Thursday, February 27, 2020

Agere sequitur esse and the First Way


Aquinas’s First Way is also known as the argument from motion to an Unmoved Mover.  The most natural way to read it is as an argument to the effect that things could not change at any given moment if there were no divine cause keeping the change going.  But some Thomists have read it instead as an argument to the effect that changing things could not even exist at any given moment if there were no divine cause keeping them in being.  That’s the reading I propose in my book Aquinas and my ACPQ article “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways,” and it’s a line of argument I develop and defend in greater depth in chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God.

On my way of presenting the argument, it begins with change, not because this is the phenomenon the argument is ultimately most concerned to explain, but rather because it provides the clearest way to introduce the distinction between actuality and potentiality.  Change entails the actualization of potential, but so too does the sheer existence of a thing at any moment.  The latter is what the argument, as I present it, is ultimately most concerned with.  But it is much easier for most readers to get an initial handle on the concept of the actualization of potential by considering change than it is by considering the existence of a thing at a moment. 

Now, does that mean that at the end of the day, a divine cause really explains at most only the existence of a thing at a time, and that this cause does not after all explain change?  Should we say that God merely keeps things in existence but that, for all Aquinas can show, their changes require no divine explanation?

No, that doesn’t follow, and it isn’t true.  Recall the principle agere sequitur esse or “action follows being,” which I defend and deploy in Five Proofs (and which I’ve had occasion to discuss in a recent post and in various earlier posts).  As I’ve argued there and elsewhere, the principle, together with other considerations raised by arguments like the argument from motion, entails a concurrentist account of God’s relationship to the world.  Given that action follows being – that the way a thing operates reflects its mode of existing – we can conclude that a thing would have no causal efficacy at all without God’s cooperation or concurrence with its activity, just as a pen could not write without your cooperation or concurrence with it (by holding and moving it).  For if a thing could act or operate apart from God’s action, then since the way a thing acts reflects its mode of being, it could also exist apart from God’s action.  And that is ruled out by arguments like the argument from motion, developed the way I develop it.  (See Five Proofs for the details of this defense of concurrentism.)

Since change always involves a potential being actualized by some efficient cause, change too, and not merely the existence of things, thus requires a divine cause (to cooperate or concur with the efficient cause).  The overall picture is therefore much like that of what I characterized above as the first and more natural reading of the First Way.  But the line of argumentation is less direct.  It isn’t a straight shot from the reality of change to the conclusion that the Unmoved Mover must keep change going.  It’s rather an argument from the sheer existence of things to the conclusion that the Unmoved Mover must keep them in existence, and then a combination of this result with the principle agere sequitur esse to yield the further result that the activity of things, and thus their bringing about of change, requires divine concurrence.

That’s not to say that the more direct sort of argument is not correct.  It’s just that that’s not the sort of argument I’ve been the most interested in defending.

Here’s another observation.  Aristotle’s own version of the argument from motion to an Unmoved Mover is often interpreted as an explanation precisely of change rather than the existence of things.  The idea (on this interpretation) is that Aristotle thinks an Unmoved Mover is necessary in order to account for why the world continues to change from moment to moment, but he does not take the sheer being of the world from moment to moment to require such an explanation.  (I put to one side the question of whether this is a correct interpretation of Aristotle.)

The principle agere sequitur esse would arguably afford a path even from this version of the Unmoved Mover argument to the conclusion of the version I defend.  If action follows being, then if change – and thus the action of things in the world – requires an explanation in terms of a divine cause, then the sheer being of things must require such an explanation too.  For if things could exist apart from such a cause, why couldn’t they act apart from it? 

If this is correct, then the three dimensions of our discussion – the being of a thing, the action of a thing, and the link between being and action enshrined in the principle agere sequitur esse – are thus so tightly interconnected that the differences between interpretations of the argument from motion may be moot.  We can reason from the being of things to the existence of an Unmoved Mover, and the principle agere sequitur esse will then tell us that the action of those things too requires the Unmoved Mover.  Or we can reason from the action of things to the existence of an Unmoved Mover, and the principle agere sequitur esse will then tell us that the being of those things too requires the Unmoved Mover.  We end up at the same place, by neighboring routes.

Related posts:






115 comments:

  1. I find your argument very moving.

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  2. Hello everyone, I am extremely new to Dr. Feser's blogs, Thomism, and classical theism in general. I was wondering if anyone could direct me to some contemporary writings on the philosophy of mind that argue for the immateriality of the mind or a "soul," since this problem is the biggest issue I have with believing in God.

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    1. Feser's book on the subject, Philosophy of Mind.

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    2. There are strong arguments to be made for the human intellect, and thus the immateriality of the human soul. Although, I’m no quite so sure what it has to do with belief in God, they are seperate matters.

      Here is an excellent paper by Dr. Feser giving an argument for the immaterial intellect

      https://www.newdualism.org/papers/E.Feser/Feser-acpq_2013.pdf

      Dr. Feser also gives a briefer exposition of the argument here

      https://youtu.be/fNi0j19ZSpo

      Also, as @Zeno suggested, Feser’s book philosophy of Mind surveys many of the arguments for and against dualism.

      You may also enjoy David Oderberg’s paper on the Thomistic brand of dualism (hylemorphic dualism)

      https://www.newdualism.org/papers/D.Oderberg/HylemorphicDualism2.htm




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    3. I'd recommend Feser's "Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide" before his "Philosophy of Mind". Both good books, but Philosophy of Mind (as @Crash points out), mostly focuses on analyzing and criticizing the different views of the mind. "Aquinas" is a very digestible way to acquire an understanding of the metaphysical basis for scholastic psychology. Then, it has a chapter late on the book about scholastic psychology.

      I am not exaggerating when I say: That chapter on psychology changed my life.

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    4. Here is a small reading list:

      1- Michael Augros's "The Immortal in You". Augros is a thomist philosopher and this entire book - popular and very easy to read - is a defense of the soul and its thomistic understanding. Give it a read.

      2- Edward Feser's "Aquinas" has a chapter on philosophy of mind which explains the argument very well;

      3- Edward Feser's "Philosophy of Mind" book is an extended discussion of phil. of mind, you should enjoy it;

      4- David Oderberg's "Hylemorphic Dualism" or "Dualism, Concepts, and the Human Intellect". If you google, you can probably find both online. Be warned these articles are more technical in nature. They include Oderberg's storage problem argument for the soul;

      5- C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea by Victor Reppert. Although this book is rather a defense of theism instead of the soul, it is easy to adapt its argument to an argument for the soul, as it has been the case historically.

      These are good sources, easy to understand and all. Oderberg's articles are the more technical ones, but even there you can understand some of the key issues, probably.

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    5. Crash, I would argue that the belief in the immateriality of the mind naturally inclines one toward a belief in God, at least in the Christian tradition - it makes an afterlife more plausible since a timeless Paradise is not subject to decay. It also generally implies there are dimension(s) to reality that aren't reducible to physics, which is certainly in the interest of anyone wanting to promote classical theism.

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    6. Not only that, but it opens up an independent argument for God (we need to explain the existence of the soul, so we need an intelligent Creator, or a highest soul as Plato might have put it).

      And indirectly it establishes the necessary being has intelligence, as it must have all perfections in contingent reality.

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    7. There is also Rasmussen's counting argument:

      https://youtu.be/Hw7ynh8w-tU

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    8. Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel is very good. He's an atheist but he really fights hard against the reductionist-materialist worldview with regards to the mind.

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  3. This is off-topic but I have a question: can we use Putnam's "no miracles" argument against non-realism about time? Also, is this explanation against the claim about the unreality of time correct: Time cannot be unreal because the Aristotelian regards change as a real feature of objective, mind-independent world. And if change is real, how can that which we use to measure change be any less real? Time is real because we use it to measure real changes, just like rulers are real because it measures real lengths.

    I'm planning to write a paper on the philosophy of time in an Aristotelian perspective and a defense of the a-theory/presentism. Please help. Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Ask here: https://classicaltheism.createaforum.com/, or in the next open thread.

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    2. Much needed. We need a thomistic defense of a theory of time.

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    3. Mark,

      It's been a long time since we last interacted. Have you read Aristotle's revenge already? I finished it last week. Dr. Feser gave an amazing defense of the A-Theory of time there.

