Thursday, February 14, 2019

The latest on Five Proofs


My book Five Proofs of the Existence of God is briefly reviewed by Christopher McCaffery in the March 2019 issue of First Things.  From the review:

Addressing contemporary and historical objections, Feser explains the logic of each proof with impressive clarity… Five Proofs is a useful resource for anyone seeking an introduction to historical arguments about God’s existence and their relationship to contemporary philosophical scholarship.

Glenn Siniscalchi also recently reviewed the book in the December 2018 issue of Religious Studies Review.  From the review:

Although the book can be appreciated by newcomers to the field, the book is chock-full with detailed information that will be of tremendous use to theologians and philosophers...  

Always charitable, clear, and intellectually engaging, Five Proofs of the Existence of God should be seen as a welcome addition to books on natural theology.

I was recently interviewed about the book by Pat Flynn for WCAT Radio.  You can listen to the interview here or here.  It’s a pretty wide-ranging discussion that touches on matters that go beyond the book.

40 comments:

  1. It was definitely an excellent book. Looking forward to your next. If you don't mind, Ed, I've had an issue with the retorsion argument for PSR you present in Five Ways.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but your argument is that if ~PSR is true then there's a possibility that our cognition may be plagued by brute facts, perhaps we think a particular conclusion derives from certain premises when in fact it doesn't, perhaps our cognitive deliverances are not intelligible. Therefore, in a ~PSR world could not trust our cognitive deliverances and should remain uber skeptics towards them. Your argument is that the possibility of faulty cognition is enough to justify uber skepticism about said cognition.

    If you were to be consistent with this line of logic, however, we should also be uber skeptics in a PSR world. For surely it's at least possible that, say, we're plugged into the matrix, or that a Cartesian Demon plagues our minds. Couldn't one argue that your argument that the possibility of cognitive deception proves too much?

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    1. Denial of PSR necessarily implies possibilities that seriously could be true for no reason.

      One of these is cognitive skepticism, which entails agnosticism about our cognitive faculties.

      But we reject cognitive skepticism on a daily basis. We don't live as if the possibility of brute fact cognitive deliverances is actually serious.

      Therefore, our intuitions about our cognitive faculties are inconsistent with a denial of PSR.

      If we reject other skeptical scenarios, then we should also reject the brute fact scenario. But this can't be done without going against ~PSR, because ~PSR necessarily entails an agnostic position about our cognitive faculties.

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    2. There is a disanalogy between the skeptical scenario arising from PSR denial and the ones you cite, which is this: Skeptical scenarios such as being brains in a vat, living in the matrix, being deceived by a Cartesian demon and the like arise from the fact that we try to reason and have any knowledge at all. Thus, to preserve reason, we must reject those scenarios. This is obviously not the case for the PSR as one can reason and know things just fine (and in fact better given that intelligibility of the world follows from the PSR), so to deny the skeptical scenario arising from PSR denial is not to save reason and knowledge in the same way that is the case when we deny the other skeptical scenarios mentioned.
      Besides, if we denied any problem with the skeptical scenario coming from PSR denial being dismissed, then any argument which is meant to demonstrate foundational epistemological issues with a position could be dismissed, which would be to prove too much.

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    3. @ccmnxc,

      Quote: "Besides, if we denied any problem with the skeptical scenario coming from PSR denial being dismissed, then any argument which is meant to demonstrate foundational epistemological issues with a position could be dismissed, which would be to prove too much."


      Yes, that is a good point. The skeptical scenarios are a consequence of PSR denial, and any reason to somehow remove those possibilities from being affected by PSR while leaving the existence of things intact would be arbitrary.

      To put it in simpler terms:

      A denial of PSR just IS skepticism personified.

      If one denies PSR, one must necessarily admit the possibility of brute fact skeptical scenarios, which have no probability and can't be rejected as somehow unlikely.


      So a denial of PSR basically leads to skepticism, which means that to avoid skepticism requires avoiding a denial of PSR.

