Thursday, August 31, 2017

The latest on Five Proofs and By Man


Some early reactions to Five Proofs of the Existence of God: At Catholic Answers Live, Karlo Broussard describes it as “a phenomenal book” and “the Bible of natural theology.”  At The B.C. Catholic, Christopher Morrissey judges it “a significant, original philosophical contribution to the scholarly discipline of natural theology” and his “favourite book among [his] summer reading.”

Meanwhile, at Catholic Culture, Jeffrey Mirus recommends By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, calling it a “heavyweight book” and a “well-researched study.” 

67 comments:

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    1. If I say that I just got my pre-ordered copy from Amazon, does that count as "don't give up hope!" or is it just rubbing it in?

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    2. I think that would be a claim that you have witnessed a miracle.

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    3. Got mine Saturday-will read in a week or so-definitely looking forward to it after By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

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  2. Five Proofs isn't visible on side bar.

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  3. I'm 100 pages in. My initial reaction is anger. Where was this book when I was studying "philosophy"? (The only theist in the department defended fideism.) It's like the last few centuries are a bad dream!

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  4. Professor Feser, do you have reach beyond the Catholic world by now, like say MacIntyre? If not, why would you say you don't?

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    1. I am a Protestant and have been reading Dr. Feser's writings since 2009. I do think he is known beyond just Catholic circles.

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    2. I am also Protestant and I love Feser.

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    3. Noahides for Feser!

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    4. I would love a book, or at least a series of articles, in which Feser explains what brought him from classical theism to Christianity and then from Christianity to Catholicism. I don't know why he has never addressed this--perhaps because this blog is mainly about philosophy. Perhaps his reversion was more experiential and therefore personal and subjective? Is it objectively defensible?

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    5. He points out the foundation and support classical theism, philosophical anthropology and natural law ethics does for Christianity (or at least pointing towards a monotheistic religion consistent with said foundation). He alludes to the historical argument for the resurrection as one (and probably the main) specific argument fot Christianity. He cites WLC's defence of the latter and has noted with approval of the McGrew's article too. In TLS he specifically says that it is argumentation all the way down from the existence of God to the truth of Christianity

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    6. Me too! Protestant to the core and a great fan of Prof Feser's work. I've just finished Five Proofs and I'm really grateful for the care which he has taken to explain fundamental truths.

      I'm going to have to read it at least two or three times before I'm even half way familiar with the arguments though.

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  5. Professor Feser, if you don't mind, would you care to chime in on Thomas' 91st Quaestio, relating to the four elements and planets ("heavenly bodies")? This is not, verily, some contrivance of primitive "physics", but an inner empirical framework accepted "a priori" by the greatest Doctor of the Church. Hence, if esoterism is heretical, the saintly teacher must surely have been a "gnostic" heretic.

    "For he [man] does not possess a natural knowledge of all natural things, but is in a manner composed of all things, since he has in himself a rational soul of the genus of spiritual substances, and in likeness to the heavenly bodies he is removed from contraries by an equable temperament. As to the elements, he has them in their very substance, yet in such a way that the higher elements, fire and air, predominate in him by their power; for life is mostly found where there is heat, which is from fire; and where there is humor, which is of the air. But the inferior elements abound in man by their substance; otherwise the mingling of elements would not be evenly balanced, unless the inferior elements, which have the less power, predominated in quantity. Therefore the body of man is said to have been formed from the slime of the earth; because earth and water mingled are called slime, and for this reason man is called 'a little world,' because all creatures of the world are in a way to be found in him."

    "In the slime of the earth are earth, and water binding the earth together. Of the other elements, Scripture makes no mention, because they are less in quantity in the human body, as we have said; and because also in the account of the Creation no mention is made of fire and air, which are not perceived by senses of uncultured men such as those to whom the Scripture was immediately addressed."

    "Perfect animals, produced from seed, cannot be made by the sole power of a heavenly body, as Avicenna imagined; although the power of a heavenly body may assist by co-operation in the work of natural generation, as the Philosopher says (Phys. ii, 26), "man and the sun beget man from matter." For this reason, a place of moderate temperature is required for the production of man and other animals. But the power of heavenly bodies suffices for the production of some imperfect animals from properly disposed matter: for it is clear that more conditions are required to produce a perfect than an imperfect thing."

