Sunday, March 8, 2020

On-topic open thread (and a word on trolls)

Folks, please don’t post off-topic comments in the comboxes.  I will delete them, and any responses to them, as soon as I see them, and (since I don’t always see them immediately) sometimes that means that a long thread will develop that is destined to end up in the ether.  Remember, if your comment begins with something like “This is off topic, but…,” then it isn’t a comment you should be posting.  And remember too, there is always that remedy for concupiscence known as the open thread.  Here’s the latest.  This time, everything is on topic, from acid jazz to Thomas Szasz, from Family Guy to Strong AI, from the coronavirus to Miley Cyrus.
While I’ve got your attention, a word on trolling.  It’s a continual problem, and sometimes bigger than it needs to be because of people who keep feeding trolls.  Occasionally I have to ban people outright, but as you know, I prefer not to do that.  A handful of trolls over the years have been so insufferable and psychotic that they simply have to be cast forever into that outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.  The marks of such unforgiveable trolls include: a monomania that insists on bringing every discussion around to some irrelevant pet obsession; repeatedly posting the same comment over and over no matter how many times it is deleted; flooding the combox with comments throughout the day or the week; an unwillingness or inability to restrain a penchant for rudeness, obscenity, blasphemy, or personal animus against the host of the blog; and other behavior that normal human beings know to avoid. 

But there are other, less extreme trolls whose sins are more minor or who show a willingness to reform.  Marks of this milder kind of troll would be: monomania, rudeness, logorrhea, etc. that manifest only occasionally; irremediable ignorance or muddleheadedness that makes a commenter tiresome and not worth engaging, but that is not manifested in a rude or otherwise obnoxious way; a predilection for comments that are not quite off-topic but are nevertheless banal, ill-informed, weird, or otherwise not substantive; and so on.  Most of these people I simply tolerate.  There are also some who I have had to ban temporarily, but whose return to the comboxes I have tolerated when they have given signs of a willingness to restrain their more obnoxious tendencies. 

I leave it to you, reasonable reader, to use good judgment in dealing with such people.  If someone seems to be a crank or otherwise not worth engaging with, then don’t engage with him.  He may have nothing better to do, but surely you do.  And you will be doing a great service to me and to your fellow readers.  Sometimes what starts out to be merely a stupid comment or two that can be left to stand in the spirit of tolerance, turns into a long, pointless, acrimonious thread-killing exchange, all because one or two otherwise reasonable readers wouldn’t resist the urge to feed the troll.  Sometimes I delete this garbage in the hope of saving the thread, but other times, by the time I see it, it is too late.  And in any event, I’m too busy with other things to monitor this stuff hour by hour.

Do your part!  Don’t feed trolls!  Now, on with the open thread.  Previous open threads archived here.


  1. People who go to comboxes tend to be too lazy to have a life. But people who are too lazy to have a life are also correlated with people who are too lazy to think, meaning that comboxes have a tendency to be filled with empty words.

  2. Why do we say matter, fields, or fundamental things of being are contingent still? The oppy objection that the bottom level of reality just is, how to address this? Why are these things still contingent?

    1. My understanding is that they are still contingent because they don't explain their own existence. At the fundamental level, something more is still needed to explain why there is a string or a field at all, rather than nothing. I know that's not a very detailed reply, but I really do think it is just that simple. Going down to the atomic level doesn't really answer the question of why are we here and where did we come from. It just pushes the question down another level.

      I'm interested to hear if others have better, more detailed answers, though.

    2. Yes, that is correct. They don't explain their own existence, and if they do, then they can (provisionally) be considered a necessary being, and we can move to stage two of the argument for why they are not a good candidate for the ultimate fundamental necessary being the argument proved exists in stage 1.

      The idea here would be that when we talk about contingency (not composition) we are not limiting it to just things that are not "fundamental" and are made of parts. Oppy's argument that things that are "bottom level" (as he calls it) are just as they are and enjoy no explanation is silly. It would suffer from the same problems that ensue without a PSR of some kind. Most notably chaos. If two fundamental protons, quarks, fermions, can exist without an explanation, then why not infinite numbers? If there is some "law" saying there is a bottom level that is finite and does not result in chaos, then why that law? Why does that law stay in existence, what is the explanation of the law? If it has no explanation, then it could come out of existence at any time and give us even more chaos with unexplained particles and fields.

      I would recommend Feser's Rationalist Proof argument in Chapter 5 of his book 5 Proofs. Also, Necessary Existence by Pruss and Rasmussen, specifically Chapter 3 on the basic contingency argument (without any modal logic) will aptly explain why something not being composite is irrelevant to whether or not it needs an explanation.

    3. It's essentially just a clever, backdoor way to deny any PSR variant, because Oppy, being as intelligent as he is, knows that if you accept any PSR variant you end up with some kind of God at the end of it.

    4. I don't know what Oppy's "objection" is other than what I can infer from your post. Is it a "brute facts" argument: "I'm right that reality is thus and so because . . . brute facts!"? Or is it an argument that purports to use quantum mechanics (you mentioned fields) to dismantle Aristotelian metaphysics?

      The former is when someone just digs in their heels and begs the question. The later is self-defeating because if QM undermines your metaphysics, why doesn't it undermine mine? In order to make such a claim, one has to know something about the linkage between the quantum and classical realms, but that is exactly what is being denied.

    5. I’m not entirely sure to be honest. Pruss/Rasmussen call it the “Oppy/Leon” objection to the contingency argument, and Oppy brought up something similar to what Anonymous’ question was in his debate with Feser. I would assume it would be a brute fact type argument, yes.

      This is how Pruss/Rasmussen restate it, And they source it from a 1999 work by Oppy. Note that this is not a direct quote from Oppy’s work, just how Pruss And Rasmussen restated his objection.

      “There are ways to account for the apparent instances of explanation in our world without appealing to any explanatory principle that implies the existence of a necessary foundation (Oppy 1999). So, for example, perhaps all non‐fundamental contingent things have an explanation, while fundamental contingent things do not.25 Maybe fundamental contingent things cannot be brought into existence via assembly because they lack proper parts that are separable. The basic elements may be point particles or fields, which cannot be built from more basic elements. We may say, then, that compound objects are explained by the activities of pre‐existing materials. But non‐compound materials can’t be explained that way, since they aren’t made up from any pre‐existing materials. So, perhaps the divide between the explained and the unexplained coincides with the divide between the compound and the non‐compound. This hypothesis is fully compatible with our experience. And it stops short of requiring that every contingent thing requires an explanation for its existence.“

    6. yeah thank you it was the idea that fundamenta can be brute bottom level reality. Oppy said this in the debate w/ Dr. Feser And it didn’t get addressed b/c they spent the majority talking about Aristotelian proof. So you both say that simple fundamental things are contingent on mystery substances or something?

    7. @ El Gerente

      I run into a similar type argument from atheists where they claim that QM destroys any need for actuality because of superposition and the many worlds theory. They contend that this eliminates contingency and the whole A/T mechanism. But, if QM makes the classical realm ultimately unintelligible--and the classical realm is what we are using to interpret QM in the first place--they have no justification for why they think it destroys their opponent's view but not their own.

      There's more to say but I'm falling asleep.

    8. I wrote a long response that was deleted in the other thread. So, more succintly:

      1- there are many ways to see that all material things are contingent:

      A) fundamental particles are convertible with energy, they come in and out of existence, so they are contingent. Fields are most likely abstractions and in any case they cannot be first movers as they don't cause their own excitations;

      B) For an aristotelian conception of matter, all such things are matter-form composites, capable of being transformed etc. and so not necessary;

      C) all of space-time most likely had a beginning; or, more modestly, all of space-time *could possibly* have had a beginning, and so it is contingent;

      D) it is conceivable that all material things fail to exist and this gives some defeasible evidence for their contingency;

      E) we have inductive reasons for holding that all matter is contingent. And what could account for a difference in necessity X contingency among material things? Nothing, it seems;


      2- it's actually not strictly necessary to show the universe is contingent in order to argue for God. It's quite nice and helpful, but if you establish that the Necessary Being is intelligent and personal (for instance, by being the first cause of intelligence and consciousness; by creating in an orderly way, fine tuning etc) then you already get to theism pretty much.

    9. @El Gerente

      But you didn't post Pruss and Rasmussen's answer to it. You just posted the objection (Oppy and Leon's). I think it's a bad objection. In short, Pruss and Rasmussen give three responses: 1) PSR is a much simpler principle than the "everything contingent has a cause except for fundamental contingent things"; 2) the distinction between fundamental and non-fundamental contingent things is arbitrary when it comes to the need for an explanation; 3) there could still be chaos involving fundamental co stringent things all popping into existence inexplicably.

    10. @El Gerente

      Oppy's argument that things that are "bottom level" (as he calls it) are just as they are and enjoy no explanation is silly.

      Yes, it is silly. It's an atheism-of-the-gaps argument. It's even more hilarious that they don't even realize it.

    11. To claim to know the implications of QM on classical reasoning is a claim to know too much; we just can't make that claim.

      To claim that QM dismantles your classical reasoning, but it doesn't dismantle my classical reasoning about QM itself . . . special pleading? Or no? I'm not sure.

    12. @ Anonymous

      Mystery substances? Huh?

    13. I don't see how QM poses any difficulty for PSR at all. I can see how it can make you rethink the way causality works (Feser does a good job of that in chapter 1 of 5 Proofs), but it has nothing to do with sufficient "explanation" - so in those cases, I don't even understand why QM is brought up as a "destroyer" of classical theist arguments.

      Atno, my apologies for not posting their responses. I felt that I sort of summed it up in my initial reply in this comment thread and in my other reply.

    14. How come no chaos from necessary things popping
      Into existence?

    15. Why just contingent cause chaos

    16. Can anyone define what a contingent being actually means? Some say dependent some say could have not existed? Why couldn’t an atheist say that fundamental particles could not have not existed?

    17. Dependend and could not have existed are identical here, it means that they don't have existence on their own. Saying that the fundamental physicals are necessary leads ro a necessitarianism, where no contingencies at all exist. Historically it has always been the way for the atheist to go the humean route and embrace radical contingency and terminate into a contingent brute fact, which just doesn't have an explanation. This is e.g. the position of Bertrand Russell.

      Chaos has generally been defined as a state without explanation or causal relationship to prior or later states. I don't think that this is possible with a necessary being, provided the PSR applies, by which every change of state would have an explanation. This explanatory framework all the way down would be impossible without a necessary being. Chaos could only be consistently and globally avoided with a PSR, which necessitates a necessary being

    18. Dominik,
      "Chaos has generally been defined as a state without explanation or causal relationship to prior or later states."
      No, you have that back to front, chaos is defined as a deterministic process that is too complicated for humans to analyze precisely.

      "provided the PSR applies, by which every change of state would have an explanation"
      Right, under the PSR the universe is strictly deterministic since any element of randomness would have to occur for no reason at all, not a sufficient reason.

      Since the PSR mandates total determinism, free will is ruled out by the PSR.

      It is incoherent to assert both the PSR and free will.

    19. Hmm, is the question basically asking "If we would have chaos with unexplained contingent being, why would positing a necessary being stop that chaos?" - I'm not entirely sure what you're asking. A necessary being helps us to understand why everything has an ultimate explanation. The argument from chaos states that if not everything required an explanation, then it would be probable for there to be things popping into existence uncaused and unexplained all the time. In other words, the probability would not be 0 for such a thing to occur, as Pruss/Rasmussen argue. Are you asking why would the same thing not happen with necessary beings? I can't see how, because a necessary being does have an explanation, being that it is necessary in itself. Can you clarify the question, or maybe someone else reading this can understand what you were saying.

    20. Can't we just say (as Graham Oppy does) that the fundamental bedrock particles *can't* not exist, and that they are therefore not contingent? You saying "we can think of them not existing" doesn't make them contingent. You can't just say "they're contingent" and that makes them contingent. THAT is what is a silly argument.

      I fail to see how fundamental particles and whatever the foundational bedrock of existence is contingent. All I have to do is say that it can't not exist and it is magically not contingent. Cool, huh?

    21. Atno,
      “A) fundamental particles are convertible with energy”
      Then they aren’t fundamental.

      “they come in and out of existence”
      Material does not come in and out of existence, it merely changes form in net lossless mutual interactions.

      “Fields are most likely abstractions and in any case they cannot be first movers as they don't cause their own excitations;”
      There is no call for a hierarchical first mover because the universe is not structured hierarchically. Causation is, at base, circular, so there is no call for a hierarchical first causal agent. Motion is mutual in net lossless interactions, so there is no call for a first mover. The amount of material in existence never changes, so there is no call for a first changer to account for existential inertia.

    22. As my username suggests, would any of you kind folks be so polite as to explain why a necessary being would be all powerful/omnipotent? What is it about a necessary being that means it is also omnipotent?

  3. I've been looking off and on for a comprehensive discussion of synderesis. I've consulted old public domain moral theology books, but it's only ever mentioned in passing. Can someone point me to one, preferably in the public domain? Thank you.

  4. Is there any authoritative (from a Catholic, preferably Thomistic point of view) work on the morality of modern day economics and finance that specifically grapples with the topics of usury and just price?

    I've been reading Zippy Catholic and his thesis on usury does sound convincing, but I noticed that many other faithful and knowledgeable Catholics don't appear to be very concerned with this issue. The problem here being the implications for modern day living there would exist in case his strict interpretation is actually what the Magisterium infallibly teaches.

    And what about the morality of financial investments like stocks? Under just price doctrine, the price of a good or service should reflect its objective value. But this being so, wouldn't it be immoral to buy and sell stocks at a profit? When one makes an investment one presumably wants to buy at a low price and sell at a high price; but isn't this just saying that (at least in general) when I buy a stock I believe it to be worth more than what it's being sold for at the moment, and that when I sell it I believe it to be worth less? Is it a sin to sell what I think is an overvalued stock and make a profit from it? (What about cryptocurrencies? Zippy held that their objective value is zero and so selling them is always morally wrong.) Doesn't this apparently rigorist position seem to go against the point of the parable of the talents? (Though Aquinas himself didn't look too fond of 'business' as such...)

    1. A good resource you could start with is "Aquinas and the Markets" by Mary Hirschfeld. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics and another one in Theology. I've met her through various conferences and seminars I've attended, and she's very solid. I don't think her book will answer all of your questions, but it should give you a good start, and I'm sure you'll find her bibliography an excellent resource for further digging.

    2. Sorry, I forgot to mention that she is, in fact, a Thomist.

    3. I will answer a subset of your comment as a thomistic novice, a finance professional, and a fan of zippy (may he Rest in peace!)

      First, ive never taken the parable of the talents to be explicitly about financial advice. Maybe youre not using it in that sense either. Even loosely interpreting it as usimg your gifts (material and immaterial) in a way that grows rather than diminishes them, i think theres more to the equation than putting money in a box and hoping it spits out more money.

      Zippy is nothing if not a rigorist and he loved to use extreme analogies, so i will attempt to do homage to him. Imagine if you will that you take your one talent and put it in an investing box, which invests your money magically and spits out some return. In one possible investment, it gives money to a drug dealer who uses it to buy and sell drugs and return to you a profit of 20%. In another, it puts it in a bank account where bankers issue and receive payments upon loans (the moral variety, for simplicity) and returns to you a return of 1%. These are obviously investments of a different moral character, regardless of return. Both involve giving money to an intermediary who does something to it and shares the profit with you. So lets accept that investments can have a moral character beyond price.

      So maybe youre saying a stock may not be obviously immoral like the drug dealer case, so if we assume its not immoral, we would be obliged to make the most of it, right?

      My understanding (a not insignificant caveat) is that you can buy a horse, a book, or a house, and it has some value which you will pay in exchange for the item. Stock is not nothing, at its root its an ownership stake in the company. But one share is so miniscule a stake as to be meaningless (one 600 millionth of total ownership, for example). The price, therefore, reflects not the value of the ownership stake but the value of other peoples attitudes about how much they can make on that ownership stake. Facebook has a higher P/E ratio than ford, but ford actually makes things. Theres no reason for this to be the case other than one person believes he can make money on facebook easier than ford. The essence of this is basically gambling. Im not so sure thats a point zippy makes, thats me :)

      Crypto Currency doesnt even have the illusion of an ownership stake at its root. The reason crypto has value is bevause other people believe it has value. The underlying technology has valie but thats not what youre buying with crypto. So this is a little more explicitly gambling.

      Im unwilling to take a position on the sinfulness of these practices though. A priest or someone more wise than I ought to opine on that, otherwise i think you should trust prudence. If youre concerned about it, seek urgently to make yourself at ease! Which it sounds like ypure doing.

      Please correct me if ive gone astray anywhere. I hope this holds up as a sound argument.

