Friday, July 26, 2019

Debate with Graham Oppy

Yesterday on Cameron Bertuzzi’s Capturing Christianity program, I had a very pleasant and fruitful live debate with Graham Oppy about my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  The debate lasted about an hour and a half (and was followed by a half-hour Q and A for Capturing Christianity’s Patreon supporters).  You can watch the debate on YouTube.


  1. It was a fabulous discussion and was especially enjoyable because Oppy wasn't the snarky, oh-please-why-do-I-have-to-endure-a-conversation-with-a-theist kind of guy.

    It was a little frustrating that he couldn't see why he was chasing his tail with his appeal to "simples," despite careful explanations from you.

    I wish you would do more of these talks. You'd soon become the Thomist Bill Craig.

    1. There was mutual respect between the two. Oppy seemed to understand that theism is a legitimate metaphysical worldview. I recount Alasdair Macintyre lamenting in one of his talks how philosophy has abandoned theism as a metaphysical position, seeing it as an arcane hangover of a pre-enlightenment world.

    2. RomanJoe and others,
      WLC captured Oppy´s attitude in his review-essay:

      Really worth the read, but the first two sentences sum up Oppy´s perspective perfectly: Theistic belief is rational, people have good reasons for belief which can result in arguments, like they are presented regularly. However they do not succeed in proving it, since they don´t persuade all reasonable skeptics. (Of course we have to mention, that this standard is met by no argument by any great philosopher that I´m aware of)

    3. RomanJoe,
      you don´t coincidentally remember which talk that was, do you? MacIntyre is one of the most enyoable people to listen to, I have ever witnessed.

    4. Oppy's position is that theistic belief is rational, but so is atheism.
      And I second that.

    5. Dominik,

      I couldn't tell you which talk I was in particular. I've recently become acquainted with his work and it's all excellent stuff.

  2. Both of you guys were impressive, and it was fun to see how the conversation progressed. It seems to me that Dr. Oppy ultimately failed to refute the proofs discussed, however.
    He used the terminology of act and potency, but I'm not so sure how consistent in his meaning he was. At one point, I remember worrying whether he was failing to distinguish between logical possibilites / objective potencies on the one hand and real potencies / subjective potencies on the other (a distinction Ed makes in Scholastic Metaphysics p. 42). I think he also said that he rejected the Thomistic conception of metaphysical composition, yet Ed's meaning of potency involves something which exists in composition with some actuality. This seems to also afflict his objection to the essence/existence distinction; I used to think the same objection important, but now I believe it misses the meaning of the "ACT of existence" which makes the distinction plausible. Anyways, this serves to underline the point already expressed in the video that the metaphysical disputes ultimately need resolving before the debate can be complete.
    It would've been good to see Ed's response to Graham's suggestion that bruteness at some level will be unavoidable; I believe Ed has said that bruteness does not afflict an absolutely necessary Being without a distinction between essence and existence, as He would thereby contain His own explanation.
    I'm also confused why Graham thinks different physical simples avoid the problem of individuation; does not different spatial location imply materiality and a lack of ultimate simplicity? I might be mistaken on this point, but it seems fairly intuitive.

    1. I think too many Atheists even the intelligent ones of good will like Prof Oppy confuse Brute Facts in the metaphysical sense with epistemological ones.

      To quote Ed.

      Something would be a brute fact in the epistemological sense if, after exhaustive investigation, we did not and perhaps even could not come up with a remotely plausible explanation for it.

      Something would be a brute fact in the metaphysical sense if it did not, as a matter of objective fact, have any explanation or intelligibility in the first place. With a metaphysical brute fact, it’s not merely that we can’t discover any explanation, it’s that there isn‘t one there to be discovered.

      I have had many an argument with many an Atheist who could not or would not make this distinction. It was tedious.

      With Oppy I think it is true you cannot avoid bruteness in the epistemological sense at some level but metaphysical bruteness is still knackered.

    2. Son,

      Where exactly is that we cannot avoid bruteness in the epistemological sense?

    3. You mean at what level in nature? Well there is an infinite loss of information about events before 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang.

      Maybe that?

      There is no known scientific way to epistemologically know what came before that time.

  3. Good debate. Could have used an additional 15 hours of discussion though. :)

  4. Very interesting discussion, I enjoyed the Q&A as well. I thought Ed did really well, and I must say that even as an agnostic I found Oppy's objections to be a bit underwhelming and borderline idiosyncratic in some cases. I was curious about one thing it appeared you guys didn't have time to discuss:

    In the Q&A Ed argues that if PSR was false, we could have no reason to trust that our cognitive faculties are reliable. But isn't this always the case? What kind of (non-circular) reason could I give for trusting my faculties that wouldn't just implicitly presuppose their reliability?

    Ed also mentions that it could always be the case if PSR is false that, even if it seems we believe something for good reasons, that seeming might itself be brute and therefore unconnected to the truth. But it seems to me our faculties don't have to infallibly direct us toward truth to trust in their general reliability.

    Admittedly it seemed the discussion was cut short by the moderator and Ed wasn't able to go into much depth on the argument beyond a brief summary, so I'm probably missing some nuance here.

    1. I'm not Ed, but I'll answer that the way I understand it.

      Feser's retorsion argument isn't really about taking skepticism seriously. No one is crazy enough to think skepticism is a serious threat; we know these extreme forms of skepticism are false. The problem is that IF PSR were false, then we would have to take skepticism a lot more seriously. If PSR were false, then we do not know that skepticism is false, because for all we know all our experiences (and maybe even our thoughts) might really be uncaused brute facts.

      I know I have two hands. I might not be able to perfectly justify or explain how I know this, but I know (on Moorean grounds) that I have two hands. However, if PSR were false, then I wouldn't really know I have two hands, because I would not be able to say it's improbable or false that my impressions or thoughts could occur or exist without any causes.

      So the idea is that we know skepticism is false and we can trust our cognitive faculties. We know this is the case, and there is a story about how this is the case. We might not know how this story is like, but one thing that really does seem to be the case is that PSR is part of this story. Because however we are able to justify trust in our cognitive faculties, it seems PSR would be a necessary condition to justify this trust and avoid skepticism.


      1- If PSR were false, we could not say or know it's false or improbable that my experience or thought of "having two hands" is a causeless delusion
      2- But I know I have two hands, and so I know it is false or improbable that this belief/experience is a causeless delusion
      3- Therefore, PSR is true

    2. Thanks for your response.

      I guess I don’t understand the inference here. It seems I could still know I have two hands even if PSR is false: it could still be true that I have two hands, I could still believe that I have two hands, and my belief that I have two hands could still be produced by some reliable cognitive process (~PSR doesn’t entail my faculties aren’t reliable, after all).

      And it’s true we can know we have two hands for Moorean reasons, but it seems to me that implicitly supposes that our perceptual faculties are reliable, and is therefore not an independent reason to think they’re reliable. More generally, it seems like you’re working on some principle like “I am justified in accepting a belief formed by method M only if I first know that M is reliable”, which I’d reject (see the related so-called problem of the criterion).


    3. To be clear, in my own view I reject skepticism on the basis of Moorean grounds and Phenomenal Conservatism, which I take to be self-evident and a good explanation of how we have justification for basic beliefs.

      The problem is PSR seems to be a required assumption behind all of that, because if PSR isn't accepted, then we cannot make meaningful probability assessments of skeptical scenarios.

      I don't know why you don't understand the inference. Your belief could have been produced by a reliable cognitive process. But the problem is that if you consider that it could instead be a brute fact, or produced by some unreliable process (which in turn could be a brute fact), AND consider that such scenarios are not objectively improbable, then how can you justify those beliefs?

      What ~PSR does entail is that it is possible for your experiences and beliefs to be uncaused brute facts, and that such a possibility would have no objective probability. This, in turn, is incompatible with rational and justified belief in our cognitive faculties and experiences.

    4. A required assumption for justifiably rejecting skeptical scenarios*, I mean, even if we accept Phenomenal Conservatism or Moorean common sense.

      Because we cannot justifiably say it is false or improbable that we are brains in vats, while simultaneously holding that it's possible and not objectively improbable that we are brains in vats.

      We don't need to know M is reliable, but ~PSR would constitute a defeater for ordinary beliefs. We do not first need to justify method M, but if we actually have a defeater for a belief, then we're in trouble.

      And if (as it follows from ~PSR) it is possible that we're all living in a brute, uncaused and unexplained Cartesian demon world, and there is no way this could even be objectively improbable, then we have a defeater for all our ordinary beliefs.

    5. Whereas, by comparison, in standard skeptical scenarios the skeptic merely points to the possibility that we are brains in vats or being deceived by Cartesian demons. Nothing is said about objective probabilities. It just amounts to a "you could be wrong!" charge.

      ~PSR, by contrast, implies that the skeptical scenarios could actually be the case with no objective probabilities whatsoever attaching to them. There is no way to even rule them out as improbable.

      We need to assume that chance can at least be applied to skeptical scenarios; that something could at least in principle be said about the probability of their being the case. If nothing meaningful can be said of the objective probability of a possible skeptical scenario, then we cannot justifiably reject it.

    6. Just so I'm clear on this, what reason would you offer that it's 'false or objectively improbable' that we're a brain-in-a-vat (or deceived by a demon, etc.) that wouldn't implicitly presuppose the faculty that produced that reason was functioning reliably?


    7. I would say (on Moorean grounds) that I know I'm not a brain in a vat; I am more sure about this than whatever the skeptic tries to argue. But this response is only available to me because I do not hold that (S) it's not objectively improbable that I'm not a brain in a vat. ~PSR would entail S, however, and that would be a problem. Since I accept PSR as self-evident, I don't have that problem. But someone who rejects or doesn't accept PSR would have to take seriously the fact that all of his experiences and beliefs could be entirely brute occurrences, and that such brute occurrences would not be objectively improbable. This would constitute a defeater for most beliefs, however.

      If pressed to give an account of justification that goes beyond the standard understanding of Moorean facts, I could say I believe I'm not a brain in a vat because it seems to me that I'm not a brain in a vat. Like you say, I do not need to first know method M is reliable in order to be justified in accepting a belief formed by M. But if I do know, or have serious reasons to suspect, that M *is* unreliable, then I won't be justified in believing whatever is formed by M. If ~PSR, it follows that M is unreliable, because all our beliefs could ultimately be brute facts which no meaningful probabilities could be attached to.

      To put it simply, there is something deeply problematic with saying "it really seems to me I am not a brain in a vat. But it is possible that I'm a brain in a vat, and in fact it isn't objectively improbable that I'm not a brain in a vat".

      Or, "it is possible that I'm a brain in a vat. And it's not objectively improbable that I'm not a brain in a vat. But I know I'm not a brain in a vat". It doesn't work.

    8. Replace "M is unreliable" with "M is not reliable"; it would make it more precise. We need not know that M is reliable, but if we know that M is *not* reliable, then we have problems.

    9. To conclude that reason is not reliable couldn't be done because you could never reliably reason your way to it (precisely because reason is not reliable).

      Its self-defeating.

    10. One could discuss that, but it's not even necessary for the argument. "Reason" as a whole need not be the subject of discussion; empirical knowledge (which is what I was discussing) would be sufficient as an example of something which we couldn't live without, yet would be threatened by skeptical scenarios with no probability.

    11. Atno, you say:

      If ~PSR, it follows that M is unreliable, because all our beliefs could ultimately be brute facts which no meaningful probabilities could be attached to.

      I genuinely don't understand the argument here, I guess. If PSR is false, then it might be the case that our faculties are unreliable, as the falsity of PSR doesn't entail everything is inexplicable. You'd, at a minimum, have to provide some reason or argument such that it's likely our faculties in particular would be unreliable before they really became untrustworthy.


    12. This is an argument fleshed out by Pruss that probabilistic reasoning in science needs a PSR but it's description of how the PSR affects probability generally speaking may be helpful to this discussion;

    13. "That it's likely our faculties would be unreliable"

      No. The issue is brute facts would have no probability whatsoever. It is, as I said, deeply problematic to say "It seems to me I have two hands. But it is possible, and not objectively improbable, that this is an illusion." You don't find any problem with that?
      If no probabilities attach to brute facts, then we cannot make any sense of probabilities of skeptical scenarios; we cannot say they are improbable in any way. But if we cannot say they are improbable, we cannot rule them out in a justified way.

