Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Five Proofs around the net


Strange Notions has kindly hosted a Q and A on my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God (which you can order either from Amazon – though they are temporarily out of stock – or directly from Ignatius Press).  They chose ten of the questions submitted and have now posted my responses.  Among the topics that arise are the nature of proof, polytheism, divine simplicity, and the relationship between Thomism and idealism.

Part II of the two-part interview on the book I recently did for The Patrick Coffin Show has now been posted (and can be viewed either at Patrick’s website or at YouTube).  This part is a Q and A session with the audience.  Among the topics that arise are Thomas Nagel, process theology, the problem of evil, and invincible ignorance.
 
At The Secular Outpost, atheist Bradley Bowen continues his critical look at Five Proofs, this time focusing on the Aristotelian proof.

57 comments:

  1. At The Secular Outpost, atheist Bradley Bowen continues his critical look at Five Proofs, this time focusing on the Aristotelian proof.

    This is probably not entirely fair of me, but why do I get the impression from the style of writing here alone that this criticism will be lacking?

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  2. Hayekian, I had the same thought. As unfair as it may be, it's hard for me to take seriously the philosophical acumen of someone who italicizes about twenty words per paragraph for emphasis. Call me superficial, but I'm less likely to think someone has an argument worth making when his writing reads like sales copy.

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    1. Don't forget the random and unnecessary capslock: If Feser can't demonstrate XYZ, then Feser's arguments FAIL.

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  3. Judging from his combox remarks, his thought seems to be contaminated by the idiosyncrasies of modern analytical philosophy. And, no matter how clear and rigorous the mind of the analytical philosopher tries to be, the truth is it’s inherently and subconsciously biased against classical / medieval ways of thinking.

    He sounds honest and eager to learn, though. Which means there’s hope he might come to see why a classical worldview is not only warranted but necessary, and thus follow it to its inevitable conclusion. Luckily, he can look up to a certain UCSB fellow graduate of his who walked that same path several years ago and has then authored several outstanding works defending and explaining Scholasticism in great detail ;)

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    1. With respect those statements about Analytical philosophy, especially modern Analytical philosophy, are utterly wrong. Analytical philosophers of religion have advanced research in Natural Theology and discussion of the Divine Nature further than any group since the end of the Middle Ages (Baroque Scholasticism had some interesting insights about Divine Knowledge and truthmaker theory but other than that they worked within very narrow parameters).

      Similarly what ‘new’ ideas have the ‘classical / medieval ways of thinking’ produced? Of course people have further developed core ideas from classical theistic thought but that is by burrowing the finer grained terminology of modern philosophy (and why not?). It’s somewhat galling to hear people proudly identifying as ‘pre-modern’ philosophers yet actually refuse to do any philosophy beyond recourse to thought-terminating clichés (‘I don’t possible worlds!’).

      *Early Analytical philosophy was course rotten with the confusion between the A Priori and the necessary, which has blighted Western philosophy since Hume and Kant.

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    2. “*Early Analytical philosophy was course rotten with the confusion between the A Priori and the necessary, which has blighted Western philosophy since Hume and Kant.”

      And, obviously, that was precisely what I was referring to.

      Of course, the techniques of analytical philosophy are very useful in themselves (their attention to rigour is, after all, successor to that of the Scholastics). It’s just that modern analytical philosophers tend to take for granted some assumptions that the pre-moderns would have categorically rejected (and with good reason).

      Hume, Kant, Russel et al pervade academic philosophy to this day. No wonder one has to detoxify their mind of this evil influence in order to understand what the Ancient Greeks and the medievals were actually saying.

      Furthermore, even though I greatly respect to work of modern theistic philosophers of religion, I follow Prof. Feser in that they come in two flavours: the classical theists (the historical majority but a current minority) and the “theistic personalists” (the present majority). And it seems to me that the latters, and not the formers, are the ones who tend to make use of the ideas (not just the terminology) of modern trends in philosophy. Now, these new ideas may be useful to persuade a modern mind give up naturalism but, on the other hand, they only take you to a demiurge, not to God proper.

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    3. Analytical philosophers of religion have advanced research in Natural Theology and discussion of the Divine Nature further than any group since the end of the Middle Ages (Baroque Scholasticism had some interesting insights about Divine Knowledge and truthmaker theory but other than that they worked within very narrow parameters).

      The notion that baroque scholasticism worked "within very narrow parameters" is obvious nonsense, and shows that you don't actually have an acquaintance with baroque scholasticism than the tiny little tidbits that analytic philosophers of religion occasionally deign to look at.

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    4. Of course, the techniques of analytical philosophy are very useful in themselves (their attention to rigour is, after all, successor to that of the Scholastics). It’s just that modern analytical philosophers tend to take for granted some assumptions that the pre-moderns would have categorically rejected (and with good reason).

      Analytical Philosophy is over-run with Naturalism but that’s part of a wider cultural as opposed to intellectual issue. There is at least some virtue in having materialists and naturalists actually formulate their positions clearly since it high-lights the costs e.g. the qualia problem with Functionalism and Eliminativism as a whole, one has to pay to hold such views.

