Thursday, February 6, 2020

Discussion with Graham Oppy


Earlier today on Cameron Bertuzzi’s Capturing Christianity program, I had a very pleasant and fruitful live exchange with Graham Oppy.  You can watch it on YouTube.  This is the second exchange Oppy and I have had on the show.  The first was last July, and you can still watch that on YouTube as well.  In that earlier exchange we discussed my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  The book comes up in the latest exchange as well, as does Oppy’s Religious Studies article “On stage one of Feser’s ‘Aristotelian proof.’”

163 comments:

  1. First of all, thanks to Capturing Christianity and to both participants for this debate. I think that at least some of us who watched it live may disagree about its fruitfulness though. As someone who stayed up to watch this, it felt like a letdown.

    Most people seemed to think that the first part that was spent on arguing about arguments was a waste of time and it took too much time compared to the actual time spent on discussing specifics. Now there is nothing wrong with settling issues about metaphilosophy, method and all that, but here it didn't seem fruitful at all. Oppy took a long time and talked at length to develop a point which was not clear at all. Aside from the trivially true claim that no formal exposition of an argument, or the step by step type of argument won't be enough to convince people, he said nothing. He tried to differentiate between focusing on arguments (in the specific sense as step by step presentations of premises that lead to a conclusion) and focusing on beliefs and claims. Obviously the way you're gonna talk about claims is gonna be again via arguments and the type of discussion about best explanation and so forth is something that could very well be summarized and presented in the form of the arguments he doesn't like. What else was there? That people will reject one or multiple of the premises? Yes, that's why people defend and have to defend their premises and Ed does so at length. So, again the only thing he seemed to be saying is that just throwing a somewhat formalized version of an argument won't do it. Thanks for that, Oppy. I'm really sorry to use unkind words towards a gentleman like Oppy, but all that seemed like an exercise in sophistry.

    Another part was a clarification of Ed's statements and stance towards atheists.

    Finally, what was left - I think half an hour - was devoted to the real discussion about act and potency. It's a shame that this discussion didn't go far. It's sad because a lot of us want to see this idea being debated thoroughly. It's not like there are a lot of people defending such metaphysical ideas in the public sphere. This is a foundational idea, perhaps the foundational one, for A-T metaphysics and very interesting for all of us who want to see an alternative to the sort of humean account of causation that's prevalent in our age. I wouldn't mind the whole discussion about arguments at all if there was as much or more time devoted to this issue afterwards.

    Maybe you guys should just do a debate without any moderators and take as long as you like, when your schedule allows it of course. As for this one, no offense but for me it wasn't so productive.

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    1. Feser's point at the end that a sea of "stuff" or any micro-substance would still either be pure potency, like prime matter, if it is that sea of "stuff" or a composite of act and potency if a substance wasn't emphasized enough and Oppy wasn't able to interact with it.

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  2. Very fruitful. Its incredibly common for objections to focus on philosophy itself as opposed to the arguments in particular.

    Showing the incoherence of scientism was rather easy. This delves into the much more difficult areas

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  3. Thanks Dr Feser for agreeing to participate! Your work has been such a blessing for me :)

    When it comes to the conversation itself, I do think that the first part of the discussion could have been much shorter. When it comes to Dr Oppy’s basic approach, his main argument against God seems to be: “while Naturalism is simpler than Theism, there is no relevant data that Naturalism fails to explain at least as well as Theism does.” (‘The Best Argument against God,’ 2013). In this same book, he explains that when deciding which theory to accept, the following criteria need to be taken into consideration: simplicity, goodness of fit, explanatory breadth, and predictive fruitfulness (pages 7-8). He then goes on about arguments, saying:

    “Thus, if Naturalist is trying to convince Theist that God does not exist by appealing to an argument, then the argument in question should have as its premises only claims that Theist accepts. (The point of introducing an argument into a debate is precisely to draw explicit attention to a putative problem in the beliefs of the other person – a putative logical inconsistency, or a putative probabilistic inconsistency, or a putative explanatory inconsistency or the like. Arguments need not play any role in debates, as debates can proceed primarily in terms of invitations to explain how certain considerations are accommodated or explained on the view held by the other side. A debater has reason to give an argument only if he or she supposes that the opponent cannot see the import of certain considerations that the opponent has already accepted or been brought to accept.)”

    However, I still think the main discussion is centred around the PSR. We are either going to push explanations all the way down, until we get to something that is pure actuality, absolutely simple, the transcendent mind at the foundation of all things, subsistent Being/Existence/Reason itself, and absolutely necessary; or we’re going to just posit some physical foundation that is a contingent independent being (like a factual necessity) which just happens to exist as a brute fact. The problem with the latter is that there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to stop there. That initial or foundational natural thing doesn’t seem to explain itself better than any other ordinary contingent thing. Nor do I think that God would also be a ‘brute fact.’ Under classical theism, God is absolutely/logically necessary because he IS Actus Essendi subsistens and is therefore subsistent reason/intelligence itself. To call that brute, would be nonsense.

    By the way Dr Feser, have you read Dr Oppy’s recent book, ‘Naturalism and Religion - A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation,’ published by Routledge, 2018? He offers some criticisms of Thomism in there.

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    1. Thannks for reminding me of the name of Oppys paper (The best argument against God). Leftow has written an answer, I believe it is called “A Naturalist Cosmological Argument“. I also recall liking neither paper...

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    2. So the theist has a magic man in the sky and the atheist has a magic molecule in his head. Hardly the bastion of certainty promised by the atheist establishment.

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    3. TN,
      Who or what is this "atheist establishment"? Is this an elected body I am not aware of?
      At what point has this "atheist establishment" "promised certainty"?

      Every well informed proponent of atheistic science I am aware of explains that science is inherently provisional, and science does not provide certain proofs.

      It is interesting that the subject of the PSR was raised above. Everything that occurs does so for a sufficient reason. Events don't just happen for no reason, rather, all change occurs if and only if there is a sufficient reason for that change.

      Thus, on the PSR, the universe is strictly deterministic. Whatever the next state of the universe is, that next state must be the consequence of sufficient reasons, not uncaused random occurrences. The universe is not, at base, changing due to stochastic processes, there being no such thing as intrinsic randomness, all events requiring a sufficient reason, thus strictly deterministic.

      Hence, each and every past state of the universe was strictly determined all the way back to the temporally primordial necessity, if there was a first (as opposed to an infinite regress).

      Thus, on the PSR, everything in the universe couldn't not be, having been determined by a temporally prior necessity.

      Further, on the PSR, free will is an illusion, since the universe is strictly determined, then, in truth, you cannot in reality, your illusory sensibilities notwithstanding, choose otherwise. There is no "other choice", rather, just the one choice strictly determined by the sufficient reason.

      Suppose you seem to choose between chocolate and vanilla, and you feel as though you freely chose, say, chocolate. It seems as though you were free to choose otherwise, it seems as though you could have chosen vanilla, but what made you want chocolate? In truth you could not choose your want. Your want was strictly determined by a sufficient reason inside you that you have no conscious awareness of until it bubbles to the surface, as it were, as "I feel like chocolate today".

      I agree with the PSR, things do not just go poof, thus all is strictly determined, the universe and everything in it is necessary, and free will is an illusion.

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    4. @ Philo Theos

      I think you’re right. The atheist assumes that he’s just being candid about these unknown mysteries (calling them “brute facts” ala Russell). He then thinks his opponent is trying to brush the unknown under the rug by positing a superman in the sky to explain the gaps. But what the atheist misses is that the theist (the Classical Theist anyway) by definition is not making a distinction between these “brute facts” (so called) and the necessary, subsistent being—atheism just is Nominalism after all. Making God a perfected man is a huge part of the problem.

      Considering these “brute facts”—objectivity, beauty, abstraction, just as possible examples—the atheist simply assumes what he says is impossible to affirm: when he says God is an explanation that doesn’t explain anything, he’s presuming in the character of his argument everything he purports to deny. No one says we need an explanation for how it is that objectivity is necessary for explanation.

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    5. StardustPsyche - No, quantum mechanics has most likely destroyed physical determinism. That's what was so difficult to swallow by a lot of the discoverers of that branch of physics. But all experimental evidence is most simply explained by an underdeterminism and intrinsic randomness, so far. Unless you go to rather exotic interpretations of QM. See Bell's inequality and corresponding experimental results for mathematical justifications...

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    6. quidam,
      "No, quantum mechanics has most likely destroyed physical determinism."
      Then, if that were somehow the case, QM has destroyed the PSR. If what you say were somehow true it would require that things happen for no reason at all, not because of a sufficient reason, so that at base the stuff in the universe simply goes poof, any old which way at any old time for no reason, because that is what intrinsic randomness would be, that is what the notion of a stochastic process requires, an effect without a cause, the diametric opposite of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

      "See Bell's inequality"
      John Stewart Bell himself interpreted his inequality as a limitation on local determinism, and for his part, he considered that we would need to change our views on locality, not on determinism.

      Gerard t' Hooft, a Nobel laureate for his work on the electroweak force, the first unification of forces, also rejects the notion that Bell somehow disproved determinism.

      The views of such eminent physicists and mathematicians aside, the PSR is one area I can agree with Thomists, things do require a sufficient reason, it is incoherent to assert that things just go poof for no reason at all,

      A problem for the Thomist is asserting both the PSR and free will, because those two assertions are logically mutually exclusive.

      On the PSR things do not go poof, everything happens for a sufficient reason, thus the universe is at base deterministic on the PSR, QM and skewed readings of Bell notwithstanding.

      Since the PSR dictates a fundamentally deterministic universe, and a fundamentally deterministic universe rules out free will, then the conclusion is logically inescapable:
      The PSR rules out free will.

      Thomism is thus self-contradictory in that respect.

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    7. Philo Theos,

      "Nor do I think that God would also be a ‘brute fact.’ Under classical theism, God is absolutely/logically necessary because he IS Actus Essendi subsistens and is therefore subsistent reason/intelligence itself. To call that brute, would be nonsense."

      I don't see how "logical necessity" could be anything other than brute fact.

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    8. StardustyPsyche,

      I have no supernatural beliefs. But I think your radically deterministic universe is even more fantastic than God. It's another faith. It can't possibly be proven.

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    9. Don you have been here for so many years and still don't know why the existence of a necessary being would be self-explanatory? Have you learnt nothing?

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    10. Don,
      "your radically deterministic universe is even more fantastic than God."
      I am not sure what the difference would be between a "radically" deterministic universe and some other sort of deterministic universe.

      Either at base things happen for reasons, or at base things just go poof. Either there are stochastic processes or there are not. Some occurrences are intrinsically random or no occurrences are intrinsically random.

      On the PSR all effects are due to a sufficient causal reason. Pure random chance is not a sufficient reason for an effect, it is no reason at all. On intrinsic randomness effects happen without a cause and without a reason at all, much less sufficient.

      Thus, on the PSR the universe is lacking in any true intrinsic randomness and there are no truly stochastic processes in the universe. Thus on the PSR the universe is strictly deterministic.

      On determinism free will is an illusion. To make a free choice, by the lights of those who assert free choice is at all coherent, it must be possible to choose otherwise. But on determinism there is, in reality, no otherwise choice, there is only one possible future, the future that is determined, any human impression of choosing freely thus being an illusion on determinism.

      The PSR mandates determinism.
      Determinism mandates that free will is illusory.
      Therefore the PSR mandates that free will is illusory.

      You may feel that is fantastic or faith or whatever your sensibilities lead you to feel. Irrespective, the PSR rules out real free will.

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    11. Dom, of course he's learnt nothing. He's no longer in SP's category, but he also shows an extreme intellectual confusion over anything philosophical or theological.

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    12. Dominik Kowalski,

      "Don you have been here for so many years and still don't know why the existence of a necessary being would be self-explanatory? Have you learnt nothing?"

      Actually, I've learned a lot and I thank you all a great deal. I haven't learned what you want me to learn, that's true. I learned that the fault most likely isn't in the student. It's in the subject.

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    13. StardustyPsyche,

      "Either at base things happen for reasons, or at base things just go poof."

      That's a false dichotomy. If quantum physics is correct, things go "poof" according to probabilities. I have no reason to doubt the double-slit experiment or its probabilistic interpretation. It's not that "some occurrences are intrinsically random," it's that all occurrences are a function of probability.

      You can't use PSR on me since I don't believe in PSR in the way these A-T guys do. The way it's thrown around here has always struck me as, if not circular, certainly the infinite regression they claim they don't have.

      IMO, free will is not the illusion. Your stochastic universe is the illusion. We suspected but didn't know that until physics dug deep.

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    14. Don,
      "You can't use PSR on me"
      I didn't use the PSR on you, I made a clear and irrefutable argument that the PSR rules out free will.

      Yes, I know that the PSR is held to in A-T, as is free will, that has been my point all along, A-T is self contradictory by holding two mutually exclusive views simultaneously.

      "IMO, free will is not the illusion. Your stochastic universe is the illusion."
      Your statements are self contradictory so I suspect you are not familiar with some of the terms. Stochastic just means random. Free will is an illusion if the universe is deterministic. If the universe is deterministic then it is not at base random.

      First you assert my "radical" determinism, then you assert my "stochastic universe". Which is it?

      "If quantum physics is correct, things go "poof" according to probabilities."
      That's not a third alternative. Probabilities can be applied to analyze chaotic systems. Chaos is deterministic, but too complicated for us to analyze in closed form.

      The fact that QM progresses according to probability distributions is evidence that QM is the result of an underlying deterministic process.