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    4. JoeD said:

      "A denial of PSR just IS skepticism personified.

      If one denies PSR, one must necessarily admit the possibility of brute fact skeptical scenarios, which have no probability and can't be rejected as somehow unlikely.


      So a denial of PSR basically leads to skepticism, which means that to avoid skepticism requires avoiding a denial of PSR."

      But this is exactly my point, if one denies PSR then he is admitting that it's possible that our cognitive deliverances may not be trustworthy given the possibility of brute facts. It is certainly possible, however, that a Cartesian demon in a PSR world is cognitively deceiving us. If Feser is going to argue that the possibility of an untrustworthy cognition entails skepticism, then he should hold the same stance in a PSR world--for surely it's possible that our cognition isn't trustworthy. And how are we to judge the likelihood of, say, a Cartesian demon or brain in a vat scenario if, given such a scenario, any evidence against it may just be one more cognitive deception?

      In short, I'm trying to argue that Feser's argument rests on this premise: "If it's possible that our cognitive deliverances are untrustworthy, then we should embrace skepticism regarding their function." But surely a scenario where our cognitive deliverances are possibly untrustworthy isn't exclusive to a ~PSR world. A PSR world could have equally likely scenarios. You argue that in a ~PSR world we could never judge the probability of brute facts because they are brute, unintelligible, not restrained by any probabilistic conditions. But brain-in-a-vat and Cartesian demon-like scenarios are so notorious because they operate in the same way. Any evidence you can present against them can be reformulated as being the mere product of the demon, mad scientists, etc.

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    5. I would actually appreciate a blogpost from Ed where he further fleshes out the retorsion argument. I'm no PSR skeptic but I feel like, unless I'm missing something in the book, the argument feels incomplete.

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    6. If Descartes was right about anything, it was that the Evil Deceiver is not, in fact, possible; it is not 'certainly possible' in any sense of the word 'certainly'.

      You are looking at the wrong possibility; the argument does not turn on the possibility of being in error (why would it, since error is commonplace under any supposition?) but on the possibility of there being nothing at all connecting thought to reality.

      Any evidence you can present against them can be reformulated as being the mere product of the demon, mad scientists, etc.

      None of these explanations are such that they could be brute, unintelligible, or unrestrained by probabilistic conditions, precisely because they would need to be sufficient reasons; thus even assuming the skeptical cases to have the force you are assuming (which they do not, being merely arbitrary suppositions added to the PSR-world scenario, and not following from PSR itself), they do not appear to "operate in the same way", precisely because they are not brute fact scenarios. You keep giving the skeptic a free pass, forgetting that you are supposed to be holding them, ex hypothesi, to the principle of sufficient reason and all that it entails.

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    7. @RomanJoe,


      Quote:"if one denies PSR then he is admitting that it's possible that our cognitive deliverances may not be trustworthy given the possibility of brute facts. It is certainly possible, however, that a Cartesian demon in a PSR world is cognitively deceiving us."

      The problem with this is that the very denial of PSR entails skepticism.

      It's not that ~PSR only opens up yet another skeptical scenario, it's that the skeptical scenario necessarily follows from ~PSR.

      Your mistake here is to think that the same follows in a PSR world. It does not.

      PSR has essentially nothing to do with skeptical scenarios that do not use brute facts. It doesn't open them up as serious possibilities. But ~PSR of it's very nature does have something to do with brute fact scenarios. It does open them up as serious possibilities.


      If one accepts PSR, that doesn't say anything about the seriousness of skeptical scenarios without brute facts. But if one has ~PSR, then that necessarily opens up the possibility of brute fact scenarios, which by their very nature have no probability and thus force us to be agnostic about our cognitive faculties.


      Another thing to point out is that this means ~PSR necessarily entails agnosticism about our cognitive faculties.

      What that means is NOT that ~PSR only entails the possibility that our faculties are not trustworthy. Rather, ~PSR entails that we must be agnostic about our faculties altogether.