      Hume, Kant, Russel et al pervade academic philosophy to this day. No wonder one has to detoxify their mind of this evil influence in order to understand what the Ancient Greeks and the medievals were actually saying.

      Well Analytical Philosophy saw the revival of metaphysics as a serious discipline though, so much so that its history is to an extent the overcoming of many of these early and late modern mistakes: Russell/Moore/Frege and Husserl killing off crude Nominalism and psychologism in logic, and then Saul Kripke revealing the confusion between the Analytic/Synthetic distinction and modality. Early Analytical Philosophy was almost fatally derailed by an anti-metaphysical demon figure, good old Ludwig, but once the spell of his personality was broken interest in ontology returned stronger than it had for at least four hundred years. It would be of great benefit if arm-chair philosophers were as familiar with Kripke, say, as they were Kant or Hume.

      (I also think people here venerate Classical and Medieval philosophy on the basis of a relatively narrow range of brilliant thinkers. For all his faults Russell – for instance – was far preferably as a philosopher to Abelard or the Ockhamists. Likewise Classical philosophy tended to devolve into commentators and disciples once the handful of great figures left the scene, not to mention it's also being filled with crude sophists like Sextus Empericus and the Epicureans as well as weak thinkers such as many of the Stoics)

      Furthermore, even though I greatly respect to work of modern theistic philosophers of religion, I follow Prof. Feser in that they come in two flavours: the classical theists (the historical majority but a current minority) and the “theistic personalists” (the present majority). And it seems to me that the latters, and not the formers, are the ones who tend to make use of the ideas (not just the terminology) of modern trends in philosophy. Now, these new ideas may be useful to persuade a modern mind give up naturalism but, on the other hand, they only take you to a demiurge, not to God proper.

      Whilst I agree that Divine Simplicity and Timelessness are core aspects of God the Theist-Personalist charge gets played up a bit for rhetorical effect. They are certainly wrong about some aspects of the Divine Nature but it’s false to claim God as understood by Plantinga or WLC is a demiurge - that charge has more traction against Swinburne and applies very neatly to Intelligent Design proponents qua that theory alone. Some people here tend to focus on these short-comings to the extent that they disregard the immense progress the discipline has made. Really the Father of contemporary Analytical philosophy of religion is Leibniz (which makes Duns Scotus its grandfather).

      I’m not claiming Analytical Philosophy of Religion, let alone Analytical philosophy as a whole, is perfect, but it is producing more serious work than any other movement for a very long time.

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    5. @Brandon,

      I'll ignore the personnel insult and simply ask: did or did not Baroque Scholasticism operate within a broadly Aristotelean perimeter?

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    6. I'll ignore the personnel insult and simply ask: did or did not Baroque Scholasticism operate within a broadly Aristotelean perimeter?

      If you think pointing out that your claim was obvious nonsense that could only be based on very little reading of what you were talking about was a 'personal insult', then you need to develop a skin.

      It's absurd to try to defend yourself by an obviously ill-formed question. There is no such thing as a 'broadly Aristotelian perimeter'; there is no natural definition of such a thing, because 'broadly' in this context relaxed the usual scope of the adjective to which it applies, and Aristotelianism doesn't, in any case, identify a 'perimeter', since school-labels of this sort don't indicate boundaries but core ideas.

      If, on the contrary, you simply ask the reasonable question here and ask if baroque scholasticism was fundamentally Aristotelian, the answer is very definitely that it depends. Baroque scholasticism is notoriously difficulty to study precisely because it is extremely diverse; indeed, individual thinkers are often diverse within their oeuvre. It's a period in which people are experimenting widely, and pursuing diverse interests. Calling Caramuel an Aristotelian is misleading at best; the basic parts of his logic are Aristotelian, but even there he is highly revisionary, and he moves with a free hand. Some baroque scholastics are pretty clearly Aristotelian; others are not. None of them are narrow; saying they worked within narrow parameters is like saying Leibniz worked within narrow parameters. (Indeed, Leibniz arguably inherits much of his unruliness from baroque scholasticism.)

      So let me return with a question: What precisely is your evidence for saying that baroque scholastics like Caramuel "worked within very narrow parameters"? Caramuel is more prolific than most, but his not atypical in terms of his breadth of interest or his willingness to explore different methods. By what conceivable standard of Aristotelianism can you claim that La Grand or Izquierdo are confining themselves to Aristotelian ideas? The baroque scholastics, for instance, had to deal with new scientific discoveries, new political systems, Protestant-Catholic polemic, humanist demands for scholarly rigor in dealing with texts, new kinds of skepticism, etc. It's a priori implausible that intelligent people would have confined themselves to 'narrow parameters' in the face of that; and, indeed, any such claim does not really stand trying to read the overgrown jungle of ideas and factions that is actual baroque scholasticism.

      The only people who think that baroque scholastics were primarily going on about divine knowledge and counterfactuals are analytic philosophers of religion, because they only tidbits of baroque scholasticism they try to read, if they read any, are those broadly related to Molinism about divine knowledge.

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    7. If you think pointing out that your claim was obvious nonsense that could only be based on very little reading of what you were talking about was a 'personal insult', then you need to develop a skin. .

