Monday, January 8, 2018

Five Proofs on television and radio (Updated)


UPDATE 1/12: You can now watch the EWTN Live episode on YouTube or at the EWTN Live web page.

This Wednesday, January 10, I will be on EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa to discuss Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  I will also be taping an episode of EWTN Bookmark for future airing. 

Also forthcoming is an interview about the book on Lauren Green’s Lighthouse Faith at Fox News Radio.
 
Other recent interviews about the book include those on The Ben Shapiro Show, The Andrew Klavan Show, The Dennis Prager Show, The Michael Medved Show, The Patrick Coffin Show, Pints with Aquinas with Matt Fradd, Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, CrossExamined with Frank Turek, and many others.  Further media appearances forthcoming.  Stay tuned.

130 comments:

  1. Better get a shave before going on Fox with Lauren Green.

    Oops. Guess it's a radio interview. But anyway, shave. She's a nice lady.

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  2. Have you ever given thought to doing a podcast?

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    1. Feser has the dry sense of humour to do a podcast. I think he'd need a partner to bounce off though. Him and Luke Barnes seems like an idea. Barnes is light hearted and easy going. A scientist who thinks philosophically (even published in a philosophy of science journal I believe). The two would combine well. Shame they have full time jobs >:(

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    2. Yes a podcast would be great. Even if Ed just read his blog posts and did some impromptu commentary on them. That would only take one or two takes at the most and bam some great material for us to listen to on our commutes.

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    3. He's too busy. He'd need someone to sort it all out where he'd just have to sit down and talk on Skype or some better software. He's got a good sense of humour. I know you're reading this Ed, give the people what they want!

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    4. Yes, he should do a podcast! He would gain a a huge new audience.

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    5. Oh my gosh please do a podcast!!!!

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  3. What are your thoughts on this argument against brute facts / for the existence of God somewhat based on the Thomistic argument?:



    P1) Brute facts are not distinguished from nothing.

    P2) If they aren't distinguished from nothing, then they are nothing.

    P3) But brute facts exist.

    C1) Therefore, brute facts are distinguished from nothing.



    P4) Brute facts are distinguished from nothing by nothing.

    P5) But nothing makes nothing distinct.

    C2) Therefore, brute facts are distinguished from nothing by something.



    P6) Brute facts are distinguished from nothing either by themselves or by another.

    P7) If a thing were distinguished from nothing by itself, it would be necessary.

    P8) But brute facts aren't necessary.

    C3) Therefore, brute facts must be distinguished from nothing by another.


    P9) The universe (a brute fact) is distinguished from unicorns (non-existent fact) by the fact that it actually exists.

    C4) Therefore, existence is what distinguishes a brute fact from nothing.


    C5) In other words, existence is what causes a brute fact to exist by making it, and all other properties, actual. In other words, existence is the factor. And existence is distinguished from nothing by itself. Ergo, we have Being Itself, aka God.

    This argument seems to depend on the Thomistic Real Distinction between essence and existence, but it may not necesarily be the case as it looks like a PSR denier could accept all of the
    premises without accepting an inflationary view of existence. But I'm not sure if that is the case.


    What do you guys think?



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    1. Something that exists exists. To me, that is a tautology and a rather unimpressive one.
      I also think it does not make much sense to claim that existence "causes" anything.
      Existence doesn't "cause", existence "is".

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    2. To be fair it would be awfully difficult to deny causality to existence as it appears absurd to apply causality to non-existence. Surely existence is at least a condition for causality.

      There is nothing about the universe that entails necessity. Unlike God, no being in the universe has necessity in or through itself nor does it have existence as a part of its definition. God is not a brute fact because His being includes the sufficient reason for His being: nothing in the universe, whether taken in whole or in part, has that feature.

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    3. I am not applying causality to non-existence. I am applying causality to existing entities. So, yes, existence is a condition for causality.
      And I am sure I could define the universe as necessary, but as long as it has not been disproven that it is possible for nothing at all to exist, all claims about necessary concrete beings are premature.
      Anf that includes God.
      Necessity claims at this stage can be nothing more than hypotheses.

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    4. You are sure you cannot define the universe as necessary. Try it.

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    5. I am sure I can define the universe as necessary.
      But I can't prove it's necessary.

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  4. I think your argument might break down at P7). You may be begging the question against a PSR denier who could always say that the fact that a brute fact is distinguished by itself does not make it necessary. It could be contingent and yet brutely distinguished by itself. Or P8 could be false and you could say that brute facts are necessary but in an unintelligible way. Apart from that, I cannot think of any other objections.

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    1. 1) If a thing were distinguished from nothing by itself, it would be necessary because it would then no longer require anything beside itself in order to be. It would be necessary and not contingent.

      But brute facts are contingent because bruteness is invoked to get rid of the need to explain contingent facts, especially existential ones.


      2) At this point, rationality would break down for the PSR denier.


      To say that a brute fact is necessary is to contradict the initial assumption which lead the PSR denier to conclude that a certain thing is a brute fact; namely it's contingency.

      If a brute fact WERE necessary, then it would no longer be contingent, and by consequence it would contain the explanation for it's existence within itself.

      But then it would no longer be a brute fact anymore, which contradicts the PSR denier's aims here.

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    2. The Thomist might be able to object to this on several grounds. For instance, we might hold that it's the act of existence that most fundamentally distinguishes something from nonbeing (with other properties, e.g. blueness, being parasitic on the act of existence). If so, then there's a sense in which the act of existence can be said to be that which accounts for something's existence; yet presumably if we can say X accounts for Y, then there's a real sense in which X is a reason for Y. So if we want to say an entity is self-distinguishing from nothing, this would imply it has its act of existence of itself, in which case it accounts for its own existence, and therefore contains the sufficient reason for its existence in itself, in which case we might call it necessary.

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    3. Just playing Devil's Advocate. I think P7 should read:

      P7) If a thing were distinguished from nothing by itself, it would be either necessary (and intelligible) or contingent (and unintelligible).

      I think a PSR denier could reply with that and the argument would break down (because C3 would not follow).

      Of course, this objection does nothing against Dr. Feser's retorsion arguments. Denial of PSR is almost as destructive to any philosophy as denial of LNC because it makes discerning what is true about the universe impossible (even on a merely probabilistic level). It leads to radical skepticism.

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    4. @Scott Lynch,


      There is a big difference here.


      While a PSR denier might say that the non-existence of unicorns is because no reason obtains for them, and also might admit that the existence of the universe also has no reason for it, he can in fact coherently say that the universe also has no reason for it's being just like the non-existence unicorn, but it just so happens that it exists and does so for no reason at all, even though it also lacks a reason for it's existence like the unicorn.


      The way a PSR denier could do this is by divorcing the proposition "S has a reason for it." from the proposition "S exists."


      But I don't see how he can do so for the distinguishing argument. For to say that a thing distinguishes itself from nothing is to say that it is necessary. But to deny necessity and just reply that the brute fact is contingent and unintelligibly so, seems to me to miss the point here.


      It would be like saying that the proposition "The universe does not exist." is true while at the same time the universe does indeed exist and trying to make this logical by saying "Well, it does so for no reason."


      That would be to miss the point because such a claim is a contradiction. You cannot have something not exist, yet at the same time also exist and do so for no reason.


      This wouldn't be a mere rejection of PSR but also a rejection of LNC as you would be positing a contradictory conclusion. Either the universe does exist or it doesn't, you can't have it both ways, even unintelligibly.


      In an analogous fashion, the argument above points out that a thing existing by itself would entail that it is necessary since it doesn't depend on anything but itself for it's existence.

      But to say that a thing is contingent would obviouly imply that it does NOT distinguish itself from nothing. To claim that it IS distinguished from nothing BY ITSELF, yet also is contingent at the same time, seems to me to be contradicting itself.

      It isn't merely a denial of PSR that this ends up with, but a denial of LNC as well.


      The only way a PSR denier would be able to avoid this argument would be to avoid the Thomistic Real Distinction by rejecting the inflationary view of existence (which states that existence is truly distinct from all other properties of an object) implied by the argument and opt for a Scotistic Formal Distinction.


      But what's important here is that it may turn out that this argument is also compatible with a Formal Distinction view of essence/existence as well. And if that's the case, then so much worse for the PSR denier.


      But I'm not really certain since I'm not familiar with this argument actually, and I don't know to exactly what degree it is motivated by the Thomistic Existential argument.


      Anyways, if this argument above really is based on the Thomistic argument, then this implies that the Thomistic argument based on essence and existence may also be independent from PSR as well.

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    5. JoeD

      You seem to be conflating contingency with dependence. A brute fact is contingent, but not dependent.
      I would argue that brute facts "are distinguished from nothing" by having properties.
      What distinguises a brute fact from a necessary one is that a necessary one exists in all possible worlds, while a brute one only exists in some possible worlds. "Nothing", on the other hand, has no properties, hence, nothing has no existence.
      That's how a brute fact proponent could argue, anyway.
      I am not a brute fact proponent, BTW.
      I think that existence is necessary but not immutable.

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    6. @Walter,


      And what distinguishes those properties from nothing?


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    7. The fact that they are properties would in fact make them properties, but whether these properties exist / are distinguished from nothing or not is what is in question.


      In other words, your answer deflects back to "The properties distinguish themselves from nothing."




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    8. JoeD

      You know from previous exchanges that I find the idea that there are non-existent properties utterly absurd. So properties are distintiguished from nothing by being properties.

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    9. @Walter,


      So properties are distintiguished from nothing by being properties.


      In other words, properties distinguish themselves from nothing.


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    10. Maybe, or maybe they are distinguished from nothing by "another".
      The point is that if they are distinguished by another, they are either contingent or necessary and if they are distinguished ny themselves, they are also either contingent or necessary. To say that "If a thing were distinguished from nothing by itself, it would be necessary" is, as I said, conflating contingency with dependence.
      But that begs the question. Brute facts are, by definition, contingent (they don't exist in every possible world, but they are not dependent, because in that case, they wouldn't be brute.