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    4. "Dr. Feser gave an amazing defense of the A-Theory of time there."
      Also here, a very good work of reasoning indeed:
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/12/cundy-on-relativity-and-a-theory-of-time.html

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  4. So, is the standard interpretation of Aristotle's version obviously correct, or could the case be made that he's arguing along the lines of your version too?

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  5. Avicenna, Commentary on Metaphysics Lambda 23.21-24:

    It is vile to arrive at [God] by way of motion and by way of the fact that it is the principle of motion, and [then] to undertake from this [basis] to make it into a principle for the essences, because these people [Aristotle and Co.] offered nothing more than establishing it as a mover, not a principle for what exists. How utterly incompetent that motion should be the means of establishing the One, the Real, which itself is the principle of every being.

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  6. It sounds like this post might be in relation to the discussion Prof. Feser had with Graham Oppy where Graham was say something like "red chair stays a red chair and does so without being actualized by anything else".

    I need to think about this more.

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    1. I can't yet see why. The issue at hand at that point of the debate is existential inertia. Feser assumed Oppy would appeal to causal powers to persist in existence to account for existential inertia, though Oppy said no such thing. I think, though, Feser might be justified in doing so since maybe, just maybe, only an appeal to causal powers would be the only good try to defend existential inertia. Or is it?

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  7. Hello Dr. Feser,

    One of the biggest criticism by existentialist Thomists of Aristotle's Argument to the Unmoved Mover is that it *cannot* (according to them) get you to 1 Unmoved Mover (or unactualized actualizer). Since each chain of motion (i.e. each hierarchical series of motion) could conceivably have a different unactualized actualizer as a first member (they claim), it leaves open the question of whether there is 1 or 50 or 357 Unmoved Movers, etc.

    Iit would be great if you could comment on this as it seems directly relevant to your post.

    PS - Awesome Thomistic Institute talk on "What is Matter?"

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    Replies
    1. @John DeRosa

      Feser has commented on this numerous times, and he has taken care to explain precisely why there can be only one God. Instead of looking for an answer in a combox, why don't you simply read some of his books? I suggest Aquinas and Five Proofs. You'll find the answers there.

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    2. Yes, Bill, I agree. My question may have been unclear. Feser's arguments for why there can only be one God proceed from an existential understanding of the First Way (rather than the "The most natural way to read it is as an argument to the effect that things could not change at any given moment if there were no divine cause keeping the change going."). Those argument he presents and defends well.

      So, my question is: Is there a good way to get to the conclusion that there is only one God via "the more natural way" to read the argument from change (in Aristotle or Aquinas). Or, must one rely on the existential premises to get to that conclusion?

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    3. John,
      OP"The most natural way to read it is as an argument to the effect that things could not change at any given moment if there were no divine cause keeping the change going.").

      "Those argument he presents and defends well."
      If Aristotle had been correct in asserting that all sublunary motion is in an impeding medium then the logic of the First Way would follow, because without a first mover all motion would grind to a halt and be lost, yet motion is "manifest... and evident to our senses" therefore, if Aristotle had been correct, the reasoning of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Feser would be sound.
      Aristotle was wrong.
      Aquinas was wrong.
      Feser is wrong.

      Sublunary motion is not in an impeding medium such that motion would be lost and therefore must be sustained by a first mover.

      All motion in our universe is in space. You are in space. Everything is in space.

      Space, the vacuum, is a lossless medium.

      Motion through space and the interactions of material, are all net lossless and perpetual.

      There is no such thing as a sort of viscous friction for motion through space, nor is there any such thing as friction in interactions at the submicroscopic level.

      Since all motion is in space and net lossless, and all interactions are mutually interactive (not linear) the First Way fails, and Dr. Feser logically fails.

      There is no call for a first mover at all because motion is perpetual in the universe and therefore needs no first mover to sustain it.

      OP" Or we can reason from the action of things to the existence of an Unmoved Mover, and the principle agere sequitur esse will then tell us that the being of those things too requires the Unmoved Mover. "
      Since the argument for the first mover fails then the argument for the first sustainer also fails.

      Material is already fully actualized in its existential respect. No actualaizer is required to somehow further actualize material in its existential respect.

      If material were to spontaneously "blink out", as Dr. Feser claims, absent a first mover then that would mean that material can change itself because a transition of something to nothing is a change calling for a changer.

      Dr. Feser has it precisely back to front. If material were to change from existing to not existing that would call for a changer. Since material does not change from exiting to existing then there is no call for a changer to account for existential inertial.

      It is true that the observation of lossless interactions in space does not rule out a first mover, but neither does it rule out submicroscopic fairies, or unicorns, or any other fanciful speculation of entities nudging all the particles of the universe along moment to moment.

      The first mover is at best an extravagant, unevidenced, and unnecessary idle speculation.

      Feser's claim that a first mover is logically necessary is patently false.

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    4. Responding to John DeRosa above: it seems to me that like Aquinas does from the second and third ways, one can use the nature of the unmoved mover of Aristotle to know that such mover has the "attribute" of being perfectly actual, and from these one further grasps that only a being where his being and essence are the same can be that "perfectly actual" being. From that of course it follows there is only one. Doesn't that work?

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    5. @Tony,

      Re: "...and from these one further grasps that only a being where his being and essence are the same can be that "perfectly actual" being. From that of course it follows there is only one. Doesn't that work?"

      That is an interesting line of thought. But according to some existentialist Thomists (e.g. Joseph Owens and others), one cannot demonstrate the real distinction between essence and existence *until* one shows that God exists e.g. by way of a contingency argument. Now, Feser doesn't buy that (neither does Gaven Kerr) and argues for the real distinction (as opposed to a mere conceptual distinction) in Five Proofs and elsewhere. I'm curious if there's a way to God's unity that bypasses these issues.

      In other words, can one get from the Unmoved Mover to the Unity of God by way of the non-existential First Way without deploying the premise that there is a real distinction between a thing's essence and existence (as opposed to just a conceptual distinction)?

      In asking that question, I'm not saying the Existential First Way is bad or does not work. I'm just curious how else we might argue.

      @Stardusty,

      Re: "Since all motion is in space and net lossless, and all interactions are mutually interactive (not linear) the First Way fails, and Dr. Feser logically fails."

      I fail to see how this conclusion follows.

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    6. @John

      My apologies for not understanding your question. Perhaps I'm still not getting it because the argument from motion is supposed to demonstrate an unmoved mover, that is, a being of Pure Act. Something in act moves because it has the potential to move and as such is an act/potency composite. A per se causal series must terminate at Pure Act.

      Since every essence is made actual by an act of existence, essence functions as the principle of potency whereas existence functions as the principle of act. Since Pure Act cannot be composite, its essence must be to exist.

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    7. @John

      One more thing. I've discovered that Feser has banned Stardust. If you respect Feser, then please respect his wishes by not replying to Stardust. He's a troll. I initially defended him, but he has since outed himself. Please do Ed and all of us a favor and ignore him.

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    8. @Bill,

      Re: "Perhaps I'm still not getting it because the argument from motion is supposed to demonstrate an unmoved mover, that is, a being of Pure Act."

      Right, but the question I'm asking is why on a non-Existential First Way must there be only 1 being that is pure act? As opposed to 50, or 357?

      Re: "Since every essence is made actual by an act of existence..."

      I'm not saying that's wrong. But is a thing's "essence" really distinct from its "act of existence" or just conceptually distinct? It's interesting that some existentialist Thomists do not think the real distinction can be established until one *already* shows that God exists. Feser and Kerr have argued well that they are wrong about that.

      But suppose they are right. Is there another path from the non-Existential First Way to one Unmoved Mover? One that doesn't depend on an existential version of the first way or the premise that a thing's existence and essence are really distinct. That's where I'm curious. Maybe it's a silly question, but maybe not!

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    9. John,
      Re: "Since all motion is in space and net lossless, and all interactions are mutually interactive (not linear) the First Way fails, and Dr. Feser logically fails."

      "I fail to see how this conclusion follows."
      Aquinas said "Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another". Recall, this is a present tense argument. Aquinas is not stating that whatever is in motion must have been put in motion by something else in the past, rather, Aquinas is arguing that whatever is in motion right now is being put in motion right now by something else.

      If Aristotle had been correct that all sublunary motion is in an impeding medium such that absent a mover the object in motion will slow and stop and its motion would be lost, then Aquinas would have been correct and his premise would have been true.