      If, however, probability were due to an underlying intrinsically random (stochastic) process then things would be going poof, there would be effects without any causes, a violation of the PSR whether you hold to the PSR or not.

      Maybe if you look up a couple of these terms and re-read our conversation you will see that you got a couple things mixed up. No worries.

      Irrespective, the PSR mandates determinism, determinism rules out free will, therefore the PSR rules out free will making that combination of assertions in A-T self contradictory.

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    15. StardustyPsyche,

      "Chaos is deterministic, but too complicated for us to analyze in closed form."

      If chaos can't be analyzed in closed form it can't be analyzed in any form. If it can't be analyzed, you have no basis to say it's deterministic. I say you take it as an article of faith.

      "Free will is an illusion if the universe is deterministic."

      First you'll have to explain how you'll prove your deterministic universe without putting that full universe into your lab.

      "I made a clear and irrefutable argument that the PSR rules out free will."

      Until you prove PSR you have nothing. I don't accept PSR. It's too poorly defined.

      I agree A-T philosophy is contradictory and self-defeating. But you can't use their premises against me. I don't accept many of them.

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    16. Don,
      "But you can't use their premises against me."
      You are clearly suffering from a persecution complex.

      "Until you prove PSR you have nothing."
      Are you familiar with the sentence structure containing "on the"? It means "if X is true then..." It is a form of conditional statement. I have no need to prove that the PSR is true in order to make a conditional statement based on the assertion that it is true. If you weren't so busy reacting as a hyperdefensive person you would already understand what "on the" means.

      On the PSR the universe is deterministic.
      On a deterministic universe free will is an illusion.
      Therefore, on the PSR free will is an illusion.

      "If chaos can't be analyzed in closed form it can't be analyzed in any form. If it can't be analyzed, you have no basis to say it's deterministic. I say you take it as an article of faith."
      I suggest you at least do a quick search on subjects before you post on them, it would help you avoid such pedestrian errors as in your above statement. Just enter a few terms like chaos, determinism, and probability into google and you will quickly find out how inane your above statement is.

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    17. StardustyPsyche,

      You're stalling. Prove PSR or move on. Don't waste time analyzing my personality. It's irrelevant and you lack the tools anyway.

      But hold on. It gets worse. A believer in PSR can reject your reasoning because he'll reject your assumption that what we call free will should be grouped with non-mental, deterministic, physical processes. IOW, effects may be caused by a non-deterministic will and you have no way of proving that this isn't so. Will itself could be a sufficient reason. Until you prove it can't be, you have no case. PSR does not mandate determinism. You simply beg the question.

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    18. Don,
      "Prove PSR or move on"
      I see you have not yet learned the meaning of the term "conditional statement". I don't have to prove the PSR to make a statement conditioned upon its asserted properties. What part of that don't you get yet?

      "effects may be caused by a non-deterministic will"
      On a non-deterministic will the will is stochastic, randomized, and things are therefore willed for no reason at all, somehow the will just goes poof.

      "Will itself could be a sufficient reason"
      Not on a non-deterministic will, because with a non-deterministic will things are willed for no reason at all, that's what non-deterministic means, that there is no reason for the effect, in this case the effect being that which is willed.

      Since in the asserted case of a non-deterministic will there is no reason for what is willed it is incoherent to assert that no reason is a reason at all, much less a sufficient reason.

      I see that the grammatical use of "on the" is still problematic for you, so I will expand the point using more and different words.

      If the PSR is true then nothing in the universe ever happens randomly, because if randomness is possible it would inherently require that the random effect happens for no reason at all, therefore certainly not for a sufficient reason. Since, in that case, the universe would be entirely non-random in all its aspects, then if the PSR were true then the universe would be entirely deterministic.
      If the universe is entirely deterministic then there could not be any free will, becuase to have a free will, if that were somehow possible, would require that other choices could be made as time progresses. But if it were the case that the universe is deterministic then only one possible set of events is actually possible as time progresses, thus ruling out free will if the universe is deterministic.
      Therefore, if the PSR is true then free will is necessarily ruled out.

      Hope that helps.

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    19. StardustyPsyche,

      "I don't have to prove the PSR to make a statement conditioned upon its asserted properties. What part of that don't you get yet?"

      It's you who doesn't get two thing:

      1) A conditional statement is thought true only if one accepts the "asserted property." I don't accept the "asserted property" so your conditional is worthless. I demand a true "asserted property."

      2) Even if someone accepts your "asserted property" he doesn't have to accept your conclusion. You misapply the meaning and scope of the "asserted property."

      "On a non-deterministic will the will is stochastic, randomized, and things are therefore willed for no reason at all, somehow the will just goes poof."

      That's a vacuous assertion. You miss the implications of randomness. If there is one bit of randomness in the universe then the universe cannot be said to be deterministic in your sense. We have two categories: deterministic versus non-deterministic. We should be able to agree that randomness is in the non-deterministic category. And once we have that category, it's fair to ask: Is randomness the only member of that category? It's possible that there is a set of two members in that category. There could be three. We simply do not know. The cat is out of the bag when we accept randomness. There is no way to prove the will is not the second member of that non-deterministic category. The will may in fact be non-deterministic and non-random.

      And that's what most people mean when they talk about will. They do not mean their choices are determined by fate. And they do not mean they are random selections. They surely to not mean they will something for no reason at all. Your job is to prove they are mistaken. I see no possible way for you to do that.

      "If the PSR is true then nothing in the universe ever happens randomly, because if randomness is possible it would inherently require that the random effect happens for no reason at all,"

      You merely assume will is deterministic. Assuming your conclusion is not proof. IOW, your "on the" does not follow. Eventually you're going to have to do more than beg the question.


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  4. See seems to concede Ed's point at 1:39.

    It seems that Oppy may not be familiar with the concept of hierarchical causality, drilling down to more and more general layers of actuality to support a thing's potential to remain unchanged. I think Ed is trying to make this clear to Oppy at 1:49.

    I think Oppy gets it when he reformulates Ed's point in terms of the constitution of a thing, not having an infinite regress. He agrees with Ed that there has to be a bottoming out of this regress where Ed's principle no longer holds because it is bottom level. Oppy looks at this as purely a problem for Physics to solve and he affirms that he cannot know what such a bottom level might be until physics gives the final word.

    In general, Ed seemed to convince Oppy that his counter principle "Because a thing can have a potential to remain unchanged that need not have a cause." is actually not a true counter example to what Ed is claiming. It also seemed to push Oppy back to a point where he can only make statements of belief about how he thinks things are at this bottom level of reality.

    Great job Ed. I think you got him to at least agree in the theory of act/potency, as you describe it. This is the starting point to challenge him on his assertions about how that bottom level must be.

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    1. I would like commend Oppy for allowing himself to be convinced on this point, even though it is just one step in a multi-step argument for the existence of God. I know it does not mean he can be so easily won over on the subsequent steps in the argument, but at least it shows that he can recognize sound arguments when he sees them.

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    2. Daniel

      I think if a thing can have a potential to remain unchanged without a cause, that would most certainly be a counterexample to Ed's claim, because Ed's claim is that nothing can stay in existence for even a moment without God sustaining it.
      If things can stay in existence without a sustaining cause, that is a knock-out argument against Ed's claim.

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    3. A sustaining cause is exactly what Oppy ended up admitting. He characterizes it as some kind of physically brute thing - a simple, etc... but he admitted that whatever potentialities and actualities that anything may have must be grounded on that underlying brute actuality.

      Granted, this is where the real discussions and disagreements should begin, but in no way did Oppy provide a substantive counter example to Ed's actual principle.

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    4. And it was puzzling to me that Oppy would have chosen that ground to stand on in this conversation. I would have thought that he should have already known that this is where Ed would go in the discussion. Hopefully he has been fully convinced of this and the next time they meet, they can get into the real guts of the debate.

      Some ideas I hope they could cover is are:

      - Whether the simple is purely physical
      - Whether the science of physics is the only path to understand the nature of this purely physical simple.
      - Whether there might be some things that could be considered immaterial (and therefore outside of the scope of physics to study).
      - Whether the simple, as Oppy calls it, might not be physical at all, but may be immaterial in nature.
      - Whether there can be in principle a physical simple that is also metaphysically simple.

      I would love to see if Oppy would be willing to go into a discussion like this - because it would involve very foundational and basic concepts.

      God bless,
      Daniel

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    5. Daniel

      I do not recall Oppy admitting a "sustaining cause". Of course, if Ex nihilo nihil fit is true, then nothing can "pop into existence". But Oppy's view seems to be that if X exists, the X will continue existing unless something acts upon it to make it change/stop existing, which is the opposite of the Thomist's notion that X would not exist for even one instant without something else sustaining its existence.

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    6. Hey Walter,

      So my first point is this: I think you are claiming things for Ed and Oppy that they were not discussing at the time. Remember, they are discussing Oppy's article in Response to Ed's book, Five Proof's for the existence of God. And in the article, Oppy is specifically criticizing Ed's Aristotelian Proof and even more specifically, his formal rendering of that proof in steps 4 to 7.

      These are:

      4-No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it (the principle of causality).
      5. So, any change is caused by something already actual.
      6.The occurrence of any change C presupposes some thing or substance S which changes.
      7. The existence of S at any given moment itself presupposes the concurrent actualization of S's potential for existence.


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    7. So in the discussion, they are arguing about point 4-No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it (the principle of causality).

      Oppy is claiming in his article that this is not true. His counter claim is that A thing that has a potential to remain unchanged need not have a cause. It merely needs to remain un-interfered with.

      Ed's counter point is simple - this is just another way of saying that a thing's potential will remain unactualized unless something actual, actualizes it - or to put it in Oppy's words, something interferes with it. Ergo, point 4 is not challenged.

      Oppy then retorts that any move from T to T2 must involve change. And the case he has specifically in mind is a change to the universe as a whole. He believes the universe does not need an external changer. Lots of stuff just carries on because they are unchanging. And there is a second category of stuff that is changing - where he admits that this is the place where there are things that causing other things to change. He claims that Ed's position is that there is something outside of the universe required to explain change.

      Note that Oppy has suddenly changed the topic from act and potency to change. He is no longer talking about the principle of causality in Ed's point 4. And Ed calls him on it.

      More to follow.

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    8. Oppy accepts Ed's criticism and reformulates his principle (see second paragraph above in bold) in terms of act/potency.

      He uses his chair as an example:

      Oppy - Go back to the case of the chair. Think about at a particular time. Lets pretend we have discrete moments where you have T and T+1. So, at a certain time, the chair has the potential to be red at T+1. Do we need ... I think that so long as nothing else happens, the chair will be red at T+1. That potential will be realized. Unless there is something... unless... in the absens of anything... right... any other factors, it will go on being red from T to being red at T+1. And we don't require something to realize that potential.

      What Oppy appears to miss here, and what Ed tries to point out, is that the act potency discussion is not merely about time from T to T1, but also about all the layers of act and potency required to be in place for a thing to remain unchanged from T to T1. Eg. the molecular structure of the chair, the laws of physics, etc.etc... all have to be actual for the chair's potential to remain unchanged to be realized in actuality. And those hierarchical layers of regress, each layer of which much be actualized, within T and T1, are all part of this explanation.

      After Ed explains all of this, Oppy makes the following concession:

      Maybe that principle, now that I've stated it that way is similarly subject to charges of being the same as what you say, but I'm not sure.


      Cheers,
      Daniel

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    9. 1:51 - Oppy responds to Ed in this way Taking what you said, so we have got the redness being constituted by something else - lets run with the argument with the something else. Now you might say OK but that in turn is constituted by something further, .... does that sort of constitution form an infinite regress? I assume not so it is going to bottom out. Now the only thing that is going on here that is preventing me from pointing to the level at which it bottoms out is my ignorance about the ultimate physical level - whatever it is. But I would just point to that. And now we run the argument and you can't make the same reply because you can't say that physical level is constituted by some lower level because there isn't one. Right - so either we are going to infinite regress or I am going to have something to point to even though I can't do it because physics isn't in a state that enables me to do that.

      As I mentioned before, everything that he says here is in agreement with Ed's premise 4. Where they would clearly disagree about, and where they unfortunately ran out of time, is how to characterize that bottom level. Oppy says it is some physical thing and only physics can provide answers about it - maybe simples, maybe quantum fields, etc...but no need to look further than that. Ed would clearly disagree and point to the need for a purely actual actualizer to explain this most bottom physical layer of reality and appeal to metaphysical categories that Oppy has rejected, but did not have time to get into details about.

      But both of them, I think would agree that whatever that bottom layer is, it would be the sustaining cause of the universe.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

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    10. Daniel

      You may be right, but I think Oppy was only admitting a sustaining cause for the sake of the argument. To me it is obvious that in order for some potential in X to be actualized, X must exist (or be actual in some way).
      But the thing is, and I think Oppy would agree, that the "bottom layer" is X, while for Feser, the bottom layer is Y. That means, Feser posits a bottom layer Y to actualize a potential in X, whereas, if I am correct, Oppy posits a bottom layer X that accounts for whatever X might turn into.
      At least, that is what I gather from his use of "physical level".

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    11. Fair enough - but I think Ed succeeded in convincing Oppy that his critique of the formal steps in Ed's proof were off base. And yes, when you figure out what the steps actually mean, it does seem fairly head slappingly obvious. :) And I 100% agree that Ed is talking about y sustaining X while Oppy is only talking about X sustaining X. But they only got to talk about that point for two or three minutes at the end. This is where the substance of their real discussion should be!

