Monday, March 18, 2019

Five Proofs on radio


Recently, John DeRosa interviewed me for the Classical Theism Podcast.  You can listen to the interview here.  We discuss my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God and Simon Blackburn’s criticisms of it, my conversion to Catholicism, my new book Aristotle’s Revenge, and other matters.  If you listen all the way to the end of the interview, John explains how you can enter to win a free copy of Aristotle's Revenge.

I was also recently interviewed about Five Proofs by Steve and Becky Greene on The Catholic Conversation radio show, by Gary Michuta on Hands on Apologetics, and by Pat Flynn for WCAT Radio.  Follow the links to hear the interviews.

This July, Graham Oppy and I will discuss Five Proofs on Cameron Bertuzzi’s Capturing Christianity podcast.  More information to come.

115 comments:

  1. Your books have changed my life.
    Thank you

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  2. Great interview, thanks for doing it. The arriving to Catholicism bit was interesting. Would love to know how you decided between eastern vs western.

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  3. Very detailed critique of A-T philosophy, Particularly perverted faculty argument and Essentialism.

    http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-perverted-faculty-argument-reply-to.html

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    1. I went through the 6th premise critique and found nothing of strength. For example, Feser mentions "rational and correctly informed person" then Angra presence counterexamples that specifically entails not being correctly informed and he/she only focuses on being rational.

      Hopefully my response will get through moderation.

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    2. The main criticisms above seems to be that argument doesn't consider how badness of perverted facts is overridden due to it leading to some greater goods and that essentialism suffers from vagueness problems.

      I know that Dr. Feser thinks vagueness is merely epistemic as mentioned in scholastic metaphysics, so I guess that would be a response. Not sure what can be done with first problem though.

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    3. The various gnostic systems that assailed orthodox Christianity in the early centuries were also very detailed. Which did not prevent them from being mind-numbingly stupid.

      But, because it is manifestly not a perversion of the sexual faculty to masturbate when a psychopath is holding a gun to your head and compelling you to do it (which, incidentally, it still is), therefore take away the psychopath and the gun and the compulsion and it's obviously not a perversion of the sexual faculty to masturbate. (Which, by the way, he gives himself way too much credit for intuitive moral insight). That whole blog was a perversion of the faculty of philosophical argumentation.

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    4. It would still be a perversion of the sexual faculty as such to masturbate if someone were to hold a gun to one's head. It would mwrelm be the case that in this scenario, the victim wouldn't be the one doing the perverting. Instead of masturbation, substitute adultery. If a man forced a married woman to have sex with him at gunpoint, would the woman be blameless in this case? Yes. Would the man, in addition to rape, be perverting the marital relationship of that woman? Yes.

      So yes, masturbation or homosexual acts wouldn't be immoral if indulging in them somehow fulfils the nature of a human being. The onus is now to show that these acts in routine cases do bring about a greater good than the evil of the perversion of the sexual faculty.

      That said, "Angra Mainyu" seems like a fitting name for the blog; it means "Evil Mind" in Old Īrânian.

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    5. @Sri

      Can pleasure be used as an example of "greater good" which fulfills some higher function by critic of the argument?
      Its really article, won't read it again but he seems to mention towards the end that these perverted acts might have some functions.

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    6. @Anonymous,

      No, because sexual pleasure is not an essential good whose absence would mean that a person fails to flourish in some way. It's not like health or prudence.

      In fact, I would say that sexual pleasure is (in itself) axiologically neutral and the drive for the same must be tightly controlled for the sake of cultivating dispassion (which is a moral imperative), and for that reason alone, masturbation and homosexual acts (and many kinds of heterosexual acts as well) would be inappropriate.

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    7. The pleasure can't be the greater good. The greater good is physical health (in the case of eating) or continuation of the race (in the case of sex), and the pleasure accompanies it as a motivation to engage in activity that needs to be engaged in anyway.

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    8. @thefederalist,


      While I agree that the pleasure in the cases of sex and food exists primarily for the sake of another goal, there are cases where pleasure itself is the only end of an activity, and thus is the primary good that is accomplished.

      One example of this would be getting a massage, which serves to bring pleasure but doesn't exist as a motivation for some other end, at least not directly.

      Another thing I would point out is that a particular difference between food and sex is that one can indulge in the pleasure of eating without perverting a fcaulty more so than in the case of sex.

      For example, one cannot intentionally give oneself sexual pleasure outside the context of marriage without violating the nature of the sexual faculty; while one CAN in fact eat smaller amounts of food for the sake of pleasure when one isn't hungry and without violating the nature of eating when doing so.

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    9. thefederalist

      "A motivation to engage in an activity that nees to be engaged" entails that sex is something that needs to be engaged.
      But sex, unlike eating is not something that needs to be engaged.
      The question is whether, if one has, for whatever reasons, decided not to "continue the race" it is better for the person(s) involved to completely abstain from sex (and refusing every single (good) aspect of sex), or to have at least one of the good aspects of sex(in this case pleasure).

      I think Angra is on to something in his essay.

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    10. @JoeD,

      I wonder if eating for pleasure _alone_ is virtuous. It would seem that it tends to inflame the passions, since eating for pleasure can easily become a habit and turn into gluttony. Ditto for massages -- whilst therapeutic massages are licit, massages for the sake of pleasure not only inflames the passions but also is based on what is tantamount to slave labour (for who would want to be a masseur or masseuse unless poverty forced them into the job)?

      @Walter Van den Acker:

      Pleasure is not one of the good aspects of sex, unless but good one means delectable, but that is the lowest sort of goodness, and axiologically it is neutral, and even dangerous, inasmuch as sexual desire can exert a very strong adverse influence on equanimity and rationality, unless one has thoroughly mastered said impulse.

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    11. Sri

      Even if it is true that sexual pleasure is the lowest sort of good (and that is debatable), it is still a fact that if one decides not to use one's sexual organs at all, this kind of good, whether "low" or not is absent. Whereas if one does use one's sexual organs, this good is present.
      So, in that respect, the latter is better than the first.

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    12. @Sri,


      Quote:"I wonder if eating for pleasure _alone_ is virtuous. It would seem that it tends to inflame the passions, since eating for pleasure can easily become a habit and turn into gluttony. "


      Well, to say that eating a single piece of chocolate when not hungry and for the sake of pleasure is sinful seems, well....absurd.

      It's not necessarily virtuous, per se (in the sense that it's not an act of charity, for example). But it's not sinful, either.

      (And then again, the term virtuous describes something that happens in accord with natural law, which makes it normal for humans to engage in. Which means that to say acts of charity are virtuous is the same to say that they are normal for us, or rather normative)

      As for it inflaming the passions and leading to gluttony, that is only an accidental result, and doesn't necessarily lead to it. It's perfectly possible for a person to indulge in eating food when not hungry for the sake of pleasure without descending into gluttony.



      Quote:"Ditto for massages -- whilst therapeutic massages are licit, massages for the sake of pleasure not only inflames the passions but also is based on what is tantamount to slave labour (for who would want to be a masseur or masseuse unless poverty forced them into the job)? "


      What passions? The only passions I can think of would be sexual ones - but that is, again, only accidental to the activity.

      If what you're refering to is that indulgence in pleasure may lead to more susceptibility in sinful areas and thus weaken one's resistance to them, then that too is accidental - a side effect of original sin, and even in this state it's perfectly possible for someone to not let this lead them to sin.

      The same goes for economic prospects - if being a masseur were a well-payed job, then this wouldn't be a problem. It's accidental. And even if it isn't currently, that is no longer a faculty based argument, but about possible co-operation with evil.

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    13. From what I get is that it seems the argument is really successful from a meta-ethical point of view in establishing moral badness of perverted acts, indeed it seems that this is best way to think about goodness and badness in general, pace the points made in the article.
      But it doesn't establish much where their moral permissibility is concerned.

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    14. @Walter Van den Acker:

      When I said that sexual pleasure was the lowest form of good, what I meant was that it is not the sort of good whose pursuit is in itself virtuous, and the absence of which would constitute a privation, like the absence of health or prudence. And it is not the only lowest good, for gustatory pleasures and those attained through experiencing a massage (to use JoeD's example) also belong to the same category. But not having access to sexual pleasure, just like not having access to richly flavoured food or massages, doesn't make one miss out on the good life. Nor can it be said that there is a right to sexual pleasure, just as there is no right to have a massage.

      @JoeD,
      Yes, my point is that indulging in pleasures of the body, unless rigorously controlled, will indeed lead to a greater susceptibility to vice, but it is not accidental to the act. That it is accidental to the act considered in itself, I concede, that it is accidental to the act as performed by fallen humanity, deny. We already have an active inclination toward vice, and anything more than a carefully regulated act of pleasure-indulgence will strongly push one to vice -- it is rather like buying someone with a history of alcoholism a drink.

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    15. Sri Nahar

      But the absence of sex regardless of its pleasure is not a privation like the absence of health or prudence. That's the point. One cannot abstain from eating without harming oneself, but one can abstain from having sex without harming oneself.
      There is nothing morally wrong in pursuing pleasure as long as this pursuis doesn't stand in the way of other greater goods.
      For someone who doesn't want to procreate, the pursuit of pleasure doesn't stand in the way of pursuing procreation because the person's wish not to procreate is not a result of his wish to have pleasure.

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    16. @Sri,


      "Yes, my point is that indulging in pleasures of the body, unless rigorously controlled, will indeed lead to a greater susceptibility to vice, but it is not accidental to the act...

      We already have an active inclination toward vice, and anything more than a carefully regulated act of pleasure-indulgence will strongly push one to vice "



      Rigorously controlled? Carefully regulated?

      So for how long should I be having that massage then? 5 minutes? 20 minutes? Would 45 minutes be the point at which I start flirting with the masseuse?

      And I guess I really shouldn't have eaten that last piece of chocolate...made me break into my neighbor's bakery last night and pillage his perfectly glazed cake creations! Oh the calories!

      There's a reason why I also stated "It's perfectly possible for a person to indulge in eating food when not hungry for the sake of pleasure without descending into gluttony....

      and even in this state it's perfectly possible for someone to not let this lead them to sin."


      It's simply not the case that the occassional indulgence in physical pleasure irresistibly leads one to vice. It may lead to if one isn't careful obviously, but the care required is manageable and isn't something to worry about as intensely as you suppose.

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    17. Could Parmenides like monism be true? ( By that it means a view that there is only one single undivided being, no composition or change exists) It seems very absurd though I once read paper by Michael Rea in which he argued that whether or not its plausible it still could be a live option in contemporary metaphysics because many prominent views some philosophers hold together entail it

      He argues that it ought to be accepted by any philosopher who hold following set of views.

      Extensionism: There are no unextended material objects.

      Exclusivism: Not every filled region of space at every time is filled by a material object.

      Eternalism: There are some past objects, there are some future objects, and there neither were nor will be objects that do not exist.

      The Plenum Principle: Spacetime is a connected set of points, and every region of spacetime, no matter how small,is filled by matter.

      Pretty interesting stuff, check it out.

      https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/437e/46a9d1e49b9eb765ca61d2139f9cdf9f2697.pdf?_ga=2.160701307.755723867.1553075920-633653646.1553075920

      If this is correct then anyone who accepts these must reject one of them.

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    18. I am the one who posted this above anon comment above I don't know why it was posted as anon and why it appeared here, I did intend to post it below, not in this thread.

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    19. @Walter Van den Acker:

      For someone who doesn't want to procreate, the pursuit of pleasure doesn't stand in the way of pursuing procreation because the person's wish not to procreate is not a result of his wish to have pleasure.

      Unless the person in question wants to indulge in an act of sexual pleasure which, although directed towards procreation, has to be frustrated if he wants to have pleasure. So it would be the case that the desire to have non-procreative sex is caused by a desire for pleasure.

      @JoeD,
      It is not the case that indulgence in pleasure in itself leads to vice, but that the same, when coupled with attachment to said pleasure, does (often) irresistibly lead to vice. But the more we indulge in any pleasure, the more we tend to develop attachment towards it. The answer then is to develop detachment as a habit of the will, but for that, one needs to obviously regulate how much one indulges in a pleasure. Where exactly that limit is to be set is relative to each person's initial willpower and habits.

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    20. Sri

      The desire to have non-procreative sex my be caused by a desire for pleasure, but the desire not to procreate isn't.

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    21. One doesn't desire to have non-procreative sex. One desires to have sex, and one desires not to be "burdened" with some of the foreseeable consequences.
      It's like you're on a post-implementation review board, and have decided that, "Boy, you know, sex would be perfect if it weren't for that whole pregnancy thing." Completely ignoring that there would be no sex at all, if not for that whole pregnancy thing.

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    22. thefederalist

      I don't see the relevance of the distinction you are making.

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  4. I think you are a bright man Ed... but nobody really has a theory on SPACE vs. TIME.

    SPACE does not mean length, width and height. We have color space, space complexity in computer science (e.g. PSPACE). TIME does not just mean past, present, and future. Time has different psychological representations. Yes, time is always tensed and cannot be converted to space. This is one thing the A-theorists get right. Anybody that can believe time is tenseless has an extremely poor understanding of time.

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    1. but nobody really has a theory on SPACE vs. TIME.

      On the contrary: Pope Francis has a theory that "time is greater than space".

      Oh, wait, you mean an intelligible theory. Sorry, my mistake.

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    2. On the contrary: Pope Francis has a theory that "time is greater than space".

      It's only unintelligible to you because you aren't a Time Pope. The office of the papacy actually started on Gallifrey. The Time Pope travels around in his neoclassical baptistery (which is actually bigger on the inside) in order to take on theological companions and spread ecumenialism. This is his 266th regeneration. His arch enemies are the RADTRADS who live in Planet Sede and always say EX-COMM-U-NI-CATE in little gold ornamental pepper-pods.

      The fish-shaped mitres cone from gallifreyan customary regalia, as surely everyone knows.

      Let's hope the church doesn't pull a BBC and regenerate into a Female Time Pope.

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  5. Many thanks - look forward to listening to this. Enjoyed reading your 'The Last Superstition' - not usual that a philosophy book makes you laugh out loud. I don't think I could ever really be an Aristotelian (even a Thomistic Aristotelian) but he certainly makes a stimulating conversation partner.

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  6. I read through the specific criticism of the perverted faculty argument at the angramainyus blog. I think that the blog understands Feser's key premise as absolute rather than as a normative premise that could be superseded under abnormal circumstances. For example, it would normally be wrong to blow smoke into a child's lungs because that would pervert the faculty of the lungs. But when Picasso was born and wasn't breathing, a relative blew cigar smoke into his lungs and this caused him to cough and start breathing.
    Likewise, under a theory in which masturbation is normally wrong, it may still be permissible in abnormal circumstances in which it is necessary for the man's sperm to be placed artificially into his wive's cervix in order for her to achieve conception. Under this abnormal circumstance, the act is not frustrating the telos or end of sexual activity.