      However, his premise is false because the medium for all motion is space, the vacuum, which does not impede motion at all, so an object in motion does not have to be "put in motion by another".

      Aristotle acknowledged this in his Physics:
      “But in a void none of these things can take place, nor can anything be moved save as that which is carried is moved.
      Further, no one could say why a thing once set in motion should stop anywhere; for why should it stop here rather than here? So that a thing will either be at rest or must be moved ad infinitum, unless something more powerful gets in its
      way.”
      215a19-215a21
      PHYSICS: BOOK IV 63
      Da Jonathan Barnes, editor, The Complete Works of Aristotle. The Revised Oxford Translation, Vol. 1, 1991

      Unfortunately, Aristotle failed to build on this key insight, instead adopting a view that all sublunary motion is in an impeding medium, which would cause the loss of motion absent a first mover, and in that Aristotle was gravely mistaken, which has led astray all Thomists.

      Aquinas said "It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself."
      For macro objects this is obviously false and Aquinas should have realized this, because Aquinas moved himself.
      A rocket moves itself.
      A submarine moves itself.
      A clock moves itself.
      A battery powered machine moves itself.

      Now, you may say, yes, but we have to look more closely. Agreed.

      Aquinas said "If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover,"
      Here Aquinas begs the question making his argument logically invalid and thus unsound, in addition to his previous use of false premises. He injects a late premise that is his conclusion! "because then there would be no first mover", but it is the first mover he intends to validly conclude!

      Aquinas also commits the fallacy of false dichotomy by choosing between an infinite regression and a first mover. There is a 3rd choice, mutual interaction, or mutual causation, or objects that move each other. This is in fact how the universe works. Open any physics book and you will find the descriptions of motions of particles are all formulated as mutual interactions, not as a linear regress.

      Mutual interactions terminate the hierarchical regress finitely without a first mover. You move yourself because molecules in your muscles move each other. The rocket moves itself because molecules of propellant move each other. The atomic nucleus vibrates because quarks move each other. Electrical devices move themselves because charged particles move each other.

      At base everything is moving everything else in lossless perpetual motion in a medium that does not impede motion, so there is no need of a first mover or call for a first mover at all, the first way being unsound due to its false premises and its invalid logic.

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    10. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 28, 2020 at 5:40 PM

      John, please, for the good of the blog, don't feed the noxious and banned troll SP. Ignore him at all costs.

      Delete
    11. StardustyPsyche,

      Pope Francis called all Catholics to fast from trolling recently. Make that fast the first step toward your conversion.

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    12. Feser should make someone a mod or something to delete it. It’s ridiculous

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    13. I doubt he could do that here without giving that person access to the whole blog, which is risky.

      To be honest, if we can ignore SP, he will go away. He will flair up first though. If you look at his behavior he actually increases his posting when ignored, to try to get some kind of response. But it is very likely that if he is consistently ignored, he will eventually get bored and go away, at least for a considerable time. It just takes discipline and a little patience on our side.

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    14. Anonymous February 28, 2020 at 6:32 PM

      "It’s ridiculous"
      Yet you are unable to use logic to refute any of my points.

      Is it ridiculous that Aristotle was wrong about sublunary motion being in an impeding medium?

      Is it ridiculous that all motion is in space, and that you and everything else in our universe is in space?

      Was Aristotle ridiculous for reasoning that motion would continue ad infinitum absent an impeding medium?

      Is it ridiculous of physicists to formulate all submicroscopic interactions as mutual processes absent an identifiable cause and effect?

      Is it ridiculous to point out the false premises and invalid logic Aquinas employed?

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    15. BalancedTryteOperators February 28, 2020 at 5:47 PM

      "Pope Francis called all Catholics to fast from trolling recently. "
      Since I am neither that clearly does not apply to me.

      Can you find any actual errors in the arguments I have presented above?

      What does the pope say about vacuous virtue signaling as your only response?

      Do you think space actually is an impeding medium?

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    16. StardustyPsyche,

      When you look at annealed steel under a microscope, it looks highly entropic. But when you go up one metalevel and inspect the phase space, you discover that the annealed steel is actually extremely low entropy.

      You're focusing on the object level of the universe and saying "no first mover here" but Ed's argument is on the metalevel above. You can't see how the steel is highly ordered on the next metalevel and just saying "oh, it's disordered" because your mind is locked in the object level.

      If you want to prove the prime mover wrong, you need to refocus your mind until you can see the next metalevel... and THEN show us all why it's dumb.


      Also your insistence on airing your opinions, exploiting a technical inability to ban you, is psychopathic. If you continue posting, I will type you as a psychopath. Subtype Gollum/Smeagol.

      Delete
    17. Of course he has some kind of personality and/or mental issues. Only that could explain sheer brazenness of his behaviour. He once actually claimed, after Feser had banned him, that we shouldn't call him a troll and avoid because Feser welcomes discussion and debate from people with all views.

      We should all resolutely avoid engaging him, even in the manner you are.

      Delete
    18. Balanced,
      “You're focusing on the object level of the universe and saying "no first mover here" but Ed's argument is on the metalevel above.”
      OP
      “Agere sequitur esse and the First Way”

      The topic of this thread is the First Way, the argument from motion, and how it relates to existential inertia, or the assertion of the necessity of a first sustainer.

      “If you want to prove the prime mover wrong, you need to refocus your mind until you can see the next metalevel... and THEN show us all why it's dumb.”

      Aquinas said:
      “The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion.”

      “Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot,”

      “For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold”

      “whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another.”

      “as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand”

      Balanced, have you ever read the First Way? It seems not. You display no awareness of its contents, its premises, its examples, or its logical structure. Here is a good reference for you to begin to learn about the First Way.
      http://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

      Of course Aquinas is arguing from “the object level”, or that which can simply be called “manifest…and evident to our senses”, not a philosophical metaphysical level.

      Aquinas argues using wood, fire, hot, cold, a hand, a staff, things in motion. Obviously Aquinas is arguing from the level of macro objects, so Aquinas was wrong when he said “whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another.” Recall, this is a present tense argument, so Aquinas argued that whatever is in motion right now is being put in motion right now by another, and he was arguing at the macro object level as evidenced by his repeated references to specific macro objects and that he is arguing from what is “evident to our senses”, namely, macro objects such as those he uses as examples.

      Here are some counter examples that prove that Aquinas used a false premise when he stated “whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another.”
      Aquinas (the man, who like all men, moved himself)
      Stars (all of them, some 100 billion times 100 billion, each of which moves itself)
      Clocks (spring, battery, weighted)
      Submarines (battery, nuclear, air independent)
      Battery operated equipment (all billions of them)

      I have in the above several posts clearly and decisively falsified the First Way by addressing the specific words Aquinas actually used. Your attempt at diversion is irrelevant and displays your lack of education in the First Way.

      Dr. Feser has argued again and again from the macro object level, just as Aquinas did, as Dr. Feser uses examples like a book, a chair, rock, hand, stick, and cup of water. To his credit, Dr. Feser has also used regression analysis from the macro object level to the most fundamental level.

      Recall, Dr. Feser is a structural realist. He holds that there must be, at base, some real structure to the universe which is distinct from any logical/mathematical descriptions we humans ascribe to this structurally real existence. Dr. Feser stresses and insists upon structural realism above abstraction, and in that respect I wholeheartedly agree with him, that is the only viewpoint that makes sense.

      Go read the First Way, learn its premises and the logical structures of its arguments, then refute my above multiple falsifications of the First Way, THEN you can call me dumb.

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    19. @John

      Hello again! Sorry for my tardy reply, but I've been extremely busy the past couple of days. You write:

      ...but the question I'm asking is why on a non-Existential First Way must there be only 1 being that is pure act? As opposed to 50, or 357?

      Pardon the repetition, but did you read Five Proofs? Feser explains why he believes monotheism is concomitant with Pure Act. If your argument leads to Pure Act, then you have monotheism. He elucidates that repeatedly, so if you've read his work, then please explain why he fails to answer your question.

      But is a thing's "essence" really distinct from its "act of existence" or just conceptually distinct? It's interesting that some existentialist Thomists do not think the real distinction can be established until one *already* shows that God exists.

      As you acknowledge, Feser disagrees with this, but your sentence affirming that is a little confusing. You write, "Feser and Kerr have argued well that they are wrong about that." If you mean by argued well that they provide good arguments why existentialist Thomists are wrong about real distinction, then why seek additional argumentation? If that's not what you mean, which is implied by your continuing to ask, then what do you mean?