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    12. "A thing that has a potential to remain unchanged" is a nonsense phrase.

      A potential is a potential to change. God is said to have no potentials and therefore never changes. God is not said to have the potential to remain unchanged.

      Material, like the speculation of god, never changes in its existential respect.
      Material, like the speculation of god, has no potential to change in its existential respect.
      Material, like the speculation of god, is already fully actualized in its existential respect.

      Material exists. Material cannot cease to exist, nor can material begin to exist ex nihilo. Thus, material never changes in its aspect that it exists. Material is already fully actualized in its aspect that it exists, so material has no potential to not exist, nor does material have a further potential to exist even more than it already does, rather, material is already fully actualized in its existence.

      Since material, like the speculation of god, cannot change in its existential respect, in its aspect of existence, no changer is called for to account for its continued existence.

      No change in existence of material means no changer is needed to account for the continued existence of material.

      The Thomist asserts an unevidenced property of material, that material not acted upon will spontaneously change itself from something to nothing. Therefore, the Thomist asserts, there must be an additional unevidenced changer, ever acting upon material to counteract this speculated property of material to spontaneously change itself from something to nothing, all in just the right way so as to yield the human observation of no change in the existence of material.

      The unseen, unevidenced combination of a speculation of a property of material to spontaneously change itself from something to nothing, in combination with an additional speculation that an unseen changer is continuously acting upon material to counteract this tendency of material to annihilate itself, is unevidenced, uncalled for, extravagant, and unnecessary.

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    13. Daniel

      I agree that's where the substance of their real discussion should be, and I hope they will, in the foreseeable future, continue their discussion and take the time to talk about whther the sustaining cause is X or Y.

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    14. Stardusty

      I tend to agree with you on this, and I suspect Oppy would too.

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    15. Isn't that a big sign you are wrong? SP is a long-time troll who is perpetually confused about just about everything philosophical.

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    16. Uhm, Anon, that's the genetic fallacy you just committed there, as well as ad hominem.

      But what do you think about the subject of the OP? Specifically...

      The persistence of a thing that is fully actualized is not itself the actualization of a potential, correct?

      A thing that is fully actualized in some respect does not have a potential to remain fully actualized in that respect, right?

      If a thing that is fully actualized were to have the potential to remain fully actualized then your speculation of god would have potentials, the potential to remain fully actualized, but your speculation of god has no potentials, you say, so if that is the case then persistence of full actualization is not itself the actualization of a potential, correct?

      Material is fully actualized in the respect that it exists. Material has no potentials with respect to its existence.

      Material has no potential to cease to exist.
      Material has no potential to exist even more than it already does.
      Material has no potential to begin to exist ex nihilo.

      Oppy is correct in his statement supporting existential inertia of material. For a scientist or modern philosopher using the language of actualization and potential to analyze causality and existence is like trying to build a small watch while wearing insulated mittens, awkward, and only an impediment.

      But, in the interest of speaking in the vernacular, the Thomist asserts that material would change itself from existing to not existing absent the presence of a changer ever acting to counteract this speculated property of matterial to change itself from something to nothing at every moment.

      Thus to account for no change in the existence of material the Thomist invents ad hoc the combined speculations of material having the property of spontaneous self annihilation, and an unseen first actualizer continuously counteracting this asserted suicidal tendency of material.

      The Thomistic account of existential inertia is thus unevidenced, superfluous, unnecessary, extravagant, and nonsensical.

      The scientific materialist simply observes that material exists, material cannot be created, material cannot be destroyed, and attributes existential inertia to the simple fact that when observing no change in existence of material there is no call whatever for any sort of changer of the existence of material.

      But maybe you can point out my philosophical confusions?

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  5. It felt like Oppy was straight up completely unaware of the most simple tenets of classical theistic arguments. I sort of cringed when he posited that whatever is simpler than a quark can be the ground floor of reality. When Feser retorted that such a thing is still contingent and dependent on other things to exist (even naturalistically), Oppy just seemed lost. Not saying he’s not intelligent, the guy is far smarter than all of us in this comment section... but the problem is even amongst philosophers of religion there’s just a total lack of knowledge of these classical arguments.

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    1. I didn't notice Oppy seemed lost.
      I also fail to see why such a thing would be contingent.
      But that's probably because I don't buy into the act potency distinction.

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    2. But that's probably because I don't buy into the act potency distinction.

      Just saying that it could be accepted while still upholding atheism, e.g. through doubting certain principles like PSR (though the Aristotelian argument only requires a very weak one) or PPC. I also recall that you are pretty reductionistic (at least) when it comes to biology and the mind, so I think that this could be used to avoid certain conclusions (I haven´t yet thought too much about that) even if one admits the PPC (Proportionate Causality).
      Could be of course that you´re a Humean and convinced by it, but it seems that a watered down aristotelian account of causation could be made acceptable for the atheist, too. Don´t think though if the same goes for the naturalists like Armstrong (Ontological Physicalism).

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    3. I also fail to see why such a thing would be contingent.

      A physical necessary thing leads to fatalism/Spinozism, a conclusion everyone wants to avoid. Alternatively the ground would be a brute fact, but then it is automatically contingent.

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    4. Dominik

      AFAICT (but correct me of I am wrong) , I have never said anything about a physical necessary thing.

      And I agree that the act potency distinction, if coherent, might be acceptable while upholding atheism, but I don't think it is coherent. IOW, I don't reject the act potency distinction because I am an atheist, I reject it because it doesn't make any sense ( to me). Even if God did exist, he could not possibly be Pure Act. Unlike Stardusty, I do not reject the notion of Pure Act.
      For all I know, there may be some "Pure Act", but "Pure Act" would be a kind of existence that is not in any way related to anything else. IOW, if Pure Act exists, it has, by definition, no relevance to anything but itself.

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    5. Walter,
      "Unlike Stardusty, I do not reject the notion of Pure Act.
      Ok, since nobody else here has any demonstrated capability to explain how "pure act" is not an incoherent term, would you be willing to do so?

      "For all I know, there may be some "Pure Act", but "Pure Act" would be a kind of existence that is not in any way related to anything else. IOW, if Pure Act exists, it has, by definition, no relevance to anything but itself."
      It seems to me that you have described a thing that is relevant only to itself. That is not "pure act", rather, it is a thing that has no potential to do or be or change into any other form or sort of thing.

      The term "pure act" is incoherent as is "pure existence" or "existence itself" or "pure left" or "pure up".

      Things have attributes either intrinsic to those things or imagined by an intelligence as a means of abstracting such things.

      Without the thing there are no such attributes, be they intrinsic or assigned abstractions. Absolutely nothing at all has no attributes.

      We abstract the anticipated aggregate behaviors of material as a "potential". If a material could somehow be entirely without any potential then in some sense it might be considered "fully actualized" or immutable, but that is not "pure act" because it is the material that is fully actualized.

      What is it that is fully actualized in order to have "pure act" if there is absolutely nothing at all except the actuality, a necessary condition to claim that the actuality is pure?

      For the same sort of reasons the term "existence itself" is incoherent. What is existing if there is absolutely nothing a all but "existence itself"?

      For there to be existence there must be some thing existing, thus existence cannot exist in and of itself.

      For there to be full actualization there must be some thing that is fully actualized, so full actualization can never be pure.

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    6. StardustyPsyche

      It may be true that for there to be existence there must be some thing existing, but I cannot prove that. Sure, it seems extremely counterintuitive to me, just like an immaterial mind, e.g. But to go from this and say that Pure Act is impossible is, to me, a bridge too far and ,anyway, no Thomist will accept it.
      That's why I concede, at least for the sake of the argument, that Pure Act may be coherent and I conclude that if Pure Act were to exist it would be a kind of existence that is not in any way related to anything else.

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    7. Walter,
      "It may be true that for there to be existence there must be some thing existing, but I cannot prove that"
      It is in the meanings of the words. Things have attributes. Where would these attributes reside, and in what form if they were somehow pure? How can the attribute "left" somehow exist if there are no objects existing such that one is left of the other? It is in the very definition of the word "left" that it means one object is in a particular spatial relationship with another object. The same sort of definitional grounding is the case with "act" and "exists"

      "But to go from this and say that Pure Act is impossible is, to me, a bridge too far and ,anyway, no Thomist will accept it." Pure act is incoherent, it is irrational, it makes no sense, it is an utterance devoid of logical grounding, it is an utterance in contradiction to the meanings of words, irrespective of what a Thomist might accept.

      "That's why I concede, at least for the sake of the argument, that Pure Act may be coherent and I conclude that if Pure Act were to exist it would be a kind of existence that is not in any way related to anything else."
      In that case I would say that even if the incoherent notion of pure-act somehow were the case it would have to be not in any way related to anything else, but that's just how I would put it, your mileage may vary.

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    8. Walter,
      I don't see how PA would be irrelevant to anything but itself, after all anything composed derives its causal power from it

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    9. Dominik

      That is claimed, I know. But "causal powers" are supposed to be immutable, so how can they be "derived"?

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    10. No? The powers itself are rooted within the immutable simple. The composite contingents derive them from them, as such as they have limited access to those powers, they have them immanently and can use them. "Immutable Powers" are unintelligible, as powers are purely potential and have no reality of their own apart from the substance. One could equally ask if the number 2 is mutable.

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    11. Dominik

      Powers cannot be potential, because there are no potentials in the immutable simple.

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    12. Maybe you should read material beyond mere blog posts, then you'd quickly realiue how useless this answer is.
      Powers are nothing if not rooted in a substance. It is by the existence and power God that composite contingent beings are able to have immanent causal power of their own without being necessitated to be puppets. The power in God cannot be in principle be infringed upon. Doesn't follow that they cannot be changed in composite contingencies

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  6. Hi Ed, I have just finished watching the debate and I have a question for you, to clarify both your response to this, and what I think that Oppy was attempting to get at.

    Oppy states

    "Think about at a particular time, the chair at T and T1. At a certain time, the chair has the potential to be red at T, I think so long as nothing else happens, the chair will be red at T+1, that potential will be realised. In the absence of anything, it will just go from being red at T to red at T+1 and we don’t require something to realise that potential, it just have to be the case is what DOESN’T happen is someone throws a paintball at it so it becomes blue, or what have you. That would realise different potentials like it’s potential to be blue, which could be realised if that were to happen. But given that it is already red, it’s potential to be red at T+1, doesn’t require anything to actualise the potential. That is the thought, maybe the way the principles stated is that it is poorly formulate, but that is how it is supposed to work. That’s what I was trying to get the principle to capture. You are saying for this potential to be red to be actualised at the next moment, there has got to be something already actual that actualises that potential. I don’t see the need for that."

    In response you state

    "It seems like if you are going to short circuit that, and appeal to those sorts of details, then you have to appeal to precisely the kind of general principle that I am attributing to you, which is that a potential to remain unchanged doesn’t need an actualiser, you are going to have to appeal to a general principle like that to respond to the argument, but then the problem is I am claiming now, to phrase a potential to remain unchanged is really just a shorthand way of saying a potential not to have a potential actualised, and that something will not have its potential actualised unless interfered with that from outside would be something already actual that actualises that potential, I realise, I realise this is convoluted, but I think that convoluted way of putting it is what follows when we unpack a potential to remain unchanged in terms of the technical language, so that the appearance that you are putting forward an alternative principle is actually just my principle already.
    What do you mean by unchanged, if change is that actualisation of a potential, then being unchanged just means not having a potential actualised, well OK, but the Aristotelian is saying that the chair has a potential, it is right now red at T, at T+1 it has the potential to be red, and that potential has to be actualised by something already actual so the Aristotelian claims, but that your principle doesn’t really provide a counterargument to that or an objection to it, it really amounts to nothing more then at best a disagreement but one that does not really present an alternative analysis of change, but simply says that the actualisation of a potential doesn’t need a cause. Where that is just an assertion rather then a counterargument, but sounds like it is just begging the question, rather then actually providing a response to the premise of my own argument in question.

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    1. The bottom level, whatever it turns out to be, is going to have certain key features or it won’t. And the key features might be things like this, it is going to involve components that could at that moment potentially be A rather then B, and yet they are A. Since they are A rather then B we require an explanation of why that is the case, and that explanation will have to be in terms of something deeper so we haven’t actually hit bottom. But it is going to involve something like potentials that requires actualisation, it is going to involve something like composition of parts, it is going to involve something that as long as it involves those elements, it will not be the bottom level of explanation, we will have to go deeper. However, if we do get to a level below which we cannot go, it is going to have to be simple where there is no composition of parts, no potentiality that needs actualisation and so forth, but in that case on analysis it is going to turn out essentially to be divine. Then we will have arrived at a kind of theism, and then we just need to establish the nature of the bottom of reality, not it’s existence."

      So it seems to me your response is simply that:

      Yes, the chair's existence at T-1, prior to T, and T+1 plays a partial role in it's potential to be red being actualised at T+1, but really in addition to that we have the chemical and molecular structure of the chair and so on and so forth.

      I am not quite sure how that answers Oppy's objection, perhaps you could help clarfiy it now that you have time to think about it, BUT I did have an idea of my own.

      Surely, the difference between the chair at T and T+1 all other things remaining the same is time itself, why can't time itself be the actually existent thing that actualises the potential for the chair to exist at time T+1, for surely without time, that would not be the case?

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    2. The move from T to T1 is actually not very relevant. Because Ed is trying to explain not so much a things ability to remain unchanged from point T to point T1, but for a thing to be at all at any one point in time.