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    11. To say that "If a thing were distinguished from nothing by itself, it would be necessary" is, as I said, conflating contingency with dependence.


      Except it's not. To say that a thing is distinguished from nothing by itself is to say that a thing's existence follows from it's identity, that it contains it's existence and all that is necessary for it in it's identity by definition.


      Contingent things by definition don't contain their existence in their identity, their existence does not flow from their identity and they don't have the reason for their existence in themselves.


      Brute facts are, by definition, contingent (they don't exist in every possible world), but they are not dependent, because in that case, they wouldn't be brute.


      First of all, I would object to the use of possible worlds terminology since I reject it. I think it's more fitting for the argument that I made that a contingent thing be one that doesn't need to exist and could also fail to exist.


      Second, to say that a brute fact is not dependent implies here that brute facts are not distinguished from nothing by another and/or that they distinguish themselves from nothing.


      As mentioned above, brute facts clearly don't fit the bill of something that distinguishes itself from nothing, so the only option is that brute facts are distinguished from nothing by nothing. That is absurd since it is a tautology that implies brute facts are nothing, and hence that they don't exist.

      Ergo, etc.

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    12. Joe

      You know I don't believe in the distinction between essence and existence, hence a thing's existence, to me, does follow from its identity. To me, a thing's existence is its identity.
      I agree that contingent things cannot have the reason for their existence in themselves, because then they would indeed be necessary.
      But, if you don't want to beg the question, you can't simply assume that a contingent thing cannot be distinguished from nothing by itself, because that is the very thing that must be proven.

      Possible world semantics is just that, semantics, a matter of talking about things. I am not realist about possible worlds, but I see no reason to reject it. Saying that a contingent thing be one that doesn't need to exist and could also fail to exist is simply saying that a contingent thing exists in some but not all possible worlds. Or, that the non-existence of a thing entails no contradiction.

      I am not claiming that a brute fact is not dependent, but its dependence should be argued for, not assumed. That's why I think you beg the question in your argument.

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    13. hence a thing's existence, to me, does follow from its identity. To me, a thing's existence is its identity.


      If taken seriously, such an account would lead to various absurdities. If a thing's identity really did entail it's existence, then every existing thing would also have had to exist for eternity.

      It would also be logically impossible for it to fail to exist, since it's existence follows naturally from it's identity, in the same way the impossibility of a square circle follows from simply analysing what the natures of the two objects in question are.




      I am not claiming that a brute fact is not dependent, but its dependence should be argued for, not assumed. That's why I think you beg the question in your argument.


      I guess I wasn't clear enough then.


      When I said that a brute fact not being dependent implies either that it is nothing or that it is necessary, that was the argument I was using to argue for this.


      My argument is basically that, if a brute fact were not dependent, it would either be not distinguished from nothing and therefore nothing, or it would be necessary in itself.

      Since brute facts exist, they are not nothing. The only other option is that they are necessary (for the reasons I already explained), which they also aren't.

      Ergo,etc.

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    14. You seem to be conflating contingency with dependence. A brute fact is contingent, but not dependent.

      "Contingent (adjective): occurring or existing only if (certain circumstances) are the case; dependent on." (From con- ‘together with’ + tangere ‘to touch’.) So, yes, "brute facts" are independent dependencies; which is why one oughtn't to believe in them.

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    15. Joe

      My account may lead to various absurdities, but most certainly not the ones you mention. When e.g. a molecule is split into individual atoms, say a water molecule becomes two H atoms and one O atom, the water molecule's identity is gone and the water molecule doesn't exist anymore. When two H atoms fuse into one He atom, the identity of He appears. It is not eternal and it can fail to exist. It cannot, however, become nothing at all.

      The second thing is that you haven't presented an argument for why a brute fact not being dependent implies that it is either nothing or necessary. A brute fact proponent usually believes that there are facts that do not have explanations. What you are doing in your argument is claiming that there are only two possibilities: nothing or necessary entities with perhaps various "contingent" entities depending on them.
      Actually, if there are necessary entities, "bothing" isn"t even a possibility, but that aside, I have no problem with you believing that these are the only possibilities, but a brute fact proponent is not going to be impressed by your belief because he dosn't share it and in your argument you have given no reason for him to share it.

      Now, I don't think we are likely to make much progress here, so, I am going to bow out. You can have the last word if you wish.

      Thank you for the interesting discussion.

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    16. Mr Green

      That is indeed how we use contingent in every day language. It is also the way some philosophers use it, but since that definition already rules out brute facts, as you correctly note, using that definition in a discussion about whether brute facts exist is question-begging.
      A more neutral definition is that a statement is contingent iff it is not necessarily true nor its denial necessarily false.

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    17. @Walter,


      When e.g. a molecule is split into individual atoms, say a water molecule becomes two H atoms and one O atom, the water molecule's identity is gone and the water molecule doesn't exist anymore. When two H atoms fuse into one He atom, the identity of He appears. It is not eternal and it can fail to exist.


      Which is exactly why your account of identity is absurd. For if a thing's existence follows from it's identity, then to ask what a thing is is to imply that it exists. To ask what water is is to show that it exists.


      If a thing's identity were actually it's existence, then it would not fail to exist at all.

      In the same way in which a square circle is impossible because it's theoretical identity contradicts itself, the identity of water would be necessary because it's existence follows from it's identity.


      Since water can fail to exist, existence is not part of it's identity, because (to use possible worlds terminology) there is a possible world in which water never existed, and neither did any of the elements necessary for it's existence either.



      The second thing is that you haven't presented an argument for why a brute fact not being dependent implies that it is either nothing or necessary. A brute fact proponent usually believes that there are facts that do not have explanations.



      What's next? Is the PSR denier going to ask me to prove the Principle of Excluded Middle to him?


      The reason why I posit these 2 options for a brute fact not being dependent is because these are the only 2 options.


      Nothingness would imply the brute fact doesn't exist, while the other implies necessity.


      The reason why these are the only 2 options is because the PSR denier would basically have to commit intellectual suicide otherwise.


      If the PSR denier states a brute fact is distinguished from nothing by nothing, yet still exists and does so for no reason, he wuld be basically be saying that a brute fact doesn't exist yet also does exist and does so for no reason.


      Such a statement is a logical contradiction which means the brute fact response is impossible.


      The only other is that brute facts distinguish themselves from nothing, which would imply they are necessary.


      There is no other option for the same reason there is no Middle in between True and False.

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    18. Walter Van den Acker: using that definition in a discussion about whether brute facts exist is question-begging.

      Well, it doesn't actually beg the question, any more than pointing out that round squares are self-contradictory begs the question of whether there are, in fact, any circles with four sides.

      A more neutral definition is that a statement is contingent iff it is not necessarily true nor its denial necessarily false.

      Yes, we can come up with a different definition, although it would need to be shown that it's sufficiently similar that we are not simply defining something entirely unrelated; and then that just shifts the work onto the meaning of "necessary".

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    19. Mr Green

      Brute facts are not self-contradictory the way four-sided circles are. If it were that simple, there wouldn't be any controversy.

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    20. Walter Van den Acker,

      Of course, they aren't obviously self-contradictory. It is being argued that, upon further analysis, they do appear to be incoherent. Whether or not this is true is open for discussion. JoeD has put forward an argument that, if a thing's identity were indistinguishable to its existence, then it would exist necessarily, thus contradicting the contention that it was brute. To maintain something is a brute fact, one would have to posit something whose existence was not implicated in its identity. This cannot be, or so Joe wishes to argue.

      How would you reply to such a charge? How can something be brute, and yet, have an existence that isn't distinct from its identity? This is the controversy.

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    21. Anonymous

      The point is that it hasn't been proven that existence is necessary.
      So I don't agree that to maintain something is a brute fact, one would have to posit something whose existence was not implicated in its identity.
      I don't believe there is anything whose existence is not implicated in its identity.
      To me, saying that there is something that is circular and has a diameter of 5 cm and that there is also something that is circular and has a diameter of 5 cm and that also exists is an absurdity.
      Something that is circular and has a diameter of 5 cm exists because non-existence has no properties.
      Something (that has properties) exists.
      So that's how something brute can have an existence that isn't distinct from its identity.

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    22. @Walter,



      I don't believe there is anything whose existence is not implicated in its identity.
      To me, saying that there is something that is circular and has a diameter of 5 cm and that there is also something that is circular and has a diameter of 5 cm and that also exists is an absurdity.
      Something that is circular and has a diameter of 5 cm exists because non-existence has no properties.
      Something (that has properties) exists.
      So that's how something brute can have an existence that isn't distinct from its identity.




      Actually, such an implication doesn't follow. Defenders of the distinction aren't claiming that something could have properties and an identity without also existing.


      Such identities without existence would be abstract essences and subsist like mathematical ideas and possibilities do.


      What this means is simply that what a thing is or it's identity (that which distinguishes things from other things, namely their identity) does not contain existence.


      Because, at least in our view, if a thing's identity did contain existence as it's whatness, it would necessarily exist.


      A square necessarily has four sides, but it doesn't necessarily have existence. Which obviously entails that existence is not a part of what a square is or what squares generally are.


      It's identity, when it doesn't exist that is, is an abstract idea that is not instantiated.


      That is why existence is not a proper part of things or their identity.






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    23. Joe

      I bowed out of this discussion with you. the key-sentence here is "at least in our view". That's fine, but not in my view. And the point is, you don't belive my view is correct, which is fine, but you haven't shown it is incorrect.

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  5. I tried to call in tonight but didn't get picked.

    Here's the question I had for Dr. Feser:

    Can you talk about the Augustinian proof and why you defend realism over anti-realism? Also, you will be sharing the stage with William Lane Craig soon, who is a Christian proponent of *anti-realism* about abstract objects. How would you reply to his arguments for anti-realism in his recent published work?