      We cannot discuss real distinction if we don't know what it is. Essence/existence is whatness/thatness. A triangle is a three-sided polygon, so a triangle necessarily has three sides. Three-sidedness is the essence of a triangle. Whatever does not belong to a thing's essence is not included in the definition of said thing, for a thing's definition is the expression of its essence. Plastic, metal and clay are not part of a triangle's definition, even though many triangles are plastic, metal and clay. So a triangle isn't necessarily metal. Whatever is necessary to a thing is its essence.

      If existence isn't part of a thing's essence (what defines a thing), then the thing may or may not exist. We can of course see this in many things which do not exist (mammoths, dodos, saber-toothed cats, and unicorns). Since three-sidedness is the essence of a triangle, then every triangle will have three sides, and if existence is part of a thing's essence, then it will exist necessarily. If there is no real distinction between essence and existence, then everything that can exist must exist, and this we know is false.

      Moreover, if there are two Pure Acts (PA1 & PA2), then 1 & 2 are instances of a kind which makes them essence/existence composites. Since Pure Act cannot be composite, there CANNOT be more than one.

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  8. Also an interesting way to explain God's immanence. A robust immanence.

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  9. Who is the Unmoved Mover of Human Decision Making?
    •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

    Say, a person is deciding whether to take the vegetables in his garden or to kill his chicken/cat for his dinner. He would be the “MOVER” for the “motion” (ie the change) from the state of “no decision made whether to go for the vegetables or the chicken/cat for dinner” to a new state of “decision made on whether to take the vegetable or kill the chicken/cat for dinner”.

    WITH RESPECT TO DECIDING ON THE DECISION, which would involve also choosing which set of criteria that affects which decision to make, such as whether or not to choose the criteria of “avoid inflicting pain and fear on sentient beings” over the criteria of “go for a tastier dinner (assuming it would be animal meat for him)”, is this person the unmoved mover? (with respect to mental act of deciding on the decision, not the actions after the decision)

    If he is not the unmoved mover WITH RESPECT TO MAKING THE DECISION, then it seems he is not to be held responsible for his choice of the criteria and decision.

    Anyone like to share any thought on it?


    Cheers!
    johannes hui

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    1. This is an excellent question.

      Traditionally the Banezian strand of Thomism has been the representative tradition in Thomism on this question. It arose during the debate with the molinists. Its essentially theological determinism where God premoves you to every choice you make. In your example, if you choose to eat vegetables it's only on the condition God actualised that potential in your will.

      They will say this still isnt a compatibilist sort of freedom because no secondary cause can move the will, only God can. So it crucially rests on the distinction between primary and secondary causality. You can find a defence of this sort of view in Oderberg's 'Divine premotion' - https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieaUQwYWtxaF9kMzQ/view?usp=sharing

      Peter furlong has done much to defend Aquinas' philosophy of action and account of free will. In this issue of interaction between humanity and the divine, hes agnostic as to who is right. Here are two papers of his as to whether this strand of Thomism can avoid God being responsible for sin; https://www.academia.edu/28309920/_Blameworthiness_Love_and_Strong_Divine_Sovereignty._Sophia

      https://www.academia.edu/10536797/_Is_God_the_Cause_of_Sin_An_Examination_of_the_Unadorned_Privation_Defense._Faith_and_Philosophy

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    2. Additional responses appear below

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  10. Now Banezianism isnt the only strand within Thomism. Brian Shanley is a recent, very influential thomist that rejects. But he seems to be halfway between being a compatibilist or libertarian. You can find his view in the aptly titled paper 'beyond libertarianism and compatibilism'. Shanley is a concurrentist. We cannot move without God moving us prior. But he doesnt think the Banezians are taking the distinction between primary and secondary causality seriously enough. Here's a quote from the mentioned paper;

    "Aquinas consistently asserts that the divine motion does not determine the will to choose any particular good and he studiously avoids the term praedeterminatio precisely to avoid the overtones of divine determinism. He claims instead that God moves the will so that it acts in accord with it's own nature as a self determining power".

    On Shanley's account then, God does move you to but in a way that allows you to choose vegetables or chicken.

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    1. This kind of position insists that there is a ceiling to how much natural human reason can uncover. Theres an ambiguity insofar as *how* God can move us indeterminately. Shanley insists the account isnt uncompleted, its described all that can naturally be known, that God moves the will but in a way that the will moves itself.

      Other thomists think we can go further however and give a more specifically libertarian account of human action even with God's motion on the will. This consists in being more detailed in their accounts than Shanley.

      Though I wouldn't say he is in this category, this paper by Ezra Sullivan explains the position quite well in the second section on determinism; https://www.academia.edu/40177674/Objections_and_Responses_to_the_Existence_of_Free_Choice

      "Tis motion comes from God himself. As Creator and “Universal Mover,” God moves the human will “to the universal object of the will, which is the good. This motion is not contrary to human nature, however. Instead, it is consonant with the deepest resonances of humans, who, through their will, are naturally open to the greatest good, “for just as something is called natural because it is in accordance with the inclination of nature, so something is called voluntary because it is in accordance with the inclination of the will. In fact, this natural motion is so necessary for human choice that without it “a human cannot will anything.”

      (Sorry about the format of the quote. I'm on my phone and cleaned it a little).

      Another example would be Mark Spencer's paper; https://www.academia.edu/8076217/Divine_Causality_and_Created_Freedom_A_Thomistic_Personalist_View_Nova_et_Vetera_14_3_Summer_2016_375-419

      This whole paper is aimed at giving a libertarian explanation of your question.


      Delete
    2. I'm in the more brazenly libertarian camp. So I would appeal to God's moving the will (not temporally prior but logically prior) to any decision as moving the will to the universal good and the intellect moving the will as the preconditions to the will moving itself.

      To give a detailed account of this action I can't recommend highly enough Steven Jensen's excellent paper 'Libertarian free decision: A Thomistic account'.

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    3. Sort of going off this line of thought, How do you articulate where the actualization comes from within the mind? If for example you use Feser’s argument that even under 4d block you’d have actualization of potential within the mind (because change is real in the mind), how do you extend outward from the mind to a purely acrual actualizer?

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    4. I would add to Callum's list the great work of Fr. William Most, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God, in the Catholic Culture library:

      https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=214

      This is where I found intellectual solace on this issue (it's mostly a theological work, but Chapter 18 deals with the metaphysical account of free will). Roughly Fr. Most states that the principle of causality does not rule out the ability of a free agent to deny the causality of God from dropping from act to potency (in other words, freely rejecting the goodness of God). God is not the first cause of evil actions. As Callum so ably states, God directs the intellect to the universal good. Since all actualizations are good, it belongs to the human free will to private itself as the first cause of evil actions.

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    5. Here 'first cause' is being used in an analogous sense. Since the will doesn't actualize any potencies in its free choice of evil, its not a 'first cause' in the strict sense. However, Thomas uses the term here to describe evil human action:

      "Now this lacking of grace comes about as a result of two things: both because [the man] himself does not will to receive [it], and because God does not infuse it into him, or does not will to infuse it into him. But the sequence of these two is such that the second does not happen except on condition that the first has happened. . . . It is clear, then that the absolutely first cause of this lack [of grace] is on the part of the man who lacks the grace; but on the part of God there is no cause of this lack, except on condition of that which is the cause on the part of man."

      I don't think that a Banezian could agree with the above statement. I think a solid Thomist should be unafraid to admit that God is the cause of everything (taken in the strict Thomistic sense of actualization of a potency), but is categorically not the cause of evil (as evil is a privation initiated by human free will).

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    6. The citation for the above quote is
      from the first part of the St. Thomas' Commentary on the Sentences d. 40, q. 4, a. 2, c.

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    7. Fantastic reading list y'all, I'm gonna have fun with it

      Delete
  11. Does the principle agere sequitur esse only apply to the actions or operations of a thing? Don't properties, the capacity to affect another, the capacity to be affected by another, and any other predicate that can be applied to a thing also follow from its mode of being?