      It is one thing to claim our faculties may not be trustworthy, it is another to say there is no probability either way and that we cannot know this.

      This shows that ~PSR literally entails skepticism about our cognitive faculties, and if one wants to deny skepticism, one has to reject ~PSR.

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    8. It is a given that skepticism is irrational. We don't take skepticism seriously because even though the scenarios seem possible, they also appear wildly implausible as they contradict all our common appearances. Phenomenal conservatism allows one to justifiably reject skepticism (if you have other arguments for the effect that skepticism is unlikely, they can be appealed to as well).

      In rejecting skeptical scenarios like that, we assume that it somehow makes sense to speak of the objective probability of possible skeptical scenarios. If PSR were false, however, then contingent facts could happen without any explanation whatsoever. No objective probability could be assigned to truly brute facts; if something putatively happens without any explanation, it wouldn't make a sense to say it is likely or unlikely, since it would ex hypothesi be an event that is not governed by anything in any way; it would be a contingent event happening without any explanation or intelligible ground whatever. As a result, skeptical scenarios would have no objective probability. And *this* would constitute a defeater for our common sense rejection of skepticism (via, say, phenomenal conservatism).

      Does it make sense to simultaneously accept these two theses? 1- Skeptical scenarios are implausible; 2- skeptical scenarios could occur without any objective probability

      I'd say no. But 2 is a consequence of ~PSR. If PSR isn't true, then no objective probability could be assigned to brute skeptical scenarios, as their occurrence wouldn't be governed by anything at all. And this counts as a defeater for our empirical claims.

      That's how I've always understood the argument.

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    9. Brandon, you said:

      You are looking at the wrong possibility; the argument does not turn on the possibility of being in error (why would it, since error is commonplace under any supposition?) but on the possibility of there being nothing at all connecting thought to reality.

      Can you explain why the latter is more problematic than the former? I think everyone is in agreement the bare possibility of error isn't problematic, but then why is the bare possibility that our thoughts aren't connected to reality?

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  2. *we could not trust

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  3. Feser responds to the matrix position in another post

    " If the skeptic were correct, not even his own arguments would be any good -- their apparent soundness could be just another illusion generated by the Matrix, making the whole position self-undermining.  Nor could he justifiably complain about your refusing to agree with him, nor take any delight in your friends’ agreement, since for all he knew both you and they might be Matrix-generated fictions anyway. "

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  4. I will now need to get this book.

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  5. Most skeptics of the PSR do not deny that most things have reasons, they are, however, not convinced that everything has a reason.
    So, when they encounter something that appears to have no reason for its existence, they keep an open mind and acknowledge that this thing might have no reason for its existence.
    After all, unless one wants to embrace a total modal collapse, the fact that this particular reality exists and not some other is a brute fact.

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    1. Most skeptics of the PSR do not deny that most things have reasons, they are, however, not convinced that everything has a reason.

      How does that work? Its not like we have experienced most things to know that this is true or even likely to be true based on our observations of anything we have experienced.

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    2. Red

      How does that work? I don't really understand what you are asking here.
      Isn't it obvious how not being convinced of something works?
      It works because, as far as I know, nobody has the gift of omniscience.

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    3. What I mean is that above claims about most things having reasons seems false.
      Skeptics of Psr shouldn't accept that most things have reasons.

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    4. To add to what Red said: once one admits the prospect that at least one thing has no reason, there is no basis upon which to even hypothesize, (much less assert) that it is only that one thing, or only a few, or only a minority of things. There cannot be a principled basis upon which to opine, except by taking an exhaustive survey of things and simply counting up how many have reasons and how many don't. Which is of course impossible. For, before completing the survey, one must not yet allocate to the category "things that have reasons" all those events which seem (before we have investigated them) to be quite similar to the things we did investigate and know have reasons - that they are somewhat similar isn't sufficient basis for such a judgment. Likewise, even the material scientists judgment "everything we have undertaken to analyze so far has a reason" cannot be assumed to apply beyond the local extremely tiny bubble of the totality of events and things, such an assumption is begging the question.