      No, calling you out is absolutely necessary. Too many people here are keen to make extravagant claims on behalf of pre-modern philosophy without ever cashing those cheques and respond with belligerence when challenged.

      It's absurd to try to defend yourself by an obviously ill-formed question. There is no such thing as a 'broadly Aristotelian perimeter'; there is no natural definition of such a thing, because 'broadly' in this context relaxed the usual scope of the adjective to which it applies, and Aristotelianism doesn't, in any case, identify a 'perimeter', since school-labels of this sort don't indicate boundaries but core ideas.

      Let’s have a broad family grouping: act and potency, four causes, immanent realism to nominalism re universals, an epistemology involving ‘phantasms’, and a mental theory of ‘intelligible species’. The more of these one’s philosophy includes the more one can fill out the Aristotelian bingo card.

      The baroque scholastics, for instance, had to deal with new scientific discoveries, new political systems, Protestant-Catholic polemic, humanist demands for scholarly rigor in dealing with texts, new kinds of skepticism, etc. It's a priori implausible that intelligent people would have confined themselves to 'narrow parameters' in the face of that;

      Why? Nothing in my claim precludes them from having responded to such challenges and, accepting limitations of the times, done so well – they just didn’t produce anything that innovationary beyond a narrow area in natural theology and ontology.

      I will give you the points about law and political theory; I had metaphysical stuff in mind when I made the claim about narrow parameters.

      The only people who think that baroque scholastics were primarily going on about divine knowledge and counterfactuals are analytic philosophers of religion, because they only tidbits of baroque scholasticism they try to read, if they read any, are those broadly related to Molinism about divine knowledge.

      I picked the issues of most relevance to today. They also produced notable work on non-existent entities, ens rationis, privation theory and more general fine-tuning of term-logic.

      Let’s bring this round – why don’t you point me to some areas were Baroque Scholastic thought would be of great value to contemporary Philosophy of Religion? Of course I would like to be proved wrong.

      A more specific challenge: what major work did they do developing/improving a theistic proof which was not a version of the Cosmological Argument?

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    8. No, calling you out is absolutely necessary. Too many people here are keen to make extravagant claims on behalf of pre-modern philosophy without ever cashing those cheques and respond with belligerence when challenged.

      This is a pointless defense. (1) Belligerence is not equivalent to personal insult; (2) telling you that your obvious nonsense is obvious nonsense betraying a lack of reading in the field is not belligerence, but diagnosis, and of a kind fairly common in professional philosophy, at that, even if it gets trimmed out of journals; and (3) this is a pretty impudent claim from someone who has been so aggressive commenting on other people.

      Let’s have a broad family grouping: act and potency, four causes, immanent realism to nominalism re universals, an epistemology involving ‘phantasms’, and a mental theory of ‘intelligible species’.

      This simply makes the point more obvious: Baroque scholastics have no unity on any of these topics, and even when they hold (say) a Thomistic position on some of them, they don't necessarily conduct their investigations on that basis. As Caramuel, I think (if I am not conflating his discussion with someone else's), says in his analysis of Kabbalistic claims, one can't presuppose Thomistic claims in a world of atheists and heretics.

      Very, very noticeably, you are evading the call for evidence. I repeat. You claimed, "Baroque Scholasticism had some interesting insights about Divine Knowledge and truthmaker theory but other than that they worked within very narrow parameters." What is your evidence for this claim?

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    9. (2) telling you that your obvious nonsense is obvious nonsense betraying a lack of reading in the field is not belligerence, but diagnosis, and of a kind fairly common in professional philosophy, at that, even if it gets trimmed out of journals

      Aside from additional fulminations you have done exactly nothing to show that my remarks were ‘obvious nonsense’.

      this is a pretty impudent claim from someone who has been so aggressive commenting on other people.

      Are you, or is anyone else on this blog one of the 20th century Neo-Thomists? Obviously not. The standard modus here appears to be my criticising Thomism or even just Thomists for some point, someone steaming in and claiming that I don’t understand Thomism and then going away when it becomes evident that I do.

      As for the Stardusty Psyche types, I make no bones about that – they’re trolls who’ve came here to annoy rather to actual discuss anything substantial..

      This simply makes the point more obvious: Baroque scholastics have no unity on any of these topics, and even when they hold (say) a Thomistic position on some of them, they don't necessarily conduct their investigations on that basis. As Caramuel, I think (if I am not conflating his discussion with someone else's), says in his analysis of Kabbalistic claims, one can't presuppose Thomistic claims in a world of atheists and heretics.

      I have not and would not claim Baroque scholasticism was a continuation of Thomism or even that the thinkers involved were predominantly Thomist. My claim was that the family of ‘Broadly Aristotelian’ subjects constituted ‘narrow parameters’.

      Very, very noticeably, you are evading the call for evidence. I repeat. You claimed, "Baroque Scholasticism had some interesting insights about Divine Knowledge and truthmaker theory but other than that they worked within very narrow parameters." What is your evidence for this claim?