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    1. What about if masturbation is better for your health? There is evidence that masturbation in men over 50 reduces significantly the risk of prostate cancer.

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    2. There is "evidence" for all sorts of things in pop medicine.

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    3. Is it the masturbation, or the sexual release?

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    4. Blowing smoke into a child's lungs does not pervert the faculty of the lungs. To pervert a faculty, it must be your faculty, you must be using it, and you must be frustrating its end. In the examples of Picasso, the person blowing smoke is blowing smoke into someone else's lungs, is not using those lungs but stimulating them, and is not frustrating their end (oxygenating the blood) but fulfilling it. So that example fulfills zero of the three requirements for being a perversion of a faculty.

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  7. Ed isn't the capturing Christianity event going to be live streamed on YouTube?

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  8. Dr. Feser,

    I know that you are a very busy man, but because I think it is a tremendous book and it didn´t get nearly as much attention as it should have gotten, would you ever be willing to give a look to "What is Physics? A Defence of Classical Theism" by Nigel Cundy?

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    1. Or if he's too busy to read a (4?) Hundred page book, at least let me know about his blog Quantum Thomist.

      It's impressive that reads Aristotle, Plato and Aquinas as primary sources but also cites Thomists like Ed so you can tell he reads those who understand the philosophy intimately

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    2. 700+ pages. And thanks for mentioning his blog, I wasn´t quite sure if I should have.

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    3. And of course I wouldn´t ask for a review series or whatever, only a consideration, since I think a theoretical physicist specializing in quantum physics telling you

      1) that philosophers of physics are making a big mistake, because they pretty much solely focus on quantum mechanics, while the number of them writing about the philosophical implications of quantum field theory is miniscule. And
      2) explaining why the Aristotelian view on causality is the only view that works, arguing for it with equations, examples and comparisons with other concepts
      is invaluable.

      Also physicists in a researching field with a deep knowledge in metaphysics are rarer than unicorns

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    4. One of the reasons why physicists tend to focus on the interpretation of quantum mechanics more so than quantum field theory is that the foundational overhaul that happens when transitioning from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics is more mysterious than moving from quantum mechanics to quantum field theory.

      In the literature, the former move is called "first quantization", while the latter is "second quantization". And while the latter is a well-defined mathematical process (a "functor"), first quantization is a mystery, mathematically speaking.

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    5. Thanks for the information, but Nigel Cundy didn´t critizise fellow physicists for specializing in other fields, but philosophers of physics for not integrating QFT in their philosophy and solely focusing, with only very few exceptions, on Quantum Mechanics.

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  9. Is it possible for there to be forms of things that make the thing act in a spontaenously random way?

    For example, we could conceive of a red rubber ball that floats in the air and randomly moves left and right and up and down in a spontaenous and random way.

    The movements of the rubber ball don't follow any pattern, and it's also not the case that the form of the ball determines all of it's movements in detail from the beginning.

    The ball just....moves spontaneously. Would this be a brute fact, meaning that such a form cannot exist?

    Or can such randomness be accomodated by A-T metaphysics?

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    1. The ball just....moves spontaneously. Would this be a brute fact, meaning that such a form cannot exist?

      Yes.

      If a motion is in a ball in virtue of its form, that motion is "by nature" and does not change at random. It would have to be on account of something other than its nature that it change from one motion to another, or from rest to motion.

      Whether randomness can be accommodated by A-T metaphysics, it cannot be explained as such by its form.


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    2. Wait...are you saying that formal causality is necessarily deterministic?

      That any seemingly random motion of the ball is actually planned out in advance because it follows from the form?

      But what about radioactive decay where, as Feser explained it as far as I understood it, the particle isn't following a predetermined pattern of decaying at this or that time, but rather has differrent probabilities for different times and randomly decays at this or that point?


      Is it really the case that formal causality can't accomodate randomness at all, but any action that follows from form is a necessary outpouring as it were?

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    3. @JoeD:

      (Caveat lector: I am no expert on quantum physics.)

      I don't see why formal causality cannot accommodate statistical randomness. The form of the red rubber ball in question can entail more than one possible movement, but the form itself cannot provide the impulse to move, since it is not an efficient cause.

      Re: radioactive decay, I don't see how the form of an atomic nucleus can be produced by its form, since the form is a principle of unity whilst the decay is the loss of unity (of course, this assumes that said nucleus is a substance, which is not certain).

      Radioactive decay is due to quantum fluctuations affecting the nucleus, fluctuations which come from the quantum fields in which all material objects are embedded. The causes of quantum fluctuations are unknown and seem to act indeterministically.

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    4. @Sri,


      In other words, the form is only the principle of the ball which gives it it's potencies and makes it what it is, while the movements are the result of the substance (the red ball) exercising it's powers which are derived from it's form. Is that correct?

      Would this then mean that the red rubber ball's movements were caused by itself? That the substance in question exercised it's random potencies spontaneously, acting of it's own accord then?


      Also, if the form of a thing cannot be an efficient cause, what would this mean in cases of substances causing change without a material medium?

      For example, magical powers as seen in the fantasy genre are usually described as causing a change in the world without any material intermediate medium causing it. An example of this would be a stick producing lightning or water on command, but without any chemical reaction being the cause of such.

      I used to think that this was explained by the form of the stick acting immaterially on the world, but now it seems to me that the causal explanation here is that the stick as a substance acts of it's own power, and the form is only that which gives the stick it's potency to produce things immaterially.

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    5. Wait...are you saying that formal causality is necessarily deterministic?

      No. I am saying that the form cannot (per se) account for one motion and then also account for an opposing motion. It cannot account for movement toward north and then movement toward south. It can only account for motion that is "natural" and this must be of the same unitary concept always for it.

      but rather has differrent probabilities for different times and randomly decays at this or that point?


      Is it really the case that formal causality can't accomodate randomness at all, but any action that follows from form is a necessary outpouring as it were?


      No again: if the form provides the backdrop to the probabilities, then it can ACCOMMODATE variation in motion. But it cannot be the true and proper per se cause of decay, where the same form is responsible for decay at moment 49 in one atom, and moment 22 in another. Something else has to be in there as a cause as well as the form. It may be a necessary or a contingent cause, either is possible.

      Let me suggest another example to shed light: massive objects (i.e. those that have mass) are drawn to other massive objects by nature. That is to say, by their forms. But what you are suggesting is a form for massive objects that allows ONE object to always be drawn to other masses, while another mass by its form would be drawn to other masses only some of the time, at random. On again, off again. Sometimes its form moves it, sometimes its form does not move it.

      In other words, the form is only the principle of the ball which gives it it's potencies and makes it what it is, while the movements are the result of the substance (the red ball) exercising it's powers which are derived from it's form. Is that correct?

      I don't see why you would propose the source of the motion being "the substance" rather than "the form". Neither one fits with A-T theory. Aristotle points to the principle that motion means the thing in potency becoming actual, and implies that the actuality that it receives is received from another which is actual. The thing itself cannot reduce itself from potential to actual by what it ALREADY has, since it has not the actuality. Something else that has the actuality has to be the cause. In the case of the red ball, the ball has the potency to be thrown or struck into motion, but does not bring about such motion by itself.

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    6. @Tony,


      " It can only account for motion that is "natural" "

      Well in this case, the ball has a natural motion that is naturally random. This would mean the form of the ball doesn't account for any particular motion, but accounts for the general pattern of the ball naturally being in motion always in some manner.

      "I don't see why you would propose the source of the motion being "the substance" rather than "the form". Neither one fits with A-T theory. "


      When I proposed that the substance is the source of motion, I meant that the motion follows "ex subjecti", in a similar way as to how in some way it can be said that creatures with free will make choices which originate in themselves or "ex subjecti".

      A year or so ago I asked a question about the EM drive and whether or not A-T can accomodate such a violation of conservation, and iwpoe responded to this by saying that the drive's energy would flow ex subjecti, and not ex nihilo, and is thus unproblematic.


      In other words, it's easy to conceive of a rubber ball that moves in the air spontaneously, and does so of it's own accord.

      The "of it's own accord" is the main sticking point. It's what made me think the form of the ball is the cause of the random motion, or that the substance (the red ball itself) is the cause of the motion. It's meant to convey the idea that the ball is moving itself.


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    7. I am OK with imagining (not "conceiving", which I will get to below) a rubber ball that moves "of its own accord", i.e. as a natural motion. I am not OK with that motion being such as to encompass opposites: if the motion is by nature, then it has an end by nature, and thus it is motion toward an end of one sort. It cannot then encompass an opposite end also: it cannot be (for example) motion northwards (as such, not merely accidentally) by nature and also southwards (as such, not accidentally) by nature some of the time.

      It bothers me not at all if the motion be not a necessary one, but contingent.

      In order to properly "conceive" of the ball moving "at random" we would have to know enough about the nature of the ball to actually apprehend its motion coming from its nature. It is not enough to merely say "I can imagine it", that's not conceiving it. A foolish high school freshman may well say "I can imagine a square whose diagonal is commensurate with its side" but he cannot conceive it because it is a contradiction in terms (as Euclid proves). But it is a contradiction not seen by immediate consideration. It may well be the case that if we TRULY understood the nature of mass and matter and energy and such like, we would then say "for the rubber ball to move spontaneously would be self-contradictory".

      But there are things that "move themselves" in a sense, plants and animals do so (including man). But there is that qualifier always there: even man with free will doesn't "move himself" absolutely, even though he moves freely. Both Aristotle and Aquinas seem to assume animals engage in motions via a contingent causality, i.e. not deterministic, even without free will, so they don't seem to be ascribing to mobiles such as animals that they have a cause of motion distinct from themselves with the conclusion that they move deterministically.

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    8. @Tony,


      Quote:" I am not OK with that motion being such as to encompass opposites: if the motion is by nature, then it has an end by nature, and thus it is motion toward an end of one sort. It cannot then encompass an opposite end also: it cannot be (for example) motion northwards (as such, not merely accidentally) by nature and also southwards (as such, not accidentally) by nature some of the time. "


      Wouldn't it be possible to say that a thing's nature only tells it what types of motions it can make, not necessarily that it has to have some motions as it's end?

      The form makes it such that the red ball by nature behaves spontaneously and which specific directions it can move; it doesn't determine any specific end because that wouldn't make it random any more.

      In this case, the form of the ball wouldn't have one single pattern of motion as it's end, but would have a variety of equally possible ends none of which are strictly determined by the form, but can equally be actualised.

      In that case, a random moving red ball might differ from another such ball in that the motions this particular ball makes are different from the other (though not necessarily - it's perfectly possible for two random balls to have the exact same pattern of motion by sheer chance or randomly), but all of the motions such balls could make are opened up by the form.


      As for how we might conceive of the form of such a ball, one only needs to understand the concept of "randomness" and "motion" and apply it to a red ball.

      Random motion as a concept simply means that something which can move in certain directions actually moves in those directions and in a non-deterministic and wholly spontaneous way.

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    9. @Tony,


      Or rather, to put it much more precisely, the form of the random red ball simply means that it by nature makes random motions.

      The nature of the ball makes it the case that the "end" of the random ball is random motion. That's all that the form entails.

      That the motion, whatever it is and under whatever specific subset one likes(i.e. up, down, left, right), is random and non-deterministic.

      It doesn't have any particular end in sight, only random motion along with a list of possible motions that can be made randomly. The randomness is key here, not any specific motion as a specific end.

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    10. Joe, such a view of "form" and "nature" is incompatible with Aristotle's use of the terms. For him the form and nature are not independent of the end: the form is what determines that it is directed to that end which is an end for it. It is, then, oxymoronic to refer to form as something that "directs" it without direction, just "to move" without any end.

      Now, with some OTHER notion of nature, and of motion - say, something more like what the moderns try to suppose, the idea is more coherent. Because, of course, they deny that motion is "for an end" at all.

      Wouldn't it be possible to say that a thing's nature only tells it what types of motions it can make,

      I am fine with its nature setting out what kinds of motions are possible for it, without that form being the per se of the specific motion. When a cheetah chases after an antelope, its nature surely provides for the possibility that it will chase an antelope, but it is not the cause of it specifically chasing this one antelope, not without lots of other causes that help to specify the genera of motions that are "antelope-wards".

      But farther down you are not granting the "only" in "only tells it what types of motions it can make", you seem to be claiming it specifies individual motions:

      The nature of the ball makes it the case that the "end" of the random ball is random motion. That's all that the form entails.

      That the motion, whatever it is and under whatever specific subset one likes(i.e. up, down, left, right), is random and non-deterministic.


      Let me ask a coordinate question: can agent-cause be the cause of random motion? For example, can a billiard ball X be conceived to Y and then have Y fly off at ANY direction, with ANY momentum less than or equal to the momentum of X before the hit? Why or why not?

      Likewise with final cause: can an end be a cause of random motion?

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    11. @Tony,


      Quote:" For him the form and nature are not independent of the end: the form is what determines that it is directed to that end which is an end for it. It is, then, oxymoronic to refer to form as something that "directs" it without direction, just "to move" without any end. "


      Well, if random motion is motion without an end such that randomness can't be an end in itself, then that might make your argument.

      However, in this case I am specifically trying to say that the form does direct the red ball toward an end. That end is random motion itself. And random motion means that the directions which the ball chooses to go towards are random and not determined.

      It all depends on whether or not one chooses to see randomness and spontaneousness as an "end" in itself or not though.



      Quote:"For example, can a billiard ball X be conceived to Y and then have Y fly off at ANY direction, with ANY momentum less than or equal to the momentum of X before the hit? Why or why not? "


      I suppose that's metaphysically possible, even if it may not be possible under our laws of physics.

      In that case, either the ball X that hits Y naturally makes other balls fly off randomly when it hits them, or the ball Y naturally goes off at any random direction when hit by any other ball.



      Quote:"Likewise with final cause: can an end be a cause of random motion?"


      If a thing's motion is naturally random, then the final end of that ball would be random motion and a list of motions that can be chosen randomly for that very goal, namely random motion.
      -------


      My main point here is basically to try to metaphysically explain how random motion would work if it existed. We can clearly imagine and/or conceive a ball that naturally has random motion, so I'm basically asking myself how A-T would account for something that behaves purely randomly and spontaneously.

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    12. Well, if random motion is motion without an end such that randomness can't be an end in itself, then that might make your argument.