    14. And of course, the "not objectively improbable" in that sentence doesn't just refer to an epistemic lack of knowledge about the probability of the event. The issue is that the illusion scenario really would not have an objective probability, and it would therefore not be objectively improbable in any case; there is no non-arbitrary way to rule out a skeptical hypothesis that is possible and not subject to any probabilities.

    15. In other words, the typical responce to sceptical scenarios that logical possibility isn't enough but needs to be shown to be probable, won't be available to the person who denies PSR. Be sure brute facts have *no* probability (not zero probability) and so we can't judge them to be likely or unlikely. This destroys probabilistic reasoning. But probabilistic reasoning was what we relied on to dismiss sceptical scenarios as unlikely. You can't do that with brute facts.

      So that typical route won't work. However, considering this undermines reasoning itself, it is self defeating.

    16. >No. The issue is brute facts would have no probability whatsoever.

      So what? At most it would entail I couldn't make a probability judgment about the reliability of my faculties.

      But again, we can't do that anyway: if you try to give some argument that it's unlikely a demon is deceiving you, that just presupposes your faculties are reliably functioning and get the probability right, when, for all you know, it could be the case that it only seems that's correct because the ED has deceived you. Etc.


    17. The problem with PSR denial is that it necessarily entails agnosticism about issues that can have bruteness attached to them.

      It is not merely that brute scenarios dont have a probability, it is that we are FORCED to be AGNOSTIC about whether or not something is a brute fact. Which entails we cannot go on trusting things any longer as we did before finding out about brute facts.

      So ~PSR entails it is irrational to trust our faculties. We are simply forced to be agnostic about them, and nobody wants to accept this.

    18. "But again, we can't do that anyway: if you try to give some argument that it's unlikely a demon is deceiving you, that just presupposes your faculties are reliably functioning and get the probability right, when, for all you know, it could be the case that it only seems that's correct because the ED has deceived you. Etc."

      But you can trust the deliverances of your cognitive faculties as basic. Or are you ignoring the account I gave of Moorean facts and Phenomenal conservatism? We can trust our cognitive faculties and we do not need to establish that they are likely working in order to be justified in trusting them! We do not need to previously justify a method M in order to justifiably accept a belief that was produced by M.

      Thus, I don't need to argue that it's objectively improbable that a demon is deceiving me. It seems to me that I am not being deceived; and that is sufficient. No one has to argue it is objectively improbable that they are being deluded before they can trust their cognitive faculties. That's what I've been saying all along. But that is not what the problem with ~PSR is.

      The issue is that while we do not need to make any independent judgment about the probabilities of skeptical scenarios before we can reject them, this is different from the situation in which we KNOW there is NO objective probability to them.

      Lacking independent knowledge about a probability for a skeptical scenario is diferent from knowing that that skeptical scenario is not objectively improbable/has no probability.

      Hence it is okay to say "it seems to me that I have two hands. Even though I don't have an argument that shows no demon is deceiving me."
      But it is not okay to say "It seems to me that I have two hands. But there is no objective probability whatsoever that a demon is deceiving me."

    19. Think about it in terms of possible worlds. Our contingent reality is but one among many possible contingent realities. This is how standard cosmological arguments typically go, in any case.
      Some possible worlds form a group Q, in which contingent reality is such that our empirical beliefs correspond to the external world and is produced by appropriate causes. But there is another group of possible worlds Z, in which our empirical beliefs do not correspond to any external world and are uncaused delusions.
      Is our universe part of group Q or Z? We want to say it is part of Q. We don't know about the probability of its being Q and Z; we might adopt a principle of indifference and think there is no reason to think it's more likely that it's Z instead of Q and vice-versa. We just have no independent way of assessing what the objective probabilities are. That being said, it nevertheless seems to us that our world is part of Q. Okay.
      Now consider that if our world is a brute fact, no objective probabilities attach to it. None whatsoever. It doesn't make sense to speak of its being unlikely or likely. It's not that we do not know about its probability, it's that it has NO probability. We cannot even assume a principle of indifference for possible worlds. In this case, how on earth can we still reliably trust any judgment that our world is a Q-world, instead of a Z one? "It seems to me we're in a Q-world, but there really is no objective probability whatsoever for us being in a Z-world instead".
      Our epistemic probabilities should conform to the objective probabilities. When we do not know what the objective probabilities are, we may ignore that and we just go by the epistemic probabilities. But when the event *has no* objective probability, as opposed to having an unknown probability, then it makes no sense to even make epistemic probability judgments about it; it makes no sense to say it seems unlikely we are in a Z-world while simultaneously holding there is no probability whatsoever for us being in a Z-world.
      So we need to assume events and scenarios have chance and order, if we want to make meaningful epistemic probability judgments about them. But that requires PSR, for brute facts would have no probability.

    20. Atno

      While it's true that brute facts would have no probability, it doesn't follow that if there are brute facts, nothing has any probability.
      If a brute fact is at the basis of a causal chain, there is a probability for each of the parts of the chain.
      Suppose a meteor collides with the Moon, leaving a big crater. We can calculate, using the meteor's size and velocity etc. how big the crater will be. Suppose now that the meteor popped into existence (as a brute fact) somewhere near Jupiter, does that mean we cannot conclude that it was the meteor that made the crater on the Moon?

    21. Even if I grant that, I don't see how this would be of much help to the PSR opponent. Was it really the meteor, or was it a particular crater-making demon (which, with no probability, comes into being)? Or perhaps the crater appeared with no explanation, and since this would have no probability we could not make judgments about which hypothesis is more probable.
      And that is supposing there is such a thing as a moon. This stuff could all be part of some false memories that came into being uncaused alongside our (actual) universe 5 seconds ago.
      Again, if our contingent reality has no explanation and no probabilities govern its existence, we can't really say it is probably a Q-world (a sane universe) instead of a Z-world (a possible world where many, most, or all of our beliefs or empirical beliefs do not correspond to reality and are uncaused occurrences, or the product of BIV or cartesian demon scenarios, or reality has weird laws, etc). If we're in a Z-world, we cannot justifiably trust our empirical knowledge, common sense, none of that. If we're in a Z-world, we're in trouble. But no probability would attach to the possibility of a Z-world being the case instead of a Q-world, unless we assume PSR and that contigent reality is not a brute, unexplained fact.

    22. @Walter,

      Since brute facts don't have any probability, it follows necessarily that things which could have bruteness attached to them is something we should remain agnostic about.

      If the existence of anything at every moment is a brute fact, then the continued existence of it is also a brute fact. But brute facts and their continuation don't have a probability, and so we shouldn't have any expectation about them.

      It thus follows with necessity that we shouldn't expect the world to continue behaving rationally, or to continue to exist, since that would mean things positively tend to exist in some sense, which is false if brute facts are real.

    23. Walter,
      actually no, we can´t conclude that. Since the coming into existence of the meteor was a brute fact, so must be its remaining in existence. It could be the case that the meteor goes out of existence at any moment between its coming into existence and the collusion, as well as it colluding but not leaving any crater behind but rather bouncing off the moon like a rubber ball, or even literally transforming into said rubber ball, since the existence of the meteor is brute and in no way necessarily bound to rules. Our conclusion that the crater is due to the collusion with one particular meteor is due to our experience and analysis of past events involving meteors producing a crater. The crucial issue is, that all those events didn´t have any sign of bruteness within them, following regular patterns we would expect. This is what lets our conclusion arise, that the particular crater was produced after collusion with the particular meteor in your example. However this expectations stands from events involving no brute facts.
      If however the events of the past were due to the meteors whose existence are brute facts, those regularities were very unlikely to show up, thus our expectations aren´t warranted in being given any truth value.

    24. @ Atno,

      In your last reply to me above, you repeat several times that there is a difference between being unable to make an objective probability judgment on the one hand and knowing that as a matter of fact there is no objective probability on the other. This is true, but why is it relevant? You never explain, and you just seem to insist one is problematic and the other isn't.

      After all, while it's true we can't say the skeptical scenario is objectively unlikely (because no objective probability), it's equally true that we can say it's not objectively likely either. So again, what's the problem?


    25. To quickly add to the last post:

      Also, re: PC, I've read Huemer's book on the subject and he's pretty straightforward in saying that an appearance or seeming is sufficient to justify belief in the absence of a defeater, i.e. evidence that makes it likely that belief is false. But, trivially, since we're supposing the skeptical scenario isn't objectively probable (again, because no objective probability in the first place), it's hard to see how that would render it likely that my beliefs were formed unreliably; so again I don't see what the skeptical threat here really is.


    26. Dominik

      My example was about a meteor that came into existence as a brute fact, but has all of the properties of any other meteor. Since a brute fact can supposedly by anything, that is possible. Of course the expectation of seeing a crater stands for events involving no brute facts and the fact that we see regularities tells us that most things around us are not brute facts. they do not tell us, however, that there can be no brute facts whatsoever.
      In short: doubting that the PSR applies to everything does not in any way imply that we should take skepticism much more seriously. It doesn't mean that we should doubt that things for which we see the obvious causes, really have those causes.

    27. Anonymous,

      The point is that all probability goes out the window.

      It's not that we can show that our cognitive faculties are unlikely to be reliable but that there just is no probability of their reliability. Which entails that it isn't likely that they are reliable either.

      In other words, it doesn't take for granted that an appearance of something is sufficient to justify belief and then we can defeat this justification by showing our faculties are likely unreliable. It's saying that the presupposition is unwarranted *on the assumption of no PSR*. Remember, this epistemological position only has plausibility insofar as it has room for correction. So if you don't have the possibility of a defeater, and with no PSR you couldn't in principle defeat any proposition as all likelihood goes out the window, the epistemological position amounts to nothing more than 'I'm justified in believing the world is how it appears to me and there's nothing that can change that'

      Though not aiming at cognitive faculties, the above paper by Pruss linked explains the probability issue well.

    28. Walter,

      well it doesn´t matter what you say what all the properties of your meteor are, it matters, if it has them necessaarily due to its nature as a meteor or if, for no reason due to its unintelligible nature as a brute fact, your supposed meteor is just mimicking all the properties in the given moment. Your example doesn´t prevent the meteor from being transformed into a bouncing ball at any time because of its brute nature of existence. It follows, that if your meteor while colliding with the moon, leaves the same crater behind like any other "normal" meteor, this would only be coincidence and not through any inherent property in a meteor which makes them leave marks when colliding with objects.

      "Of course the expectation of seeing a crater stands for events involving no brute facts and the fact that we see regularities tells us that most things around us are not brute facts. they do not tell us, however, that there can be no brute facts whatsoever."

      Of course not. Rarely are metaphysical ideas ever concluded. For every apparent emergent property the reductionist could in principle always refer to future scientific discoveries which will reduce the property to the parts. But, similar to the rejection of the PSR, I´d question if this move is reasonable (per definition the latter is not "rational" at least). If we concede the existence of one or more brute facts, it would automatically follow, that their bruteness affects the intelligibility of everything else. If on the deepest level the existence of the first things is non-intelligible, then this follows for everything else. And it wouldn´t make sense for there to be a limit of brute facts which could be arising. I´d therefor dispute that we could see anything resembling regularities e.g. in regards to the effects meteors have when colliding with a moon, since per definition the effects we see are no real regularities, let alone rules, but at most statistical interference. More clearly, with the amount of meteor hits we witnessed, in mind, be it on our planet or other objects in our solar system, we should have witnessed a considerable amount of exceptions to the apparent rule. The example can be changed to every regularity you want, for the simple reason, that there is no way to limit the number of brute facts which could then be said to exist. If one is allowed, they´re spreading exponentially due to the missing limitation. If you have an idea at how those can be limited to account for us not being confonted with such facts in our daily experience, without making their nature thereby intelligible and therefor not brute at all, I´d very much want to see the argument, since I can´t see how this could be done.

      "In short: doubting that the PSR applies to everything does not in any way imply that we should take skepticism much more seriously. It doesn't mean that we should doubt that things for which we see the obvious causes, really have those causes."

      One strange move you keep on making is acting like the PSR could meaningfully be applied in a restricted area. It is an all or nothing game. Either the PSR applies and there are no brute facts at all or it doesn´t, but then the ground for talking meaningfully about rules and regularities also vanishes, since they would be reduced to mere observations of individual events, where participants are not inherently bound to behave a certain way. So the idea of not paying too much attention to skepticism makes the whole idea of rejecting the PSR look like an arbitrary idea which isn´t consequentally applied in practice. It looks like working with the conclusion of a syllogism which premises you don´t accept.