      This remark is fundamentally duplicitous. I defined what the ‘narrow parameters’ in question were in the above paragraph. What evidence would prove or disprove this for you – surveys of the topics covered by major Baroque Scholastic thinkers? Claims that certain modern ideas are in fact traceable or pre-empted by said thinkers?

      Likewise in regards to ‘evasions of evidence’ refer to my previous post and provide at least a couple of examples of the innovations in Philosophy of Religion Baroque Scholasticism brought about beyond the aforementioned Aristotelean ‘fine-tunings’. What is it we modern philosophers are missing in our only having read ‘tip-bits’ of Baroque Scholasticism.

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    10. Aside from additional fulminations you have done exactly nothing to show that my remarks were ‘obvious nonsense’

      I have pointed out (1) that Baroque scholasticism is notorious among scholars who study it for being the opposite of what you say -- it is notoriously difficult to study it because it is highly diverse and experimental; (2) that the claim doesn't stand examination if you look at particular cases -- there appears to be no sense in which 'narrow' is a legitimate characterization of Caramuel, or the notion that the claim that baroque scholastics are confining themselves to Aristotelian ideas applies to Le Grand or Izquierdo. I also pointed out that your claim is a prior unlikely given the actual historical context in which baroque scholastics found themselves.

      You, on the other hand, have given literally nothing. I ask yet again. You said, " other than [Divine knowledge and truthmakers] they worked within very narrow parameters". What is your evidence for this claim?


      I have not and would not claim Baroque scholasticism was a continuation of Thomism or even that the thinkers involved were predominantly Thomist. My claim was that the family of ‘Broadly Aristotelian’ subjects constituted ‘narrow parameters’.


      Nobody claimed you did; "(say)" in English indicates an example, not a direct assertion. As I have pointed out, baroque scholasticism is well known for being highly experimental and not confining itself to traditionally Aristotelian subjects or methods.

      What evidence would prove or disprove this for you – surveys of the topics covered by major Baroque Scholastic thinkers?

      This is not difficult. You made the claim; it was an explicit part of your argument. If you did not make it out of ignorance of baroque scholasticism, but out of knowledge of baroque scholasticism, what was the evidence that grounds this claim. Are you getting this from having read Caramuel, Le Grand, Izquierdo, some others (as I noted Caramuel, Le Grand, and Izquierdo are not intuitively characterized the way you have characterized them)? Are you following some scholar of baroque scholasticism in your claim (which would be surprisingAre you getting it from some other baroque scholastics you've read extensively? Are you following the interpretation of some scholar of the field (which would be surprising because all those I've read deny that baroque scholastics confine themselves to Aristotelian ideas)?

      Historical claims are not things you just make up. They are purely and entirely matters of the evidence behind them, and your opinion, or mine, or anyone else's does not matter in the slightest in comparison. You made the claim; when I said the claim showed you had little acquaintance with the field, you called that a 'personal insult', implying that in fact it was an informed claim; so what evidence was informing it?

      provide at least a couple of examples of the innovations in Philosophy of Religion Baroque Scholasticism brought about beyond the aforementioned Aristotelean ‘fine-tunings’. What is it we modern philosophers are missing in our only having read ‘tip-bits’ of Baroque Scholasticism.

      This is, again, a transparent evasion. We are not talking about your partisan advocacies; you made a historical claim, for which you have provided no evidence at all. What was your evidence for the claim that other than on divine knowledge and truthmakers, baroque scholastics "they worked within very narrow parameters", understood in terms of a small set of Aristotelian ideas?

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  4. Did the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity did some change in human nature?

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  5. >Did the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity did some change in human nature?

    No change in either the divine or human nature of Christ took place in their unity in the divine person of Jesus.

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  6. Feser mentioned that he would be writing up something about his reversion to Catholicism. I'm interested--I've found that the gap between agnosticism and theism is not that vast, but I'm unsure about the gap between theism and Christianity. I hope he touches on why he thinks the Resurrection of Christ is historically factual.

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    1. Feser has hinted at it in some of his writings. If you accept his conclusions about God, the soul, and morality, we'd expect something like Christianity to be correct. This would make the historical claims of Christianity re: the resurrection, etc. much more plausible, though they'd still have to be considered on their own merits of course.

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  7. Around the web: "...With the attention Dr. Feser is getting, Feser vs William Lane Craig is coming soon..." No, it's not. William L. Craig has said he wont debate any fellow christian, maybe, I speculate, because he is weak in theology but it would be good a catholicism debate

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  8. You and Patrick make a good due :D

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  9. So I've read Prof. Feser's book and am convinced : God exists. Now what? What difference should it make to my life and the way I live it? I find the leap from "Philosophical" Theism to Christianity too high. I just can't buy into the whole resurrection/miracles thing. Any suggestions?

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    1. I'd encourage you to think about the perfection and goodness of God arrived at through philosophy. On the classical picture, God creates and sustains us in being at every instant. He also made us with intellect to know Him and will to do good. But we humans very often do evil things, sometimes of great magnitude. Such evil actions must be utterly repugnant to the Divine goodness. And yet God allows this. Why else, except that He wants us to live as best we can, ie in accordance with the nature He has bestowed on us? We further know the living virtously is very hard for us, so it is entirely reasonable that God reach down to us and provide special help - in the form of divine revelation.

      see this post for more: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/pre-christian-apologetics.html

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    2. Thanks, that's actually pretty helpful, as is the post you linked to.