      However, in this case I am specifically trying to say that the form does direct the red ball toward an end. That end is random motion itself. And random motion means that the directions which the ball chooses to go towards are random and not determined.


      And I am saying such a view of motion itself contradicts A-T theory, which says motion by definition is referred to an actuality that is NOT MERELY MOTION. Motion is the coming to be of an actuality that was not, and eventually will be, and when it happens then there will be rest. Motion as the end itself is incompatible with that.

      On the other hand, let me suggest an alternative: Try separating out the notion of "having an end" from the notion of "being a deterministic motion". Do not assume that motions that are for an end are deterministic. On the part of humans this is easiest to see with freely willed acts: when the person chooses A over B (when he was free to choose either and was not determined to choose A), we do not say that he chose A "at random" even though he might have chosen B; rather, it was "for an end" (namely, A), but still free.

      I believe that A-T theory allows for contingency in causes even aside from those that act under free will.

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    13. @Tony,


      Quote:"And I am saying such a view of motion itself contradicts A-T theory, which says motion by definition is referred to an actuality that is NOT MERELY MOTION."


      I concede the point.


      Quote:"I believe that A-T theory allows for contingency in causes even aside from those that act under free will."


      Well, if my random red rubber ball example can't be explicated via formal causality, then how exactly would A-T deal with objects that truly have random and spontaneous motion?

      This isn't like the case of free will where the actions are indeterministic but happen for reasons guided by rationality. The proposed random motion would not be of a being that has free will that can choose a certain motion indeterministically.


      The red rubber ball's random motion would be such that it moves in a certain direction and then in another, and does so,well...randomly. Another rubber ball of the same type would probably have a different pattern of motion due to the randomness of the movements, or may actually even have the same pattern of motion which just so happens to sync up with the other ball - again, randomly.


      Would such a thing at all be possible to accomodate for A-T, or is this veering too close into the brute fact territory to be a metaphysical possibility?

      Delete
  10. Laudator Temporis ActiMarch 26, 2019 at 2:56 AM

    You only need one proof: that the Church is infallible. Given this proof, it follows not only that God exists, but that all other core Catholic claims are completely correct: the Virgin Birth, Christ's miracles, the Resurrection, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and so on.

    It is therefore odd that philosophers and theologians who believe in Infallibility make so little use of it. I would say this is because infallibility is not philosophically respectable or defensible. But it is very useful in a totalitarian or polemical sense.

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    1. @Laudator Temporis Acti,

      You wrote: "It is therefore odd that philosophers and theologians who believe in Infallibility make so little use of it. I would say this is because infallibility is not philosophically respectable or defensible. But it is very useful in a totalitarian or polemical sense."

      My reply:

      Huh? Even if one looks at the doctrine from purely a philosophical perspective, it is eminently defensible, IMHO. If the purpose and goal is maintain, protect and safeguard a corpus of Truth, which has been recorded in both oral tradition (human memory) and written media -- then infallibility is a positive and great good.

      More importantly, it would seem to be a necessary and sufficient condition in order that this Truth is to be accurately preserved, faithfully communicated and authoritatively taught across a gulf of time and space, without accumulation of error or distortions.

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    2. @Tritium:

      How can one establish or defend the doctrine of the infallibility of the Catholic Church without first demonstrating that the same was established by Christ? But in order to do the latter, one would have to first demonstrate the truth of classical theism and the reliability of sacred scripture and so on.

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  11. @Sri Nahar,

    I don't disagree. Indeed, the truth of classical theism, established via philosophical reflection and argumentation, is a necessary "preamble" to the Faith. It is through this employment of human reason (intellect) that one first establishes the existence of God, and discursively deduce His Divine Attributes.

    However, the next critical step involves a reasonable act of Faith. This involves the will -- the mind's assent to what is not seen, and could not be known through reason alone. Or, to be more precise, Faith is an "act of the intellect that assents to divine truth at the command of the will, which is moved by God through grace." (ST II-II, Q2, A9, resp.)

    Now, the intellectual transition and movement from pure philosophical reasoning for God's existence and His nature (Natural Theology) to faith/belief, based upon Divine Revelation (Revealed Theology), is another topic entirely, and would take us far afield from your reply. Suffice it to say, that this transition is grounded upon a rational, reasonable consideration and review of evidence, such as veridical eyewitness testimony, miracles, fulfillment of prophecies, etc.

    Nevertheless, in direct answer to your question, I indeed submit that one can make a logical, reasonable argument for the infallibility of the Church, as follows.

    Once one has established the existence of God, which entails an examination His Nature and Divine attributes, then a reasonable inference can be made that an omnibenevolent Creator would choose to directly reveal Himself to a part of His creation that also has a rational intellect, i.e. mankind. This revelation would be above and beyond what could be apprehended through human reason, alone. That is where the faith part comes in.

    Next, one makes a critical examination of historical data, to ascertain what, where, and how God revealed Himself. In following this evidence, one is inexorably led to Sacred Scripture and (Apostolic) Tradition, to the exclusion of all other historical claims, stories and belief systems of a supernatural nature. Sacred Scripture and Tradition is solely and exclusively consistent with the One God, and in particular His Divine Nature and Attributes, which has already been established by Natural Theology. Note that at this point, one has not established the Divine inspiration of Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Rather, that it is the only historical source which is consistent with God's Divine Nature and Attributes. Other alternatives, being inconsistent and contradictory, can thus be disregarded.

    Next, one examines the historical evidence and claims conveyed in SS and Tradition. This historical evidence shows that at a specific time and place lived a man, Jesus Christ. The historical evidence shows that this man was not only a teacher and a prophet, but claimed to be God. The historical evidence also shows that he had a ministry, and founded a Church.

    Christ's claim of Divinity is supported through prophecy and the working of miracles, with the supremum being His Resurrection. These events are corroborated by testimony, physical evidence, and in particular, the subsequent behavior those who were eyewitnesses to his life, ministry and Resurrection -- the martyred Apostles and disciples. Having established the Divinity of Christ, one can then accept the authority of His Church, which He instituted with a promise of Divine assistance, protected against error, through the end of time. A guarantee that the Church will authoritatively teach in his Divine name. And thus, one can use logical, philosophical argumentation to conclude that only an infallible Church could be thus instituted and commissioned. It also directly follows that this Church must have authority to infallibly discern and establish what is (and is not) Divinely inspired Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.

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    1. @Tritium:

      I agree with all of what you wrote. But that was the point I was making earlier, viz., one cannot provide a sound argument for the infallibility of the Catholic Church without demonstrating the existence of God and the reliability of sacred scripture and so on. I had earlier thought that you were agreeing with @Laudator Temporis Acti that only one proof is required, that of the infallibility of the Church.

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    2. Hello Sri,

      My apologies. I (mis)understood your earlier reply to be sort of a rhetorical objection to an existence claim for the logical demonstration of the infallibility of the Church. Indeed, we are in agreement that there is much foundational work to be done first.

      However, assuming one is past those, there actually loom two questions which need to be addressed, vis-a-vis the historicity of the Deposit of Faith. These are:

      a) The reliability/accuracy of the data qua historical data. Meaning, can we have a justified belief that the extant records and information we possess is derived from the ancient sources in question, and has been transmitted accurately and faithfully (i.e., no forgeries and deceit)

      b) The veridicality of the claims made by the recorded data.

      They are loosely tied together. Issue (a) is a slam dunk, as attested by the overwhelming consensus of scholars. There exist more copies of the sacred scriptures, in both fragments, individual manuscripts and complete codices, then any other ancient writings (by orders of magnitude). Modern textural criticism has empirically proven question "a".

      Question "b" is answered and satisfied through the motives of credibility detailed in my prior post. A Church possessing Divine authority and given Divine commission is a necessary corollary to what is now proposition "b", and that also logically entails infallibility.

      I recognize you acknowledge all this...I am merely fleshing it out, here, a bit more.

      Cheers,
      John

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  12. Feser's arguments in "5 Proofs" are all unsound, variously employing ad hoc or non sequitur arguments, as well as incoherent terminology.

    Perhaps the clearest example is the Thomist assertion of the necessity for an unchanged changer in the present moment to account for observed change in the present moment.

    In simple terms, at base, stuff bounces off other stuff. Change is mutual interaction. Molecules collide with each other and bounce off each other or join together. The same is true all the way down to the fundamental constituents of material, whatever they turn out to be.

    Newton observed this in what became known as Newton's laws of motion. He had a more precise mathematical formulation but in popularized terms "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction".

    A rocket ship in space changes it's position in one direction by ejecting a gas that changes its position in the opposite direction, like skaters that push off from each other.

    Change in the here and now is fundamentally accounted for by mutual interactions, thus rendering an unchanged changer in the present moment to account for observed change in the present moment an unnecessary speculation.

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  13. @Stardusty Psyche,

    I would cordially submit that you have completely misunderstood the concept of a hierarchical (per se) causal series. Assuming you actually read "Five Proofs", as you claim...I would encourage you to read Chapter 1 carefully, again. Then, you may wish to review the misconceptions you apparently have, in Chapter 7.

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    1. @Tritium,
      An admonition to go read a book is not itself a good argument. I could provide for you a reading list, but if I did so I would not be making an argument, merely asserting that a sound argument is presented elsewhere.

      The notion of a hierarchical (per se) causal series is fundamentally unsound. It assumes a sort of linearity of causation, A causes B, B causes C, D causes D and so forth. From there it is reasoned that this cannot proceed to infinity in in the present moment within the confines of finite space, and therefor there must be an exception to the need for a cause to account for an effect, the uncaused cause, which is then assigned the title of god ad hoc.

      The error in this mode of thinking is that it is fundamentally limited in conceptualization of what cause and effect are.

      Cause and effect are mutual in the present moment. B is a cause of A and A is a cause of B. A and B are mutually causes and effects of each other.

      The designation of, say, A as the cause and B as the effect is arbitrary and incomplete. The the rocket causes the gas to move just as the gas causes the rocket to move. There is no necessity for an uncaused cause because the gas and the rocket are mutual causes and effects of each other, thus accounting for observed change.

      I understand the notion of a hierarchical series by identifying its conceptual inadequacies that lead to the false assertion of necessity for an uncaused cause in the present moment to account for observed change.

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    2. @Stardusty Psyche,

      Firstly, you are mistaken in your physics. You are conflating action-reaction pairs in Newton's 3rd Law with cause and effect. The ignition, combustion, expansion and exhaust of a rocket's engines propellant is the cause, and the effect is thrust, and acceleration of the rocket vehicle in the opposite vector.

      Secondly, If an event A is the cause of an effect B, then B cannot be the cause of A -- period, end of story, full stop. Popular science rags like "New Scientist" or "Science Digest" might breathlessly exclaim that recent results in Quantum Theory have over-thrown the Principle of Causality, but that is not the case at all. The actual research claim is NOT that if event A is the cause of effect B then it is simultaneously true that effect B is the cause of A. Rather, the claim is that the cause-effect relationship may be indeterminate, i.e. unknowable.

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    3. " The ignition, combustion, expansion and exhaust of a rocket's engines propellant is the cause, and the effect is thrust,"
      Ok, you want to analyze in more detail than my simple gas/rocket example.

      The same principle of mutual causation applies to combustion. Energy is released when bonds form. Hydrogen atoms and Oxygen atoms mutually attract each other to form bonds in water molecules, releasing energy in the form of increased kinetic energy at the molecular level.

      High speed molecules impact each other in one way exerting a net force on the rocket motor, and in another way accelerating out the nozzle. Again, no uncaused cause is needed because mutual attraction is followed by mutual repulsion, accounting for observed change with no uncaused cause needed.

      "Secondly, If an event A is the cause of an effect B, then B cannot be the cause of A -- period, end of story, full stop."
      That is merely an ad hoc assertion that can be discounted by a variety of counterexamples.

      If A is the change in motion of ball X and B is the change in motion of ball Y then when the balls hit each other they change each other. The motion of X is changed because of B, and the motion of Y is changed because of A.

      At base, that is what physics describes, the mutual interaction of material with each bit of material both changing and being changed in the process of interaction.

      John Bell wrote a famous paper "Against Measurement" wherein he argued strongly and convincingly against use of the term "measurement" stating it should be replaced with the word "experiment". In his view, there is no static member in a measurement, as both the measured material and the measuring material are mutually changed in an experiment.

      When a satellite is sent on a Jupiter boost trajectory the satellite and Jupiter are mutual causes and effects of each other. The increase in kinetic energy of the satellite is caused by the decrease in kinetic energy of Jupiter, and the decrease in the kinetic energy of Jupiter is caused by the increase of kinetic energy of the satellite. This mutual interaction is a process over time.

      At base there is no necessity for an unchanged changer in the present moment because observed change is sufficiently accounted for by mutually interactive processes.

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  14. @Stardusty,

    Hello.

    Again, I gently (and with friendly humor) suggest you need to revisit some physics. You might also wish to pick up a book covering the Philosophy of Science.

    Every scenario you discussed in your previous post is involving forces, and the interaction of matter in relation to forces. By definition, a Force is an inter-ACTION that causes a change in state of an object. Here, the "object" is classically considered to be matter (mass), with the change in "state" being the object's change in momentum.

    The physical concept of "force" is completely consistent with the Principle of Causality, because whenever there is a change in state, then a potential is being actualized by something that itself is already actual.

    In the example you cited involving a gravitational-assist trajectory, I presume you meant a fly-by of Jupiter by an interplanetary probe/vehicle rather than a "satellite" -- as a satellite would imply it is in a bound orbit with Jupiter. In any event, in the gravitional-assist scenario, there is no mystery here, nor is there any conflict with the Principle of Causality. Again, I cordially maintain that you are conflating action-reaction Force (energy) relations with cause and effect.

    This is a simple case of Conservation of Energy-Momentum. From the Sun's frame of reference, Jupiter has exchanged some of its orbital kinetic energy with the interplanetary probe. From the Sol-frame, Jupiter has ever so slightly slowed down, while the boosted probe has picked up a significant fraction of the orbital speed of Jupiter. In orbital mechanics, this is treated as an elastic mechanical interaction (collision).

    Stardusty, I am not sure how much more I can stress this point --> The fact that action-reaction force pairs act simultaneously has absolutely NOTHING to do with cause and effect relations. They are two completely separate issues.

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    1. (Continued)

      So, what are the causal relations in this scenario. Per the Principle of Causality, we have the actualization of potentials. The potentials being actualized are changes in orbital velocity vectors. In the case of Jupiter, due to its incredible Mass relative to the probe, the change is vanishingly small, on the order of 10^-24. For the notional space probe, depending on its initial velocity (with respect to the Sun) and geometry of its encounter with Jupiter, the change in velocity can be quite large.