      Worse yet: if there are things that are or happen without a reason, we might not even be able to tell which is which with certainty: if the white billiard ball A strikes the black one B and the black one shoots off in motion, we are inclined to say that A moved B, but what if in reality B was going to start moving just then without a reason and we erroneously attribute B's movement to A's? If there are events without a reason, we cannot reliably distinguish between events which happen JUST LIKE events that happen for a reason but are actually not for a reason, and events which happen for a reason.

      Starting with the hypothesis that some things are without a reason leads to the stance that it is unknown how many things are without reason, it could be anywhere from only 1, to many, to the majority, to nearly all, even to every thing.

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    5. Red and Tony

      What you seem to be forgetting is that the PSR itself is a hypothesis. Basically a PSR proponent assumes that everything has a reason.
      But the hypothesis that most things have reasons works just as well.
      Of course, neither position can be proven, but that's another matter.
      The bottom line is that virtually no (human) knowledge is ever 100% certain.
      In the billiard bal analogy, we assume that the white one causes the black ball to move, and this assumption has worked out fine in all known cases.
      So, the hypothesis is that the white ball moves the black, and that is a falsifiable hypothesis.

      BTW, assumptions and hypotheses do not beg the question, precisely because they are stated as assumptions and hypotheses. Assertions can beg the question. So, if I were to assert that most things have reasons, I could be begging the qeustion. But that's not what I am doing. I am saying it is possible that most things have reasons and some things don't, but I am not claiming to know things I cannot know.

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    6. Walter,

      But the problem still remains that both of these principles must be known a priori.
      And in order to be internally consistent Psr skeptic needs to be skeptical of both otherwise it will exactly end up being a question begging and unwarranted assumption.

      I would deny your claim that no human knowledge is 100% certain. It isn't even clear that knowledge is essentially something that comes in degrees like that. And there are certain obvious cases of where we must know certain propositions with certainty on pain of absurdity.

      if I were to assert that most things have reasons, I could be begging the qeustion. But that's not what I am doing. I am saying it is possible that most things have reasons and some things don't

      This is a particularly confusing statement. This turns into a completely different principle then the original "most things have reasons". I am not sure it can do any real work .

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    7. Red

      The point is that neither of these principles is known a priori.
      That's why I opt for the more modest principle that it is possible that most things have reasons and some things don't. That is a working hypothesis that works just as well as the PSR without claiming knowlegde that simply isn't there;
      BTW, I don't have an ax to grind with the PSR. If the PSR turned out to be true, it wouldn't make any difference at all for my worldview.

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    8. A problem with saying "most things have reasons" without accepting that all things have reasons is how you can justify the first without accepting the second. Prima facie, the first should lead one to accept the other.

      First, the fact that most things have reasons is good inductive evidence for PSR, especially considering we don't come in contact with any clear violations of PSR.

      Secondly, there would be what Rasmussen calls the problem of arbitrary differences. If things X have an explanation but things Y don't, what accounts for that difference? Why does X need an explanation to exist, while Y gets to enjoy an inexplicable existence? Certainly not size. Or shape. How long it has existed. And so on. It seems there is no non-arbitrary difference between things that can exist inexplicably and things that can't. And that's certainly a severe cost for someone who denies PSR but nevertheless accepts most things have reasons.

      And even then, cosmological arguments don't strictly require PSR. A defeasible principle of the sort that we should look for explanations whenever we can (or that contingent things probably have explanations, or any IBE) will do. Sure, the argument is weakened, but not defeated.

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    9. (Necessary existence might be a possible non-arbitrary candidate for a difference as to why X doesn't need an explanation while Y does. But of course, if there is at least one necessary being that explains the existence of contingent ones, we already get the conclusion of the cosmological argument).