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    3. Well, before even considering all the evidence in favor of miracles and religious experiences, which now must be accounted for with the background knowledge that naturalism is false and God exists, I'd encourage you to ask some further questions:

      This personal, good, omniscient and omnipotent being could have refrained from creating the world. And yet, it chose to create the universe, instead of not creating it. It took an interest in us, in a way; it chose to create this universe that could and would have people in it. How could this fail to change your perspective on life? All we see around us, in some manner, was thought better to exist than not by an omniscient, wise, good omnipotent being. How can this fail to change your perspective on the world and your own place in it?

      Secondly, and more directly connected to the question: why would such a God make this enormous choice -- that of creating the universe instead of not creating it -- and then proceed to "ignore" us, the rational creatures in His universe? How plausible is the "deist" picture, really, that God would create all of this and then not interfere any further in any way whatsoever?

      Now consider the issue of human suffering. Would the perfectly good, wise and powerful God simply ignore it -- always and forever -- the suffering of so many people throughout history, and not have any further plans for any of us -- especially those among us who are the more virtuous persons --, all while also refraining to interact with His creation in any way?

      Now consider that the Christian story is that of God actually becoming a man to live among us, to share in our own suffering -- to suffer all we suffer and more, alongside us, in the flesh -- and also teach us the truth; to confirm that the just will be rewarded and the wicked will be punished, and no tears will be in vain.

      To me, deism is rationally absurd. God would not choose to be ultimately responsible for the existence of all around us only to ignore it and never interact with it. From the outset, Christianity (and in particular Catholicism) seems to me very plausible just from the existence of God.

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    4. @ Anonymous

      A pleasure. Happy to take any further questions you might have.

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  10. @Anonymous at 1:18 AM,

    Well, I'm no expert in the matter, but A)Feser mentions this briefly in The Last Superstition and B)he has said he plans to write a book on this (or something approximate to it) in the future. That's all I can say for sure.

    Perhaps the other commenters will have better recommendations, but you could always check out some of the works that deal with the "motives of credibility", which the Church takes to be that which justifies our making the act of faith. For instance, this page and its comments section provide some help (though it should be noted it is not intended to provide a complete case - also, other commenters may have better suggestions). Also, it should be noted that in truth, faith is a gift from God (this is not to say that it is not reasonable, however).

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  11. @ Deus Primus Est, thanks, that's actually quite helpful. And thanks also for the link to the blog post.

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  12. Anonymous @ 1:18 AM

    WL Craig's The Son Rises is a useful introduction to how one might argue for the historicity of the resurrection. Those types of accounts are much more plausible on the assumption that God exists.

    You might also want to check out Brant Pitre's The Case for Jesus. It's a very readable introduction to the general reliability of what the NT says about Jesus from a Catholic Biblical scholar.

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    1. I like WLC's the Son Rises, he also has a rather expensive, more scholarly work on the topic as well. However, NT Wright and Mike Licona each have scholarly work available for reasonable prices. In fact, Licona's thesis is available online (legally, I belive), which he later turned into "The Resurrection of Jesus". Also Lydia or Tim McGrew have some essays on the matter freely available online.

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  13. (1/2) I claim there is a defeater that works on all theistic arguments. A “defeater” is a reason to doubt the truth of a particular belief to the degree that it becomes reasonable to reject that belief (or, more accurately, to assign a low probability to that belief). The same concept can be used on arguments. If a defeater is found for a premise of an argument then a defeater is found for the entire argument.

    Here is the basic idea how this works:

    1. There is a fully mechanistic and thus non-theistic reality that would produce all our experiences. (See below for the respective construction of that reality as well as clarification of what I mean by “experience”.)

    2. We can only reason about reality based on our experiences.

    3. Thus reason leads us to the recognition that it is possible that the actual reality is non-theistic.

    4. If actual reality is non-theistic then any argument for theism must use some premises (factual or epistemic) which will not hold on that possible non-theistic reality.

    5. Identify which premises are these (they may well be non-explicitly stated epistemic premises) and deny them pointing out the possibility of the non-theistic reality in which they don’t hold.

    Here is a concrete example of this exercise:

    I haven’t read Feser’s book but above I read the following:

    premise (18) of Feser's Rationalist argument: "So, there must be at least one necessary being, to explain why any contingent beings exist at all and how any particular contingent thing persists in existence at any moment.”

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    1. >I claim there is a defeater that works on all theistic arguments.

      That is a tall order considering not all Theistic Concepts are the same. Take Theistic Personalism vs Classic Theism. They are radically different.

      I will leave it too others to pick apart your argument.

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    2. In other words, your 'defeater' for theism is nothing other than the claim that it is possible that theists are wrong.

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    3. We can only reason about reality based on our experiences.

      Does'nt that throw deductive reasoning under the bus and hence this entire exercise altogether, or am I incorrect?

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    4. Hello, Dianelos. Why are you posting anonymously?