    29. Dominik

      The "all or nothing" is something that I have heard more than once, but AFAICT, there is no reason to think it is an all or nothing game.
      If e.g. only 1 in 10^1000 is a brute fact, there is no all or nothing at all. If God is a brute fact (something Richard Swinburne argues), then it doesn't follow that there is any other brute fact, nor that the world is unitelligible. Neither would the possibility that the first "cause" was a brute fact entail that there are any other brute facts, or that there is a significant number of them.

    30. Anonymous T, I have explained why. If you don't understand it, then frankly I don't know how I could make it any clearer - maybe I'm really not being good enough at explaining why there is a very big issue here, or maybe it's you who really isn't grasping it for whatever reason.

      Of course it doesn't mean the skeptical scenario is objectively likely, but this isn't required for us to take skepticism seriously. If we cannot make any probability judgments about a skeptical scenario, if we really cannot even in principle say it is, or could be, that the skeptical scenario is objectively unlikely, then we cannot justifiably reject it. When adapting our epistemic probabilities to the objective probabilities, we will be unable to reject skeptical scenarios even with appeals to phenomenal conservatism.

      I recommend you read Pruss's paper if you haven't already, maybe it will shed some light?


      If PSR does not apply to contingent reality as a whole, then there is no way to justifiably hold our world is a Q-world instead of a Z-world. No appeals to induction or explanation would serve, as there would be no indifference here, no objective probabilities whatsoever. It would always be possible and not unlikely that the actual world is a Z-world. Hence it's an all or nothing affair. There could always be some Cartesian demon that ruins everything; some BIV world; some crazy laws; any possible brute event with no probability which would be incompatible with our empirical knowledge and predictions.

    31. Walter,
      no this doesn´t work. It is clear for that the ground of existence has to be a brute fact when the PSR is rejected. WHat follows upon closer analysis is not that there is therefor only one brute fact, but quite literally, that EVERY object is in some sense now a brute fact, at least in regeard to its own existence. This holds in both cases, existence can be regarded as both a primary and secondary property here, it doesn´t matter. Let me illustrate this more clearly:

      The ground of existence is a brute fact X, it´s own existence (or actuality or property P) isn´t intelligible and has no explanation. In the vertical causal series (Per Se) X gives rise to objects A and B. Are A and B brute facts? In certain issues, for sure. The relationship between A and B when it comes to horizontal causation (Per Accidens) is certainly intelligible in some sense e.g. when we look at B´s movement through collision/energy transfer from A. However the relationship from A or B to X remains a brute fact, due to the brute nature of X on which existence A and B depend. Keep in mind, I only say for the sake of this example that "existence" is the property in question, it also works, if I propose a property like "redness" which goes from X to A and B and even higher up. Due to the, be definition, not necessary but contingent status of properties within X, the question as to why the objects in the causal series are red will forever remain an unsolvable mystery.
      It is clear that this problem doesn´t vanish on higher levels of the hierarchy. Because the existence of A and B can´t be explained, so won´t the existence of higher objects A1 and B1 or A10 and B10. There is always the element of relationships between the levels of hierarchy which can´t in principle be explained, because it can´t be formulated without returning to the brute fact on which this series stands.

      But it gets worse. When reading all this above one could say that this sounds painful, but not too problematic. We could remain studying the mathematical describable aspects of matter and its relationship between the hierarchichal levels (e.g. the quarks making up the Proton or the sum of the electrons giving the whole structure "atom" a particular charge) without ever assuming that the answer to the question "Why any of that exists?" has an answer. Sean Carroll seems to propose that.
      But that doesn´t cut the chase. What now strikes is the contingency by nature of brute facts. Because the existence of every object doesn´t have an explanation (Proposing that specific objects don´t rely on brute fact X won´t work, because it only creates different kinds of brute facts and makes the problem even worse) it follows that there are no real rules which are followed. The "rules" we see between the the levels of hierarchy can´t be more than observations, since there is nothing necessarily keeping the nature of the things involved true to their nature. In other words, there is nothing which should make us expect that electrons always have the same charge, since the "rule" isn´t rooted in a necessary fact. Since "existence" also has this unintelligible character when brute facts are involved, there is also no reason to suppose that ex nihilo nihil fit or its counterpart concerning the going out of existence holds.


    32. Now you propose that the number of brute facts could be very small. As I have written above, I don´t see how this could be true. Even if "only" existence were said to be a brute fact, this doesn´t prohibit from expanding that to every object or substance which actually exists. If existence is brute, single Protons, Electrons or whole Meteors aren´t obliged to follow any rule concerning existence and could go in and out of existence at any moment or just transform.
      If you want to tell me, that nothing I have said shows that brute facts are impossible, you are absolutely right. But I hold, because of the argumentation above, that the idea is arbitrarily applied, a criticsim from Feser to Russell, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

      I haven´t touched the consequences for the cognitive faculties here either. Not only regarding Feser´s example that we aren´t confronted with brute facts and so if there were, we couldn´t trust our faculties, since everything could be a brute fact. I´d also say that the bruteness of existence necessarily would also apply to our neurons. I don´t think I need to spell out the mess any more.

      Last point, Swinburne´s God is very different from the concept of God defended here. Swinburne is offering at best a powerful spirit in the ballpark of Paley´s designer. So, albeit admittedly I´m not too familiar with Swinburne´s work, I´d assume that his understanding of what a brute fact is, differs from ours like his definition of God. He seems to make the same mistake as Keith Parsons did. Ed covered the idea that both Theists and Atheists start with a brute fact here:

      The most obvious difference is, that we claim that God is not asserted, but a necessary conclusion, which prevents him from being a brute fact immediately, and that his existence is explained by his own nature, because his essence is existence. So I don´t even see how God as a brute fact makes any sense in the first place.

    33. Dominik

      The only things that really matter are the properties of the first "cause". If this first cause has the property/properties that allow for "causation" of other things then the other things follow from the first one. If this "causation" is intelligible, then whatever follows is also intelligible. It doesn't matter fro the rest of the story whether the property of intelligibility is necessary or not.

      In the end, the only question that matters is whether the abolute absense of existence entails a contradiction. If it doesn't, the PSR is false.
      I have already explained here that I really do not care whether the PSR is true or false, but as long as there is no conclusive answer to this question, the PSR cannot be asserted.
      That's one of the reasons why Swinburne argues for a contingent God.

  5. Feser said the naturalist might be circular if he accounts for X's existence by existential inertia, and accounts for inertia by X's existence. There's a distinction between why something exists and why it continued to exist.

    X continued to exist because of the existential inertia it had in the past. X started to exist because of what preceded it. What preceded it traces its existence from the initial state, which had existential inertia as a brute(ly necessary or brutely contingent) property. I don't see the circularity. Existential inertia could just be the natural property everything has when there's nothing hindering it.

    1. But the inertia of the past is no longer actual, so how can something that doesnt exist presently account for the existence of anything at all, let alone X? If you say it does exist presently, then what explains its existence, if not X?

      Bringing in brute facts is a problem on it's own.

    2. If existential inertia is the natural property everything has then X's remaining in existence is fully explained by X.
      That doesn't explain why X exists rather than nothing, but that's not the point of existential inertia. Existential inertia counters the Aristotelian notion that X must be sustained in existence by something else, not the notion that the existence of X as such must be caused by something else.

    3. I suspect that this notion of existential inertia is something that assumes different metaphysics when it comes to substances.

      The real work in deciding on one rather than the other will be to compare the underlying accounts.

    4. EI seems incompatible with explanatory principle we have adopted. If EI is supposed to be a dispositional property then it needs its retention to be explained just like any other property.

    5. Well, I don't see why EI would be incompatible with explanatory principles we have adopted.
      The explanation for the retention of EI is simply that it is the natural property everything has. The diffrent metaphysics would come down to that existence is essentially inert. but that seems to follow logically from the principle that ex nihilo nihil fit. If it is impossible for something to come from nothing, why would it be possible for something to go to nothing?

    6. But simply having of a property doesn't explain its retention.

    7. The "property" existential inertia logically entails its retention.
      If something has the "property" that once it exists, it will keep existing, then it doesn't seem to make much sense to ask if it will continu to have this "property". Moreover, I would hesitate to call EI a property. To me EI is essential to existence, one may even say that existence is EI.

    8. This doesn't make sense and this is exactly what I mean by saying that this seems incompatible with. If we are trying account for why a thing continues to exist by positing some sort of property then we would need to have some basis for why that property continues to be instantiated, so it doesn't seem to logically entail its retention.

      Such dispositional properties are pure potentialites and require a causal base this can't be the object having the property itself or we run into circularity.

    9. The claim that they are pure potentialities is based on A-T metaphysics. I am suggesting that the "object" does have this basis. Or do you think that the existential inertia of god is also a pure potentiality?

    10. Well It seems this is just the most plausible metaphysics of such properties here. The claim is such properties don't cause or sustain anything, that is not the sort of work that properties can do. They need causal bases they can't themselves be bases.

    11. That's why I don't call them properties and neither does Oppy.

    12. But that's the point especially as Oppy accepted (perhaps for the sake of argument) a powers concept of laws, he needs to explain exactly what EI is supposed to be. A power if not a property?

      If it's a power wouldn't it itself be parasitic on the substance?

      I'm not sure a powers account is the best way to go. This may be why Oppy said a few times his account may not be coherent.

      I'd imagine the realism/nominalism debate is implicitly raging in the background

    13. The existence of any composite is an instance of a per se causal series. Something in act causes a composition yet every component is concurrently being caused by something in act up to a First Cause. There is no principle of continuity for an essentially ordered series outside Pure Act.

      As Feser wrote in Existential Inertia and the Five Ways:

      It [the Second Way] holds that S's [a substance's] essence, and thus S itself, is merely potential until that essence is conjoined with an act of existence. But if S or S's essence did this conjoining, then S would be the cause of itself, which is impossible. Hence the conjoining must be done by some cause C distinct from S. But the distinction between S's essence and existence that this presupposes is as real after S first comes into existence as it was before; and for S or S's essence to conjoin to an act of existence even after S first comes into existence would be for S to cause itself, which is no less impossible after S already exists than before. Hence the conjoining of S's essence and existence by a cause distinct from S must be maintained at any moment S exists.

      Again, this is due to S's existence being the result of a per se causal series.

      The same goes for matter and form. Matter doesn't exist outside of form, only potentially so. And since prime matter as potency cannot raise itself to act, it must be conjoined to form by something else. And since form does not exist outside of matter, it too must be reduced to act by something else. Hence, there is no principle of continuity in either form or matter to account for a thing's continued existence. Since form depends on matter and matter on form, the explanation spins unless something outside the composite accounts for it.

    14. Jedi

      Maybe a pwowers concept is indeed not the best way to go, but the way I see it, a power is not parasitic on the subtsnace, rather the substance is the power.


      That is true on Feser's (A-T) metaphysics, but I think there are several alternatives.

    15. @Walter

      Hi, Walter. I haven't interacted with you before, so if I'm asking something you addressed elsewhere, I apologize in advance.

      If there are alternatives to A-T metaphysics, isn't it incumbent on you to show how a per se causal series ends in something other than Pure Act?

    16. X will either have the property of existential cessation or existential inertia. It's a Thomist assumption that something would cease without a purely unactualized turtle.

      Why did the initial state have inertia? Brute necessity or contingency. (Same with a theistic initial state.)

      Why would initial object's property of existential inertia suddenly morph into existential cessation?

      (X @ t1) state of affairs causes (has posterior effect) of (X @ t2).

    17. "X" cannot have existential anything without an actualizer. Whether or not you agree with the underlying arguments, nothing is "assumed."

    18. Bill

      Well, very briefly: IMO, a causal series cannot end in Pure Act because that would mean reality is basically unchanging. But, to be honest, I don't think the strict distinction between Act and Potency makes sense.

    19. ACR

      I must say I really do not see how it is even possible for reality to cease to exist. To me, that is as absurd as things popping into existence.

