pointed out.

      I am not evaluating the soundness of argument through controversy only the confidence we can put in its soundness or conclusive provability .. I didn't say the argument gets undermined by controversy,only that controversy means that there are vast amount of arguments available against a certain thesis then its possible(in the sense of what we might come to know).. that the said thesis is undermined..

      This is, again, irrelevant; the point is that your 'light comment' has turned out to be an attack on the very possibility of scholastic philosophy, regardless of what you intended. Scholastics agree with Plato in his criticism of the Sophists; your approach to proof and inquiry is a return to the approach of the Sophists.

      What? How is saying that a certain scholastic have used a word that sounds over confident to me, even remotely amounts to attacking the possibility of scholastic philosophy? Did Plato used to castigate folk you told him he sounds over confident?
      So stop making up stuff if its of no relevance

      Suppose Brandon, next time you're racing against ten tough opponents and one of you're friends tells you to not be over confident, will you get angry and tell him he is being blatantly stupid?,that he is attacking the very possibility of you winning the race?, that his claim somehow bypasses the actual act of racing or it somehow undermines the training you've done?
      if not,then why the case where you're philosophizing against tough opponent be any different?












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    56. Well you've just vaguely asserted that it somehow is destructive or involves bypassing the evaluation.

      No, I've explicitly pointed out how: putting it in terms of how it appears to other people, as your repeated appeals to agreement, to plausibility, and to controversy, all do, involves evaluating argument by factors entirely extrinsic to the objective features of the argument. If they are understood as appearances, they cannot themselves be assessed without looking at the objective features of the argument; if they are assessments, they don't actually do any work by barely being assessments, but only by their underlying reasons, which are only of value if they accurately characterize objective features of arguments. In neither understanding are they, in and of themselves, relevant to the assessment of the argument itself; only objective features of arguments are, and these are intrinsic, not extrinsic. Thus whether an argument gets agreement, is considered by some people to be plausible, or is controversial is not a matter of relevance to evaluation of arguments themselves. These things are at best motives for further inquiry; but trying to give them the role you repeatedly try to give them fails to look at the objective features of arguments in favor of looking at irrelevant matters. Thus bypassing the arguments themselves.

      I didn't say the argument gets undermined by controversy,only that controversy means that there are vast amount of arguments available against a certain thesis then its possible(in the sense of what we might come to know).

      Again, you act as if I am misunderstanding and then explain your view as being exactly what I am criticizing. Controversy as such is irrelevant on precisely this point; the only thing that can get us anywhere is examination of the objective features of the arguments.

      How is saying that a certain scholastic have used a word that sounds over confident to me, even remotely amounts to attacking the possibility of scholastic philosophy?

      Your original claim was "they can only ever attain partial success and all they can ever show is that there is a slim chance" that the metaphysical theses were true; when it has been pointed out that your defense of this relied purely on claims about disagreements of other people, what they find plausible, what is controversial rely on subjective assessments and not objective features of arguments, you have not backed down from it. I have already pointed out why it is inconsistent with any scholastic project whatsoever: your claims require the rejection of the Socratic-Platonic opposition to sophistry. You have not established otherwise.

      will you get angry and tell him he is being blatantly stupid?,

      As my friends will tell you, I have no problem doing this. But in fact, your analogy fails here. I said a claim you made was blatantly stupid, and gave the specific reason, that it was self-refuting. Your analogy fails elsewhere, as well; you have argued a set of claims about how arguments and proofs work in general, and I have pointed out that that these are claims associated with sophists and are irrationalist. I have explicitly laid out the way in which your approach bypasses rational analysis, as noted above.

      And very noticeably, despite your ongoing talk about the important of not being overconfident, you have reiterated your claims without any sign of abated confidence. You have been inconsistent with your own standard throughout, putting forward from your very first comment highly controversial claims as if they were obvious. But the standard of whether you are really overconfident in your claims, of course, depends on the objective quality of your argument, and not your feelings about it or whether anyone agrees with it. I and others have pointed out features of your claims that are problematic.

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    57. "What? How is saying that a certain scholastic have used a word that sounds over confident to me, even remotely amounts to attacking the possibility of scholastic philosophy?"

      It wasn't just a problem with the word 'proof'. It turned out to be skepticism as to whether philosophy can give knowledge of any substantive thesis and the fact that people disagree.

      Scholastic philosophy rejects the use of intuition or conceptual analysis and argues for metaphysical demonstration. So you were questioning the very concept of scholastic philosophy.

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    58. No, I've explicitly pointed out how: putting it in terms of how it appears to other people, as your repeated appeals to agreement, to plausibility, and to controversy, all do, involves evaluating argument by factors entirely extrinsic to the objective features of the argument.....
      ..These things are at best motives for further inquiry; but trying to give them the role you repeatedly try to give them fails to look at the objective features of arguments in favor of looking at irrelevant matters. Thus bypassing the arguments themselves.


      well as I've told you in order to asses your explicit refutation of mine I need to know what do you mean by Objective features...or intrinsic features?
      And secondly as I've told you many times I am not even trying to asses any arguments anyway..

      Again, you act as if I am misunderstanding and then explain your view as being exactly what I am criticizing. Controversy as such is irrelevant on precisely this point; the only thing that can get us anywhere is examination of the objective features of the arguments.

      Your original claim was "they can only ever attain partial success and all they can ever show is that there is a slim chance" that the metaphysical theses were true; when it has been pointed out that your defense of this relied purely on claims about disagreements of other people, what they find plausible, what is controversial rely on subjective assessments and not objective features of arguments, you have not backed down from it.


      Again,what do you mean by objective features? and do you accept that if a certain controversial thesis has wide range of arguments against it that one hasn't assessed then its epistemically possible that it could be destructive? there is at least some epistemic probability that the thesis is false?

      your claims require the rejection of the Socratic-Platonic opposition to sophistry. You have not established otherwise.

      .....As my friends will tell you, I have no problem doing this. But in fact, your analogy fails here. I said a claim you made was blatantly stupid, and gave the specific reason, that it was self-refuting. Your analogy fails elsewhere, as well; you have argued a set of claims about how arguments and proofs work in general, and I have pointed out that that these are claims associated with sophists and are irrationalist. I have explicitly laid out the way in which your approach bypasses rational analysis, as noted above.


      Thats the problem you're just asserting over and over again that you have explicitly refuted me or shown my claim to be self refuting then you ignore any kind of question I ask about your assessment instead focus on totally irrelevant points comparing me to relativists of antiquity and what not...
      Its hardly fair if you ignore most and then assert that you've explicitly refuted me and I should just accept it...

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    59. And very noticeably, despite your ongoing talk about the important of not being overconfident, you have reiterated your claims without any sign of abated confidence. You have been inconsistent with your own standard throughout, putting forward from your very first comment highly controversial claims as if they were obvious.

      What highly controversial claim have I put forward? which you find self refuting or problematic? last time I checked explicitly stated personal opinions didn't amount to controversial metaphysical thesis

      It wasn't just a problem with the word 'proof'. It turned out to be skepticism as to whether philosophy can give knowledge of any substantive thesis and the fact that people disagree.

      Scholastic philosophy rejects the use of intuition or conceptual analysis and argues for metaphysical demonstration. So you were questioning the very concept of scholastic philosophy.


      Do scholastics accept that its epistemically possible or that they might come to know that some of arguments for some alternate metaphysics is cogent? or that they are so confident that they don't even entertain the possibility of them being wrong?

      Delete
    60. well as I've told you in order to asses your explicit refutation of mine I need to know what do you mean by Objective features...or intrinsic features?

      It is tiresome having to restate arguments I have already made simply because you have chosen to ignore them. I have already given you the options on the table. Either (1) you are claiming there are no objective and intrinsic features to any argument, in which case arguments are purely subjective, which is irrationalism; or (2) you are claiming that there are such objective and intrinsic features, but we have no access to them, which is also a form of irrationalism; or (3) you concede that there are such objective and intrinsic features, and we can know them. If (3), however, the argument would be constituted by its objective and intrinsic features, and therefore these are what would need to be considered in order to evaluate the argument itself, not agreements, plausibilities, or controversies, all of which are necessarily extrinsic to the argument and dependent on subjective factors. What objective factors are relevant to an argument will vary according to the argument, because they are what an argument is built out of, so to speak, but this is not a matter of importance for the argument: whatever they are in a particular case, either you concede that they exist and can be known, or you are holding that evaluation of argument is purely subjective, like the sophists, as I have previously pointed out. You don't need to know my account of objective features, because the issue in question is your repeated attempt not to accept (3) while also dismissing, without argument, the diagnosis of your position as irrationalism. In short, we are not discussing my views; we are discussing the fact that your position is incoherent.

      What highly controversial claim have I put forward?

      It is again tiresome to have to answer questions multiple times simply because you choose to ignore the answers. Every claim of yours I have criticized is highly controversial, being inconsistent with one of the oldest and most important strands of philosophy; and this goes back to the first, "it would be more reasonable and modest to label them merely Five Arguments as they can only ever attain partial success and all they can ever show is that there is a slim chance that if such and such metaphysical theses are true then we can reasonably infer the existence of a God-like being but they can't ever legitimately "Prove" anything".

      Thats the problem you're just asserting over and over again that you have explicitly refuted me or shown my claim to be self refuting then you ignore any kind of question I ask about your assessment instead focus on totally irrelevant points comparing me to relativists of antiquity and what not...

      Nonsense: I have explicitly pointed out the relevance -- namely, that your position, being that of the sophists, is necessarily inconsistent with the entire scholastic approach, which agrees with the Socratic-Platonic criticism of the sophists on precisely this point; thus your repeated assertion of it is a repeated claim of the impossibility of the entire scholastic project (and, indeed, a great many other philosophical projects). It is irrational to keep demanding to know how your position is inconsistent with the position and then also to claim my argument explicitly laying out why it is indeed inconsistent is irrelevant.

      or that they are so confident that they don't even entertain the possibility of them being wrong?

      Scholastics, like everyone in the Socratic-Platonic tradition, don't confuse confidence in an argument with the quality of an argument; that is precisely the confusion of appearance and reality that the sophists engaged in.