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    5. Could be that earlier guy, the one with the "mechanical demon" fixation.

      KISS: Premise one fails, obviously. If we are working something out by deductive reasoning - say a geometry problem - each step follows the previous one by logical necessity. But the events in our brain, to which our reasoning correlates, do not follow each other in that way, nor is the correlation logically necessary.

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    6. It’s Danielos. He posted the exact same comment over at The Secular Outpost. I wonder why he decided to repeat it as an Anon here.

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    7. "I wonder why he decided to repeat it as an Anon here."

      Maybe so someone would read it.

      By a fortunate coincidence, Dian's and Stardy's avatars look a little a like, making them easier to skip.

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    8. 1 fails. Sorry. Next time.
      3 is a non sequitur.
      5 is a practical imparative, not a proposition. It has no truth value: it's akin to 'Now bake the pie.'

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  14. (2/2) On the non-theistic possible reality there is no “necessary being”. This does indeed imply that that the non-theistic reality is not intelligible to the degree a theistic reality might be. So what? Why should a non-theistic reality where the metaphysical ultimate is not a mindful being be intelligible to such a degree? Why should all contingent facts in it admit of an explanation? Why can’t it be the case that actual reality is such that it is intelligible only down to a limited number of brute facts, which do not allow for any deeper understanding? The theistic philosopher by equivocating the expression “to explain” as meaning “to completely and utterly explain” is in fact begging the question. She is positing an epistemic requirement which need not obtain if reality is in fact non-theistic.

    Below is a quick description of the reality that would produce all our experiences. And thus all the data we need explain, indeed all the data we have for grounding any beliefs:

    1. We construct the hypothesis that reality is such that a) all our experiences exactly correlate with the physical state of our brain, and b) our physical brain is a part of the physical state of the universe which blindly evolves according to purely mechanical laws.

    2. The hypothesis (1) describes a non-theistic reality.

    3. Given the deliverances of the physical sciences (when interpreted realistically) we have warrant to believe that there is nothing in our experience that contradicts hypothesis (1).

    4. If there is nothing in our experience that contradicts a hypothesis then there is nothing that contradicts it.

    5. If there is nothing that contradicts a hypothesis then it is possible that this hypothesis is true.

    6. Therefore, it is possible that reality is non-theistic

    Incidentally, above by “experience” I mean all experiences and not just sense experience. Thus what seems beautiful, what seems plausible, what seems self-evidently true - are all experiences. For if they weren’t how would we know about such seemings?

    Now philosophers sometimes speak of “a priori knowledge”, “basic beliefs”, and so on – and posit special epistemic properties for such kinds. It is still the case that these are parts of, or are based on, our experience of life, for otherwise we wouldn’t be aware them. And it is still the case that the non-theist can describe how her hypothesized reality explains the mechanisms that would produce human brains on which such experiences supervene. So when the theist argues “It’s absurd to deny this particular epistemic principle” the non-theist will answer “Let me explain on purely mechanical grounds how it came about that our brain makes us feel this way.” In this sense the non-theist has an universal defeater for any epistemic principle that contradicts her worldview.

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    1. Your argument fails.

      First of all, you assume that there is a fully-mechanistic reality that would produce all our experiences, but this is an issue of contention which you have not proved to be true. There are many different arguments against such a view, both transcendental and abductive ones, etc. I don't think a fully mechanistic world could even in principle produce all our experience -- for instance, consciousness cannot be produced by a mechanistic mind in any meanigful way; the hard problem of consciousness makes materialistic explanations sorely lacking and bizarre. More to the point, our experience of reasoning could not even in principle be produced by a mechanistic reality, as we introspectively know we grasp universal and determinate concepts that are not mechanistic or products of mechanistic systems, and besides, to reject such concepts would be to fall into incoherence, to the point were we could not rationally accept your assumption in 1.

      Also, your argument seems to beg the question against PSR as it is argued for by people like Feser, Pruss, Koons, Della Rocca and more. If we are to be coherent, we have to accept that everything can have an explanation. And indeed, by Feser's retorsion argument, we need to accept PSR even to have any grounds for holding any particular position. But PSR implies the existence of a necessary being.

      We cannot rationally say that reality is non-theistic in this sense. You are begging the question against the theist, especially in this dialectical context.

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  15. What do you guys think of an argument for the existence of God based on modality and possibility?


    Basically, all possibilities exist insofar as they are grounded in a higher reality that could in principle actualise them.

    Logical possibilities are such a possibility.


    Therefore, there must be a logically necessary reality that grounds all possibilities and has them in a way analagous to intellect.


    This argument, like Augustine's argument from universals, doesn't rely on the PSR or the Principle of Causality to work, which makes it powerful, and in fact can work in conjuction with Augustine's argument to prove that the ultimate reality that contains all possibilities must have intellect because possibilities and possible worlds are abstractions.









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    1. Yes, if one endorses a global powers theory one can generate a powerful argument like this for an omnipoetent being. Pruss scetches the argument out in his book on modal theory and in this essay (the last section):

      http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/ActualAndPossible.html

      It's an argument I think very highly of.