      What is CAUSING these potentials (i.e. changes in orbital velocity) to be actualized? It is the close fly-by of Jupiter by the probe, and their mutual gravitational interaction. The potentials would not have been actualized if the probe was not sent on a gravitational assist Jupiter fly-by trajectory in the first place. However, this was the cause. Furthermore, this cause was already actual, having been actualized when it was launched from Earth with an Earth-orbit escape velocity, and the occasional mid-flight course corrections for the Jupiter rendezvous. So, the Principle of Causality has been satisfied -- any potential, if actualized, must be actualized by something already actual. More to the point, it is in complete consonance and accord with the Laws of Motion, as well as the Energy-Momentum Conservation Law.

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    2. @Tritium
      "What is CAUSING these potentials (i.e. changes in orbital velocity) to be actualized?"
      In discussions of causation Feser commonly employs ordinary objects such as a book, rock, stick, hand and so forth, assigning to them titles for their causal roles.

      In modern science those are macro objects and any detailed analysis of the systems involved would require much more detailed considerations of molecular and subatomic constituents and forces as described in modern physics.

      But at the level of ordinary human perception, the level of examples using a hand, a rock, and a stick, we can say that the spacecraft causes Jupiter to slow down and Jupiter causes the spacecraft to speed up.

      No unchanged changer is needed because the spacecraft and Jupiter are mutually causes and effects of each other. Causation is not progressing linearly down, as it were, calling for a terminus that is the uncaused cause, rather, the terminus is found quite easily in each other.

      "The potentials would not have been actualized if the probe was not sent on a gravitational assist Jupiter fly-by trajectory in the first place. However, this was the cause."

      That is a different question that leads to the riddle of the origin of change in the distant past. I was addressing the assertion of the necessity of an unchanged changer to account for observed change in the present.

      Two very different assertions. Both interesting questions, but you have combined them in a way I was seeking to avoid for the moment. My original post specifically addressed only the assertion of the necessity of an unchanged changer in the present moment to account for observed change in the present moment.

      The linear cause and effect concept sees that Jupiter caused the spacecraft to speed up, so something inside Jupiter must have caused it to do that, which calls for a cause of that cause and so forth, which logically calls for a terminating cause in the regression of causes, the Thomist calls the uncaused cause, or the unchanged changer.

      That unchanged changer, however, is unnecessary. What caused Jupiter to speed up the spacecraft? The spacecraft slowing Jupiter down. What caused the spacecraft to slow Jupiter down? Jupiter speeding up the spacecraft.

      In other words, the spacecraft and Jupiter form a mutually interacting system. Change occurs continually or continuously throughout the system as each bit of material interacts with the other bits of material.

      One can analyze these interactions to as fine a resolution as one wants, perhaps at the macro level of large objects such as a planet and a spacecraft, or their constituent atoms, or the quarks and electrons and fields described by modern physics, or the most fundamental bits of material that exist, say strings or quantum fields or whatever is actually the case.

      Irrespective of the granularity of analysis in the mutually interactive system there is no need for a terminus of causation in an uncaused cause, or unchanged changer, because the physical terminus is whatever the most fundamental constituents of material turn out to be and they are simply interacting with each other.

      The mutual interaction of physically fundamental material constituents sufficiently accounts for observed change in the present moment; therefore an unchanged changer is unnecessary to account for observed change in the present moment.

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  15. @Stardusty,

    Your wrote: "But at the level of ordinary human perception, the level of examples using a hand, a rock, and a stick, we can say that the spacecraft causes Jupiter to slow down and Jupiter causes the spacecraft to speed up."

    Stardusty, you are still getting tripped up on the instantaneous interaction and mutually opposing action-reaction force pairs. What you are missing, is that there was a cause for these action-reaction pairs to actualize. Before the fly-by, there existed only the POTENTIAL for Jupiter to change its orbital velocity in the way that it did in the scenario. Likewise, before the fly-by, there existed only the POTENTIAL for the notional space probe to change trajectory and increase in its orbital velocity. That potential was ACTUALIZED by their close encounter and gravitational interaction.

    If the notional space probe had instead been sent on a completely different trajectory (say into interstellar space), and didn't have a close fly-by encounter with Jupiter, then NEITHER of the aforementioned potentials would have been actualized. The space-probe would have continued its pseudo-rectilinear trajectory (although technically a hyperbolic, unbound orbit) into deep space, with NO change to its velocity, at least to a first approximation.

    Note, the Pioneer and the Voyager probes achieved Solar System escape velocites, due to their gravitional-assist maneuvers, and are on hyperbolic orbital trajectories, with respect to the Solar System. This means that they are on positive-energy trajectories into interstellar space, and will never return. Assuming these probes do not experience any other perturbing forces during their flight (which is, of course, an idealization), their velocities will tend toward the limit, at infinity, known as the "hyperbolic excess velocity".

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  16. @Tritium
    " Before the fly-by, there existed only the POTENTIAL for Jupiter to change its orbital velocity in the way that it did in the scenario. Likewise, before the fly-by, there existed only the POTENTIAL for the notional space probe to change trajectory and increase in its orbital velocity. That potential was ACTUALIZED by their close encounter and gravitational interaction. "

    Well, you can use that language if you like, my point remains, no infinite regress of changers is called for at all. In all material interactions the causal terminus is material entities interacting with each other.

    There simply is no need for an unchanged changer to terminate what would otherwise be an infinite regress of changers in the present moment. There is no call for any such infinite regress in the present moment. Our present time regression analysis quickly terminates with mutual interactions via fields.

    For example, it is sometimes said by Thomists that the hand causes the stick to move, the stick causes the rock to move. The stick is then sometimes given the title of instrumental cause.

    From there the Thomist typically argues that this causal series cannot infinitely regress, therefore an unchanged changer or uncaused cause is required in the present moment, which is then given the title of god.

    Aquinas himself only went back a couple steps of regress in his First Way before jumping to the statement about not proceeding to infinity.

    Fortunately, we now know that the hand is moved by the arm, the arm is moved by the muscle, the muscle is moved by cellular chemistry, chemistry occurs primarily by the electrostatic field.

    So, the regression terminus of the hand, stick, rock example has no necessity of an unchanged changer, or unmoved mover. The present motion regression of causation terminates with like charges repelling each other and opposite charges attracting each other.

    Physics describes a universe of materials that interact in mutual causality. No infinite regress of hierarchical causality is called for at all, thus the unchanged changer or unmoved mover is unnecessary.

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  17. @StardustyPsyche have you ever considered that Dr. Feser will eventually lose his patience with you and ban you?

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  18. @Cogniblog
    Perhaps, but banning opposing presenters does not constitute a rational critique.

    Wiki summarizes the first way:
    "In the world, we can see that at least some things are changing. Whatever is changing is being changed by something else. If that by which it is changing is itself changed, then it too is being changed by something else. But this chain cannot be infinitely long, so there must be something that causes change without itself changing. This everyone understands to be God"

    A full text English translation and an attempt at a syllogistic formulation can be found here:
    http://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

    A core holding of A-T is that an infinite essential hierarchical causal series is apparently called for by the observation of change in the world in the present moment. Since there cannot be an infinity of finite causal entities existent within a finite space A-T holds that therefore an uncaused cause, or unchanged changer is necessary.

    I agree that the observation of change does call for causal regression, but that regression need not progress very many levels at all and in fact the terminus of the causal regression is easily identifiable in science.

    Mutual causality terminates the regression. In the case of the classic hand-stick-rock example we have
    electric charge mutual attraction/repulsion-cellular chemistry-muscle contraction-tendon-bone-hand-stick-rock.

    Tritium has kindly provided a number of interesting facts on various subjects but I have not noticed any specific refutation of my argument in his writing.

    Perhaps you would be kind enough to do so?

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    1. @Stardusty wrote: "Our present time regression analysis quickly terminates with mutual interactions via fields. For example, it is sometimes said by Thomists that the hand causes the stick to move, the stick causes the rock to move. The stick is then sometimes given the title of instrumental cause.
      From there the Thomist typically argues that this causal series cannot infinitely regress, therefore an unchanged changer or uncaused cause is required in the present moment, which is then given the title of god.
      Aquinas himself only went back a couple steps of regress in his First Way before jumping to the statement about not proceeding to infinity.
      Fortunately, we now know that the hand is moved by the arm, the arm is moved by the muscle, the muscle is moved by cellular chemistry, chemistry occurs primarily by the electrostatic field."
      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Stardusty, I have patiently tried to explain some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings you have with A-T causality. Through the course of our dialogue, it has become apparent to me that you also misunderstand the actual physics that you are using to make your arguments. Look, I have absolutely NO problem with those who do not have a formal undergraduate or graduate level education in the physical sciences. However, I do begin to get frustrated when such a person blithely starts throwing around concepts in which they clearly have no formal training, in order to try to make an argument against a philosophical principle they have even less of an understanding.

      From our recent exchanges, it was quickly apparent to me that you did not have a good grasp of orbital mechanics, simply by dint of the vocabulary you (mis)used, as well as fundamental misconceptions of the physics involved.

      Presumably, that is why you wish to switch the topic to contact forces. Now you want to have a go at Aquinas' informal, pedagogical example of the hand-stick-rock essentially ordered causal series.

      Fine, I will have take one last trip 'round the Mulberry bush with you...but this is it. I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but I truly am at my wit's end, here.

      Firstly, you are still getting tripped up with action-reaction pairs, which arise from the 3rd Law of Motion. This is evident in your previous reply I cited: "...Our present time regression analysis quickly terminates with mutual interactions via fields." I stress again that action-reaction force pairs are not in any way contrary to the Principle of Causality, in general, or the cause-effect relations that exist in an essentially ordered causal series. They are not even treating the same topic. I cordially suggest that you are thinking of this naively. Indeed, following your arguments, it appears that you are thinking that these mutual interactions (action-reaction force pairs) somehow mutually cancel each other out, thus not requiring further exploration of a causal relationship. It also seems you are under the mistaken understanding that absolute simultaneity is required in the actualization of potentials in an essentially ordered causal series (which I will address further below). This thinking is implicit in your earlier response: "Change in the here and now is fundamentally accounted for by mutual interactions, thus rendering an unchanged changer in the present moment to account for observed change in the present moment an unnecessary speculation."

      After all, we are talking about two equal and opposite forces, and they must cancel, yes?? But of course, if that happened, there would be no change whatsoever. Obviously, they DO NOT cancel, because action-reaction force pairs always ACT UPON DIFFERENT objects (systems).

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    2. (Cont)

      Let's use the Aquinas' example that you cited and focus on the hand that is pushing the stick. In an action-reaction pair, the action is the force exerted by the first object (hand) on the second (stick), and the reaction force is the force exerted by the second object (stick) on the first object (hand). The important thing to notice is that action and reaction forces act on different objects in the interaction. These forces DO NOT CANCEL because they influence the motion of different objects. The force that the hand exerts on the stick influences the stick's motion, and the force that the stick exerts on the hand influences the hand's motion. A force on the stick can cancel with other forces on the stick - but NOT with forces on the hand (and vice versa). In summary, two equal and opposite forces acting on the same object do not make an action-reaction pair! Action-reaction force pairs always acts on different objects not on the same object.

      You have now claimed that the rock-stick-hand causal series has the equivalent of an infimum (greatest lower bound) which attains at the level of fields.

      This is decidedly NOT the case. The interplay of electrostatic fields between an object which is in physical "contact" with another object, is NOT the end of the causal chain. It is not the end, because we now can ask what is determining the properties of the electrical field between the matter particles, and the resulting magnitudes and vectors of the forces Why is the interacting electrical fields between the two matter objects in the state that it is, rather then some other state? What is the CAUSE of the interacting electrical field to be in the state that it is. Well, this immediately takes us deeper than what you presumed to be the "terminus" of causality. What is the cause of the electrostatic forces? Well, modern physics tells us that this force is "caused" by the exchange of virtual photons, which are the force carriers of momentum and energy. So, in fact, there is something at a deeper, more fundamental level than the fields themselves. Also at play is the in the force interactions between the hand-stick-rock is the Pauli Exclusion principle. Where the heck did that "law" come from? What gives these laws their existence? At the end of the day, Stardust, you are going to simply say that they just "are". In other words, you are going to attest that we must simply accept them as "Brute Facts".

      Delete
    3. (Cont.)

      Finally, I return to your mistaken understanding that absolute simultaneity is required in the actualization of potentials in an essentially ordered causal series. An essentially ordered series does NOT require simultaneous actualization of potentials. All that is required is that every member in the series (except the First) has only a derived causal power. As their causal powers are derived from a "prior" member in the hierarchical/essentially ordered series, each needs a causal explanation for its actualization...except the First cause/member, which MUST have "built-in" or "intrinsic" causal power, from which all subsequent members derive their causal power. In other words, the First Cause is necessary, and could not NOT exist, even in principle, otherwise all subsequent members in the series could not actualize a potential, since they only have derivative causal power.

      For certain, the "hand-stick-rock" example does not rely on an instantaneous and simultaneous cause-effect (actualization of potentials) events chain. If we simply focus on the stick alone, the force imparted upon the end of the stick by the hand does not propagate instantaneously to the other end of the stick which is touching the rock. There is not such thing as an infinitely rigid body. The force imparted by the hand on the end of the stick propagates through the stick as a mechanical compression wave, which moves at the local speed of sound WITHIN the stick. That speed is dependent upon the medium (material composition) of the stick -- specifically, its density, elasticity, and compressibility. The speed of sound through a wooden stick is roughly 4,000 meters/sec.

      Delete
  19. @StardustyPsyche

    Perhaps, but banning opposing presenters does not constitute a rational critique.

    Ah yes, the martyr. Get off your cross. We need the wood anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Tritium
    The first and second ways suffer from the fallacy of a false dichotomy, among other defects, any one of which invalidate them as arguments for an unmoved mover, or unchanged changer, or uncaused cause.

    The first and second ways are argued very similarly, but the first way is the more manifest way, so to stay focused on the core of A-T I generally start with the first way.

    Aquinas does not address the origins of motion, change, or causation in the distant past. The universe is presupposed to exist, and it is what is evident to our senses in the present that is used to construct an argument for a hierarchical essentially ordered series of movers, changers, or causal entities, going down, as it were, in the present, present in the human perceptual sense of some fairly short period of time.

    The false dichotomy that is presented is a choice between:
    1.An infinite regression of movers, or changers, or causal entities.
    2.A finite regression of movers, or changers, or causal entities that terminates with an unmoved mover, or unchanged changer, or uncaused cause.