    "Secondly, it is impossible for something to be taken from the fifth essence, or from a heavenly body, and to be mingled with the elements, since a heavenly body is impassible; wherefore it does not enter into the composition of mixed bodies, except as in the effects of its power."

    This abovementioned "fifth essence" is none other than the "akasha" of Hindu tradition, the "Quintessence" of Hermetic tradition, the "Aether" of Hellenic tradition, et cetera ad nauseam. How is it that the Angelic Doctor presupposes their reality? Why is it that modern Thomists are so afraid of seeking a genuine understanding of supra-rational things, preferring instead to defer to sub-rational dogmatic fideism? Undoubtedly "belief" is more beneficial for man than "unbelief", but is it not the case that knowledge trumps them both?

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    1. Everything you've quoted here is from Aristotle's empirical studies; Aquinas accepted them on Aristotle's authority, and because he had no reason to doubt them. We have reason to doubt them, because we have the advantage of centuries of observations, made with much better instruments, that Aquinas couldn't know of.

      "Quintessence" and "aether", for instance, mean the material that Aristotle thought stars and planets are made of. In Aquinas, as in Aristotle, it has no other significance. We know now that the heavenly bodies are made of the same stuff as earthly things, but Aquinas didn't have the facts we do.

      However, none of Aquinas' theses in philosophy or theology depend on these superseded theories of Aristotle; he uses them merely as examples, to illustrate the ideas he's really interested in.

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    2. Your thesis is firmly disproven by the fact that Thomas unambiguously asserts that 'uneducated men' (which would include nearly all modern men, since we are now in thr domain of metaphysics and not 'science') cannot even perceive air and fire. Now, man needs no education whatever to perceive 'physical' fire, wherefore it is obvious that these are not the profane elements of 'chemistry', which are extremely trivial and subject to corporeal perception.

      Moreover, Aristotle did not invent the 'theories' in question, but was simply their able spokesman. Each element corresponds to a cardinal virtue and a 'state of being'. Now, this is so painfully clearly nothing like the 'science' that depends on such and such sub-molecular observations, but if anything closer to the realm of 'natural philosophy', but without for that reason having anything to do with abstract speculation.

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    3. Needs be added that the above is not metaphysics in the Aristotelian sense. However, Aristotle's 'physics' was something incomparably more expansive than the modern autistic discipline known by that name, so using that word (which denotes the study of 'nature' in the most general sense possible, including all of 'body' and 'soul') would result in extraordinary incomprehension.

      Furthermore, the heavenly bodies of Thomas are not the profane corporeal planets and stars. Rather, these ocularly visible objects are mere symbols of the spiritual reality that is so clearly in question here.

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    4. Now, man needs no education whatever to perceive 'physical' fire, wherefore it is obvious that these are not the profane elements of 'chemistry', which are extremely trivial and subject to corporeal perception.

      The simpler explanation is that Aquinas is referring to 'pure fire' in the medieval conception: "The reason why flames always move upwards is that the fire in them is seeking its 'kindly stede' . But flames are impure fire, it is only their impurity that makes them visible. The 'elemental fire' which forms a sphere just below the moon is pure, unadulterated fire, hence invisible and completely transparent." (C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image, Chapter V, Section A, pp. 95-6 Cambridge Canto edition)

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    5. You've just reinforced my point. The mediaeval conception of elemental fire is obviously directly derived from Hellenistic conceptions, which are in turn derived from Egyptian and Chaldean conceptions. Hindu, alchemical, and Chinese traditions have the very same things to say about "pure fire", perceived in itself and not through Earth, which is a principle of corporeal visibility.

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    6. I smell a crackpot.

      Aristotle was not a hermetic magician, even if Hermes Trismegistus quoted him. If you're associating the four Greek elements with the four cardinal virtues, you aren't doing physics or philosophy; you're just arranging symbols in a way you find esthetically pleasant.

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    7. My, what a thorough refutation. I certainly am not doing "physics" or "philosophy", on that we can agree, seeing as these are merely human (or sub-human in the case of "physics") points of view.

      There are no "Greek elements", rather there are the elements, just as there is no "Italian free will".

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  6. A very clear read, successfully introducing complex concepts with a minimum of mental effort on the part of the reader, 5 Proofs is the 2nd best book I read this year (because I also read the Confessions of St Augustine).