    4. It seems to me that the question of usury hinges on the fact that the economic context has changed. If I'm a chicken farmer and you're a pig farmer in a zero-sum feudal economy, then my collecting interest on you is just putting one over on you (very technical moral term there). However, in a modern capitalist economy where the financial industry (by means of the mechanism of investment) is a generator of value (with all due deference to Jack Bogle). The allocation of capital is a value in itself that can justly be exchanged for monetary consideration because investment produces social good--we don't get modern healthcare without investment, as only one example.

    5. Samuel Gregg's book "For God and Profit" could be helpful; also there is a nice in-depth discussion in a mostly solid book called "The Abuse of Casuistry" that deals with the evolution of the question in the Church especially.

    6. There is no real good Thomist or otherwise contemporary defense of the orthodox usury doctrine. Some like Fr. Divine's "Interest: A Historical and Analytical Study", Fr. Cronin's "Science of Ethics Vol 2", Fr. Patrick Cleary's "The Church and Usury" will propose that something intrinsically evil can be made morally acceptable by a change in circumstance, failing to understand the reasoning that makes usury intrinsically evil. Others such as Brian McCall's "Church and the Usurer" and Thomas Storck's "Is Usury Still a Sin?" will reference extrinsic titles as the traditional manner of reconciling the usury doctrine with modern economies and trying to give the usury doctrine some teeth, but more often than not diluting the usury doctrine because of the perceived conflicts.
      I have an article to be published in the summer of 2021 by the American Maritain Association in one of their collections of essays. In that I approach the usury doctrine from Aquinas and Magisterial teaching, how it arises from the mutuum contract as a specific type of human behavior, the defects of most claims to extrinsic titles and its relation to modern contracts, such as stocks, bonds, mortgages, student loans and credit cards. Hopefully my article fills in some of the gaps and systematizes many of Zippy’s insights and research.
      The reason that Catholics in general give it no mind, as near as I can tell, is the silence of the Church on the matter, the avid work of usury apologists and general ignorance of the topic. Not surprisingly or unrelatedly, many Catholics either don't know about or ignore the Church's teaching on contraception for similar reasons.
      The implications of the usury doctrine on the functioning of the modern economy are small. Most business debt arrangements do not involve mutuum contracts, but are rather asset recourse loans, such as corporate bonds. The usury doctrine would impact full recourse loans, such as some mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit cards, and personal unsecured debt generally.

    7. With stocks, they do represent a limited ownership claim against a company and one can profit off of them. Consider if you entered in a partnership with friend to open a business. He would run the shop and you would supply some of the capital. You have a real claim to the profits of the shop as co-owner and that has a value that can fluctuate for any number of reasons. Suppose after a few years, the business booms and is making 10 times the profits as before. That is a real increase in value and for you to sell your share at a higher price than you got in certainly appears licit. This is what is traditionally call a societas arrangement, which Aquinas explicitly approves of in ST II-II Q78.A2.ad5. Stock is a more limited version of this type of arrangement.
      Its also worth mentioning that just price doctrine is not a purely objective value theory. Aquinas notes that the price of things depends on their usefulness to man and not their objective nature alone, otherwise a mouse should fetch a higher price than diamonds or a slave more than a horse (ST II-II Q77.A2.ad3).
      There seems to be clearly times when things are so overvalued that to buy and sell them is immoral. For example, gold’s price is so far removed from its real value that its probably immoral to engage in that sort of trade. However, in general in the market, if you anticipate that a company is going to do better or worse than it is valued, it is not clear that this immoral, at least to me.
      With cryptocurrencies you must consider their nature. Bitcoin for example is nothing more than a cryptographically secured distributed ledger. A ledger is a way of tracking transactions between parties. In an ordinary ledger the numbers represent real property claims and exchanges between parties. So I sell you something and you give me money and that transaction goes on the ledger. With Bitcoin the numbers are all there is. There is no real property behind the ledger. You are not buying selling anything. You are just moving numbers around on a meaningless ledger and worse wasting energy and resources “mining” coins.

    8. @ Michael Humphreys

      Why would context have no effect on the question? Context effects every other moral question, no?

    9. @TN
      There are some types of behavior that are evil regardless of context or circumstance. There is no way that adultery or murder can be done right, for example. This was clearly taught by Pope St. John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor. Usury falls into this class of behaviors.

      "The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behaviour is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbour. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts." (SP 52)

    10. Adultery is sex in the wrong context, and murder is killing in the wrong context. Sex in the right context is good. Killing in the right context is good (the term "murder" just tells you killing occurred in the wrong context). Veritas Splendor doesn't contradict this.

      Payment for services rendered is just, so why is payment for providing services of a monitory nature bad?

    11. That the person you have sex with is married and not your spouse does not contextualize your choice to have sex, it is what you choose. The object or behavior you choose is sex with a married person other than your spouse. This is what is taught by Veritatis Splendor where object, intention and circumstance are distinguished.

      All question begging aside, usury is about a mutuum or personally unsecured debt for profit. It is evil, because the lender has no claim beyond the personal promise of the borrower. To charge more is to charge for what he has no claim to.

    12. Michael:

      You say "all question begging aside" and then you beg the question.

      So, just real simple and straightforward: in the context of a financial system that produces value from monetary investment, why is it wrong for financiers to earn a living from providing said value? They provide a real value, and they get paid for it. How is that morally wrong?

    13. You are begging the question because you simply assert that the usurer provides some services that require payment over the principal. I don't concede this and is the point of the argument.

      I do not beg the questions, because I gave the source and origin of usury in the mutuum, a la Aquinas and Vix Pervenit (along with centuries of moral theologians), and the reason for its evil. I provided this since it seems you are unaware of what usury is.

      Moreover, you now seriously conflate the issue by mixing things like investment arrangements with the object of usury. You also attack a straw man by supposing that the usury doctrine opposes financiers making a living from investing.

      There is a categorical difference between a mutuum or full-recouse loan and a fully secured loan.

    14. The Church and the Libertarian by Chris Ferrara is a critique of Austro-libertarianism, including their rejection of the just price doctrine, and we'll worth a read.

    15. @ Michael Humphreys

      Vix Pervenit says the lender cannot charge interest (apparently the intention being that it is within a mutuum arangement).

      You stated above:

      "The implications of the usury doctrine on the functioning of the modern economy are small. Most business debt arrangements do not involve mutuum contracts . . .".

      So the question is what is going to be considered mutuum in a modern economy (which is, to my understanding, the loaning of something that is not used up in the act of loaning). So I'm asking how and where mutuum applies in the context of a modern economy, and why do you seem to violently object to the claim that the doctrine of usury is affected by the context of a modern economy, but then you say that "The implications of the usury doctrine on the functioning of the modern economy are small"?

    16. @ Michael Humphreys

      In other words, my intent in this interaction was to say that modern economies don't necessarily violate the ancient prohibition on usury (though I might not have stated it in the way you would have preferred). I'm not sure you disagree with that based on your comment that the implications of usury on a modern economy are small.

    17. @TN
      In your original comment, you suggest that open ended interest is licit in the context of a modern financial system making the usury doctrine moot, irrespective of the contracts involved. This I took exception to "violently" because it is false.

      My comment with respect to the impact of the usury doctrine is at the actual functioning of the modern economy. Some people believe (wrongly) that the usury doctrine would undermine a capitalist system. Since most real business loans are secured by property rather than personal promises, they do not fall into the category of mutuum contracts or the usury doctrine. These business loans keep the economy's gears turning, so the usury doctrine would not bring the economy to a grinding halt.

      Vix Pervenit reads: "The nature of the sin called usury has its proper place and origin in a loan contract [contractui mutui]. This financial contract between consenting parties demands, by its very nature, that one return to another only as much as he has received."

      Wherever a mutuum is contracted for profit there is usury, irrespective if it is in a modern or ancient economy. Understanding the nature of the mutuum is important and is often shadowed by the historical and misunderstood meaning of "consumed in use."

      At its core a mutuum is a personally unsecured loan. It is not back by any property but rather simply the promise of the borrower to make a return. When the lender gives the borrower something in a mutuum he transfers ownership to him, because he grants him the authority to "consume", alienate, spend or otherwise use up the property. The lender has no property and only the promise of the borrower for the return in kind. The loan is secured only by the promise of the borrower.

      Examples of this in a modern economy are credit cards, student loans, car loans, many home mortgages and generally unsecured personal loans. Bringing all of these into line with the usury doctrine would have an impact on the economy for sure, but it wouldn't bring it to its knees.

    18. I'm trying to understand what you're you're getting at, so bear with me if I forget something or neglect some nuance.

      So for loans that are unsecured by property, charging interest is immoral, but for loans secured by property, interest is morally licit. Why is this distinction morally relevant?

      You said you are ok with equity investment, but often startup companies do not have property to secure investment (debt or equity), all they have is their promise. Is investment in such a company immoral? If it is, how would prohibiting such investment not drastically effect modern economies contrary to your claim otherwise?

      If a lender gives an unsecured loan to a borrower (car loan, credit advance, or whatever), the borrower sees that exchange as a value they desire. How is such a voluntary exchange not an offering of value that is worth compensation for the lender? Obviously the borrower considers it a value provided.

    19. Do you agree that there is a moral distinction between renting a really existing car and one that does not exist or one you don't actually own?

      Before getting into more complicated situations, lets try to settle the simple one first.

      Obviously the borrower values the loan, otherwise he would not have asked for it. The better question is what is the lender being compensated for, because he receives back all he gave at the end of the loan.

      If he rents me a car, I am paying him for the temporary use of the car which he owns. He is selling me a temporary claim to the exclusive use of the car. When I return it to him, he receives back what is his.

      If he lends in a mutuum $100 to me, he gives me the whole ownership of the money which I can spend as I see fit. Because he transferred the whole ownership (allowing me to spend the money), he has no claim to charge for the use of it. When I return the same amount back to him after a time, he receives back all that he gave, since he had a claim to nothing more.

    20. Ok, you're saying the car is something real, but the use of the money isn't something real. It's not physical, does that mean it isn't real?

      In the ideal world from your point of view, are there mortgage lenders? How do they work? Someone wants a house, but they don't have the cash. What do they do?

    21. Perhaps a better example: a medical research company needs funding for research to cure some disease. Since recourse to equity markets is immoral, what happens next?

    22. The car and the use of money are both real. Nothing about the usury doctrine supposes a financial physicalism. The comment about renting a non-existent car was to see if we could agree on at least an analogous and manifest moral distinction.

      The point is that when you give me money (or any property) in a mutuum, it is mine and not yours at that point. You don't have a claim against that property from which you can charge more. You have my personal promise that I'll return you that amount in kind (rather than in particular) at a later date. To charge more is to charge for the claim you don't have (selling something that doesn't exist).

      In a more just world, the government would not enforce deficiency judgments. This means that the lender has claim only to the specific concrete property defined in the mortgage. He cannot go after the borrower personally if the value of the house has fallen below the remaining principal. This is already the case in some states. A lender would have to adjust his risk management framework to account for a potential loss from a failure to recover the whole principal as most already do with almost every other asset that has a default risk.

      I'm not sure why you suggest "recourse to equity markets is immoral" because I certainly never said that.

    23. Sorry, I meant debt not equity market. Debt is just a cleaner example than equity, but ultimately either works.

      So an investor in the debt of a medical research company is entitled to the interest received because “the use of the money is real” even though it is not secured by anything physical. I think you agree? Or no? To quote your question: “What is the lender being compensated for?”

      You indicated you see violations of usury in credit cards, and various unsecured loans. Why is being secured by physical property relevant in this case but not the case above?

      You agreed that providing the use of the money is something real and valuable to the borrower. Therefore, the lender is being compensated for providing a real value.

    24. Suppose that your investor holds a bond issued by the company. This bond is on the balance sheet of that company and represents a real claim against the assets of the company. Among other things he has a claim to seniority of payment in the case of default and liquidation towards his principal.

      This is similar to the case of the medieval census contract. As the notable moral theologian Juan de Lugo explains, the lender purchases a partial "usufruct" (a collection of rights or entitlements) against the company but rents it back the company for a regular series of payments. In the end, it is the claim against the assets that the lender purchases that justifies his claim to something more. This is not what happens in a mutuum.

      It is important to note that not every contract that falls under the modern notion of "debt" or "loan" is a mutuum and not everything called "interest" is related to usury.

      I am sure that the borrower values the loan enough that he would be willing to pay a certain level of usury to get it. However, what the lender provides is the property he lends and he justly receives back the a same amount in return.

    25. An unsecured bond, by definition, is not a claim against assets and is backed only by the "full faith and credit" of the borrower. So an unsecured bond would be a mutuum contract and any interest collected would be immoral.
      Is that right? Why wouldn't it be?

      I still see no reason why being backed by physical assets is morally relevant. If the loaning of the money is real and valuable, as you agreed, why must it be backed by physical assets to be morally licit?

      You're saying the lender is receiving illegitimate compensation. And I agree that was true prior to modern economies where the financial system is a generator of value. But I have argued that he is compensated for providing a real and valuable service and I'm not hearing any compelling reason to the contrary. You have said that interest is immoral but I don't see any compelling reason why.

    26. You're saying the lender is saying "here are my assets, you must pay me for using them". But just because an asset isn't physical, doesn't mean it isn't worthy of monetary value. The lender can say "here are my non-physical services, and you must pay to use them." I see no reason to view the fact that one is physical and the other non-physical as morally relevant.

    27. I have given numerous reasons in my above replies. I see barely an engagement with or acknowledgement of them.

      You continue to assert that the lender is providing some service that he should be compensated for. I see no services physical or otherwise being rendered. What he grants is a piece of property which he receive back in kind at a later time. Because the borrower needs the loan, you appear to want to attach some service onto this transaction where none exists.

      I'm not sure why you are continuing to focus on "physical assets" which I made no necessity of. In the case of a mortgage, the house is the real asset involved, which also happens to be a physical asset.

      In a bond for example, among the assets of the company could be its branding rights or its book of clients, both of which are included as part of the value of the company and could be sold to other companies in the case of default.

    28. "I'm not sure why you are continuing to focus on "physical assets" which I made no necessity of."

      "The usury doctrine would impact full recourse loans, such as some mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit cards, and personal unsecured debt generally."

      You agreed that the lender provides something valuable and real. That is what the lender is compensated for. Merely claiming that compensation is unjust is just merely claiming it's unjust.

      I think it's long time to move on. Thanks for the discussion.

  5. What are some good works of historical apologetics from a Catholic point of view, defending the reality of the Resurrection? Ed has not written on the subject himself but I'm curious as to which sources he would recommend.

    1. I know Ed credits the work of William Lane Craig for helping him understand the historicity of the Resurrection.

      I'm familiar with Craig's "The Son Rises" and "Reasonable Faith" which both provide a condensed and less academic form of his much larger work "Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus". I haven't read that last title considering it's currently priced over four-hundred dollars on Amazon. NT Wright's "The Resurrection of the Son of God" is a brilliant book which makes a case for the Resurrection through examining the strange terminological and doctrinal mutations that evolved between Judaism and Christianity. An underatted, and by far the most thorough case I've read, is Michael Licona's
      "The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach". It clocks in at over seven-hundred pages. It's an exhaustive work. Granted, none of these men are Catholic. But I don't think you necessarily need a Catholic approach to establish the resurrection. Both protestants and Catholics agree on the resurrection. It's the parsing out of doctrine and praxis in the resulting religion that differentiates us.

    2. Who cares if it’s catholic or not? I agree with the books above and also Habermas book on the resurrection is probably the best one. You don’t need a catholic approach to the resurrection. A Protestant and an Orthodox believes in the resurrection too, so any Christian work on the historicity of the resurrection will do it for you.

    3. Brant Pitre’s book Case for Jesus is great I would recommend that on anybody’s book list and yes pretty sure he’s catholic

    4. I thought Wright was Catholic.

    5. Wright is Anglican. I would put in a plug for my friends Tim and Lydia McGrew -- they have resurrected (no pun intended) the work of many neglected scholars who have shown how the Gospels should be considered accurate, historical works. You can find their books and articles at Lydia's website:

    6. I'm sorry, but as someone who used to argue for the Resurrection of Jesus on apologetic grounds, I have to say I now completely reject the whole enterprise of Resurrection apologetics.

      Instead of going out and buying Brant Pitre's "The Case for Jesus," I suggest you buy Bart Ehrman's "Jesus before the Gospels." It's pretty devastating.

      N.T. Wright's "The Resurrection of the Son of God" is an impressive work, but it needs to be read alongside Maurice Casey's "Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of his Life and Teaching."

      Here's why apologetic arguments won't convince a skeptic.

      First, we have no contemporaneous reports by people who saw the risen Jesus and heard him speak. We don't even have individual interviews with the witnesses to the Resurrection, years after the event, in which they recount what they saw and heard. Thus we cannot compare their individual testimonies for consistency. This is the kind of scrutiny we would demand if we read a report about a group of people who saw a UFO. Shouldn't we demand the same for a Resurrection?