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    1. Yes, I suppose they do. But these are all aspects of "first act" upon which "second act" is the fruition. To sing (in act) necessarily follows upon being able to sing, and to-be-able-to-sing is a kind of first actuality of which actually singing is second actuality; to be red follows upon able-to-be-red, etc. So, since properties, the capacity to affect another, the capacity to be affected by another themselves "act" which follows upon "to be" of a certain nature, it remains true that agere sequitur esse for these as well.

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    2. What about accidents? Do accidents also follow from a thing's mode of being? Can you give some examples?

      Delete
  12. It would reduce confusion if the people who habitually post as "Anonymous" would create uniquely named profiles and use them. To judge from the tone and content of some of the Anonymous posts, the poster (or more than one) has posted as "Anonymous" for years. And that person fights to get trolls off the board. But why is it good to refuse to post under a named profile, so that the rest of us can be less confused about who is saying what?

    It's one thing for someone who has only been on here for a few days not to figure out how to create and post under a named profile. It's another to hide behind "Anonymous" for years. I think the latter habit displays a lack of respect for this board.

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    1. Hi ficino,
      "It's another to hide behind "Anonymous" for years."
      Apparently one can also make up all sorts of names to post with such that some folks post under multiple names, at least that is what they accuse each other of, I don't know, I have not done a linguistic analysis of the prose in order to estimate authorship similarities, nor do I intend to, it's a waste of time and very boring.

      I am interested in the arguments, with the name calling just being boring noise of no matter to me.

      Care to comment on the specific rational, or you might say irrational, content of https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/02/agere-sequitur-esse-and-first-way.html?showComment=1582917123050#c7640027743054672145 and below?

      If not from your own perspective then perhaps as an angel's advocate for the Thomistic line of reasoning?

      Delete
    2. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 29, 2020 at 3:34 PM

      If they're just telling people to not feed the trolls, why bother having a name? They could post under a name at other times but prefer to do such unpleasant work anonymously. Surely it is far more important than people just stop feeding the trolls? With SP and pals there seems to be no ambiguity. They're bad for the combox and it would be great if their compulsive feeders could knock it off.

      Delete
  13. I'm not the "Anonymous" in question, but I know who it is. They don't post under their username because they've had trolls follow them to other places they use that name when they've done so in the past.

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Don't feed the trolls: at least one poster who posts as Anonymous writes other things besides appeals not to feed trolls.

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    1. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 29, 2020 at 6:41 PM

      There's probably quite a few anonymouses who are posting here regularly at one time, not to mention those who drop in briefly and don't come back or are named/profile posters who decide to make a post anonymously. Feser has decided to allow anonymous posting. It has its good sides and its bad ones. You will have to ask him to change it if you think the bad far outweighs the good.

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    2. I'm hoping that these regulars who hide behind "Anonymous" will decide on their own to establish an identity, so the rest of us can keep straight who we're talking to. They need not adopt their given names. We all take the risk of being followed by trolls from board to board. At least one of the Anonymous posters makes what most people would consider personal attacks. To direct disparaging comments at participants, while disguising one's own online identity, works against an atmosphere of collegial discourse.

      Delete
    3. They'll just sign up using an alternate name to slag you instead. 'tis the way the internet works, I'm afraid. Only way to avoid it is to activate comment moderation. I wish it weren't so.

      Delete
    4. That was @Don't feed in regards to disabling anonymous commenting.

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    5. Ficino, are you just sore because someone said something mean to you? Your comment wasn't the most constructive either. Stop whining.

      Delete
    6. @Anonymous #3: are you Greg?
      You whined about what you took to be my meanness to Jason Morgan. I expressed views and gave reasons. You expressed no proper view nor did you give reasons. You seem to want to assume the role of forum enforcer from behind your Anonymous profile. If you encounter trolling on other boards, I wonder whether your tendency not to propose arguments but to sling slurs at and commands to other posters motivated the trolling.

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    7. ficino,
      "I wonder whether your tendency not to propose arguments but to sling slurs at and commands to other posters motivated the trolling."
      Yes, for some individuals there does seem to be a correlation between telling other posters what to do and not posting any actual arguments themselves. For me all that toxic noise is boring and only tends to indicate that my arguments are so strong that nobody seems able to refute them on the merits so all that is left is to issue ad hominems.

      Among attorneys there is an old adage, if you have the facts on your side argue the facts, if you don't have the facts on your side argue process, if you don't even have process to argue then pound your fist on the table.

      People in general tend to be like that. If they can argue on the merits they will do so first. If they are unable to argue on the merits they will try to say you are speaking out of turn. If they can't do that they will display anger and shout and insult and try to intimidate and ostracize you.

      I take receipt of that last stage as an indication that my arguments are sound.

      Dr. Feser, for his part, seems to be very much engaged in the arguments, and he makes a very great number of them. Nor does he just sit in a safe space and plug his ears to refutations, no respectable philosopher does so. Dr. Feser even went to a research university physics meeting to present his Aristotelian views. The physics professors obviously thought his assertions were nonsense but they gave him a polite listen and a couple technical questions at the end, so I give Dr. Feser a lot of credit for going to what would obviously be a technically hostile group and putting his ideas to the acid test.

      So, if you have had your fill of the attempts at toxic commands issued by a few here feel free to do a find on my handle and let me know what you think about the arguments.

      You would be doing me a favor if you could find any flaws of premise or logic in my arguments, or at least point out some parts you find dubious or inadequately supported.

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    8. Don't feed the trollsMarch 1, 2020 at 3:48 PM

      Ficino, I am not that anonymous who attacked you, by the way. But it was a snarky comment. Move on dude. This is the internet. It happens all the time.

      Delete
  15. What are some things that are contrary to bottom level simples? For example Oppy discussed that whatever the bottom level of reality is is all there is (so say whatever is smaller than quarks), but people have brought up that that doesn’t explain things that are not physical such as “wetness” or “agency”. What is Some others?

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    1. Anon,
      "What are some things that are contrary to bottom level simples?"
      There aren't any.

      A bottom level simple can be minimally simple with its essences and its existence mutually and simultaneously co-dependent.

      Further, there can be an unbounded number of minimally simples, each with its own necessity of existing with its necessary set of co-dependent essences. That is, for each minimally simple it cannot not exist in combination with its essence set in structural reality, that combination being inseparable by necessity of the real physical structure of our universe.

      The logical coherence of such minimally simples, that cannot not be, negates the claim of the OP to the logical necessity of a first sustainer to account for existential inertia, in addition to the numerous false premises and invalid logic of the First Way and related regression arguments also negating the claims of the OP.

      If quantum fields turn out to be the simplest things in our universe then there could be 24 minimally simples, each with its own necessity and its own necessary set of co-dependent essences, or properties, or aspects.

      But, to steelman your question, to the extent that theism must occupy an ever receding corner of scientific ignorance, you could consider first person consciousness.

      Wetness, agency, motor self awareness, intent, and other aspects of the functioning of the human brain are easily reducible, in principle, to mechanistic materialism.

      First person consciousness is generally considered to be "the hard problem", a term somewhat inadvertently coined by David Chalmers. That is also reducible to mechanistic materialism but it is widely considered not to be, so that is your only potential claim to irreducibility that most people would find difficult to argue against.

      Delete
    2. You mean irreducible things or perfections? Irreducible to the basic material entities?

      Maybe emergent properties, such as wetness and so on. These are forms which material things can be organized into.

      There is consciousness and subjectivity, the power of being aware of the world, of consciously experiencing things with a first person, subjective experience. That is also distinct from, irreducible to, the material facts and their third person aspects.

      There is also life, which is more basic than consciousness (as there seems to be living things which are not conscious). Organic beings exhibit immanent causality, which is the mark of life. Non-living things only exhibit transient causality, whereas living organisms have powers of growth, nutrition, etc., which are immanent and act towards the very substance's being.

      There is of course the power of thinking; the capacity to think about other things abstractly, to grasp universal and determinate concepts, and to interact with these concepts in reasoning (seeing their logical connections, forming new concepts, doing math, etc).

      There's also free will, the power to initiate and direct your actions to a certain extent.

      All of these are perfections that are irreducible to mere patterns of motion or shape; they are distinct, positive, real powers whose origins must be found in a cause that has them (ultimately God, which must have life, consciousness, intelligence, etc in an eminent way)

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    3. Yeah I mean things that are irreducible to material simples like a quark or fermion.

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  16. There are three posts here in a row attributed to Anonymous, and they seem to be from at least two different people. Clearly, some people on here like this feature. I see such patterns on no other blog. Oh well.