    20. You're assuming things need an actualizer. They don't. X exists because of prior states, and the initial state is brutely necessary or contingent. In any given state, nothing is being actualized. It's just actual. To change implies was and is. In any snapshot, there is no "was." Just now. No change.

      You're assuming the default tendency is to stop existing once something exists. You're assuming things have existential cessation.

    21. Strictly speaking they would be assuming A-T metaphysics rather than existential cessation. The latter follows from the former analysis of substances. And Then, the underlying metaphysics is argued for.

      I think this is dividing line; which metaphysics is probably true

    22. Logically, with any worldview, reality and/or its constituents will have existential inertia or they won't (i.e. existential cessation). Once you have the initial items, you're going to have one of the two. There's no reason, given naturalism, to think everything would cease. You might ask for an explanation for why EI obtained. It's just brute. Had ex.cessation obtained, that would be brute as well.

    23. X will cease to exist without an unactualized actualized to sustain it. One could say.

      X will continue to exist without an undestroyed destroyer to eliminate it. One could say.

    24. Walter,

      That sounds like a bundle theory of substances? A substances just is nothing but a bundle of properties?

      And then, per Oppy, we would have a physical simple of just one property - existential inertia. On the bundle theory, substances are identical to the collection of properties but on this account it would be identical to just one property - EI.

      I think the bundle theory has problems in that it is inherently redictionistic. SO that's where I would raise objections. Also, i don't think Oppy can coherently have other properties to physical simples. That would add an extra property an it would then be a literal bundle (of 2!) Properties. This would be composition.

      However, I think issues of composition aside. That's not a terrible theory. I would just say that the bundle theory has some big problems.

    25. At this point I don't even know what existential inertia is supposed to be. I think the main charge of circularity here sticks.

    26. "I think the main charge of circularity here sticks." Just keep repeating the same nonsense.

      It doesn't, even if you insist it does. Existential inertia is the tendency of things to keep existing. Why does X exist *at all*? Brute contingency/necessity. Why does it have inertia rather than cessation? Brute necessity/contingency?

      Why does God keep existing? As Graham Oppy points out, and he's absolutely correct, "A because A" is an explanatory solecism. Brute facts are unavoidable.

      But hey, you're a nut who thinks people deserve punishment because their unstable, unchosen nature randomly selected B rather than A.

    27. It really is disgusting how obtuse you people are. You believe that God can keep existing without an actualizer. Guess what: I say the same about the simples.

      Furthermore, you believe that God is good, yet he sustains a man as he rapes a woman. That's the opposite of love. A loving god would not permit suffering to exist, when it could just put us in heaven right away. Also, a loving god would give us a stable nature that has a reason for choosing good over evil, instead of being arbitrary. Giving us an nature that hosts random events is like giving a razor blade to a child.

    28. CR, we aren't being obtuse. God doesnt continue to exist. He doesnt continue to HAVE actuality. He IS actuality.

      If you want to say the same about simples, then there can only be one simple and it will end up having all the attribute of God. You will simply be using a different word to refer to the same actuality.

    29. CR, to add clarity, God doesnt continue to exist. No thomist says that. God is a-temporal.

      You can't appeal to brutes to avoid God then act like we are the ones being obtuse. You are the one willing to leave things unexplained. That isn't a counter argument and it doesnt nullify anything.

      You are getting in to troll territory here with that last paragraph. Stick to the subject.

    30. This comment has been removed by the author.

    31. Even if God existed outside of time, he is still part of the overall global picture. At one point, it consists have God alone. Then at a subsequent point, reality consisted of God and his punishing Sodom because the Sodomites randomly selected B over A. That's a sequence, and God's existence persists through it.

      If God exists outside of time and his mentality never changes, then all propositions are stuck with the same truth value, which means there's no free will. "Counter Rebel select A over B at T7" needs to be false (or neither true nor false) until the moment of choice. Otherwise, I'm stuck with what's written in God's "I torture men for randomly selecting A over B" head, and can't do otherwise.

      You proved my point about obtuseness. Get it through your skull that brute facts exist in both our worldviews. You can't explain God with God. "Don't say these things explain themselves! 'A because A' is *always* an explanatory solecism" (Graham Oppy, Naturalism and Religion, pg. 161).

      Now there is absolutely no circularity here, despite what clowns like Feser say: The initial items exist of brute necessity/contingency, and they have the essential/changeless property of inertia of brute necessity/contingency. To ask for a cause of inertia is stupid because it's brutely necessary/contingent. It's just how reality works. One state is sufficiently caused by the previous one. No need for a unactualized tyrannical turtle who tortures people for randomly selecting B rather than A.

    32. Counter Rebel, please, do as you're told. Don't produce random noises by smelling your own butt and translating it into words. Make arguments. You're on par with SP as to who I'd kick off a cliff.

    33. Anonymous, all you have are petty insults and no substance. I did make arguments. You can't deal with them.

      If anyone needs to kicked off a cliff, it's people who teach their children they will go to hell for randomly selecting B rather than A. Who pass laws against euthanasia and gay marriage.

      Do you really think it's fair to give someone an unstable nature, that does one thing over another for no reason, and then punish them for the intentions that emerge from that unchosen nature? If you do, you're the one sniffing. I may be sniffing my own butt, but you seem to sniffing bad chemicals.

      There doesn't need to be a cause of inertia. It's a brute essential property of the initial object.

      There is no free will. There's either a reason you chose A over B (so it's ultimately determined), or there is no reason (it's ultimately random).

      Lastly, you can't explain God with God. That's "explanatory solecism," to quote the great Graham Oppy.

      "do as you're told." How could I? I have an unstable nature that randomly does one thing rather than another -- on your view.

    34. WOW, Hey there Please Calm down Mr. Rebel
      No need to get heated up and change topics of discussion Ok. Well I have explained why I find the sort of argument presented here unpersuasive.At least I was engaging some of the points of Mr.Walter maybe you disagree but please be calm.

    35. Come on, Red, no need to apologize. CR is a full whacky atheopath who dabble in his own delirium. He references gays and euthanasia, mixes up brute, contingency and necessity, invokes randomness and no free will.

      I've dealt with so many of them in my own country it's a shame they still roam.

      And CR, if you want a help to clear your fu mind, tell me. I have a remedy for you, involving a pillow, your neck and a nail bat.

    36. I would sit and have a beer with a hard determinist any day of the week. We'd joke about how random free choices are.

      But (apart from family) I want nothing to do with Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants (the ones who affirm free will). Why would I want to hang out with someone who thinks I deserve eternal hell because a non-rational phantom in my mind randomly turned the joystick A-wise instead of B-wise? That's absolutely disgusting.

      The Abrahamic God punishes coins for landing on tails. How loving!!!!!!! I'll take Spinoza's God over that, any day of the week.

    37. Don't worry, CR, I wouldn't want to joke with you. I'd gladly be the blind necessity of randomness initial inertia giving you a hit everytime randomness randomized me to hit you.

      And if you'd complain, I'd just hit you again. Why? No reason, it's just brute fact.

      Don't thank me and pay the beer, I'm just applying your worldview!

    38. To address Anonymous:

      "gays" Nothing wrong with homosexual acts.

      "euthanasia" Nothing wrong with loving someone and putting an end to their extreme pain.

      "mixes up brute, contingency and necessity" No. Explaining God with God is circular. Brute facts exist on all worldviews except ontological nihilism (nothing exists).

      "randomness and no free will" Free will = Randomness. The agent's unchosen nature arbitrarily generates one choice over another. The agent is not responsible for any slither of his initial mental constitution. So it logically follows he's not responsible for intentions that stem from the crucial sliver of his mind that causes intentions. He's no more responsible for indeterministic events in his own mind than ones in other dimensions, or what a stranger does.

      "if you want a help to clear your fu mind, tell me. I have a remedy for you, involving a pillow, your neck and a nail bat." This reminds me of when Ric Flair utilized thumbtacks on Big Show.

    39. @Anonymous --

      I hope you suffer some real pain (unlike spoiled, well-off people like Feser and Craig) and finally come to realize that it's disgusting to punish people for randomly selecting B rather than A.

      I shall pray to Brahman to teach you what pain really is.

      "...what we cannot have on a libertarian view is an explanation of why Jones freely so acts." -William Lane Craig

    40. Why are you discussing if you're not responsible of your thoughts? Why utter a word? Come on, CR, let's dance, we can dress up as ducks together in your dreamed up world !

    41. Brahman is using me to inform the world that libertarian free will is the great cancer of the earth. (I'm not just on Feser's comments. I make youtube videos.) It makes people into prideful jerks who think they're better than others just because they were born with a nature less inclined toward "sin." It ruins the lives of children by making them guilty for their natural inclinations, and driving them to depression and in my case, near suicide.

      I will spend the rest of my life exposing libertarian free will for the horse droppings it is. No one deserves punishment because their unchosen torn nature just arbitrarily and spontaneously generated B-intention rather than A-intention.

      "I was born sick, but I love it. Command me to be well. Amen, Amen, Amen." -Hozier, "Take Me to Church"

    42. "I hope you suffer some real pain (unlike spoiled, well-off people like Feser and Craig) and finally come to realize that it's disgusting to punish people for randomly selecting B rather than A." - so now you're willing something freely? And you're...

      "I shall pray to Brahman to teach you what pain really is." ... gasp, praying to a God?

      Damn, CR, you're nuts. :'D

    43. WOW, Alright. So this is happening now.

    44. Yes, I hope you get clinical depression so you finally understand what people go through. I hope you get cluster headaches, lyme disease, you name it. Learn what suffering feels like.

      I never willed freely. I do stuff because of my strongest desire, just like you.

      "gasp, praying to a God?" First off, my atheism is a violent one. I'm not obligated to be consistent 24/7. If I'm in pain, I can temporarily recant nihilism and pray to Zeus, Brahman, or Hera. Secondly, Brahman isn't God. It's cosmic consciousness slowly evolving into universal paradise. It would never torture someone forever for randomly selecting B rather than A.

    45. Nice!!! No one deserves to suffer because there is no free will but YOU people totally deserve to suffer because I hate your point of view.Thumbs up dude.

    46. You don't truly deserve it, but it needs to happen so as to be a deterrent and/or make you rethink your worldview. Like not opposing euthanasia. :)

    47. Is Question-Begging Rebel still pushing the same brilliant "argument" that pretty much presupposes non-deterministic cause = random?

      It's July 2019, damn. I'm starting to think he really has no control over his actions, but not because there is no free will.

    48. Hahahah this comment thread is gold. And yes, dude is still using that same "argument" which assumes non-deterministic causation = random in order to show non-deterministic acts are random.

      While his arguments are complete rubbish, I have to be honest and say I kinda like having some crazy people here. They're entertaining. Question-Begging Rebel clearly seems mentally ill; that other dude with a picture of an apple and a knife also seems crazy. SEP was sane, just very clueless and repetitive. I assume Feser doesn't like when they clog up the comment section, but they're pretty hilarious in a disastrous, fucked up way.

    49. Stop feeding Counter Rebels ramblings. It's now just bogging down the comment section.

      Let the thread die.

    50. Sad to see what this thread went to.

    51. @Walter, you write:

      IMO, a causal series cannot end in Pure Act because that would mean reality is basically unchanging.

      You've tweaked my curiosity. That doesn't make sense to me, and I don't intend that to be an insult. A causal series by definition is an instance of change, so please explain.

      I don't think the strict distinction between Act and Potency makes sense.

      Again, since I haven't interacted with you, I don't want to insult your intelligence by repeating what you may have read or have been told multiple times, but change occurs because a thing has the capacity (potency) to change. If it could not, it would not.

      Potency is merely a principle of being that accounts for its ability to change. In other words, since we see X changing, it is therefore capable of change. X exists, so it is in act. X can (has the potential to) change. So, potency and act are principles of X's being. What in that doesn't make sense?

    52. The person who wrote this is a troll, but I couldn't help chuckling over this one:

      You're assuming things need an actualizer. They don't. X exists because of prior states...

      The word "because" is "by cause" or due to the cause of. X's existence is then caused by "prior states." Prior states have no causal efficacy if they don't exist, and if they exist they are in act. If X exists "because" of "prior" acts, then at one time X did not exist. Hence, something had to change for X to exist.

      What is the point of all this nonsense? Why the obsession to deny change?

    53. You all know CR is a massive troll, whom Feser has told to get lost, right? Stop feeding the trolls. As this thread makes clear, it's absolutely pointless.