      Second, the argument (made by the McGrews) that of course, the apostles would have cross-checked one another's eyewitness testimonies to see that they agreed before being martyred for their belief in the Resurrection flies in the face of known facts. We know for a fact that the Fatima seers didn't all see or hear the same thing, but they still remained steadfast in their faith, even when threatened with torture by the secular authorities in 1917.

      Third, although there is fairly good evidence that Peter, Paul, James the "brother" of Jesus and James the brother of John were put to death by the authorities, we don't know whether they died specifically for their faith in the Resurrection or simply for disturbing the peace with their activities. Also, we don't know whether they were given the opportunity to recant, and whether they could have saved their lives by doing so. We also don't know that all of the apostles came to believe in the Resurrection: Matthew 28:17 mentions that "some doubted" and Acts focuses only on Peter, James and John (with a brief mention of Philip). What happened to the rest? By the way, traditions about the apostles' deaths are wildly unreliable. See Matthew Ferguson's article "March to Martyrdom! (Down the Yellow Brick Road...)" at

      To be continued...

    7. Fourth, the Gospel accounts were written 25 to 60 years after the events they describe, by people who weren't eyewitnesses and who may not have even interviewed the original eyewitnesses. (John's Gospel seems to have been written by people who knew one eyewitness, but we don't know who he was: some scholars say he may have been Lazarus!) I'd advise you all to read Matthew Ferguson's peer-reviewed article, "Why Scholars Doubt the Traditional Authors of the Gospels" (2017) at . Ferguson makes a very strong case.

      Fifth, the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection contradict one another on basic details: they can't even agree on who saw Jesus first (Mary Magdalene? Peter?), where He appeared to His disciples (Jerusalem? Galilee?), or what He said to them ("Go and preach"? "Stay in Jerusalem and wait for power from on high"?). Mark's account of the women's reaction to the discovery of the empty tomb ("They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid") doesn't square with the other Gospels.

      Sixth, most scholars are agreed that accounts of Jesus' burial are highly embellished, with the exception of Mark's account, and that Jesus received a dishonorable burial. Here's how Byron McCane sums it up in his article "Where No One Had Yet Been Laid" [in B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus
      (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) p. 431-452.] at :

      "On the basis of the evidence, then, the following scenario emerges as a likely course of events for the deposition of Jesus' body: late on the day of his death, one or more of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem--later personified by Christian tradition as Joseph of Arimathea--requested custody of the body for purposes of dishonorable burial. These leaders, having collaborated with the Romans in the condemnation of Jesus, had both the means and the motive to bury him in shame: means, in their access to Pilate, and motive, in Jewish law and custom. Pilate did not hesitate to grant dishonorable burial to one of their condemned criminals. Only the most rudimentary burial preparations were administered--the body was wrapped and taken directly to the tomb, without a funeral procession, eulogies, or the deposition of any personal effects. By sunset on the day of his death, the body of Jesus lay within a burial cave reserved for criminals condemned by Jewish courts. No one mourned."

      Clearly, the Gospels are biased documents. Attempting to use them to prove a Resurrection is a foolhardy enterprise. For my part, I believe in the Resurrection only because of the fruits of Christianity. That's the only good argument, in my opinion.

    8. Mr. Torley, I am sorry that you feel this way about the Gospels. I don't know if you consider yourself a Christian, but it seems likely you don't.

      For every scholar you quote, there can be found 10 scholars claiming the opposite.

      You can't do away with centuries of biblical theology by just quoting some (to me unknown) "scholars". There have always been people claiming that the Gospels are unreliable. And yet, there are more than enough scholars claiming that the Gospels are not only reliable, but correspond to the historical facts. Here I am not talking about bilicists that simply ignore any criticism or discrepancies between texts. I am speaking also of liberal theologians who still support what the Bible says and teaches.

      Youu are correct that apologetics need to consider the legitimate concerns that historians bring up. Just saying "But the Gospels tell us so" does not suffice. In this regard, I am very pro historical-critical exegesis.

      - John

    9. Vincent could you summarise your point on the Fatima case?

  6. What are the criteria for trollness? Can somebody be a troll without deliberately intending to troll?

    1. Good question. Do crazy people know they're crazy? Well, probably not I suspect. But I'd guess that a lot of it has to do with if a person relentlessly turns every conversation back to that one pet peeve they have, then ya might be a troll.

    2. "Troll" doesn't have a well-defined philisophical meaning like "bullshitter" ("On Bullshit", Harry Frankfurt) or ad hominem (The Ad Hominem Fallacy Is a Sin", Edward Feser). Therefore the entire concept should be considered harmful.

    3. I think we can start by saying that Santi, SP, Counter-Rebel, and Cervantes count. All have been explicitly banned by Feser.

  7. Why did God wait to hand down Divine Revelation after humanity had already existed for tens of thousands of years? Why did we get Divine Revelation all of a sudden, once humans developed advanced civilization?

    1. My thought on this is that if God were to reveal himself too early (i.e. before writing) he'd have to do it again later. As the world became more globalized it was easier to plant a seed that could spread throughout the world.

    2. Who knows? Not being God I don't have the answer to this question.

    3. He didn't wait all that long.
      God foretold the Redeemer to Adam and Eve.
      The Patriarchs, like Enoch, were certainly aware.
      God obviously spoke to Noah who lived about 2000 years after Adam.
      Adam himself lived about 930 years, about half the time between creation and the flood.
      God then spoke to Abraham about 500 years after the flood. Abraham seem to know who He was without much convincing.
      Moses lived about 400 years after that. From there we have Scripture.

    4. Creation was billions of years ago. Human history is hundreds of thousands of years.

    5. Catholicism teaches that humanity needed to be prepared for Divine Revelation, and that only under the reign of Augustus the "kairos" was reached, since the perfect conditions were given at that time.
      There had to be some progress first before we were ready to accept the Savior.
      The whole point of the Jewish religion is to prepare the way for Christ.
      That, at least, is what the Roman Catechism authoritatively teaches.

      In the end, WHY exactly God did it then and not, say, in the year 1361, is a mystery, and only God knows the reason.

      - John

  8. From the post on the First Way:

    In the post, Dr. Feser defends the principle that "action follows being", the way a thing act reflects the way it is. It follows than a thing that can't act at all does not really exist, as he says in his post about the socialist state.

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

    I mean, the best the forms can casually do in the platonist view is be the content of intelects, so i believe we can use this principle to argue that the forms are really just ideas in a intelect who is eternal, omniscient, necessary etc. This is so because the Forms seems to at best act like concepts or ideas, so would they not have the same "being"(don't know if this works) as ideas and need a Supreme Intellect to sustain they?

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

    1. I am not sure I recognise the kind of Platonism you characterise. You say
      "I mean, the best the forms can casually do in the platonist view is be the content of intelects." Surely on a Platonist view a form F is the cause of F-ness in the particulars that exemplify F-ness. Some would hold further that by participation, Forms are non-mereological parts or constituents of the particulars. I would say certainly the forms are ideas in the Supreme Intellect (Nous), and for this reason they are not less but more real than the particulars, being part of the 'ontōs on', the Truly Real.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. @Jonathan

      "I am not sure I recognise the kind of Platonism you characterise."

      Think about someone like Frege or Penrose or even Popper with his Three Worlds. A lot of modern platonists(especially on mathematics) believe that there are Forms of things like numbers or propositions but that they don't really interact with the material universe, they are just there.

      They claim that the world can be described by the forms(with the math in physics and all) but that the forms are casually inert, so the only casuality they really show is when they become parts of ours minds.

      The thing here is that it seems that if the forms can only interact by being the content of a intelect, by the principle that "action follows being" it seems they are but ideas, even if in the Supreme Intellect.

      This seems a problem to the modern platonist, but someone who believe in a more classical platonism like you described would not need to worry much with what i said here, i guess.

      In fact, do you consider yourself more of a platonist that a divine conceptualist? Curiosity only, Plato is aways interesting.

    4. @Talmid
      I am an amateur at Philosophy, but this is what I think.
      I would call myself a Platonist. I am not sure that distinguishing between classical Neoplatonism and divine conceptualism helps very much in the end. Conceptualism to me is a form of Nominalism, against which I have an aversion, but Divine Conceptualism is a different matter. I believe that God is the Pleroma of Being from whom all beings have their being and their existence, and also in whom all beings have their being and existence: by subtraction from his plenitude, not by addition of anything to it – which would be impossible.
      I take as fundamental Plato's dictum 'to auto esti noiein te kai einai' which I paraphrase as 'being and knowledge are convertible'. To be is to be held in the knowledge of God. God is the sole ground, the hypokeimenon, of all that is: there is no need of prima materia.
      I am attracted to Idealism. If all things are concepts in the Mind of God, so be it. To be a thought in the Divine Mind is to be more, and not less, real than to be a composite of matter and form.

    5. Some form of realism about the universals seems to me intelectually necessary too. I believe the diference would be that in Neoplatonism you have the hierarquical emanations and all, while in Divine Conceptualism you have the more classic monotheistic view of God as free creator of everything. But both agree that nothing can exist even by a moment with not the Lord giving everything being.

      I also like Idealism, is very interesting. I just think as thomist that matter is important to a lot of things philosophically and that Idealism seems hard not to collapse into pantheism or panentheism, both i reject.

      But Platonism in general is very interesting, i agree with Feser that it is a pretty respectable philosophy. The classical one, the modern seems to fall prey to my idea above and seems kinda confusing in general.

    6. I do not commit fully to the Neoplatonist emanations as being an accurate description of the Divine Being. I would say that they are a useful model of the energies of God who is ineffable in his essence: they seem to do the job of explaining how it can be that an absolutely simple God might encompass the diversity of Forms and the imperfections of the manifest world. In a similar way the Christian doctrine of the Trinity explains how the relationship between God and the world might be a reflection of the inner life of a hyper-personal God. The realities are way above our pay-grade. We have to speak in metaphorical language.
      Platonism can lead to pantheism, just as Aristotelianism can lead to nominalism. The pantheist says that all is God. The pantheist is partly right but mostly mistaken: God who is above being (hyperouisos) and on the far side of being (epekeina tēs ousias) can withdraw the fullness of his being to 'make room' for the reality of other beings (ousiai) who are nevertheless in and of his thoughts: They are given life and freedom through his knowledge and his will. That he does so we can dimly perceive, how he does so is forever a mystery.
      That may be panentheism: everything is indeed in God as an idea in his Mind. That, is I think, mostly right, but a little mistaken if it fails to acknowledge the real though derivative existence of creatures. By all means keep your prima materia if you find it useful: personally I don't. I think however that we are both trying to make a mental model of Reality.

  9. What would you guys define as a set of philosophical competencies that every layman ought, and could be reasonably expected, to have? Your version of "philosophy 101", if you will.

  10. Someone asked this before a while back but I can’t seem to find it.

    I’m looking for books/papers on the Thomistic understanding of language. Are there any notable Thomists that have discussed language in depth?

    Also, how should a Thomist think about gene editing tools like CRISPR. Have any contemporary Thomists wrote about such things?


    1. The Wittgensteinian thomist Herbert McCabe had some pretty nice discussions of language. In fact, he made his argument for the immateriality of the intellect based on language. Check out his book "On Aquinas".

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. The most thorough discussion of language from a largely Thomistic perspective (that I am aware of at least) is David Braine's "Language and Human Understanding."

      However, it is a huge doorstop of a book and is not in the slightest for a novice. You might want to see if any of his papers are floating around.

    4. There's a book by John O'Callahan called Thomist Realism and the linguistic turn, but I couldn't manage to get a hand on it yet. Here's a review:

    5. Fr. Austriaco has done some talks about CRISPR recently, though I'm not sure if he's written anything substantial outside of this:

      Recording of a lecture at the U of T's Newman Centre:

  11. I think this blog should shift from blogger.

    1. Any suggestions on good blogging sites that have better moderation tools? Still Ed's domain name is pretty well known by now. It might not be worth the effort, and may result in losing exposure. I wonder if there is there a way for Ed to delegate moderator status to others on Blogspot?

  12. As someone who reads and has difficulty with some of the more advanced topics on this site, I'm curious to know how many of you regulars have formal training in philosophy, e.g. at a university and how many of you just learned this stuff through self education.

    1. I'm 15, and I generally self-educate in philosophy. Generally, I find that these blogs are quite comprehensible, though.

    2. As far as degrees go, I started in philosophy, and ended in computers. Everyone is a philosopher whether you want to be or not because everyone spends every moment of their lives wondering if what they think is true.

      The problem with philosophy as a specialized subject is that so many people spend so much time trying to sound sophisticated they end up saying lots of words that don't mean anything.

    3. I am retired and have no formal training. For some reason I read and enjoyed a book "A Companion to the Summa" in my teens, but any interest lay dormant for several years until I was introduced to Bernard Lonergan's "Insight" about 30 years ago. Although I couldn't understand everything in it, my interest grew and since then I have stayed interested. I also have a friend who does have formal qualifications and we have had many discussions, mainly about ideas he is investigating.

    4. I'm a theologian with a Master's degree from a renowned University. My main field of interest isn't Philosophy or Thomism, but it is essential as a foundation for any further theological reflections.
      Although I've had some courses in philosophy, Thomism was never formally taught. I had to learn everything by self-study.
      So while I cannot expertly comment on deep philosophical matters, I find it still very interesting to follow this blog, to learn something new, and to read the discussions in the comments.

      - John

  13. I wonder how many of you are upset that Captain America starting from Falcon and the Winter Soldier will be black?

  14. What are everyone's thoughts on Michael J. Alter's book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry?

    Skeptics seem to be hailing this book as presenting a pretty solid case against the resurrection.

    1. I have yet to actually read the book, but from what I've gathered, my first impression is that the whole thing has been overrated and overblown; Alter is not an expert, it seems most scholars who work on the subject are not super worried about it, and I get the impression that if you apply his skepticism to ancient history in general then you'll have to throw a lot of good history into the trash bin.

      That being said, I'd like to reaffirm that Christianity does not stand or fall with an argument from the Resurrection or miracles. If the Resurrection didn't happen, then Christianity isn't true, but that's very different from "if there is no historical argument for the Resurrection, then Christianity is not rational". While I think arguments for the Resurrection are strong, there are other signs of plausibility of the Christian religion, including, but not limited to, A) the immense moral advancement and revolution in ethics brought by the Christian faith, cf. DBH's "Atheist Delusions"; B) the intrinsic plausibility of the Incarnation under Theism, cf. for instance Swinburne's argument; C) the testimony of saints; D) how Christianity gets so much right about the soul and Resurrection; etc.

    2. I would say that what you have described is a high prior probability for the resurrection such that a moderate amount of evidence for the resurrection itself is needed to think it likely happened.

    3. You can certainly use such arguments to raise the prior probability of the Resurrection, but I also think that the arguments can by themselves be sufficient even if someone thinks there is good historical argument for the Resurrection whatsoever.

      To put it simply, I think Christianity and its claims is intrinsically probable if theism is true. The Christian story is the sort of story I would expect from reality given that God exists and what human beings are like. Plantinga once put it that the Gospel is perhaps "the greatest story that could be written", and I tend to agree. I think that Christianity in its broad basic story - the Incarnation of God, the Redemption, Jesus and His teachings, etc - makes the best sense of theism and mankind, and is itself more probable than deism (taken as a bare theism with no revelation) if theism is true.

      Another related point is that I think the Christian story is extremely *beautiful*, and this is additional support to its truth. And I mean this in a quite prosaic and rationalist way, because it's simply a fact that beauty is a good indicator of the action of the supremely perfect being.

    4. Even if there is no* good historical argument, I meant.

    5. But don't we also have to admit the issues with Christianity? For example, the Incarnation and the Trinity seem philosophically problematic. Not just that, but doesn't the New Testament itself, in at least two places, seem to contradict standard Trinitarianism, where it declares:

      “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows" Matthew 24:36

      Would we not also have to weigh up Christianity again other faiths?

    6. I read it and I agree with Atno's estimation (I also have a master's in the subject for what it's worth). It's reliant in a lot of places on old scholarship that has since been overturned. There's not much critical examination of skeptical claims either. If you're looking for a more conservative perspective I would check out Craig Keener's The Historical Jesus of the Gospels and Eckhard Schnabel’s Jesus in Jerusalem.

    7. Freakazoid

      Have you read the book?

    8. Callum,

      Yeah, I read it a couple of years ago. Sorry if that wasn't clear in my earlier comment.