      For example,

      1-A chair has a physical structure. This is the top macro level.
      2-The chair is made up of molecules and atoms, and the like. The actuality of point 1 depends on the actuality of point 2.
      3-The structure of the atoms, molecules, quarks, glueons, etc... depend on the laws of physics. So the actuality of 1 and 2 now depend on 3. Time is a part of this picture as well. The actuality of time also depends on the laws of physics being the way they are.
      4-The laws of physics also require an actualizer of some sort. Oppy would point to some physically simple bottom level that can explain all the upper layers of actuality and potentiality described above - and he thinks this is something that physics needs to provide an answer to.

      So as you can see, the change that Ed is appealing to here is more of an analysis of the way things are at any given moment. The actuality of a thing that we see with our physical senses at the macro level need to be actualized by ever more general levels of actuality in a hierarchical way. And this sort of existential hierarchy is what enables a thing to remain the same from point T to T1.

      Let me know if that helps clarify things.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

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    3. Even if its remaining specifically *red* from T to T+1 does not need anything to actualize it (and I am not sure if that's the case), the chair still generally needs to be conserved in existence from T to T+1 by extrinsic factors. So its existence generally speaking is constantly actualized by certain things which are themselves actualized, etc, etc.

      If that is true of the chair generally, I think it would also be true of its parts/accidents/whatever. Its potency to exist as a red chair is actualized from T to T+1 by these other conditions (gravity, molecular interaction, etc) that themselves require conservation and actualization. This we can trace back to what you described above, something essentially divine.

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    4. OP,
      "a potential to remain unchanged" is a violation of the PSR.

      The PSR states that there must be a sufficient reason for a change, to actualize a potential.

      If being unchanged were also a potential then that would require and uncaused change from the present state which then had to be re-actualized to maintain the appearance of no change.

      The notion that no-change requires an actualizer requires that, in the example, the red chair at T1 must be actualized to remain a red chair at T2. But the chair is already fully actualized in its "redness" at T1, so to be re-actualized in its "redness" at T2 it would first have to be "unreded" somehow at T1.5 so that it could then be actualized in its "redness" at T2.

      Convoluted indeed.

      At T1 the chair is already fully actualized in its "redness". At T2 the chair remains fully actualized in its "redness", thus no additional actualization was necessary to remain red from T1 to T2.

      Dr. Feser requires that an uncaused spontaneous "unredness" actualizer or "redness de-actualizer" or some sort of decomposition force lacking sufficient reason must somehow be ever acting to "de-red" the chair thus requiring the chair to be re-actualized in its "redness" moment to moment to account for our observation of no change in the chair's "redness".

      Yes, I agree, the Thomistic account of no change is highly convoluted.

      Here is a much simpler accounting for no change.

      The observation of no change does not call for a changer. Done.

      If I have $100 in my wallet in the evening and the next morning I still have $100 in my wallet I think little of it, and I certainly do not go looking for a thief or a benefactor, rather, it seems as though no action has occurred with respect to the bills in my wallet.

      Thomism, in effect, speculates that a thief is continually taking the bills out of my wallet such that they must be continually returned to my wallet, or perhaps there is a thief continuously tugging at the bills attempting to remove them but there is also a guard grabbing the wrist of the thief continuously acting to prevent the disappearance of the bills in my wallet.

      Thomism is convoluted indeed. I simply say that I still have the same $100 in my wallet so nobody touched them at all, simple, no change means no changer, how hard is that?

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    5. @ Stardust

      [Insert response produced by vibrating particles here]

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    6. TN,
      Indeed, the seemingly static appearance of macro objects such as the red chair of the OP or my dollar bill example is, in fact, composed of, basically, vibrating particles.

      At base all the submicroscopic particles in the universe are in motion, pushing and pulling on each other with no net loss of motion.

      The particles interact with each other. Change is at base mutual and circular, which Scotus wrongly denied. Change need not regress to a first unchanged changer (as opposed to an infinite regress). Change regresses hierarchically to mutual causation of change, thus finitely terminating the regress without an unchanged changer in the present moment.

      The aspect of material that does not change is its existential respect. Thus, no changer is called for to account for the lack of change in the existence of material.

      Thus, the change of arrangement of material is accounted for by a finite regress to mutual causation.

      Further, there is no change in the existential aspect of material therefore no changer is called for to account for the continued existence of material.

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    7. @ Stardust

      [Insert another response generated from vibrating particles here]

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    8. Hey Micheal,

      Stardust is a well known troll on this blog. Ed will eventually delete his posts. There isn't a point in responding to him.

      God bless,
      Daniel

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    9. Oppy’s question on why something that is already actualised should still need continuous actualising may be able to addressed with this analogy as well:

      1. When a ball was on the floor, it had the potential to be at one meter above the floor by being placed on a one-meter height table.

      2. When the ball has been transferred from the floor to the surface of the one meter-height table, the potential of the ball being one meter above the floor has been actualised.

      3. For the ball to remain continuously at one meter above the floor, continuous actualisation is needed. The actual table needs to there CONTINOUSLY to enable that ball to be CONTINUOUSLY at one meter above the floor.

      4. Therefore continuously actualisation is needed even though the ball’s previous potential to be at one meter above the floor has already been actualised.

      I thought of this analogy and wanted to post it under the previous debate between Feser and Oppy before this second discussion but was busy (including tracking the development of the spread Wuhan coronavirus even though I am located in South-east Asia and not in China).

      Cheers!

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    10. Hi Johannes,
      Your analogy does indeed reflect Thomistic thinking. It is similar to considering that a person must continuously do work (in the technical sense) just to hold an object nominally motionless at some height. That is because the heart/lung/muscle/metabolic system must do work to hold an object nominally motionless as a consequence of the structure of an animal's physiology.

      Atoms aren't like that. Objects on a table are not like that. The Earth is no like that.

      In truth, the ball/table/floor/Earth system is composed of atoms which are composed of subatomic particles all of which are in continuous and lossless motion. Lossless is the key. Lossless is what Aristotle did not understand and is one of the facts of material properties that leads Thomism to be fundamentally wrong.

      The ball/table/floor/Earth system constitute a gravitational bound system that is in balance with the electrostatic forces of their constituent atoms in lossless motion.

      No net work (in the technical sense of the word "work") is being done by the ball/table/floor/Earth on each other.

      Thus, there is no net change of one of those elements being imparted upon the other simply by having the ball resting on the table.

      No change means no changer.

      There is no call for a first changer to account for no change.

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    11. Hi StardustyPsyche,

      I'm having some difficulties with your last comment here.

      Firstly, I'm not sure what you mean by the 'technical sense of the word "work"'. In physics (which is the only field I can think of where the word 'work' has a technical sense), work is just the dot product of force and displacement. But in a system where the displacement is 0 (because it's not moving), it's trivially true that no work is done. So in the case of a ball resting on a table, neither is doing work on the other. But it's also true that in the case of a person holding a ball up, if they're holding the ball stationary, no work is done there either. (Caveat: you might also come across the phrase 'work done' in thermodynamics, where it refers to energy transfers within a system. But that wouldn't apply to these examples either.)

      Think of the ball/table/Earth example from a Newtonian perspective. In the Newtonian framework, if the ball is to remain at rest, all forces on it must be balanced. The Newtonian would explain the ball example by saying that the ball experiences a gravitational force from the Earth which pulls it down, but this is in turn balanced by a normal reaction force (or normal contact force) from the table pushing it up. Yeah the table does no work, but it still exerts a force on the ball. (The Newtonian is largely silent on what the cause of this normal reaction force is, but using our wider physical knowledge we can identify it as a combination of electrostatic forces and Pauli repulsion.)

      You could say, in a colloquial sense, that a person has to do work to hold up a ball because they have to provide a force, via their arm, to counter gravity, but in that case, the Newtonian can simply point out that the table also has to provide a force to counter gravity, and so can just as easily be said to be doing in work in this colloquial sense.

      One other thing that's worth bearing in mind is that I think you might be missing the point a bit. As I read him, Feser uses change to motivate a discussion about actuality and potentiality that is about more than just change. Feser's whole idea is to move from linear causal series extended through time to hierarchical causal series in a specific moment of time - for that hierarchical series, it doesn't necessarily have to be the case that something is changing for there still to be potentials that are actualized. The ball has the potential to be 1 m off the ground, or the potential to be falling at 9.81 m/s^2, or the potential to be 0.5 m off the ground, or whatever. And in our example, it so happens that the potential to be falling at 9.81 m/s^2 is not actualized, but the potential to be 1 m off the ground is actualized. What actualizes that potential? The Earth and the table (via the gravitational and normal reaction forces they exert respectively). So we still have something that looks like the beginnings of a series of things actualizing potentials, even though nothing is changing. And that seems to be enough for Feser's purposes.

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    12. Hi Andrew,
      Recall that I said "That is because the heart/lung/muscle/metabolic system must do work to hold an object nominally motionless as a consequence of the structure of an animal's physiology."
      Some systems must do work internally in order to apply a force, even if that force is applied to a motionless object such that no work is done on that external object. The same is true of an automatic transmission car pointed uphill with the brake off, yet the car is not moving relative to the pavement, still the engine must do work to hold the car in place by virtue of the structure of that mechanistic system. Whereas, if one puts the car in Park on the hill the engine can be shut off and the transmission does no work to hold the car in place, because the mechanistic structure of the Park latching mechanism is fundamentally different than the engine/torque converter system.

      I should have been more clear in stating what was doing work on what, so thanks for the question.

      "Feser's whole idea is to move from linear causal series extended through time to hierarchical causal series in a specific moment of time"
      Yes, I realize that, but in fairness, that is a point new critics of Thomism often do not realize.

      The linear causality thinking, however, persists in Thomism in the hierarchical regression analysis as well, leading to the false dichotomy between an infinite linear hierarchical regress, or a finite linear regress terminating in an unchanged changer, or unmoved mover.

      The third alternative is what Scotus denied and Russell explained, mutual causation that is fundamentally circular, so much so that Russell sought to rid us of even referring to causation at all, merely mutual interaction. Macro objects do in fact move themselves, examples are almost unbounded in number. The terminus in the hierarchical structural regression analysis is that submicroscopic entities move each other, finitely terminating the regression without an unmoved mover, invalidating the dichotomy, and with it the core of Thomistic argument.

      "but the potential to be 1 m off the ground is actualized. What actualizes that potential? "
      That potential is already fully actualized and so persists without a changer because the persistence of a fully actualized potential is not itself a potential, else the speculation of god could not be said to have no potentials by virtue of its fully actualized state.

      At that point in the OP Dr. Feser introduced a structural reduction argument, to which Oppy correctly responded that the principle that sustaining X unchanged does not require a changer acting upon X, applies all the way down, as it were.

      In fact, Dr. Feser leads us to reductionism in raising that issue at that point, and correctly so. A realistic analysis does indeed call for a structural reductionist argument.

      The molecules remain the molecules, the atoms remain the atoms, the standard model entities remain the standard model entities, the quantum fields remain the quantum field...and so forth until we arrive at the minimally simples, which remain the minimally simples already fully actualized in their aspect that they exist.

      Therefore, it's no change requires no changer all the way down.

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    13. Hi StardustyPsyche,

      That's useful clarification about doing work internally - I take your point, thanks.

      On the ball/table/Earth example, I'm not sure your point that the potential is already actualized is helpful. We can always ask, at each individual moment, why the ball is 1 m off the ground, and the answer would always have to involve the table and the Earth. If the table were to magically disappear (or if the table were to be destroyed), the ball would rapidly cease being 1 m off the ground. And, on a Newtonian analysis, this makes sense - you have to have a balance of forces for the ball to remain 1 m off the ground, and it's the Earth and the table that provide that balance of forces. The fact that its potential to be 1 m off the ground is already actualized is not what's doing the main work (to use that term very non-technically) in explaining why it's 1 m off the ground at any particular moment - it's the forces provided by the table and the Earth that provide that explanation.

      I take your point that we have plenty of examples of examples of mutual interactions in physics, though I don't think that can necessarily terminate a causal regress completely. For example, consider the mutual Coulomb repulsion of a pair of electrons. That mutual repulsion definitely helps explain why each electron accelerates away from the other. But we can also ask what causes an electron to interact that way with another electron, or the electromagnetic field, or whatever, in the way that it does. And that question doesn't seem to have an answer that's susceptible to the same mutual interaction response - it more seems to be something to do with what causes the electron to have the nature that it does. Regardless, that would presumably have to play some part in a complete causal analysis.

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    14. Stop feeding the troll.

      Delete
    15. Andrew,
      "it's the forces provided by the table and the Earth that provide that explanation."
      Indeed. You are applying a realistic reductionist analysis considering structure, change, and forces working together. That is very reasonable, but for the moment I had only been applying the level of the typical Thomistic argument, a rock, hand, stick, cup of water, etc.

      "I don't think that can necessarily terminate a causal regress completely."
      Right. To go beyond Aristotle and Aquinas one needs a thorough modern scientific multifaceted analysis.

      My point was that Aquinas was wrong in his arguments to the level he took them. Objects at the level of traditional Thomistic argument do in fact move themselves, Aquinas moved himself as does each of us, as well as many other examples. Mutual causation terminates the hierarchical causal regress finitely at the level of structure of traditional Thomistic arguments and examples.