    54. Bill
      Indeed, a causal series by definition is an instance of change, and therein lies the problem.
      On A-T metaphysics, reality (or Being) is immutable, meaning that it cannot change. So, it cannot be the beginning of a causal series in any sort of way.
      In my view, Being is essentially mutable and that's why we see various (changing) beings.

      When I say the strict distinction between act and potency doesn't make sense to me, i don't mean that things do not have the ability to change. Of course they do, because change (mutability) is essential to Being.
      Or to put it somewhat differently, there is no act without potency and there is no potency without act. So yes, potency and act are principles of X's being because they are principles of every kind of being. They are what Being (or being) means.

    55. Jedi

      I don't think it of it as a bundle theory. A simple is its property. A simple could, hypothetically, be negative. That is also has existential inertia only denotes composition if essence and existence are distinct, but, just like Oppy, I genuinely believe that is absurd.

    56. Walter,

      The reason I say bundle theory is because they reject the composition of substance and accidents so that a substance is nothing but the sum of its accidents.

      So the substance (A simple) is nothing but it's accidents (let's say negative charge).

      Now obviously if we count existential inertia as another accident then the simple (I.e the substance) would be identical to two accidents - negative charge and existential inertia.

      Perhaps you'd disagree with this. But I think that it clearly raises the problem of how we analyse existential inertia.

      Maybe one route you could take is to accept simples have at least these two accidents and this may actually be it's essence, but that there is no real distinction between essence and existence?

      (Side note; there's an obvious difference between existential inertia which is the ability to continue in existence bar something else destroying it and essence having existence as part of it. That would be necessary and incapable of non existence)

    57. Jedi

      But I don't count existential inertia as another accident, rather my claim wouild be that existence is extistential inertia. Existence is not an accident.

      And I don't think there is an obvious difference between existential inertia and essence having existence as part of it. Every essence has existence as "part" of it. There are no non-existing essences.

    58. existence is extistential inertia.

      What does that mean? It seems you are assuming some sort of robust doctrine regarding existence.

    59. This is the crucial point in the discussion Walter.

      Just what is EI to a substance Then? I'd imagine a primitive or fundamental 'capacity'?

    60. Red

      I have already explained what this robust doctrine is about. To me, it follows from ex nihilo nihil fit that also the opposite is true. What exists cannot become nothing either.

    61. Jedi

      EI applies to the most fundamental "building blocks" of reality. They cannot go "out of existence" for the reason mentioned in my reply to Red.
      In fact, I have never understood why a Thomist should deny EI. If it is true that going out of existence is a potency of substances, then it follows that if this potency is not actualized, the substance would not go out of existence. So, if substances are left alone, they keep on existing. That is not, however, my view. On my view the potency "going out of existence" is impossible.

    62. Interesting. But I don't see how those two claims are symmetrical or one follows from the other.

      How does it follow from, that things can't exist without a cause, that they can't stop existing?

    63. You guys are trolling the world by forcing pain onto the young, sick, depressed, and elderly. You keep resorting to allegations of begging the question. It's not. Random means without definite direction or purpose. See Webster's dictionary. In a free choice, the agent stands above his opposing desires/reasons, and with no stable basis or further line of thought or evaluation, slides onto A rather than B. In between the time prior to the choice and the choice, there is zero time for further input. So you have the same stream of thoughts preceding two choices, the choices being unpredictable and spontaneous. As Sam Harris said, "If you don't know what your soul is going to do next, you're not in control of your soul." The agent's UNCHOSEN, unstable nature gives rise to an intention, and the other intention is cut off. The only time the agent had access to both choices is when there was no way to ensure (no line of evaluation) that one choice would prevail. It just pops out of his UNCHOSEN, torn nature. There was no way for the agent to see to it, in his torn state, that the correct choice would prevail.

      If you don't think free choices are random, then you'll need to explain why the agent did A rather than B. Thomists run away from the question like kryptonite.

      "Question-Begging Rebel clearly seems mentally ill" You need to stop repeating the same nonsense and finally address my arguments -- or swallow your pride and admit that no one is responsible for random events that pop out of their unchosen mind.

    64. Red

      I didn't say it follows from things can't exsit without a cause (which is false anyway). It follows from ex nihilo nihil fit.

    65. Counter Rebel

      I think you have a point with your criticism of libertarian free will, but your tone makes discussion very hard and it is off topic anyway.

    66. Bill: "Prior states have no causal efficacy if they don't exist, and if they exist they are in act."

      State 1 --(causes)--> State 2 State 1 doesn't cause State 2 during state 2's existence. It causes state 2 during state 1, in the form of a *posterior* effect.

      "...The cause of the motion is not the state of rest, and therefore, the cause of the motion begins the motion and the beginning state of the motion is a first instant. And therefore, the motion is not half open..." -Quentin Smith

      "The cause acts on the instantaneous state of rest, and the action of the cause brings about a posterior effect, in the tradition that effects are later than the causes." -Quentin Smith

      "If X exists "because" of "prior" acts, then at one time X did not exist."

      X refers to combination of simples (say a, b, c). A, b, and c existed at the initial state (in different regions). They just didn't always exist together to make X.

      "What is the point of all this nonsense?" My thoughts exactly.

      "Why the obsession to deny change?" No one's denying change. We're denying the Thomists' desire to add babble to it, like "in act," "potentiality," and other outdated Aristotelian crap.

    67. @WVDA
      I didn't say it follows from things can't exsit without a cause (which is false anyway). It follows from ex nihilo nihil fit.

      Well this is the most plausible interpretation of the principle I can think of at least when we just take the notion of cause really broadly. Perhaps you have something else in mind but I still don't see how one principle here is entailed by the other.

    68. Red

      The principle ex nihilo nihil fit does not say that things can't exist without a cause, it says that things cannot come into existence from nothing. The reason for this is, among other things, that "nothing" and "something" (or "being" and non-being" if you prefer are two entrirely diffrent concepts that have absolutely nothing in common. "Non-being" cannot become "being", and "being" cannot become "non-being".

    69. In summary,

      Billy can't refute my argument that if God is timeless, its knowledge is unchanging, which means there is no free will? Furthermore, does God know what time it is now? If not, then he's not omniscient. If yes, then "Now is t1" changes truth value once t2 obtains. This means God persists through varying snapshots (e.g. God alone, followed by God+universe) - which entails God has inertia. It may not be our local dimension of time or physical time, but it's still some form of metaphysical time.

      Billy and no Thomist ever can refute that free will = randomness.

      Red keep saying existential inertia is circular, but no one ever used EI to explain why something exists at all, but why something continues to exist. X has the essential property of existential inertia (rather than existential cessation or existential randomness (it's undetermined whether it will exist next moment). EI could be an essential property of existing simples.

      "Out of nothing, nothing comes" is a bare assertion. In a nothing-state, there is nothing to block anything from happening, so it would be a state of pure potentiality. With no causal laws, nothing could be succeeded by the initial singularity.

    70. But that sort of interpretation seems somewhat unintelligible.Surely we shouldn't take the 'come into' literally. Its not like existence is literally a location where things are being transported to.
      And again I don't see how it follows from Non-being" cannot become "being", and "being" cannot become "non-being" that some thing can't stop existing as that isn't the case of some being becoming non-being.

    71. @CR.

      Your latest formulation of randomness problem is way off topic here that is why nobody is obligated to address it and on top of it it adds nothing new which isn't addressed by me and other users.You simply keep repeating your claims on every single thread you take part in.

      As for your particular interpretation of EI I have already addressed it in my discussion with
      Walter I don't see anything more that you've added.

      In general it seems you simply don't have nerves to take part in even a simple discussion where you go into complete meltdown at slightest hint of adversity. I highly recommend you stop taking part in any internet discussions for your own good.

    72. You never showed why it's circular. You just keep saying it is. You're acting like a child. "That's a circle, mommy!"

      Show me the circle:

      The initial simples exist of brute necessity/contingency. They have the essential property of existential inertia rather than existential cessation or existential randomness. EI explains why it will keep existing, not why it exists at all.

      Again, show me the circle or go away, you dumb child.

      I keep repeating my claims because it's time for Catholics to admit their religion is false, and that it's disgusting to punish someone because their unchosen, torn nature randomly generated an A-event instead of a B-event.

    73. Walter,

      With regards to Thomism and EI, they would reject it because a substances potential to exist from moment to moment would need to be actualized.

    74. Red,

      This man has suffered with severe depression and suicidal thoughts in the past. Everyone needs to act responsible here. Let's stick to EI.

    75. @Aristotle's jedi -

      There is nothing being actualized. It is actual.

      Open theist Alan Rhoda: "If S exists at a given moment, then its existence is fully actual at that moment. S’s potency to exist (whatever that is) can’t exist unactualized since non-existent things have no potency whatsoever. If the question is how did S come to exist, then it seems plausible to think of this as the actualization of a potential. Not a potential in S, to be sure, but a potential in something else, perhaps a potential in God to create S. And if the question is why does S continue to exist in the next moment, then we might posit S’s having an intrinsic potency to exist in the next moment (perhaps a kind of existential inertia). But this doesn’t seem to be the kind of “potency” that needs to be actualized by something else that is “already actual” (if S is intrinsically unstable, however, then it might need something else to hold it together) for the same reason that our uniformly moving particles (arguably) don’t need anything other than their own intrinsic momentum to explain their being elsewhere in the next moment. But when the question is why S exists at this moment, I see no compelling reason to think of this as the actualization of S’s potential for existence. Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be the actual-ization of anything because there’s no change here. There’s just a state of being."

    76. You never showed why it's circular. You just keep saying it is. You're acting like a child. "That's a circle, mommy!"

      You can, maybe try reading what I have wrote?
      in short such properties can't actually do any explanatory work.

      It seems you are trying to run two different things together. On one hand you are suggesting that something have brute necessity/contingency so they either don't happen to have explanations or don't need one. on the other hand you are trying to explain something continued existence by positing existential inertia which is the claim that I am addressing in this thread and which again is a notion you have given no plausible account of.

      I keep repeating my claims because it's time for Catholics to admit their religion is false,

      Yep, it has nothing to do with the fact that it isn't possible for you to give plausible arguments for those claims right?

      And I am really curious why did you name just Catholicism? Large no of folks here aren't even Catholic, I certainly am not. Though I like many aspects of it.

      it's disgusting to punish someone because their unchosen, torn nature randomly generated an A-event instead of a B-event.

      Well here is a question for you, why do you think 'disgusting' things

      Again you are showing a lot of nerves here. Just maybe just maybe think of relaxing your mind, that will help you think clearly.

    77. it's disgusting to punish someone because their unchosen, torn nature randomly generated an A-event instead of a B-event.

      Well here is a question for you, why do you think 'disgusting' things

      oops , meant to write , Why do you think disgusting things should not be done?

    78. @AJ

      This man has suffered with severe depression and suicidal thoughts in the past. Everyone needs to act responsible here. Let's stick to EI.

      Well that is what I am trying to do.

    79. "such properties can't actually do any explanatory work." This comes out of left field. If something has causal properties (like the property of causing the next state of affairs), then of course the object+properties explain the next state of affairs. If something has a certain inalienable property (like existential inertia), then of course it will keep existing.

      "And I am really curious why did you name just Catholicism? "

      The deplorable, spoiled brat Edward Feser is a Catholic. I'm an ex-Catholic. (So there will always be a lingering hate affair.) I should've mentioned Islam, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism as well. These religions need to be eliminated ASAP. They hurt people. Anyone who defends Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Islam, and/or libertarian free will should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating hurtful ideas.

    80. If something has causal properties (like the property of causing the next state of affairs), then of course the object+properties explain the next state of affairs. If something has a certain inalienable property (like existential inertia), then of course it will keep existing.

      But note here too that it isn't a property that is doing the explanatory work its the substance at its causal base. Without which its merely a pure potentiality in needs of actualization.

      Similarly a property like existential inertia can't explain its own retention. Its being essential property simply means the particular substance having it can't survive losing it. It can't explain the continued existence.

      So there will always be a lingering hate affair.

      Thats what I think is ultimately happening here.

    81. Jedi

      A substance has no potential to exist. Creating is not the same as actualizing a potential. So, "before" it exists, a substance has no potential (and of course no actuality either).