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  16. Save my name and blood pressure fellows - is it worth reading that Secular Outpost fellow's criticisms or not?

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    1. You can only judge it by actually reading it.

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    2. So in others words you're saying 'No'.

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    3. It sounds fairly depressing but most atheists who write on these issues are completely incompetent. And I'm not just talking about your standard new atheist, but atheists in general.

      Sure, there are some who actually know what they're talking about -- Quentin Smith, Graham Oppy, etc. But those are the rare exceptions.

      I wonder if we can even pretend that atheism is a viable position. It just has so many holes, so many problems that it's quite surprising how most philosophers have yet to see this. In the past few years, we have witnessed the development of hundreds of independent arguments for God's existence from all kinds of principles and assumptions. Some rely on PSR; others on moderate causal principles; others on weaker causal principle; some just use inference to the best explanation; others use Bayesian probability; some deal with the beginning of the universe; others with contingent existence itself; some are about teleology; others are about the soul; some others are about eternal truths and possibilities; others are even about religious experience, and so on.

      What can an atheist say, really? Deny PSR, any principle of causation, contingency, or abductive arguments?

      It doesn't help that materialism has been utterly discredited, either. Can't have consciousness, can't have intention, can't have reason, can't have free will, can't have personal identity... Meh.

      Atheism and materialism were never popular views in antiquity, the middle ages, or even the renaissance. Heck, even Nietzsche doubted that naturalism could account for man's aesthetic sense.

      It is only in our recent century that we have to take this stuff "seriously". That it could be the case that the universe exists without any explanation whatsoever; that there is order without any transcendent explanation; possibilities are unintelligible concepts; consciousness is an illusion; we don't actually reason or have universal and determinate ideas; etc.

      Frankly, it's a bunch of retarded bullshit. A few centuries in the future and humanity will scoff at 20th and 21st century philosophers for holding so many absurd theses ONLY to preserve their beloved pet theory.

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    4. @Miguel,


      Quote: "some others are about eternal truths and possibilities"

      Quote: possibilities are unintelligible concepts


      Are you by any chance refering to the argument from possibility here?
      The one that says that all possibilities by nature are grounded in a higher reality, and all logical possibilities must therefore be grounded in an omnipotent pure actuality?







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    5. OA Police

      No, I mean you should read it.

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  17. @Miguel,

    Yes, I agree. I often find ironic that I could probably defend atheism more competently than 90% of the persons who hold it (likewise I'm sure many others here could too).

    What can an atheist say, really? Deny PSR, any principle of causation, contingency, or abductive arguments?

    In order to make atheism/naturalism a serious contender I think the atheist needs to twist these round on the theist by arguing the necessary being in question is not God. As long as atheism is wedded to the brute fact claim about the world theism sort of wins by default in virtue of its actually being an explanation.

    Frankly, it's a bunch of retarded bullshit. A few centuries in the future and humanity will scoff at 20th and 21st century philosophers for holding so many absurd theses ONLY to preserve their beloved pet theory.

    One can only hope, though I would take issues about the 19th, 18th and 20th century being that much better (German Idealism aside). Rather than an attempt to argue materialism one would face a dismissal of substantial philosophical reasoning on the grounds of ‘Eeeek metaphysics’ or ‘scholastic logic-chopping’ and before that the vapid claim that philosophy is futile because = vague Classical reference, usually Sextus Empericus or Cicero. I’d much rather deal with someone like Quine than persons of this nature – the former is doing bad philosophy in great detail; the latter are refusing to engage in serious philosophy at all.

    @JoeD, I think he is referring to the modal scepticism of early Analytical philosophy. In the case of Russell it was partly due to that individual's over-emphasis on the as yet under-developed predicate logic, but in the case of Quine it was just pure pique (Christopher Hookway, in his overview of Quine, admits that the real reason he rejected essentialism was because he didn't like its metaphysical consequences).

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    1. To be honest, at this point I don't actually see how atheism can be sustained anymore. I also believe their best bet would be on the denial of divine attributes of a necessary being. The brute fact option is way too problematic: it is destroyed by PSR, by PC, by IBE, all that. I believe Pruss and Rasmussen have just finished writing a book that proves the existence of at least one concrete (causally active) necessary being through a multitude of different independent arguments. The insistence on brute contingency is like trying to ride a dead horse. Atheism's best bet would be on denying the divine character of a necessary cause.

      However, how can atheists accept a necessary being without either committing to 1) theism or 2) pantheism or panentheism? There are many good arguments in favor of option 1: not just what Feser argues in his book, but also the combination of teleology with the arguments, and also the unique character of human beings. More to the point, however, it seems that personal agency is the only way to get a contingent effect/explanandum from a necessary cause/explanans. And there is also the problem that this necessary being can't be material, or a law, and must somehow explain the existence of contingent beings. 1 has many things in its favor.

      The only option for a non-theist, as I see it, would be to accept some kind of pantheism or panentheism. But that is contrary to atheism and naturalism (at least "naturalism" as understood by modern philosophers). So it's not an option for the atheist at all. Besides, I think spinozism follows directly from pantheism, and that would require someone to accept things such as 1) Spinoza's modes and degrees of existence, 2) necessitarianism, 3) all the rest of Spinoza's prima facie bizarre ideas.