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  17. Can you still have Feser’s Neoplatonic proof without subscribing to any metaphysical composition theories? Oppy (And many new atheist types) would just say the argument would end at whatever is the simple of a quark, etc.

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    1. Maybe? If there is a metaphysically simple entity, also physically simple, then that just is the One. Then it's up for discussing the attributes.

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    2. I guess then it’s up to arguing that if there are many, then it’s not simple, right? Many quarks, fields, whatever, is not simple since more then one of it?

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    3. Why does being more than one entail that something is not simple? Sorry, I missed that jump you two made.

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    4. Because by the principle of identity of indiscernibles, there must be a real difference between A and B in order for them to be two distinct things. Since A and B are supposed to be the same kind of thing or essence (a completely simple being), there must be some other difference, but that would entail parts. A having a part X and B having a part Y. A being a Completely simple thing + X and B being a Completely simple thing + Y. But that's absurd.

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    5. Ok that makes sense. Can you explain why it would entail parts though?

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    6. What other properties would there be to differentiate them, if not parts?

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    7. Idk one is bigger than the other? Not trying to reinvent the wheel here lol. Is any property a part?

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    8. By virtue of what is one bigger than the other?

      And if it's bigger, then doesn't it have spatial parts?

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    9. What do you mean by spatial parts?

      By virtue of it... being bigger?

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    10. So is it just a brute fact that A is bigger than B? That's absurd. Either A is bigger because it is in the essence of A to be bigger (which cannot be the case, since A and B are supposed to share the same essence), or because of an external factor. But then that external factor will be a part of A which is distinct from its essence. A will be its essence plus some mysterious property which makes it bigger than B, and then A will be a composition of its essence plus this mysterious property.

      And by spatial part I mean something very simple, like extension, how your arm has different spatial parts (some are closer to your torso others are closer to your hand), that is also parts. Size implies this kind of extension.

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  18. From Professor Feser's article in ACPQ, which he links:

    "In an Aristotelian vein, one might hold that any natural substance S must be a composite of prime matter and substantial form, and that since prime matter is of itself purely potential, S cannot exist unless some actualizer A conjoins (and keeps conjoined) to its prime matter the substantial form of S. Or, in a more distinctively Thomistic vein, one might hold that any natural substance S must be a composite of an essence and an act of existence, and that since an essence is of itself purely potential, S cannot exist unless some actualizer A conjoins (and keeps conjoined) to its essence S’s act of existence."

    I think key moves in this part of his exposition are:
    1. "and keeps conjoined"
    2. "essence is of itself purely potential"

    Someone I know who teaches philosophy at a Jesuit university tells his students that it's not so much the Five Ways by themselves where one should look for Aquinas' rock-bottom argument for God, but rather, the saint's exposition of essence and (act of) existence in De Esse et Essentia and elsewhere. I think my colleague would part with Feser not so much over conclusions as over the attempt to get the DDC and denial of EI out of the Ways; my colleague would say, just go to the DEE at the outset. The latter work is less reader-friendly, though, for starters!

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    1. OP link"one might hold that any natural substance S must be a composite of an essence and an act of existence, and that since an essence is of itself purely potential, S cannot exist unless some actualizer A conjoins (and keeps conjoined) to its essence S’s act of existence."
      This reasoning simply asserts ad hoc that essence and existence are separable in structural reality, such that absent an actualizer a thing's properties would somehow spontaneously separate such that essence would then be real but separate from an existing thing, and an existing thing would have no essences.

      Those are simply a set of incoherent notions that seek to explain existential inertia of material with properties, with an extravagant, unevidenced, purely speculative, and unnecessary first actualizer.

      That Thomistic view has matters precisely back to front. If material were to change from being existent with properties (essences)into some set that is then somehow separated between existence and essences that would be a change calling for a changer, or actualizer.

      The Thomistic view asserts ad hoc and incoherently that existence and essence in some sense naturally repel each other, perhaps akin to like charges, and must be continuously forced together by an actualizer, lest they go flying apart into some notions of pure essence and existent material with no properties at all, a truly topsy turvy view of material existence.

      What would it even mean to have a pure essence that is real yet not an essence of a thing? This is an ad hoc incoherent notion. An essence is of a thing. Without a thing to be an essence of what could that possibly even mean?

      Likewise an existent thing without properties (essences) is an ad hoc incoherent assertion. How could a real existent thing have no properties at all, say, extent? If a real thing has no extent where is it, nowhere? What real thing can exist within a mathematical point of zero dimension? Such an assertion is incoherent.

      Unlike the assertions of Thomism that assert a superfluous actualizer to continuously enforce the forced joining of incoherent isolated essences and essenceless material, materialism requires only the simple observable facts of existence.

      Real material always has properties, and properties are always of real material. Existence and essence cannot not be mutually and simultaneously co-dependent in the real structure of the universe.

      Material is already fully actualized in it existential respect. To go from existing to not existing would require a changer. To go from existing to existing is not a change and therefore does not require a changer.

      Aquinas argued from what is "manifest...and evident to our senses", but Thomism turns what is manifest on its head, insisting that there is in existence a speculated changer that is continuously changing everything in our universe to prevent all material from changing itself from existing to not existing, in just the right way so as to be evident to our senses that material is not changing at all in its existential respect.

      It boggles my mind that anybody would find this convoluted, extravagant, unevidenced, superfluous argument that is riddled with incoherencies needed to support its extravagance, rationally appealing in any way whatsoever.

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    2. Please expand DDC DEE and IE :)

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  19. An important issue, and I am glad that Professor Feser has presented here. I am left a little puzzled by the question, what work is done by the Ways. It seems they need further implicit premises.

    “Professor Feser in his ACPQ article writes, “But in fact, when properly understood, the traditional theistic arguments summed up in Aquinas’s Five Ways can themselves be seen to be (or at least to imply) arguments against existential inertia and in favor of divine conservation.”

    By arguments’ implying arguments, I assume Professor Feser means that the propositions reached at the end of the Five Ways, or the conjunction of them, imply/implies further propositions. In that case, the further propositions will be necessary for the Ways; they must be true for the Ways to go through. E.g. the distinction between essence and (act of) existence must be established in order for the Ways to be valid, since that distinction, as “implied,” can’t be false if the Ways’ conclusions are true.

    So writes Feser in his ACPQ article, p. 239: “And if the proofs succeed (as Aquinas obviously thinks they do), then DEI would by implication be thereby “decisively refuted” (as Pasnau and Shields put it).” I.e. if the Ways are true, then ~ DEI, or If the Ways, then DDC. Feser is explicit here that other theses must be presupposed for the Ways: “Now, the existential proof [i.e. Second Way] presupposes Aquinas’s famous doctrine (alluded to above) of the real distinction between essence and existence in everything other than God,” p. 244.

    I’m left unsure about whether the Ways have stand-alone value as arguments. On Feser’s reading, it seems they don’t; they rely on further premises. That's consistent with my understanding of his presentation in Five Ways.

    This is the kind of thing I had in mind when I referred to a philosophy teacher who told me he tells his students that the Ways need other arguments to work if they are to work. So, this chap says, the prepared inquirer should just start with De Ente et Essentia. Is that the most rigorous approach for the philosopher who seeks to prove God's existence within an A-T framework?

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  20. If action follows being, then a verb, or rather what a verb names, is pure act because that's all a verb is: a linguistic separation of the act from the object. I suppose that a Thomist would say that a part of speech doesn't really exist and so wouldn't count for the principle. But the crucial point is the word really; because: so long as it has a shred of existence the principle should apply.

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  21. Hi Ed,

    You write:

    "Change entails the actualization of potential, but so too does the sheer existence of a thing at any moment."

    In other words, your argument that Aristotle's First Way implies that things have an Ultimate Cause for their being in existence, as well as their agency, hinges on there being a real distinction between a thing's essence and its existence (the former having a potential to be actualized by the latter). Would you agree?

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    1. Vincent, you’re conflating many of the arguments together. They’re best taken independently. When he says shear existence of something meaning that act and potency can be expanded to how we understand why one thing exists and not the other.

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  22. Question on 5 proofs?March 3, 2020 at 4:13 PM

    Can anyone expand on Feser's response to the Kantian objection that we cannot apply such wide sweeping generalizations about reality/the cosmos as a whole based on our personal mental experience? I don't feel Feser adequately addresses it (on page 42). This is for really applies to any of his proofs.