    9. I don't think they are particularly philosophically problematic. True, there are some objections out there, but I've never found them persuasive. And Bible verses sometimes require complicated exegesis. I think they are hard to understand. The Trinity, in particular, is something we cannot really imagine - though that doesn't make it incoherent; we cannot imagine a tesseract or visualize it, it blows our mind, but we know it is perfectly consistent. It is also incredibly beautiful, and gives us a unique perspective on how God can be Love itself. How can a being be Love and Goodness itself, when such concepts seem to find their culmination in interpersonal relationships? The Trinity makes sense of that: one tripersonal God.

      It is also unsurprising to me that the true religion would include mysteries that are very difficult for us to grasp.

      We also cannot properly imagine the Incarnation, but we can make sense of it. And to me it is one of the strongest and most plausible aspects of Christianity, and something that makes it unique. The idea that we have God Incarnate with us, not a prophet, not a messenger, not an angel, but that God Himself, the Creator Himself would choose to share in our humanity, our pains, our suffering. And (as Christianity goes on to teach) as a poor man, infinitely dignifying the lives of common folk throughout all ages - they have not lived as kings, conquerors or men of power, but they have nevertheless lived the kind of ordinary routine God Himself lived. And that's without mentioning Jesus experiencing the anguish, disappointment, betrayal, pain, death. I think the Incarnation is very probable under Theism, it in fact moved me towards becoming a Christian. And it helps tremendously with the problem of evil - the idea that God Himself entered into the picture to suffer alongside us is very relevant for PoE. I could only really accept a religion in which God becomes man like us, and it seems to me the real culmination of the very notion of religion - as in linking, reconnecting God and man.

      Philosophical arguments of this kind are not new, either. Duns Scotus already had defended how the Incarnation was "convenient" or reasonably expected under theism. The church Fathers also discussed similar things.

      Of course we have to weigh up other faiths as well. But only monotheistic faiths, if monotheism is true. And I don't think any of them is as plausible as Christianity is. I wouldn't believe in the Old Testament if not for Christianity, for instance. And no other faith gives something like the Incarnation with Jesus, or the other aspects I've mentioned.

    10. Freakazoid

      Have you read either of Lydia mcgrew's books by any chance?

  15. Here is something for the philosophy people (I asked before on an open thread but didn't get much response because I was so far down the page) Why are most philosophers atheists? I ask as a believer, but wonder why philosophers don't buy any arguments for belief?

    1. Are most philosophers atheists? How do you know?

      If they are atheists, and this is somehow a proof that atheism is true, then it must be because their brain chemicals make them that way, right? What would it be other than a particular chemical reaction in the brain? Theism would be just a particular chemical reaction, and atheism would be just a different meaningless chemical reaction, right? Or no?

    2. Most philosophers don't have much knowledge about theism or arguments for God's existence. They tend to be interested in different subjects - ethics, politics, philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of science, and so on. The average non-expert might think that Hume and Kant's objections are still strong, for instance. Sometimes they know even less.

      Among philosophers of religion (the ones who actually focus on these arguments), over 70% believe in God. This could in part be because theists might be more inclined to studying philosophy of religion, but the atheists in this area are also generally more respectful and take the arguments seriously.

      So most philosophers in fact are not actually well acquainted with the arguments and their best contemporary presentations.

    3. I agree with Atno, and I would also add that many counterarguments to common theistic arguments are superficially powerful- they seem, upon first glance, to be potent, and are easy responses to difficult problems, and so philosophers often simply take them as definitive without looking further.

      e. g.1) The Cosmological Argument: What caused the first cause?
      e. g.2) Aquinas' Fifth Way: Evolution/God of the Gaps.

    4. philosophers of religion who know these arguments don’t parrot the objections that you see all over the internet to them, so that should tell you something. You want to know serious objections to classical theism read Oppy. He knows the arguments and has legitimate counterclaims, not BS what caused the first cause stuff

    5. True, but Russell, for example, defended, "What caused the first cause?", and he was certainly a serious philosopher. Similarly, Daniel Dennett and A. C. Grayling give similar objections to the design and moral arguments.

  16. I was a fan of the Hanna Montana show (& I am not even ashamed of it). I liked watching tv show with snarky people in them snarking at each other and with Southern Accents it was quite charming. My niece is a fan too.

    Then came the twerking and I just can't watch anymore...…..I often pray for death if only so I might forget the twerking.


    How is that for an off topic Miley Cyrus post!

    1. Perhaps you should pray for her. If you are Catholic, say a rosary for her. How is that for a response to your off-topic Miley Cyrus post.

  17. On a forum a while ago I stumbled upon this argument against the existence of an omniscient being:

    <<...if there is such a being, which I'll call X, there is one statement, which I will call Q, that I can make. Statement Q is: "According to X, Q is false." Some logical reasoning concludes that either Q is true or that X knows Q, but not both. If Q is true, then X can't know it and therefore can't be omniscient. If X knows Q to be true, then Q is clearly false, which means that X has false knowledge, which contradicts omniscience (or at least makes it useless).>>

    How would you reply?

    1. I'm confused. I'm trying to give it a charitable interpretation, but it seems like a horrible, confused mess.

      According to X, Q is false. So if X is omniscient, Q is supposed to be false, since X should not be mistaken in knowledge.

      Either Q is true, or X knows Q.

      If Q is true, then X was mistaken and was therefore not omniscient. Okay, but as stated, if X is omniscient and claims Q is false, then Q must be false, so this point doesn't matter.

      "If X knows Q to be true, then Q is false, which means X has false knowledge" what? We are supposing that X knows Q is false. And if Q were true, that would not mean Q is false.

      Doesn't even follow or make sense. What a mess.

    2. Either Q is true, or Q is false* is what should have been stated. Q is also not what X is proposed to know; X supposedly knows a proposition P that is "Q is false".

      There is no real contradiction or even a paradox there, that's a complete mess, honestly. It doesn't even make sense; maybe there are typos there or something else, but it's close to gibberish.

    3. Some random thoughts...

      God is not "a being" but Being Itself(first mistake). Whoses definition of divine omniscience? Descartes or Aquinas? Also God's Knowledge is not observational or acquired knowledge. God knows things by knowing Himself as the cause of things.

      As to this "argument" it is a word salad or a proposition trap it doesn't deal with anything concrete so it is meaningless. It is a fun piece of sophisty nothing more.

      Nothing that is logically impossible can be possible or true thus God cannot know something Logically Impossible to be true because nothing logically impossible can be true.

      So Father this argument is Baloney as it is based on a flawed presupposition.

    4. I have to think that argument was garbled in transmission. The best I can do to salvage it, as I read it, would be "If God (X) doesn't know Q, then he can't know it's false." That's just a guess, and it's not what is said, but I simply do not see how you can get to "either Q is true or that X knows Q, but not both".

      Of course what I put up doesn't work, either. But I can see someone saying it.

    5. Thank you all for your replies. Yes, you can pretty much smell the sophistry at work here; that "argument" never appeared convincing to me, not for a moment, anyway I wanted to hear the opinion on the matter of far more competent people than me.
      There are no typos or mistakes in transmission (on my part, at least), since it's a literal copy-paste.
      Also, I must stress that I am a layperson. I do apologise for choosing a poor nickname, without minding the fact that I was writing for a mainly English-speaking readership.

  18. From a Theistic point of view “in a sense” the Eutheryphro dilemma is true. In a sense it is “impossible” for God to be “all Good” and or “All Powerful” if God really exists and evil exists as well(or at least maybe half of that is true). All theists approach the problem by taking on one of the horns of the dilemma.

    Theistic Personalists who rely on Theodicies take on the “All Powerful” horn by adopting the Classic TheisticThomistic version of Omnipotence which tells us God cannot make contradictions true. You might protest “Can’t God do anything?” to which we would reply “Yes but a contradiction doesn’t describe anything. It describes nothing and adds new meaning to the phrase ‘There is Nothing God cannot do.’.” Someone might hold Descartes Irrationalist view of Omnipotence that God can make contradictions true which would solve the problem of evil. Specifically if God can make contradictions true He can make the seeming contradiction of the simultaneous existence of an Omnipotent/Ominibonevolant Deity & Evil both True. Of course this leads to the break down in all rational categories by abandoning the principle of non-contradiction so it is nonsense.

    Anyway given God cannot make contradictions true the Theodicy loving Theistic Personalist tries to argue there are some goods God can only give if He temporarily tolerates evil. Plantinga largely solved the logical problem of Evil with this line of thought but then Rowe counter punched with the evidentalist problem of evil by arguing that there exists in the world seemingly gratuitous evil that gives no opportunity to give people any good. Brian Davies cuts down all leading theodicies in this work THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.

    Which leads to Classic Theism's solution (see Davies) which grabs the other horn of the dilemma specifically God being “All Good”. God is All Good but God is not morally good. Or more specifically God is not a moral agent. Or even more specifically God is not a moral agent unequivocally comparable to a virtuous human moral agent. God given His nature has no obligations to His creatures so He cannot be morally condemned for not giving them what He "owes them". God is All Good because He is Metaphysically Good and Ontologically Good or Goodness Itself and the source of goodness in all things. But God is not a moral agent.

    Indeed to say Classic Theistic God is not good for not immediately stopping the Holocaust makes about as much sense as saying Plato's Form of the Good is not really good since It didn't immediately stop the Holocaust(which is actually saying the same thing but I digress....). Which is absurd.

    Theodicies are predicated on the idea God is a moral agent and they try to justify God’s inaction in the face of evil. The Classic Theist presumes God is not obligated to stop any evil in the first place and thus is not immoral for not doing so. All of God’s good actions toward His creatures in Classic Theism are Gratuitous and as such they are not owed to them. So God can be praised for his Charity but God cannot be condemned for not following His obligations. He simply has none to His Creatures only too Himself.

    1. If that is so, then I am not a Classical Theist, and the Classical Theist's God is either stupid or corrupted (or both). For to be morally indifferent to the Holocaust - in the sense that God would allow it to happen even if there were no greater good whatsoever to be gained from His tolerating it, but simply allowing innocent people to be tortured and slaughtered for no reason whatsoever when He could have easily stopped it with no loss whatsoever, just is to be either ignorant or corrupted towards the Good (which dictates with Natural Law that the nature of human beings are such as to be valuable and kept in life and being). That, of course, is complete nonsense since God is the Good itself and cannot be either ignorant or corrupt.

      Metaphysical goodness is supposed to include moral goodness, but it seems Davies (according to you, at least) is apparently sharply divorcing moral goodness from metaphysical goodness, to the point where our use of (moral) good terms, adjectives, norms etc. are not simply analogous with respect to God, but equivocal. The Thomist, however, is supposed to hold that our moral goodness applies analogously to God, not equivocally. Yet if God is such as to allow (truly) gratuitous evil in creation, then our moral knowledge is equivocal with respect to him (or, what is equally stupid, God is irrational). Such a being would not be worthy of being called good. Analogy is supposed to show that God's goodness is incomparably *GREATER* than ours, and that includes moral goodness, which is part of goodness. But if, according to Davies, God is beyond the (moral) good and evil that humans understand, then God just is evil, as that's how humans would and should understand. For to be beyond good and evil just is to be evil.

      If that's how it goes, then Brian Davies's is probably the worst treatment of the problem of evil I've ever seen in my life.

    2. To add to Atno (who's position I agree with not necessarily every way he arrived there) we need to take into account God as intelligence itself.

      It seems to be that if we maintain God cannot make it so that killing babies for fun is moral due to the natures of possible things (including babies) pre-exist in his intellect and God cannot act in opposition to reason, then there must be at least some loose sense in which God has obligations for creatures.

      He would be something of a numbnuts if a world was created with lions but no prey to eat. Or plants with no water or sunlight. I'd imagine Davies agrees with this. But then i would say God does seem to have an obligation to reason and morality is dependent on reason.

    3. Atno and Callum,

      Yer real objection is "No fair your God is not a Theistic Personalist deity" which is what you both are saying. Also you are assuming God ought to be a moral agent and as Davies shows in painful detail threw out all his writing there is no reason for this presupposition. Given God's nature in Classic Theism to claim God can or ought to be a moral agent is absurd and incoherent.

      >Metaphysical goodness is supposed to include moral goodness,

      Nope! That makes no sense. As far as something has Being it is good. But does it logically follow just because something has Being it is morally good? A rock has being and is therefore good as far as it has being but does that make the Rock moral?
      God can be said to be the source of the moral goodness in moral beings but it doesn't logically follow God is a moral being like His moral creatures.

      Sorry but God is not a moral agent unequivocally compatible to a virtuous ration creature who is a moral agent. That is the full explanation of what it means to say "God is not morally good".

      Yer objections flow from the shorthand "God is not morally good" description which by itself is not adequate.

      Just because God is Metaphysical Goodness Itself does that mean God is an accomplished perfect(good) champion bike rider? Well that would be absurd because the divine essence cannot ride a bike. Riding a bike entails a physical being who sits on a bike and rides it. The divine essence cannot do that. Sure God could supernaturally move the bike around as if a champion rider was riding it but that doesn't mean the divine essence is riding the bike. Jesus could ride the bike but his human nature not his divine would be doing the Yeoman's work.

      >i would say God does seem to have an obligation to reason and morality is dependent on reason.

      No God has no obligations except to himself and as far as God is rational God cannot will directly what is unreasonable. God cannot will directly that we do what is intrinsically evil. Sorry but Davies doesn't endorse divine command theory or divine occationalism & neither do I.

    4. part two

      >Classical Theist's God is either stupid or corrupted (or both). For to be morally indifferent to the Holocaust -

      God is not obligated to stop the holocaust. I never claimed God is not offended by the sins of those who precipitated the holocaust. But yer objections presuppose God has to be a moral agent unequivocally compared to a human moral agent.

      >The Thomist, however, is supposed to hold that our moral goodness applies analogously to God,

      Which is why I don't get yer objection? You are clearly making an unequivocal comparison between God's Morality vs His rational Creatures. Only rational creatures can be moral agents because only rational creatures have obligations to Higher Laws but as Aquinas says God is a law unto Himself and nothing compels God to act correctly or be well behaved.

      >It seems to be that if we maintain God cannot make it so that killing babies for fun is moral due to the natures of possible things (including babies) pre-exist in his intellect and God cannot act in opposition to reason, then there must be at least some loose sense in which God has obligations for creatures.

      Nothing I said contradicts this but nothing you said tells us God MUST stop the holocaust. God could stop a holocaust and such an act would be an act of gratuitous good which sums up all of God actions toward His creatures. But it wouldn't be because God had an obligation to do so like a moral agent with sufficient power to stop the holocaust who fails morally because they choose not to do it.

      >Yet if God is such as to allow (truly) gratuitous evil in creation, then our moral knowledge is equivocal with respect to him (or, what is equally stupid, God is irrational).

      Except there really isn't such a thing as a truly gratuitous evil.
      Material evil is a consequence of God creating a material world. Moral evil is a consequence of God making moral creature with free will. God is not obligated to create any creature or any type of creation or any world at all. There is no such thing as the best of all possible worlds. God could have made a better world that this or a worst one. There is no world so good is obligated to create it and none so bad that as long as it participates in the goodness of Being God should refrain from creating it.

      >But if, according to Davies, God is beyond the (moral) good and evil that humans understand, then God just is evil, as that's how humans would and should understand. For to be beyond good and evil just is to be evil.

      This doesn't make any sense either. Evil is privation. Lacking a good something ought to have. You cannot say just because God cannot coherently be thought of as something that rides a bike therefore God "lacks bike riding ability" and has a privation. No God is not the sort of thing to which Bike riding ability applies.

      I have correctly denied God is a moral agent unequivocally comparable to a virtuous rational creature as a moral agent. I never said morally has nothing to do with God. Yer objections only make sense if God had no obligations to Himself. I don't believe any of that.

    5. Atno and Callum

      You have both confirmed to me Theist Personalists believe the phrase "God is morally good" is an unequivocal statement where as for a Classic Theist at best it is an analogous statement.

      Anyway if God is only morally good in an analogous sense when compared to His virtuous rational creatures then I don't see how he can be a moral agent anymore than I can see God in His divine essence as a champion bike rider.

    6. While I am beating this dead horse....

      >Analogy is supposed to show that God's goodness is incomparably *GREATER* than ours, and that includes moral goodness, which is part of goodness. But if, according to Davies, God is beyond the (moral) good and evil that humans understand, then God just is evil, as that's how humans would and should understand. For to be beyond good and evil just is to be evil.

      That doesn't make a lick of sense given the divine nature. Is God "beyond the goodness" of excellent bike riding? No God is not the sort of thing to which you can coherently apply good bike riding. The divine essence cannot ride a bike. Does that mean God isn't omnipotent? No, Omnipotence means all powers and there is no power to make what is instrinsically incoherent coherent. There is no power that can make 2+2=5 for example.

      God is not a morally good the way we are morally good. God has no obligations to His creature given His nature and relation to creation and all of God's good acts toward His Creature are entirely acts of Supererogation and purely gratuitous.