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    61. What objective factors are relevant to an argument will vary according to the argument, because they are what an argument is built out of, so to speak, but this is not a matter of importance for the argument

      again this does not tell us what you mean by objective features..I would need to know that before assessing this whole particular paragraph of yours..what for instance are objective features of Aristotelian argument from change?
      or more precisely what does the term objective feature means
      only after knowing that I would be able to asses what
      "Either (1) you are claiming there are no objective and intrinsic features to any argument, in which case arguments are purely subjective, which is irrationalism; or (2) you are claiming that there are such objective and intrinsic features, but we have no access to them, which is also a form of irrationalism; or (3) you concede that there are such objective and intrinsic features, and we can know them." Amounts too or what position I take are whether you are right to write it off as irrational or not..

      It is again tiresome to have to answer questions multiple times simply because you choose to ignore the answers. Every claim of yours I have criticized is highly controversial, being inconsistent with one of the oldest and most important strands of philosophy; and this goes back to the first, "it would be more reasonable and modest to label them merely Five Arguments as they can only ever attain partial success and all they can ever show is that there is a slim chance that if such and such metaphysical theses are true then we can reasonably infer the existence of a God-like being but they can't ever legitimately "Prove" anything".

      WOW. seriously ..nice way to dodge the question,you just assert that every claim of mine is highly controversial without describing what sort of controversy is in it..
      then you proceed to quote totally out of context you totally ignore that I clearly wrote about what I personally think should be the case..I didn't try to prove that its necessarily unreasonable to do otherwise...

      Nonsense: I have explicitly pointed out the relevance -- namely, that your position, being that of the sophists, is necessarily inconsistent with the entire scholastic approach, which agrees with the Socratic-Platonic criticism of the sophists on precisely this point; thus your repeated assertion of it is a repeated claim of the impossibility of the entire scholastic project (and, indeed, a great many other philosophical projects). It is irrational to keep demanding to know how your position is inconsistent with the position and then also to claim my argument explicitly laying out why it is indeed inconsistent is irrelevant.

      Its because you haven't given any good reason, you use extremely vague terms and offer no sort of explanation for them, you just vaguely assert that some claim I've made is self refuting or commits me to relativism or undermines scholastic philosophy or is somehow inconsistent..but offer no reason why I should accept it.. You haven't even established how I even remotely resemble sophists...I have repeatedly pointed out that I haven't said that we can't know anything at all only that somethings seem very hard to know..

      Scholastics, like everyone in the Socratic-Platonic tradition, don't confuse confidence in an argument with the quality of an argument

      How do they get to know the quality of an argument? and you won't be able to answer unless you explain what you mean by term "objective features"..



      Delete
    62. Ok, Ignore the rest of my comment,if you find it tiring and going around in circles, just tell me what you mean by term objective features? and I won't bother you further..

      what for example are objective features of the claim "whatever is changing is changed by something else" ?

      and one final thing ..why do you think there is so much disagreement among substantive philosophical thoughts?

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    63. again this does not tell us what you mean by objective features..I would need to know that before assessing this whole particular paragraph of yours.

      No, again, this is entirely false, and false by the structure of the argument. The argument is a formal trilemma:

      (1) Either arguments have no objective features; or
      (2) they have objective features but they can't be accessed; or
      (3) they do have objective features that can be accessed.

      In which case I have argued that (1) and (2) are irrationalist, being sophist positions that make it impossible to know anything about arguments in themselves; and (3) means that evaluation of arguments has to be tested against those features, not some other feature, and thus your claims about proof are false. We aren't talking about my account of argument and proof; we are talking about your account of argument and proof, so the question is this, and solely this, by the very structure of the argument: What account of argument do you have that deals with the incoherence problem raised by this? And very noticeably you don't need to know anything about my account of objective features of arguments to say how your account of argument is not irrationalist, reducing arguments to subjective assessments or making them unknowable, or incoherent, rejecting irrationalism but treating the quality of the argument as a matter of subjective assessment. If you accept (1) or (2) above, you are denying there are any objective features of arguments in the first place; if you reject (1) and (2), you are accepting that arguments have objective and intrinsic features that we can know, and you need to explain why not those features but the agreement/plausibility/controversialness/etc. that you have repeatedly appealed to, are the ones for assessing whether an argument is a proof, whether we are being reasonable in accepting it, etc.

      you just assert that every claim of mine is highly controversial without describing what sort of controversy is in it..

      I have told you precisely what is controversial about it: by making evaluation of argument so dependent on extrinsic reasons, you are advocating sophist positions that have been controverted by the entire Socratic-Platonic tradition in philosophy -- and thus are controversial. I explicitly gave this argument in the comment to which you are responding.

      You haven't even established how I even remotely resemble sophists...I have repeatedly pointed out that I haven't said that we can't know anything at all only that somethings seem very hard to know..

      Since nobody claimed you were a Skeptic, this is irrelevant. I have pointed out explicitly how you resemble the sophists throughout the thread -- you have explicitly advocated sophist positions about what counts as proof, and about the role of agreement, plausibility, and controversy in argument. The claim that I was vague about the self-defeat is obviously ridiculous given that (1) I originally stated the claim that was self-defeating and gave the reason why and (2) you explicitly referred to that exact passage in your own comment and (3) in response to your explicit reference I reiterated the general point made by that exact passage to which you yourself had referred.

      How do they get to know the quality of an argument? and you won't be able to answer unless you explain what you mean by term "objective features"..

      This question is irrelevant to the subject; we aren't talking about specific Scholastic methods but about why your view of argument is problematic in and of itself, and in general terms why it is inconsistent with Scholastic thought, both of which I have addressed.

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    64. why do you think there is so much disagreement among substantive philosophical thoughts?

      It is irrelevant to the question at hand, but it would be an error to think that there is one cause of philosophical disagreement, because as a psychological question it will be as diverse as human minds. Which is another reason why it's absurd to build one's evaluations of arguments, proofs, and claims on whether people agree or not.

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    65. No, again, this is entirely false, and false by the structure of the argument. The argument is a formal trilemma

      well I don't understand how can I even know what the trilemma amounts too..if I don't even know what the term objective feature means.?

      The claim that I was vague about the self-defeat is obviously ridiculous given that (1) I originally stated the claim that was self-defeating and gave the reason why and (2) you explicitly referred to that exact passage in your own comment and (3) in response to your explicit reference I reiterated the general point made by that exact passage to which you yourself had referred.

      and by vagueness I mean the vagueness of the term objective features you keep using? I have asked you many times what does that means and you don't answer..


      alright can you just mention again which claim of mine is self refuting or sophist?

      it's absurd to build one's evaluations of arguments, proofs, and claims on whether people agree or not.
      I haven't done that..

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    66. Since the trilemma doesn't depend on the meaning of 'objective features' but on the contrast among (1) irrationalist (due to treating arguments as merely subjective) and (2) irrationalist (due to treating arguments as not merely subjective and yet only the subjective being knowable; and (3) neither of these, as applied to your position, the claim that you can't figure out how to use it rationally without knowing what my favored account of objective features is, is obviously false. The point at hand in the trilemma is that you must, unless you are an irrationalist, have some kind of account of argument in which it has features that are not purely subjective and yet are knowable. If you do, those are objective features. Nor do I believe for one moment that you are incapable of figuring out that, given that I have explicitly used the phrase in opposition to subjective, extrinsic, based on agreement, and the like, that it follows that objective features are things that at least are not subjective, intrinsic, not based on agreement, and the like. Nor do I believe that you are so stupid that you cannot grasp the idea that if (for instance) A and B are agreeing that an argument is or is not a proof, that their agreement must be based on features that an argument has that are not based on their agreement. And since the issue at hand is general and not concerned with precise details (we are not talking about whether this or that account of an argument is right but about the need to have some non-irrationalist and coherent account of argument), that is quite enough to get along with. And if it is not, what else, precisely, in terms of how it functions in the argument do you need to have explained to you?

      alright can you just mention again which claim of mine is self refuting or sophist?

      You do grasp that literally everything in this comments thread is published and that you can just scroll up and read the entire thing? I'm not here to keep track of the argument for you.

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    67. I haven't done that.

      And at other times during this comments thread:

      Even the slightest reason to doubt a single premise in such an arguments can sufficiently undermine them and there exist many.

      a disagreement among specialists and existence of alternative plausible accounts does point toward there possibly being objective flaw in the argument.

      I was merely pointing out that if vast amounts of people who are familiar with and who specialize is relevant metaphysic disagrees with key underlying assumptions and who accept and "defend" with arguments of their own some alternative accounts then it surely puts a lot of pressure on defenders of these arguments to conclusively "show" superiority of their account over that of their rivals. and it would be unreasonable for them to put undue confident on their own arguments and it would be unreasonable for them to suppose that they would have last words on these arguments

      in these example what kinds of disagreement I am talking about are of Philosophical theses which are just so much up up the air that no single person can ever intelligibly say that they have "proved" anything regarding it or they had the last words

      For an argument to count as a legitimate proof it needs to be a Philosophical Success that would mean that could succeed in an Ideal debate in front of Ideal Audience of agnostics..
      an there are almost no philosophical arguments for any substantive theses that could claim to be anything like that..


      etc., etc.

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    68. Actually, I should have added the best one....

      disagreement among philosophers isn't a fact to be ignored like you do..its a revelation from God himself that philosophy is inadequate

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    69. Good post Brandon

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    70. Since the trilemma doesn't depend on the meaning of 'objective features'

      Are you serious? you formulate an argument in which their is an undefined term and then assert that it doesn't depend on the meaning of the term?
      Its absurd asking to choose between Agrippa's Trilemma if the Terms Circular argument,Infinite regress or Axiomatic arguments aren't ever defined,Any one can make up odd trilemma's and castigate their opponents all day long for not being able to refute it...
      Neither was I asking for your favored account but what does the term means..
      but on the contrast among (1) irrationalist (due to treating arguments as merely subjective) and (2) irrationalist (due to treating arguments as not merely subjective and yet only the subjective being knowable;

      Well they are claimed to be irrationalist in the first place because you say they not take objective features(which you hadn't defined yet) into account

      The point at hand in the trilemma is that you must, unless you are an irrationalist, have some kind of account of argument in which it has features that are not purely subjective and yet are knowable. If you do, those are objective features. Nor do I believe for one moment that you are incapable of figuring out that, given that I have explicitly used the phrase in opposition to subjective, extrinsic, based on agreement, and the like, that it follows that objective features are things that at least are not subjective, intrinsic, not based on agreement, and the like. Nor do I believe that you are so stupid that you cannot grasp the idea that if (for instance) A and B are agreeing that an argument is or is not a proof, that their agreement must be based on features that an argument has that are not based on their agreement.