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    1. That's quite a large question for a call in tv show, don't you think? Though I agree I would love to see Feser interact with WLC's latest book, I'm not sure his interest is in realism of abstract objects (he may be writing his book on the soul at the moment).

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    2. Callum,

      You're 100% right. I was only really going to ask the first part.

      However, I see the second part as the biggest deficiency in the Augustinian proof. One of the most renown natural theologians (Craig) is also one of the biggest defenders of anti-realism. So, our use of the Augustinian proof may run into trouble if we're not willing to contend with Craig's points.

      Re: (he may be writing his book on the soul at the moment)

      In Feser fashion, he's working on a whole host of incredible things right now I'm sure. I don't mean that he has to stand up and argue against Craig's anti-realism formally. Just saying if we put forth the Augustinian proof we need to be recognize Craig's contribution to the discussion.

      If my memory serves me correctly, Dr. Feser's current book projects are philosophy of nature and the soul. He's also briefly mentioned doing something on the "motives of credibility" for the Catholic faith down the road. We need to pray he stays healthy! The man is a [rational] beast! I hope to pass his books down to my children and grandchildren Lord willing.

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    3. @JohnD,


      Are you sure? I seem to have heard that Craig was focusing his criticisms mostly on Platonic realism, and he even mentioned somewhere on his website, perhaps in a podcast, that he has no problem with Scholastic realism.

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    4. JoeD,

      Good question. In his published work, Craig definitely has a chapter critiquing divine conceptualism (he's discussed this in passing on his podcast).

      However, it's possible the Scholastic realist has a better model of divine conceptualism than the ones Craig critiques. Or, some other way to answer his objections. I don't own his book, so I don't know all of the arguments.

      You're right that his main critique is against Platonic realism, but he also defends in great detail (from what I've heard) an anti-realism regarding abstract objects.

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    5. @ Callum
      I hope he is writing a book on the soul. De Anima is one of the most interesting reads - a lot of food there for thought.

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    6. I don't want to start rumours. But I'm sure he mentioned it as a future *project* recently. Not that he is currently writing it.

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  6. Hello Dr. Feser. I just finished watching your interview with Fr. Mitch. Fantastic and engaging discussion. You not only are a gifted philosopher and writer, but you speak eloquently and engagingly on these deep philosophical topics. I am currently on my 2nd read-thru of your 5 Proofs book. There is so much there, and so much to think about, I had to dive right back in at the beginning for another go around. And I say this as someone who already has a decent grasp on these arguments (having also read your "Aquinas" and "Last Superstition", along with other works by Kreeft, Garrigou-Lagrange, Adler, William Lane Craig, etc.). Nevertheless, your provocative writing and powerful argumentation in the "5 Proofs" encourages multiple readings to appreciate the subtleties. I particularly appreciated how you presented the Divine Attributes as natural logical entailments of the arguments.

    I highly encourage your readers, here, to not only watch your sit-down with Fr. Mitch...but to watch your many lectures available on YouTube. Great Stuff. God Bless!

    Cheers,
    John

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  7. Recent article on dolphins learning language: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2003/jul/03/research.science

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    1. That is remarkable!

      It’d be great if Prof. Feser (or someone else knowledgeable enough in the philosophy of mind) could read this and say something regarding the issue.

      Because it seems dolphins might have the capacity to not simply respond to human stimuli by trial and error but indeed to spontaneously develop intelligent strategies.

      Could that actually mean they can understand concepts and form ideas? In other words, do they have a mind? O.o

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    2. Not so recent. It's from 2003. Here's something recent about color:

      http://nautil.us/issue/56/perspective/the-reality-of-color-is-perception-rp

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    3. I've just bought Chomsky's "Why only us: language and evolution". Hopefully he deals with it.

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    4. @Callum,


      I've read the article above, and there is absolutely nothing in it that requires an immaterial intellect.

      The dolphin was trained to collect litter for a reward of fish, and then decided to hide paper and rip it into smaller pieces because she knew those smaller pieces count as individual ones for humans, meaning more fish rewards.


      All one needs for this is a big enough imagination and a bright IQ intelligence in order to create such strategies.



      In other words, it's not something anyone should worry about.





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  8. Thank you Dr. Feser for sharing Pints with Aquinas with us. His podcast is great- peacefully fell to sleep listening to it a few times even.

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  9. Dear Dr. Feser,

    After reading your blogpost I downloaded your "Five Proofs of the Existence of God" onto my Kindle and began to read the first chapter.

    Shortly afterwards I made the following post to the newsgroup "Atheism vs. Christianity".

    "In Chapter 1 of "Five Proofs of the Existence of God", Feser writes the following.

    [I give a quotation of the paragraph following “Change requires a changer”, which I must delete here to avoid going over the length limit for my comment in the combox.]

    There are indeed many examples in everyday experience of change being brought about by a changer of some kind. In earlier discussions I focused on the example of a hydrogen atom spontaneously emitting a photon. This change is brought about by the interaction between the electron of the hydrogen atom and the electromagnetic field generated by the nucleus.

    But there is no good reason why a change cannot occur without a changer of some kind. Consider the example of a universe containing just one electron, whose state-vector is evolving over time in accordance with Schrödinger's equation. This evolution of the state-vector over time is an example of change, but there does not need to be any entity actualizing the potential of the electron to have its state-vector undergo this kind of change. It is perfectly coherent to suppose that this change might simply be happening. It might just be a brute fact about this hypothetical universe we are imagining, containing just one electron, that the electron's state-vector undergoes evolution in accordance with Schrödinger's equation. Something similar may be true of the more complex universe we actually inhabit, with a much larger or possibly even infinite collection of elementary particles in it. You can't show just by a priori reasoning that it is absolutely impossible that change can never occur without a changer. If you want to investigate whether or not such change can ever actually occur, you have to actually look at the universe and see whether it is true or not. In the quoted passage Feser is basically just assuming what he is trying to prove. Implicit in his discussion is that in any kind of change there always must be some kind of agent bringing about the change, and since it can't be merely potential then it must be actual. This doesn't follow from the thesis that change always involves the actualization of a potential. That by itself doesn't do anything to show that a potential just can't actualize all by itself. It *may* be that never happens in reality, but Feser hasn't shown it to be true in what he writes. We don't know. And this assumption is absolutely crucial to Feser's attempt to prove that God exists.

    So in this chapter, Feser has failed to make his case that it is knowable by a priori metaphysical reasoning from common facts of experience that God exists."

    I assume that you will say that I have in some way missed the point of your argument, or that my reply is in some other way unsatisfactory. If you think that my reply misses the mark, I would welcome further clarification of why you think that.

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    1. Rupert,

      How does your response not simply beg the question? It consists entirely of saying, "But changes can occur without a changer, here's a case I interpret as such. And it's impossible for your argument to be right, because that kind of argument can't be right." You haven't actually shown anything, or even argued anything; you've just stated several things. They're certainly relevant, but you don't give any argument for them.

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    2. The need for a changer is justified by an appeal to the principle of causality and the principle of sufficient reason. Both imply the requirement for a changer. Feser specifically argues at length for the principle of sufficient reason in the rationalist proof, for instance, and the same would apply for the aristotelean proof.

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    3. Rupert, I know you've been around these parts enough to know exactly what Feser would say, which would probably include something to the effect of "The lack of some designated cause in the mathematical formalism of some physical theory does not entail that there is no cause." You can imagine some state evolution of an electron sans a cause all you want, but all you are doing is running a mathematical progression through your head without describing how it actually corresponds to reality.

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    4. You are not alone: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2018/01/06/fesers-case-god-part-8-actualization-potential/

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    5. He's not alone in begging the question?

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    6. my two cents based on a brief conversation with my wife.

      a) for elementary charged particles i.e electrons that are not Taus or Muons physicists are extremely confident that they cannot decay as this would violate mass energy conservation and they have no known substructure. If it DID turn out that they had a substructure then like their larger brothers then its not a stretch to imagine that like them, its the weak force that accounts for their decay.

      b) for Taus and Muons the decay is mediated by the weak nuclear force in which case we have an actualization for the potency

      c) another potential for change in the electron resides in an interaction with its anti-particle the positron. In this case both annihilate one another producing a gamma ray photon.

      d) Even if the universe did consist of only one electron you'd still have to account for its coming into existence in the first place, which would be an actualization of a potency.

      e) This wouldn't affect the 2nd way in the slightest

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    7. Brandon, if Feser wishes to say there is something incoherent about the scenario I describe the burden is on him to say what it is. Why can't you have a universe like that?

      Miguel, I have read all of Chapter 1 of Feser's book "Five Proofs of the Existence of God", and everything he says in defence of PC and PSR in "Scholastic Metaphysics", and I just re-read everything that was said in defence of PC. In Chapter 1 of "Five Proofs", and in everything said in defence of PC in "Scholastic Metaphysics", I can't see anything that would show that the scenario I gave is incoherent. Are you saying that I have missed something, or that I should re-read the sections of "Scholastic Metaphysics" that deal wtih PSR?

      ccmnxc,

      The point is that the burden is on Feser to show how such a mathematical description of reality would necessarily be incomplete.

      Just another mad Catholic,

      You seem to be missing the point of the thought-experiment. The state-vector of the electron evolves over time, and we are assuming for the purposes of this thought-experiment that that is all that is happening. According to Feser there must be some entity that is actualising the potential of the electron to undergo that kind of change. I am saying nothing in the writings of his that I have read about the principle of causality shows this.

      By the 2nd way do you mean Aquinas' 2nd way or Chapter 2 of Feser's book? All I am claiming is that Chapter 1 of Feser's book is not a satisfactory proof of the existence of God, I will engage with the other arguments some other day.