      "And that question doesn't seem to have an answer that's susceptible to the same mutual interaction response - it more seems to be something to do with what causes the electron to have the nature that it does."
      You are quite right to turn the analysis all the way down, as it were, and to his credit, Dr. Feser began to do so at the end of the discussion of the OP.

      Succinctly, it's mutual all the way down.

      In Thomism there seems to be the idea that at base there must be something absolutely simple. I would welcome a correction on that point from anybody who thinks I have that wrong, but that seems to me to be a basis for the assertion of divine simplicity. I think that's wrong.

      Logic and existence are two different things, and Dr. Feser did an excellent work of explanation and argument on that point in his recent post regarding Cundy. Just because a logical abstraction seems logically valid does not require that there is in fact in existence such a thing. In his post regarding Cundy the subject was the unreality of the B theory of time even though it is a logical feature of an otherwise successful mathematical model (math being a form of logic). But the principle is the same elsewhere.

      Just because one has reasoned his way to an absolutely simple basis for all existence does not mean that is what must be structurally realistic.

      I assert that minimally simples can be the simplest things that are in fact in existence. Everything we have studied in science indicates that the simplest real entities have properties, or attributes, or structures, and that is just as simple as it gets. Material comes in fields that have multiple properties giving rise to mutual interactions of repulsion and attraction, and these aspects of minimally simples are inherently not separable in structural reality, our tendency to separate them abstractly notwithstanding.

      Hence, my view that it is mutual causation all the way to the bottom, terminating hierarchical motion, change, and causation finitely without the need for an unmoved mover or an infinite hierarchical regress.

      Delete
    16. I have used the name “reasonable” to post a main thread giving a even better analogy to address Oppy’s existential inertia. Feel free to give critiques on it.


      Cheers!

      johannes

      Delete
  7. TN,
    "[Insert another response generated from vibrating particles here]"
    Ok, haha, I get it now, duh, that is you making a little joke. Your point being that based on my previous post you ascertain that I would consider myself to be, ultimately, a collection of vibrating particles. The implication being that the mechanistic responses generated by mere vibrating particles can be dismissed as of no consequence or rational value.

    I suppose that is one way for you to cover up your lack of capacity to find any actual errors in my arguments.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ed, do you still plan to write a reply to Oppy's article?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I second this question, though I understand that a response takes quite some time

      Delete
  9. Aristotle's Revenge reviewed:

    http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2020/2020-02-10.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. my friend had a few objections to the Aristotelian proof
    "1. (2) change = actualization of a potential
    2. (21) So, [God, or purely actual actualizer] is immutable or incapable of change.
    3. Choice = selecting a potential to actualize from a list of possibilities
    4. Being omnipotent requires the ability to make choices
    5. Since god is immutable, he does not have the ability to make choices
    6. Therefore, god cannot be omnipotent"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I recommend the following:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/05/davies-on-divine-simplicity-and-freedom.html

      https://theopolisinstitute.com/conversations/simply-irresistible/

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/08/a-further-reply-to-mullins-on-divine.html

      Delete
    2. 5 is where your friend goes wrong.
      Actualizing a potential doesn't mean actualising a potential in yourself. God doesn't have to change in order to actualise a potential in something else.

      Delete
    3. Which 'something else'? Is there, prior to creation, a reality that is external to God that contains something else?

      Delete
    4. No. God can make whatever change to creation without himself changing.

      My point doesn't even need to involve God necessarily. If X actualises a potential in Y, that does not require the actualization of a potential in X. X doesn't have to change in order to change Y.

      Delete
    5. No but there is a possible reality willed freely eternally whose actualization doesn't fulfill any potency in Gods essence and which gets actualized through its passive (and then active) potency of participating in being. Since God is pure act, no potency in the divine essence has been actualized, the action was wholly gratuitous and the pure act were still pure act if he chose to create a different world.
      Actualization for existence is probably the most special form of actualization, it is no ordinary potency. But it suffices to stay in the original terminology to state the relevant point.

      Delete
    6. So, God is God's will.
      If God wills X, then God is His will to create X. However, if God wills Y, then God is His will to create Y. But still, according to you it's the very same immutable God?

      The point, Billy, is that prior to creation, there are no potentials anywhere, so God cannot actualize a potential in X.

      Delete
    7. Dominik,
      "Pure act" is an incoherent term, as is "existence itself".

      Those sorts of terms are what a theist concocts when he gets stuck in a regression analysis. The technique is to take two disjoint words such as "pure" and "act" or "existence" and "itself", then simply cram them together pretending the resulting term means something while claiming to have solved some logical or existential problem.

      In truth by saying "pure act" or "existence itself" the theist has only succeeded in uttering an incoherent term.

      What is being actual in "pure act". Things are actualized, but if there is no thing being actualized then the assertion of an actuality makes no sense. It is like saying pure left, or pure green, or pure (fill in attribute of material here). Else, if there is a thing being actualized then that act is not pure.

      These are just incoherent utterances that are at the very foundation of your world view.

      WLC agrees with me on the term "his essence is his existence", another incoherent Thomistic utterance.

      Delete
    8. Walter,

      As Dominik stated, God's decisions are eternal. Therefore, there is no "could have willed X", or "could have willed Y".

      Delete
    9. T N

      So, you are saying that God could not have willed to create something else (or nothing at all, for that matter)?

      Delete
    10. Walter,

      You're approaching the question as if God is a really big version of us. Categories that apply to us don't always make sense when applied to God; God is not a big human.

      You seem to have a bug in your craw on this subject and are determined to "take down" a philosophical position that has a long and well developed history. That's fine, be my guest; go show the world how dumb Divine Simplicity is if you wish. But first you should put some effort into understanding it. Above there are some links that someone recommended. Did you read them? Have you made any serious attempts to understand this issue? I'm just asking.

      If you do adequate research on the issue and are not convinced, fine. If you want to set the world straight on the issue, again fine. But if you don't care about the issue enough to research it, then you don't care enough to research it. Fine. But if you don't care about it, why pester about it?

      Delete
    11. Walter,
      So, God is God's will.
      If God wills X, then God is His will to create X. However, if God wills Y, then God is His will to create Y. But still, according to you it's the very same immutable God?


      That can be answered on several levels. First of all, the decision to create X and not create Y is entailed in the same divine act. That this doesn´t threaten immutability can be seen when one keeps in mind that God grounds Possible Worlds, not the other way around.
      What has to be noticed is that I don´t think that God creates a possible world. Since all the facts about the world would be grounded within it, this would imply fatalism within the world.
      Now the question becomes if God could do otherwise. The answer is: Not if he has already chosen, since he cannot change his mind. If God eternally freely willed to create X and not Y, then this is an immutable choice. Could God have done otherwise? It doesn´t seem that there is somehow a logical contradiction in assuming that God could have eternally willed Y instead of X, since neither are any fulfillment of the divine essence and since creation is always a gratuitous good, both are consistent with the divine essence. Now, since God is also purely rational, I don´t know if he would ever do otherwise. But it doesn´t seem that he couldn´t do and I don´t know how we could make any judgment without witnessing the divine essence. For now it suffices to state a PSR where the explanans doesn´t entail the explanandum.
      It also seems that you make particular assumptions about what God intends in order to create. So I agree that God is identical to his will. But it isn´t so obvious that this entails that God is identical to his will to create X, for God, who wills himself and thus goodness, could create as a cambridge property (Emanating; Plotinus wrote that creation is an overflow of divine self-love). I also think that you made such a point before in the Mullins-thread, though I can´t exactly recall. There are others who are better at this particular topic (e.g. Brandon).

      The point, Billy, is that prior to creation, there are no potentials anywhere, so God cannot actualize a potential in X.

      Now this doesn´t follow at all and it should be quite obvious why (What exactly are your resources on this topic? What books are you reading?). First, there is no prior to creation. What could that even mean? God wills from eternity. Do you think that he didn´t create prior to the Big Bang? Second, I don´t even understand how this temporal focused language has anything intelligible to say about God. Third, there are no potencies in the divine essence and there have never been any. This doesn´t mean that there aren´t passive potencies on the part of the possibly created, what that does mean is that their creation would add nothing to Gods essence. It is wholly gratuitous. Going from "God being purely actual" to "Therefor any essence in the divine mind has to be created" is such a blatant non-sequitar, that I don´t get how anyone could assume it. I have pointed that out in our last discussion and you haven´t come anywhere near closing that huge gap. So formulate your syllogism or stop asserting it. I would love to see the argument.

      Delete
    12. T N

      I am not approaching he question as if God is a really big version of us.
      And if you are an expert on "a philosophical position that has a long and well developed history (and is nevertheless only supported by a tiny minority of philosophers), you should be able to "take down" my argument.
      Go ahead, please.

      Dominik

      "God grounds possible worlds" entails that God could ground square circles and married bachelors. That's an incoherent view.

      That neither X or Y are a fulfillment of the divine essence has nothing to do with what I said. I have already formulated the required syllogism.

      If you want me to spell it out for you, here it is.

      1 God is identical to God's Will.
      2 God's Will is to create X.
      3 Therefore in w1 God is identical to His will to create X.

      Nowhere do I say that "therefore any essence in the divine mind has to be created".

      BTW, by "prior to creation" I mean logically prior, not temporally.

      Delete
    13. my friend didn't quite understand Feser's article on divine simplicity so hes asking if some can give it to him in laymens terms.

      he also had some objections related to the answer that @Billy gave saying
      "That counter ignores the choice aspect. Choosing which outside potential to actualize is still actualizing a potential within yourself."
      He also had an objection related to what @Dominick Kowalski wrote saying:
      "Okay, he basically says that actualizing a new world is a special case, and therefore doesn't follow these rules.That's a cop out.He's also saying that God doesn't follow the normal rules.If that is so, then that throws out the entire 50-stage argument.If god doesn't follow logic, then it's futile to use logic to prove God"
      He had another objection to the long post that Kowalski wrote saying:
      "Again, special rules for God.It's a cop out.
      That is like imagining an MMO world. You can't use the in-game physics to explain how the world was created, because it was not created using in-game physics. If you accept that argument, that god does not follow our laws, then the entire 50-step argument is thrown out because the 50-step argument is trying to use our laws to explain god. You can't have it both ways. Either he follows our laws .... or he doesn't

      Delete
    14. Well Walter, OK, so you're not approaching the subject as if God is a big version of us. You're just asking why a being who's decisions are eternal and immutable can't change course like temporal humans can. Oh, OK.

      "Take down" your argument? Oh, no way. When ya answer someone's question and they just ask it again, ya can't force them against their will--Oppy had that right.

      Ya know, maybe it isn't that your opponents are stupid. Maybe it's that they don't care to turn Walter's pet issue of the week into the Battle Royale of the century.

      Delete
    15. T N

      Short answer: no.
      Somewhat longer answer: you seem to have no idea what I am actually talking about.

      Long answer: if that's the level of conversation you want to pursue, then be my guest, but unless you actually present some kind of argument, I have no idea how I could possibly respond to this. Maybe you should follow Ed's example. While he obviously doesn't agree with Graham Oppy, he still manages to stay polite in his conversation with him.
      He certainly doesn't mimic some hillbillie accent to make his opponent look like an uneducated peasant.
      now, I am happy to respond to ant-y serious attempt to argue against my position, but until you manage to to so, I am not going to respond to you.

      Delete
    16. Bill


      Maybe Dominik's post is "great", but it doesn't answer any question I actually asked.

      Delete
    17. "God grounds possible worlds" entails that God could ground square circles and married bachelors. That's an incoherent view.

      That doesn't follow at all since logical contradictions are impossible and thus are in no “possible world“ at all. You should perhaps rethink your stance on PW.

      That neither X or Y are a fulfillment of the divine essence has nothing to do with what I said. I have already formulated the required syllogism.

      You have formulated a syllogism, but it is not the required one, since you keep on making unestablished hidden assumptions about the nature of creation. I already gave an alternative, namely emanationism. Alternatively creation of e.g. free rational creatures is entailed by God willing himself, thus goodness itself. It could be here that God creates a PW without necessitating it, like I said through a PSR where explanans doesn't entail explanandum. Now for the thomistic version of Divine Simplicity hto be threatened you have to additionally establish that internalism in the epistemology of belief is correct, but that requires argument. The problem is solved through externalism or by adopting a different version of simplicity, e.g. Scotus or Leftow.
      Generally it makes little sense to apply PW-semantics to free choices, especially since we don't even understand how it is possible in us, although we experience it all the time. And it anthropomorphizes God too much, while forgetting that we are mainly in the realm of negative theology. It is not like we have any understanding of Gods nature or what it is like to be “being“.

      Nowhere do I say that "therefore any essence in the divine mind has to be created".

      That is entailed by the views you expressed in our last discussion, as well as implicitly in your stated point that prior to creation there are no potencies. This entails that if God is purely actual, an omniverse would be created. This is also what I demanded a syllogism for, since it is a non-sequitar but you still haven't done it. I also doubt that you are able to. And your mistakes when it comes to potencies external to the divine essence have been pointed out several times, so it is rather curious that you still make them.

      Maybe Dominik's post is "great", but it doesn't answer any question I actually asked.

      Au contraire, I think I sufficiently showed why your arguments are unsuccesfull without further premises or clarification, since they require assumptions about the ontological status of creation, as well as free will, acts/potencies and the epistemology of belief. And since neither of the last three are even remotely understood when it comes to our nature, the whole problem only becomes worse when applied to the absolute.