      IMO it's pretty much undeniable at this point that there exists at least one necessary being that explains the existence of contingent beings. I think the best bet for an atheist would be an attempt to "naturalize" this necessary being, not deny its existence. Though of course this faces severe difficulties. But then, to my mind, the most interesting part of the argument right now concerns establishing the nature of the necessary being (or its identification or close resemblance with God).

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    10. Miguel

      You seem to answer your own question"how you can justify the first without accepting the second". The answer is, "the fact that most things have reasons".
      I jsut do not want, from this observation, to the conclusion that therefore, all things have explanations.
      There is no problem of arbitrary differences here, because it is pretty clear that thing X can be explained by thing Y, but it is not at all clear how the existence of the system containing X and Y is explained or even can be explained. "Necessary existence" is a very vague concept fatre all.
      And I agree that we should look for explanations whenever we can, but I also think that we should be opne to the possibility that ultimately, reality may be unexplained.

      And, in fact, I have no problem with a "naturalized" necessary being. Of course this faces difficulties, but far fewer than a supernatural one, especially a personal being.

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    11. Walter, your empiricism is rather over the top. Do we conclude that all electrons repel each other (barring outside interference) from observing every electron interaction and deriving that conclusion? No, we come to understand their nature as being such-and-such whereby they repel each other, even if we do not check every instance. Examples like this can be multiplied, but the point is, if we followed your route and simply said "Most electrons [though we haven't observed most, so this case is even worse] repel each other, but we won't commit to saying all do" would be utterly destructive of the sciences, because basic behavior of fundamental particles (or whatever, really) is taken for granted in a lot of experiments and research. If we cannot rule out "rogue electrons" or "rogue X," more generally, any conclusions we come to from the natural sciences are going to be pretty (read, very) inconclusive. There's a reason Hume was a thoroughgoing skeptic; if only his intellectual descendants were so consistent.

      All that aside, we've given arguments for the PSR anyways, so to regard it as an assumption or hypothesis is to be willfully blind. I've yet to see a good response to Feser's retorsion argument for the PSR; perhaps you'd like to provide one.

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    12. The point is that neither of these principles is known a priori.
      That's why I opt for the more modest principle that it is possible that most things have reasons and some things don't. That is a working hypothesis that works just as well as the PSR without claiming knowlegde that simply isn't there;


      Well I would have to repeat my self here that either this modified principle doesn't really work the same way as the more stronger one. or it won't really work at all because its a hypothesis that is compatible with very little or nothing actually having reasons. It turns out to be a hypothesis that is unfalsifiable and less likely to be true then PSR ( given that what we observe about explanations is more likely to be true given psr then any other principle).

      So again I think you really are claiming knowledge that isn't there and this theory for these reasons don't really work as well as PSR and more importantly again the thing is PSR skeptic can't believe in a hypothesis that has same status as the one they reject to be consistent. They would have to be skeptical of both, that turns out to be hardly a healthy skepticism then.

      And I would disagree about your remarks about PSR and Worldviews but that is another topic entirely.

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    13. ccmnxc

      I was replying to Miguel's post in which he claimed that the fact that most things have reasons is good inductive evidence for PSR. That's "over the top" empiricism because it jumps from "we know the nature of natural objects is such that they are capable of causing (or being the reason for) other natural objects, to "therefore, the natural world has something of an entirely different nature as a reason for its existence."
      My empiricism, on the other hand, doesn't jump to such conclusions, but leaves them open as epistemic possibilities.
      I don't know why you think that the fact that there are arguments (good or bad) for the PSR means that it's not a hypothesis. I don't know of too many hypotheses for which there are no arguments.
      Are you claiming that the PSR is a fact? If so, lots of philosophers would disagree with you, so this seems like a bold claim.