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    8. two cents before I dash off to a birthday party

      a) I think you're guilty of putting the cart before the horse i.e. physics before metaphysics. You've clearly read some of Dr Feser's other work and I commend you for it even if you're unconvinced by the arguments.

      b) I meant the 2nd way

      c) I think your asking too much of the book (i confess I haven't had the time to read it), the sort of objection you're raising is probably something that should be raised /answered in an academic paper and not a popular level (although more sophisticated than TLS)book if only because very few people will even understand the objection. I can only being to understand it because I'm married to a physicist.

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    9. My original comment seems to have been eaten, but it gives me a chance to give a more developed response.

      Rupert said,

      Brandon, if Feser wishes to say there is something incoherent about the scenario I describe the burden is on him to say what it is. Why can't you have a universe like that?

      This shows a failure to understand how either burdens or counterexamples work.

      (1) Burdens of proof, and similar burdens, are, on the best and most plausible account, negotiated and consensual, and therefore cannot be arbitrarily assigned as you are trying to do; but even if one takes one of the older, clunkier accounts in which burdens are things 'out there', there is no serious account on which you can put someone under a burden merely by asserting something, particularly if the subject at hand is that other person's argument.

      (2) Since many proposed counterexamples turn out to be illusory on analysis, merely asserting that something is a counterexample doesn't make anything a counterexample. What makes it a counterexample is the particular reason why the example has to be interpreted in opposition to whatever it's supposed to be a counterexample for. Without knowing this, one can only guess how it's supposed to be working as a counterexample; and if one can only guess at how something is supposed be working as a counterexample, there is not something that can, or need, be said about it -- it's just been left uncertain what in it is actually a counterexample rather than, say, a tendentious interpretation. A very simple example, which I use to explain to my students why their counterexamples need rational support: if I take a drop of water, and add directly on top of it a drop of water, I get one drop of water. 1+1=1; therefore it's a counterexample to arithmetic! Of course, merely claiming it is so, doesn't make it so, and it cannot be so unless the reason why it has to be interpreted in this way is actually given -- and, of course, when one analyzes the kinds of reasons why one might give for interpreting it this way, it's easy to show that it is not a counterexample at all. Without specifying the reason why it must be treated as in opposition, you don't have a counterexample at all. You just have a possible candidate that hasn't been developed or examined properly.

      This is related to the answer to your question, which is quite straightforward in light of the above: you haven't told us what a "universe like that" would be; you've just given a scenario, said that it is a case of a change without a changer, and have told us nothing about what makes the "universe like that" in your scenario. If one does not know what in the scenario requires that there be no changer, one does not know what a "universe like that" is on precisely the point that is relevant to the question of whether you can have changes without changers.

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    10. 'A potential can actualize itself.'
      For at least sanity's sake, No.

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    11. @Timocrates,


      Well, even if a potential could actualise itself, it would first have to be a potential in order for it to make sense.


      And all potentials are by definition rooted in a higher actuality.


      Ergo...

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    12. Brandon, there is nothing unclear about my scenario. I described a hypothetical universe in which an electron undergoes change without any other entity actualising it's potential to undergo that kind of change. Feser has clearly committed himself to the claim that this cannot possibly happen in reality. He has thereby put himself under a burden to argue that point. It is not I who put him under that burden. He put himself under that burden by making the public comments he did in his books.

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    13. Brandon, there is nothing the least bit unclear about my example. I describe a hypothetical situation where an electron undergoes change without any entity actualising its potential for change. If there's something deeply incoherent about the idea that this could correspond to reality, then it's Feser's burden to specify what is incoherent about it. I did not "give him" this burden. He took this burden upon himself by making the public comments that he made.

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    14. The point is that the burden is on Feser to show how such a mathematical description of reality would necessarily be incomplete.

      Well, we can start with the apparent difficulty of trying to describe in quantifiable terms a substantial form and its operations. If we can't do that then we have one candidate already for "Relevant things the mathematical formalism can't capture."

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    15. My description of the hypothetical reality was "There is just one electron, and its wavefunction is evolving over time, without any entity actualising its potential to change in this way". You say that this description is missing an account of what the "substantial form" is. Why is that? I said it was an electron, what more do you want to know?

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    16. Rupert: Brandon, there is nothing the least bit unclear about my example. I describe a hypothetical situation where an electron undergoes change without any entity actualising its potential for change.

      First of all, "burden of proof" is a legal concept, not a philosophical one, so if you want to lay this burden on Prof. Feser, you'll have to wait for him to take you to court. In the meantime, the only philosophical "burden" we bear is the obligation to seek out the truth, and I trust you are willing to take that up yourself — or there's no point continuing the conversation.

      Now, you claim that your example is clear, but of course an actual philosophical argument requires a little more rigour than "because I say so". You can easily state, "Let us imagine a world full of round squares," but that doesn't make your hypothetical situation meaningful, let alone clear. Likewise with, "Let us imagine a universe where the effects of change occur without any cause of change." Nor does it help to say, "You can't just show by a priori reasoning that it is absolutely impossible for a circle to have four sides, you have to look for some!" It turns out that it's deucedly difficult to observe impossibilities, hence the popularity of the a priori approach in just such cases.

      Now of course Feser has explained why only something that is actual can actually actualise something. (There's a clue in the name.) He's also addressed the issue of "brutal facts". This stuff isn't rocket science, but it isn't trivial, either; if you look through the old posts here, there are a lot of good articles that flesh out these concepts (or provide more specific details about which to ask questions!).

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    17. I've read carefully through everything that he says about it in "Scholastic Metaphysics" and the first chapter of "Five Proofs". I don't find any satisfactory explanation given there of why the scenario I described is impossible.

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    18. My description of the hypothetical reality was "There is just one electron, and its wavefunction is evolving over time, without any entity actualising its potential to change in this way". You say that this description is missing an account of what the "substantial form" is. Why is that? I said it was an electron, what more do you want to know?

      A couple things:

      1. I'll admit, my knowledge of physics is effectively zero, so I don't know how in this particular context substantial form might play a role, but if you go back to Ed's post on causality and radioactive decay, substantial form plays a fundamental role in causing the decay to occur. Given that, then, we have a clear example of the maths not really being able to capture the underlying causal structure to the event, which just goes to substantiate the claim that a lack of reference to some cause does not entail there is no cause. If it can happen with radioactive decay, I see no reason why it can't be ruled out in your scenario.

      2. You gave an English language description of the event, not a mathematical one. I think we can agree that a lack of reference to a cause in a linguistic description does not entail there is no cause, but I don't see how this work when we move over to a mathematical description of what you are talking about. What constant or variable in the mathematical description of the event captures the action of the substantial form of the electron? You may have made reference to an electron in describing your scenario, and perhaps implicitly to its substantial form, but I don't see how that translates into the math referring to the electron's substantial form in any meaningful way.

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    19. Rupert: Consider the example of a universe containing just one electron, whose state-vector is evolving over time in accordance with Schrödinger's equation.

      To me this is like Hume’s bowling ball popping into existence out of thin air. There must be more to the scenario for it to work as a counterexample.

      In Hume’s case: something must be added for the bowling ball’s appearance to be an account of becoming-without-a-cause rather than, for example, an account of teleportation.

      In your case: because Schrödinger's equation is a mere equation, something else must account for the electron’s state-vector evolving in accordance with it rather than some other equation. Without this your hypothetical Universe consisting of just one electron cannot be a coherent example of change.

      As Brandon said, the rest of what you wrote is just question-begging.

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    20. Rupert: I don't find any satisfactory explanation given there of why the scenario I described is impossible.

      I'm pretty sure all these issues are touched on in Scholastic Metaphysics, but as noted, Dr. Feser has written many books and many more articles, so perhaps I'm recalling some detail or corollary that was mentioned explicitly only in some of his other writings. Nevertheless, all the relevant principles are covered, so it's probably best at this point to dig in to those other writings; coming to terms with a large system like Scholasticism requires reading different variations on the same themes until one really understands well enough to see how specific answers follow from the principles in general.

      Coming at it from the other side, it's hard to give a specific or detailed answer to your question because, as Brandon pointed out, you haven't given us any details or specifics. You've given us the barest outline of a sketch of a scenario. To get anything substantial to work off, you'd need to give us, say, a complete and coherent mathematical formalisation of this supposed universe. Otherwise why should we believe that your possible universe is, well, possible? It's certainly not self-evident. Where did you get an electron from without a positron? Is this electron at rest (contrary to its QM-dance), moving at constant velocity (meaningless if the electron's is the only frame of reference), or accelerating (with nothing attracting or repelling or acting on it)? But maybe we can skip the maths, because as Feser definitely explains in SM, physical observations always need to be interpreted. Why are we not interpreting the scenario as spacetime actualising the electron in some way? Why not (part of) the electron actualising (some other parts of) itself? Why not an angel actualising the electron in some way? It's not clear how your scenario is supposed to differ from another case Feser deals with in SM — the failure to distinguish concepts from images in connection with Hume's magically appearing bowling-ball.

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    21. Brandon, there is nothing the least bit unclear about my example. I describe a hypothetical situation where an electron undergoes change without any entity actualising its potential for change.

      Again, this merely shows your failure to understand the logical structure of a counterexample. You identified an electron change and asserted that it had no cause; you did not identify what in the scenario requires that it be interpreted in the way you suggest, and thus you left out the precise thing needed for your counterexample to be a counterexample.

      If there's something deeply incoherent about the idea that this could correspond to reality, then it's Feser's burden to specify what is incoherent about it. I did not "give him" this burden. He took this burden upon himself by making the public comments that he made.

      This again merely establishes that you don't understand how burden of proof works. As I specifically noted above, the best current accounts of burden of proof take it to be negotiated and consensual, and therefore you cannot impose a burden without negotiating it except in contexts where it is distributed by prior agreement. However, even in older accounts that take burden to be a property attaching to positions in context, it does not work the way you are claiming; by giving an argument, Ed would have fulfilled his burden by those accounts, and now others would have the burden of establishing that his argument was flawed. That is to stay, on standard old-style accounts, you have the burden; on new-style accounts, nobody has the burden until it is negotiated; on no accounts do burdens work in the illogical way you are claiming.