      And then there is the human mind. I've mentioned this before, but I think it is a huge problem for any atheist and even pantheist. There is no getting around some form of dualism; materialism has seen nothing but the multiplication of anomalies ever since philosophers tried to bet on it. Reason isn't going anywhere and it can't be explained in naturalistic terms, and it quite easily invites the question about its origins,

      I don't really see much of an option besides theism. But when it comes to atheism and naturalism specifically, I think they are pretty much bankrupt at this point; IF there is any alternative to theism, it would have to be some kind of pantheism or panentheism.

      And sure, 18th and 19th century philosophy had many problems as well, but at least there was some sanity in their dismissal of metaphysics. What do I mean by that? Of course they were, in a sense, being irrational. But they were casually dismissing metaphysics out of prejudice, they thought (irrationaly) that it was wrong from the start because it would lead us to absurdities (a wrong assumption, but at least one that follows some kind of reductio ad absurdum reasoning). Modern 20th and 21st century philosophers, however, came to see the irrationality of past dismissals of "logic-chopping" and "metaphysics", but instead fell into complete insanity. What can we say about eliminativism? How can they, for the sake of keeping belief materialism and Science!TM, willingly accept that there are no true beliefs, no reasoning, and even no conscious experience? It's a certain kind of insanity; what eliminativists do is pretty much follow the classical arguments from reason and instead turn them on its head and ACCEPT the ABSURD consequence of the reductio arguments. 19th century philosophy never stoop so low, to be fair.

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    2. @Miguel,


      What can we say about eliminativism? How can they, for the sake of keeping belief materialism and Science!TM, willingly accept that there are no true beliefs, no reasoning, and even no conscious experience?



      Isn't eliminative materialism a minority position even amongst materialists? Reductivism being the majority viewpoint over-and-against eliminativism for rather obvious reasons, that is.

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    3. It is a minority, but the mere fact that it even *exists* and finds expression in figures like Dennett and the Churchlands is, by itself, a testament to contemporary philosophical insanity.

      I don't think reductivism fares much better either, though. To try and reduce something universal and determinate to what is particular and indeterminate, for instance, is like failing to understand what one is talking about. To somehow try to reduce qualia to brain states when the whole problem ACTUALLY IS the fact that we can't do so, is, yet again, to not even understand what one is talking about. Eliminativism only exists because some materialists were capable of at least understanding where the problem lies, but were naïve ("insane"?? Confused??) enough to conclude that therefore there is no consciousness, no reason, no truth, it's all "folk psychology", and SOMEHOW we magically understand the world by doing science even though we do science by making use of our own "folk psychology" assets

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    4. @Miguel,


      The brute fact option is way too problematic: it is destroyed by PSR, by PC, by IBE, all that.


      I actually think it is far worse than that.

      The idea that the universe is a brute fact is logically impossible if we consider the fact that a brute fact view would require us to accept that being is constantly appearing from non-being, that is, being is created out of nothing because we know that contingent things cannot keep themselves in being by their own nature.

      However, something coming from nothing, or rather to put it more precisely, being coming from non-being, is logically impossible because it violates the duality of being, describes things (popping out of nothing, appearing out of nothing) which contradict the fact that we are talking about nothing here which means neither popping nor appearing and no existence, and because it is a contradictory statement ("I did nothing" is a negation, so logically "Something appearing / coming from nothing brutely and for no reason" is equally a negation and doesn't describe anything contrary to the way such a sentence is supposed to be understood).



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    5. I never understood a dichotomy between atheism and pantheism. If everything is God, doesn't that cash out the same as if nothing is God?

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    6. *delurks*

      Former pantheist here, and it really depends on the particular beliefs. Pantheism can range from a sort of spiritualized atheism to the fullblown idealism that you'd find in Hinduism. A pantheism that posits that matter is a manifestation of mind is very different than what you'd see from virtually any atheist. (Though whether this is pantheism or panentheism is probably a conceptual question.)

      For pantheists who don't take a hard turn straight into Indian philosophy, pantheism and atheism are often two sides of the same coin. I don't think watered down forms of pantheism are really philosophical stances, though. You don't get to necessary being just by mystifying the universe.

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  18. Oh, and of course, I forgot to mention that there's another problem here: how atheism and naturalism are unnecessary.

    WHY should we even bother with the idea that "there is no God and there is also nothing divine about the universe!!" as a philosophical thesis? Why should we go to the lengths of actually accepting brute facts, or believing in a necessary being that not personal but is somehow an explanation for the existence of contingent beings, and concoting one failed materialistic theory of mind after another that can never account for reasoning, universal and determinate concepts, intentionality, consciousness, free will and personal identity? Why? Because Science!TM has been successful in discovering certain truths about the natural order???

    Sorry, but I can't help but conclude that atheism is intellectually bankrupt at this point. It's only being discussed in philosophy because it somehow became a cultural fad from our amazement at technology and natural sciences. Future generations will be horrified at 21st century philosophy.

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    1. true, its only appeal these days is rhetorical.

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