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    14. Red

      I have no problems with people stating the PSR as a hypothesis, I have problems with people stating it as a fact. That is what I mean by claiming knowledge that isn't there.
      Some proponents of the PSR seem to have this weird idea that doubting the PSR leads to hyper-skepticism.
      All I am advocating is a healthy amount of skepticism

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    15. Walter, me and other users are trying to point out exactly that doubting PSR can't lead to a healthy skepticism. That there isn't much plausible alternatives available.

      And PSR is stated as fact only after very plausible and sufficient evidence confirms our hypothesis about reasons and explanation. At least it is much more plausible then any alternatives therefore it can be justifiably believed and denial have severe costs associated with it.

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    16. Walter,

      I was replying to Miguel's post in which he claimed that the fact that most things have reasons is good inductive evidence for PSR. That's "over the top" empiricism because it jumps from "we know the nature of natural objects is such that they are capable of causing (or being the reason for) other natural objects, to "therefore, the natural world has something of an entirely different nature as a reason for its existence."

      You mentioned even before Miguel showed up (right below Tony's comment) that the PSR is a hypothesis or assumption, and stated it not just in the second person but also attributed the use of the PSR as an assumption to PSR defenders generally.
      But that aside, your characterization of Miguel's position is incorrect on both counts (both in terms of what he initially says as well as what it entails). First of all, the notion is that we know the nature of objects such that they are explicable in terms of sufficient reason(s). Of course, we know that natural objects can cause other ones, but the primary takeaway from the induction is the intelligibility of things. This is to say explicability is something universal to whatever exists. What this entails, then, is that the natural world must have some sufficient condition. The idea that it must be some other thing of a different nature is not what the PSR is or immediately entails. That requires further argumentation, a la, cosmological arguments (after all, the fact that some people try to explain the existence of physical reality in terms of itself, whether it be eternal existence, self-cause, or whatever, shows that they can accept the PSR without accepting the conclusion you attribute to Miguel).
      Now you might say it is an illicit step to move from intelligibility in what we see all the time to universal intelligibility, and this is precisely why I gave the example of the electrons. If you don't like universal generalizations from a limited sample size, then science goes out the window because we have no stably intelligible conception of anything in the material world.

      My empiricism, on the other hand, doesn't jump to such conclusions, but leaves them open as epistemic possibilities.
      I don't know why you think that the fact that there are arguments (good or bad) for the PSR means that it's not a hypothesis. I don't know of too many hypotheses for which there are no arguments.


      Hypotheses are tentative and are antecedent to the majority of evidence. This is not how PSR defenders actually understand it, given that they have a strong inductive case as well as philosophical demonstrations (even if retorsive ones). Now, if you think that hypotheses are compatible with even this level of argumentation, then to call the PSR a hypothesis as if this were something of a problem for the PSR defender would be entirely pointless.

      Are you claiming that the PSR is a fact? If so, lots of philosophers would disagree with you, so this seems like a bold claim.

      Yep, I am, and so much the worse for those philosophers if they disagree. That being said, there are different formulations of the PSR. One that is commonly thought of is one explicated in terms of explaining propositions where the explanans entails the explanadum. This is not how the Scholastics would have thought of the PSR, and so what most philosophers disagree with might not even be something we're trying to defend.

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    17. Red and ccmnxc

      The PSR may be more plausible than other alternatives, but that still doesn't mean it is irrational to express doubt about it and take amore modest or prudent position, which is what I am doing.
      My point about calling the PSR a hypothesis is not because I think that would be a problem for the defender of the PSR. It is not a problem as long as the PSR is used tentatively. that's the way I personally use it.
      If I encounter something I look for an explanation because I think it would be irrational to claim that reality is completely unintelligible. That's is sufficient as a starting point.

      The claim that we know the nature of objects such that they are explicable in terms of sufficient reason(s) is question-begging, because it is an illicit step to move from intelligibility in what we see all the time to universal intelligibility, because that step entails that everything is sufficiently similar to what we see all the time.
      That may very well be the case, but allow me to at least have a little doubt about that.
      As an end note, if your version of the PSR is merely that the natural world must have some sufficient condition, then I agree with that version, but I don't think it adds much to our understanding becasue it is virtually a tautology that if X exist it must be possible for X to exist.
      Now, if you want to have the last word on this, you can do so, but I am going to bow out of this discussion.