    For example, if we could place an astronaut in space, in some sense motionless, at least with respect to her own frame of reference, untethered, lacking a propulsion mechanism, she would be unable to mover her own center of mass. She could wave about bending her joints but her center of mass would remain motionless.

    However, if there are 2 astronauts within reach of each other then can move each other, pulling themselves together, pushing themselves away, so in the case of 2 bodies in space, capable of interacting, they can move themselves.

    Hence, the false dichotomy of Aquinas, for he fails to acknowledge a 3rd alternative:
    3.A finite regression of movers, or changers, or causal entities that terminates with mutual movers, or mutual changers, or mutual causes.

    The rock cannot move itself, nor the stick, the hand, the bone, or the tendon.

    The molecules inside the muscle cells can move each other, which in turn moves the tendon, bone, hand, stick, and rock.

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Tritium
    “Stardusty, I have patiently tried to explain some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings you have with A-T causality.”
    I have characterized A-T accurately. You are reading into my words misunderstandings I have not stated and do not hold.

    “I stress again that action-reaction force pairs are not in any way contrary to the Principle of Causality,”
    Fine, I didn’t express nor do I hold an opinion of such a contradiction.

    “it appears that you are thinking that these mutual interactions (action-reaction force pairs) somehow mutually cancel each other out,”
    No, I didn’t say that.

    “It also seems you are under the mistaken understanding that absolute simultaneity is required in the actualization of potentials”
    No, I didn’t say that.

    “Well, modern physics tells us that this force is "caused" by the exchange of virtual photons, which are the force carriers of momentum and energy. So, in fact, there is something at a deeper, more fundamental level than the fields themselves.”
    A-T examples typically do not go to that depth, rather, they assign causal roles to macro objects such as a table, shelf, book, rock, stick, hand, or grandfather. It was in keeping with that A-T analytical tradition that I went no further than molecules interacting by electrostatic forces. If you want to go further into the standard model and modern physics, fine, but we always come back to mutual causation at the most fundamental level of physics.

    “Stardust, you are going to simply say that they just "are". In other words, you are going to attest that we must simply accept them as "Brute Facts".”
    The unmoved mover would be a brute fact. Aquinas does not attempt to answer the origins of existence or how the ultimate brute fact came to be, he merely asserts that the ultimate brute fact is the existence of an unmoved mover, and that existence is necessary owing to the impossibility of the contrary in his dichotomy argument.

    However, since his dichotomy is false, he fails to demonstrate the necessity of his brute fact, the unmoved mover, or unchanged changer, or uncaused cause.

    “Finally, I return to your mistaken understanding that absolute simultaneity is required in the actualization of potentials in an essentially ordered causal series.”
    Strawman, again.

    ReplyDelete
  22. @Stardusty,

    Stardusty, I respectfully submit your argumentation has taken on a note of desperation, causing your reasoning skills to leave the metaphorical reservation.
    ---------
    You wrote: "The false dichotomy that is presented is a choice between:
    1.An infinite regression of movers, or changers, or causal entities.
    2.A finite regression of movers, or changers, or causal entities that terminates with an unmoved mover, or unchanged changer, or uncaused cause."
    -------

    No, there is absolutely NO false dichotomy there. In fact, that is a perfect example of a metaphysically binary condition, which is exhaustive. Either there exists an infinite series of causes, or a finite series of causes. There is no other possibility. Aquinas demonstrates that there can NOT be an infinite series of instrumental (essentially ordered) causes. That leaves only the finite, due to the Law of Non-Contradiction/Excluded Middle.

    ---------------
    You wrote: "For example, if we could place an astronaut in space, in some sense motionless, at least with respect to her own frame of reference, untethered, lacking a propulsion mechanism, she would be unable to mover her own center of mass. She could wave about bending her joints but her center of mass would remain motionless."
    ------------------

    Please Stardusty, for the love of God, refrain from your continued violence to physics. LOL.

    One changes their center of mass / center of gravity (these are the same in a uniform gravitational field) EVERY TIME one moves a part of the body. Every change in position and adjustment of your body changes your center of gravity.

    Furthermore, an astronaut in free-fall can move, and change their center of gravity. They can even self-rotate, by performing physical gyrations, thanks to the Principle of Conservation of Angular Momentum. Please watch the following video (link below), set for timestamp 05:49 --
    https://youtu.be/sxKR0Ozeq08?t=349

    ---------
    You wrote: The unmoved mover would be a brute fact. Aquinas does not attempt to answer the origins of existence or how the ultimate brute fact came to be, he merely asserts that the ultimate brute fact is the existence of an unmoved mover, and that existence is necessary owing to the impossibility of the contrary in his dichotomy argument."
    ----------

    You are completely confusing a metaphysical "brute fact" with a bona fide explanation, which is provided by classical theism. Your primordial brute fact has zero explanatory value, and perforce logically entails that our Universe is intrinsically unintelligible. The Subsistent Being (ipsum esse subsistens) of classical theism is the ground of all intelligibility. Stardusty, I am seriously beginning to doubt you in fact read Feser's "Five Proofs", as you have claimed. In any event, I again encourage you to read the first chapter, carefully. I also invite you to read the following articles by Dr. Feser:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/03/can-you-explain-something-by-appealing.html

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/10/magic-versus-metaphysics.html



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Further note/clarification to above -- I wrote that an astronaut in free-fall can move their body, and change their center of gravity. Translation through space, is another matter entirely.

      Delete
  23. @Tritium
    "No, there is absolutely NO false dichotomy there. In fact, that is a perfect example of a metaphysically binary condition, which is exhaustive. Either there exists an infinite series of causes, or a finite series of causes."
    I provided for you a 3rd alternative that you have ignored. See 3. above.

    You have ignored that Aquinas does not simply choose between and infinite regression and a finite regression, he also specifies a particular first member. I specified a first member of mutual causality, which is distinct from that of Aquinas.

    "One changes their center of mass / center of gravity (these are the same in a uniform gravitational field) EVERY TIME one moves a part of the body. Every change in position and adjustment of your body changes your center of gravity. "
    Not in space. That is why an astronaut must use a tether or rocket to get back to the spacecraft after a spacewalk. An astronaut alone is incapable of swimming back, or gyrating back.

    However, if the astronaut were able to throw away a mass, say a heavy tool, then she could move back to the spacecraft.

    Mutual causation is needed to move through space, which is why Aquinas failed to demonstrate the necessity of an unmoved mover. He neglected the 3rd alternative, that mutual movers move each other.

    "You are completely confusing a metaphysical "brute fact" with a bona fide explanation, which is provided by classical theism."
    Any first mover would be a brute fact. Why is there a first mover as opposed to absolutely nothing at all? Why does this mover exist with its particular powers of causation? Why not 2 or 10 or 10^100 first movers, each moving different things? What is the source of this motive power?

    No explanation is provided for these and many other question, rendering any first mover an obvious brute fact.

    "Furthermore, an astronaut in free-fall can move, and change their center of gravity. They can even self-rotate, by performing physical gyrations, thanks to the Principle of Conservation of Angular Momentum."
    That does not change the location of the center of mass, only the angular velocity.

    "I wrote that an astronaut in free-fall can move their body, and change their center of gravity. Translation through space, is another matter entirely."
    No, translation through space is changing the location of the center of gravity. A single free floating body cannot do so.

    Tritium, you have again not provided any sound critique of my clear demonstration that the first way suffers from a false dichotomy fallacy, among other defects.

    ReplyDelete
  24. @Stardusty,

    Seriously, this is my last reply on this topic. I do appreciate that you have been cordial, courteous and respectful, during our dialogue. However, this has been getting frustrating, because IMHO you continue to make fundamental mistakes in logic as well as in the physics involved.

    ----------------
    You wrote: "I provided for you a 3rd alternative that you have ignored. See 3. above. You have ignored that Aquinas does not simply choose between and infinite regression and a finite regression, he also specifies a particular first member. I specified a first member of mutual causality, which is distinct from that of Aquinas."
    -------------

    No, Stardusty, with all respect, your "3rd alternative" is not an alternative. There is only a binary scenario -- The essentially-ordered causal series is either finite (A), or it is infinite (B).

    What you identify as a "3rd alternative" is in fact scenario (A), which is exactly what Aquinas demonstrates. You have simply attached a different (and metaphysically incorrect) interpretation to the fact that the series is FINITE, by going on to explain that the terminus (infimum) of the FINITE series consists of "mutual movers, or mutual changers, or mutual causes." Conversely, Aquinas correctly explains that the finite series could only terminate in a non-contingent, necessary, First Member -- which is the Uncaused Cause. This foundational, Uncaused Cause is the ground of all existence. It imparts causal power on all the other members in the series, which only have causal power in a derivative way. This first member, the Uncaused Cause, has intrinsic (non-derivative) causal power, because it is pure Act, not a composite of potency and act. It has a necessary existence because its very essence IS existence itself, and vice versa. Again, I refer you to Dr. Feser's "Five Proofs", because the this follows axiomatically.:

    "Hence, that which is subsistent existence itself is unique and the cause of everything other than itself. We have also seen that something which just is existence itself would exist in a necessary rather than con­tingent way. For since its very essence would just be existence itself, it would not and indeed could not fail to exist. Nor, for that reason, would it or could it have its existence imparted to it. It would there­fore have to be an uncaused cause of the existence of all other things." -- Dr. Edward Feser, "Five Proofs", page 127.

    Finally, Stardusty, you are completely wrong on the physics, as you have been from your very first post. I reiterate...a person in free-fall ('weightless') will change their center of gravity every time they change the orientation of their body/limbs. A human is NOT a rigid body. Any self-movement, e.g. moving ones arms away from the body, or bending at the waist into and "L-shape", changes your center of gravity in 3-D space, which is an abstract, mathematical point. At the change in spatial position of this abstract, mathematical point HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with physical translation through space of the actual object. However, the specific location of the center of mass/gravity does have everything to do with how the actual physical object would translate through space if external forces were applied to it.

    If you refuse to take my word on this matter, I refer you to the following -- and you can multiply this example with a myriad of other technical sources:

    "But the human body is a system of segments linked to each other at the joints. In other words, mass distribution changes continuously as the body posture changes. As a result, the relative CM location changes continuously. It is not a simple task to find the CM of the human body."
    -- http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/exss323/CM_Lab/Center%20of%20Mass.htm

    ReplyDelete
  25. @Tritium
    "Aquinas correctly explains that the finite series could only terminate in a non-contingent, necessary, First Member -- which is the Uncaused Cause."
    Aquinas, like you, merely asserts that a finite series in the present moment must terminate with an uncaused cause.

    Aquinas, and you, offer no logical arguments that disprove the possibility of mutual causation as the terminus of a finite regression of causes.

    "This foundational, Uncaused Cause is the ground of all existence. It imparts causal power on all the other members in the series, which only have causal power in a derivative way."
    Mutual causation not only serves as the foundational cause, it is in evidence in all of modern physics. Be it gravity, electromagnetic force, or the nuclear forces, causations are formulated as mutually interacting entities.

    Protons repel each other in the nucleus. The strong nuclear force is mutually attractive in the nucleus. Orbital motions are calculated using mutual attraction formulations. Like charged particles mutually repel, oppositely charged particles mutually attract.

    There is no call for an infinite series of causal levels, down, as it were. For example, the human body.
    1.Body
    2.Organs
    3.Cells
    4.Molecules
    5.Atoms
    6.Subatomic particles
    7.The standard model
    8.Qunatum fields (or maybe strings or your favorite candidate)

    That’s only 8, not a big number. It is in no way suggestive of infinity.

    Molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and the standard model all work by mutual causation. There is no good reason to suspect an uncaused cause would suddenly become necessary at any potential lower level of material organization.

    "It would there­fore have to be an uncaused cause of the existence of all other things"
    Spacetime and fields can be the necessary beings. We actually have a great deal of evidence for spacetime and fields as real existent beings, as opposed to your brute fact assertion of an uncaused cause deity for which we have no measurements or sensor data or mathematical models at all.

    ReplyDelete
  26. @Tritium
    " I reiterate...a person in free-fall ('weightless') will change their center of gravity every time they change the orientation of their body/limbs"
    No, and your repeated insistence on this easily disprovable assertion calls into question your reasoning more generally.

    A person in free fall cannot alter the trajectory of her center of mass. She can move herself into a curved shape such that her center of mass is no longer located within her body, but relative to a surrounding reference frame that is in some sense stationary the trajectory of her center of mass remains unchanged by her gyrations.

    You can see an illustration of this in the case of the Fosbury Flop, in which the jumper gains the advantage of going over the pole while his center of mass follows a fundamentally parabolic trajectory under the pole.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fosbury_Flop#/media/File:Fosbury_Flop_English.gif

    "But the human body is a system of segments linked to each other at the joints. In other words, mass distribution changes continuously as the body posture changes. As a result, the relative CM location changes continuously. It is not a simple task to find the CM of the human body."
    The center of mass does not change relative to an external reference frame that is in some sense stationary for a gyrating person in space.

    Again, Tritium, you have provided no rational refutation for a finite causal regression that terminates in mutual causation, the presentation of which invalidates the first and second ways by rendering their core dichotomy argument false.

    Recall, we join this show in progress, so to speak. It is indeed evident to our senses that material moves. Our first way analysis presupposes an existent universe of material already in motion, as Aquinas did.

    At base we find material, already structured with properties, that progresses through time with regularity that can be observed and mathematically modeled. From the interactions of molecules “down” to the interactions of the standard model, and further “down” to any candidate more fundamental, mutual attraction, mutual repulsion, mutual interaction is the fundamental causal mechanism observed and modeled, not an unmoved mover.

    At the very least fundamental mutual causation makes the dichotomy presented by Aquinas false, owing to being a 3rd alternative, thereby invalidating the first and second ways as arguments for the necessity of an unmoved mover, or unchanged changer, or uncaused cause.

    For the world’s physicists, virtually unanimously, the notion of an unmoved mover at the base of the standard model is either scorned as absurd, dismissed as a quaint ancient superstition, or simply recognized as having no scientific basis or logical necessity and therefore irrelevant to any serious search for a candidate theory of everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. as having no scientific basis or logical necessity

      Hume's fork. Which itself has no scientific basis or logical necessity.

      Delete
    2. I love it that I pointed out that your conclusion refutes itself and to you it's like I was speaking Chinese.

      Delete
  27. @Stardusty,

    Yeah, I know I said my previous reply would be my last. However, you have been such a good sport, as well as keeping our interlocution respectful and courteous...I feel it is my Christian duty to encourage your rumination upon these matters.