      Ok with that in mind I could try to resolve the trilemma

      So you've formulated the trilemma like this

      (1) Either arguments have no objective features; or
      (2) they have objective features but they can't be accessed; or
      (3) they do have objective features that can be accessed.

      I think Trilemma could be resolved because I could accept horn (3)
      Note that the word Can in it is very crucial, it mean those features can possibly be accessed but until those features actually are accessed we can't say that the arguments have proven something conclusively for example until Ed gains access to all the objective features of his arguments(defends them against objection and all that) those arguments can possibly prove but haven't actually proved anything.So if there are vast amounts of objections available to his arguments they would be about objective features of the argument not the subjective impression of it. if they are possibly true then there is possibly an objective flaw in the argument..which is intrinsic to the argument not extrinsic to it

      So I think I can resolve the trilemma if I accept horn (3) and I can keep my original contention that when an issue is just so much controversial then accessing objective features of argument becomes very hard(not impossible)and that shakes our confidence in said thesis.

      So if I am right here ..Such a claim would not be self undermining in the sense that there isn't much controversy regarding it between philosophers,and your quip that it is controverted by Scholastics for being sophistry is also no where near warranted given that like Sophists I am not doing evaluation of arguments through subjective impressions, and I have avoided the irrational horns in the trilemma ...
      And it should also circumvent any difficulty that,that lengthy quote-mine was supposed to bring since I am not subjectively evaluating arguments after all(if I am right)..

      Although I still have little clue what does your vague terms(objective features,Quality,intrinsic features, etc etc means ...how do you demarcate subjective from objective features anyway?)means..its quite ironic when you accuse me of sophistry..

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    71. Oh boy, am I looking forward to Brandon's reply!

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  10. I'm hoping that you address the strongest objections out there, instead of only focusing on irrelevant ones or blatant misunderstandings.

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps instead of making useless comments, you could do something helpful by actually noting what the strongest objections are, and why you regard them as the strongest objections. Even without knowing the exact formulations Ed prefers, it is not as if the families of arguments that Ed mentions are unknown.

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    2. So, does that mean Feser will only be focusing on objections that are based on misunderstandings of the arguments? Okay.

      Delete
    3. ?

      I didn't say anything about what Feser would be doing; I pointed out that your comment was useless and pointed out what it would take not to be useless.

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    4. What will he be doing?

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    5. Anonymous,

      Feser always responds to the strongest objections.

      It happens to be the case that strongest objections are predominantly based on horrendous misunderstandings, downright irrelevancies, or falsehoods.

      You seem to fail to realize that, when an objection is false and wrong, then it just is going to be based on a misunderstanding, irrelevance or falsehood.

      Many critics - even eminent critics - of the arguments seem to throw around any and every objection they can think of, no matter how bad, hoping something sticks. Most critics have not read, for instance, anything by Aquinas besides five short paragraphs.


      Delete
    6. JasonApril 28, 2017 at 6:52 PM

      " Most critics have not read, for instance, anything by Aquinas besides five short paragraphs. "

      I haven't read much about Native American gods, Indonesian tribal gods, Amazonian tribal gods, or Greek gods. Why should I waste my time on such nonsense?

      A great deal of my time was wasted on the Judeo-Christian god and all of its nonsense. I see no reason to spend hours and hours wading through yet another snowjob treatment of fairy tales.

      The argument from first cause, the argument for morality, the argument from beauty and on an on. I never hear a new argument for god and I already know why all of them fail. I don't need to punish myself with the agony of reading volumes of more such drivel.

      For example, Aquinas fails in his argument from motion by begging the question of infinite regress, an ad hoc and demonstrably false premise added at the end, and a non sequitur implication of the existence of god merely because of human understanding

      Feser probably has fixed up some of the more glaring problems of Aquinas but he still fails to address the fact that nobody knows the answer to this problem, and introducing a further unknown (god) only makes the problem worse because it merely shifts the problem back a step from the (partially) known to the utterly unknown. Feser then makes things even worse by using the form of defining god into existence in denying the applicability of these questions to something that is by definition immune to such questioning.

      BTW, don't hold your breath waiting for specifics from "anonymous" because he/she only plays the theistic shell game and seems incapable of engaging in any specific arguments.

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    7. How does Aquinas beg the question on infinite regress? Just CURIOus.

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    8. A great deal of my time was wasted on the Judeo-Christian god and all of its nonsense. I see no reason to spend hours and hours wading through yet another snowjob treatment of fairy tales.

      Well, we spend a significant amount of time talking about such "fairy tales" here, so to save yourself the expenditure of effort, we can expect you to take your expertise elsewhere, eh?

      Delete
    9. David Haines published a breakdown of the First Way here
      http://philosopherdhaines.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-defense-of-aquinass-first-way.html

      In part, it reads as below:
      (4) But this cannot proceed to infinity:
      a. Because, in this case, there would be no first mover; and consequently, no thing would move another,
      b. Because second movers do not move unless they are moved by a first mover, in the same way that a cane is not moved unless it is moved by a hand.
      (5) Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at (or come to) a first mover which is not moved:
      a. and this is what all consider to be God.


      I→~U (conditional statement in 4a)
      ~~U (premise in 4a)
      U→~I (4a→4)
      ~I→U (begging the question fallacy of 5, since U was a premise in 4a)

      To say "X because Y" is logically the same as "Y therefore X". Aquinas chooses to use the "because" format.

      Also, Aquinas uses very terse language and relies on a degree of implication in the reader's mind for the argument to make any sense at all. This may have been due to being surrounded by Christians of like mind in medieval times as opposed to writing more fully and rigorously in anticipation of modern atheistic criticism.

      This terseness and incompleteness of expression by Aquinas shows up again in the 5a where Aquinas fails to make his final argument for the existence of god, rather, stopping at a mere human understanding of god, falsely stated as a universal, again likely because of his failure to think outside of his cloistered environment.

      So, you can quibble with my notation if you wish. In fact, it would be necessary to place several new characters in the key and greatly expand the notation of Haines to fully deal with the various items both stated and implied by Aquinas.

      I put some related items here
      March 12, 2017 9:28 AM
      https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?postID=6725134901932984729&blogID=10584495&isPopup=false&page=4

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    10. @Stardusty Psyche

      You say I see no reason to spend hours and hours wading through yet another snowjob treatment of fairy tales.

      Whoa, mate, no need to get emotional! Your reliance on strident rhetoric and caricature immediately exposes your motives. You have an in principle denial of theism. You already know it is false, and you already know arguments you are yet to read will be false. So rational...so open minded...such a critical thinker...

      You say: I haven't read much about Native American gods, Indonesian tribal gods, Amazonian tribal gods, or Greek gods. Why should I waste my time on such nonsense?

      Category mistake: these things are not analogous to classical theism. Do you really think they are on par? And in any case, if you want to mouth off about those above mentioned things, then yes, you'd first have to read about them.. Is that so difficult?

      You say For example, Aquinas fails in his argument from motion by begging the question of infinite regress, an ad hoc and demonstrably false premise added at the end, and a non sequitur implication of the existence of god merely because of human understanding

      No, he does not fail. You fail. If the series is only made up of instrumental causes (inherently powerless), then nothing would move. Aquinas simply states that given this, the critic cannot just posit some infinite series to deny the primary cause; for this denies there is anything from which they derive efficacy.

      Instruments can only move if deriving from a non-instrument (primary). An infinite series denies the primary, but this would mean nothing would move. So much for an infinite series, then.

      And the conclusion of his arguments just are God - nominally speaking, as Aquinas tells us. And if you read more, you'll see why it must have certain attributes etc. For instance, given the series cannot be made up of mere instruments, there must be some non-instrument...non-derivative in its ability to actualize. And this cannot be anything material, and you'd know this if you just worked out the principles in question to their entailment etc. etc.

      You say: So, you can quibble with my notation if you wish

      You call it quibble. We call it seeking precision and clarity, properly representing the facts etc.

      Delete
    11. JasonApril 29, 2017 at 10:13 PM
      @Stardusty Psyche

      ”You say I see no reason to spend hours and hours wading through yet another snowjob treatment of fairy tales.”

      ” Your reliance on strident rhetoric and caricature immediately exposes your motives.”
      You don’t know my motives because you are not a mindreader.

      “ You already know it is false, and you already know arguments you are yet to read will be false”
      Indeed, through inductive reasoning, without which we could not function.

      “So rational...so open minded...such a critical thinker...”
      Indeed, inductive reasoning applied to long experience and analysis is quite rational and critical.

      SP Native American gods, Indonesian tribal gods, Amazonian tribal gods, or Greek gods.
      ” these things are not analogous to classical theism. Do you really think they are on par?”
      Yes.

      “ And in any case, if you want to mouth off about those above mentioned things, then yes, you'd first have to read about them”
      No, I do not have to read “The Lord of the Rings” to know it is fiction.

      ” You fail. If the series is only made up of instrumental causes (inherently powerless), then nothing would move.”
      A-T language is an absurd characterization of causality by modern standards. Causal effects propagate at a maximum speed c, classically, in what is known as a light cone. Some experiments indicate hints at superluminal causality.

      Broadly, everything is in a continuous/continual process of mutual cause and effect with everything else.

      “ Aquinas simply states that given this, the critic cannot just posit some infinite series to deny the primary cause; for this denies there is anything from which they derive efficacy.”
      Now you are begging the question. You say there must be a first mover because one cannot posit an infinite series because an infinite series lacks a first mover.

      ”. For instance, given the series cannot be made up of mere instruments, there must be some non-instrument...non-derivative in its ability to actualize.”
      Special pleading for something that can do what you previously said can’t be done.

      “ And this cannot be anything material,”
      “To be immaterial” is oxymoronic.