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    22. ccmnxc,

      Can you help me again to find where Feser has written about radioactive decay?

      David, you write

      "In your case: because Schrödinger's equation is a mere equation, something else must account for the electron’s state-vector evolving in accordance with it rather than some other equation. Without this your hypothetical Universe consisting of just one electron cannot be a coherent example of change."

      Isn't this exactly what needs to be proved? Why isn't it coherent to imagine a universe where the electron behaves in that way and this just happens to be the way that it behaves?

      Mr. Green,

      Okay, it is an electron moving in a Coulomb potential, its state space is L^2(R^3), the Hamiltonian is the operator that sends a wavefunction f(x) which is in L^2(R^3) to the function that sends x to -(1/2m)(\nabla^2 f(x))-a/|x| f(x), where m is the mass of the electron and a is a constant. The time-evolution equation for the state-vector is Schrödinger's equation. There are the details of the mathematical formalisation since you wanted them, let me know if I should explain further.

      Brandon, the burden is on Feser to explain why it is not possible that the scenario I described cannot correspond to reality. There is nothing wrong with my understanding of how burden of proof works.

      He took on this burden by publicly putting forward a claim that this was not possible. He has not fulfilled his burden because there is nothing in the writings of his that I have read which explains why this scenario cannot correspond to reality. If there's something I've missed, quote it, and I'll engage with it.

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    23. He took on this burden by publicly putting forward a claim that this was not possible. He has not fulfilled his burden because there is nothing in the writings of his that I have read which explains why this scenario cannot correspond to reality.

      You are simply trying to evade.

      (1) As people have pointed out, you have not established a scenario complete enough to function as a counterexample in the way you keep asserting. David Ezemba's comparison to Hume's purported counterexample is an apt one. As Anscombe noted, Hume's purported counterexample failed as a counterexample because it consisted essentially of imaginatively picturing something appearing and then captioning it 'Something beginning to exist without a cause'. But the picture and the caption were entirely separate and separable things; there was no account of how they went together or why they had to go together. Your example, so far as you given it so far, is structurally exactly like this, for reasons that have been pointed out to you. You haven't given a counterexample; you have given a picture and a caption, and have failed to do the basic work required to unify it into something that can logically function as a counterexample. All you have so far are assertions.

      (2) As I previously noted, modern accounts of burden of proof have generally come to the conclusion that burden of proof is something that only exists by negotiation. On such accounts, nobody 'takes on a burden' by putting forward an argument; when you put forward an argument, you just put forward an argument. That's it. Questions of burden are distinct issues negotiated separately. This is inconsistent with your claims.

      The reason for new-style accounts of burden of proof is that all of the older accounts gave principles of distributing burden that turned out to be arbitrary rather than flowing from the nature of reasoning or discussion itself, and to have no way of accounting for cases in which discussants set the burden of proof in alternate ways for various ends (law systems being the obvious case). But, as I already noted, none of your claims are consistent even with the older serious accounts. On most older accounts, burden of proof is satisfied stage-wise; you meet the burden of proof for a claim at a given stage in the discussion by giving an argument for the claim; the burden then shifts to those opposing the claim by showing, either by rebutting or undercutting, that the argument is flawed as support for the claim; at which point the burden shifts back, and so forth and so on. Different older accounts have different (and, as noted, problematic) principles for assigning the initial burdens, but this is standard. You, however, have have treated the burden as static, as something Ed took on and kept, which is a view whose problems were widely known fifty years ago. On no serious account does burden work the way the way they do in your view.

      What is more, your claims about burden are claims with which you fail to comply yourself. You have been repeatedly "publicly putting forward" claims while treating yourself has having no burden at all with regard to them. For instance, as pointed out repeatedly, your purported counterexample makes an assertion that is not justified in the way that would be required for a genuine counterexample; you have not only not seen yourself as having any burden to justify it, you have repeatedly ignored the logical criticisms that have been made on this point. Likewise, you have repeatedly made public claims about burden of proof, thus by your own account "taking on the burden" but have made no attempts whatsoever to fulfill anything remotely like a burden of proof with regard to them. Your entire brilliant discussion of the nature of burden of proof consists of the bare assertion "There is nothing wrong with my understanding of how burden of proof works" combined with the bare assertion that Ed took on a burden by publicly putting forward claims. You yourself show yourself to be wrong.

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    24. Rupert: Why isn't it coherent to imagine a universe where the electron behaves in that way and this just happens to be the way that it behaves?

      There is a difference between being able to “imagine a universe where the electron behaves in that way and this just happens to be the way that it behaves,” and being able to conceive it. Imagining don’t get it done, Dude, as John Wayne might say.

      Now can I conceive of an electron’s state-vector evolving in the way you describe, without also conceiving of its cause? Yes. But can I conceive of an electron’s state-vector evolving in the way you describe with no cause? No. Your hypothetical must be an incomplete description, and so far it’s not enough to work as the counterexample you desire. You at least need something that accounts for why your lonely electron’s state-vector evolves in the way you describe rather than some other way. I don’t think you can do that and still have an example of change without a cause.

      As an aside: there is no such thing as a brute fact. For someone like you, who is into “burdens,” doesn’t it feel wrong to try and dissolve a sound and valid argument with what amounts to “no reason, it just happens to be that way”? Are your own arguments not worth more than that?

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    25. Isn't this simple? A potential cannot actualises itself. Why? Well, where is it getting the actuality from? Itself? So it's not potential then?


      It's like saying a triangle can have 4 sides. Of course it can't. Where is it getting the 4th side from? It is either not a triangle, or it doesn't have 4 sides.

      You can't give what you don't have. But this is even more absurd since you can't give yourself something you don't have. If you do have it, you can't give it to yourself, since you already have it. A potential cannot give itself actuality, let alone give to anything else.

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    26. Rupert, here is the most relevant post:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/12/causality-and-radioactive-decay.html

      I would also like to gesture towards grodrigues's post in Ed's Oerter Contra the Principle of Causality, since he has competence in mathematical physics. Pay special attention to option 3:

      There are at least three ways to rationalize its [Bell's Theorem's] conclusions while keeping a realist interpretation:

      1. Non-local causes: this is the route you mentioned. It keeps the possibility of science and rationality intact and in fact I have a lot of sympathy for it. For if Quantum Mechanics is telling an approximately correct picture of reality then non-locality is just about inevitable. In CI it is located in the state vectors that are inherently non-local (straightforward consequence of Heisenberg's principle). CI salvages the mess by stating that state vectors are not directly observable and are something like a purely theoretical construct. Of course the lump was just shifted to a different place and it reappears in "spooky action at a distance" phenomena. The problem with non-local variables is that it opens a *nasty* can of worms and does not bode well for the intelligibility of the universe.

      I should add that there are other causal, purely deterministic interpretations of QM, but either they are completely mad (many-worlds interpretation) or I do not understand them (Ahoronov's time symmetric theories). And there are interpretations that are agnostic on the issue (M. Born's ensemble interpretation and consistent histories). Not *one* of the traffickers in uncaused events has bothered to explain why we should prefer one interpretation to any other, especially when the empirical data cannot decide the matter. So what are they appealing to? Their own ignorance?

      We can also:

      2. Posit a non-natural cause, like God.

      This is occasionalism in disguise and a hard pill to swallow for both atheists and Thomists.

      3. Posit a cause that cannot be described in mathematical terms, meaning it cannot be described as a random sample drawn from a probability space with a well-defined probability and expectation value. The cause in question could still be local, natural and real, but just not describable by mathematical formalisms, and concomitantly by the empirical sciences. Something like a "nature that actualizes its perfection" -- that Aquinas dude was onto something.

      I can already imagine the indignant response to 3. Something like "Hey you are cheating!" by appealing to non-measurable causes, and thus not amenable to scientific treatment. But pray, someone enlighten me how is it different from the *blatant* cheating in assuming an equally non-empirically falsifiable absence of causes? What is good for the goose is good for the gander and all that. Not that the peddlers in uncaused events have deigned to define causality writ large for us; they can hardly say what it is, but by God they know it is violated. But this just highlights the main lesson of this discussion. The debate is ultimately metaphysical; it is not that input from the hard empirical sciences is irrelevant to it, is that it *alone* cannot decide the issue, not even in principle.


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    27. Brandon, if there's some claim I've put forward and I have a burden of proof to meet, all you have to do is specify which claim you'd like me to defend. What is it for which you want me to argue?

      I described a hypothetical scenario of an electron undergoing change in such a way that no entity is actualising its potential for change. All I have said is that I have not seen anything in any writing of Edward Feser that I have read which shows me why this is not possible. Apparently, you think there is something more I need to do. Well, I'll do my best to try to form a clear concept of what it is you want me to do. What is it that is unclear about the scenario I put forward? What is missing from it? I'm afraid I just don't get it. Sorry if I'm being thick. You'll have to do your best to help me. It is not meant to be a counter-example. The idea is just meant to be, Edward Feser has an obligation to explain why this is not a possible way that reality might have been. That's all.

      You also say I have an obligation to explain why the account of "burden of proof" I gave is the correct one. Very well then. What's your account of what Edward Feser has to do? Does he or does not have an obligation to explained why the scenario I described is not a possible way that reality might have been? If he does have such an obligation, has he fulfilled it and if so where, and if he doesn't have such an obligation, why is that exactly? Does he get to just assert that there is no possible way that this scenario could correspond to reality without offering any explanation of why that is?

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    28. David,

      "But can I conceive of an electron’s state-vector evolving in the way you describe with no cause? No."

      It seems to you that you can't conceive it, it seems to me that I can. How are we going to resolve that disagreement? Maybe you can show me how I made a mistake in thinking that I can conceive of it? That's the kind of thing about which mistakes are possible, is it? Can you tell me more about that?

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    29. Billy,

      "Well, where is it getting the actuality from?"