      Delete
    18. Anon,
      your friend isn't really clear about what he is objecting to, so I have to guess what he means.
      1. The answer to Billy is misguided since it assumes that something like a desire is fulfilled. But God has no emotions. If this is not what he means, then he should say which potency in God would be actualized. We agree that Gods choice to create is contingent, since his nature being wholly self-sufficient doesn't necessitate God to act a certain way. The choice however is no potency on Gods part, since the act of creation is entailed by the eternal act of willing himself. A potency of something else to participate in being is external to the divine essence and thus its unfulfilled actualization isn't a potency in God. You could compare it with a lamp that is provided with electricity, but is not switched on.
      2. I don't understand the complaint. Creation is an act which is wholly different to any act we know and God is wholly different to anything we know. But I didn't arbitrarily change any rules e.g. on the causal rules, rather I followed what is entailed by something being purely actual. And of course God follows logic, he is purely rational. He should be more clear what he is objecting to.
      3.Nope, tried it, still don't get it. Pleasr tell him that I need to know where exactly my accounts entail God acting in an illogical way or obeying laws. Keep in mind that God is not comparable to humans, but that doesn't entail doing the impossible. I don't see how my account collapses into that though

      Delete
    19. For Walters syllogism above I recommend Tomaszewski on the CT-Podcast:
      http://www.classicaltheism.com/modalcollapse

      Furthermore Premise 2 requires a necessary operator for the syllogism to be valid.

      Delete
    20. Dominik

      Yes, the syllogism should be

      1 Necessarily God is identical to God's Will.
      2 God's Will is to create X.
      3 Therefore necessarily God is identical to His will to create X.

      There is no need for a necessary operator in premise 2

      Consider

      1 Necessarily all A's are B's
      2 X is an A
      3 Therefore necessarily X is a B.

      I have read Tomaszweski's argument, and while he is very clever, he doesn't understand the crux of the problem.

      Delete
    21. Dominik

      If a world with a square circle is an impossible world it is because there is a logical contradiction in it, and not because possible worlds are grounded in God.
      But I suppose that you mean something else by "grounded in God" than I.

      Delete
    22. Walter,

      concerning the syllogism, I think it is the invalid version that Tomaszewski attacked, that you are hinting at, but that would require a deeper discussion. SUffice to say though that premise two is unacceptable as it is formulated, since God wills himself, so the argument concludes, that God is identical with his willing himself, but that doesn´t get us anywhere. It is not for nothing that St. Thomas already wrote, that creation is real to us but not to God. Another reason to think that the problem is merely apparent is that on DS God knows what he wills, so that he knows because he wills something and he wills what he knows. The problem is evaded if we then apply an externalist account of contingent knowledge to God (I´m working on an argument that externalism follows if a necessary essence causes a contingent fact). Two interesting resources for now would be Alexander Pruss´s "On two problems of Divine Simplicity" (not the note page, the paper in the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion) and Tim O´Connors "Simplicity&Creation" in Faith&Philosophy 1999.

      Concerning your second post:

      If a world with a square circle is an impossible world it is because there is a logical contradiction in it, and not because possible worlds are grounded in God.

      So? I never disputed that, but you asserted that if God grounds possible worlds, there are logical contradictions in him, a claim which you haven´t argued for and I take this comment as the realization, that this was false. If a PW has a logical contradiction in it, then it is impossible, and thus it can´t be grounded in God, because impossible worlds are just nothing. Alternative would be if you want to argue that God has to ground meinongian non-existent objects, whose reality I reject anyway.

      But I suppose that you mean something else by "grounded in God" than I.

      God chooses what is possible in a world. If in a PW only chickens can life and evolve, then it is because this PW was possible and hence was grounded in the necessary being. This is very different to the idea of a PW with a Squared Circle, which is impossible, thus has no reality to it, thus it is just nothing and thus it follows that it cannot be grounded in the necessary being.
      I don´t think I have used any uncommon definitions. Possible Worlds are possible, because their possibility are non-contradictory and hence rooted/grounded in the same necessary being, which accounts for their possibility.

      Delete
    23. Dominik,
      " if God grounds possible worlds, there are logical contradictions in him, a claim which you haven´t argued for"
      It is a logical contradiction to claim god is entirely outside of time and also acts in time.

      If god is in an eternal now then there is nothing in god to distinguish our time T1 from our time T2.

      If god can invoke act1 at T1, and act2 at T2 then god is in time because he is acting in time.

      If you say god performs act1 at T1 now and then later god performs act2 at T2 also now, all you have done is made a self contradictory and therfore incoherent utterance.

      Delete
    24. Dominik

      The syllogism is valid if 1 is read as de re necessity. Since the argument requires no additional premises, Tomaszewki's claim that a de re reading of those additional premises makes the argument invalid doesn't apply to my argument here.
      It should also be noted that Tomaszewki's criticism is not accepted by everyone. Bill Vallicella, e.g. doesn't think he succeeds.

      I have already replied to the claim that premise two is unacceptable . If god only wills Himself, then the rest of creation is either an accidental consequence of God's willing Himself, which would be a denial of the PSR, or it is a logically implied consequence, which would mean my formulation works.

      As for you claim that Uasserted that if God grounds possible worlds, there are logical contradictions in him, I asserted no such thing. That's, once again, a straw man.

      Delete
    25. Actually we don't even need a syllogism.

      God's will to create X is either a necessary property of God, in which case we get a modal collapse, or it is a contingent porerty. But necssary beings (especially immutable ones) cannot have any contingent properties.

      I really cannot see any escape route for the DS proponent.

      Delete
    26. EVERY argument can be put in a syllogism- here is a presentation by John DeRosa, why yours is false. If you cannot show the fault in that, then your argument fails. WHich is exactly what Tomaszewski argued in his article and what I assume you don´t understand.

      1) Necessarily all A's are B's
      2) X is an A
      3) Therefore necessarily X is a B.

      I urge you to check out Tomasewski's writing again. This argument you have presented is invalid. Premise (3) does not follow from (1) and (2), so the conclusion is a non-sequitur.

      All that follows is that "X is a B." It does not follow that "Necessarily X is a B" for precisely the reasons Tomaszewski lays out. Otherwise, this argument is also valid:

      1) Necessarily, 8 > 7.
      2) The # of planets in our solar system is 8.
      3) Necessarily, the # of planets in our solar system is greater than 7.

      Delete
    27. ANother lucid way to show the failure and invalidity of the argument has been done by Brandon in the thread on Aquinas and the necessity of creation:

      I'm guessing, though, that your implicit argument is something like

      (1) 'God exists' is necessary
      (2) In God, existence and will are identical.
      (3) Therefore 'God wills' is necessary (from (1) and (2))
      (4) Therefore 'God wills X' is necessary for any X you might choose. (from (2))

      Which, if so, fails regardless of the account of identity; 'God wills' and 'God wills X' are not generally intersubstitutable descriptions -- the former is a description of God, and the latter is a description of God and X. From 'It is necessary that God wills' to 'It is necessary that God wills such-and-such' is an equivocation; intransitive and transitive 'wills' are not synonymous. To get from (3) to (4) you would have to assume that if it is necessary that God wills, what God wills is necessarily willed by Him. But this is the very point in dispute.

      Delete
    28. Dominik,
      1) Necessarily all A's are B's
      2) X is an A
      3) Therefore necessarily X is a B.

      "All that follows is that "X is a B." It does not follow that "Necessarily X is a B" for precisely the reasons Tomaszewski lays out."
      Given that X IS an A you are not correct.
      If we know that X IS an A then it cannot not be that X is an A and on that knowledge, X necessarily is an A.

      One of your errors of reasoning is likely in a misinterpretation of the opening premise
      "Necessarily all A's are B's"
      does not mean
      "All A's are necessary"
      it means
      "Once you have an A then you also must have a B"

      To reword your syllogism more clearly
      1)Once you have an A then you also must have a B
      2)X is, in point of real fact, an A
      3)Therefore, X must also be, in point of real fact, a B

      3) Does in fact follow from 1) and 2)

      "EVERY argument can be put in a syllogism-"
      Unfortunately the translation from prose to syllogistic word form, and from syllogistic word form to syllogistic symbolic form is often erroneous.

      It is commonplace for one to create a syllogism that is not an accurate representation of the original prose, making conclusions based on that syllogism irrelevant to the original spoken or written word.

      Delete
    29. Dominik

      Thomaszweski's number of planet analogy doesn't apply to my argument, because it is not the case that the number of planets is identical to the number 8.

      "X is an A" means that X is identical to A.
      All things that are identical to A are necessarily B's. So, X is necessarily a B. It does not mean that X exists out of necssity.

      1 Consider: all red balls are necessarily round.
      2 R is a red ball
      3 R is necessarily round.

      This doesn't mean that R necessarily exists, it just means that is R is a red ball, it is necessarily round.

      Now, my premise 1 says that God is necessarily identical to His will. Once we discover what this will is, we can conclude that this is identical to God.

      And yes, given divine simplicity and immutability, it does follow that
      it is necessary that God wills such-and-such, because God cannot have any contingent properties. He cannot even have any properties at all.

      Delete
    30. "it is necessary that God wills such-and-such, because God cannot have any contingent properties. He cannot even have any properties at all."
      Indeed, god cannot have any properties because god is absolutely simple, on Thomism.

      A will is not simple, so already we encounter an incoherent assertion set in Thomism. God's will, on the biblical account, is highly complex, spanning actions upon the material world over the entire universe in time and space. To assert such a will is also simple is an example of a nonsense utterance.

      God is also said, on Thomism, to have eternal free will. If god's will has always been X then god's will couldn't not be X and therefore cannot be free, since freedom of will requires the possibility to will otherwise, but god has never had any possibility to will otherwise because god's will has always been X.

      The Thomistic combination of absolute simplicity with will is incoherent.

      The Thomistic assertion of an eternal free will is also incoherent.

      Delete
    31. Walter,

      Your first version fell to Tomaszewskis objection because of invalidity. I grant that the second version does not. However it is not still not compelling, because what you have described could hardly hold as an analogy to Gods contingent choice to create. In fact the premise in your argument has been strengthened in such a way that the outcome is necessitated, bit you fail to give a compelling reason for us to accept this as a representation. So there is quite something that is missing.

      As for the rest, I recognize that there is a problem, but this is hardly surprising, it has been said repeatedly that CT is mainly negative theology, and we wouldn't do so, if the arguments wouldn't compell us to (we have such a perspective in our real life, too. What for example could be positively said about free will? It seems like definitions arise through recognizing what it is NOT). So what we can mainly do, besides making small tentative steps forwards is showing the fault in counter arguments. So you may hold to the conviction that it entails a collapse, quite frankly I don't think anyone here could make you accept that it doesn't, but I don't see that there has yet been a compelling argument to show as much. This is also what Tomaszewski has shown: Not that the argument is impossible, but that there doesn't seem to be a way to go from Gods necessity and his being identical to his will directly to his willing a particular thing being a necessity. And until you have provided the needed and compelling premise to reach said conclusion, I don't see why it should be accepted.
      Also my points have been made by Brandon, whom I quoted above, so I find your response rather curious.

      Delete
  11. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 8, 2020 at 4:19 AM

    Please all remember SP is a noxious, banned troll. Don't feed him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi (blank), thanks for stopping by again. Could you explain to me how "existence itself" is not an incoherent term?

      What is existing in "existence itself"? Absolutely nothing at all? How can nothing exist in any sense?

      Has it occurred to you, (blank), that Dr. Feser actually welcomes informed engagement with those that strongly oppose his views? Just look at this very post. Dr. Feser didn't go to a Catholic venue to discuss minutia with those he fundamentally agrees with, no, rather, he met an atheist philosopher head on in public. I mean, Dr. Feser has even gone to a physics colloquium at a research university and started talking about his Aristotelian views, talk about going to the heart of the tiger!

      Go ahead and give it a go if you've got the chops, based on your vapid posts here, I don't think you do.

      Delete
    2. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 9, 2020 at 10:19 PM

      Feser has explicitly banned you or told you to get lost several times. You know that, I know that, anyone who was around here at the time knows it. You and those like you, it logorrheic are clearly not welcome here. But obvious display of your dishonesty.

      Delete
    3. Ah. This must be Greg S/David S/David XYZ/Mr. Green etc. Your activity is the most foolish trolling so far. You're very important. Everybody's noticed you. Now be quiet for goodness sake.

      Delete
    4. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 11, 2020 at 5:06 PM

      Get lost Cervantes. You're fooling no one. Nor are you wanted here.

      Delete
    5. Perhaps Georgiy Mancz should stop trying to fool himself. Talk about phobias and obsessions...

      Delete
  12. I was looking at the article intro, which I can't access. Is it behind a paywall?

    Anyway, it states this:

    This article is a response to Ed Feser's claim that his ‘Aristotelian proof’ establishes that atheists have no part in ‘the real debate’.

    I argue that Feser (2017) nowhere establishes that Premises 4 and 7 in his ‘Aristotelian proof’ are anything more than claims about which he and his opponents – including atheists like me – disagree. In particular, I suggest that it is neither mysterious nor surprising that, by their own lights, atheists have more than sufficient reason to reject premises 4 and 7.

    Given this, it is clear that Feser's ‘Aristotelian proof’ is not able to do what Feser claims that it does.


    I found the spot in Ed's book where he makes this claim. I guess Oppy was offended that Ed should question or doubt the intellectual hegemony of Atheism with his bold assertion (and granted, polemical), and decided he would take a pot shot at just a few of his claims, and proudly state - see I gave arguments against four of your points, therefore, the rest are garbage too.

    That seems to be what he takes away from the book - at least from the point of view of the synopsis of the article.