    I have used much of the logic (and a minimum of the phrasing) found in 5 Proofs to support the case for God's existence on the debate site kialo: https://www.kialo.com/existence-of-god-2629/

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  7. I'm enjoying it so far. I'm surprised at how iron clad the Aristotelian Proof is. I also find it interesting at how similar the Neo-Platonic proof is to the Aristotelian proof. I wonder if one would could bring over the language of act and potency to describe the parts of a thing being potential to an actual composite whole.

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    1. "I wonder if one would could bring over the language of act and potency to describe the parts of a thing being potential to an actual composite whole."

      That's precisely what is done in Thomism. Act and potency comprise the fundamental units of being. So composites of them need a cause to explain why they came together. That cause will either be simple or composite, and if it is, the explanatory quest continues until we reach a absolutely simple cause from which every other multiplicity arises, ie pure act - the same concluded to in the Aristotelian proof.

      Each of the Proofs in the book gets us to the same thing, God.

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    2. You're right. Matter is potential relative to form, essence is potential relative to existence--act and potency divide all being. They really are the basic principles in Thomism and, arguably, the basic principles of reality.

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    3. "I'm surprised at how iron clad the Aristotelian Proof is"
      --Interesting. Can you state this iron clad proof that god exists?

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    4. How about you buy the book and read it for yourself? This way Ed is justly rewarded for his work and copyright isn't violated.

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    5. Ignore the troll.

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    6. Does Stardusty Psyche exist? ��

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    7. Kiel September 2, 2017 at 2:18 AM

      "How about you buy the book and read it for yourself?"
      --For the same reason I do not buy books that claim a design for a perpetual motion machine, or alien abduction, or astrological predictions.

      Feser in recent months increased the level of his claims. He started out claiming his were the best arguments based on classical principles, not a reiteration of classical authors verbatim. So that is at least a defensible position.

      Then he went over the top. He is now claiming he has not one but five "proofs" of the existence of god with "certainty". Clearly a false claim that renders the claimant utterly without credibility.

      Upping the ante further he has claimed to have addressed "literally all" objections to these supposedly "certain" "proofs".

      By making such clearly false claims Feser has lost whatever credibility he might have had.

      " This way Ed is justly rewarded for his work and copyright isn't violated."
      --Discussing and criticizing excerpts or paraphrased arguments is fair use, not a copyright violation.

      Feser claims these are classical arguments. If so then they are already in the public domain.

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    8. "Does Stardusty Psyche exist?"

      I guess it should be pretty clear by now that it doesn't. Perpetual trolling machines do not exist.

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    9. Stardusty, I don't believe in alien abduction, but I don't make a point of walking up to people who say aliens have abducted them and calling them liars without hearing their accounts in detail.

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    10. Michael Brazier 3:55 PM

      to me
      "Stardusty, I don't believe in alien abduction, but I don't make a point of walking up to people who say aliens have abducted them and calling them liars without hearing their accounts in detail. "
      --Ok, fair enough, and perhaps the alien abduction example I chose was not entirely appropriate given that there is serious scientific SETI research and an alien visitation is at least within the realm of a physical possibility.

      What would you say to a claim of five arguments that prove with certainty that god does not exist?

      My reaction would be the same, incredulity.

      Advertising signs that con you
      Into thinking you're the one
      That can do what's never been done
      That can win what's never been won
      Meantime life outside goes on
      All around you
      ***Dylan

      It's an old marketing ploy. Make some grandiose claims to gin up sales, then use a blizzard of words to diffuse the fact that the promised goods will never be delivered.

      It sells books, but not to me.

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    11. Please don't feed the trolls.

      SP, go away.

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    12. "What would you say to a claim of five arguments that prove with certainty that god does not exist?"
      I would ask to see the five arguments, would begin to read and understand them throughly, and would raise any objections to the author that I can't see how they could be answered.
      You know, what reasonable people do.

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    13. Anonymous September 3, 2017 at 4:50 PM

      "You know, what reasonable people do."
      --Is it reasonable to treat all claims as equally credible?

      If somebody claimed to have devised a means to run your car on water instead of gasoline, would you buy the book, then politely point out the errors in the book? If so, you are susceptible to marketing ploys of the grandiose claim sort.