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  23. @Question on 5 proofs

    What do you know about reality that precludes our generalizing about it? If you know nothing whatsoever about reality, you have no basis to object that a boundary has been crossed. And if you know where the boundary is, then you know something about the whole of realty that enables you to make a general claim about it---namely, that no general claims can be so made.

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    1. I like Bill’s response here. I think that one could look at the way Pruss and Rasmussen (2018) address the notion of arbitrary boundaries of explanation with relation to brute facts in their book Necessary Existence.

      The idea would be that in order to oppose any PSR variant, you would need to posit some kind of arbitrary boundary between explainable facts and explained facts. Obviously, the fact that when I click “publish,” this post appears is explainable. There are countless things that we cannot rationally deny are explainable in our daily lives. I’m thirsty all day, because I haven’t taken any water. Anyone who argues that nothing can be explained by at least a “principle of good enough explanation” is operating in an irrational fantasy world. There are many who would accept those explanations, but then as you wrote, say there are certain things that cannot be explained because they are beyond human level of understanding and too far removed from human experience.

      But if you did operate under such an approach, which Kant did argue for but is today defended by Carroll, and to a lesser extent Oppy, you would need to absolutely posit an arbitrary “ok, no more explanations needed or no more are possible.” But who gets to set that arbitrary boundary? Who gets to say when we stop at a brute fact that has no explanation? Who is the arbiter of what is possibly to be explained and what isn’t?

      Pruss and Rasmussen:
      “Suppose Suzy and Albert are both material objects. Then they presumably both occupy some positions in space and time: they both have a spacetime profile, we might say. But how can a difference with respect to a spacetime profile account for a difference with respect to having an explanation? It is hard to see how. It seems that differences in location or in shape or in temporal duration are differences in mere degree—degree of size, degree of complexity, degree of age, etc. None of these differences in degree, however, seems to make a categorial difference with respect to requiring an explanation. It may seem, therefore, that if Albert should have an explanation, then any other spatial‐temporal object should, too. More generally, it may seem that if a contingent state of existence E has an explanation, then any other contingent state of existence does as well. The reason, in summary, is that no mere difference with respect to spatial‐temporal properties, or any other non‐modal properties, would seem to adequately account for a difference with respect to explicability.”

      Why does one thing get an explanation and then another becomes a brute fact, especially when they are just differences of degree? If there is an answer to why one can be explained and why cannot be, then that answer in itself is indicative of the fact that we at least know SOMETHING about this “brute fact.”

      Plus, it gets very complicated when we take what Carroll or Oppy argue with regard to these “brute facts” to be true. In my opinion, it is similar to a God of the Gaps argument. What happens if we say something is a brute fact in 2025, but scientists in 2095 discover a “good enough explanation” for it? Then it’s not a brute fact anymore. This is why I hate brute fact, because they are not something we ever use in any field with acceptability. Everything is always an open research question if it is not answered.

      Sorry for the long reply, but I felt the need to explain that much because I think what you’re essentially saying is an argument that would cut against even the weakest form of the PSR, which comes with it very grave costs, arbitrary boundaries being only one of the many, but the most operative in the case of trying to say fundamental metaphysical question is too far beyond human experience.

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    2. So basically you’re saying you would need to deny the PSR to say that things are beyond our understanding as humans? Isn’t it sufficient reason to say the reason is it’s behind human experience?

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  24. can someone take a look at the points that a polytheist as making against classical theism and see if they're valid or not? thanks.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/classicaltheists/comments/fch86w/is_polytheism_philosphicallymetaphysically/

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    1. I don't see how it's possible to avoid the argument from the principle of identity of indiscernibles. If there are two necessarily-existing gods, they must share the common nature of being necessarily-existing, but they must also have distinguishing properties which allow for one to be one and the other to be another. But then where do these properties come from? Not from the essence, since it's common for both of them. But if not from the essence, where does the differentiating property come from? Nowhere. Brute fact.

      Besides, Occam's razor favors monotheism. It is much simpler to postulate only one God, one supernatural entity, to explain the existence of nature, than to posit many gods.
      And then there's a host of other issues which favor monotheism: the apparent unity of the order of the world seems to suggest a single cause which is easier and simpler than positing many cooperating things; omnipotence could only be had by a single being; it seems polytheism would invite arbitrariness and questions (such as "why is this god this god and not some other god?"); and so on.

      Finally, as an extra inductive reason from authority, it is interesting to note that the majority of the great traditions and philosophers have identified the Absolute ground of reality, or necessary being, with a single or unique entity.

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    2. Atno,
      "If there are two necessarily-existing gods, they must share the common nature of being necessarily-existing,"
      No, not any more then two separate identical twins share the common DNA, rather, they each have their own separate set of DNA that is merely of the duplicate organizational structure.

      Multiple necessary beings do not logically have to share a common necessity, they can logically each have their own necessity.

      "But then where do these properties come from?"
      They are necessarily co-dependent in the real universe. A real thing cannot exist without properties. Properties must be of a thing, never independent of a thing.

      Each necessary being can logically have its own necessity and its own inseparable necessary properties.

      There is no logical necessity to limit ones self to a linear hierarchical structural regress analysis that must terminate in the incoherent notion of an absolutely simple being.

      Such limited linear concepts are one of a number of reasons the First Way fails, in this case being logically invalid by employing the fallacy of a false dichotomy, the choice between an infinite linear regress and a first mover. There is a third choice, mutuality.

      Mutuality is the observed reality of how our universe works. Mutuality is observed in gravitational interactions of macro objects where there is no identifiable cause and effect separable as such, the choice between causal being and affected being only arbitrary and meaningless.

      Mutuality is how the interactions of physics are formulated. Like charges mutually repel each other, while opposite charges mutually attract each other. Similar formulations of mutual interaction are the case throughout modern physics.

      As the First Way is logically invalid in employing that false dichotomy with respect to motion, by similarity as is the subject of this thread, the inference of a linear existential regress also fails by false dichotomy, neglecting what is clearly observable in our real universe, that real existent beings always have properties that are inseparable from that being, with the notions of pure existence and pure essence both being incoherent.

      Essence and existence are always found together, mutually co-dependent and inseparable in the real structure of our universe by necessity.

      It cannot not be that real existent beings have properties, or essences, or aspects, simultaneously it cannot not be that essences are inseparable from the beings they are essences of.

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  25. I mean, no, they aren’t valid. The fellow in the Reddit thread there who states he’s a polytheist makes interesting and rational points, but these are all things that have been dispensed with for a long time. For me, I think omnipotence is the best explanation for why there can only be one God, since if you prove an omnipotent being, you’ve proven there to be one being only since power cannot be shared by an omnipotent being.

    I’m a bit more partial to Plotinus’ arguments that hold that there is the One which is the ultimate fundamental, then various demiurges and “lower gods,” but it’s debatable if such a thing is even polytheism or not.

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    1. *partial insofar as it’s more rationally conceivable than there being some infinite or finite number of deities with equal powers or distinct roles and no fundamental powerful one

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    2. Perhaps you could post some specific points being made there you’re having trouble with and we can respond here. Reddit is too toxic for me, so I will not post there.

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    3. Hi thanks for your reply, what i wanted to know is about this point:
      "15 makes an appeal to the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (PII)
      16, firstly ignores Proper-Accidents see 1&2, a proper accident is not unactualised potential since it follows from essence. And secondly, if two such beings (say Zeus & Apollo) are both eternal and unchanging then the relationship between them would not be the result of some potential."

      Would a polytheisitc conception really ignore things like potential and be strictly based off of essence?

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  26. @David

    I don't have access to the links he uses to justify his "proper accidents" assertion. Pure Act has no accidental properties, so I'm uncertain what he's driving at. If you've read the link, will you please summarize his argument?

    As to Zeus & Apollo, per what I said above, two "eternal and unchanging" beings are instances of a kind which makes them genus/species, essence/existence composites. Since Pure Act cannot be composite, there cannot be more than one.