    82. Guys, stop replying to Question-Begging Rebel. His argument against free will is trash and - at best, when interpreted charitably as it can be in some academic discussions - would reduce to a supposed intuition he shares (but libertarians don't) that if the causation process is non-deterministic, it is random. That just begs the question against the libertarian who holds that the agent freely chooses A over B for reasons R which, though not deterministic, are explanatory (or can be "motivational" as some authors say). But QB Rebel has defined his way into hard incompatibilism. If anyone is interested in studying this in depth, in any case, and thinks it's interesting, it is better to look at actual papers and academic works on free will, not argue with a mad man.

      QB Rebel also can't be rationally convinced because the issue is for him is emotional and personal; he is terrified of the idea of libertarian free will and has developed some unhealthy obsession with rationalizing his issues by dropping them against free will, etc. As is evident to anyone who reads his posts, he is not a very stable guy and is very probably mentally ill to some degree. And he frequently uses his rationalized "no free will" cop-out as a way to justify his erratic, anti-social behavior, including going on with irrelevant and bizarre rants hilariously similar to those of some insane individuals. The guy has issues. Just pray for him (if you believe in prayer) and move on.

      Feser asks us to not feed the trolls. So to everyone reading this, stop directly replying to Question-Begging Rebel (aka Counter-Rebel). Walter is a sane guy, though, and can be reasoned with.

    83. Red

      "And again I don't see how it follows from Non-being" cannot become "being", and "being" cannot become "non-being" that some thing can't stop existing as that isn't the case of some being becoming non-being."

      If X stops existing, X has no being, it is letrally nothing at all. So X was being but is now non-being. And that's absurd.

    84. If X stops existing, X has no being, it is letrally nothing at all. So X was being but is now non-being. And that's absurd.

      I don't really understand that, at least not in any literal sense. It seems you are treating non being as some sorts of accident of things which is gained or lost.

      But notion of stop existing isn't same as that, its quite intuitive though. We do observer when things stop existing all the time, don't we?

    85. Red

      I have never observed anything that stops existing. If you have, I think you should apply for the Nobel prize.
      Things change, e.g., people die, but they do not stop existing. They stop having a certain form, yes, but all of their parts remain in some form or other.

    86. And I don't treat non-being as an accidnet of things. But, more importantly, I don't treat being as an accident of things either. That's why non-being is an absurd notion altogether. There is no non-being , there will be no non-being and there has never been any non-being.

    87. Atno

      How do you know I am a sane guy?

    88. I'm assuming you are Dutch from your name Walter, and all Dutch are sane!

    89. @Walter -- Sorry for the delay. Sunday is a very busy day for me.

      On A-T metaphysics, reality (or Being) is immutable, meaning that it cannot change. So, it cannot be the beginning of a causal series in any sort of way.

      I must disagree with this. Everything except God is mutable. I think you intended to say that God or Being Itself is immutable on A-T, but please recall that He is called Pure Act, not Pure Immobile. As Act, he is active, and the A-T distinction is active/passive. God has active potency but not passive potency. He can cause, but He cannot be caused.

      Active potency is the power to perform some action which applies to God and creation. Creatures now act and now don't which implies inner change from inactivity to activity which is usually initiated in some way by another agent.

      Passive potency is the capacity to receive or acquire a new perfection, but this by definition cannot apply to God since He is every perfection eminently.

      Every creature exists through something else, but God is not a creature, hence He does not exist through anything, and He is the sufficient explanation of Himself.

      What's confusing for novices is the term "active potency." But as Feser notes in Scholastic Metaphysics: "Pure active potency or power unmixed with any passive potency or potentiality is just pure actuality, and identified by the Scholastics with God; in everything other than God active potency is mixed with passive potency." So active potency is really active power. We contend that without this distinction, there can be no rational account for change. We just run into vicious explanatory circles.

      Or to put it somewhat differently, there is no act without potency and there is no potency without act. So yes, potency and act are principles of X's being because they are principles of every kind of being. They are what Being (or being) means.

      But act by definition must logically precede potency because potency has no causal efficacy in itself to be actualized. It would have to be in act to cause its act which is absurd. Thus, act is the ground for raising potency. And since whatever has potency cannot be explained by itself, it must look to another to account for it. There can therefore be no explanation unless we stop at Pure Act. An infinite set of mirrors cannot account for the image reflected on said mirrors for they have no causal efficacy to produce the image. Something outside the series must account for it. In an act/potency series, something outside it must account for it, and since act logically precedes potency, that something must be Pure Act.

      If one appeals to brute fact, or that's just the way things are and we don't need an accounting of it, then one must also accept the same reply from everybody else--that's just the way things are (sauce for the gander, you know).

    90. Walter,

      I assume you're sane because even though you hold some quite bizarre philosophical views - in my opinion, at least -, all our past discussions have been normal and civil. You often post comments in Pruss's blog, too.

      Of course, it's possible that you're also mentally unstable or insane. But you've never shown any signs of it, as far as I remember. I've never seen you displaying weird, erratic anti-social behavior. Or repetitively posting obsessive, random emotional rants about philosophical theses and suicide/depression and how Craig/Feser/whoever is sheltered, overweight (??? yeah), etc. I've never seen you wishing clinical depression or lyme disease on people in a comment thread. So I assume you're a normal or sane guy, unlike Question-Begging Rebel, for example.

      If you're wondering why I specifically mentioned you, it's not because I was trying to single you out or anything; it's just because you happened to be in this same comment thread arguing about existential inertia and so on. So while it's not a good idea to directly respond to QB Rebel (or Philip Rand or other weirdos who sometimes show up), since Feser doesn't want cranks or trolls messing up the comments, it's alright to keep the thread with you instead.

    91. @WVDA
      I have never observed anything that stops existing. If you have, I think you should apply for the Nobel prize.

      Well uncontroversial examples are pretty easy to find. Like when someone or anything living dies. If chairs and tables are substances on ones ontology then they are obvious examples too.

      Things change, e.g., people die, but they do not stop existing. They stop having a certain form, yes, but all of their parts remain in some form or other.

      Right , but they aren't identical to their parts. So even if their parts remain , they don't.

      And I don't treat non-being as an accident of things. But, more importantly, I don't treat being as an accident of things either. That's why non-being is an absurd notion altogether. There is no non-being , there will be no non-being and there has never been any non-being.

      Like I said this appeared to be the case from your claim above. And I am not sure why you think that non-being is absurd notion that certainly doesn't follow from there not being any such thing.
      And once again I don't see the bases of your claim that things can't stop existing because nothing comes from nothing.

      Things change, e.g., people die, but they do not stop existing. They stop having a certain form, yes, but all of their parts remain in some form or other.

      Right , but they aren't identical to their parts. So even if their parts remain , they don't.

    92. Also, since people are discussing EI:

      "If it is true that going out of existence is a potency of substances, then it follows that if this potency is not actualized, the substance would not go out of existence."

      I'd just like to point out that the potency to going out of existence (which just is the potency to not-exist, after all) is not a real "potency". The potency for X to not exist just is for X's potency to exist to not be actualized. The potency for X to go out of existence just is the potency for X to exist at t1 to not be actualized, while having been actualized at the time before t1.

      Non-being is nothing. There is only being. Things have the possibility of non-existence in the sense that they can fail to exist; in the sense that their potencies can fail to be actualized. It is a "negative potency", so to speak. The only real potency in this case is for the thing and its properties to be.

    93. Even artifacts shouldn't be controversial examples. Its only that their conditions and criteria of existence/ non existence depend on some language users but that doesn't mean they don't stop existing.

    94. I like how CR wields Oppy's solecism phrase as a talisman, without even explaining it, let alone defending it.

    95. Jedi

      I am not Dutch, I am Belgian, so I am afraid your argument for my sanity fails.

    96. Red
      I am talking about ceasing to exist in an absolute way, like nothing at all is left. Thomists think that if God stops sustaining created reality, the whole of created reality would stop existing and that is what I believe is absurd, for the reasons mentioned above.
      That if God stops sustaining the form of a horse, the horse would fall apart and become dust is not what I am diputing.

    97. Bill

      "Everything except God is mutable." The problem with that in "initial reality"i there is nothing except God.
      Let's supposes God dedided not to crate anything at all. Most classical theists would agree that this is/was possible since God is absolutely free. So, in that case, god is Reality. But in that case,Reality is immutable. So, there cannot be any change in Reality. Hence, creation is impossible.
      God's "decison" to create doesn't alter anything about the initial state of reality.

  6. @Edward Feser

    Dr. Feser I sent an email to both you and Thomas Nagel regarding a potential video discussion between you two. I am in the process of obtaining permission from a philosophy Youtube channel to host the discussion.

  7. Overall, a good discussion. I appreciate how it gave you a chance to respond directly, which you did well.
    Oppy seemed to get hung up on time, rather than hierarchy. But I am not philosophy scholar.

    1. And while I am a literature prof, I apparently cannot proof read my own comments...

  8. Oppy's view (if i have him right) is:

    simples A and B will be distinguished by charge: one is positively charged and the other negatively. but, further, charge isn't a real property.

    I say: this is a distinction without a difference, and so fails to explain.

    1. Another argument against the above view (inspired by the Islamic philosopher Farabi (d. 950)):

      There’s no doubt that the notion (of being a) ‘simple particle’ is correctly predicated of a multiplicity i.e., its individuals e.g., A and B. Now, either it is applied to them in virtue of what it is i.e., as a simple particle, or not. If ‘simple particle’ was said of a plurality (of things) just in virtue of being what it is, then no single thing e.g., A, could be a simple particle. But that’s clearly false – for it would be true of A apart from B (or vice versa) that it is a simple particle. Therefore, the notion is applied to them not in virtue of what it is. But if so, then it’s applied to them due to something else, x, outside what it is. Therefore, the notion’s being individuated in A and B (or the fact that A and B exist as simples) is caused i.e., by x.

    2. Well, I guess one could say that the notion being individuated in A is 'caused' by B and vice versa. Consider the notion 'is taller than'. One cannot say that A is taller than in the absence of B. Likewise, A is a simple particle that is not B and B is also a simple particle that is not A.

      When Oppy says that charge isn't a real property I think he he means that e.g. negative charge is essential to A. Just like God is e.g. identical to His love, particle A is identical to its (negative) charge while partical B is identical to its (positive) charge.
      So it is not a distinction without a difference.
      The question of course stuill remains what accounts for the existence of both A and B.

    3. it would still amount to a distinction without a difference. consider:

      "Likewise, A is a simple particle that is not B and B is also a simple particle that is not A."

      Why is one not the other? i mean, i see the common element between them i.e., 'being a simple particle'. but i don't see the non-common element.

      the view then says: the non-common element is positive and negative charge.

      okay, now i see both the common element and the non-common element. now, it's clear that what is common is not the same as what is non-common. (otherwise, contradiction). and if that's so, then A and B are composites.

      but then, to resist this, the view says: A's being a simple particle is identical to its negative charge (and same for B).

      but in that case, absurdly, the common element and the non-common one are identified - in which case we get a distinction (A is not B, B is not A) without a difference (no non-common element).

    4. The non-common element is just that A is not B. There are two of them.

      As to the positive and negative charge, they are not composites. A is a negative simple and b is a positive one. "Charge" is not a property, it is the very (simple) substance itself.
      While I don't think oppy is correct on this, I don't think it is absurd at all.

    5. Walter, to say the charge "is the very (simple) substance itself" makes the term 'simple'and 'charge' the same thing.

      As a result, you can't say "A is a negative simple" since the simple doesnt HAVE a negative charge according to you. It IS the negative charge.

      As a result, the term 'simple' loses all meaning as it is now equivalent to negative charge. So then a simple can't be equivalent to a positive charge. As a result, the positive charge can't be deemed a simple.

      To consider simple as a genus and negative and positive charge as species within that genus requires properties. Eliminating that and the species distinction collapses. One of those simples is not a simple.

    6. walter,

      "The non-common element is just that A is not B. There are two of them."

      this doesn't give any non-common element. it just repeats what's already known, and needs explaining. the absurdity is saying that the thing that makes the two things different is identical to the thing that makes them the same.

    7. ...
      But what is non-common to A and B is not really an element, because that would denote composition. What is non-common simply is that there is an A and a B. They would be interchangeable, I guess, that is, it would be impossible to tell which is A and which is B, but that doesn't mean there wouldn't be ways of telling that there are two of them, e.g. because there is some interaction.