      Why does it have to get it from anywhere? Why can't the potential just be actualised, and that's all there is to it?

      It's one thing to say it never works like that in reality. It's another thing to say that it's absolutely inconceivable that it could possibly work like that in reality. It seems to be people are claiming that it's inconceivable that it could occur that way in reality. I can't see it. It seems to me that I can conceive of it. Am I mistaken in thinking that? Well, maybe, but you'll need to show me where my mistake lies.

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    30. ccmnxc, yes, this is fine, although option 3 doesn't seem very coherent to me. That is an account of how quantum physics can be *reconciled* with the Scholastic principle of causality. Sure, I'm not saying the two things can't be made consistent with one another. I am asking what reason there is for me to think that the principle of causality absolutely has to be the truth about reality and that it couldn't possibly be any other way. So that is a different question. What you quote is all well and good, but it doesn't lead me to alter anything that I said above.

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    31. Rupert:

      "Why does it have to get it from anywhere? Why can't the potential just be actualised, and that's all there is to it?"

      Well then it occurs as a matter of brute fact, its inexplicable, unintelligible. I assume you mean a metaphysical brute fact btw, not an epistemological brute fact, meaning its not that we have exhausted all enquiry and are unable to find an explanation, but rather that there genuinely is no explanation.

      As has been pointed out, you have the burden of explaining why not outright rejecting the existence of brute facts in this particular instance is unreasonable, not Feser to justify why it is reasonable. Why? Because you deny brute facts whenever you think you have reasonable justification to believe any explanation for anything at all, from science, to mathematics, to morality, etc, but yet you question this one point. You have the burden of explaining why you don't reject it in this particular instance.

      Imagine someone accepts the Doppler effect to account for the change in wavelength of a wave in every instance, but then doubts it in one particular instance. Its not up to the proponents of the Doppler effect to justify why they accept it in this instance, but up to the person who questions it to explain why they question it.

      Ultimately, if you want to go down this road, to be consistent, you must be claiming that it is just as reasonable to conclude that literally every explanation of every kind is a brute fact. Not only do you collapse our ability to reason all together, but you risk collapse the very intelligibility of the world entirely. If you aren't willing to do that, then you are the one with the burden.

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    32. Given that, Feser has explained why accepting even just one brute facts, of the metaphysical sort, does indeed end up collapsing the intelligibility of the world completely. He has addressed this in different degrees here, in his recent book, "Five Proofs..." when discussing the PSR, and elsewhere.

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    33. Rupert, fair enough. Not sure where there might be any incoherence in option 3, but we can set that aside for now.

      Regarding brute facts, it's already been under discussion, but the broad reason why appeals to brute facts won't work is because it makes mincemeat out of the intelligibility of basically everything.
      Laws of nature: Gone
      Probability: Gone
      Principle of Parsimony: Gone
      Inductive Inference: Gone
      Etc.

      All of these require a sort of stable and intelligible reality to be ultimately grounded, and yet brute facts precisely deny this intelligibility. What gives us grounds to say any of the above listed hold? If the answer is anywhere along the lines of "The universe and its governing rules work in such a way as to limit brute facts to this small area or other," the question then becomes why those rules and norms of the universe cannot be brutely violated.

      The problem gets even worse for the atheist, since it allows for brute deities. If it can happen with particles and universes, why not gods or Gods? The likelihood of the existence of God becomes not "Zero" or "Low" but "Literally impossible to evaluate." Which is fitting since that becomes the case with basically any probabilistic question, since bruteness cannot be controlled or regulated, mathematically or otherwise.

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    34. Rupert: ”Why does it have to get it from anywhere? Why can't the potential just be actualised, and that's all there is to it?”

      Ex nihilo nihil fit is as certain a proposition as the principle of contradiction (I think!) For sure, self-creation is absurd for it violates the principle of contradiction (a thing must be before it can be the cause of anything, so in self-creation a thing both is and isn’t at the same time in the same respect.)

      That nothing comes from nothing is certainly a condition of intelligibility. So unless you’re happy to jettison that same science to which you appeal for your attempted counter-example, you can’t keep telling us that there’s nothing inconceivable about a “potential just be[ing] actualized, and that’s all there is to it[.]”


      Rupert: ”Maybe you can show me how I made a mistake in thinking that I can conceive of it? That's the kind of thing about which mistakes are possible, is it? Can you tell me more about that?”

      See the above for why I don’t think it’s possible to conceive an effect with no cause. I do think you can imagine the hypothetical scenario you described. But intelligibility and noncontradiction aren’t concerns for imagination. Ah - Billy and ccmnxc beat me to it while I was composing this reply!

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    35. Billy,

      "As has been pointed out, you have the burden of explaining why not outright rejecting the existence of brute facts in this particular instance is unreasonable, not Feser to justify why it is reasonable."

      You're not going to be able to avoid postulating an least an epistemological brute fact. For Edward Feser, it's God. He tries to account for how this could not be a metaphysical brute fact by positing that God's essence is the same as his existence, but no-one has any clear idea of how this could be. If he wants to claim that metaphysical brute facts are not possible, he's obviously got to explain how he knows that. And he hasn't given a good explanation of how humans can know it, but he asserts it confidently anyway. That's why it's not reasonable, especially not when you're using it as one of your premises to get to a conclusion such as that the existence of God can be known with the unaided human reason. Simply assuming something like that as an indispensible premise in an argument for such a strong conclusion simply isn't good enough.

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    36. Billy,

      "Ultimately, if you want to go down this road, to be consistent, you must be claiming that it is just as reasonable to conclude that literally every explanation of every kind is a brute fact."

      No. There is absolutely no good reason why consistency forces me to say that. I will have to have some terminus of explanation at least epistemologically. As you know, atheists take the fundamental laws of physics as the ultimate terminus of explanation. Do the operation of these laws have a further explanation in the action of God? The atheist claims that humans are not in a position to know this, and Feser hasn't shown otherwise. This doesn't mean that every candidate for an ultimate terminus of explanation is equally reasonable.

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    37. "Given that, Feser has explained why accepting even just one brute facts, of the metaphysical sort, does indeed end up collapsing the intelligibility of the world completely. He has addressed this in different degrees here, in his recent book, "Five Proofs..." when discussing the PSR, and elsewhere. "

      I'll let you know when I finish reading "Five Proofs".

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    38. ccmnxc,

      Edward Feser cannot make it intelligible to human beings why it is that God exists, not during their earthly lives anyway. He claims that the existence of God is "intelligible in itself", and that he knows this because reality must be ultimately intelligible in itself. I on the other hand claim that humans' understanding of reality is limited and we are not in a position to know what the ultimate terminus of explanation is, metaphysically speaking, or whether there are any metaphysical brute facts. This doesn't throw the foundations of scientific inquiry out of the window, because when you find regularities in your observations it is reasonable to posit explanations for those regularities. Eventually you get to some set of fundamental laws which can serve as the explanation of all the regularities in your experience, we haven't got there yet and we don't know if we'll ever get there, but we can entertain the idea that such a "grand unified theory of everything" exists. Then you can go on to ask "What is the explanation, if any, for why this grand unified theory of everything correctly describes the behaviour of the different bits of reality?" Edward Feser is saying you can know for sure that there must be some ultimate explanation for all of reality which is intelligible in itself even if human beings don't currently understand it and you can somehow reason on a priori grounds that it must have all the divine attributes. I'm saying, no, you don't know that. Feser wants to somehow show that you have to accept that human beings can know this if you want to make sense of the possibility of any knowledge about reality at all. I'm saying, no, you haven't shown this. We can only just barely understand how it might be possible that reality is completely intelligible in itself, as Feser claims, that ultimately everything has an explanation even if human beings can't understand the explanation without supernatural intervention. But you don't need to assume that in order to make sense of the possibility of scientific inquiry.

      Human beings find out about reality by making observations of the world around them and formulating hypotheses for what the explanations are of the regularities in the behaviour of what they observe. We may also be able to have knowledge of some necessary truths like mathematical truths or even objective moral truths. But when Edward Feser says you can know the principle of causality as an a priori metaphysical truth, I want to be shown how you can know it. I've read carefully through everything he's written about it. Ultimately, no explanation is given for how he knows it.

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    39. David Ezemba,

      Sorry. Not convinced. I don't need to assume that it's inconceivable that a potential might just be actualised as a brute fact without any explanation in order to make sense of how scientific inquiry is possible.

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    40. Enjoy the Five Proofs, he answers everything you have said so far, as far as I can see. But at least be open minded. You have the burden of explaining why you accept the equal possibility of bruteness in this one instance, without any reason to, but reject it in every other instance. It seems as though you are just desperately trying to find any way possible to avoid the conclusion.

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    41. Rupert: ”I don't need to assume that it's inconceivable that a potential might just be actualised as a brute fact without any explanation in order to make sense of how scientific inquiry is possible.”

      How to demonstrate that you’re wrong about this? I mean you say things like, ”when you find regularities in your observations it is reasonable to posit explanations for those regularities” and I agree with you. But if one can honestly deploy brute facts as you have in this combox then when you find regularities it’s just as reasonable to posit brute fact instead apparently.

      You’re welcome to give an argument why an explanation somehow invalidates brute fact, but you would be arguing against your actions in this combox.


      Till then I can take any law of physics and imagine a counter-example that flies in the face of what you know about reality. The law of conservation of mass-energy, say. Don’t worry when anyone asks how my sealed vacuum flask, alone in an otherwise empty universe, gains weight over time - it just happens to be that way. And if you think you’ve been successful in this combox exchange, then you’ll also believe that the burden is on you to say why my brute-fact-grounded counter-example could not possibly be so. Bye bye otherwise well established physical law!