    I get the sense that you are not completely closed-minded...although you definitely are currently ensnared by the glamour of Scientism. My background is steeped in the physical sciences, and you will find no stronger an advocate for the scientific endeavor and enterprise than right here. However, at least for me, there is an infinite gulf between my love, respect and a life-time spent in the application of science and mathematics on the one hand, and belief in materialistic "Scientism" on the other.

    I guess what I am saying is that there is hope for you yet. :)

    Before we go on to discuss the bigger issues, some housekeeping is in order. Specifically, you continue to be completely mistaken on the physics.

    -----------
    You wrote: "The center of mass does not change relative to an external reference frame that is in some sense stationary for a gyrating person in space."
    -----------

    Stardusty, No. Just..No. If we were standing motionless, 3-feet apart on the surface of the Earth, we would consider ourselves to be stationary, inertial frames with respect to one another. When you are standing straight upright, your center of gravity is at a certain point in space with respect to me. If you bent over, your center of gravity has now changed position, with respect to me. The same applies to two astronauts in the same scenario, orbiting on the ISS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (cont.)

      ------------
      You wrote: "Again, Tritium, you have provided no rational refutation for a finite causal regression that terminates in mutual causation, the presentation of which invalidates the first and second ways by rendering their core dichotomy argument false.
      ...At base we find material, already structured with properties, that progresses through time with regularity that can be observed and mathematically modeled. From the interactions of molecules “down” to the interactions of the standard model, and further “down” to any candidate more fundamental, mutual attraction, mutual repulsion, mutual interaction is the fundamental causal mechanism observed and modeled, not an unmoved mover."
      -----

      Stardusty, I cannot provide the "rational refutation" you are looking for, for the simple reason that you have a completely incorrect understanding of cause and effect relationships. You continuously and stubbornly confuse and conflate action-reaction force relationships with causality. I have done my best to clarify and explain the differences. There can be no progress on this, until you recognize and understand that cause and effect relationships are separate and different from action-reaction pairs.

      So, let me try once more.

      As I tried to explain in my above reply of April 2, 2019 at 1:42 PM and continued at 1:43 PM.

      The forces F(hand on stick)and F(stick on hand) are an interaction pair, which is a set of two forces that are in opposite directions, have equal magnitudes and act on different objects. This interaction is called an action-reaction pair. This DOES NOT suggest that one force causes the other, and indeed that is not true. They are simultaneous. For example, the force of the hand pushing on the stick doesn't CAUSE the stick to push on the hand. The two forces EITHER exist together OR not at all. The forces are simultaneous, and are there for the same reason. However, the same action-reaction forces can have radically different EFFECTS on the two interacting objects -- specifically, the resulting accelerations of objects with different masses.

      Please refer to the following article, from which I quote:

      "Causal misinterpretation
      The terms 'action' and 'reaction' have the misleading suggestion of causality, as if the 'action' is the cause and 'reaction' is the effect. It is therefore easy to think of the second force as being there because of the first, and even happening some time after the first. This is incorrect; the forces are perfectly simultaneous, and are there for the same reason.

      When the forces are caused by a person's volition (e.g. a soccer player kicks a ball), this volitional cause often leads to an asymmetric interpretation, where the force by the player on the ball is considered the 'action' and the force by the ball on the player, the 'reaction'. But physically, the situation is symmetric. The forces on ball and player are both explained by their nearness, which results in a pair of contact forces (ultimately due to electric repulsion). That this nearness is caused by a decision of the player has no bearing on the physical analysis. As far as the physics is concerned, the labels 'action' and 'reaction' can be flipped."
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction_(physics)

      Delete
  28. “-----------
    You wrote: "The center of mass does not change relative to an external reference frame that is in some sense stationary for a gyrating person in space."
    -----------“

    ”Stardusty, No. Just..No. If we were standing motionless, 3-feet apart on the surface of the Earth, we would consider ourselves to be stationary, inertial frames with respect to one another. When you are standing straight upright, your center of gravity is at a certain point in space with respect to me. If you bent over, your center of gravity has now changed position, with respect to me.”

    Standing on the surface of the Earth is not gyrating in space nor is it traveling on a ballistic trajectory or in freefall in a gravitational field. Standing on the surface of the Earth allows one to mutually interact with the mass of the Earth and in that case if the individual moves, the center of mass of the individual moves with respect to the Earth’s frame of reference, but the center of mass of the individual/Earth system remains along the same trajectory relative to a frame of reference that is outside both the Earth and the individual.

    “The same applies to two astronauts in the same scenario, orbiting on the ISS.”
    No, an individual in the ISS must interact either with the mass of the ISS craft or the mass of the air inside the ISS to change the trajectory of the astronaut’s center of mass.

    Your statement
    “My background is steeped in the physical sciences,”
    is strongly at odds with your repeated insistence on your misconception about the center of mass of a human being floating freely in space, in freefall, or on a ballistic trajectory.

    I gave you a link to a rendering of an athlete performing the Fosbury Flop
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fosbury_Flop#/media/File:Fosbury_Flop_English.gif

    Did you have a chance to view that image? It depicts a case of a human being on a ballistic trajectory. He is gyrating and “flopping” about, bending and twisting in mid air, but his center of mass remains at all times on its fundamentally parabolic trajectory.

    While this case might seem to just be a quaint aside to the core argument that the first and second ways present a false dichotomy, it is actually a relevant example of how mutual causation manifests in space, since everything we observe is in space.

    “The terms 'action' and 'reaction' have the misleading suggestion of causality, as if the 'action' is the cause and 'reaction' is the effect.”
    Correct, the action and the reaction are both causes and effects of each other. The designation of one as cause and the other as effect is arbitrary and incomplete.

    Such is the nature of mutual causality, which makes the first and second way dichotomy false, as it is an alternate terminus to the finite regression of causes.

    “When the forces are caused by a person's volition (e.g. a soccer player kicks a ball), this volitional cause often leads to an asymmetric interpretation, where the force by the player on the ball is considered the 'action' and the force by the ball on the player, the 'reaction'. But physically, the situation is symmetric.”
    Indeed. Within the muscle cells of the player molecules have moved due to mutual causation, a symmetric terminus to the finite regression of causes that is a 3rd alternative to the dichotomy presented in the first and second ways, thus invalidating the first and second ways as arguments for the necessity of an unmoved mover, or unchanged changer, or uncaused cause.

    You may move further “down” in physics if you wish:
    Molecules
    Atoms
    Subatomic particles
    The standard model
    Quantum fields (or choose your favorite candidate)

    That’s only 4 additional steps “down” from Molecules, hardly a large number, and not suggestive of any call for an infinite regression.

    At each level of material organization causation is formulated as mutual interactions. There is no necessity for an uncaused cause to account for observed change in the present moment.
    Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là.

    ReplyDelete
  29. @Stardusty,

    -----------------------
    Stardusty wrote: No, an individual in the ISS must interact either with the mass of the ISS craft or the mass of the air inside the ISS to change the trajectory of the astronaut’s center of mass."
    -------------------

    Misunderstanding my explanations is understandable...however, please refrain from mischaracterizing them. Where do I say that the center of gravity "translates" through physical space? The center of gravity is an ABSTRACT, idealized point in space. This abstract point has no physical existence. It is not composed of particles, nor does it intrinsically carry information. It can be conceptualized to move or change position in 3-D space...but that is completely different than an actual object which may TRANSLATE THROUGH physical space. In fact, such abstract points are not constrained by physical laws (such as relativity) at all. Look up the "scissors paradox" in special relativity. You should have keyed into the obvious difference between the physical object, and the abstract idealization of its center of gravity, by the simple fact that an object's center of gravity can appear to be located OUTSIDE of the actual physical object.

    So, please reread my explanations to you regarding an astronaut being able to self-rotate while in free-fall, WITHOUT any external forces being applied. This fact remains EVEN when the astronaut is in the vacuum of space (i.e., not inside the ISS with an atmosphere). When this astronaut moves his or her body, they can self-induce a pitch, yaw and roll motion, which is explained by the Conversation of Angular Momentum. This motion can never be perfectly executed nor isolated to only a single plane of direction. In actuality, it will always involve a mixture of pitch-yaw-roll, even though two of the vector components may be very very small, and not immediately noticeable. For example, they my induce a series of motions which look like they have only put themselves into a rotation...but there will be some imperfections which will create a small yaw and pitch to their precession. But I digress. The astronaut's precise center of gravity also will "move" when they move their body. However, I again REEMPHASIZE, this is a change in location of an abstract point. In no way, shape, or form have I implied that this movement of the abstract point (center of gravity) will correspond or correlate with a translation THROUGH space by a physical object, i.e. the astronaut. I again REEMPHASIZE the fact, which I have previously and emphatically explained -- which is that while this astronaut can self-induce pitch/yaw/roll, they cannot change their position, i.e. translate (move) through space, unless an EXTERNAL force is applied.

    By the way, you can confirm the above, by yourself, with a simple experiment. All you need is a swivel chair, and a heavy book. Kneel or stand on the swivel chair (watch your balance), and hold the heavy book straight out in front of you with your arms extended. While holding the object, swivel your arms to the left. From an above perspective, looking down at the top of your head, you have moved the book in an anti-clockwise direction. HOWEVER, your chair and body has simultaneously moved in a clock-wise direction (Conservation of Angular Momentum). The heavy book only helps to emphasize this self-induced rotation. You could still do it without the book, using just your arms extended and twisting your extended arms and upper torso to the left. You will induce a small rotation of your body (on the swiveling chair) in a clockwise direction. In the absence of friction losses, such as the bearings in the chair, and atmosphere...you would continue to rotate in a clockwise direction indefinitely, until you decided to correct your rotation by a similar action, but in reverse.

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    1. (cont.)

      ---------
      Stardusty wrote: Correct, the action and the reaction are both causes and effects of each other. The designation of one as cause and the other as effect is arbitrary and incomplete.
      -----------

      Oh my. You completely misunderstood this explanation. I think you have a mental-block on this matter. The express point of the article is that the action-reaction forces ARE NOT "cause and effect", or vice versa. They occur simultaneously, in pairs, or not at all. One is NOT the cause (or effect) of the other. Action-reaction force pairs have absolutely nothing to do with CAUSALITY at all. The fact that they are simultaneous, should be a clue. One event is not happening before the other, and there is not a cause-effect correlation.

      I will once again do my best to explain, even though I am restating what I have written previously. However, please follow carefully --

      1) Action-reaction force pairs occur simultaneously.
      2) Action-reaction force pairs either exist (simultaneously), or they do not exist.
      3) There must be a CAUSE for an action-reaction force pair to exist / occur.
      4) The CAUSE of a pair of action-reaction forces to exist is whatever placed the two objects into proximity in the first place.
      5) The EFFECT of the pair of action-reaction forces is the the change in the velocity vectors of the two objects...i.e., their subsequent motions.

      Delete
    2. @Tritium
      “The astronaut's precise center of gravity also will "move" when they move their body.”
      Not with respect to an outside frame of reference, no. Relative to a particular point on the astronaut’s own body, say the tip of the nose or the navel or whatever, yes, the gyrating astronaut floating freely, absent a tether, absent a propulsion system, can move her own bodily point relative to her center of mass, but only by moving other of her mass the other way, relative to center of mass, which remains on a fixed trajectory relative to an outside frame of reference despite any such bodily gyrations.

      Relative to an external frame of reference such an astronaut cannot change the trajectory of her center of mass by virtue of any gyrations.

      I don’t know why this is such a sticking point for you, the differences in reference frames is clear and my statements are easily proved as correct.

      “they cannot change their position, i.e. translate (move) through space, unless an EXTERNAL force is applied.”
      Mutual causation, action/reaction pairs are required, such as throwing an object away, firing a rocket, pushing off another mass, pulling toward another mass. It might seem to other readers that we are belaboring minutia but this is an understandable example of the core of the false dichotomy Aquinas employs in the first and second ways, so I think it is worthwhile to take the time and words to be clear on this point.

      Delete
  30. @Tritium
    “They occur simultaneously, in pairs, or not at all. One is NOT the cause (or effect) of the other. Action-reaction force pairs have absolutely nothing to do with CAUSALITY at all. The fact that they are simultaneous, should be a clue. One event is not happening before the other, and there is not a cause-effect correlation.”
    Mutuality in a time-synchronized exchange is what causality is. When considering the propagation of causation at the submicroscopic scale it is never the case that first one thing happens over here and then later that causes something else to happen over there and we can thus identify A as the cause and B as the effect.

    Real physical causation is always a synchronized mutual exchange process over time. At our level of human perception we assign causal agency or causal roles to whole macro objects.

    But the first way juxtaposes a consideration of an infinite regression versions a finite regression going down, as it were, in the present moment, so that calls for a submicroscopic analysis of causations, and there we find causal effects propagate mutually over time and at any moment, symbolized mathematically by the infinitesimal such as dx/dt, each entity is both the cause and the effect of each other.

    Integrating over time this mutual exchange of causality is how causal effects propagate.

    “1) Action-reaction force pairs occur simultaneously.
    2) Action-reaction force pairs either exist (simultaneously), or they do not exist.
    3) There must be a CAUSE for an action-reaction force pair to exist / occur.
    4) The CAUSE of a pair of action-reaction forces to exist is whatever placed the two objects into proximity in the first place.
    5) The EFFECT of the pair of action-reaction forces is the the change in the velocity vectors of the two objects...i.e., their subsequent motions.”

    That is a stepwise analysis that breaks down under closer examination. Causality is a mutual process over time. Causal influences propagate mutually over time.

    For example, in 5) you refer to “the change in velocity” as “the effect”. There is no single change in velocity that is a single effect. Change in velocity integrates over time in a mutual causal process.

    Backing up a bit to 4) we find that the pair came into proximity of each other by virtue of prior mutual interactions occurring over time, which occurred by still previous mutual interactions occurring over time, as so forth going back in time, perhaps to eternity, but that is a different question, the origin of motion in the distant past.

    Aquinas is not addressing the primordial origin of motion, rather, the universe is presupposed to exist in the here and now with all its contents already in motion and already in the positions we find them.

    Thus, your 4) above is not relevant to the first way argument, although it is a very interesting question generally.

    Action reaction pairs came to be placed in their present location by virtue of interactions with other action reaction pairs in the somewhat recent past. Or more accurately, the pairs got to be where they are owing to a multibody problem of vast complexity interacting in multipoint mutuality, absent any need for a first mover, thus invalidating the first and second ways as arguments for the necessity of an unmoved mover, or unchanged changer, or uncaused cause to account for observed motion in the present moment.