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    12. For a minute I thought that Stardusky might be worth replying to. Then I went and read the comments in the link he provided, and realized that

      (a) he doesn't understand what he thinks he understands of Aquinas's proof (he equivocates on "moves" in analyzing the proof all over the place, because he doesn't understand the transitive vs intransitive use of the verb);

      (b) he is only over here to troll. He has no rational basis for imagining that his arguments would actually persuade anyone here. If he, for example, recognized in Feser's blog a higher level of argument than he encountered at the link he gave, he would not urge such silliness as comparing Aquinas to tribal gods. Effectively, he is saying "you guys are no better than the Indonesian idiots who believe in their tribal gods".

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    13. TonyApril 30, 2017 at 12:52 PM

      "(a) he doesn't understand what he thinks he understands of Aquinas's proof (he equivocates on "moves" in analyzing the proof all over the place,"
      Well, unfortunately "move" has a variety of meanings and the theists over there keep conflating the notion of move=change with a physical motion of an object, so it is kind of hard to keep the various meanings straight. I have taken to some rather long winded qualifiers to "move" in an effort to keep the meaning clear in context, so your criticism has a grain of truth to it, but I am actually well aware of the slippery use of the word and am making an effort to be as clear as possible each time I use it.

      " because he doesn't understand the transitive vs intransitive use of the verb);"
      Interesting. None of the other theists have accused me of that particular crime! Perhaps you have some fine points of sentence structure to comment on that would be interesting if you could give some specific examples of using "move" with and without an object.

      "(b) he is only over here to troll."
      I see we have another mind reader in the house :-)

      "He has no rational basis for imagining that his arguments would actually persuade anyone here."
      Persuasion happens in the aggregate over time and in a multitude of small steps.

      " If he, for example, recognized in Feser's blog a higher level of argument than he encountered at the link he gave, he would not urge such silliness as comparing Aquinas to tribal gods."
      Apples and oranges. Aquinas was a man. My comparison was between all asserted gods as equally speculative. The existence or non existence of an extensive theological literature associated with any particular speculation of god is irrelevant to the speculative nature of all asserted gods.

      "Effectively, he is saying "you guys are no better than the Indonesian idiots who believe in their tribal gods". "
      No, I am saying the Indonesians are intelligent human beings just like you are and you are both engaging in idle speculation in asserting god and neither one of you has a preferred basis for your particular formulation of speculation.

      "Idiots" is your word, not mine. Your use of that word reveals how preposterous some religions seem to you. So part of my intent is to convey how preposterous they all seem to me.

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    14. "Well, unfortunately "move" has a variety of meanings and the theists over there keep conflating the notion of move=change with a physical motion of an object, so it is kind of hard to keep the various meanings straight."

      As one of the "theists over there" this is utterly false.

      If anyone has the stomach to read endless streams of ignorance and abysmal idiocy, do not take my word for it, just go and check for yourself.

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    15. Stardusky, which one smells: your nose, or your feet?

      If I find the Pieta moving, which one of us is in motion, the Pieta, or me?

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    16. "Apples and oranges. Aquinas was a man. My comparison was between all asserted gods as equally speculative. The existence or non existence of an extensive theological literature associated with any particular speculation of god is irrelevant to the speculative nature of all asserted gods."

      This alone is enough to show that there is bad will in your thought process on this topic. (Sorry, another "mind reader" here. Believe it or not, actions can reveal beliefs!) Any reasonable person can see that Tony meant the comparison between "Aquinas and tribal gods" to signify the associated natural theologies. You so clearly want your opponent to be wrong and foolish that it seriously clouds your judgment.

      I don't have oodles of time to try to show how your critique of the First Way fails (the stuff at the start about act and potency is a pretty big deal...), but apparently you have plenty of time to critique it - without bothering to read much on it. The longer you continue to pretend there is any meaningful similarity between a First Cause and lower-case "g" gods who have affairs with nymphs (and who weren't even necessarily believed to be "real" - but hey, you'd have to actually study that stuff to know that, go figure), the longer you will be written off by the majority of commenters here.

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    17. TonyApril 30, 2017 at 6:45 PM

      "Stardusky, which one smells: your nose, or your feet?"

      False dichotomy, the answer is both, but in a different sense or application of the word.

      Delete
    18. AnonymousApril 30, 2017 at 11:05 PM

      "This alone is enough to show that there is bad will in your thought process on this topic. (Sorry, another "mind reader" here. Believe it or not, actions can reveal beliefs!) "
      You are wrong because you are coloring my words with your views, perhaps projecting. I have very good will...

      "Any reasonable person can see that Tony meant the comparison between "Aquinas and tribal gods" to signify the associated natural theologies."
      Yes, I realized that, but I sought to do Tony the favor of pointing out his poor choice of words, which I find rather hilarious from a guy who lectures me on the fine points of verb usage.

      " You so clearly want your opponent to be wrong and foolish"
      Projection? Dunno, because I am not a mind reader, and you have utter failed to read mine.

      " that it seriously clouds your judgment."
      You assume I did not realize the possibilities of his poor choice of words and that I have intentions other than what you imagine them to be. Mind reading is a risky business as your repeated failures show.

      "I don't have oodles of time to try to show how your critique of the First Way fails (the stuff at the start about act and potency is a pretty big deal...),"
      Yes, act and potency are a big deal, they show how theists sometimes cling to obsolete notions of millennia past.

      " The longer you continue to pretend there is any meaningful similarity between a First Cause and lower-case "g" gods who have affairs with nymphs "
      What's the difference? Humans worldwide have long imagined various spirits that have always existed and who created the Earth and human kind. Yahweh knocked up Mary so what's the difference really?

      Christians have the creation story, the flood, the fire, the plagues, the genocides, the angles, the devil, the spirit, the healings, the torturous scapegoating, the resurrection, the judgement, the heaven, the hell...in what way do you consider all that to be somehow superior to stories about nymphs?

      " you will be written off by the majority of commenters here."
      Yes, that happens when theists have no specific capability to counter my criticisms.

      But I will give an even easier one than the begging the question Aquinas commits.

      Aquinas uses an ad hoc assertion that is demonstrably false today. It doesn't matter if it was true while he spoke to his cloistered fellows. If the argument fails generally today then it is not a sound argument today. Further, in making his ad hoc and demonstrably false assertion Aquinas fails to close the deal of demonstrating the existence of god, rather, merely asserting (falsely) a universal human understanding.

      Aquinas did such a bad job in the end that Haines does not even attempt to convert the text into logical notation, rather, just kind of pretending it does not exist, but there it is.

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    19. Of the trolls that comment around these parts, you may be my favorite.

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    20. Starkduncy PsychoMay 1, 2017 at 3:35 PM

      I can’t believe you fools believe in science! And then you try to snow me under all your many jargons with the standard “read a book” excuse. Well, excuse me, but would I go read a book about astrology? No, if I wanted to argue with people who actually accept astrology I want to be as ignorant as possible when I troll their websites. So how can you expect me to “read” something about astronomy? It’s the same thing!!!

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    21. Starkduncy PsychoMay 1, 2017 at 3:35 PM

      "Well, excuse me, but would I go read a book about astrology? "
      You could if you happened to have an interest in that sort of mythology but otherwise you needn't bother.

      "No, if I wanted to argue with people who actually accept astrology I want to be as ignorant as possible "
      Are you ignorant of astrology? I find that surprising given it's prevalence. You must have missed all those astrological projections in numerous publications, never heard of a sun sign or the notion that an astrologer will seek to learn the time of your birth to look up the apparent positions of celestial bodies in our sky as an asserted predictor or indicator of your personality and as a basis to give you advice on life choices.

      You missed all that? You are indeed ignorant in that case.

      " So how can you expect me to “read” something about astronomy? It’s the same thing!!!"
      You think astrology is the same as astronomy? Yes, you are indeed ignorant. While they are connected historically and to a limited extent observationally only a truly ignorant person would think they are the same thing.

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    22. Why are you all wasting your time on a troll? You might as well talk to Don or Santi.

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    23. @Anonymous:

      Stardusty is a whole different level of trolling: he is not just an ignorant moron, but also a crank and a delusional kook.

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    24. Me: "Stardusky, which one smells: your nose, or your feet?"

      Stardusky: False dichotomy, the answer is both, but in a different sense or application of the word.

      Oh, brother. It wasn't intended to be a dichotomy proper, but an example of the verb "to smell" under the transitive and intransitive uses. Get it? When my nose smells, it is performing an activity, that of a sense faculty. When my feet smell, they are not carrying out an activity of the sense faculty, they are being the OBJECT of the sense faculty. As in, they are that upon which the sense faculty carries out its operation.

      Now go back and reflect on that distinction in the premises about what "moves" and what "is moved". For in the premises, something "that moves" does not refer to "something that is IN MOTION", but something that "reduces another thing from potential to actuality", i.e. it "moves another" and carries no sense of "be in motion". Hence, your comments like this one make no sense:

      For example, what you show as 2(d) is actually a very important premise. Aquinas explains by example in addition to his argumentation that a particular kind of change change can only be caused by a thing already changing in the same way. Only a hot thing can change a potentially hot thing to become a hot thing. Thus, only a moving thing can cause a potentially moving thing to move.

      We see then that the asserted unmoved mover violates at least some premise or combination of premises that Aquinas previously set forth.

      Since 2(d) requires that motion is caused only by a moving thing then U was moving when U caused the first motion in our observable universe.


      Nowhere does Aquinas think of or say that a certain kind of thing changing can be changing by something "changing in the same way". He says that something can be reduced from potentiality to actuality by something that has the actuality itself, but to HAVE the actuality is not "to be changing in the same way". In the case of the hot thing that causes another thing to be hot, it is not "becoming hot" in the very same sense that it causing the second object to become hot, it is ALREADY hot, it already has the state which it is bringing about in the other.

      (That "heat" is a condition of high kinetic energy - i.e. of sub-parts of the thing in motion relative to each other - is not relevant to whether the hot thing IS hot versus BECOMING hot.)

      Admittedly, David Haines' layout of the proof is less than ideal, because he fails to be as unambiguous as might be. But if you were alert to the sense of "move" as meaning "reduce another thing from potential to actual" instead of "be in motion", you might have avoided the error.