      This doesn't make God "evil" this merely makes God not a Jinn or a wishmaker. Aslan after all is not a tame lion.

    7. Son,

      Right, I wasn't clear when I said "metaphysical goodness includes moral goodness", which led to that misunderstanding. What I meant was more that as moral goodness is part of metaphysical goodness (one which is proper to rational beings), it also flows out of the Good. In being goodness itself, God is also the ultimate source of moral good.

      Moreover, and I think this is important, moral goodness can be understood in relation to a rational agent. And God *is* a rational agent. Not in the same way that we are, of course. Not univocally. But not equivocally either, as you hold and Davies hold. God can (clearly) be said to be morally perfect, because God is rational. Put it differently, we are closer to God than rocks are, since we partake in the perfections of Intellect and Will, which God also has - albeit in an eminent way. So the claim that God is not a moral agent is in itself quite bizarre, as moral goodness is that kind of goodness proper to the perfection of Reason (which men have; angels also; and God also, eminently). God is not only a moral agent, He is also morally perfect.

      Also, God, being rational, must take into account Natural Law. Indeed the Eternal Law in which Natural Law participates. As Callum noted, God would not create a world with lions but no prey and no other reason for it - that would be stupid. God also would not create a world consisting of nothing but innocent children being eternally tortured for fun by demons. It would be contrary to reason and God's goodness.

      God does have an obligation to reason and goodness; He Himself is Reason and Goodness. In being obligated to stop the Holocaust (if it were a completely gratuitous evil), God would be doing so out of His obligations to Himself: namely, to goodness and reason as those dictate that the nature of human beings is such that they have value and ought to be protected.

      "Evil is a privation" of course. But this doesn't change the fact that for a rational being to be beyond (moral) Good and Evil just is for that being to be evil. God as a rational being - indeed, as Reason itself - cannot be evil. Our moral language applies to him ANALOGOUSLY, *not* equivocally.

      I don't know why you keep making this accusation of personalism. Personalists, as I understand them, are wrong in their rejection of analogy. They adopt univocal language when speaking of God's attributes. Brian Davies and you, by contrast, insist that our language is equivocal. Traditionally, Thomists have insisted that terms such as "morally good" apply to God neither univocally nor equivocally, but analogously. So of course God would not fail to help the victims of the Holocaust if there were no greater good to be achieved from His tolerating it.

      I never said God had to create any world or creature, or that there is a best possible world. I said that God would never tolerate the Holocaust if not for a morally sufficient reason.

      You then say "there is no such thing as gratuitous evil" well, I agree. Because Theism is incompatible with gratuitous evil. God is morally perfect and would not allow gratuitous evil.

    8. God has all the perfections included in "being an excellent bike rider", eminently. His omnipresence makes "being proficient at locomotion" superfluous as He transcends it (including all power involved in it, as He is already everywhere where one might reach with a bike), and the same goes for omnipotence and the power to move things.

      I'm defending an analogical application of our concepts to God. You and Davies defend an equivocal view.

      Being simultaneously intelligent and completely indifferent towards the pain of Holocaust victims - not doing anything and letting them suffer with no morally sufficient reason - and still being "good" is nonsense. God's goodness would, in this case, be an equivocal attribution. In effect, Davies's God is either stupid/irrational, weak, or evil (or all of them). In any case, it would not be God.

      And if Davies's anti-Catholic view of God's goodness is correct, and our concepts of moral good apply not analogically, but equivocally, to God, then that in effect destroys much of systematic theology.

    9. Atno you misunderstand me greatly.

      >But not equivocally either, as you hold and Davies hold.

      I don't hold that and neither does Davies. Go re-read what I wrote you will find I never said that & nowhere has Davies in all of his writings. I don't believe God's Moral Goodness is wholly equivocal compared to virtuous rational creatures moral goodness.

      I would accept God is morally good in an analogous fashion compared to creatures.

      I said God is not morally good in the unequivocal way a virtuous rational creature is morally good. I never said God's goodness was equivocal. At best on other threads I have accused my Atheist opponents(who are stuck on useless Theodicies) of making fallacies of equivocation in their failure to distinguish Theistic Personalism with Classic Theism. But that is it.

      >So the claim that God is not a moral agent is in itself quite bizarre,

      Well Davies writes many chapters in his books explaining the clear meaning of that phrase which is longhand for "God is not morally good" and short hand for God not being a moral agent in the unequivocal sense a rational creature is a moral agent.

      Saying God is a moral agent is like saying the King Regent is the Royal Representative of the reigning Sovereign. Or that the King is His own royal subject which makes no sense. Or the Uncreated Creator is a Creature.

      >And if Davies's anti-Catholic view of God's goodness is correct,

      Father Davies is a Catholic Priest and famous Thomist in his own right and worthy successor to Herbert McCabe OP another great Thomist.

      It is not at all anti-Catholic (Prof Feser holds to it and lauds it in his works) but yer mistake is thinking for some reason I am saying God's moral goodness is equivocal or wholly equivocal compared to His Creatures.

      I am not sir. I don't believe that.

      >Also, God, being rational, must take into account Natural Law. Indeed the Eternal Law in which Natural Law participates. As Callum noted, God would not create a world with lions but no prey and no other reason for it - that would be stupid. God also would not create a world consisting of nothing but innocent children being eternally tortured for fun by demons. It would be contrary to reason and God's goodness.

      I would agree with all of that and so would Davies since he doesn't believe there is real gratuitous evil. It is not really possible under Thomism.

      I suggest you take some time to actually read Davies and Feser on Davies (and you can throw in McCabe) so we can stop misunderstanding each other. You might in fact agree with me and just not know it.

      >I said that God would never tolerate the Holocaust if not for a morally sufficient reason.

      But that make it sound to me like the moral reason is unequivocal?

      Anyway I don't think we really disagree.

    10. >I'm defending an analogical application of our concepts to God.

      I am not against that and neither is Davies last time I checked. I agree with it and last I checked Davies does too.

      >You and Davies defend an equivocal view.

      I do not such thing and I don't believe it. So here is yer misunderstanding of what I initially wrote. Also Davies does no such thing last I checked and I read a lot of his works.

    11. The thing is Atno that Theistic Personalists and defenders of Theodicy treat God as being morally good in the unequivocal way a virtuous rational being is morally good.

      All modern Theodicies presuppose God is morally good in this manner or should be.

    12. I'm sorry, but I don't buy Fr. Davies' "macho theism," as I call it. In a nutshell, Fr. Davies argues that God is not a moral agent because He is the author of the whole shebang: everything there is. Blaming God for bad things is like blaming J.K. Rowling for what happens to Harry Potter. An author has no obligations towards his/her characters; neither does God have any obligation towards His creatures.

      Fine. But on that line of argument, God could annihilate us for no reason, just as an author can get rid of his/her characters for no particular reason. "Once upon a time there was a good man who longed to meet his father, but then an alligator came along and ate him up, so he never did" is a perfectly fine story, as far as it goes. To argue from the built-in desires of the characters in a novel to the conclusion that they must be satisfied is to limit authorial freedom. Authors can write their novels however they please, and if God is an author, He can create however He pleases - which includes deep-seated desires that are never satisfied.

      So "macho theism" proves too much. If God is not a moral agent, then He is amoral. Do you really want to worship a God like that?

    13. Vincent the Theistic Personalist God of ID and post enlightenment Protestantism does not exist and is unworthy of worship by any Catholic as any other idol is unworthy of said worship.

      >Fine. But on that line of argument, God could annihilate us for no reason, just as an author can get rid of his/her characters for no particular reason.

      God wills once from all eternity. You act like God is a being in time who decides from moment to moment. No such "god" exists. Stop defending Zeus Plus and rather defend YHWH.
      On that note God could have chosen to create conditionally immortal rational beings and or entirely mortal rational beings in which case it would be entirely natural for them to cease to exist at some point. Indeed given that God would will the existence of such beings it would be contrary to their nature to have them exist eternally and would harm them. God cannot will the existence of unconditionally immortal beings and then contradict his own will by ending their existence.

      Yer Zeus Plus Theistic Personalist Moral Agent "god" doesn't exist brother. It is not the God of Abraham who is the God of Classic Theism. The only God I love and can love. Yer "god" exists in time. The True God is Eternal and Timeless and wills once from all eternity.

      > If God is not a moral agent, then He is amoral.

      As Davies correctly points out "in a sense He is amoral" but God is not amoral in the unequivocal sense a wicked rational creature is amoral nor like an animal in whom no morality applies. God has something to do with morality even if God is not a moral agent. An animal has nothing to do with it and a wicked rational creature is acting contrary to the moral law.

      God is not a Moral Agent. God can be called The Moral Law Itself but not a moral agent. Enough of the Theistic Personalism Vincent. I hate Theistic Personalism with the fire of 10000 suns. There are not enough Scottish curse words to express my hate for that idol.

      God is "amoral" in the sense His analogous morality is not the same as ours. His ways are not our ways or have we forgotten that truth to worship a false Post Enlightenment idol?

      God is in a sense "amoral" in the same sense "God does not exist" since there is only a notional distinction between God's Being and Essence since all other existing things have a real distinction between Being and Essence. God does not exist the way the rest of us do so you can say in a sense God does not exist.

    14. part II

      >Do you really want to worship a God like that?

      I would rather worship a God who allows me to have three autistic kids & who doesn't conceivably owe me normal ones then some Cosmic Asshole moral agent "god" who owes me normal ones and just makes them abnormal to dick with me.
      I can forgive Donald Trump for not giving me a sum of money once a month(which with his wealth he could do) since he doesn't own me money. I cannot forgive my Tennent for skipping out on the rent since he does owes me.
      (note that is not a dis at my Tennent so far he is paid up. That is just an analogy)

      Theodicy makes more Atheists than mean nuns with rulers. Davies is right. All theodicies fail but theodicies are like morons who criticize champion baseball players for not being able to run the mile in record time. Running the mile is not what makes a champion baseball player. Playing Baseball well does. God does not have obligations to His Creatures. So He is not obligated to stop a robber from coming into my house right now and murdering me at the computer in front of the wife. Since God has no obligation to stop the robber then God cannot be blamed for it. If God wills to strike down the robber with a brain aneurysm then that is a pure act of Charity on God's part towards me. Which sums up God's acts towards all His creatures in total. Since God didn't have to create this world.

      Vincent buddy. I say this to you as a fellow Catholic. Zeus Plus is not God. Only the God of Abraham the Trinity is God and that God is not a theistic personalist idol.

    15. Hi Son of Ya'Kov,

      You write: "God cannot will the existence of unconditionally immortal beings and then contradict his own will by ending their existence."

      But that begs the question. We don't know that human are unconditionally immortal.

      "...God could have chosen to create conditionally immortal rational beings and or entirely mortal rational beings in which case it would be entirely natural for them to cease to exist at some point."

      How do you know that you are not an entirely mortal rational being? (I might add that proving the immateriality of the intellectual soul doesn't prove its immortality.)

    16. >But that begs the question. We don't know that human are unconditionally immortal.

      Our Catholic Faith tells us we are unconditionally immortal. We will exist for eternity wither in Heaven or Hell (maybe Limbo for some?). There is nothing in Catholic teaching that teaches the JW or 7th Day Adventist doctrine of soul sleep.

      > How do you know that you are not an entirely mortal rational being? (I might add that proving the immateriality of the intellectual soul doesn't prove its immortality.)

      Vincent I was under the impression you are Catholic too? Why are you asking me this? As far as I know the Church condemns soul sleep or the idea souls of the Damned will be allowed to cease to exist. Thus we are immortal in our souls by the will of the almighty.

      This is the teachings and natural inferences of divine revelation. Now can you prove this using natural theology alone? Most likely not I would say tentatively but that is off topic to what I was discussing.

    17. Son,

      My point is that you and Davies are *in effect* making it so that our moral language is equivocal when applied to God, instead of analogical. I have some familiarity with Davies's work, as well as that of his (marxist and rather heterodox) mentor, father Herbert McCabe, who insisted so much on the idea of apophatic theology to the point where theology for him was mostly about "not speaking nonsense about God", which clearly deviates from traditional thomism, which goes way, way beyond apophaticism. And this type of error is quite evident in this tendency to mislabel as "theistic personalism" any discussion of God which takes seriously our moral concepts. Again, thomists have traditionally asserted that our concepts apply analogically to God. Not equivocally.

      This analogical character means that God isn't good in exactly the same way a limited, finite man can be "morally good". But it also means that God is not some irrational douchebag who is entirely indifferent to the pain and misery of creatures whose natural ends He Himself rationally established.

      As I said, God is a moral agent insofar as He is rational; moral rectitude is the Goodness as it applies to the acts of rational beings with Intellect and Will. In having Intellect and Will, God is also a moral agent. Not exactly like we are, of course (not univocally). But not entirely unlike us, either (not equivocally). God is eminently rational and as such has always been traditionally described as eminently moral, morally perfect.

      So I made two claims. First, that if God is entirely indifferent towards the pain and suffering of innocent people, to the point where He really would do nothing to prevent the holocaust even if there were absolutely *no* morally sufficient reasons for tolerating it (respect for free will, soul building, whatever), then we can no longer meaningfully call Him "good". "Good" would be an equivocal term for such a being, as it would have nothing at all to do with any good, rational being (whose perfections God is supposed to have eminently). In this case, much of systematic theology would be destroyed, and this would not really be a God worthy of worship, as we cannot even speak of His "goodness" without equivocation. Such a God could possibly make a world consisting of nothing but innocent children being tortured forever for fun, since our judgment of the moral abhorrence of such a scenario could not be used when speaking of God. Moral talk about God would all be equivocal.

      Secondly, and Callum also insisted on this, such a God would be irrational (and therefore also unworthy of being God). It is God Himself who ultimately grounds the nature of human beings, including the fact that they are valuable and ought to be protected. If God is indifferent to human suffering to the point where He could just tolerate the worst evils imaginable for absolutely no redeeming reason whatsoever, then He is stupid and ignorant about the nature of humans and how things are supposed to be. He is the kind of God who might foolishly create a world with lions and no prey. It's crazy. (It also risks making much of God's wrath at sin as depicted in the Bible completely arbitrary).

      So, again, I maintain that Davies's is probably the worst treatment of the problem of evil I've ever seen in my life. It makes all human moral talk of God completely equivocal, instead of analogical. And of course, we still need theodicy, as we've always needed it. And have always practiced it.

    18. Also, the idea that Davies's nonsense is representative of Classical Theism is false. Augustine and the Fathers argued that God only tolerated evil because of morally sufficient reasons, but we were "like a dog looking at his master", sometimes unaware of those reasons. Aquinas argued that God tolerates evil in order to achieve greater goods, the implication being that God could not tolerate them if not for a greater good. Were they "personalists"? We can go even further. Udayana wrote that the absolute Iśvara (Lord/God) only tolerated evil for the greater good of souls (in his case, this good being the liberation of souls through the law of karma). Were the Nyaya not classical theists? I could go on and on.

    19. I deny I am doing that in the face of yer objection and I deny Davies is doing that too.

      Herbert McCabe's Socialism & leftist political beliefs are irrelevant to his Thomism. Feser has recommended him and Feser's right winged awesomeness is well known. I am right wing myself. For all I know he never paid his parking tickets? Who cares?

      I don't know how any rational person can read Davies and claim with a straight face he teaches God's moral goodness is equivocal? I don't know how many times I can tell you I would accept calling God morally good in an analogous way. Some people have trouble taking yes for an answer.

      >My point is that you and Davies are *in effect* making it so that our moral language is equivocal when applied to God, instead of analogical.

      Excuse me but he never once in his writings teaches God's morality is equivocal to his rational creatures. You are reading these concepts into him. I am reading Davies in harmony with the general Thomistic tradition. Which is how I treat Thomists from different schools.

      > And this type of error is quite evident in this tendency to mislabel as "theistic personalism" any discussion of God which takes seriously our moral concepts.

      Which I have never done here except in your imagination & which I am pretty sure Davies has never done. Davies certainly says God has something to do with morality. He plainly says in THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL God can't order us to torture babies to death for fun. How is that him advocating equivocal language or not taking seriously moral concepts? You need to go back and re-read him.

      Theistic Personalists hold God to be morally good in the unequivocal way virtuous rational creatures are morally good.
      That is why they are Theistic Personalists & they are wrong. Which I keep saying till I am blue in the face(again you are not taking the yes for an answer). Davies' general theme is that modern Theodicies presuppose this error and they clearly do.

      >But it also means that God is not some irrational douchebag who is entirely indifferent to the pain and misery of creatures whose natural ends He Himself rationally established.