      That's not being reasonable, that is being gullible.

      I will give you an advance tip on the atheistic side, there are no certain proofs of the non-existence of god. If any atheist claims to have written a book with five such certain proofs that atheist is just trying to get you to buy a book that cannot possibly deliver on its promise, most likely for the money and notoriety that comes with the process.

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    14. I know it is useless to say this to a troll, but assuming Feser is being too strong in his claim of certainty - who cares? It can still be a very good book, and one someone interested in philosophy might wish to read, especially if they spend so much of their time haunting Dr. Feser's blog!

      And, as has been pointed out to you before, the all objections answered claim is presumably (my copy hasn't arrived yet) a reference to all serious philosophical objections. Of course, no book could answer every silly or fallacious objection raised by someone on the internet, but a sensible person wouldn't expect that.

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    15. Jeremy Taylor September 3, 2017 at 6:45 PM

      " assuming Feser is being too strong in his claim of certainty - who cares?"
      --It goes to his credibility. Credibility matters except to the credulous.

      " It can still be a very good book,"
      --Agreed, at least in principle. Ultimately every argument I have ever read by Feser or heard him explain fails. But he does have an enjoyable way of cutting through some fairly common but poor arguments.

      "and one someone interested in philosophy might wish to read,"
      --True.

      "And, as has been pointed out to you before, the all objections answered claim is presumably (my copy hasn't arrived yet) a reference to all serious philosophical objections."
      --That is undoubtedly not the case based on the body of argumentation I have heard from Feser. He has a number of fundamental errors embedded in all his arguments and there are serious philosophical arguments that expose those errors.

      "Of course, no book could answer every silly or fallacious objection raised by someone on the internet, but a sensible person wouldn't expect that."
      --That is undoubtedly a mere rationalization.

      Feser simply does not understand causality, or physical properties. Those are some very fundamental errors on his part that cannot be validly dismissed as mere sophomoric internet objections.

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    16. "-Is it reasonable to treat all claims as equally credible?"
      It is reasonable to treat all non contradictory claims as equally possible. If someone claims he has squared the circle I won't believe him in principle, while someone claiming to have answered all philosophically serious objections to or definitely refuted theistic arguments is possible. I'd have to see the arguments to see if it's actually true.
      "If somebody claimed to have devised a means to run your car on water instead of gasoline, would you buy the book, then politely point out the errors in the book?"
      Why wouldn't I, since it might be true, even though it is unlikely all things considered.
      "That's not being reasonable, that is being gullible"
      Requesting and evaluating proof is, far from being gullible, what reasonable people do. Refusing proof that is presented while dancing around claiming there isn't any is being willfully ignorant and in denial.
      And unlike many here, I've become convinced that you aren't a troll who does this for fun, but actually take yourself seriously,which makes me feel even more sorry for you. I hope you see how ridiculous your comments are one day, and will take them as such.

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    17. Anon, I wouldn't say a troll can't be sincere. Like you, I think there's a lot of sincerity behind SP's posts. I don't believe he is just having us on. He believes most of what he writes. That said, he also suffers from huge intellectual flaws and absurdly unwarranted arrogance that he somehow convinces himself are okay, even in the face of repeatedly being called out in them, and being singled out as a troll when other critics are not. There's certainly elements of bad faith and bs in his online persona that even he must feel at times.

      Anyway, let's all stop feeding him. For whatever his motivations he isn't worth intersecting with. That at least we can be certain of!

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    18. AnonymousSeptember 3, 2017 at 8:57 PM

      "It is reasonable to treat all non contradictory claims as equally possible. "
      --Contradictory to what? You mean logically self contradictory? You treat all claims as equally possible so long as they are not logically self contradictory? I am concerned for you.

      SP"If somebody claimed to have devised a means to run your car on water instead of gasoline, would you buy the book, then politely point out the errors in the book?"

      "Why wouldn't I, since it might be true,"
      --You think it might be true that some guy selling a book has come up with a way to make your car run on water instead of gasoline?

      "Requesting and evaluating proof is, far from being gullible,"
      --Buying a book from a guy who claims to be able to make your car run on water instead of gasoline is gullible.

      How frequently are you the victim of some sort of con job? I hope not ever but you seem to be wide open for them.