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  27. Feser at least needs to watch some videos on Hawking's no boundary hypothesis. Or read up on Penrose and Carroll, who each have theories on how motion starts without God. Feser is here combining the first two ways and changing them to the third. He's getting further and further from scientific argument. Modern people aren't going to accept his "matter is inferior to the simple" premise

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  28. The PSR is about psychology. The fact that a genius like Leibniz thought it important just shows he was human. There are people in India for whom life has no meaning unless the monkey god in the cloud exists. How is their argument any weaker than Feser's? Whether there is a Zeno like series of past time with no boundary like Hawking said or if it's like an infinite slide with liquid eternally sliding down, the system would physically be the same whether there was a God creating it or not. The 5 ways are really the same argument: matter is inferior to spirit. Of course you can't prove spirit even exists, but Fewer keeps trying hard to prove the unprovable

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    1. Your claim is about psychology, not the PSR. The PSR as Leibniz understood it was metaphysical. The fact that you fail to see its truth (and the consequences of not accepting its objective truth) just shows that your intellect is mistaken and/or confused.

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    2. Atno,
      "The PSR...you fail to see its truth "
      To me the PSR seems, well, reasonable.

      What would it even mean for events to occur without a reason? Just poof? Any old thing can just pop off any old which way for no reason at all? How does that make sense of any kind?

      I agree wholeheartedly, things happen for reasons, the word "sufficient" being superfluous, for what sort of reason would be insufficient? How could things happen for an insufficient reason?

      So, under the principle that things happen, all things always happen, for a reason, by some causal mechanism, then there cannot be in the universe any element of true randomness.

      If the PSR holds then any apparent randomness in the universe is false, merely too complicated for humans to analyze precisely.

      So, on the PSR the universe is strictly deterministic, correct?

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  29. I was thinking, since "action follows being" a thing who don't act at all does not really exist, as Edward says in his post about the socialist state.

    Won't this be a problem for the modern platonist? Plato saw at least the Form of The Good* as acting, so maybe this would not bother him, but would not a modern platonist, who takes the forms to have no casual powers, have to reject this principle or say that the forms do not really exist?

    I mean, the best the forms can casually do in the platonist view is be the content of intelects, so i believe we can use this principle to argue that the forms are really just ideas in a intelect who is eternal, omniscient, necessary etc.

    So, can we argue that platonism collapses into divine conceptualism using this principle? What do you guys think?

    *Was it just the supreme form to Plato? It seemed to me that it was more

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  30. In his article on DDC and denial of EI, Professor Feser says, "an essence is of itself purely potential." This is not new; Gavin Kerr says the same, and I assume that it is standard Thomistic doctrine, at least today.

    I have some difficulties with it:
    1. essence or "the what it was to be" of a thing is frequently made convertible with the thing's nature, but Aquinas sometimes also puts essence on a level with form. And on the standard account, form of F configures matter so as to actualize a being that is F. For example, In VI Meta l. 1 C1148: “each and every thing has existence through its quiddity." Quiddity is essence.
    2. One often finds the dictum in Aquinas that potency is the medium between essence and operation. So how is essence the same as potency? Aquinas says that virtue or potency always follows essence. But if essence is not the same as potency, why say essence is wholly potential?

    If someone can expand on how the essence is wholly potential, I shall be grateful. To say that a thing is a composite of form and matter makes sense to me, but to say it is a composite of an essence and an act of existence, as though act of existence is some third thing added to a substance, doesn't make sense. The act of existence is just some F's reality or actuality as having the essence F or F-ness. ??

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  31. ficino,
    The difficulty in attempting to make sense of Thomistic reasoning is that Aquinas was heavily influenced by Aristotle and they both made some fundamental errors in reasoning. Therefore, a modern person who attempts to reconcile Thomism with modern science and logic will inevitably uncover incoherencies in Thomism.

    1.The concept of a hierarchical linear regress analysis is not representative of how the universe really works, nor is such a regress particularly insightful in its reasoning, rather, such reasoning is fundamentally limited in its conceptual scope, being simplistic and unrealistic.

    Scotus, who argued similarly to Aquinas, recognized that he had to make as an explicit premise that causality cannot be circular. This premise is implicit in Thomistic use of a hierarchical linear regress. Scotus was wrong, as was Aquinas.

    In truth, the universe exists and changes at base in mutual process of simultaneous inseparable co-dependence. As much as the Thomist may wish to separate and isolate form, essence, and existence imagining them to be somehow pure and of certain sorts in their isolated condition, that just is not physically possible in the real structure of the universe.

    Form, essence, and existence, or simply properties and existence, are inseparable and mutually co-dependent. An existent thing must have properties, and properties are always of an existent thing. Pure existence is an incoherent term. Pure essence is an incoherent term. Pure form is an incoherent term.

    2.Aristotle was wrong, and therefore the Thomists who adopt his views are all wrong in thinking all sublunary motion is in an impeding medium such that motion will slow and stop and be lost absent a mover.

    In truth, all motion is in space, and space does not impede motion at all, therefore there is no call for a first mover to account for observed motion. Motion is never lost, only transferred and transformed in net lossless mutual interactions. In modern science motion, change, and causality are formulated as mutual net lossless interactions with no identifiable objects that can meaningfully be assigned the titles of The Cause and The Effect, rather, there is only the net lossless mutual interaction in a universe in perpetual motion.

    Thus, the First Way fails because it contains false premises, invalid logic, and is based on unrealistic analytical errors.

    For the Thomist causality occurs in a linear chain:
    Z caused by Y
    Y caused by X
    X caused by W
    … caused by U (ad hoc assigned the title of God in the first way)
    In nature such a causal chain does not exist, all causality being mutually interactive with no identifiable objects with titles of Cause and Effect. But, supposing we allow for a bit of human perceptual illusion at first, then we can see that mutuality terminates at base any apparent linear regress of causality:
    Z caused by Y
    Y caused by X
    X caused by W
    W caused by X
    (Terminus)

    Similar to the incomplete conceptual scope Thomists employ in considering motion and causality, Thomists also lack conceptual scope in considering structural realism. Again, Thomists are linear thinkers in a universe of mutuality and co-dependence.

    Thomists, being linear thinkers, reason their way back to notions of purity, somehow thinking it just could not not be that eventually everything existentialy must regress to simple purity. This leads the Thomist to make incoherent assertions, typically comprised of multiword terms that combine disjoint words into incoherent terms.

    The universe, however, need not conform to such thinking, rather, form, essence, and existence are mutually co-dependant in structural reality and cannot not be found always together.

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    1. Please, somebody shoots this idiot in the head.

      He won't be polluting with his nonsense.

      Feel free to share your address, StarStupidityPsyche, I'd ready the gun and the bullet.

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  32. I also do not see how the following works in Feser's ACPQ article, which he links above. Of the Fourth Way, Feser says:

    "... Aquinas is concerned only with what the
    Scholastics called the transcendentals—being, one, good, true, and the like—which, unlike smelliness, sweetness, heat, cold, red, green, etc., are predicable of everything without exception."

    This may be true of modern revisions of the Fourth, but it is not identical to what's in the text of the saint. Aquinas says that "in things/reality something is found more or less good, and true, and noble; and so about other things of this sort."

    The transcendentals in Thomism are: being, one, good, true, thing, something. It is not clear that "noble" cuts across all the categories so as to be predicable of every being; this needs to be argued. So it is not established that the Fourth is talking only about the so-called transcendental attributes. If Feser has proved that "noble" should be added to the standard list of transcendentals, I would appreciate the reference.

    Secondly, the Fourth says that what most completely bears the defining property in any genus is the cause of all that are in that genus, and Aquinas gives the example of fire as maximally hot, which is the cause of all hot things. But the transcendentals are not in any genus, since they cut across all the categories. So again, it is not clear that the attributes in view in the Fourth are restricted to the transcendentals.

    Third - and I step away from A-T - Aquinas in the Fourth appeals to Aristotle for the dictum that the maximal thing that bears each attribute has the most being, or exists maximally ("maxime ens"), for what are maximally true/real are maximally existing ("maxime entia"). This is to make existence a predicate or perfection and thereby to destroy modern logic. That's too high a price for me to pay for signing on to the Fourth.

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  33. If God can become bread thru a human body (jesus), how do we know the world hasn't always been God?

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    1. Transubstantiation is a contingent event. If God has always been the world, He is still not limited to the world, as such an identity would be contingent. God's necessary essence would still transcend the world.

      Moreover, you're getting things backwards, in any event. Transubstantiation is not God becoming bread, but bread becoming God. It is God who miraculously transforms the bread into the Body of Christ.

      In any case, most likely time had a beginning, so God could not have always been the world.

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