      I don't see how one can conclude Davies would disagree with that or I for that matter? God is not obligated to stop the holocaust from happening but given His Nature & Will and Justice He is obligated Himself too damn to Hell those who instituted that evil & who die un-repented. That God is not obligated to supernaturally intervene to stop the holocaust but that doesn't mean we must tolerate it if we can stop it. We are moral agents. We have obligations to God, the moral law, and each other. God has no such obligations to us to immediately stop any natural evil happening to us or stop us from being victims of evil rational creatures. God has no obligations to us outside of what He has Willed for us. God only absolutely has obligations to Himself.

      God has no emotions. God's love for me is an Act of Will not emotion or passion. God is not sentimental either.

    20. >Aquinas argued that God tolerates evil in order to achieve greater goods, the implication being that God could not tolerate them if not for a greater good.

      Since you are talking past me and reading concepts into my views and Davies neither of us hold I don't know how to answer the above statement since I don't know what you really mea,? I know it is part of the goodness of God to allow evil in order to bring good out of it. I know Davies says God doesn't will evil as an end in itself. I know Davies believes that. By merely creating us God has given us Greater Good since we cannot create ourselves from nothing. Adding the real possibility we might obtain the Beatific Vision is Cosmic Icing on that Holy Cake.

      But then again you are arguing with me over things I don't disagree with and yer criticism of Davies is inartful IMHO.
      OTOH perhaps I too am not being sufficiently clear?

      >Also, the idea that Davies's nonsense is representative of Classical Theism is false.

      So Classic Theism teaches God's moral goodness is unequivocally the same as a virtuous rational creature's moral goodness? Since when? God is like us unequivocally? Since when? His view is the only brillant view as the other views presuppose a God who has obligations to His creatures.

      >It makes all human moral talk of God completely equivocal, instead of analogical.

      Too bad Davies doesn't do that in his writings.

      > And of course, we still need theodicy, as we've always needed it. And have always practiced it.

      I had this argument with Atheist philosopher Stephen Law. Aquinas uses the word "Theodicy" but he didn't use it the way modern proponents of Theodicy use it. Modern proponents of Theodicy claim God is perfectly morally good the way a virtuous rational creature is morally good. They try to come up with moral justifications for God's inaction in the face of some evil. But the justifications presuppose a being who is under the same moral obligations as we are selves. If a Man is poised to rape an infant right in front of me & I have a gun i am obligated to threaten to blow his brains out unless he refrains and to blow his brains out (or wound him to incapacity) if he tries. I am a moral agent. That is my job. God is not a moral agent. He is not obligated to lightning bolt the baby rapist. He could as an act of charity but he is not obligated to do so at that moment. Theodicies try to come up with moral arguments why God (who is presupposed to be obligated to stop the baby rapist in most circumstances) would allow it. Like I might not shoot the baby rapist because of the real danger of hitting the mother of his victim who is in the room.

      A Classic Theistic God needs a modern Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle.

    21. Let me try and focus on one area; you dont think Davies and McCabe are the only legitimate camp within classical theism do you? Because its obviously false. Scotus is absolutely a classical theist and theres significant difference between him and Davies. Not only are non-thomistic scholastics classical theists but plausibly so are the Palamites (good luck arguing someone who says God is 'beyond being'is some kind of theological personalist).

      I'm coming to think more and more that the said difference between theological personalists and classical theists has a much fuzzier boundary than you seem to imply. Its certainly not a case of 'disagree with Davies and you are a TP'

      No chance. Davies is on an extreme end of the spectrum with a fair few self proclaimed classical theists suspicious of how religiously viable Davies' God is.

    22. Son,

      I did not imply McCabe was entirely untrustworthy because of his Marxism or heterodoxy; I just recommended one of his books to someone else in this thread. But it is indeed a red flag of sorts, and as a matter of fact McCabe did have a (very unthomistic) tendency to hyper-emphasize apophatic theology and act almost as if our concepts do not apply to God in any way lest we end up speaking nonsense. It seems Davies is doing the same, unfortunately.

      You have mostly ignored my argument. You keep saying you and Davies do not hold that our moral concepts only apply to God equivocally. But I have argued why you and Davies are in fact doing that.

      God is absolutely obligated to stop the child rapist if there are no morally sufficient reasons to justify His tolerating it. This obligation need not be grounded in creatures (rather the obligation is in God's own goodness and reason which are the root of the nature of human beings and natural law - which in turn entails that human infants are not to be raped). Or, if you still don't like talk of obligation, we can use a modal concept instead: it is impossible for God to tolerate the child rapist if there is no overriding morally sufficient reason for it.

      Since you admit that God is morally good, the first problem I pointed out is that there is no way we could meaningfully say a certain rational and powerful (therefore not weak) being is morally good, if that being tolerates a child rapist with no morally sufficient reason for that. God is rational (eminently, pure reason) and omnipotent. Therefore if God tolerates child rape with no morally sufficient reason, God is not morally good (indeed, we would call Him morally corrupt instead). There is no way "God is morally good" in this case would not be *equivocal*. Certainly it could not be predicated univocally. But it also certainly could not be predicated analogically. There is simply nothing morally good about an omnipotent and omniscient being who tolerates child rape and torture for absolutely no reason whatsoever. To call such a being "morally good" is nonsense. It is to use the word in a totally equivocal manner. There is no analogy whatsoever between our moral goodness and the "moral goodness" of the God who tolerates child rape and torture with absolutely no morally sufficient reason.

      My second argument was that in tolerating such an act for no reason, God would also be completely irrational. It simply is the case that human children absolutely ought to be protected from rape in the absence of overriding morally sufficient reasons, based on the nature that God Himself creates and sustains - in fact, with the final causes that He Himself maintains. Contrary to Davies, in being the ultimate ground of existence and reason of creatures, God is not "exempt" from this order. He is the culmination and perfection of it. He can never allow an absolutely irrational violation of natural law in the absence of morally sufficient reason, precisely because natural law is in participation of the Eternal Law. If He could, He would be a flawed and irrational demiurge - of the sort you claim personalists worship, though it seems Davies is the one who does - who could also possibly create a foolish world with lions and no prey for no reason whatsoever. It's absurd.

      Finally, and again, Davies's nonsense is not representative of Classical Theism as a whole. The idea that God could possibly tolerate gratuitous evil (that is, evil with no corresponding redeeming or morally sufficient reason whatsoever) is crazy to many classical theists throughout history - among the Western Fathers, the Eastern and Greek Fathers, many medievals, classical Indian Nyaya theists, and more. It is ridiculous to suggest Davies's is "THE classical theist position" (if anything, on the contrary, most classical theists have sharply disagreed with him, as I said).

    23. Callum,

      Of course Scotus and Palamites are Classic Theists. But do any of them teach God's moral goodness is the same as his Creatures?

      I know Scotus believes some things between God and Creatures can be compared unequivocally but he doesn't abandon analogy all together.

      >I'm coming to think more and more that the said difference between theological personalists and classical theists has a much fuzzier boundary than you seem to imply. Its certainly not a case of 'disagree with Davies and you are a TP'

      Yeh William Lane Craig's view of God is an attempted hybrid between the two but IMHO such a composite being is default TP. I am a purist.

      >It is ridiculous to suggest Davies's is "THE classical theist position"

      Depends on the specifics.

    24. Atno

      >I did not imply McCabe was entirely untrustworthy because of his Marxism or heterodoxy;

      I accept you at yer word. We can debate McCabe later.

      >You have mostly ignored my argument. You keep saying you and Davies do not hold that our moral concepts only apply to God equivocally. But I have argued why you and Davies are in fact doing that.

      Rather I can turn it back on you and claim you are in fact arguing God's Morality is Unequivocal instead of Analogous. I don't think you have given me any reasons why I am making God's Morality equivocal? You seem to me to be merely assuming it.

      At best you object to Davies terminology but if that's yer objection that is not the same as showing God's Moral Goodness is equivocal.

      >God is absolutely obligated to stop the child rapist if there are no morally sufficient reasons to justify His tolerating it.

      That makes no sense you are now treating God's Morally Unequivocally not Analogously? Unequivocally any virtuous rational creatures are obligated to stop all child rapists unless prevented from doing so. God is omnipotent. What can stop Him from stopping any rapist? The thing is Rowe's arguments all succeed accept against Davies who rejects the Moral Agent false anthropomorphic "god" Rowe attacks. Also neither has the same concept of gratuitous evil.

      >This obligation need not be grounded in creatures (rather the obligation is in God's own goodness and reason which are the root of the nature of human beings and natural law - which in turn entails that human infants are not to be raped).

      This only makes sense if God's Nature and Goodness are unequivocally compared to ours which is absurd. So you lost me here? You accuse me of making God's Goodness equivocal yet all I see from you is an unequivocal goodness?
      I don't see how an analogous goodness obligates God to stop all rapists since He obviously doesn't and He clearly has no obligations to His Creatures? He didn't have to create us.

      No our nature mandates raping infants keeps them from flourishing and it is not our nature to force sexual coupling with young children. It is rooted in us. So God forbids it but He is not obligated to immediately stop you if you choose to do that anyway.

      >we can use a modal concept

      I reject Modal logic.


    25. >Since you admit that God is morally good,

      Without qualification I admit no such thing. I admit God is really truly something like a virtuous rational creature in the analogous sense. He is not wholly unlike one except for the use of a common word so I reject equivocal goodness. God is morally good analogously but not unequivocally like a virtuous rational creature. OTOH we are like God but God is not like us.
      You seem to me to be treating him like he is and I gave up worshipping magic man with a white bread for Being Itself.

      >the first problem I pointed out is that there is no way we could meaningfully say a certain rational and powerful (therefore not weak) being is morally good, if that being tolerates a child rapist with no morally sufficient reason for that.

      I reject God as "a being". God is Being Itself or Beyond Being. I am an absolute Atheist when it comes to believing in a "god" who is a being. So already we are not on the same page and yer "god" is the opposite extreme you apply to Davies and McCabe. It is too anthropomorphic for me to care about it or pray to it. It is a glorified Saint not Divinity. I need a Mystery to love and I cannot love a Saint as well as a Divine Mystery.

      Are you some sort of Theistic Skeptic? You believe there is some hidden or rationally incomprehensible "moral reason" God would allow a child to be raped? What is this morally sufficient reason for a morally good God to tolerate some cases of child rape? What makes this God analogously moral vs rational creature moral?

      >There is simply nothing morally good about an omnipotent and omniscient being who tolerates child rape and torture for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

      You mean there is no unequivocally morally good reason etc otherwise that makes no sense? What moral reason could there possibly be? All Theodicies fail. Free Will Theodicies fail since God could merely choose to make only virtuous people who will only freely choose the good. Now for a Thomist that is not a problem since God is not obligated to create anybody and there are no beings so good God is obligated to make them and none so bad as long as they participate in being God should refrain from making them.

      If I have the power to do a good which I am obligated to do and fail to do it then I am a sinner. What obligates God other than Himself? How has God obligated himself to immediately stop all evil? What does it mean for God to obligate himself?

      >There is no analogy whatsoever between our moral goodness and the "moral goodness" of the God who tolerates child rape and torture with absolutely no morally sufficient reason.

      Sounds to me you really do believe in a "god" whose moral goodness is unequivocally like our moral goodness? You are just labeling it analogous but it looks unequivocal to me?

      So what am I missing? Also the "Davies" you read isn't the one I read.

      >it seems Davies is the one who does - who could also possibly create a foolish world with lions and no prey for no reason whatsoever.

      Well to anybody who has actually read Davies knows He would no more believe God could do so than for God to command the rape of babies.

      OTOH so you believe God can allow a world where Lions eat lambs? Isn't God morally obligated to keep the lambs from suffering? We can Rowe this all up. You know the faun argument and I like Davies answer better. I like to make Rowe's Faun a five year old girl and now tell me the moral good of her suffering?

      Sorry but by yer own standard Atno yer theodicy "god" is the sadist. The True God is not since to call Him one is incoherent.

      Care to clear this up?

    26. Anto.

      Let us simplify this.

      God wills His own Good by necessity but He wills the Good of His creatures Gratuitously.

      If He wills the good of His creatures Gratuitously then He doesn't will their good by an obligation to them. Thus he need not will the specific good of striking down a rapist before he rapes because God has no obligations to His creatures. If God is obligated to strike down the rapist then God must do so by necessity.

      What is this "reason" for God to allow rapes He is obligated to stop?

    27. Actually we can make this even more simple.

      Anto do you agree with Feser here? Because I do 100%.

    28. This one too.

    29. Also I am not at all convinced you understand Davies Atno.

      This one is short.

    30. I have given you reasons why you are treating it equivocally, instead of analogically.

      If someone said P1: "God can torture babies for fun, and He would still be morally good", you would agree that "morally good" is being used equivocally here, right? Of course a being who torture babies for fun, any being, could not in any way be morally good. Indeed, we would consider such a God evil. To predicate "moral goodness" to this God would be a complete equivocation.

      My first argument was that the same conclusion should hold for P2: "God can tolerate and do absolutely nothing to stop a child rapist from raping a child, even though He has the power to stop it, and He has absolutely no overriding, morally sufficient reasons to tolerate this act. God can simply tolerate and do nothing to stop a completely gratuitous rape of a child, for no reason whatsoever, and He would still be morally good". While P2 is different from P1 insofar as it involves inaction, I claim that P2 is equally absurd. "Morally good" would certainly be used equivocally here. There is nothing morally good about such a God. Our concept of moral goodness simply doesn't apply at all here, not even analogically; it is just nonsensical to call this being "morally good".

      And I claim that if you don't see that the predicate of "morally good" in P2 is equivocal, then you are confused or your intellect is corrupted.

      And yes, I do believe in some kind of skeptical theism in this case; there must be some morally sufficient reason behind God's tolerance of evil. The different theodicies try to spell out candidate reasons, or ways in which our intellect might grasp how there might be some morally sufficient reasons out there: the value and importance of free will for a meaningful creation; soul building theodicies; harmony of laws; afterlife compensation, sublimation or whatever; Augustine's idea of the cosmos as a work of art that we can only understand in its entirety, etc.

      "What is this morally sufficient reason for a morally good God to tolerate some cases of child rape?"

      This would require a full discussion of different theodicies, skeptical theism, etc. Perhaps some of the ideas I've sketched above, which have also been historically defended by theists throughout all ages. If you think it's absurd that there should be morally sufficient reasons justifying God in tolerating such evils, it should be doubly absurd for God to tolerate such evils without any morally sufficient reasons at all.

      "You mean there is no unequivocally morally good reason etc otherwise that makes no sense?"

      No, I mean that there is absolutely nothing in common - neither univocally nor analogically - between our moral goodness and the "moral goodness" of a God who gratuitously tolerates child rape without any overriding or even conflicting reasons. There is nothing "morally good" about this, which is why, under Davies's view (as you presented here), "morally good" cannot be predicated of God through analogy. It would simply be an equivocal predication.

      So this God would, contrary to what you say, be wholly unlike a virtuous rational creature.

      "I reject Modal logic"

      That's bizarre. Modal logic just is formalized logic as applied to modal concepts. Rejecting it is simply crazy. It doesn't even have anything to do with Feser's (to my mind generally unreasonable) reservations with talk of possible worlds. Whether you like it or not, we have to make use of modal concepts while discussing much of metaphysics and theology, and so we better make sure we do so in a consistent and sensible manner. (1/2)

    31. I presented the modal version just in case our disagreement might stem from a misunderstanding regarding the term "obligation". If you don't like saying something like "God is obligated to stop rapists if there are no morally sufficient reasons for Him to tolerate them", because you think this involves an obligation towards creatures or some other issue ("obligated?" "God does not have obligations to creatures", etc), we can more easily prevent misunderstandings by ditching the word "obligated" and instead using a more neutral modal construction:

      "God cannot possibly tolerate rapists, unless some morally sufficient reasons are present. It would be contrary to His nature". I accept this, and I think every theist should likewise accept it. And that a rejection of such a thesis would make the predication of "morally good" to God equivocal.

      "so you believe God can allow a world where Lions eat lambs?"

      Yes, a good lion eats lambs. This was meant to be a general example; if you're worried about animal suffering and theodicy we might skip misunderstandings and use Callum's other example: a world with plants but no water or sunlight. It's irrational. God could never create such a foolish, irrational world. He always takes into account the natures and natural ends of creatures He made. A corollary is that God could never tolerate blatant violations of natural law that He could prevent, unless there were morally sufficient reasons for it. Otherwise He would be irrational. That was my second argument.