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  31. @Stardusty,

    I am trying so hard to remain cordial and respectful...despite your repeated distortions and now, apparently willful and outrageous misrepresentations of what I have stated...such as the following:
    -------------
    "Stardusty wrote: Relative to an external frame of reference such an astronaut cannot change the trajectory of her center of mass by virtue of any gyrations."
    ------------

    Please show me exactly where I ever made the claim that an astronaut can change the TRAJECTORY of their center of mass, unless external forces are applied????
    The FOUR (4) question marks after that last sentence hopefully serves to emphasize my frustration level. I would have left five, but I thought that might be a bit much.

    You are arguing against something I never claimed nor implied in the first place. In fact I was very careful to ensure I repeatedly emphasized the fact that there is no physical change in the astronaut's trajectory, since there is no TRANSLATION in their position, UNLESS EXTERNAL FORCES are applied. Aye yai yai.

    ---------------
    I wrote: “they cannot change their position, i.e. translate (move) through space, unless an EXTERNAL force is applied.”

    To which you replied: "Mutual causation, action/reaction pairs are required, such as throwing an object away, firing a rocket, pushing off another mass, pulling toward another mass.
    --------------
    Besides the first two words in your reply, we are in complete agreement. You in fact, have simply restated what I have already been saying, ad nauseum. However, your first two words "Mutual causation" is incorrect, and simply underscores that you have a complete mental block and inability to differentiate between "causes and effects", on the one hand, and "action-reaction" force pairs, on the other.

    The proverbial horse has thoroughly been beaten to death, here. Unfortunately, the only "false dichotomy" here is that which exists in your mind, due to your inability to comprehend this most basic distinction. Or perhaps its just good 'ole fashioned stubbornness and pride, at this point.

    --------
    Stardusty wrote: But the first way juxtaposes a consideration of an infinite regression versions a finite regression going down, as it were, in the present moment, so that calls for a submicroscopic analysis of causations, and there we find causal effects propagate mutually over time and at any moment, symbolized mathematically by the infinitesimal such as dx/dt, each entity is both the cause and the effect of each other. Integrating over time this mutual exchange of causality is how causal effects propagate."
    ---------------

    And that is where I stopped reading.
    >>Pretend I inserted a classic facepalm GIF, here<<

    Stardusty, please find me ANY peer-reviewed scientific publication that references anything even remotely close to something such as a "mutual exchange of causality". You won't, because no physicist would make such a ridiculous association. That is because they would not make such a category error (of the highest order), by equating cause and effect with action-reaction forces.

    Well, its been great, Stardusty,. However, it looks like we are just going to have to agree to disagree...even though your disagreement is based upon basic and fundamental misunderstandings of both philosophical and scientific principles.

    So, lets get back on topic. When do you think you might get around to actually reading Prof. Feser's "Five Proofs"?

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  32. @Tritium
    "Please show me exactly where I ever made the claim that an astronaut can change the TRAJECTORY of their center of mass, unless external forces are applied????"
    Ok, so apparently we now agree on this point. That's a good thing.

    April 4, 2019 at 7:26 PM you said:
    “Finally, Stardusty, you are completely wrong on the physics,”

    But now you agree with my description of the physics, so I was right all along on the physics and we agree, so that is a good thing then.

    “However, your first two words "Mutual causation" is incorrect, and simply underscores that you have a complete mental block and inability to differentiate between "causes and effects", on the one hand, and "action-reaction" force pairs, on the other.”
    Causation is, at base, mutual, with the designation of “cause” and “effect” an arbitrary human perceptual title assignment.

    For ordinary human functioning the titles of “cause” and “effect” seem useful. But Aquinas asks us to consider the possibility or impossibility of an infinite series of causes and effects hierarchically in the present moment. Clearly, in such a regression analysis we must go “down” to the most fundamental levels of physics and there we find that causation propagates as mutual interactions over time in which an assignment of the titles “cause” and “effect” is entirely arbitrary and incomplete.

    “Stardusty, please find me ANY peer-reviewed scientific publication that references anything even remotely close to something such as a "mutual exchange of causality".”
    I suggested previously that you read “Against Measurement” by John Bell.

    Also, Feser cites Russell on the subject of mutuality on page 43. Obviously, I did not invent the notion of mutual interactions. Feser’s supposed “problems” with Russell on mutuality are very poorly reasoned, and if you really want some more long posts from me I can easily point out the many errors Feser makes in his attempt to rebut Russell on the subject of mutuality.

    Physics is formulated as mutual interactions wherein the designation of one entity as “cause” and the other as “effect” is arbitrary and incomplete.

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  33. “That is because they would not make such a category error (of the highest order), by equating cause and effect with action-reaction forces.”
    What then do you suppose causation is, one entity somehow anchored in space that causes some other entity to go do something? Well, perhaps that is essentially your concept, since you seem convinced of the reality of an unmoved mover.

    In reality causes and effects are mutual and interactive.

    If one wishes to assign titles to whole macro objects then in that manner of speaking Jupiter causes the spacecraft on a boost trajectory to speed up, but just as surly the spacecraft causes Jupiter to slow down, so the choice of cause and effect is arbitrary, and in fact Jupiter and the spacecraft are mutually causes and effects of the changes in the velocities of each other.

    To solve for this process one determines a function for the trajectory of Jupiter, the trajectory of the spacecraft, an equation for gravitational attraction based on distance and mass, plus values for masses, distances, and velocities. Then one sets up a vector calculus integral and integrates over time.

    Alternatively, numerical methods can be used to solve the problem iteratively to accuracy greater than the initial values have.

    The assignment of the titles “cause” and “effect” are irrelevant. If you want to think of Jupiter causing the spacecraft to speed up, you can, but that notion breaks down under any detailed analysis, which necessary requires the modeling of a mutually interacting system over time.

    “your disagreement is based upon basic and fundamental misunderstandings of both philosophical and scientific principles.”
    None that you have validly pointed out here.

    “So, lets get back on topic. When do you think you might get around to actually reading Prof. Feser's "Five Proofs"?”
    I’ve been on topic all along. The first way is at the core of A-T. The first proof chapter in Five Proofs is the A in A-T, and is directly related to the first way.

    For example, Feser asserts 4 supposedly different kinds of change. All are, in fact, due to mutual causation between what you are calling action/reaction pairs, or more accurately, mutually interacting entities in a multibody problem of vast complexity. Feser then goes on at length about coldness and hotness and actualization of potential, all of which language has no physics analytical value.

    Heat and temperature, for example, are analyzed in physics as molecular or atomic kinetic energy and velocity distributions. The language Feser employs has been obsolete for centuries and only serves to obfuscate the true nature of causality and change and motion, which are due to mutual causality in mutual interactions in multibody systems over time.

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  34. I firing up a flare, here, to other members and participants on this fine blogsite. If anyone else has any ideas as to how to help Stardusty with his conceptual block, it would be greatly appreciated.

    For anyone following this series of exchanges, the fundamental source of confusion and misunderstanding involves Stardusty's conceptual difficulty in making the distinction between "cause and effect", on the one hand, and classical physics "action-reaction" forces, on the other.

    Unfortunately, there cannot be any progress in addressing Stardusty's wider objections to Aquinas' proofs, when there exists this foundational stumbling block in his understanding of causality.

    So if anyone has any other ideas and angles of approach, please chime in.

    Stardusty seems like a good chap. At least, he is not your typical obnoxious atheist, or worse, a clueless evangelical fundamentalist with an indoctrinated bigotry against the Catholic Church and Her intellectual heritage.

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    1. Stardusty seems like a good chap. At least, he is not your typical obnoxious atheist, or worse, a clueless evangelical fundamentalist with an indoctrinated bigotry against the Catholic Church and Her intellectual heritage.

      I agree. However, pedagogy is largely an unsolved problem, so while we should keep him/her around, unfortunately I can't help him/her.

      Delete
  35. @Tritium
    @Cogniblog
    The reason you are both blocked from your kind efforts to help me understand causation is that, judging from your writings and apparent adherence to A-T analysis on the subject, neither of you have come to understand the nature of causation yourselves.

    Feser quoted in his book from this paper written by Bertrand Russell over 100 years ago.
    On the Notion of Cause, with Applications to the Free-Will Problem
    http://www.hist-analytic.com/Russellcause.pdf

    The passage quoted was taken from the middle of a 20 page densely worded paper on cause, effect, mutuality, and determinism. At best the conclusions of Jonathan Schaffer reprinted by Feser are naive and shallow, more likely, I think, Schaffer is merely quote mining to create a strawman of Russell.

    Russell goes on at length as to the roll of functions, which are equations, and a great many other physically realistic, logical, and mathematical aspects of the so-called law of causality.

    Russell explains in great detail, more than 100 years ago, that in scientific formulations causality is simply absent. There is only the process over time of mutual interaction, or put more succinctly, “there is merely a formula”.

    Your considerate efforts to find pedagogy to assist me are stymied because science obsoleted A-T notions and terminology of cause and effect more than a century ago in any fine granularity analysis of interactive processes.

    To understand better why this is, in fact, the case, you can read the paper Feser cited on page 43, you can read works by John Stewart Bell, or you can simply read the formulations of gravity and electromagnetism in any calculus based college physics textbook, wherein interactions are formulated as mutually interacting entities, or as you called them, action-reaction pairs.

    Causation simply is, at base, to the extent that causation is a useful notion at all, mutual.

    I referred variously to Jupiter and the spacecraft as being mutual causes and effects of each other. Alternatively, one can say that causation in the A-T sense simply is not realistic, and only the mutual interaction of the masses over time is the case. The choice between the two methods of description are just word choice as to whether the realist is attempting to make some reference to the obsolete language of A-T or is instead describing the mutual interaction scientifically.

    Change is real, at base really mutual. B changes A just as surely as A changes B. If one insists on assigning titles of causal agency and causal roles to vastly complex macro objects then the 8 ball causes the cue ball to slow down just as surely as the cue ball causes the 8 ball to speed up. In truth, that transfer of kinetic energy is a process over time, else the force of contact would be infinite.

    Action-reaction pairs, or more accurately, multibody problems of vast complexity and mutual causality ARE the base of causality.

    It is you, my friends, who are so very much in need of pedagogy to assist you in comprehending the true nature of causality.

    The hierarchical causal regression called for in the first and second ways is a finite regression that terminates in mutual causation, thus presenting a 3rd alternative to the asserted dichotomy of the first and second ways, rendering the dichotomy false, the first and second ways invalid, and with them, the foundation of A-T.

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    1. @StardustyPsyche I want to borrow this argument from John C. Wright

      The problem with mutual causation is that it appears that every amount of causation requires the loss of a little bit of energy. So two mutual causes would be a type of perpetual motion machine.

      Or there is a mechanism in the universe for creating energy out of nothing.

      Delete
  36. @Cogniblog

    “I want to borrow this argument from John C. Wright”
    … Never heard of him, Wiki to the rescue, a lawyer science fiction writer, well ok, one never knows where the next great idea will come from, sounds unlikely at first blush, but hey, the guy is no dummy, so let’s just give it a go…

    “The problem with mutual causation is that it appears that every amount of causation requires the loss of a little bit of energy.”
    Hmm, why would that be the case? Where would the energy go? No case of net material loss or gain has ever been scientifically documented. Conservation of material (matter/energy) is both an observational scientific fact to the finest available precision, as well as implicit in physics equations, perhaps the most famous being E=mc^2.

    “So two mutual causes would be a type of perpetual motion machine.”
    Indeed. Reality is a perpetual motion machine. In crude terms, everything keeps bouncing off of everything else.

    Recall, Aquinas does not seek an answer, in the first and second ways, as to how the primordial origins of material existence and motion (change, causation) came to be in the distant past.

    Aquinas implicitly presupposes, in the first and second ways, that the universe simply does exist with all its material entities already in motion in the present moment, present meaning some small period time extending into the humanly perceived past.

    There is no such thing as frictional losses at the molecular scale, or below.

    Frictional loss is a macroscopic illusion. What we think of as a “loss” is equally a “gain” by some other entity or subsystem.

    What we perceive on our macro scale as a loss of energy is merely a transfer of energy to some other material. Yes, we lost it, but some other material gained it, so there is no net loss, or gain, only conservation of material.

    How that material came to be in existence and continuously or continually changing is an unsolved riddle, but that riddle is irrelevant to the first and second ways, which presuppose such an existence simply is the case.

    “Or there is a mechanism in the universe for creating energy out of nothing.”
    I agree that if mutual causation required the loss of energy in each interaction and if the universe contains a fixed amount of material then one would conclude there would need to be a mechanism in the universe for creating energy (material) out of nothing. Since the initial premise has no indication of being the case we need not concern ourselves with its ramifications.

    Causation is real. Causal influence is a realistic notion.

    Cause and effect as they are typically described in ancient terms are revealed to be nonsense under careful examination. A-T notions of cause and effect, causal agency, and causal rolls are such nonsense.

    Jupiter really does cause the spacecraft to speed up in an interaction over time.
    The spacecraft really does cause Jupiter to slow down in an interaction over time.

    If we idealize gravitational influences as propagating instantaneously then the period of time of mutual causation would be exactly contiguous with the period of time of mutual effect.

    Real causal influences propagate over time, but they remain mutual.

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  37. There is no such thing as frictional losses at the molecular scale, or below.

    Yes there is. One atom moving across another causes vibrations which are dispersed among the degrees of freedom of the atoms.

    If we idealize gravitational influences as propagating instantaneously then the period of time of mutual causation would be exactly contiguous with the period of time of mutual effect.

    I am glad to see that you believe that simultaneous causation is possible.

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  38. @Cogniblog

    “Yes there is (frictional losses at the molecular scale). One atom moving across another causes vibrations which are dispersed among the degrees of freedom of the atoms.”
    That is not a net loss, it is a transfer mechanism.

    You cited John C. Wright as considering each little interaction would result in a loss of energy, requiring there to be in the universe a mechanism for creating something from nothing. That is not the case because there is no net loss due to friction at the molecular scale, only transfer mechanisms that account for our macro illusory perception of a net loss at the macro scale.

    The floor appears motionless to the ordinary observer. Roll a ball across the floor, that is a change because you transferred energy to the ball to accelerate it. The ball soon rolls to a stop. The motion seems to have disappeared and been lost. Nothing obvious about the floor has changed; it was and remains apparently motionless. So, the obvious conclusion is that motion requires a continual or continuous changer else motion will cease.

    The notion of terrestrial motion as a continual or continuous change is at the core of the A in the A-T, which T fully embraced and wove intimately into his logical arguments.

    What A-T did not know is that there is no net loss of energy because the motion of the ball simply got transferred by the process you describe, as well as other processes.

    Aristotle allowed for something like Newtonian inertia beyond the moon. The stars just seem to go and go and go at the same speed along the same paths night after night, except for a few wanderers. What Aristotle did not realize is that all motion is through space, that we are all in space, it is just that we have so many neighbors in our region of space.