      Read Dr Feser on brute facts here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/an-exchange-with-keith-parsons-part-iv.html

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    42. Billy, the statement that I reject that possibility of a brute fact in every other instance is not correct. It might be a brute fact that my laptop performs the functions that it performs for me just like that and without any explanation, it's just that I happen to have pretty good reason that there is an explanation in terms of the flow of electrons in transistors in printed circuits on microchips. I don't know why you would get the idea that I'm "desperately trying to avoid accepting the conclusion". From where I'm standing, Feser simply hasn't made his case. And I don't think you could possibly ask for more from me by way of open-mindedness.

      David, with the example you give in your last paragraph, yes that's perfectly conceivable. (After all, you are the one who presumably claims that about 2000 years ago a man came back to life again three days after having died by crucifixion, and I'm perfectly happy to agree that's conceivable.)

      Our observations together with the principle of empirical induction give us pretty good reason to think it doesn't actually happen in reality.

      You say "when you find regularities it's just as reasonable to posit brute facts". Well, we *do* posit regularities as brute facts. It's just that some systems of regularities are more parsimonious and explain a broader range of experimental phenomena than others. Now, do I know for sure that the systems of regularities in our current best physics are just metaphysical brute facts with no explanation at all? No, of course I don't know that, but I don't know otherwise either.

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    43. David, this link you gave me looks interesting. He writes

      "In that case, though, the existence of a law of nature presupposes, and thus cannot explain, the existence of the concrete physical things, with their distinctive natures, whose operations the law describes -- in which case laws of nature are not available to the naturalist as a terminus of explanation (“brute fact” or otherwise)."

      Well, why not? Why can't the existence of the regularities be the ultimate brute fact in terms of which everything else is to be explained? And why is it not possible that laws of nature could explain how elementary particles come into existence? Quantum field theories do explain that. We don't currently have an explanation of why the cosmos exists but that doesn't mean that a naturalistic explanation of that fact is not possible.

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    44. Rupert: ”No, of course I don't know that, but I don't know otherwise either”

      And you must say that for all scientific knowledge. That’s why we say that brute facts are so corrosive to intelligibility - you can’t know anything, but neither can you know otherwise!

      Rupert: ”It might be a brute fact that my laptop performs the functions that it performs for me just like that and without any explanation, it's just that I happen to have pretty good reason that there is an explanation in terms of the flow of electrons in transistors in printed circuits on microchips.”

      Well I’ve given you two pretty good reasons that explain why some potential can only be made actual by some other thing that is already actual: ex nihilo nihil fit, and the principle of contradiction. Both of which are more certain than the probabilistic conclusions of physics and the special sciences. The principle of contradiction is violated in the case of self-creation, and an effect from no cause is as clear an example of something from nothing as you could ask for.

      Anyway I don’t think I can really add anything here. You seem a decent chap but we’re going around in circles a bit. I hope you enjoy Five Proofs. If you haven’t already read Scholastic Metaphysics I’d recommend it as excellent. Cheers.

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    45. @Rupert,

      "Well, we *do* posit regularities as brute facts."

      If scientists posited regularities as brute facts then we would not have any scientific theories.

      "It's just that some systems of regularities are more parsimonious and explain a broader range of experimental phenomena than others."

      If someone posits regularities or systems of regularities as brute facts there can be no parsimony or explanations. Why should parsimony be preferred to a series of unrelated and inconsistent brute facts to explain things. Why even attempt to explain anything at all if you allow brute facts?

      Now, do I know for sure that the systems of regularities in our current best physics are just metaphysical brute facts with no explanation at all?

      The "current best physics" just are explanations for the regularity we observe, the opposite of brute facts.

      It is incoherent to rely on the use of the scientific method and reasoning to derive the explanations for what we observe and then attempt to inject an ad hoc postulate that would invalidate the entire project from the beginning and at each and every step.

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    46. bmiller, I'm sorry but I don't agree with you at all. The fundamental laws of physics posit certain regularities in the way matter and energy behave. These regularities are the more fundamental explanations of the regularities we observe in everyday life. They are "brute facts" in the sense that no explanation is *currently* known for why these regularities obtain. The process of formulating scientific theories is the process of formulating regularities in the behaviour of matter which are as simple and wide in explanatory scope as possible.

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    47. @Rupert,

      It seems to me that we observe regularities, we don't posit them.

      What science posits is that regularities of the material world have always and will always obtain. With this assumption we can generate theories to explain how things will happen and also explain how things did happen.

      But of course the very act of generating those theories assume that some regularities act as causes for other regular effects following PSR.

      For instance we now have a theory of the strong and weak nuclear forces. If we merely stopped with the observation that atoms exist as a brute fact we would not have this theory.

      Now if you want to say we don't know why there are gluons therefore they are brute facts you have abandoned the philosophy of science that we started with.

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    48. So I never suggested that, if you can come up with some kind of good explanation why there are gluons together with a good reason that this is the correct explanation, then that's fine. I don't think that we have good reasons to believe that the cause of the existence of all of physical reality is the God of classical theism.

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  10. This video has been removed by the user...
    It's a pity; there was an interesting discussion in the comments showing again that one can embrace classical theism only at the cost of ignoring Kant's arguments. Realism and unconstrained application of classical logic and our notions through and through are prerequisite.

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    1. As was pointed out in that discussion, I think that Jacob dude has some beef with Dr. Feser.

      Don’t know why but lately he’s started showing up at every YouTube video to write massive Torley-sized walls of text spouting the same tired objections, most of them missing the point or begging the question against Thomism, and this is when he’s just not downright dishonest (such as when he accuses Dr. Feser of misrepresenting Hume and Kant).

      But oh well... he’s a marxist, what can you expect?

      (Hey, Professor, if you’re having haters that follow you everywhere then you know you must be doing something right! ;-)

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    2. And did I read it right when he said Aquinas and other classical/scholastic philosophers’ arguments are very well-known among philosophers today (and even undergraduates?), despite Ed’s claims to the contrary (even though these are backed up by extensive evidence)?

      LOL

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    3. Yes, but the Kantian position is 1) insufficient to account for why things don't pop up into being without any explanation whatsoever; 2) incoherent with interpersonal communication in which intelligible formal structures are already given to us, instead of our minds structuring the formal structures; 3) may imply that the principle of non-contradiction is not valid beyond our experience, which is a puerile and insane position.

      Kant's arguments are "not ignored".

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    4. @Miguel
      1) Exactly because we can handle only those things\events which comply with our mode of being\logic\notions and these don't allow such popping up. What's beyond that (but exists in some ungraspable sense) is Noumenon. Had we inhabited the world where things do pop up into being without any explanation, we could not imagine how it might be otherwise.
      2) Please, just spare me that Clark's bullshit having nothing to do with Kant whatsoever.
      3) Of course it does, it has to. Our logic is an instrument of our mode of being; one step beyond and its laws, PNC included, begin to crackle. If you stick to them, you end up in paradoxes. And that still staying within the domain of our thinking. And the most amazing thing—the notion that these laws of our logic have to be obligatory to God himself. Then, they are Gods, or that entity which laid them down.

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    5. Michael Login: Exactly because we can handle only those things\events which comply with our mode of being\logic\notions and these don't allow such popping up. What's beyond that (but exists in some ungraspable sense) is Noumenon.

      Whaddya mean "we", paleface? Maybe you can't do that, but I can. (Don't worry, though; since you cannot grasp my noumenon, there's obviously no way you could have known that.)


      Had we inhabited the world where things do pop up into being without any explanation, we could not imagine how it might be otherwise.

      Isn't "how things might be otherwise" exactly what imagination is for?

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    6. I find it impossible to credit a claim that adhering to classical theism, or A-T realism, can only be done by "ignoring Kant's arguments" as being significant. Kant's arguments are junk.

      Not all of his arguments. Just the important ones that he uses to get his weird ideas off the ground rolling. And his thesis / antithesis arguments are for crap. Any graduate student in philosophy - who has the training that an out-of-the-gate graduate should have, that is - can poke all sorts of holes in those arguments. They are so bad, in fact, that it is truly astonishing that anyone bothers with the rest of his philosophy any more.

      I second Mr. Green's comment, also.

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    7. >As was pointed out in that discussion, I think that Jacob dude has some beef with Dr. Feser.


      Jacob here. No, I don't have any "beef" with Feser. Since the video was deleted, I'll reiterate what I originally said. Kant's arguments — for example, his restriction of the causal principle to the realm of the sensible — flow naturally from his epistemology.

      This wasn't to "beef" with Feser; in fact, I enjoy his blog (which is why I'm here). My comment had a few jokes which some found as "mean-spirited," but I saw (and still see) as non-objectionable.

      The point it was brought up is that I found it inconsistent with Feser's insistence on not situating arguments in their respective philosophical context. Michael and I see this in Feser's response to Kant. Of course, if one isn't a Kantian, it may seem odd why one might restrict the causal principle to the realm of the sensible. And, as Feser notes, it doesn't necessarily follow that it can't (or Kant) follow and it would be a disservice to philosophy to simply insist, without argumentation, that it can't be. That said, Kant gives a very interesting analysis of causation that has remained immensely influential and still is influential in the popularity of treating causality epistemically, rather than ontologically.


      I don't see how I am "misunderstanding Thomism". I don't think I've commented much on Thomism at all; certainly not in the video under consideration.

      As for being a Marxist, that seems wholly irrelevant to anything.

      To respond to Tony on his argument that "thesis / antithesis arguments are for crap," I would disagree. I think Bob Brandom has taken the Kantian insight and applied it to areas of great contemporary interest, nor do I think anyone would argue differently.

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    8. I think Bob Brandom has taken the Kantian insight and applied it to areas of great contemporary interest, nor do I think anyone would argue differently.

      If you mean that Brandom has developed some worthwhile arguments of his own that are somehow similar to the thesis / anthithesis arguments of Kant, I wouldn't have anything to say about it, I can't find them online.

      If you mean that Brandom thinks Kant's own thesis / antithesis arguments are, both individually and in toto, good arguments, well, I doubt that there are very many philosophers alive today who would agree.