      And, by the way, when you say "cause a potentially moving thing to move" you again fail to use "move" as Aquinas does, because things are not in potential to MOTION, they are in potential to some ACTUALITY, and the event of coming into that actuality is the motion itself. I.e., motion is not a "state" into which a mover moves the movable object, but a transition from "potentially but not actually X" to "actually X".

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    25. grodigues, I'm skeptical. He might give Don a run for his money, maybe. But Santi is the troll that even trolls only mention in a whisper.

      Delete
  11. Looking forward to reading it!

    I typically purchase book and Audible versions of your books. But I've noticed that only a few of your books are on Audible. Have you decided not to support the audio format?

    Thanks,
    Daniel

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  12. What about the book on the Philosophy of Nature? Is that still in the works?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Looking forward to the book!

    The Augustinian proof is an argument from realism about universals, propositions, possible worlds, and purported abstract objects in general to the existence of an infinite divine intellect in which these entities must reside.

    To clarify, this argument would work if a philosopher agrees even just one variety of abstract objects exists?

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  14. Casting my vote to push hard on your publisher to release a Kindle version! Looking forward to the book.

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    1. Wasn't Neo-Scholastic Essays supposed to come out on ebook?

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    2. Agreed! The more formats, the better! I use Kindle with my screen reader.

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  15. Is this a good place to make a comment regarding Dr. Feser's criticisms of the kalam argument? I just mention it because, if I were writing up a list of the five proofs that I find most convincing, I would include that one. But what about Feser's objection (raised a couple of times, now)? Actually, I think there is a solution.
    Those familiar with Dr. Craig's argument will know that he presents two philosophical arguments against an infinitely old universe: (1) the impossibility of an infinite series of things (e.g., a series of events or causes) and (2) the impossibility of 'traversing the infinite' (an argument that has also been defended by David Oderberg). Assuming both arguments to be valid, they reinforce each other to resolve Feser's objection.
    Feser argues that Craig's first argument (1st) cannot work, given presentism, i.e., the view that accepts a tensed theory of time and rejects the continuing existence of past events. If one assumes a tenseless theory of time or a tensed theory of time in which past events continue to exist, then the 1st would work, but on a tensed theory of time, it cannot.
    Craig has also noted a possible objection to his second (2nd) argument: it assumes a tensed theory of time, so asserting a tenseless theory of time would nullify the argument.
    Here's the solution: if you use both arguments together they cancel out the loopholes in each argument. The 1st argument eliminate the possibility of an infinitely old universe given a tenseless theory of time, in which an infinite series of events/causes exist simultaneously. The 2nd argument eliminates the possibility of an infinitely old universe given a tensed theory of time in which an infinite causal series has existed in the past. Both arguments eliminate the possibility of an infinite causal series given a tensed theory of time in which an infinite causal series continues to exist in the past.

    If both arguments are valid, then the cosmos (i.e., material reality) must have a beginning.

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    1. There is one possible additional loophole: to adopt a view of reality identical to that of Parmenides. That is, to view material reality as one infinite, eternal non-event. Dr. Craig's argument assumes the reality of change, and, therefore, the reality of distinct events. Parmenides denied the reality of change and, by consequence, the reality of distinct events. A denial of distinct events would avoid both of Craig's arguments. However, as Aristotle and many other since have showed, it would also lead to many absurdities. So, adopting a Parmenidean worldview is not much of a solution, and I don't think many atheists would want to do so.

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    2. The other four of my preferred five proofs would be:
      * The Aristotelian Proof (Act/Potency Proof)
      * The Rationalist Contingency Proof (using a moderate PSR)
      * The Proof from Final Causality
      * The Neo-Platonic Proof (Simple/Composite Proof).

      So...similar to Dr. Feser.

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    3. Isaac,

      "The 2nd argument eliminates the possibility of an infinitely old universe given a tensed theory of time in which an infinite causal series has existed in the past."

      This second argument doesn't seem work given Feser's objection. It's that the actually infinite cannot be formed by successive addition. However, Feser points out that the actual infinite does not need to be formed given presentism since the actual infinite would never have any reality anyway. Only the here and now moment (on the tensed theory) exists, and so there is no actual infinite that needs to be formed or traversed.

      Do you have a reply to this? I still find the Kalam convincing on scientific grounds, but I have trouble justifying it philosophically. I'm also curious what Pruss and Oderberg would say to Feser's critique.

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    4. I don't think the second argument need assume the continuing existence of past events/causes, only that such a series has occurred. You're correct that the argument, as typically stated by Craig (e.g., in Reasonable Faith), seems to assume that past events continue to exist, which would assume a non-presentist view of time. The essence of the second argument is the impossibility of 'traversing the infinite', which seems to me is impossible whether you assume that past events continue to exist or not. I may be wrong, I need to do some more study on the topic. My view is only that, if there is a solution to Feser's objection, it will be something like what I outlined above.

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  16. Edward,

    What kind of page length is this book going to (approximately) be?

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  17. Dr. Feser,

    Outstanding! Please let us know when its available for pre-order.

    Additionally, is there any possibility of purchasing a signed copy of the book? You are, after all, a philosophical celebrity, and so a few signed copies for sale seems appropriate. Let us know.

    Cheers!

    Damian Michael
    www.damianmichael.com

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  18. Exciting news; I seriously cannot wait! I remember being resigned to the fact of having to wait around 12 months for it. It's getting nearer now; time truly is flying by.

    Thank you for all of the work that you do. Truly appreciated. You're a champion.

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  19. There is a discussion above where one side argues that theistic arguments are weak since they fail to convince serious and well-meaning philosophers, and the other side argues that what counts is an argument’s merits and not how convincing it turns out to be. I found myself agreeing with both sides.

    I do think that ultimately all theistic proofs fail, and it is clear why: One can easily enough device a naturalistic metaphysics which accounts for all our experiences and thus for all data we have. Thus when the atheist or the agnostic philosopher deals with a theistic argument she has always a defeater, namely that naturalistic metaphysics. Indeed the theist can use this fact to predict and deal with the corresponding line of attack against her argument: Either against its stated premises when they contract that alternative metaphysics, or against the often unstated epistemic assumptions that underline such premises and which again do not hold on the alternative naturalistic metaphysics (the long pages of preparatory reading Feser above speaks about). As John Hick puts it, “the world is a religiously ambiguous place”, and that’s that. Hick’s important contribution is to explain why God would want to create creatures living in a religiously ambiguous world.

    Nevertheless Feser’s book certainly promises to be interesting: To have five of the most powerful historical arguments for theism described in modern language. As he explains above the original texts of the ancient writers are weighted down by mistaken scientific beliefs which are not in fact essential to them. To have a modern exposition and defense, and moreover in a standard format, promises to be a dish.

    Will such a modern exposition of some of the best theistic arguments increase their practical usefulness in turning people towards God? I’d say that many a theist will feel much better recognizing the intellectual warrant she has for her faith; at the very least she will be convinced that believing in God is not at all unreasonable as many (generally philosophically uneducated and sometimes clueless) atheists claim. Some agnostic or atheists impressed by the intellectual vigor of such arguments may be moved towards taking a better look or even embracing theism, and that’s no little feat.

    Are these the best arguments for theism? Historically speaking perhaps yes, but in my judgment modern arguments can be far more convincing. Given the fact that the only other serious popular contender is naturalism, and that through modern science naturalism has become more specific, we have now better grounds to attack theism’s contender. The idea here is to demonstrate how unreasonable naturalism is, particularly when compared to theism. We are made in God’s image and thus with rational souls which recoil in horror from irrationality. And moreover with souls that yearn to be with God. Thus when an atheist or agnostic is confronted with a clear demonstration of naturalism’s irrationality the practical end of turning her mind towards God will be better served.

    Are arguments the best way to serve that end? Clearly not. Far more effective is to give the atheist or agnostic the good personal example, to use one’s own life as the argument for theism. That’s how Christ evangelized His followers and that’s how Christianity grew in the first centuries. By setting very high moral standards and then living by them. By using one’s own life to bring the love of Christ and the beauty of the Spirit into this world for all to see.

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    1. "One can easily enough device a naturalistic metaphysics which accounts for all our experiences and thus for all data we have."

      Well, no, not really. One can devise such a metaphysics that looks fairly plausible, as long as one's attention is confined to things which have no consciousness. But none has yet been devised which accounts for the existence of rational animals. The materialist can be very convincing - until he thinks of himself.

      Hence naturalism can be defeated by arguments. Not, indeed, by arguing for the existence of God; one must show, instead, that those who argue for naturalism deny their own reality (and their audience's as well) and refute their own arguments in the process of making them.

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    2. The materialist can be very convincing - until he thinks of himself.

      That's awesome. Will be stealing it one day.

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    3. I do think that ultimately all theistic proofs fail, and it is clear why: One can easily enough device a naturalistic metaphysics which accounts for all our experiences and thus for all data we have.

      Really, Dianelos, that's as lame as it gets. "We can easily devise..." No, frankly, you can't. That's pure BS. And it's highly fragrant (not to say flagrant) BS, the stuff that comes out of atheist bulls. You couldn't "devise" a metaphysics that could punch its way out of a paper bag: the best you could come up with is to just deny reality altogether and consider everything as in the mind of God, which is basically to give up trying to account for what is.

      You obviously have very little (like, nothing) held in common with Feser and the Thomists and others here trying to explain reality. Not remotely enough to engage fruitfully. So why bother? You do know that it takes agreement on starting points to get anywhere in a rational argument, right? Nothing you have said suggests any agreement about starting points, or any prospect of getting such agreement.

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    4. For a description of a naturalistic metaphysics, see Keith Parsons and Dr. Fesers second exchange on morality and atheism and Parsons account of a neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism

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    5. @ Michael Brazier,

      One can devise such a metaphysics that looks fairly plausible, as long as one's attention is confined to things which have no consciousness

      The materialist has a problem with consciousness, but not the naturalist. The naturalist’s metaphysical thesis is that all that exists if fundamentally of a mechanical nature. Or in other words that the world (with all the substances in it) evolves blindly following mathematical rules, whether deterministic or probabilistic.