    At base, material progresses interactively though time the same on Earth as it does in outer space, it’s just that the density of material in space is so much higher in our region of space that nearby interactions of material occur on a vast scale here, as opposed to outer space or interplanetary space where the same sorts of interactions occur but much less frequently.


    “I am glad to see that you believe that simultaneous causation is possible.”
    Simultaneity occurs in the instant of time as the limit of t as t goes to 0, typically represented in mathematics as dt, sometimes somewhat odiously taught as the infinitesimal.

    Process causality, or mutual causality, is how material interacts. If causal influences were to propagate instantaneously, as in Newtonian gravity, then the periods of time of mutual causes and mutual effects would exactly coincide for all observers. The fact that causal influences do not propagate instantaneously makes the task of precise formulation of a description of the process a great deal more difficult, and makes a number of philosophical notions of causality demonstrably false or a best imprecisely worded.

    A good beginning at analysis on the subject of mutuality, and the effect upon philosophical arguments of analysis of the limit as t goes to 0, can be found in the paper referenced on page 43:
    On the Notion of Cause, with Applications to the Free-Will Problem
    http://www.hist-analytic.com/Russellcause.pdf

    Jonathan Schaffer makes a strawman of a single sentence from that paper, missing the point of the whole analysis entirely. To say “there is merely a formula” is to say at the base of causation there is only the functional mutual relationship of material interacting over time, for which the formula is a description.

    That causal base, material entities moving each other, terminates the finite regression of motions, changes, or causes without the necessity of an unmoved mover, or unchanged changer, or uncaused cause. Thus, the core “proof” of the existence of god collapses, and with it, the foundation of A-T.

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  39. That is not a net loss, it is a transfer mechanism.

    This is a net loss. Once that vibrational energy is transferred into degrees of freedom, it is no longer usable work. As work it is gone forever.

    When Wright talked about "net loss," he was talking about net loss of work.

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  40. @Cogniblog
    “This is a net loss (of molecular energy at the molecular level in molecular interactions). Once that vibrational energy is transferred into degrees of freedom, it is no longer usable work. As work it is gone forever.”

    Molecular degrees of freedom are transnational, rotational, and vibrational. Temperature is a measure of mean molecular kinetic energy, which can be in the form of any of those degrees of freedom.

    For example, an ordinary microwave oven heats water by imparting rotational kinetic energy to water molecules. Water molecules are polar, so the polar moment of the molecule aligns with the traveling electromagnetic waves, in some sense, “riding along” with the wave to increase rotational kinetic energy and thus heat the water.

    No net energy is lost in molecular interactions nor does energy somehow become hidden from doing work. That’s why the gas molecules in thermal equilibrium within a sealed container do not stop, rather, they keep going and going and going.

    If you could see such molecules they would be a madhouse of activity, continually bouncing off each other chaotically by the billions, never stopping, and on average, never slowing down, because each collision is lossless for net matter/energy (material).

    To analyze why any hierarchical causal series terminates with mutual causation we can consider a series of entities in a causal regression analysis.

    Suppose we know that “a” moved, and that the structure of “a” is such that it cannot move itself or anything else, so if we see “a” move we know it was moved by something else. This calls for a hierarchical regression causal analysis.
    What caused “a” to move?
    b
    What caused “b” to move?
    c
    What caused “c” to move?
    d
    What caused “d” to move?
    e
    What caused “e” to move?
    f
    What caused “f” to move?
    g
    What caused “g” to move?
    f
    End of hierarchical regression.
    Beginning of temporal regression.

    Entities a, b, c, d, and e cannot individually move themselves and cannot independently move anything else.
    Entities f and g also cannot individually move themselves but they are capable of moving each other.

    Given that f and g are in fact in close proximity at the present moment they will move each other. While g goes moving off elsewhere f goes on to move e which moves d, c, b, and a, in the hierarchical series.

    That calls for the question as to how f and g came to be in close proximity at the present moment. The answer is in the past f and p were in close proximity as well as g and q were in close proximity. They are the same sorts of things (say, electrons) so each pair moved mutually, with p and q going elsewhere while over time f and g approached each other until they arrived at their positions of close proximity in the present moment.

    We can ask the same questions about f, g, p, and q, and we will find the same sorts of answers. That further still in the past these entities were in close proximity with other entities, all of which a capable of moving each other. The further back in time we go the more entities are involved, but always of the same sort, those that are capable of mutually causing motion in each other.

    Starting at our macro level the rock, stick, hand, bone, and tendon cannot move themselves, but the molecules in the muscle cells can move each other.

    When the hierarchical regression sequence gets to the molecular level the hierarchical regression terminates with physical entities that are capable of mutual causation. Further regression analysis is then temporal, and can, in principle, be extended back in time indefinitely.

    The first “proof” in Feser’s book depends on an argument from the impossibility of the contrary in an asserted dichotomy. The termination of a hierarchical finite causal regression at the level of mutual causation (the molecular level and below) shows that dichotomy to be false, rendering the “proof” invalid, and with it, the foundation of A-T.

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    1. No net energy is lost in molecular interactions nor does energy somehow become hidden from doing work. That’s why the gas molecules in thermal equilibrium within a sealed container do not stop, rather, they keep going and going and going.

      Yes. That's what I said. But Wright's argument wasn't that causal interactions cause a net loss of energy, but a net loss of WORK.

      Two mutual causes eventually would lose work. Even your example of an asteroid mutually influencing Jupiter involves work being lost. It gets radiated away as heat and it is gone forever, never to be used again.

      Delete
  41. @Cogniblog
    “Yes. That's what I said. But Wright's argument wasn't that causal interactions cause a net loss of energy, but a net loss of WORK.

    Two mutual causes eventually would lose work.”

    The SI unit of work is the joule. A joule is a unit of energy. Work, in physics, is energy. When a force is applied over a distance work is said to have been done.

    When work is done on a mass it accelerates and in physics it is said to have changed kinetic energy.

    John C. Wright might be a fine lawyer, a skilled author, and an otherwise bright and all around good guy, but he clearly does not understand even the fundamentals of ordinary mechanics taught literally in Physics 101.

    Have you considered the molecular motions of a gas in thermal equilibrium within a sealed container? There is no net loss of molecular kinetic energy, or work or any such thing. Such a gas actually is a perpetual motion machine. So long as there is no change in the temperature of the sealed container the gas molecules or atoms inside will just keep moving and colliding with each other indefinitely, because each collision is lossless in net energy.

    “Even your example of an asteroid mutually influencing Jupiter involves work being lost. It gets radiated away as heat and it is gone forever, never to be used again”
    Used by whom or what? That seems to be a rather anthropocentric statement. You are stating that if energy gets radiated away from our solar system it can “never be used again” and is “gone forever”.

    What do you mean by “gone forever”? Do you suppose that “heat” radiation, by which I assume you mean electromagnetic radiation in the infrared wavelength band, will simply blink out of existence?

    No, radiation from a cooling solar system object does not somehow get “lost”, it simply propagates through space indefinitely unless and until it collides with some object, in which case it may be absorbed and thus warm that object, warming an object means increasing the mean kinetic energy of its atoms and molecules, in other words, doing work on them.

    I appreciate your time, but it seems to me you have a few incorrect ideas about basic physics, and that is limiting you from understanding and appreciating the arguments I have presented above. My suggestion is that you go through my above arguments step by step, and at each step possibly do a quick search on the subject to realize the accuracy of my statements.

    If you choose to do that you will find that I have indeed shown conclusively that the first “proof” in Feser’s book, the first way of Aquinas, and the foundation of A-T to all be invalid.

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  42. Stardusty wrote: "If you choose to do that you will find that I have indeed shown conclusively that the first “proof” in Feser’s book, the first way of Aquinas, and the foundation of A-T to all be invalid."
    ----------------

    The only thing you have shown is your confusion and incorrect conflation of mutual action-reaction force pairs with causal relations. So, to draw a parallel, your fundamental cognitive confusion on this issue is the CAUSE, which regretfully leads to the EFFECT of drawing incorrect conclusions and misunderstanding of Aquinas' argument (and Dr. Feser's elucidation).
    The argument being; an essential causal series necessarily requires a First member that can actualize a potential without itself having to be actualized. This First member has intrinsic causal power, as it is Pure Act. At the end of the day, all essentially-ordered (per se) series have at their fundamental level a single, common "source"/First Member, which is this Uncaused Cause.

    To make an analogy, you are confusing an IDENTITY:
    "A = B" (action-reaction force)

    with the CONDITIONAL statement:
    "if X, then Y" (cause and effect)

    -----------------
    Stardusty wrote: "Have you considered the molecular motions of a gas in thermal equilibrium within a sealed container? There is no net loss of molecular kinetic energy, or work or any such thing. Such a gas actually is a perpetual motion machine. So long as there is no change in the temperature of the sealed container the gas molecules or atoms inside will just keep moving and colliding with each other indefinitely, because each collision is lossless in net energy."
    ----------------

    Wow, your confusion is now confusing me. I don't know if you are muddling up the 2nd Law or the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics...however, my guess is it is a combination of both. By the way, atoms/molecules in a notional ISOLATED system which is in thermodynamic equilibrium -- that is what I assume your example of a "sealed container" is meant to imply -- do NOT have any applicability to a perpetual motion machine of the First or Second kind. By definition, a notional isolated system is not exchanging/transferring energy in any way with its surroundings. Despite the mean kinetic velocity of particles within a notional isolated system which is in thermal equilibrium, there is no "net loss in work" because there is zero ability to do "work" in the first place, by definition.

    John C. Wright may have been speaking of a system that is in the process of EVOLVING into a state of maximum entropy...not a system that has already reached maximum entropy. A system that is EVOLVING towards a maximum entropy state is decreasing in thermodynamic FREE ENERGY (ability to perform "Work"). Given these considerations, @Cogniblog is absolutely correct in his explanation.

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  43. @Tritium
    “The argument being; an essential causal series necessarily requires a First member that can actualize a potential without itself having to be actualized.”
    The ancient notions of actualizing a potential were obsoleted centuries ago by scientific functional relations.

    But, in the interest of finding some common basis of communication, in that manner of speaking, the argument is false because it neglects a 3rd alternative. The finite essential causal series can have as its first member an entity that can actualize a potential by virtue of mutual actualization with another such entity (in the simplified 2 body case, as opposed to the realistic multibody case, but the principle holds in either case).

    “This First member has intrinsic causal power, as it is Pure Act.”
    “Pure act” is a nonsense term. It is just 2 disjoint words put together like Green Time.

    Irrespective, you can make that speculation if you wish, I have presented a 3rd alternative that makes the supposed dichotomy false.

    “To make an analogy, you are confusing an IDENTITY:
    "A = B" (action-reaction force)

    with the CONDITIONAL statement:
    "if X, then Y" (cause and effect)”
    Your analogy is not useful because it is inadequate to describe the interaction between moving entities.

    “Despite the mean kinetic velocity of particles within a notional isolated system which is in thermal equilibrium, there is no "net loss in work" because there is zero ability to do "work" in the first place, by definition.”
    The molecules of gas within the sealed container are continually doing work on each other. The molecules are continually transferring kinetic energy back and forth amongst themselves with no net loss of total or mean kinetic energy because at each transfer when work is done on each other the interaction has no net loss, and is therefore a perpetual motion system.

    “A system that is EVOLVING towards a maximum entropy state is decreasing in thermodynamic FREE ENERGY (ability to perform "Work"). Given these considerations, @Cogniblog is absolutely correct in his explanation.”
    The molecules in the sealed container continually do work on each other even though there are no large regions of differing temperature. The system has reached maximum entropy from a macro perspective, but its individual entities continue to do work on each other without any losses that would require there to be in the universe a mechanism to create something from nothing.

    In all your replies you still have not identified any flaw in my very clear arguments above.

    Once we arrive, as it were, at the stage in our causal regress analysis that f and g are the mutual causes and effects of each other the essentially ordered finite series terminates and any further causal regress is temporal, not hierarchical.

    Put another way, there is only the mutual functional interaction of entities over time, or more succinctly, ”there is only the formula”, which was used to create a strawman of Russell, reprinted by Feser.

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  44. @Tritium
    Suppose 2 electrons are nearly touching each other right now. Let’s ignore for the moment how they got so close right now, but just imagine, if you will, 2 electrons right now in the present moment nearly touching each other.

    Our electron pair can move itself. Each electron, in some sense, pushes off against the other. The electrons do move themselves. One electron alone cannot move itself, but 2 electrons that are in fact nearly touching right now can and will mutually move themselves.

    Electron f can then serve the role of the first mover. The entity f is the first mover for the essential series f, e, d, c, b, a.

    The first way presupposes that the electrons are in their present position of nearly touching because the present state of the universe with all its entities are presupposed to be in their present positions and in their present motions for the purpose of performing a hierarchical causal regression analysis right now in the present moment.

    Mutual attractions and repulsions provide the first movers in every hierarchical causal series, thus invalidating the first way and with it the foundation of A-T.


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  45. Pedagogically, it seems the disagreement might be addressable at a more basic level. Stardusty seems to ascribe to the views Russell presents in the paper Feser and Stardusty cite. That seems to me to be one source of the problem.

    Let me state my position briefly and tartly: having read that paper, it is a fine and shining example of the breathtaking ignorance both of the tradition and of fundamental principles on the part of a modern philosopher who attempts, laughably, to consign that which he does not understand to the dustbin of history. To quote the Coen brothers, Russell is like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie. Classic physics-envy only makes it worse.

    Now, to begin making headway requires pointing this out concretely. First, I propose, Russell accepts only a completely impoverished notion of cause without even considering other options, on the basis of which he thinks to address the question of free will, with unsurprisingly problematic results. If one accepts only rose-colored glasses through which to view reality, it is hardly surprising that one will reject the existence of other colors. To even begin a profitable discussion, we must judge the legitimacy of these glasses - that is, we must take seriously the long-held claim that there are several kinds of causes and reject this only upon serious *pre-mathematical* arguments.

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    Replies
    1. @TC
      "to begin making headway requires pointing this out concretely. "
      I did not find any concrete counter arguments to my specific demonstrations above that causality is mutual, and that mutual causality provides a terminus to the hierarchical regressions called for in the first and second ways, thereby making their dichotomies false.

      The core subject of this thread is 5 Proofs, the first of which is a discussion of the arguments of Aristotle as told by Aquinas in the first and second ways.

      I have invalidated the first and second ways, as you might say, concretely.

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    2. Tritium has already pointed out the fundamental problem with your account of causality. I am noting that Russell has a similar problem and that that is the source of the disagreement.

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