    8. Billy

      No, "simple" and "charge" are not the same thing.
      "Simple" denotes lack of composition, "charge" means that there is a simple that is negative (and perhaps also a simple that is positive). That's all. So "Simple A" is a negative simple while "Simple B" is a positive one.
      The "genus" simple means non-composite. Sure, "negative" is not the same as "positive", so you could describe it as a sort of property, but it is also possible to describe it as an identity. Just like you could say that God is simple and God is Love, e.g.

    9. walter,

      it would denote composition only with the further assumption that they have a common element (an assumption this view makes).

      "What is non-common simply is that there is an A and a B."

      again, this just tells me (in a different way) what i already know i.e., *that* A is not B (or vice versa) or *that* there's an A and a B (which are both simples). what i want to know is *why* they are different, IF they share a common element (i.e., being simple particles). if you can't account for their difference with something on their side, you're positing a distinction without a difference.

      " but that doesn't mean there wouldn't be ways of telling that there are two of them, e.g. because there is some interaction."

      an interaction presupposes that they are already two different things. so your knowledge of the latter is prior your knowledge of the former. again, what needs to be explained is why are they two i.e, different, in the first place, given that they share a common element. (repeating in different ways *that* they are two is no good as an explanation).

    10. ...
      Well, if you know that A is not B, I am not sure what you are asking. That's all there is to it.
      They are identical, yet there are two of them.
      That's the only difference, like two clones of the same person.

    11. walter,

      i'm granting (for argument's sake) this view's claim that they are two, and then i'm asking you for that which differentiates them (just as i asked for that which unites them i.e., the common element i.e., they both being simple particles).

      "They are identical yet there are two of them. That's the only difference, [...]."

      again, that doesn't tell me what the difference is, it just tells me that they are different (which i already know). compare: suppose one says A and B are the same. he's asked: how are they the same? response: because they are one (or because they are identical. or because ... and gives some other equivalent answer). he failed to explained how they are the same, just restated using different words that they are the same.

    12. ...

      If you grant they are two, then that is all that matters. A and B are not different because they have diffrent properties, but because there's two of thme, A and B. That's all.

      Is the clone sheep Polly the same as the other clone Dolly? they are both clones of the same sheep. But, Polly isn't Dolly.

    13. Walter,

      I don't think you quite grasp the problem.

      You said: '"Charge" is not a property, it is the very (simple) substance itself.'

      So charge is identical to the substance, which we are calling 'simple'. So then, if there are two simples, you are saying their charges can be different but they are still both simples. But as you just said, the charge is the simple.

      If A is identical to X, and there are two Xs. You are saying As can be different without Xs being different. Can you see the problem?

      "Just like you could say that God is simple and God is Love, e.g."

      God isn't a good example for your side considering that there can only be one God precisely because he is simple.

    14. I can't understand why different region isn't enough to account for difference. A-simple occupies A-region. It would be like "planck space." The smallest region possible that can only be divided in the mind, but not in reality.

    15. Billy

      We are calling the substance simple because it is uncomposed and we are calling it negative because it is negative. The comparison to God does apply because we are not calling God "love" because he is simple.
      I am well aware of the arguments for why there can only be one God and actually my own hypotheis is that reality is basically simple and that there is only one reality.

    16. Walter,

      Would you describe this as an accurate formulation of your metaphysical picture?

      (a) There exists exactly one material thing.
      (b) What exists does not change.
      (c) Nothing is generated or destroyed.
      (d) What exists is undivided.

      From my interaction with you this seems to me to be your view, correct?

  9. Brilliant Ed! Always wanted to see you go up against some atheists in the know as opposed to the 'I Likez Sciencez' crowd. Will look into this over the weekend.

  10. Very good debate. I really enjoyed this debate.

    Graham Oppy was a worthy opponent.

    How is that you explain so well?

  11. Theistic personalism or thomism?

    Graham Oppy: "Thomism would be more attractive"

  12. Graham Oppy? At last an intelligent Atheist! All the Gnus running around here and on other blogs made me think none of those still exist.

    At last a challenge.

  13. Hi Ed,

    I thought this was a fairly even discussion, although at this stage, I'd give you a slight edge in points.

    I'd just like to comment briefly on your claim that there can only be one absolutely simple being. Your proof employs a reductio ad absurdum: if there were two or more such beings, they would need to be distinguished by some additional feature which one possessed and which the others did not, in which case they would no longer be simple beings, contrary to our original supposition.

    What you are assuming here is that these absolutely simple beings belonged to the same natural kind (e.g. electrons). Fine. Let's go with that. You also assume that the additional features which distinguish two members of this natural kind would have to be parts. However, you insist elsewhere in your book that parts must be “ontologically prior” to the whole which they comprise ("Five Proofs of the Existence of God," 2017, p. 185). So if two beings of the same kind were distinguished by some feature F which was ontologically posterior to their common essence (such as their position in space), then this extra feature would not qualify as a part, on your definition, and your reductio ad absurdum is thereby avoided. Or so it seems to me. Thoughts?

    1. @Vincent Torley,

      It isn't necessary for the two beings to belong to the same kind. In fact, if they were of a different kind, then they would be distinguished even more, since these two simple beings of two different kinds would have that which distinguishes their different kinds as well.

      As for parts being ontologically posterior to the whole, this is clearly meant for a substantial form, since a substantial form's unity is what keeps it's parts together. But the parts are still parts, and just because something is ontologically posterior doesn't mean it is illusory.

    2. @Vincent

      If two beings share a common essence then what they have in common cannot be the principle of distinction between them. The "common" is then the genus marked out by their acts of existence. That makes them composites of essence and existence and not simple.

      Setting aside that problem, a simple being cannot acquire additional perfections for it would stand in potency to the perfection. Even if it could acquire an additional perfection, it would no longer be simple but composite.

    3. There is a gap in the uniqueness proof of God which I am unable to close.

      The uniqueness proof goes as follows: if there were two "purely actual" beings, then they must be distinguished by a feature which one of them "has", and the other "hasn't", i.e. it is actual for the first and potential for the second being - which is impossible by the assumption that it is purely actual, hence doesn't have potential features.

      But the feature which is actual for the first being could be of the kind that it is neither actual nor potential for the second being (an example of features of this kind is taken from Feser's earlier talk on the proof: the feature of a cup of hot coffee to get cold is a potential one, but there are other features which are neither potential nor actual, e.g. the cup getting a pair of wings and flying away. The feature in question could be of this kind for the second being). If the feature is of this kind for the second being, it does not contradict its "pure actuality", as it is not even a potential feature.

      So, no contradiction, no reductio ad absurdum, no uniqueness proof, unless this gap can be closed.

    4. @Rudiger Plantiko,

      A feature which is neither actual nor potential as you define it seems like a mistaken category. You mention that a cup has the feature to grow wings and fly, but that (the feature) it is neither actual or potential.

      But in reality, that just IS a potential feature, since it is a potential about the cup that can be actualised. It may not be a potential that follows from the cup's nature essentially (like getting cold when hot), but it is still a potential that the cup has.

      Now, if we say that a purely actual being has a feature the other purely actual being doesn't, and has it in the way a cup can grow wings and fly, it is still the case that the purely actual being has a potential in itself that can be actualised, and so is not purely actual.

      Remember, pure actuality entails a lack of any intrinsic potency that can still be actualised in it.

    5. Hi Bill,

      You seem to be assuming that if two distinct entities share a common essence, then there must be some part of each of them that is different. It is precisely this assumption which I reject. The two entities could be said to be distinct, simply because each of them occupies a different part of their surrounding space, at a given time. In that case, it is something external to them which differentiates them.

      You also argue that if a simple being could acquire an additional perfection, it would no longer be simple but composite. But this argument assumes that any perfection possessed by a being is a part of that being. Why would you think that? And what's your definition of "part," anyway? I would like to note for the record that neither in his "Five Proofs" nor in his "Scholastic Metaphysics" does Feser put forward a definition of the term "part." That I find strange.

      Hi JoeD,

      If two beings were of a different kind (let's say that one is an F while the other is a G), then in order to account for the difference between them, all we need assume is that F and G are utterly distinct, with nothing in common at all. I find nothing self-contradictory in that.

      Re ontologically posterior properties: even if we assume (as you suggest) that the substantial form of a being is what unifies these properties, it still does not follow that they are parts of that being. For my part, I have to say that I find it very strange for someone to say that my height, weight, skin color and position in space-time are parts of me.

    6. @Vincent Torley,

      1) That is a horrible argument. The mere fact that two things are utterly distinct says nothing about what they actually are, and what they actually are is most important. And what two things of different kinds (say, rocks and humans) actually are is also what distinguishes them from each other - because of the properties that they have.

      So a difference in kind simply doesn't eliminate the necessary fact that two things must be distinguished from another if they are different from each other - the very fact they are different necessarily and obviously entails differences between them which distinguish them in the first place.

      2) Depends on how you think of your properties as parts. It's obvious these properties belong to you, and in that sense are parts, even if they aren't parts in the superficial table-arms sense. It's clear that something can be a part in a deeper, more metaphysical sense, such as essence and existence. In fact, this just most likely IS the sense in which Feser is using the term parts, and the word parts is just a synonym for properties, and if we replace parts with properties it becomes obvious how something is both distinguished from another thing by it's properties and how those properties are ontologically posterior to it's essence or form.

    7. @Vincent, you write:

      You seem to be assuming that if two distinct entities share a common essence, then there must be some part of each of them that is different. It is precisely this assumption which I reject. The two entities could be said to be distinct, simply because each of them occupies a different part of their surrounding space, at a given time. In that case, it is something external to them which differentiates them.

      I think "assumption" is the wrong word here. Every instance of a particular genus must, in order to be intelligible, possess something that distinguishes it from others of the same genus. In material things, their different parcels of matter enable them to occupy distinct spatial coordinates. Thus, the clump of matter called Vince is different from the clump of matter called Bill. What is common is our humanity and what is distinct is our acts of existence. It is precisely our inherent form/matter composition which enables the distinction. Essence/existence and form/matter are instances of act/potency.

      You also argue that if a simple being could acquire an additional perfection, it would no longer be simple but composite. But this argument assumes that any perfection possessed by a being is a part of that being. Why would you think that?

      If God is Pure Act, then He has no passive potency to become something He was not before. So if God creates X and adds it to Himself, or if something adds X to God, then God becomes God + X which means that God has the passive potency to take on something new and to thus become something other than what He is (God + X). So, if God is modified by what He takes on or if He can be modified, then He is not Pure Act.

      And what's your definition of "part," anyway? I would like to note for the record that neither in his "Five Proofs" nor in his "Scholastic Metaphysics" does Feser put forward a definition of the term "part." That I find strange.

      The entire A-T apparatus is an account of change. It is the observation that a successful account of change must affirm that change occurs in things which have the capacity to change. So, everything that changes must, by definition, exist (be in act) and have the capacity (potential) to change. Thus, "part" is really a principle of being which accounts for change. Act/potency is the basis for all composition: form/matter, supposit/nature, genus/species, substance/accident, essence/existence. Thomists argue that every kind of act/potency composition directs you to God who cannot be composed of any kind of act/potency. Without that metaphysical ultimate, change is unintelligible.

    8. There are numerous terms in ANY philosophy that cannot be defined, because they are too basic or too simple to be defined in terms of OTHER words. "Whole" and "part" are just two, "being" is another, as is "act" (in A-T). Any other philosophy will have its undefined terms. Get over it. If you truly don't understand "part" you can ask questions about what part of it that you don't understand.

      The two entities could be said to be distinct, simply because each of them occupies a different part of their surrounding space, at a given time. In that case, it is something external to them which differentiates them.

      The "simplicity" reductio argument presumes that the simple entities we are talking about are both pure act, so they can't be material beings. It also presumes that they are both absolutely perfect pure act. Because of this, it is impossible that one have a perfection that the other does not have, for if F had a perfection G did not have, G would not be absolutely perfect.

      It does not work to suggest that F and G merely have different natures: Their differing natures would determine different perfections, meaning (at least) one of them did not encompass all of the perfection of the other, and thus the other would not be absolutely perfect.

      So, assuming absolutely perfect pure act, the reductio is just fine.