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    18. Walter,

      The PSR may be more plausible than other alternatives, but that still doesn't mean it is irrational to express doubt about it and take amore modest or prudent position, which is what I am doing


      But this is exactly the kind of move on part of psr skeptic that isn't working as I am trying to explain.Among other things, Once again this more modest proposal turns out to be just as doubtful and unacceptable as psr for the skeptic.

      It is not a problem as long as the PSR is used tentatively. that's the way I personally use it.

      But this is a problem for the skeptic because even a tentative but reasonable psr can be enough to reach the conclusion of which its defenders want to reach.

      If I encounter something I look for an explanation because I think it would be irrational to claim that reality is completely unintelligible. That's is sufficient as a starting point.

      But either this starting point entails a full blown PSR or irrationality is back, even if one can hold that reality isn't completely unintelligible(which it might be given ~psr despite any appearance to the contrary) any part of reality you can pick possibly is, there is no objective probability to assigned when and where. So not looking for an explanation for anything particular is just as valid as your looking for it, just why should then we look for it? Neither will appeal to any pragmatism work here as there are several problems with it and it simply gets the order backwards.

      I also disagree with rest of your points but I think they are addressed to the other user so will allow them to remark on it.

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  6. What about the other philosophical accounts of motion or change besides the one presented by A-T?

    For example Bertand Russell in Principles of Maths write

    "Change is the difference, in respect of truth or falsehood, between a proposition concerning an entity and a time T and a proposition concerning the same entity and another time T′, provided that the two propositions differ only by the fact that T occurs in the one where T′ occurs in the other."

    About Motion he says that "The concept of motion is logically subsequent to that of occupying a place at a time, and also to that of change." and that "Motion is the occupation, by one entity, of a continuous series of places at a continuous series of times."

    "Motion consists in the fact that, by occupation of a place at a time, a correlation is established between places and times; when different times, throughout any period, however, short, are correlated with different places, there is motion; when different times throughout some period, however short, are all correlated with the same place, there is rest."

    He seems to have number of interesting things to say in this about motion, He appears very dismissive of the sort of scholastic doctrines about change, like doctrine of essential/accidental distinction.

    There is also this Dialetheistic account of motion defended by Graham Priest , who attributes it to Hegel which if I understand correctly is that motion is that motion occours if the body is entirely located at location x and not entirely located at location x. This account entails a dialetheia which is a true contradiction.

    Are these accounts as acceptable ?

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    1. Red, I don't understand how Russell's account (to the extent you gave it) in the least bit stands in contradiction to A-T. All he does has given a purely descriptive account of the bare-bones facts as they could be perceived by the senses, i.e. the material aspect alone, as reported via senses: since sense does not give us direct access to causality or to natures, teleology, or agents, nothing he has said says anything for or against those concerns. This account is intensely incomplete, but only erroneous if taken as if it definitely excluded formal, final, or agent causality. If Russell dismisses the latter causes merely on the grounds of the material aspect he described, his reasoning is empty. It is like someone saying triangles cannot have color because he can provide thousands of proofs about triangles without once referring to their colors.

      As for any Dialetheistic account which allows for true contradiction: since any contradiction can be set up once we allow one contradiction into the field, all reasoning would fall. To speak would be sheer foolishness, a waste of air and sound. Show me a Dialetheist who has permanently given up talking about his theory, and I will listen to him. :-) All the rest don't even (truly) believe their own theory.