    And to defend the position in this latest video that there are No good arguments for the existence of God, just seems as polemical, if not more so. Maybe Ed was asking for it, but given Oppy's lack of understanding of Ed's main argument for the principles of act and potency in the latest Youtube video, I seriously doubt his article did any better. Hopefully I will get to read it some day.

    God bless,
    Daniel

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    Replies
    1. I can give you a link later.

      Let´s be clear Feser certainly was polemical in this passage. Not like we didn´t know he has a drive to it. From his visit on the SUnday Special of the Ben SHapiro SHow we know though that Ed thinks the only way for the atheist would be to push the brute fact idea as far as possible, but he also thinks, and I agree, that there is no way this will collapse and be an incoherent mess.

      Delete
    2. Daniel,
      "position in this latest video that there are No good arguments for the existence of God, just seems as polemical,"
      Can you name even one good argument for the existence of god?

      Every argument for the existence of god I have ever read or heard invariably contains false premises and/or invalid logic. Arguments for the existence of god also typically include incoherent terms and appeals to long ago discredited assertions about the workings of the observable universe.

      Kalam
      Morality
      Motion
      Change
      Teleology
      Beauty
      Evolution
      Causation
      Ontological
      And on and on.

      Now, I suppose maybe some very wise person, perhaps living in a cave someplace, might have actually formulated a sound argument for the existence of god, but if that occurred she most unfortunately never succeeded in communicating that argument with the rest of us.

      Plantinga is perhaps the poster boy for facepalm arguments for the existence of god since he produces or reproduces so very many of them, typically so incredibly bad one does not know whether to laugh or cry upon reading or hearing them.

      At least the Thomist will start with what is manifest and evident to the senses and attempt to reason from there. The Thomistic arguments all fail due to the use of incoherent terms, false premises, and invalid logic, but at least they are serious attempts.

      On the subject of the OP both Feser and Oppy spent some time on the subject of actualization being required for an observation of no change. Dr. Feser then raised a structural regress argument to which Oppy correctly stated that the principle of of no change not requiring actualization extends all the way down, as it were, through all levels in the structural regress.

      No change simply requires no changer. The idea of asserting an unseen divine actualizer that is continually acting to counteract the natural tendency of material to change itself from something to nothing, all in just the right way so as to maintain the appearance of no change, is uncalled for, extravagant, unevidenced, and unnecessary.

      Delete
    3. startdust is a troll - don't respond to him.

      Delete
    4. @Daniel

      No worries on my part. I gave him the benefit of doubt, but he took his mask off.

      Delete
  13. There is a growing tendency for atheist philosophers nowadays to accept Stage One (there is a first cause/necessary being/purely actual actualizer) of cosmological arguments, and instead reject Stage Two (the necessary being/first cause is God).

    Oppy himself takes this line very often, arguing that naturalists could adopt a natural necessary entity. Of course his suggestion is highly controversial for many naturalists, and he tries to support it through his own view of alethic modality. But it is a growing strategy.

    So it's important to focus on Stage Two and argue for why the First Cause is God. Perhaps the most important attribute is Agency/Intelligence. A lot of naturalists wouldn't care much if the first cause were some impersonal cause, perhaps even an impersonal immaterial cause, whatever that would be.

    In this case I think it would be nice if Feser could flesh out more his arguments for the first cause being a Mind. He has a quite unique approach to this matter, since he argues (in Five Proofs, at least) that PPC requires the First Cause to have the forms of all contingent effects in much the same way a mind has the forms of the objects it grasps intentionally. I wish this argument would get more attention.

    More standard strategies would be to combine cosmological arguments with design arguments, or argue from immateriality to intelligence, etc. One really good argument also makes use of PPC in a way, in that the First Cause must be the cause of minds, consciousness, value, etc. (This is personally my favorite argument for showing the First Cause is God).

    I wish Feser and Oppy could discuss Stage Two.

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    Replies
    1. Atno

      I do not accept 'Stage One', but I do not reject it either. It is, to me, an epistemic possibility that there is some necessary first cause.
      However, this necessary first cause, if it exists, cannot possibly be a pure actual actualizer. For all I know, there may be some "Pure Act", but "Pure Act" would be a kind of existence that is not in any way related to anything else. IOW, if Pure Act exists, it has, by definition, no relevance to anything but itself.

      Delete
    2. To which definition would that be? How do you get to the idea that the first cause is an abstract object? It is rather by the standard definition of the PA in the arguments, that PA is the most active thing there is. The arguments are about causal powers so it is not understandable how you would reach such a rather bizarre conclusion. The argument can't be used to argue for platonic abstracta

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    3. Dominik

      Where did I say that the First Cause is an abstract object? And where did I say the PA is not active?
      I have claimed no such thing.

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    4. Come on now, stop playing that game. An object unacting on anything else is pretty much the definition of an abstract object. That you would come to such a definition of PA is especially bizarre given that the idea of PA comes up in a proof concerned with causal powers, which is why I suspect that you have made up the definition independently. I can't even conceive how that would follow from the aristotelian argument itself and think that it doesn't

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    5. Doninik

      There is no "game".

      Pure Act is Existence itself and it is immutable.
      Dominik's existence, however, is something completely different. It is not God's existence, which is identical to God, but some other kind of existence that is not identical to God. It is said to be somehow the result of "causal powers"that, unlike any powers ever observed, are immutable, and as a result, eternally "stay where there are", that is, they never ever leave God, so the only way they could ever have an effect (if it is even possible for immutable powers to have any effect at all), is within the reality of the First Cause itself. But they cannot have an effect on our reality.
      So, I can agree for the sake of the argument that the First Cause is concrete and incredicly active within its own confined reality. But it is of absolutely no relevance to anything else.

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    6. Sorry but your second paragraph seems completely confused and your conclusion doesn't follow. It is by the reality of the purely actual, the composed object is able to have any immanent causality at all. Especially in ch1 of Five Proofs Feser is as clear as day how that can be derived. And as long as “existence“ isn't defined as something like an abstract.
      Yo Heideggerian space (which would be completely question-begging here anyway) we can safely remain with Fesers rendition pf the argument through which existence becomes the ultimate power/property, something that can similarily be found in Millers “Fullness of Being“ and Vallicellas “A Paradigm Theory of Existence“.
      You seem to have trouble with the idea of the absolute itself, otherwise I can't understand why you would approach it like an object among other object, rather than the factor by which those objects could be at all. Perhaps you understand it generally, but those paragraphs raises some doubt.

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    7. Doninik

      I didn't expect you to be convinced by my view, but please stop erecting straw men.
      I can only repeat that I am not defining existence as an abstract and I am, most certainly, not treating the absolute like an object among other objects.
      Rather, what you call the absolute is not an object and it is not among other objects at all. In my view, if it exists, it is confined to its own reality.
      I don't expect you to agree with it, but I would appreciate it if you either engage with my actual view, or don't engage with it at all.
      Knocking down a straw man of your own making isn't helpful at all.

      Delete
    8. Conceal don't feel Elsa God. My kids would love it. Totally frozen Popsicle God frozen and limited by His own perfection - or could it possibly be that this God is frozen by the limited notion you place on perfection? Limitations such as:

      -Cannot interact with creation
      -Cannot interact with time
      -Cannot create anything outside of itself
      -To interact with something outside of itself would diminish its perfection.
      -Cannot create something with potentialities as these potentialities would somehow infect God with imperfection....

      Are these fair representations of our views? - I'm not teasing (much) but trying to iron man your position.

      God bless,
      Daniel

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    9. Daniel

      Not by my limited notion of perfection, but by my, IMO, consistent application of what it means to stay the same in every possible respect, AKA being completely immutable.
      It's not a matter of not interacting with creation, it's matter of not creating anything, neither inside or outside of itself. in fact, there can be no "outside" of itself.
      It's also not a matter potentialities infecting God. It is a matter of potentialities having no explanation at all.
      I agree, however, that an immutable God cannot interact with time.

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    10. Would it help if you were to imagine Time has being experienced all at once for God? Such that there is no process of becoming, just one eternal created actuality?

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    11. Daniel

      That would mean there is no real change, which would destroy the whole argument from change.
      It would also destroy any possibility of free will, but maybe you are prepared to sacrifice that too.

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    12. Hi Walter,

      No - it only means from God's perspective, Time is viewed as a whole. From our perspective, time is viewed piecemeal.

      Having said that, I do acknowledge that there is a huge theological issue here relating to free will and predestination that the Catholic Church itself has refused to rule on (molinism vs Thomism).

      Seems like you would fall into the Calivinist camp though, given your preference for God's absolute sovereignty.

      It is an issue I am happy to remain agnostic about this though - although I side on believing that free will exists, from my perspective, but from God's perspective, all my free choices are known to him in his eternal now.

      God bless,
      Daniel

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    13. Daniel

      I am not in the Calvinist camp. I am an atheist. But if God did exist and if He was immutable, Calvinism would be the only view that makes some sense.
      But the discussion about free will is getting off topic.

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    14. Walter,

      seriously that´s laughable, since I´m attacking what is entailed by your view. Existence itself is important since it is that by which every contingent being exists. As such it IS important for everything else. This is what follows from Fesers argument, while you have merely asserted a view on existence without arguing for it. So your view is at best question-begging and irrelevant and at worst an utter confusion. How do you even reach your view on existence? YOu haven´t even explained.

      For your last comment, calvinism doesn´t follow on e.g. a scholastic PSR, where explanans doesn´t entail the explanandum and on a coherent externalist epistemology that can be attributed to God (saying internalism is more plausible on US is irrelevant since God is wholly different) so that contingent knowledge and immutablility are harmonized. It is really not like those problems are dead ends and no progress can be made. People like Brower, Pruss, Stump, Dolezal but also Oppy have in recent years been important contributors for working out important developments in the coherence of DS.

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    15. Dominik

      I am convinced that there is something seriously wrong with divine simplicity, but AFAIK, I have never called it laughable.
      And I have read Pruss and Stump (admittedly, not Dolezal) and I wasn't impressed by their progress.

      Delete
    16. Question is if you understand it, and quite frankly our past discussions have indicated that you don´t since you draw invalid conclusions from actually pretty clearly laid out concepts like "Pure Actuality" leading the theist into modal realism.
      I called laughable that you said I attacked a strawman by attacking what was entailed by your views. And the fact that you tried to counterargue with an arbitrary defintion of existence which completely ignores the argument is was levelled against.
      Question is how much and what exactly you have read from Stump and Pruss and if the latter limits itself to his blog and to the few free papers provided. His arguments on Divine Simplicity for example aren´t linked on the web page. And tell me for example what is wrong with the escape routes I sketched out, like a Scholastic PSR and an externalist account of divine knowledge. The account of Avicienna for example, for whom God was the final cause of everything, would be unimpressed even if every of your arguments were true, and quite frankly I think all the arguments you provided here are seriously flawed and mainly non-sequitars. And especially when it comes to divine freedom to create, it suffices to show no need in the divine nature because it is purely actual, since a desire couldn´t be there. What you fail to see is that you need to have an argument for the necessity of creation out if the divine nature, an argument that shows the necessity based from the divine nature itself. But if there would be nothing that creation fulfills, then attributing necessity to it based on a lacking understanding of the purely actual (not exclusive to you, that goes for everyone) seems purely ad hoc and ignores that this radical otherness is what inspired the negative theology here.

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    17. Dominik

      My claim that you were attacking straw men is not laughable, because you are doing it again here.
      So obviously don't understand my argument, which has nothing whatsoever to do with desires or anything like that. It doesn't even have anything to do with divine knowledge. I know WL Craig, e.g. does argue from divine knowlegde, but that is not what I am doing.
      I argued for why IMO Pure Act would be confined to its own reality. You obviously do not agree with that, but I have seen no argument from you to show this.

      Delete
  14. I still don't understand Oppy's point and I don't think it succeeds. I would say what I said before: Oppy's proposal faces retention problem. Since no property entails its own retention, for a property such as being Red chair to remain in existence does require distinct actualizer.

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    Replies
    1. Could you spell put what you mean by retention problem?

      Delete
    2. Since properties are powers they are pure potentialities, they can't actualize themselves. So neither can potentialities like remaining Red.

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    3. Red,
      "So neither can potentialities like remaining Red. "
      Remaining, or persisting, or conservation, is not a potential, it is the absence of potential.

      Once X is X then X is already fully actualized in being X. X has no potential to become more Xish once X is already fully actualized in its Xishness.

      That's why the speculation of god is said to have no potentials, to be fully actualized, and therefore never change. Once a thing, such as the speculation of god, is fully actualized then remaining fully actualized is not itself a potential, else the speculation of god would have potentials, the potential to remain fully actualized.

      That's why the persistence of existence of material is not a potential that needs to be actualized moment to moment. Material is already fully actualized in the respect that it exists. Material has no potential be exist even more than it already exists, nor does material have a potential to cease to exist.

      If you want to say that persistence of full actualization is itself a potential then you will have to stop saying god has no potentials. You cannot logically have it both ways.

      Delete
    4. Thanks Red. Given that in mind, I agree.

      Delete
  15. Hello! Thank you Ed for this interesting blog and for your worthwile debate with Graham Oppy!

    I have a question regarding act and potency, regarding something I haven't quite understood. As far as I understand it, it is said that effective causality prerequisites final causality. Otherwise it is unintelligible why some cause produces a specific effect instead of some other effect.