      "I hope you see how ridiculous your comments are one day, and will take them as such. "
      --So what is a "certain" "proof" that god exists?

      I am sure Feser has some extensive arguments for the existence of god. Given that no human being has ever provided a certain argument either for or against the existence of god and no human being has ever demonstrated that such an argument could ever be made even in principle it is apparent that the claim of a "certain" "proof" is hyperbole.

      Further, Feser does not display an understanding of the basics of causation, rather, he assigns the title of cause and effect to objects as opposed to considering them as complex interacting systems of mutual causation. Further, he has a notion of an "accidental" versus "essential" causal series that breaks down under rational examination.

      His ontological first cause arguments actually call for a fundamental physics, not a sustaining cause for existence, since continued existence is by itself no change thus no changer is called for as a sustainer of no change. The very notion of a changer to sustain no change is incoherent.

      He also doesn't understand change as he asserts certain sorts of change to be distinct from so called "local motion", when clearly they are merely our macro scale models of nano scale motions.

      Oh, but by all means, please do detail how "ridiculous" these comments of mine are.

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  8. This being Ed's first work (to my knowledge) available in Kindle edition, I snapped it up and am currently on chapter 6. Great stuff so far!

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    1. I think By Man is also available as ebook, at least over at Ignatius.

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    2. I also read a Kindle edition of "Aquinas."

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  9. Hi,
    Just want to inform, anyone who wants a preview, Five proofs is on google books now.

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  10. I checked out the Catholic Answers program with Karlo Broussard and he is so excited about the book that it is contagious!

    Then, could someone help me with my confusion please? I'm just starting to read and learn about philosophy and the Faith (I converted not long ago thanks to Our Lady). I'm starting with the basics of logic and then I plan to pick up Feser's book "The Last Superstition".

    So, somewhere I read that a cause can never be less than the effect. Is this like an axiom, a principle of logic? What is the meaning of "more" here? And the picture that I cannot understand is, for example, trying to apply this rule to the sun. It seems to me that the sun is more than hydrogen, though it is caused by hydrogen behaving as hydrogen in a particular situation, due to sufficient density and temperature. My confusion is that in this case it seems to me that: less is causing more.

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    1. Anonymous September 2, 2017 at 11:08 AM

      "I checked out the Catholic Answers program with Karlo Broussard"
      --Thank you for that reference. There is a great deal of interesting material there.

      "Then, could someone help me with my confusion please?"
      --OK

      "So, somewhere I read that a cause can never be less than the effect. Is this like an axiom, a principle of logic? What is the meaning of "more" here?"
      --You will never come to understand cause and effect by reading Feser. He has a medieval view of the subject.

      Here is a good place to start on the subject:

      John S. Bell’s concept of local causality by Travis Norsen
      http://wase.urz.uni-magdeburg.de/mertens/teaching/seminar/themen/AJP001261.pdf


      " trying to apply this rule to the sun. It seems to me that the sun"
      --The sun is not "a cause", nor are you, or any other large scale object.

      Labeling macro objects as "a cause" or "an effect" leads to a variety of erroneous analytical results.

      " is more than hydrogen, though it is caused by hydrogen behaving as hydrogen in a particular situation, due to sufficient density and temperature. My confusion is that in this case it seems to me that: less is causing more."
      --Right, if you apply medieval concepts of causality in light of modern scientific knowledge you will arrive at logical contradictions.

      To address your confusion I suggest learning modern concepts of causality. I linked one source above. If you do not have the math or physics background that's ok. Just read the text, study the diagrams, and expose yourself to the terminology of modern causal analysis.

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  11. Good discussion over at Strange notions. I think this user may have a point regarding the need for brute facts as opposed to a PSR. I'd like to see if anyone has any responce.

    " Nothing in god's nature makes "god with eternal desire A" exist rather than "god with eternal desire B" exist. None are logically necessary, yet both are logically possible (assuming god is even coherent). It just so happens that we have "god with eternal desire A" exist rather than "god with eternal desire B, C, D, E, F...." exist"

    "I think the argument is more along the lines of - if god's eternal 'choice' doesn't flow necessarily from his nature, then it ultimately must be a brute fact, because the answer to why god willed A and not B cannot be a necessary one, and will always therefore be a state that logically could have been otherwise. Whether or not this eternal 'choice' is impossible to have been otherwise ontologically speaking is beside the point. It doesn't answer the question of why god eternally willed A and not B".