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  11. 1) But to affirm that position in order to salvage our experience of the world, aren't you speaking of how, necessarily, our minds would have to be like, and how they must always operate? If you do that to salvage our experience, how are you not already moving beyond our experience? How are you not already speaking of how, necessarily, our mode of being must be like? In particular, how are you not already saying something about such beings beyond our experience -- in particular, how these beings are logically incapable of causing effects that we would experience as violations of pc/psr? It collapses.

    2) Not an argument. If it's "bullshit", please give an appropriate answer to it.

    3) Yes, which is a proper reductio of Kantism. It is simply meaningless to say that the world beyond our experience could (and couldn't at the same time and in the same respect????) violate the principle of non-contradiction. And of course logic is obligatory to God as well; God is logic.

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    1. 1) Boundary is not fixed, we may stretch it as far as possible, adjusting our logical tools if needed (and that's why our logic is mere instrumental). But that doesn't change the fact of our being limited and standing on certain human point of view, which is neither absolute God's nor the other possible creature's one (unavoidably limited as ours). We can say nothing about Noumenon, we just do not, cannot know how the world is all by itself. What is our is ours, what is beyond us is not. If there were violations of PC/PSR we could not grasp them other way than we do because that's the way we are. And how can we be sure that such violations do not occur? Maybe there pops up one electron in the universe every 1000 years out of nothing? Or, more precisely, out of what is nothing for us.
      2) Clark's argument may have something to do with the problem of existence of other minds. Kant shrugs—of course they are capable of meaningful communication being the same types of creatures as we are (they have bodies, brains—why should they not be?) But all those are only more empirical facts which say nothing about what we are in ourselves, from God's point of view.
      3) God is not logic, God is an absolute freedom (logical constraints of any sort included). That's the old problem—Athens or Jerusalem, "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars". Here is a link for you: http://shestov.phonoarchive.org/sk/sk_0.html , no Kant at all, just Christian irrationalism.

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    2. Kant shrugs—of course they are capable of meaningful communication being the same types of creatures as we are (they have bodies, brains—why should they not be?)

      And he knows this, how? All he has is what HE experiences, and he does not experience their experiences.

      God is an absolute freedom (logical constraints of any sort included).

      So, God is absolutely free...to be, say, evil? Or, to be unknowable to himself? Or to be not the creator, but a creature? If so, your language loses its meaning, and communication is no longer possible.

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  12. I am hoping a resident A-T expert, here, might help me out with this question. I understand the A-T argument that God is pure actuality, and subsistent existence, itself (ipsum esse subsistens). However, would that entail that non-existence (i.e. nothing) is an example of pure potentiality? But it just seems counter-intuitive to describe "non-existence" or "nothing" as something that has pure potential.

    Furthermore, since God is pure existence, and cannot not exist, and is both infinite and immanent...then where, in all of reality, could there be any state or example of "non-existence" or "nothing"?

    Unfortunately this train of thinking leads me to the following nonsensical question:

    Does the potential for non-existence exist?

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  13. @Tritium,

    Nothing is the absence of both the actual and potential.
    So nothing is not "pure potentiality" since potency implies that something can come from it, a contradiction in terms.

    Furthermore, since God is pure existence, and cannot not exist, and is both infinite and immanent...then where, in all of reality, could there be any state or example of "non-existence" or "nothing"?


    Since God exists, "nothing" is not the state of affairs (but of course that is wrong since if nothing is the case, states of affairs do not exist either)

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    1. @bmiller,

      Thank you for your reply...and it sounds reasonable, and has been helpful. I think I may have made an incorrect logical inference...which was, since God = Pure Actuality and God = Subsitent Existence itself, then it seems to imply God = Pure Existence. Hence Pure Existence = Pure Actuality. This inevitably led to me concluding the converse...that is to say, Pure Potential = Pure Non-existence
      -or- in other words, a "thing" that is only pure potential is non-existent and therefore nothing.

      I am still having a bit of trouble working through the validity of my final statement / mind bender. That is, in Thomistic Philosophy, what is the resolution or answer to the following question:

      Does the potential for non-existence, exist?

      Thanks in advance, and thanks for your excellent reply and help in answering much of my earlier post.

      Cheers,
      John

      Edit: I had to delete and re-enter this post due to a typo. I take it there is no way to edit you post after it has been submitted? I see the "preview" ability, which is helpful...but I still sometimes only see a mistake / error only after submitting and re-reading.

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    2. @Tritium,

      If nothing is the case, then no thing can ever have been nor can be because there is nothing actual to cause that change.

      But something does exist, so there could never have been a time when there was absolutely nothing. So at least God must have always existed.

      God is Pure Actuality and so cannot change as that would require the potential to change which would be absurd. Going out of existence is a change so God cannot go out of existence. It follows that there can't be a potential for non-existence.

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    3. bmiller

      I think Tritium was asking whether a potential for non-existence can exist in other beings. Of course god can't have a potential for non-existence, but I think Tritium's question is interesting because it is claimed that contingent entities can go out of existence, so it does seem that they have the potential for non-existence.

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    4. @Walter,

      If that is so, then I don't think it is controversial that contingent things can cease to be, so yes they have that potential.

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    5. Bmiller:

      While I basically agree with gist of your reply, I wouldn't have said contingent being had the potential for non-existence.

      Don't potentials have to be actualised by some other thing already actual in the same way? Actualising a potential for non-existence then would be absurd.

      Rather contingent being has a potential for existence that must be actualised in each and every moment by some thing already existing. Non-existence is therefore possible for contingent being but not a potential.

      Smarter commenters might want to correct me!

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  14. Summary:
    I see philosophy as a forked path following which we must make choices now and then. There is no strict justification for any of these choices since logic itself might be questioned. But at the very least, every choice has to be reflected upon in order to be consistent with the previous choices. Classical theism is a philosophy of common sense, it is clear and transparent. Alas, reality turns out not to allow for such a simplicity. CT might be attacked from at least two standpoints—externally from Kantianism and internally from Christian irrationalism (Kierkegaard , Shestov). The former questions the grounds of CT, asking what are the reasons for our believing that our logic and our notions suffice for understanding God, the world and a man in that world. Kant (arguably) demonstrates impossibility of such an endeavor. Christian irrationalism denies "God-as-a-logician" for whom 2+2 always equals 4 and PC/PSR are Necessity. It cannot believe (and I support this move) in God bowing to Necessity. Kierkegaard: "God signifies that everything is possible, and that everything is possible signifies God." So, it seems that all this boils down to the choice between A/T realism/rationalism on the one hand and Kantian transcendentalism and Christian irrationalism on the other. I prefer the latter, my motto: "It cannot be so simple!" Were the world and God such as A/T describe them, it would be an utmost miracle for me. Of course, it might be the case after all... and so on.

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    1. I think your philosophy basically rests on a kind of ad hoc randomness. That is, you need to believe the world lacks an innate reason for being the way it is. I think Revelation would go against this for a believer, as God said His creation is good: I think you are right in that in many ways we can imagine things being otherwise than they are; however, it's the fact they are not that requires an explanation. It seems at least easy enough to imagine a state of affairs where physical life would not be ordinarily possible, for example. But that it is is manifest and indeed necessary, otherwise we could not think or imagine at all. Consider just how many things had to be just right for life on Earth to be possible, particularly in its present rich diversity, where life graduates in fullness: if any number of things were otherwise than as they are, we could not be here to wonder about it. Therefore I think we have good reason to think the world is not without reason: without at least us there wouldn't even be a corporeal being to know and appreciate the world. But as it is, there is such a being, which adds or gives a kind of completion to the world.

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  15. I wrote a lengthy response but blogger didn't post it. Took me 45 minutes to write. I feel empty inside.

    Oh well, I'll rewrite everything later on.

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    1. @Miguel,


      One question related to the PSR that I would like to ask.


      Granted that the PSR is true and that God exists, the next question that comes to us is: Why did God decide to create this world rather than another?


      This specific question is what I'm interested in, since some claim that they can argue against PSR by either having God's choice not be free and therefore necessary and thus entailing necessitarianism, or that God's choice is brute and for no reason.


      There have been several responses I've read so far, so I would like to see where you fit in:


      1) Freedom for God does NOT mean chosing between alternatives or the capacity to have chosen differently otherwise, but simply that God was not constrained or forced by either something in His own nature, or by anything outside of Him, to create the world.


      Because this is what freedom means, simply and without introducing alternatives, the answer to the question of why God decided to create THIS world rather than another is simply that this is what God chose to do.


      And since Divine Simplicity implies that God is His Will and thus His Choice, the answer to the question of why this rather than another is simply that God is God.




      This answer, however, runs into the objection that, since God is His Will, if He had chosen differently from eternity, we would have a different God because God's Will would have been different.


      This objection is refuted by appealing to the distinction between God's Will and the potential objects that His Will could chose. Thus, even if God had chosen differently, we would still have the same God, but with a different object of His will.


      What do you think?



      2) The human intellect by it's nature follows the PSR perfectly. Every choice it makes and every decision it does is because of some particular good over another, because of some reason over another, because of some final end or goal, whether conscious or subconscious, immediate or distant, big or small.


      As such, it is impossible that a human do something brutely, or rather, something that violates PSR.


      And because God is Intellect itself, it follows that God also obeys the PSR perfectly. Which means that God cannot even in principle chose something brutely and for no reason, which means He created this world rather than another for a reason.


      This reason may also be analogous to human reasons when chosing what ice cream flavour to buy, or what activity to do or a whole host of other such things.


      This means that we can be certain that there is a reason for why God decided to create this world rather than another, it just is not the sort of thing we can know right now, in this world. And it may even be something that we cannot ever know even in principle.


      But what we DO know is that there is a reason as to why this rather than that for God.


      What do you think?

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    2. Check out Pruss' paper on his website "Divine Creative Freedom"

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  16. Anybody know how I can watch Barron and WLC

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    1. https://www.facebook.com/BishopRobertBarron/videos/1640096029362851/

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