      I have to say I am quite disappointed in Davies's "classical demiurgism" and (in effect, even if he doesn't assume it this way) his rejection of analogy. Again, can't help but feel like it might have been some bad influence from McCabe's over-emphasis on apophatic theology. (2/2)

    32. "Now, for Davies, the instances of evil suffered that we find in the natural order of things are analogous to that.  When a lamb is eaten by a lion, the damage to the lamb amounts to a set of privations – for example, the absence of a limb, flesh, or skin that is torn away.  Though bad considered in itself, the damage also plays a necessary part of a larger good, namely the flourishing of the lion. "

      If this is Davies's position then I don't think it's absurd. Notice "greater good". When I speak of morally sufficient reasons, I do mean that God must only tolerate evil insofar as it can lead to a greater good. I was (and still am) under the impression that the way you put the whole thing down, that Davies rejected that: that he thought God, in having no obligations whatsoever, could in fact tolerate evils without any greater good in view. THIS is what I think is absurd.

      But if Davies believes and teaches that God only tolerates evil and suffering insofar as it plays a role in a greater good (I.e., God has morally sufficient reasons for tolerating the evils in question), then I can agree with him and it wouldn't be "classical demiurgism" as I put it.

      However, if that is the case, then we're back at standard theodicy. The atheist will simply push the evidential problem of evil and claim that there are horrendous evils and it is implausible that there is a greater good involving so much evil and suffering. We'll have to consider theodicy all the same (free will, soul building, harmony of natures, etc). In this case, I fail to see how Davies relevantly changes the playing field.

    33. Son of Ya'kov
      "God wills once from all eternity."

      Will requires that one can make a choice.

      If god was always going to do X ("from all eternity") then there was no opportunity for god to have done other than X, so god is then a pre-programmed robot with no will.

    34. Atno,

      >If this is Davies's position....But if Davies believes and teaches that God only tolerates evil and suffering insofar as it plays a role in a greater good (I.e., God has morally sufficient reasons for tolerating the evils in question), then I can agree with him and it wouldn't be "classical demiurgism" as I put it.

      So you really haven't read any Davies at all then? Yer responses thus far show Zero familiarity with his work and you clearly are making unequivocal comparisons between God and creatures & not analogous ones. Repeating an argument based on presuppositions neither of us apparently share(god is a being? No he is not. nonsense about many worlds and modal logic? No sir). This isn't traditional scholasticism. Which is fine for you but by definition we have no shared terms so by definition all yer responses to me are confusing.

      Like taking to a Lutheran about Justification. He doesn't Trent's definition and the real debate between us is what is the correct definition because him banging on about the "errors" of the Church on Salvation are just question begging and that is what I feel like has been going on between us.

      Because the Brian Davies I read and the Brian Davies you are banging on about are clearly not the same person or share the same teachings.

      >we can more easily prevent misunderstandings by ditching the word "obligated" and instead using a more neutral modal construction:

      No since I cannot for the life of me understand yer objection to Davies' (& Feser if you actually read the links) view God has no obligations to His Creatures ergo God is not a moral agent?

      All yer responses to date only make sense if you are comparing God to a morally good human in an unequivocal way.

      >"God cannot possibly tolerate rapists, unless some morally sufficient reasons are present. It would be contrary to His nature".

      But the reasons are incomprehensible or unknowable and Rowe can come up with many scenarios of actual evil in the world that have no apparent plausible moral justification. Ergo all Theodicy fails. At best Theistic Skepticism is in the same lane as the anti-theodicy crowd. You require an incomprehensible God who allows child rape for a morally good reason which is incomprehensible or unknown to us. That sounds equivocal to me by yer own standards.

      I am glad you are honest with me and own up to the fact you favor skeptical theism (that would be my second choice in solving the problem of evil after Davies but Theodicy clearly fails).

      Univocal Term: A term that has only one meaning. That is, it signifies only one thought, and therefore corresponds to only one definition.

      For you God being morally good and a virtuous creature being morally good are the same. I don't see any real difference in their goodness as you have explained it? Davies doesn't have that problem. They are (for you it seems to me) the same thing and they are good in the same way. There is no analogy here only unequivocality as far as I can see.

    35. >Again, can't help but feel like it might have been some bad influence from McCabe's over-emphasis on apophatic theology.

      In Classic Theism there is no such thing as an over-emphasis on apophatic theology. Less apophatic theology leads to Theistic Personalism which as far as I am concerned will lead to Atheism. Also it seems to me to have an unknown or unknowable good reason for God to allow an evil requires some of that apophatic theology.

      We don't know why God gave me autistic kids. But there must be an incomprehensible good reason for it. Well I could except that intellectually but I can also except God given His Nature in the classic sense cannot coherently be seen something that is obligated to give me only normal kids. So Theodicy does nothing for me other than give vulgar reasons why God is a prick to me. Hard pass. I want to keep my Catholic faith thank you very much.

      So we are farther apart than I hoped...........

      >However, if that is the case, then we're back at standard theodicy. The atheist will simply push the evidential problem of evil and claim that there are horrendous evils and it is implausible that there is a greater good involving so much evil and suffering.

      They are right of course. Just like those Atheists who refute Young Earth Creationism or similar nonsense.

      >We'll have to consider theodicy all the same (free will, soul building, harmony of natures, etc). In this case, I fail to see how Davies relevantly changes the playing field.

      It is like the ending of the 80's movie WARGAMES. The WHOPPER computer refuses to start a Nuclear War with Russia because it correctly concludes "the only winning move is not to play".

      God is clearly not a moral agent unequivocal way a virtuous rational creature is and given His Nature claiming He is one makes about as much sense as claiming The Divine Essence can ride a bike. Davies changes the field the way a good Catholic Theistic Evolutionist ruins a pop Atheist's extensive list of scientific refutations of a Young Earth Creationism and anti-evolutionism. He renders their objections non-starters which is what the Problem of Evil is to me.

    36. Now for yer Question Begging Arguments that show Zero familiarity with Davies views.

      >If someone said P1: "God can torture babies for fun, and He would still be morally good", you would agree that "morally good" is being used equivocally here, right?

      No given the presuppositions of Classic Theism, Divine Simplicity and Scholastic Metaphysics in general I would consider it an incoherent one not an unequivocal one.

      > Of course a being who torture babies for fun, any being, could not in any way be morally good.

      Actually any rational creature who does that could not be morally good. Saying God in the classic sense can be a being who tortures babies for fun is about as coherent as saying God can ride a bike. Which He really can't in the literal sense.

      >Indeed, we would consider such a God evil. To predicate "moral goodness" to this God would be a complete equivocation.

      No given the presuppositions of Classic Theism it would be completely incoherent. Being equivocal has nothing to do with it. The Divine Essence cannot literally ride a bike and God is not a literal moral agent like a morally good person is a moral agent.

      It would be pointless looking at yer other question begging arguments at this point. This has nothing to do with being equivocal. You are giving me examples of incoherence.

      So we are not as close as I thought. Yer views of this "Davies" you bang on about looks nothing like the view of the old English Priest I like reading.....

    37. Theistic Skepticism claims there is a morally good reason for God to tolerate the rape of babies by wicker persons but we just don't know it. Because of epistemological reasons (i.e. we just haven't figured it out yet but we don't know for sure it doesn't exist) or the reasons are ineffable. Like the good you do for yer Dug which the wee beastie cannot comprehend but exist none the less.

      How do you avoid "equivocal"* this way again? It seems you need some of that good apophatic theology for any of this to make sense. Practically speaking it is no different than believing that God can't coherently be thought of as a being who owes me immediate intervention to stop evils in my life(like any moral agent creature) because it is incoherent to think of God as being that way.

      I can hold to Davies and some Theistic Skepticism but Theodicy I can no more accept than YEC. At best I can accept them in the most limited sense. I can believe God can use my kids autism for my spiritual growth since He can bring good out of evil but I can't believe He directly made my kids autistic for that purpose. Of course I cannot believe God is so anthropomorphic. I cannot love a God who is not Mystery.

  19. Is beauty objective?
    For a long time, I've thought that it isn't, but now I'm starting to reconsider. This was my general thought process before reconsidering (to be honest, looking back, I feel kind of ashamed that I thought this was persuasive):

    Q) If beauty was objective, why would there be so much aesthetic disagreement?

    A) There's loads of disagreement over the existence of, say, evolution- that doesn't mean there isn't an objective answer to that question.

    Q) Yes, but we have valid logical and scientific methods of discerning the answers to such issues- using deduction, abduction and induction, for example. As of yet, there are no viable models of a science of beauty, so we cannot say the same here.

    Yet now, increasingly, I'm drawn to this response:

    A) Most of our answers are not concluded upon by deduction, induction or abduction. Instead, they are found by mere observation. For example, if I were to see a friend who comes into my house and said, "It's tipping it down with rain!", despite the fact that I thought otherwise, there is a simply way to tell- by simply looking, and not necessarily by attempting to deduce logically. Similarly, we simply look at purportedly beautiful objects and conclude whether they are so.
    This is analogous to colour: when people throughout history have seen, say, Cezanne's Mont Saint-Victoire, they have all concluded that it was beautiful. Just because I see it (not that I do) and conclude, "That isn't beautiful", doesn't mean that it isn't- most likely my perception of it is faulty rather than others' all are. Similarly, when green-red colour blind people see green objects as being vaguely red, they would be wrong to conclude, "All these people have been wrong! It's just a subjective matter really."

    Two objections are immediately apparent to me: firstly, one might object that there are more intricate artistic statements that appeal to more niche audiences- for example, few can appreciate eccentric avant-garde artworks, yet those who do are zealous in their support. Are they wrong simply because few agree with them? Yet this is compatible with the analogy: just as there are more niche distinctions in art, so there are more niche distinctions in colour: few, for example, could tell the difference between a BS2100 and a BS2101 on a colour chart, yet there is still a crucial and objective distinction. This is not to say that fans of, say, Arnold Schoenberg are necessarily right- only to say that they are not necessarily wrong.

    Secondly, one could object by saying that there is less disputation in matters of colour than in matters of art and beauty. Of course, the analogy is not perfect. But it is suitable to demonstrate that merely because disputes emerge, and merely because there isn't a scientific or distinctively logical way of discerning the answer, doesn't mean there isn't one. The true way of discerning who's right and who's wrong is a) by seeing who is functioning properly in their understanding- e. g. reliabilist epistemology, and b) by dispute and argument- one party may be misunderstanding the other, and merely by arguing with others, one may grow to understand their error and see why they were wrong.

    I look forward to hearing responses!

    1. I think it's fairly simple: if we accept a principle such as that of phenomenal conservatism, or at the very least trust our strongest intuitions, we can conclude that there is such a thing as objective beauty. Because it in fact strongly seems like there is objective beauty. Just like how it seems strongly that there is objective morality.

      As far as the objection that many people disagree over beauty, there are at least two important points to consider. First, there is a lot of disagreement over scientific matters as well. About morality too. This in itself is of course no reason to not trust our intuitions and abandon our beliefs; at best, we should try to be more cautious when analyzing the issue.
      Secondly, when these discussions come up, skeptics always exaggerate disagreements and ignore agreements. For morality, for instance, lots of people disagree over the trolley problem. But there is almost no disagreement over more basic questions - such as whether murder is wrong. Likewise, there are different perceptions of beauty, but almost everyone agrees that (for instance) the starry night sky is beautiful; that the sea, mountains, etc. are beautiful. The works of Mozart and Beethoven are almost universally loved and recognized as beautiful; people as far as in Japan have recognized the aesthetic quality of the works of these classical European composers. So, isn't the widespread agreement over aesthetics also impressive?

      (This gives rise to attempts at explaining away our sensibilities as involving adaptative evolutionary advantages- but if that were so, we shouldn't expect to find people almost everywhere thinking tigers are beautiful, the Death Valley is beautiful, and so on.)

      And if beauty is objective, it is also quite unsurprising that some beauty is more subtle than others, or requires greater sophistication and education to enjoy. While the beauty of a landscape is obvious to almost all people, the beauty of some abstract paintings might require some heightened sensibility or education. Bad taste is a real thing, too. This is all quite consistent with objective beauty. So is moral disagreements over difficult dilemmas which require deeper wisdom and intelligence to solve.

    2. One thing to bear in mind, though: just ''because'' people like Mozart and Beethoven receive great amounts of support doesn't by any means mean that they are objectively great. It may raise the probability, but objective beauty, if it exists, is by definition very separate from human interactions with it.
      Take Tolstoy: he hated Shakespeare, after having read his works multiple times in multiple different languages. Can we simply say, "Well, many others disagree, so I think his view is invalid"? Of course not. Similarly, we would be very wrong to argue that Mozart or Beethoven and the general support for their works is in and of itself a proof of objective beauty.

    3. I didn't say it is proof of objective beauty, just that it can make it more likely and definitely is something that calls for an explanation (which is why some people even try to give sociobiological explanations to our perceptions of beauty), and that while skeptics exaggerate disagreements, they often ignore the (perhaps even more impressive) agreements.

    4. James,
      This isn't an exhaustive reply but it's a little tactic I find helpful when discussing this matter with some of my philosophy students.

      Usually someone will ask a question like yours when we get to Plato, and often she is skeptical that beauty can be objective for reasons you describe. Then I tell her that I find images of torturing and mutilating children beautiful, and immediately she perceives a problem. That reductio ad absurdum is usually enough to get people walking back from the 'beauty is wholly in the eye of the beholder' position. It's doesn't answer how beauty can be objective, but does short-circuit some of the relativism pretty easily so we can get into the hard work of seeking out the objective criteria.

  20. Dr. Feser, I have a question about the theory of act and potency. If my understanding is correct, pat of the point of the theory is to help us explain how change can take place without something coming from nothing. So when an ice cube melts into water, the water does not come from nothing, but the ice cube's potency for this liquid state is reduced to act. But I also thought that potencies are rooted in actualities, and cannot exist apart from them, act being more fundamental. Yet when this change occurs and this new state of things is brought into actual being, how can any further change occur beyond this unless we admit new potencies in the water (which we do, if I understand)? But then it seems like it is potencies, rather than actualities, that arise out of nothing, and this is what the theory is intended to exclude.
    What is the resolution to this? Is it that the potencies are brought into being along with the act they are rooted in, taking a part in the reduction of the original potencies to act? Do we admit an infinite chain of potencies in a substance, some more deeply along the line than others? I feel like I'm missing something, I don't doubt that there's a fix to this, but this perplexes me somewhat.

    1. Firing from the hip here, but I think we need to disentangle the notion of potencies being grounded in actualities. When we say that potencies are grounded in actualities, there are a couple things this can mean:
      1. Prime matter cannot exist without some substantial form concurrently inhering in it.
      2. What a thing actually is determines why a substance has one set of potencies rather than another.

      However, neither of these conflict with the notion of substantial change yielding different potencies, for, if we remember what it is that is conserved through substantial change, it is the prime matter. So in a certain sense, we can say that the potencies are also grounded in prime matter inasmuch as it is the prime matter that is delimited and demarcated to manifest such and such potencies when one substantial form inheres in it vs. other potencies when another substantial form inheres in it.

  21. I recently watched a video by someone who is presenting a series on Christian Philosophy. (I'm pretty sure it's from a Theistic Personalist understanding of God). In one of the videos (the one below) the speaker talks about "Aristotle and God". Because I have read some of Dr. Feser's books on Aristotle (and Aquinas) I know that this guy has some misunderstandings about Aristotle's argument for God's existence. The guy also doesn't seem to understand Natural Law, but because I haven't read much on Natural Law, I cannot really explain what he gets wrong about it. Could someone else watch the video and then explain what he misunderstood about Aristotle?
    (the video is less then 7 minutes long).

    1. I don't see that he misunderstood Aristotle.

      (1) He claims that Aristotle's view of God differed from the Christian view. Seems true.
      (2) He also claimed that this difference would lead to different conclusions about natural law. He didn't give examples, but 7 minutes isn't long. Seems possible.
      (3) He doesn't really explain what Natural Law is. He just mentions the idea of fulfilling a potential, a good sculptor, a good flute player. I don't think there's enough information here to conclude that he doesn't understand it?

      If Feser is writing about the approaches of Aristotle and Aquinas, it may be difficult to distinguish when they hold different views, if this is not the purpose of the chapter.

      Have you listened to more than the six minutes 16 seconds in this particular video, so that your comments refer to ideas not in this segment?

  22. A comment which is actually on topic:

    I confess the last time I fed a troll was involved with my own monomania. He'd "answered" (irrelevantly) a question about Augustine's attitude to the sea. I still don't get Andrew Lambert's (in Seapower States) claim that Augustine's "hatred" of the sea made it impossible for Catholic states to be true seapowers. (Venice, he dodges, by saying they weren't true Catholics.) But he never backed it up; I still have no idea what he's referring to.

    However, it does occur to me that Augustine might have been influenced by Plato. E.g., in the Laws, Plato says "had the city been on the sea, and dependent for support on other countries, no human power could have preserved you from corruption. Even the distance of eleven miles is hardly enough. For the sea, although an agreeable, is a dangerous companion, and a highway of strange morals and manners as well as of commerce."

    Anyhow, it's a point I am more skeptical of than when I asked earlier.