    "I think we here can all accept that god doesn't move from indecision to decision, since god is timeless it's impossible for such a being to do so, as that would require change, and change necessitates time. But the problem is still there as to why god eternally exists with decision A and not B. Since you admit it is not logically necessary, part of god's substance and essence are not necessary. And so why you have god A vs god B is a major problem. It will require a brute fact at some point".

    These seem to be to a substantial issue. Any comments?

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  12. I'm currently reading Five Proofs and I'm learning a lot from it. I was wondering if Prof. Feser would ever consider doing (or perhaps has done) a book on going from natural theology to Christianity- things like defending the doctrine of the Trinity against the claim that it violates divine simplicity. Although I would guess there isn't that big of an audience for people who are convinced of classical theism but would like to know more about how Christianity fits in with it.

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  13. Mr. Feser,

    Why do you feel the need to constantly hype your books with glowing reviews? I might expect that from a young writer who has just published his first book. But you're a little old for that.

    "a phenomenal book” and “the Bible of natural theology.” At The B.C. Catholic, Christopher Morrissey judges it “a significant, original philosophical contribution to the scholarly discipline of natural theology” and his “favourite book among [his] summer reading.”

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    1. I am finding these kinds of remarks by several users to be very annoying, how is it The Author's fault that he got lots of flashy reviews?. Even granting that all of those reviewers are severely mistaken, and arguments might not be as powerful as they say but still its only the feelings of those people, it has nothing to do with Mr.Feser hyping his books. Its not like He himself have told everyone what they should write in a review. All he has done is make note of endorsement the book got from several sources and every author does that, its standard practice.

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  14. Breaking news: Amazon has reduced the price for the Kindle edition to $9.99. No news on how long this price point will last.

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  15. Well I've had an operation and I needed some time to recover. But the good news is I got my copy of the THE FIVE PROOFS. It seems pretty good.

    PS Stardusty is a Homo (& not in the fun Milo way).

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  16. Actuality is the actuality *of* something: an adult, living oak tree, or whatever. If God is Pure Act, of what is He the actuality?

    Well, God is the actuality of his own essence. He is not the actuality of some unindividuated essence or form of divinity. God is not an instance of any kind.

    But God's essence just is His existence.

    But existence is the actuality of some essence.

    So God's actuality is God's actuality. The doctrine of the identity of God's essence and existence doesn't explain anything; A = A is just a tautology.

    It's one thing to quote Exodus for "I am that I am." It's another for a philosopher to mold a trivial truism into the foundation of a system that is supposed to issue in demonstrative proofs.

    Where am I running off the rails?

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    1. Well, you're running off the trails when you assume that this "trivial truism" is the "foundation" of the system. Because it's not: it's not the premise, it's the conclusion.

      And it just so happens that this very conclusion (that there is a necessary entity that is Being itself) plays along quite well with the meaning of the Tetragrammaton (although the considerations stemming from religious revelation are pretty much irrelevant for the purposes of natural theology: these are *not* religious arguments after all, but strictly philosophical ones).

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    2. * off the rails (damn autocorrect)

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    3. Anonymous September 14, 2017 at 4:45 PM

      " Being itself"
      --Motion itself.

      Empty words theists recite to indoctrinate themselves into the irrational.

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    4. In other words: expressions with a very clear and precise meaning in their appropriate metaphysical context, a context which Trolldusty Psycho refuses to learn about, understand and analyse with an open mind and intellectual honesty because it inevitably leads to a conclusion he doesn't like, thus deciding to reject it at face value and without rational justification, in the hope that no one notices his desperate hand-waving and his pathetic trainwreck of fallacies.

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    5. Terms like "pure actuality" and "being itself" are just fuzzy abstractions with no meaningful explanation. They are merely empty terms made up of disconnected words that are jammed together as incoherent utterances.

      Vast numbers of people chant these utterances in unison, as it were, thus providing a cultural mutual support mechanism whereby this mass of individuals can feel comfortable that their incoherent cloudy and meaningless utterances actually have sort of rational value.

      Writings that purport to explain and justify and demonstrate the realization of such terms are invariably very long, repetitious, disjointed, and laden with unsound assertions and fallacies of many kinds.