    What I don't quite understand is the following. Say I take a glass of water and put it into my freezer. Say the temperature in my freezer remains at -5 degrees celsius. Now the only outcome that is to be expected is that the water freezes into ice. But isn't this the only possible outcome anyhow? As far as I can see there is no possible world where the water, under the same scenario, would for instance start burning.

    The water by necessity freezes into ice. But then this is the only potency in this circumstance. There isn't a range of possible outcomes. But why do we then have to appeal to a final cause?

    Perhaps I at some point am inconsistent in my reasoning, but could someone help me with this question?

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    Replies
    1. "The water by necessity freezes into ice."

      But what makes it necessary? Why is freezing the only potency in this circumstance?

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    2. Thank you Billy for your reply! I do not see, given the preconditions, that another outcome would be possible. What other possibility could there be? It can certaily not for instance start to burn.

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    3. Which is why you will never be a Humean about causality. This idea of objects acting a certain way, e.g. so that water freezes at 0 degrees and boils at 100 is because it is in the nature of the water to do so, is to be found in the aristotelian account and that accounts for those regularities

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    4. I agree with Domink - Finn - I'm not sure what the issue is. Final causality still exists even if there is only one possible outcome. Perhaps if you broadened the situations to consider, you would notice that final causality captures a range of possible outcomes given a certain set of scenarios. Boiling point and freezing points are two possible scenarios that can occur, but there are also others. The water also has the potential to be broken down into individual oxygen and hydrogen atoms through electrolysis. That would also be part of its range of final causality.

      Can you clarify what your original issue was?

      God bless,
      Daniel

      Delete
  16. Thank you Daniel and Dominik for your replies!

    So the water behaves in specific ways under specific circumstances due to what is - water? And because of it being water it has a specific range of potencies? So a certain kind of behaviour can be expected of it whilst another kind can not? And this is due to the fact that it is exactly water? And these potencies are the final causes?

    Sorry if I am a bit unclear in my writing, I am just trying to ge my head around this!

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I think the issue is you're not noticing at what you are describing is exactly what Aristotle is trying to explain. Clearly the water will freeze, not burn. But why? How do we make sense of this truth, metaphysically speaking? By there being some properties in the substance - the "water" - which ground some "rules" and make it so that the water constitently freezes, not burns.

      Put it differently, there is a form - that form of "water" - and its final causes include its freezing at cold temperatures, boiling at 100 C, etc. Yet this higher structure/set of rules cannot be read off from just the hydrogen and the oxygen.

      There could also be a different form which looked exactly like water, but was actually "watef". Watef looks watery. But, unlike water, it burns. Its form has burning as a final cause.

      Our experience strongly suggests that the liquid we have in our world is water, not watef, though.

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    2. Thank you Atno for your reply!

      Delete
  17. *due to what it is - water

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  18. Oppy has raised doubt on whether a potential that has already become an actuality still need continuous actualising. To Oppy, when a specific potential has already been actualised, that SPECIFIC potential is no longer existing because that potential has already been transformed into a specific actuality, and hence he has said before that it is a contradiction to continue to actualise that non-existing specific potential (because that potential is has already become an actuality). Here is another analogy that can respond to Oppy’s doubt:

    1. A mirror has the potential to show your reflected image.

    2. When you stand in front of that mirror, the specific potential of the mirror showing your reflected image has been transformed into an actuality.

    3. The actualisation of the existence of your reflection image now is CONTINUOUSLY conditional upon you actualising it by you continuing to stand in front of the mirror.

    4. It is obviously false to say that “once the mirror’s potential of showing your reflection has been become an actuality, your reflected image’s existence can continue to exist without any further need of you being there to continue actualising it”, because if you do not continue to actualise it but instead walk far away, then that reflected-image would cease to exist.

    Lesson:
    Every entity that lacks INTRINSIC existence needs continuous actualisation in order to continue to exist. This is because every such type of entity’s existence is continuously conditional upon conditions. Their existence’s actualisation is continuously conditional. Whenever any of the required conditions becomes absent, such an entity’s existence would cease. Existential inertia is impossible for every entity lacking inherent/intrinsic existence. Every such entity’s existence is continuously dependent upon conditions.

    (aside: The ultimate condition would be something whose existence is intrinsic to itself, or whose essence is existence, or whose existence is unconditional.)


    Cheers!

    johannes

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    Replies
    1. johannes
      1.More precisely, the mirror has the potential to reflect any particular photon that strikes it. Once photon X strikes the mirror then the potential to reflect that photon is now actualized and no further actualization of it is required. Oppy is correct.

      " Existential inertia is impossible for every entity lacking inherent/intrinsic existence."
      Material is already fully actualized in the respect that it exists. Material has no potential to cease to exist, nor does material have a potential to exist even more than it already does exist, nor does material have the potential to begin to exist ex nihilo.

      Therefore existential inertia for material is not the actualization of a potential, rather, it is the persistence of a full actualization, the aspect of material that it exists being already fully actualized.

      Delete
    2. Hi johannes,

      I think this is a good analogy to respond to Oppy's doubt.

      Maybe we can test it out by replacing your example with the two examples oppy used. Here goes:

      1. A Chair has the potential to show Red.

      2. When the chair becomes red, the specific potential of the mirror showing red has been transformed into an actuality.

      3. The actualisation of the color red now is CONTINUOUSLY conditional upon [something] actualising it.

      4. It is obviously false to say that “once the chair’s potential of showing red has been become an actuality, the redness’s existence can continue to exist without any further need of [something] to continue actualising it”, because if [something] does not continue to actualise it, then that redness would cease to exist.


      Hummm..... Not sure that works. I think we need to define what the [something] is. Here is where I think we need to appeal to the actual existential building blocks of the chair. These are:

      Top layer = The color red is actualized.
      2nd Layer = The red being actualized depends on the existence of the chair.
      3rd Layer = The existence of the chair depends on the existence of the molecules that make up the chair.
      4th Layer = The existence of the molecules of the chair depends on the laws of physics being the way they are.
      5th Layer = The laws of physics being the way they are depends on the hundreds of different variables that need to be setup just right for them to be the way they are. But they are very much still in the category of variable, and therefore changeable.
      6th Layer = This regress cannot go on forever, so there must be a bottom layer. Oppy calls this bottom layer unchangeable stuff. Ed calls it pure actuality.

      What do you think?

      Cheers,
      Daniel

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    3. I wish there was an edit function :) Correction:

      2. When the chair becomes red, the specific potential of the chair showing red has been transformed into an actuality.


      Delete
    4. I suppose the important part of that bottom layer is that it ground both the existing actuality of redness, but also all other possible potentialities it might encounter; either brought into being by an external actuality (for example, someone throwing a bucket of blue paint on the chair) or an already existing internal actuality moving another part of an entity (for example, in a dog choosing to chase a cat).

      Cheers,
      Daniel

      Delete
    5. Hi Daniel,

      I take up your suggestion and apply the mirror analogy to the red chair.

      The mirror image itself is analogous to the red paint on the chair. The red paint’s existence is CONTINUOUSLY conditional upon the existence of some other conditions such as the molecules making up the red paint. The person standing in front of the mirror is analogous to those molecules. So in an analogous way, just as the person in front of the mirror actualises the existence of image “in” the mirror, the existence of the molecules actualises the red paint’s existence.

      The molecules’ existence is in turn conditional upon the existence of the atoms. In this dependency-relationship between the molecules and the atoms, the molecules would be analogous to the mirror image, while the atoms would be analogous to the person standing in front of the mirror.

      (to be conrinued)

      Cheers!
      johannes

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    6. Hi Daniel,

      (continued)

      I present this 3-premise deductive proof here:

      Premise 1: The red paint on the red chair exists now as a conditioned entity. Its physical existence depends CONTINUOUSLY on the fulfilment of many conditions. One example is this series of concurrent conditions:
       
      red paint > molecules > atoms > protons > .......
      Note:
      (a) If all molecules cease to exist, the red paint would cease to exist, but if the red paint ceases to exist, molecules can still continue to exist. If all atoms cease to exist, both the molecules, and red paint, would cease to exist, but whether red paint or all molecules cease to exist, atoms can still continue to exist. In this sense the dependency is one-directional.
      (b) The red paint would cease to exist not only if molecules cease to exist; the red paint ceases to exist if all atoms cease to exist, or if protons cease to exist, or if any type of entities in the series ceases to exist. So the existence of molecules is one condition for the red paint’s existence; the existence of molecules is another condition for the red paint’s existence and so on. Every condition needs to be continuously fulfilled in order for the red paint to continue to exist.
      (c) The red paint’s existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent on the existence of every type of entities in the series, just as the existence of your image in the mirror is continuously dependent on your existence in front of the mirror. If at the next moment you are gone from the mirror, then your image in the mirror would also be gone.
       
      Premise 2: Such a series is either a never-ending series or a series with an ending. If such a series comprises a never-ending quantity of conditions, then the red paint would not be existing now because it is impossible to achieve fulfillment of an never-ending quantity of conditions (it is a never-ending task to fulfill a never-ending quantity of conditions). Since the red paint exist now on the red chair, that means all the conditions have already achieved fulfillment, and therefore that series of conditions is not never-ending but has an ending. This means a last entity exists now, at the end of the series:
       
      red paint > molecules > atoms > ... > last entity
       
      Premise 3: The last entity's existence is either conditional or not conditional on any condition. If the last entity’s existence is conditional on some other condition, then it is impossible for it to exist NOW, because there is nothing after the last entity for it to be conditioned on. Since the last entity exists now (see Premise 2),  the last entity’s existence is not conditional on any condition at all. Thus it exists unconditionally now, as an Unconditioned Entity.

      Conclusion: A last entity whose existence is unconditional on anything exists now.

      Cheers!
      johannes

      Delete
    7. Hi Daniel,

      Notes to the above proof:

      1. The actualisation of the existence of the red paint is CONTINUOUSLY conditional upon the presence of all those members in the series. The fulfillment of all those conditions continuously actualises the existence of the red paint on the chair. The molecules do not have intrinsic existence; instead their existence is at every moment conditional upon being actualised by the existence of atoms which in turn have their existence conditional upon other further conditions down the series.

      2. We can go on to prove that there exists one and only one such Unconditioned Entity in the whole of reality.

      3. We can replace the red paint with any entity that lacks intrinsic/unconditional existence, such as you, a tree, a spoon, a bacterial and so on.


      Cheers!
      johannes

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    8. The important question is:

      “Can my image which I can see ‘in’ the mirror now continue to exist without me continuing to be present somewhere in front of the mirror?”

      or

      “Does my image ITSELF which is existing in the mirror now has existential inertia?”

      If that mirror image ITSELF has existential inertia, then once it has begun to exist, it would continue to exist even if I have walked far away from the mirror.

      Any entity whose existence is continuously conditional upon the existence/fulfillment of other conditions lacks existential inertia. Such an entity would be analogous to our reflection in the mirror.


      Cheers!
      johannes

      Delete
    9. Hi Johannes,

      I understand now! This makes perfect sense.

      Thanks for clarifying this Johannes.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

      Delete
  19. Hold on, how exactly is Graham rejecting premise 4? Premise 4 states that: “No potential can be actualised unless something already actual actualises it.” This is the principle of causality. No potential can be actualised (change) unless something already actual actualises it (which is itself being reduced from potency to act). In other words - whatever is changed is changed by another (whatever changes requires a cause).

    Graham, however, says this: “potentials to remain unchanged need not require distinct actualisers, there are even cases where potentials to change need not require distinct actualisers.”

    Let’s translate the first part: the potential to not have a potential actualised need not require a distinct actualiser. Right, only something that undergoes change requires something something else to change it. But something that is unchanged is obviously not undergoing change.

    Second part: “there are even cases where potentials to have a potency reduced to act need not require distinct actualisers.” So is he saying that something that changes doesn’t require something else to change it? Doesn’t that contradict the principle that: “whatever is changed is changed by another?”

    Another problem seems to be this: if the chair is red at t, it doesn’t have the potential to be red at t+1. It is actually red. It is does, however, have the potential to be blue or green at t+1, but if nothing happens to change it, it will remain unchanged. The future, on the other hand, has the potential to exist at t+1. Time just is a measure of change. Graham seems to be transferring the fact of the future’s potential to exist onto the chair. Otherwise, if nothing changes, how do we know that time has passed?

    Also, I don’t know whether Graham has actually understood the principle of act and potency with respect to the actual existence of anything. Let’s not forget that the ‘Aristotelian proof’ is just a version of the argument from contingency. Let’s consider the water in the cup of coffee that Dr Feser used in his book. Premise 7 (which Graham denies) says this: “The existence of S at any given moment itself presupposes the concurrent actualisation of S’s potential for existence.”

    What Feser is saying is this: why does the water in the cup exist at any snapshot of time? The water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Why are the hydrogen and oxygen molecules actualised as water at that specific point in time? The hydrogen and oxygen molecules certainly have the potential to constitute another compound (like hydrogen peroxide). So why are they actualised as water? The potential of the hydrogen and oxygen molecules to be actualised as water, is actualised by the specific configuration of the subatomic particles, which are in turn actualised by the specific configuration of even more fundamental particles, and so on. Notice how we have a hierarchical causal series involving the ontological reduction of potency to act. This would therefore terminate at something that is pure actuality. Let’s modify our example. Suppose the water in the cup existed everlastingly. It would exist of ‘factual necessity,’ but that would be necessity by way of another thing (necessity per aliud) as opposed to God who is pure actuality and therefore exists necessarily through himself (necessity per se).


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