  23. Another question. Did Ellmers's refutation about teleology ever see the light of day?

  24. I have a question about the preservation of consciousness after death via the immortality of the soul. If such a thing is possible (which, although recognizing the depressiveness of this, I don't think it is), why would consciousness not be preserved in other instances when the body is only supporting unconscious activity, such as sleep or when under anesthesia?

    1. Well, from what I understand, while the A-T view of the soul is that it has an immaterial aspect that is involved with conceptual thought, this aspect cannot function in the absence of mental images (which are completely material). Thus you cannot remain conscious if the relevant parts of your body aren't functioning.

      The soul still technically "exists" post-death, but it can't remain "conscious" on its own. I believe Feser affirms that God directly provides the soul with consciousness of the Beatific Vision post-death and pre-Resurrection, but I believe some others Thomists might instead affirm a kind of "soul sleep" prior to the Resurrection.

    2. Near-death experiences or out-of-body experiences (where people, even blind people, saw and hear things when they were existing non-physically outside their bodies) seem real base on various researches. So perhaps God enabled persons who had those experiences to have those experiences despite them existing non-physically in those temporary situations (before they were reunited with the bodies and regain consciousness in their bodies).

      The prestigious medical journal Lancet published a paper on NDE. Various other journals also published on such cases.

      johannes hui

    3. reasonable,

      Since most near-death experiences seem to happen to people who are not Catholic (and never became Catholic), and since what they describe cannot be brought into accord with the Catholic religion, I highly doubt that those experiences were real at all. If they were real, Christianity would be false.

      - John

    4. John,

      Whilst I agree that NDEs at problematic for the usual understanding of Christianity on issues like salvation, I'd be interested in what you mean by false.

      I don't think anyone today doubts that NDEs don't occur in the sense that people experience them, and fairly often. They also do seem to have a shared phenomenological pattern, and seem quite distinct from the naturalist parallels sometimes put forward, like what sometimes happens in cases of oxygen deprivation or on ingesting certain substances. I also think there is pretty good evidence for veridical perception in a minority of cases, like the Pam Reynolds case or the of Maria and the tennis shoe.

      If NDEs are false, it must mean that they don't give a true picture of the afterlife, but are an illusion, though a peculiar one unlike common hallucinations or delusions.

    5. Jeremy Taylor,

      I must admit I am not a specialist when it comes to such phenomena, but speaking as a Catholic theologian, NDE's and Christianity don't accord with eachother, so one of them must consequently be false.

      I don't doubt that what people having experienced an NDE describe, really happened to them. I'm not claiming they are liars, and I do believe that there is an actual phenomenon going on that can be monitored by standard medical methods.

      However, I hold that those NDE's are caused by strictly natural factors, even if we might not understand them fully. They are quite distinct from every vision ever described by a Catholic seer/mystic. And usually, the warm, fuzzy feeling with a sense of being called into a loving presence, calls into question everything Christianity teaches (and which has ben ascertained by authentic visions of Hell, of Purgatory, of the Day of Judgement, and of Heaven).

      Since Christianity isn't false or erring (my position as a Christian), it means that NDE's aren't true in an eschatological sense.

      Also, NDE's can't happen according to Catholic doctrine. Why? Because the last things only happen after you die, not while you are close to death.
      Everytime a Christian mystic has experienced the afterlife (in any of its forms), those have been visions, and not NDE's.

      Can NDE's be visions? Absolutely. But so can dreams be, and maybe even drug-fuelled trips.

      - John

  25. Hello all! I've been reading Feser's books, and I'm trying to wrap my head around A-T Metaphysics. One question that kept occurring to me whilst reading: how do we rationally tell what is a substantial form and what is accidental?

    For example, Feser gives the example of a red bouncy toy ball. The ball, he says, has a substantial form of being a ball. Thus it can easily be painted blue, and still be a ball. However, if we melt it down into goo, it loses its substantial form of a ball. But how do we know that the substantial form of the object isn't "RED toy made out of RUBBER", and thus the shape (spherical, pyramidal, cubic, etc.) is the accidental feature while the color is part of its substantial form?

    1. Because you can change an accident without changing the thing but you can't change the substantial form without changing the thing.

      If you want to push this idea though and say, maybe the thing is "red" and it being a ball or car is the accident, the problem with this is that, you can have a car of any color, the car does not depend on red. But red can never exist on it's own. You cannot conceive of "redness". Even in your mind if you try to think of pure redness you still must envision it as a red-something.

  26. M.D.
    "The ball, he says, has a substantial form of being a ball."
    The "ball" "form" is a human perceptual illusion.

    "Red" is our way of expressing what happens when electromagnetic radiation within certain ranges of wavelengths stimulate particular sorts of cells in our retinas to send related signals to the cells in our brains that we then speak of as "red".

    "it can easily be painted blue, and still be a ball."
    So, by attaching molecules that reflect other wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation the surface appearance of the structure nominally defined as a "ball" is now called "blue".

    "if we melt it down into goo, it loses its substantial form of a ball. But how do we know that the substantial form of the object isn't "RED toy made out of RUBBER", and thus the shape (spherical, pyramidal, cubic, etc.) is the accidental feature while the color is part of its substantial form? "
    Sorry, I would try to make some sense of all that but it seems so garbled to me that the exercise seems pointless.

    You can learn about molecular structure, chemistry, physics, the perception of color, and much else if you attend university and study these subjects, or if you study them scientifically by other means.

    What do you hope to gain by employing the crude and pointless terminology you describe above?

    1. Don't feed the trollsMarch 10, 2020 at 12:34 AM

      Folks, this is one of the banned trolls Feser was talking about. Don't feed him

  27. Is there any good work on social ontology from a AT (or simply Aristotelian) perspective? I'm thinking on something addressing works such as Searle's The construction of social reality, but I'm also interested in older stuff.
    I also want to thank professor Feser for his work, it had helped me a lot.
    Cheers from Europe

  28. Any plans to respond to David Bentley Hart's pro-universalism book, That All Shall Be Saved? I don't quite know how to respond to the philosophical case he makes for universalism.

  29. I remember a blog post talked about hierarchy of goods, to the effect that while cutting off an arm to save an entire body from poison is very bad for the arm, it's not against natural law to do so because it is for the purpose of a good that is higher up in the hierarchy. Does anyone remember that post or can you formulate the principle more formally?

  30. What explanation is the most fundamental in explaining why an entity exists necessarily?

    For example, someone may ask: “Why such an entity exists necessarily? What gives rise to its necessary existence?”

    For example:
    It exists necessarily because it has Necessary Existence. (sounds circular)
    It exists necessary because its existence is intrinsic to itself.
    It exists necessarily because it is non-composite.
    Its exists necessarily because its existence is unconditional on anything.
    Its exists necessarily because its essence is existence.

    What explanation can you think of that is the most fundamental explanation on why an entity exists necessarily?

    johannes hui

    1. Interesting post. I am a big fan of the composition argument/neo-platonic proof, but I don't think that something being non-composite immediately means that it exists necessarily. I think to reach that point you need additional argumentation.

      Essence = existence is obviously very potent too, but that requires more metaphysical argumentation and foundation.

      I would say that "unconditional on anything" is probably the most potent point you listed because it doesn't require any other metaphysics or philosophical jargon to flesh out.

    2. I think there must be a property, call it N, which is the property of Necessary Existence. The nature of the necessary being must in fact be N. How is this to be further cashed out? I prefer to leave that to whatever theory the person prefers.

      Personally, I think the essence/existence distinction makes the best sense of it. There is such a thing as Esse, and a necessary being is a being whose essence just is esse. Pure Esse, Esse Tantum.

    3. P.S.: it's interesting to note the relationship between Maximal Greatness/Perfection and Necessary Existence. A Maximally Great being would be Necessary. A completely perfect being would exist necessarily. This is an important connection.


  31. What would be the arguments against the idea of mutual causation/dependence being the Ultimate explanation of existence?

    For example, I have had coffee discussion with an atheist who claim the POSSIBILITY that at the most fundamental level, A is the condition B depends on for existence, while B is the condition that A depends on for existence. (Buddhists also tend to go for such mutual dependency to explain existence).

    So the bedrock of existence, according to such claims, is that at the most fundamental ontological layer, A depends on B while B depends on A. Then from both A & B, we have everything else in existence.

    My reasoning against such a claim is that:

    Since A and B each lacks unconditional existence, then for each of them, there is a logical sequence that starts from non-existence to existence. This is because any entity that lacks unconditional existence must LOGICALLY begin from non-existence.

    Only an entity that has unconditional existence can LOGICALLY begin from existence.

    For A to pass from logic state of non-existence to the logic state of existence is impossible, because its existence is conditional on B, which also would be at the logic state of non-existence. Both A and B would be begin st the logic state of non-existence.

    So A cannot rise from the logic state of non-existence because its needs the presence/existence of the condition B. But condition B is also at a logic state of non-existence so A’s required condition is not being fulfilled.

    So A and B remain “trapped” in the logic state of non-existence.

    So if the fundamental bedrock of existence is such conditional entities such as A and B (or more of such entities), then nothing would be existing now.

    But since you the reader exists now, the idea of such mutually-conditional entities being the fundamental layer of the whole of existence is false. (Modus Tollens)

    So such mutual conditioning/dependency at the most fundamental ontological level is false.

    Anyone has any other arguments to reason against such mutual dependency for existence?

    johannes hui

    1. Johannes

      While A depends on B and B depends on A, the A-B pair as a whole is unconditional.
      You can compare it to the Trinity if you want. Each person of the Trinity is dependent on both other persons, yet the whole, which is the Triune God, is not conditional.
      The Trinity in and out of itself doesn't pose any severe logical problems, but of course the claim that the Trinity is compatible with divine simplicity is a contradiction.
      But I don't think your coffee partner would claim that the A-B pair is simple.

    2. Such a kind of circular causation is self-evidently absurd and impossible. B can only exist insofar as A exists, but this condition can never be satisfied since A would only possibly exist if B existed in the first place. It's absurd.

      For what it's worth, however, some cosmological arguments do not even require us to rule out such crazy scenarios. You can grant the possibility of that type of causal circularity, and still, if it's possible for there to be an external explanation for the existence of contingent things, you get to the possibility of a necessary being and thus by S5 to the actuality of a necessary being.

      Pruss and Rasmussen's "Necessary Existence" features defenses of arguments like that. 

  32. A question:

    According to Feser (as I have read something here), when we die, our souls will be fixated, nd we will no longer change our final destiny (heaven or hell).

    Even when we return to our bodies, the wills remain fixated.

    Then, what about Lazarus of Bethany (John 11)?

  33. So, far I haven't seen any Catholic philosophers give an analysis of Transhumanism. I do know of a number of Protestant philosophers/apologists who have given an analysis (and critique) of Tranhumanism.

    Some of the key ideas in Tranhumanist thinking, coming from Ray Kurzweil (an advocate for Transhumanism) are:

    1. The human mind will (in the near future) be fully understood by the use of science/technology.
    2. Humans will be able to create an AI which will be indistinguishable from human thinking (and thereby pass the Turing test).
    3. Through genetic engineering and Nanotechnology humans will be able to extend their life expectancy.
    4. One of the ultimate goals of Transhumanism is humans will be able to upload their minds onto computers and thereby achieve immortality.
    5. Another goal that Tranhumanists mention frequently is the idea that humans will become "Post-human" by the end of the process.
    6. After creating Nanotechnology and achieving immortality (through uploading the mind) humanity will saturate the cosmos with Nanotechnology thereby making it sentient (according to Kurzweil).

    Dr. Feser could you give an analysis of some of the Transhumanist ideas in the near future (in one/a few blog posts)?

    1. It would be interesting to see Dr. Feser talk about the subject.

      Now, just saying as a catholic:

      "1. The human mind will (in the near future) be fully understood by the use of science/technology."

      The human mind is like, immaterial, so good luck with that. Our understanding sure will grow, but i can't see technology reaching above the empirical level.

      "4. One of the ultimate goals of Transhumanism is humans will be able to upload their minds onto computers and thereby achieve immortality."

      Will people just not, die? This assumes something like Locke identity theory, but Edward seems right to reject this view, see this post as a start:

      What would probably happen is that you would die but a copy of your memory would get upload in a computer who would behave like you did(it would not think it where you for it would not be capable of thinking or feeling, as showed by Searle Chinese Room). It sure would fool everyone, but it would not be the real you.

      Transhumanism seems very fantastic, reminds me of the optimism of the 19th century, we saw what came later. I just can't see it as more that science fiction, a kinda of mythology for people who think of themselves as so "rational" they don't have one. Is sure a thing that produces interesting histories, but should not be taken serious.

      Another interesting thing i remember was the idea, from a catholic i believe, that there is a kinda of Gnoticism in this, this idea that suffering and death is a complete mistake and we should try to escape it and become gods of some sort to redo everything on our image.

      I mean, sure the Resurrection will set us free of decay and death, but suffering does have his place on life, as the Church aways defended. This world is also not horrible and we sure can't become gods and do what we please with it. Remember that even St. Augustine had a more pessimistic view of human nature after the Fall and he rejected Gnoticism.

      But seeing Dr. Feser view would be pretty cool. This idea seems more appealing to materialists, so seeing catholics talk more about it would be nice.

  34. A thought experiment: If an advanced intelligent race flies over my house and scans mine and my wife's DNA and then creates an embryo from our DNA, in what sense are we this child's "cause"? And are we his parents?

    I'm inclined to say we aren't the child's parents because we are not the efficient cause of his/her existence. That seems like a necessary condition for parenthood, to me.

    But obviously, there is *some* sense in which we are the cause of this child's existence. His existence depends on ours; if we hadn't existed, our DNA wouldn't have been scanned and he wouldn't have been created.

    It seems that we are the exemplary cause of the child. We are the models upon which this child is based. Is that right?

    In the end, I would say the child is not my son or daughter, but he is still my family. What do you think?

  35. Skyler,
    " What do you think?"
    I think that so long as you try to force realistic physical questions into ancient and obsolete notions of causality you will continually be unable to pound the square peg of Aristotelian causality into the round hole of the real world.

    If your DNA is physically transferred from you to make an embryo you are a parent of the child, at least in terms of a paternity action.

    But you said that your DNA was "scanned", so I suppose you might mean that the exact structure of your DNA was recorded in a computer, and then a manufacturing device used that stored data to construct a DNA molecule that has the same structural arrangement as your DNA.

    In that case there would be no direct biological link between you and the child, since it was not a molecule from your body that was transfered to construct the embryo.

    Your thought experiment is similar in some ways to the idea that perhaps your entire brain state could be uploaded into a computer, and then downloaded into some other device to form and exact twin of you including every detail of your thoughts. Supposing then the original you dies, would the twin be you cheating death?

    No, because a twin is a separate physical process. The continuity of the self requires a nominal continuity of your particular molecular processes. A twin of your molecular processes could, in principle, be constructed, but that would not be your set of processes so it would not be you.

    You are a biological parent when a physical part of you separates from you and physically seeds another human being. If your DNA is only scanned, uploaded, and then downloaded that transfer of your molecules never happened so you are not the biological parent.

    Your first step to thinking clearly must be to discard A-T notions of causality. As long as you continue to attempt to jam realistic situations into that unrealistic framework of A-T analysis you will never be able to make real progress in analyzing realistically.

    1. Don't feed the trollsMarch 11, 2020 at 12:09 AM

      Remember SP is one of the trolls explicitly banned by Feser. Don't feed him.

  36. Hello all, I have a question relating to Catholic moral theology for which I'm hoping to get a Thomistic or Scholastic analysis.

    Take a hypothetical situation where a murderer kills an innocent victim. With the intention of murder, the aggressor knocks the victim unconscious with a blunt object, renders the victim immobile with a rope, and proceeds to stab the victim to death with approximately 20 thrusts of a knife.

    The murderer feels remorse and goes to confession, where he confesses the sin of murder. My question is: is it sufficient for the murderer to confession the act of murder alone, or should the murderer confess to three separate "acts": clubbing the victim, rendering the victim immobile, and stabbing the victim to death? Should the murderer confess 22 separate "acts": clubbing the victim, rendering the victim immobile, and stabbing the victim 20 times?

    It seems to me that the intention of the murderer (to murder) in some way defines and "sets boundaries" around the the "act" to be confessed (I'm not sure of the correct words to use here). But I'm having a difficult time understanding how multiple different acts that are considered gravely sinful when done separately (clubbing the victim, rendering the victim immobile, and each act of stabbing the victim) could plausibly be confessed as a single act ("murder"), or plausibly be confessed as three acts, rather than 22 acts. It seems that the four causes come into play here, as does the intention of the murderer, but I'm not seeing how.

    Thoughts (not murderous ones) would be appreciated here. Bonus points for referencing the Summa - thanks.