      As for consciousness the naturalist will answer: “Material systems have mechanical effects. For example matter bends spacetime around it. It makes no sense to ask “how” or “why” matter does this, that’s what matter does. An electron behaves in mathematically complex ways even though it’s a material primitive. Again it makes no sense to ask “how” or “why”. Similarly, matter organized in some particular complex configurations produces conscious experiences. Again it makes no sense to ask “how” or “why” such complex configurations of matter do this. In the case of human brains I can explain on mechanistic grounds all the complex configurations in it and thus all human experiences.

      My point is that the atheist can *account* for all our data, including all our subjective experiences. Thus, given all the data we have, naturalism is possibly true. Therefore all theistic proofs ultimately fail. For naturalism and theism are mutually exclusive, and therefore if naturalism is possibly true than theism is possibly false. I am talking about epistemic possibility here, as in “for all we know we can’t exclude the possibility that naturalism is true and theism false”.

      Hence naturalism can be defeated by arguments.

      I agree. But given that naturalism is possibly true, it is no use to attack it there. It’s much more effective to attack its reasonableness. The idea is not to try to devise an argument against the truth of naturalism but against the reasonableness of naturalism. Such arguments are easy to build, and are I think much more convincing. And they are especially powerful when one compares theism with atheism as far as reasonableness is concerned.

      Theistic philosophers already argue against naturalism’s reasonableness by the way. So for example the argument from morality attacks naturalism’s unreasonable interpretation of the good. Conversely the argument from evil attacks the reasonableness of theistic belief. In my judgment both are good arguments. The difference is 1) that there are many such good arguments against naturalism’s reasonableness, whereas only one good argument against theism’s reasonableness, precisely the argument from evil (albeit in various versions – the argument from God’s attributes only exploits primitive theistic dogma). And 2) theists are making progress with theodicy, whereas I don’t see any comparable progress on the other side. And theists are finding all the time new arguments against naturalism, for example Plantinga’s intriguing EAAN. I suppose a metaphilosophical argument from history can be built here.

      Philosophically speaking that’s all very interesting of course, but as I have argued on an existential level the far more important thing is repentance. Even as far as knowledge goes the experience of God is far more important than philosophical or theological study.

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    6. "imilarly, matter organized in some particular complex configurations produces conscious experiences. Again it makes no sense to ask “how” or “why” such complex configurations of matter do this."

      That is not a metaphysical theory - it's an assertion that conscious experiences are simply unintelligible, brute facts that can only be accepted. Worse, since conscious experiences are the raw data from which all empirical inquiry necessarily proceeds, that assertion denies the reliability of the scientific method, and hence all the evidence that has ever been put forward in support of naturalism.

      In a word, naturalism is not possible. The naturalist can't account for the world as we know it to be, because we are part of it, and the naturalist does not account for us.

      It isn't necessary, or wise, to concede that naturalism could be true, and retreat to calling it "unreasonable". The naturalist can then reply that we have no right to expect reasonableness from the cosmos, pointing out that in scientific work the intuitive guess seldom turns out to be correct. You don't refute a man who says up front that the ignorant will find his theory incredible by saying that it isn't credible - trying that just makes you look ignorant. You have to show that he is wrong.

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    7. @ Michael Brazier,

      That is not a metaphysical theory - it's an assertion that conscious experiences are simply unintelligible, brute facts that can only be accepted.

      Perhaps so, but here you are not arguing about the truth of what I am saying but about its reasonableness.

      In any case the fact remains that perhaps reality is such that “conscious experiences are simply unintelligible and that there are brute facts that can only be accepted”. Again, perhaps it is not reasonable to believe that, but it does not follow that therefore the respective belief is necessarily false. The fact remains that naturalism is possibly true. I say the mere possibility of naturalism being true is a fact of the human condition, a fact about our current cognitive state.

      ”that assertion denies the reliability of the scientific method, and hence all the evidence that has ever been put forward in support of naturalism.”

      If you succeed in showing that then you’ve only succeeded in showing that that assertion is absurd, not that it is false. Having said that, I don’t see how the reliability of the scientific method is denied. The naturalist may claim both that 1) material systems such as our brain produce conscious experiences with no how’s or why’s, and 2) that such experiences are truth-tracking. Here the theist can argue that it is unreasonable to believe in both (1) and (2), but cannot prove that the conjunction of (1) and (2) is false. Why not? Because perhaps that’s how reality is; the naturalist and the theist can easily conceive of and describe a mechanical reality producing all our experiences, and do so in a way in which thought is truth-tracking at least in the instrumental sense. In this context Plantinga’s EAAN does not pretend to show that natural evolution and metaphysical naturalism cannot be both true, but that it is unreasonable to believe that they are both true.

      In conclusion, mere possibility is a really low standard to pass. I don’t think that truth is served by insisting that naturalism does not pass it. A far more productive use of the theist’s time is to ponder why God should create the human condition in a way that safeguards naturalism’s viability.

      ”It isn't necessary, or wise, to concede that naturalism could be true, and retreat to calling it "unreasonable".”

      Well this is not a matter of conceding anything, but of saying how things stand. To say “naturalism is not possibly true” is to say “naturalism entails mutually exclusive beliefs”. Well, I you think so, what are those beliefs? To respond “I find the belief that particular material systems produce conscious experiences to be raving mad” does not cut it.

      Even though a good case can be made that it is indeed raving mad – after all in all our advanced scientific knowledge about matter there is nothing whatsoever that would even only suggest such a thing. J. A. Fodor put it best: "Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious."

      ”The naturalist can then reply that we have no right to expect reasonableness from the cosmos, pointing out that in scientific work the intuitive guess seldom turns out to be correct.”

      Right, and the theist’s response should be “Let’s then discuss how unreasonable the cosmos you believe in actually is”.

      If we succeed to make patent to all how unreasonable naturalism really is – how raving mad – then we have succeeded everything we can possibly wish to achieve in our philosophical discourse with naturalists. You see, we humans are made to abhor irrationality. If a neighbor is shown how unreasonable naturalism really is, no matter how she tries she will find herself moving away from it.

      BTW that’s a good practice for the theist too. Personally when I get doubts about theism being true it is naturalism’s sheer unreasonableness that pushes me back to the light.

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  20. I can't wait to read this. Thanks for doing all that you do!

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  21. You forgot the very first proof of God from philosophy. It is found in Plato's Laws.

    From my paper, "Doric Crete and Sparta, the home of Greek Philosophy": In book X of the Laws, against the malady of atheism, Plato begins a defense of the existence of gods against their mockeries and scorn and challenges his companions to come to a defense. It is Clinias the Cretan that offers the basis:

    “Why to begin with, think of the earth, and the sun, and planets, and everything! And the wonderful and beautiful order of the seasons with its distinctions of years and months! Besides, there is the fact that all mankind, Greeks and non-Greeks alike, believe in the existence of Gods”
    
    Laconisized thusly, “Why look on creation! See Order! Know God!” [End quote]

    There is one order in nature. Order is the product of Mind. Order is created by something outside itself...therefor God. The first proof of God is made by Clinias the Cretan which predates Aristotle.

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    1. Reply
      W. Lindsay WheelerApril 29, 2017 at 8:45 AM

      "You forgot the very first proof of God from philosophy...Order is the product of Mind. Order is created by something outside itself...therefor God."

      This leads to some problems making your "proof" nothing of the sort.

      1. On god's order of any positive amount an infinite regress of gods is then required.
      2. On god's total disorder (zero order) no account can be made for god's asserted knowledge.

      I am personally certain all of Feser's "Five Proofs" fail just as quickly and badly, seeming reasonable and sound only to the credulous.

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    2. For Plato, "the One neither is, nor is one." In other words, "the One" does not denote any one thing in particular; as a term, its grammatical function is not that of a personal name, but of a collective singular. But, if the first principle is not any one God in particular, then there must of necessity be many Gods. The pure negativity of the first principle thus precludes monotheism. Plato would have repudiated monotheism no less than Plotinus did when he accused Christians and Gnostics of contracting the divine into one.

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  22. I think for practical and probable and persuasive purposes we need to develop an argument for God's existence from the Good: that the Good is unintelligible and uninformative if there isn't some necessarily simple (always at least conceptually) Good from which all other goods and degrees of goodness is derived.

    I like this path because it is humanly politically and practically necessary to have some recognition of the good if, e.g., one is to justify a preference for some political and social arrangement over some other or to smuggle in the criterion or standard of the good by arguing something is less evil.

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    1. timocratesApril 29, 2017 at 9:37 AM

      " we need to develop an argument for God's existence from the Good: that the Good is unintelligible and uninformative if there isn't some necessarily simple (always at least conceptually) Good from which all other goods and degrees of goodness is derived."

      W L Craig actually does some fair job of summarizing good and evil on atheism and naturalism as a herd morality, just a byproduct of the evolution of our species.

      Our senses of ought, good, and evil are each an emotion, a feeling. There is no need for an external absolute source or standard of good. We arrange our society by communicated consensus of our individual feelings of what each of us personally estimates as good.

      Like all arguments for god ever published into general circulation the argument from good fails immediately and is of no actual value in demonstrating the existence of god.

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  23. "Like all arguments for god ever published into general circulation the argument from good fails immediately and is of no actual value in demonstrating the existence of god."

    Would valuable demonstrations of the existence of God be a good thing, or would that depend on the communicated consenus of individuals estimatimating them as good?

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    1. AnonymousApril 29, 2017 at 12:13 PM

      "Would valuable demonstrations of the existence of God be a good thing,"
      In my personal sensibilities understanding reality to a higher degree of confidence is "good".

      " or would that depend on the communicated consenus of individuals estimatimating them as good? "
      There does seem to be a fairly broad consensus that learning about reality is "good", but there is wide disagreement on the most advantageous ways to go about obtaining such knowledge.

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    2. "In my personal sensibilities understanding reality to a higher degree of confidence is "good"."

      Would this be good even if the communicated consensus of individuals said otherwise?

      "There does seem to be a fairly broad consensus that learning about reality is "good", but there is wide disagreement on the most advantageous ways to go about obtaining such knowledge."

      Agreed.

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    3. AnonymousApril 29, 2017 at 1:11 PM

      SP "In my personal sensibilities understanding reality to a higher degree of confidence is "good"."