      But, by repeating the ideas in a variety of fuzzy ways over time the reader becomes desensitized to the nonsense, and begins to emotionally identify with these pointless terms, until eventually the reader joins the mass chanting in unison, unable to explain the terms to a skeptic because the terms are not rationally understood by the believer.

      But by all means, please do explain what "being itself" means.

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    6. Hello Anonymous, thank you for replying. In what I wrote, I see my wording, "mold ... into the foundation of" is ambiguous. I meant, Thomas makes the doctrine of the identity of God's essence and His existence a premise in arguments that he constructs later in the ST or the SCG than his argument for that identity. I did not imagine that Thomas assumed that doctrine without arguing for it. After all, we have EE!

      I continue to find Thomas' treatment of the topics I sketched above problematic, esp. as he deals with substances, their actuality, and their acts of existence. I am not sure whether Thomas imagines substances that do not exist, but he seems to argue as though existence is a third thing that is added to a substance that is a composite of form and matter. I should have thought that the difference betw "composite of form and matter" and "substance that makes an act of existence" is merely de dicto, not de re. We can't have substances that are configurations of matter by form and yet do not exist, can we? A tiger that is NOT an actual configuration of matter by form is a fictional or imaginary tiger, not a substance. Adding existence is just another way of saying, form actualizes matter.

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  17. There is also what looks like a problem in Aquinas' Third Way of proving God’s existence (ST 1a Q. 2 Art. 3), Aquinas appeals to our experience that some things can exist or not exist, since things are found to be generated and pass away. But when a thing passes away, on Aristotelian assumptions, its matter just no longer is organized by the “old” form; the matter receives one or more “new” forms, and something different arises. In Aristotle, corruption is not disappearance of a thing into pure nothingness, and pure matter never is found separate from form. Aquinas himself likewise explicitly says that "in all corruption, when actuality is removed, potentiality remains; for something is not corrupted into entirely non-being, just as nothing is generated out of entirely non-beling," SCG II.55. Of course God could reduce all things to pure nothingness (ST 1a q. 9 art. 2), but such an event is not within human experience. Aquinas therefore is not entitled to argue from *that* possibility at this stage of the Third Way.
    He is only entitled to argue that given infinite time, all things might undergo corruption at once. But since pure matter cannot exist, all things, if they undergo corruption once, would be reduced into the primary elements, not into nothingness.
    So the Third Way seems not to be an a posteriori demonstration. There is an illicit move from "all things would undergo corruption at once" to "there would be a time when nothing would exist."

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  18. AnonymousSeptember 16, 2017 at 10:48 AM

    "There is also what looks like a problem in Aquinas' Third Way of proving God’s existence"
    --The great existential riddle gives us 2 irrationalities to choose from, both being unsatisfactory, hence the riddle remains unsolved by all.
    1.Something is eternal.
    2.Something came from nothing.

    Aquinas in the Third Way merely chooses 1. without acknowledging the problems of eternal existence of anything, merely stating ad hoc that some necessary thing simply exists.

    Aquinas goes on to make the manifestly false claim "This all men speak of as God." The Thomistic apologist attempts to justify this by saying Aquinas was only speaking to a small audience. But that is simply an admission that the arguments of from Aquinas are invalid today.

    Aquinas does not even complete the argument, stopping at mere utterances of men, which simply indicate human imagination and demonstrate nothing about a real existent god.

    The thing "having of itself its own necessity" could just be superstuff, a kind of stuff that somehow can exist eternally and from time to time through some sort of transformative reaction generates matter/energy. That is my speculative utterance, which is just as valuable as Aquinas's.

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  19. Just finished reading through Five Proofs--my sincerest thanks both to Dr. Feser and, of course, Rachel ;)

    My only gripe was that it was not out sooner, as it would have been especially helpful for my dissertation.... What can you do though.

    Also, Dr. Feser, you don't seem explicitly to address the objection to divine eternity to the effect that, on eternity, God would be lacking the propositional knowledge <*now* it is T-z in the temporal order>, and thus would not be omniscient. You do seem implicitly to admit, though, that such knowledge would suffice to put God in time. Would you then say that this sort of knowledge is something logically impossible for the God of classical theism to be privy to? Just curious!

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