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    2. Good points, I really like the triangles example you gave. He does seem to have little to say by way of justification of his dismissal. I suggest reading the section on change and motion in PoM, its small.
      I suspect its the work of his overall background metaphysics not completely exposed here.He rejects change in what he calls metaphysical sense and he also seems to reject reality of persistence.
      see:

      "The notion of change has been much obscured by the doctrine of substance, by the distinction between a thing’s nature and its external relations, and by the pre-eminence of subject-predicate propositions. It has been supposed that a thing could, in some way, be different and yet the same: that though predicates define a thing, yet it may have different predicates at different times. Hence the distinction of the essential and the accidental, and a number of other useless distinctions, which were (I hope) employed precisely and consciously by the scholastics, but are used vaguely and unconsciously by the moderns. Change, in this metaphysical sense,I do not at all admit. The so-called predicates of a term are mostly derived from relations to other terms; change is due, ultimately, to the fact that many terms have relations to some parts of time which they do not have to others. But every term is eternal, timeless, and immutable; the relations it may have to parts of time are equally immutable. It is merely the fact that different terms are related to different times that makes the difference between what exists at one time and what exists at another. And though a term may cease to exist, it cannot cease to be; it is still an entity, which can be counted as one,and concerning which some propositions are true and others false."

      If I understand this correctly then these are some very controversial claims he espouses.

      And I don't know just what to think of dialetheism in general. I guess unless there is some extreme insurmountable problem with other accounts this is just too costly to accept.

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  7. I would like to draw Ed Feser's attention to a recent video put out by Real Atheology, a philosophy of religion podcast. They critically evaluate Feser's rendition of the argument from motion here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rej95EITT8

    Note that they have 2-3 other posts criticizing Feser's argument. Dr. Feser, would you be willing to respond to Real Atheology's criticisms?

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    1. I doubt it. I had a look a few weeks ago at one of these videos, and they are juvenalia, unworthy of serious attention. They do have the charm of taking themselves seriously, the way idealistic youth often do, however! So that's something.

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  8. Prof Feser,
    Can you please help me understand the following analogy on p. 213 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God?
    "But it is simply a fallacy to infer from that that the world that he thereby knows is itself outside time, a world in which so-called past, present, and future events and objects are all somehow co-present. That would be like inferring, from the fact that a motionless hunter knows in a single instant that he has fired a bullet from his rifle, the conclusion that the bullet itself must be motionless and that it somehow is present at every point in its journey from rifle to target all at once."

    In the hunter's case once the bullet is fired the bullet is no longer dependent upon the hunter whereas space-time is continually dependent upon God as it "moves forward". Thus it would seem that if space-time is not a four-dimensional block God would have to be in time so that that space-time continues to be actualized.

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  9. I relish pointing out to skeptics that the Scholastic version of the PSR and the Rationalist version are not the same and that scholastics reject the Rationaist version. Also skeptical objections to the Rationalist version of the PSR are non-starter objections to the Scholastic PSR.

    I thank God everyday for moronic New Atheists they provide me with on going amusment in this dreary life.

    Bliss!:D

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    1. @Son of Ya'Kov

      On the subject of moronic New Atheists, I tried talking to your old pal Skepo (you are the same person as Ben Yachov, right?) recently. It was extremely frustrating, and honestly, pretty stressful! You can really feel the bad faith in every one of his comments, and I just decided to give up after realizing a discussion with him wouldn't get anywhere.

      He said that my statements that PSR was a logical axiom were of "impunity," and claimed that the Fifth Way was circular reasoning despite having been shown by others that it is not multiple times now. (He has also claimed the Cosmological Argument to be circular in the past, which begs the question of whether or not he just wants to claim all of the Five Ways to be circular so that he doesn't have to deal with them.) Looking back at Feser's articles "Review of Coyne" and "Debased Coynage," the names Feser used to describe Skepo were extremely accurate; especially i-see-what-i-want-to-see.

      I even continued the conversation later with the other atheist I met on Skepo's blog, and he agreed with me that Skepo was wrong about the Fifth Way. Just goes to show how lost in his own mind he really is...

      Generally, I've been having a great time looking up past discussions he's been in, and watching him get demolished whenever he gets out of his league.

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