      "Would this be good even if the communicated consensus of individuals said otherwise?"

      At this point in my life it is unlikely for me to change my personal sense that "X is good" just because the majority say "X is bad".

      But then, it depends what you mean by "be good". On atheism/naturalism there is no basis for an absolute morality so to "be good" is necessarily a personal individual sensibility or emotion or feeling or judgement.

      I cringe when I hear an atheist assert an absolute morality. W L Craig, again, is correct in stating that on atheism/naturalism there can be no absolute morality, no absolute standard of moral propositions as good or evil.

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  24. Will the third book still be out later this year too?

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  25. We live in God. The Great One is our very Being. We inhere in the blissful, forceful Being of the Starry God, the Wonder, the Mystery, the Person of Love. This is our situation and our destiny.

    All of us inhere in the Great One, the more-than-wonderful Lord, the marvellous starry Person, the delight of Being. All of us live in that.That is our situation now. This moment is the moment of radiant happiness, as in every future moment, every moment after death, beyond this world and other worlds, lower worlds, higher worlds, after worlds, no worlds.
    This is all a moment of infinite delight, unless we become fearfully self-conscious and withdraw from our relations and forget It.
    The Great One has magnified Itself in the form of sexual beings, earth world, form and fruit and wood and wall and space and star and sky and cloud and tree and life and death. This is all the Great One. The Great One creates nothing. The Great One IS everything. What a Paradox!, What a Mystery! What a Wonderful God.

    We exist in eternal unity with the Great OneThere is no separation from the Great One, not even in the slightest. It is impossible to be separated from the Great One, absolutely impossible. There is no separation. Therefore, we should magnify the Glory of the Great One in our present human form, and also beyond our own form.

    Be attuned to the great Force of God and enjoy the Glory of Light, the Happiness, the Effulgence, the Radiance of Living Being. All your life should be Delight, and when you are so Delighted, then every moment of this being, all its farting and sexing and speaking and looking, will be the Delight of God, because it is!

    To be in God is the real business of life. Happiness is our fundamental Being. To be and do so requires no righteousness whatsoever. None. There is no righteousness. There is only this Happiness. Go and make morality out of that. Go and make society, community, life, and death out of that.

    There is no "great plan" upon which we can depend, because countless beings - human beings, less than human beings, visible beings, invisible beings, big beings, little beings, beings in every plane of the hierarchical planes of manifestation - all beings are thinking and feeling and acting and desiring and creating effects. The summation of this chaotic desiring is the cosmos. God does not make the cosmos. God IS the cosmos. God is the Truth of it, the Substance of it, the Condition of it. God need not create one thing. God always stands in place as pure Delight, as Love, as Self-Radiant Being.

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    1. Therefore, we should magnify the Glory of the Great One

      So, there is something good for us to do.

      This is all a moment of infinite delight, unless we become fearfully self-conscious and withdraw from our relations and forget It....Be attuned to ...

      So, it is possible to DO> something less perfect than the good thing we ought to do.

      There is no separation from the Great One, not even in the slightest. It is impossible to be separated from the Great One, absolutely impossible.

      So, even though it is utterly impossible, we "shouldn't" do it. Because, even though it is impossible, we might do it anyway.

      God does not make the cosmos. God IS the cosmos. God is the Truth of it, the Substance of it, the Condition of it.

      Of course, since God and the cosmos are identical, whatever happens in the cosmos is, merely, God, and then whatever I do is, merely God. So, it makes no sense to admonish, and exhort, and instruct, and declare, and all the other things that indicate you want of us something other than what we are already doing, which is NOT what you describe in

      and enjoy the Glory of Light, the Happiness, the Effulgence, the Radiance of Living Being. All your life should be Delight, and when you are so Delighted, then every moment of this being, all its farting and sexing and speaking and looking, will be the Delight of God,

      So, which is it: we are ALREADY doing perfectly what God does, which is stuff like ignoring Him, being hateful to others, etc, which, being that what WE do and what GOD does are one and the same thing, is just God doing all that hateful stuff, or not?

      There is no righteousness. There is only this Happiness. Go and make morality out of that.

      This is the ultimate dis-proof of your nonsense: if THIS HERE is what you call happiness, then your whole theory is complete idiocy. Who in the world (with all its suffering) would accept "this is as good as it gets" as the definition of true, perfect happiness?

      Aside from all that: nothing about your comment had the least thing to do with the topic of this post, so you're just trolling.

      Delete
  26. "Causal effects propagate at a maximum speed c, classically, in what is known as a light cone."

    Causation doesn't necessarily have to be absolutely instantaneous for the First Way to work. Feser has mentioned it before in his posts titled "Edwards on infinite causal series."

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    1. Aristotelian causation is obsolete, so the various distinctions theists like to make between supposedly different sorts of causal series are of no value in a modern analysis of causality as it applies to the riddle of the origin of causation.

      An infinite regress of causation is irrational.
      A first mover in a finite regress of causation is irrational.

      The problem remains unsolved. If it had been solved it would not be so controversial as it is.

      I do not claim to have solved the problem. I claim all stated attempts at a solution are irrational at base.

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    2. "Aristotelian causation is obsolete, so the various distinctions theists like to make between supposedly different sorts of causal series are of no value in a modern analysis of causality as it applies to the riddle of the origin of causation."

      What a "cause" is has been argued here as well. Everyone's time is limited so I don't expect you to have read everything on this blog, but a lot of objections have been covered before.

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    3. Here is an interesting review of the work of J S Bell as it relates to causality:
      http://www.stat.physik.uni-potsdam.de/~pikovsky/teaching/stud_seminar/Bell_local_causality.pdf

      A-T language simply is not up to the task of discussing causality in a manner that one might hope to come to understand how we arrived at our present observation of the propagation of physical influences.

      As for the subject of the OP, a book by Feser that asserts 5 "proofs" of the existence of god, I estimate a virtual zero chance any of these arguments are even remotely sound, much less all 5.

      My estimate is based on my experience with the utter failure of all such previous attempts I have ever encountered, and the fact that Feser features figures from Aristotle to Leibniz, meaning his foundations are archaic and I already know all the archaic arguments fail.

      I suppose Feser may have cleaned up some of the more glaring defects of argumentation from those long bygone times, but the prospects of Feser presenting sound "proofs" of the existence of god are dismal indeed.

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    4. A first mover in a finite regress of causation is irrational.

      Why?

      The problem remains unsolved. If it had been solved it would not be so controversial as it is.

      The problem of ranking races by superiority remains unsolved, because if it were solved then it would not be so controversial as it is. Do you see how stupid that sounds?

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    5. Tomislav OstojichMay 1, 2017 at 10:21 PM

      SP A first mover in a finite regress of causation is irrational.

      "Why?"
      Because it requires special pleading for some super something that can do what we otherwise say cannot be done such as move itself, or an effect without a cause.



      Delete
    6. Special pleading, for example, would be to say that all X's necessarily can't do Y, except for this X over here. That one can do Y.

      Where does this happen? The First Way essentially states that anything with Z cannot grant Y. So if Y is present, something without Z must be involved.

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    7. Because it requires special pleading for some super something that can do what we otherwise say cannot be done such as move itself, or an effect without a cause.

      Wow, every part of that sentence is wrong. Starduncy scores a fallacy hat-trick!

      Delete
    8. Because it requires special pleading for some super something that can do what we otherwise say cannot be done such as move itself, or an effect without a cause.

      It's not special pleading. If it were special pleading, then so would any appeal to a well-ordered set having a minimal element. You're allowed in mathematics to appeal to well-ordered sets to have a minimal element, so why aren't you allowed to appeal to the well-ordered set of causal series to have a minimal element?

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    9. Stardusty Psyche,

      "My estimate is based on my experience with the utter failure of all such previous attempts I have ever encountered, and the fact that Feser features figures from Aristotle to Leibniz, meaning his foundations are archaic and I already know all the archaic arguments fail."

      So true, and it's my expectation as well. Nevertheless I'll offer a reason for high hopes. A romantic comedy done well, even with its predictable ending, can still be fun.

      Delete
  27. Tomislav OstojichMay 2, 2017 at 2:12 PM

    "It's not special pleading. If it were special pleading, then so would any appeal to a well-ordered set having a minimal element. "
    You are confusing math with physical reality. Not every mathematical expression is physically realizable.

    "You're allowed in mathematics to appeal to well-ordered sets to have a minimal element,"
    You are also allowed in math to "appeal to infinity", in that case making a first mover completely unnecessary.

    Just because you can write a math expression does not mean it is physically possible.

    " so why aren't you allowed to appeal to the well-ordered set of causal series to have a minimal element?"
    Because causality is a physics argument, not an abstract math argument.

    An infinite regress of causes is irrational.

    An uncaused cause is irrational.

    The problem has not been solved, ever, by anybody, at least not solved and published. If anybody ever solved this problem they took that solution to their grave in secret, which I very much doubt.

    The problem has not been solved. All proposed solutions ever put forward are all defective and unsound, every single one.

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    1. "An infinite regress of causes is irrational."

      "An uncaused cause is irrational."

      One of these situations must exist. If there are no infinite causal chains, then every causal chain has a first member, and those causes are uncaused. Contrariwise, if no cause exists that is uncaused, every cause has another cause before it, and infinite regresses of causes exist.

      This is so obvious that I have to ask whether you've even learned elementary logic. It's as if you said that "the sky is blue" and "the sky is not blue" are both wrong.

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    2. Michael BrazierMay 3, 2017 at 3:25 AM

      "An infinite regress of causes is irrational."

      "An uncaused cause is irrational."

      "One of these situations must exist."
      At least, those are the 2 possibilities humans are at this time capable of considering.

      But they are both illogical.

      "This is so obvious that I have to ask whether you've even learned elementary logic."
      The mere fact that one can write a logical or mathematical expression does not mean it is necessarily realizable.

      " It's as if you said that "the sky is blue" and "the sky is not blue" are both wrong."
      That would be a violation of the principle of non-conradiction, which is a postulate (axiom) of logic.

      The reason the riddle has not been solved is that both known proposed solutions are illogical. That's what makes it an unsolved riddle!

      An actual infinite makes no sense. On would never reach infinity using a process over time, rather, the process would simply go on and on without bound but at any particular time would always be finite.