    9. @JoeD Thanks for your reply, although it didn't dispell my doubts in this matter. Since not everything can turn into everything, not every property of a being is potential. It depends of the nature of the being which properties it can have actually or potentially, and which it can't. Hence there are three kinds a property (or name it "state" or "feature") can be related to a being: (1) the being actually has the property, (2) the being has the property not actually but potentially, (3) the being can, by its very nature, never have that property. A being that is purely actual has, by definition, no properties of type (2). But there may exist properties of type (3), which, by the own nature of that being, will never attain to it, neither actually nor potentially. It seems that you are postulating that a purely actual being not only has no features of type (2), but also has no feature of type (3), with other words, every state is actual in it. I don't see how this could be or in what sense this is, as you say, a "mistaken category". Basically you claim that a purely actual being has no specific nature at all - as having a specific nature would predetermine a distinguished set of features as potentially or actually belonging to it. At least, since this assertion is an essential part of the uniqueness proof to work, it should be stated and discussed explicitly (what is missing in Feser's "Five proofs" as well as in "Aquinas" and "The last superstition", as far as I see).

  14. Did Oppy tip his fedora toward you and conclude with "m'gentlesir"?

  15. A belligerent and seemingly philosophically competent anti-theist swoops in with an attempt to take down Feser in the comments section of the video:

    "Feser is legit trash. Around 1:25:00 onward the convo becomes about how existents exist necessarily on Oppy's view of essential properties. That straightforwardly doesn't follow.

    1) Necessarily, if x exists, x intrinsically exists.
    2) x exists
    3) Therefore, x intrinsically exists.l

    Somehow Feser forgets the distribution rule of K and does this:

    1) Necessarily, if x exists, x intrinsically exists.
    2) x exists
    3) Therefore, necessarily, x intrinsically exists.

    In order to arrive at such a conclusion you would need to affirm that x necessarily exists in 2. Otherwise its invalid. Silly thomist."

    1. I responded to you on YouTube as "LogosTheos"

    2. Yeah, I wouldn't worry about him. Dude might have taken a logic course at some point, but it will do him no good if he can't bother to understand the context and terminology of the discussion.

    3. Yeah, even if one assumed that he correctly identified a mistake, nobody needs to be taken seriously who would draw such a sweeping condemnation on nothing more than on-the-fly error about an accidental misplacement of an operator as the clock is running out at the end of a debate in which the participants do not have the luxury of revision and correction. Oral debates are for getting ideas out and raising questions, not presenting definitive versions of arguments.

      Even on its own terms, though, it's an odd complaint, since at that point in the discussion neither is arguing about the conclusion "Box(x intrinsically exists)"; they are instead trying to clarify what it would mean to say that essence includes existence, because they have different accounts of this. What is puzzling Ed is not the Box in a purported conclusion "Box(x intrinsically exists)", but about what grounds the Box in the original claim "x essentially exists iff Box(if x exists it intrinsically exists)". (Oppy might be in part recognizing this in going out of his way in his summation to emphasize that on his account necessity is brute, but since at that point he, like Ed, is having to compress a bunch of issues, it's hard to say.)

  16. Trent Dougherty responded negatively to Dr. Feser's approach Thomist-wise on Youtube. Rasmussen showed up as well (I believe it was labeled a "Post-Debate-Party"), along with the moderator Bertuzzi and JMD.
    Not sure if anyone else was involved, as I am on my phone and too lazy to check.

  17. *Thomistically on YouTube.

  18. Hi !

    Just coming in out in the open after being around Feser's admirers for a while. I'm French (as the name implies) and we're pretty much babyfed Kant for a long time, so it's refreshing to have metaphysics and Thomism back. Thank you, Dr. Feser !

    I've bought and read Aquinas and Scholastics Metaphysics, but I'm always not so sure if the concepts and the ideas translate well - for as we know, « traduttore, traditore ».

    No matter how many books and arguments I read, my poor mind brings on counterexamples and ideas and I can't rest. My latest one is, for anyone who could answer for me, about eternal motion.

    Let's think that the universe is pretty much as Democritus described : particles moving around. Now, I fail to see how can we infer a Mover from this. No matter how far we go back (or forth), there is motion, but no Mover. An (atheist) friend of mine told me that "well, that's how it is, there is always motion, but never a Prime Mover; at best, you can consider every particle currently moving as a Mover, but that's all." We discussed for a while, because I then asked him "where does motion itself comes from then?", and he answered "there was always motion". Does it mean that, in this case, there is a flaw in the argument? Does it mean that motion is necessary? According to him, "it would be totally possible to have motion on a different scale, but that's not what's happening". Asked him "why", and he said "well, it just doesn't happen". So I'm also wondering if it falls under the definition of "possible", since it never happens? Isn't what he's describing "pantheism"? Does what is possible have to happen at some time for something to be actually possible?

    Thank you for whoever will reply to me. :)

    God bless, AFS.

    1. Have you read "Aquinas"? It should be clearer there. "Motion" for Aquinas and Aristotle just means a type of change; it can be change from one place to another (loco-motion) but it can also be a change of states (like water evaporating, etc). Change is a movement from potency to actuality; you might have a white wall in your room, and that wall has the potency to become red. So if someone actualizes this potential (by, say, painting the wall red) it will be actually red.

      Things don't just move from potency to act without a cause. There must be an external actualizer. An infinite series of changing actualizers would itself need an actualizer, or it would be powerless to explain any change. This reasoning quickly leads one to the existence of a First Cause or Prime Mover which isn't itself moved by anything else - and which therefore just is purely actual.

      You could also just use a standard Leibnizian argument from contingency (which is different from Aquinas's 3rd way, btw). Contingent things are things that don't have to exist; even if they do exist, they could have failed to exist. Because of that, contingent things need causes in order to exist. Their potential existence can't simply be actualized by nothing; there must be a cause that explains their existence.

      If particles in motion have always existed, they still need an explanation for why they exist (and move) rather than not. To say "it just doesn't happen" would be to simply ignore the question; how can these particles just magically exist and move in this way, without any cause or explanation, when they could've failed to exist - or there could've been a different collection of particles, or different patterns of motion? Your friend would be rejecting the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). And that's a big problem because PSR is intuitively very plausible, and also very well supported by experience. There must be a Necessary Foundation, purely actual, which is the source of existence and motion of all the particles.

    2. Oh, I know well that he's rejecting the PSR. The problem is, now, that I'm more and more concerned about me being unable to defend the PSR rationally; and my fears have been causing me to doubt the PSR itself.

      At times, such as now, I feel powerless, depressed, unable to believe that the universe behaves rationally. I can't shake the idea out of my mind that we could be in The Matrix, in an empty universe of atoms, in a place where there is at least One Brute Fact... it seems too good to be true, too tempting.

      I wish I could make the denial of the PSR into a contradiction, or at least a denial of the PNC. I managed to do so with "ex nihilo, nihil fit", but can't progress further. :(

    3. Hi French Seeker,

      To me, a key idea is always kind of the reductio -- if the universe isn't rational, then, well, that's possible, but then there's no point trying to *reason* about it, right?

      Given ANY argument -- even, for example, the proof of the Pythagorean theorem -- a determined skeptic can always just say, "Yeah, but I don't accept that reason is reliable, so I don't accept the theorem as universally true." But if you get somebody to this point, then you have won the argument, because argument just is showing that some result must be true *given reasoning.*

      The point of arguments like Ed's, to my point of view, is that if one wants to reject them, one has to (assuming they work) give up on reason, i.e. lose the argument.

      I've been down this rabbit hole myself, by the way, where I got to this point and then started seriously worrying that the universe might *not* be rational. Not a fun place, and this website helped me a lot, but a point to remember is that you can never have a *reason* for thinking that.

    4. Hmm, have a read of ?

    5. French,

      Have you read Pruss's book on PSR, or at least his (excellent) article on Leibnizian cosmological arguments? He gives various arguments for PSR there. (Some of the paper can be a bit too technical, but you can skip what you don't understand). Here's a link to the article:

      And really, just think about PSR. It is self-evident, or at least intuitively very plausible. Think about this whole contingent reality of ours. It could have failed to exist. It *really* could've never existed in the first place; it *really* could've been absolutely nothing. It's just impossible for it to simply exist without any cause, without any selection process, nothing. It just makes no sense. It would be like something coming into being from nothing; instead of just not existing, it exists without any cause, any push, nothing. That's absurd.
      Or think of the way Leibniz puts it. It always helped me see it as intuitive: nothing is simpler and easier than something. " le rien est plus simple et plus facile, que quelque chose". To not be requires nothing at all, it is just a negation of being, it is just for a potential to not be actualized. But to exist, to be, that is *something*, it involves an act, it requires an "oomph", as I see it. A thing that could fail to exist needs an explanation in order to be.

      And of course, look at how experience overwhelmingly supports PSR. We don't see things popping into being inexplicably, or a complete chaos of eternal brute chunks of matter.

      BUT, if you're still having trouble with PSR (perhaps because of psychological issues? Or maybe you're really just not convinced, who knows), remember that cosmological arguments don't really actually *need* PSR or any strong principle of causality. Even if, per impossibile, PSR turned out to be false, we could still have a sound traditional cosmological argument in the form of an inference to the best explanation, for example. It would be very hard to reject a defeasible principle of causality. Even if one does not accept PSR, it just is perfectly reasonable to look for explanations wherever we can, and it is always better to have an explanation instead of no explanation whatsoever. That's how it's like in science, in ordinary life, everywhere.
      So it's just absurd to say it's "just a brute fact" without even first trying to explain a phenomenon. Theism, or the existence of a necessary being, can explain the existence of a contingent reality - and in a way even lead us to expect its existence with some reasonable probability, in inductive fashion. Naturalism can't. Even if brute facts were possible, they count against any theory, and should at best be a last resort.
      So while the argument is weakened without PSR, it still works.

      (Finally, consider modal alternatives to PSR, such as the principle that it's possible for there to be an explanation for a totality of contingent events. A PSR skeptic could still accept the possibility of an explanation, and by S5 that would entail the actual existence of a Necessary Being).

    6. Also related to my last post, in particular about modal alternatives to PSR, check out Rasmussen's necessary being survey:

      From what I remember from the results (published in his book with Pruss) the vast majority of people accepts premises that entail the existence of a necessary being, even including professors and people who don't actually believe in necessary beings (these either became convinced or had to revise their views).

      It's a fun quiz, give it a go.

    7. Just the "logical structure of the universe" would not be a concrete being, but an abstract one. We need a necessary concrete being in order to account for the existence of reality; otherwise it would be like saying 2 + 2 causes the existence of some particles. So no, doesn't work.

    8. Thanks, Atno ! I'll read your comment more in-depth later, but yeah, it has to do with "psychological issues", namely chronic anxiety. ^^'

    9. Hello, French Seeker. I suggest you read Aquinas again. Aquinas accepts arguendo that the universe is eternal. His proofs do not argue that the universe at some point was not.

      Aquinas, following Aristotle, identifies two types of causal series: per accidens and per se. I don't want to repeat something you're already familiar with, but understanding the per se series is critical.

    10. Also, since I mentioned defeasible causal principles and inference to the best explanation, I also think it's important to point out that I believe a very, very good abductive/inductive case for God can be made. Thomists (including Ed) generally ignore this, which I think is a pity - though I partly understand why: contemporary philosophy of religion would do well to pay more attention to the traditional, ambitious proofs of God.

      That being said, even if traditional deductive proofs did not work, we could still make some very good inductive or abductive cases for theism, like Swinburne's. And these don't have to involve "theistic personalism" at all.

      Classical theism can explain such things as the existence of a contingent reality; the orderliness of natural laws and harmony of this cosmos, with natures that are life-permitting (including fine tuning, for example); the existence of consciousness and immaterial reason/intelligence; many different aspects of morality that are particularly hard to account for under naturalism; realism about mathematical objects, propositions, etc. without platonism; religious experiences, etc.

      Even if I did not accept PSR or any traditional deductive argument, I would still be a theist. I genuinely believe it makes much better sense of reality. Some things (such as evil) could lower the epistemic probability of theism, but I think the overall abductive or inductive case of existence, order, minds, value, etc. really makes theism very probable. I think this is important to keep in mind when discussing with atheists, too; our case doesn't strictly *need* the traditional deductive arguments.