      An uncaused cause makes no sense because nothing moves itself. Motion is caused by other moving things. If something is stationary it stays stationary until something moving bumps into it. An unmoved mover would have to move itself or have always been moving, both choices being irrational.

      Yet we observe motion. Clearly something that is irrational or unknown to human beings is in fact the case.

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    3. At least, those are the 2 possibilities humans are at this time capable of considering.

      You're starting to sound like Ken M. For any proposition P, the statement P \/ ~P is guaranteed to be true. No exceptions.

      Delete
  28. Red and Stardusky have mastered the art of trolling, as evidence by the fact that otherwise rational-sounding people have engaged them for as long as they have.

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    1. Well, I'm inclined, I think, to Malebranche's Test. The philosophical dispute between Malebranche and Arnauld was extraordinarily intense and got very bitter on both sides; and the story goes that at the end of Malebranche's life, Malebranche was being confessed before extreme unction, and his confessor asked, "Do you believe that you did anything wrong in engaging in this acrimonious debate that only frustrated everyone invovled?" And, it is said, Malebranche lifted his eyes to heaven in thought for a moment, then replied, "No, I don't think so; it was useful for elucidating several truths."

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    2. BrandonMay 4, 2017 at 2:56 PM

      "No, I don't think so; it was useful for elucidating several truths."
      Indeed, it is our detractors that either do us the favor of educating us of our errors thereby bettering us, or do us the favor of confirming that which we already held to be true due to their weak counter arguments.

      Since my detractors continually show me these kindnesses whereas those who agree with me do not I prefer the company of my detractors. Besides, the mangling of my handle is sometimes amusingly creative.

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  29. Tomislav OstojichMay 3, 2017 at 1:56 PM

    " For any proposition P, the statement P \/ ~P is guaranteed to be true. No exceptions. "

    You are assuming F=P and I=~P. However, if we find both F and I to be irrational we may question whether F=~I and ~F=I.

    Further, even if F=~I and ~F=I, given that both F and I are irrational there is no a priori reason to consider either F or I must be the case, since there is clearly something wrong with human rationality in the case that F=~I and ~F=I while both F and I are irrational.

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    1. since there is clearly something wrong with human rationality in the case that F=~I and ~F=I while both F and I are irrational.

      If there is something wrong with human rationality, then your proof that there is something wrong with human rationality can be considered unsound, because of the very fact that you used human rationality.

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    2. Tomislav OstojichMay 3, 2017 at 10:57 PM

      "If there is something wrong with human rationality, then your proof that there is something wrong with human rationality can be considered unsound, because of the very fact that you used human rationality."
      Hasty generalization.

      Just because there is "something" wrong with human rationality does not necessarily mean "everything" is wrong with human rationality.

      Our rationality seems to converge on specific solutions in many instances, thereby providing evidence of validity and soundness.

      In those cases our logic does not converge yet there is a clear observation of fact our logic becomes highly suspect.

      Logic is not itself proved because logic is founded on provisional postulates.

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    3. Hasty generalization.

      No it isn't.

      Just because there is "something" wrong with human rationality does not necessarily mean "everything" is wrong with human rationality.

      Human rationality can be viewed as a complete formal system of reasoning. If we affirm that "something" is wrong with human reasoning but cannot deduce what that "something" is, then we have an enormous problem, because human reasoning could be wrong by two ways: an unsound introduction/elimination rule or a false statement. So if a proof were to use either said rule or said false statement, then that proof would be nugatory. But because you don't know what precisely the flaw is, then you cannot believe any conclusion.

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    4. Tomislav OstojichMay 4, 2017 at 11:49 AM

      SP Hasty generalization.

      "No it isn't."
      Yes it is. You do not fully grasp what a "sound" argument is. It is an argument that is valid and the premises are true. Truth is a conformance to reality determined by methods founded on postulates.

      If you demand absolute truth then you will be limited to the very small set of your known absolute truths.

      Truth and soundness are not commonly defined as absolutes. If you wish to do so you may, of course, but you are then speaking a foreign language.


      "Human rationality can be viewed as a complete formal system of reasoning. "
      Only by postulate.

      "If we affirm that "something" is wrong with human reasoning but cannot deduce what that "something" is, then we have an enormous problem,"
      Indeed, our ability to discern absolute truth is greatly constricted.

      " because human reasoning could be wrong by two ways: an unsound introduction/elimination rule or a false statement. So if a proof were to use either said rule or said false statement, then that proof would be nugatory."
      Logic is founded on postulates. A logical "proof" is therefore not absolute.

      "But because you don't know what precisely the flaw is, then you cannot believe any conclusion."
      Belief does not require a guarantee of absolute certainty.

      You raise some interesting subjects, but you clearly have not thoroughly considered truth, absolutes, postulates, validity, soundness, and belief.

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    5. "Indeed, our ability to discern absolute truth is greatly constricted."

      I fail to see why you restrict your language to "absolute truth" other than you believe it gives you the ability to use the word truth without the word absolute right next to it meaningfully.

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    6. "Logic is founded on postulates. A logical "proof" is therefore not absolute."

      So, this line of reasoning isn't absolute either? It seems to be using logic.

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    7. Indeed, our ability to discern absolute truth is greatly constricted.

      Wouldn't that include this line also? We wouldn't be able to discern the absolute truth that absolute truth cannot be discerned.

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    8. Vand83May 4, 2017 at 10:09 PM

      "Indeed, our ability to discern absolute truth is greatly constricted."

      "I fail to see why you restrict your language to "absolute truth" other than you believe it gives you the ability to use the word truth without the word absolute right next to it meaningfully."

      Discussions about truth quickly go astray due to a lack of consensus on a definition of truth.

      In some sense there can be only one sort of truth, that which is really real. Unfortunately, we only know of a small handful of absolutely known realities. If we restrict our conversations to only those very few things (such as I exist in some form, there is an existence as opposed to absolutely nothing at all) we will not be able to converse about much.

      So, humans have developed logical truths, mathematical truths, and physical truths. Strictly speaking, these are not actually known to be truths because they are founded on postulates of logic, math, and observation.

      But, it becomes tedious to provide philosophical caveats every time we work with say, a logical truth table in computer science and engineering. T stands for true, F stands for false, and states are simply said to be either true or false.

      It's all rather cumbersome, often ambiguous, and leads to people talking past each other.

      So, I am not out to play gotchya with definitions.

      Confusion between an apparent mathematical truth and an asserted physical existence is one common misunderstanding arising from the fuzzy notions of truth often expressed.

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    9. Tomislav OstojichMay 5, 2017 at 7:02 AM

      SP Indeed, our ability to discern absolute truth is greatly constricted.

      "Wouldn't that include this line also? We wouldn't be able to discern the absolute truth that absolute truth cannot be discerned."

      That reminds me of the line 'there are no absolutes'.

      To break the analytical circularity you point out I use the explicit recognition that logic, math, and our sense observations are all founded on provisional postulates.

      I try to remember to include caveats such as "it seems" or "apparently" but sometimes I lapse into ordinary conversational English that typically omits all those "extra" words.

      Perhaps a better rewording would be 'our ability to discern absolute truth seems to be greatly constricted.'

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    10. What I'm still not sure about is that if there is something wrong with our provisional (logic) postulates, but we don't know what is wrong, how are we supposed to determine the degree of confidence in any conclusion made with this set of postulates?

      Delete
  30. "Our rationality seems to converge on specific solutions in many instances, thereby providing evidence of validity and soundness."

    Isn't this circular? How are you supposed to form hypotheses, interpret data and apply evidence about rationality without assuming that human reason will bring you to the best conclusion given the current data?

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    1. Anonymous: Isn't this circular?

      Oh, young grasshopper!

      The master was speaking to a young monk about the limits of human ability. A troll who happened to be eavesdropping nearby leaped up and cried, "Our rationality is truly limited, but we can rely on it when it works!" But the master replied, "For something to work when it is working is like the mouse who runs on the wheel but never moves." The troll was dismissive: "When I say 'works', I mean 'comes to a conclusion which I like', naturally." The master said nothing but banged his head against a tree. The monk was enlightened (as much as one can be enlightened in the presence of an intellectual black hole).

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    2. AnonymousMay 4, 2017 at 9:16 AM

      SP "Our rationality seems to converge on specific solutions in many instances, thereby providing evidence of validity and soundness."


      "Isn't this circular? "
      Not the way I worded it, no. If you use the language of absolutes instead of the language I actually used then that could be circular, which is why I avoided that problem.

      "How are you supposed to form hypotheses, interpret data and apply evidence about rationality without assuming that human reason will bring you to the best conclusion given the current data?"
      The basic reliability of the human senses is itself a postulate and therefore provisional.

      Logic is also founded on provisional postulates.

      Evidence is not, in general, absolute proof.

      We gain knowledge and analyze our observations and draw conclusions at confidence levels. When our confidence level exceeds an internal threshold it becomes provisionally accepted as a functional basis in our lives.

      We function by postulates and estimates absent certain knowledge of absolute truths.

      Reply

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    3. @Stardusty Psyche

      Mr. Green more or less eviscerated your trollalia: saying that we cannot rely on logic all the time but only "when it works" (where "when it works" is defined as not proving God) is a far bigger form of special pleading than postulating a first cause. Now be gone.

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    4. "When our confidence level exceeds an internal threshold it becomes provisionally accepted as a functional basis in our lives."

      But if you can't postulate that the data/conclusion came from a reliable process, would you really use it to update your degree of belief?

      I imagine the answer is no, which is why this still seems circular whether or not you bring in the notion of absolute truth. Circularity is an issue with validity, so if you accept the postulates of logic, I don't see why truth comes into play.

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    5. "Our rationality seems to converge on specific solutions in many instances, thereby providing evidence of validity and soundness."

      The other thing you can make clear for me is why the conclusion here follows from the premise. To use an analogy, a computer program can output a predictable/unique response based on some rules, but if the rules are wrong then the output can be wrong too. I don't see how you go from specificity to reliability. Specificity might be necessary, but is it sufficient?

      Also, when you talk of reaching solutions, are the postulates of logic/reasoning not held during this process? If they weren't held, how would one reach a specific solution in the first place?

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