Not coincidentally, Smith was also free of that other besetting vice of contemporary academic philosophy, overspecialization. A philosopher whose competence is limited to a small set of topics can do good work, but not the best work. That is simply a consequence of the nature of philosophical ideas, whose implications tend to ramify across the intellectual landscape. But one needs a knowledge of that landscape to see that. Smith had that, and his interests and publications ranged widely. This breadth gave his work depth.
This is clearest from his work in the philosophy of time, in which his deep knowledge of and interest in metaphysics, physics, and philosophy of religion converged. All three are in evidence in the book he co-wrote with William Lane Craig, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology – the book which, I think, is what introduced me to Smith’s work in the early 90s, at a time when I was myself still an atheist. They are also evident in another book of his from that period that I especially liked at the time – the fun little volume Time, Change, and Freedom: An Introduction to Metaphysics, which he co-wrote with L. Nathan Oaklander. It is written in the unjustly neglected dialogue form that once was common in philosophy, and done very well.
In thinking about this post I went back and re-read some of it. Since there is no greater tribute one can offer to a philosopher than to engage with his work, let’s take a look. Chapter 4 is devoted to the topic of eternity, and is a model of how to introduce complex philosophical ideas in a way that is brief and lucid without being oversimplified. Smith begins by noting that the concept of eternity is traditionally defined in theological terms, as in Boethius’ famous characterization of it as God’s “possession all at once of unlimited life.” This “possession all at once” involves God’s existing timelessly. It’s not that God has always existed in the past and will continue to do so in the future, but rather that he exists outside of time altogether. But what does this mean, exactly? Smith considers four ways of interpreting divine eternity that have been defended in recent philosophy, and raises problems for each of them. What follows is a summary of what Smith has to say about these views, with some commentary.
1. Eternity as non-temporal duration: On this view, for God to exist eternally is for him to exist simultaneously with every instant of time. George Washington’s eating breakfast in 1776 and your reading this blog post in 2021 are not simultaneous events for either you or Washington. But on the “non-temporal duration” view, they are simultaneous for God, who “sees” every moment of time all at once, like someone viewing every part of a town all at once from a vantage point on top of a mountain.
As Smith points out, this view won’t work. If 1776 is simultaneous with God’s awareness and 2021 is simultaneous with God’s awareness, then 1776 is simultaneous with 2021 after all. Or, if they are not simultaneous, then God’s awareness of 1776 and his awareness of 2021 are also not simultaneous, in which case God exists at different moments of time and is not eternal. The “non-temporal duration” interpretation is a muddle.
This criticism is correct, and I would add two more points. First, “simultaneous” and “duration” are temporal notions, which should already make us suspicious of this way of spelling out the notion of eternity. (To be sure, it is very hard to avoid all temporal language when speaking of eternity, which means that we need to rely heavily on the analogical use of terms and explicit negation of all of the temporal implications of univocal usage. More on that in a moment.)
Second, talk of God “seeing” different points of time all at once, though very common in discussions of eternity, is extremely misleading at best and bound to lead to absurdities like the ones exhibited by the “non-temporal duration” view. God does not know the world via anything like perception. He knows it by virtue of being its cause. In particular, he does not know what is happening in 1776 and 2021 by way of observing them. He know them because he knows himself as the cause of a world in which a series of events occurs, some of which are in 1776 and some of which are in 2021.
(Compare: A novelist knows what happens in chapter 1 and chapter 5 of his book, not because he has read both chapters, but because he wrote both of them. Much bad thinking about God’s relation to the world in general and to time in particular results from thinking of God as if he were just one more reader of the “novel” that is the world, rather than the novel’s author.)
2. Eternity as tenseless duration: Consider the tenseless theory (or B-theory) of time, according to which all moments of time – 1776, 2021, and all the rest – are equally real. There are earlier and later events (for example, events in 2021 are later than those of 1776) but no event is objectively past, present, or future (as events are on the tensed or A-theory of time). The “tenseless duration” view of eternity holds that the tensed or A-theory of time is true, so that events in time are objectively past, present, and future. But it holds that God has duration with successive parts, ordered in something like the way that events are ordered according to the B-theory. There are earlier and later stages of God’s existence, but none of them is objectively past, present, or future (the way that events in time are) so that God is outside of time.
One problem with this, as Smith points out, is that it implicitly brings God into time after all. For suppose stage S1 of God’s life is the stage where he creates 1776 and stage S2 is the stage where he creates 2021. Then it seems that S1 will be simultaneous with 1776 and S2 will be simultaneous with 2021. But if 1776 is past and 2021 is present, then it would follow that S1 is past and S2 is present – in which case God has both past and present stages and exists in time after all.
I would make three additional points. First, the defender of the “tenseless duration” view might avoid dragging God down into time, but at the cost of absorbing (what at first seemed to be) time up into eternity. For he could insist that since God is not in time, S1 and S2 must not really be objectively past and present. But in that case, neither are 1776 and 2021 (which are simultaneous with S1 and S2, respectively) objectively past and present – in which case (given the A-theory, which the “tenseless duration” view is committed to) they are not really in time after all.
Second, all this talk of God having “stages” is in any event a non-starter, because it violates divine simplicity. Third, talk of “duration” has, here too, potentially problematic temporal connotations. But that brings us to the third view.
3. Eternity as a present instant: This view abandons talk of duration and conceives of God as existing in a single instant. But this instant remains permanently present, being outside of time and thus having no instants preceding it or succeeding it.
As Smith objects, this is simply a muddle. If God remains present, then that implies that he persists through successive instants, in which case he is in time. Or, if he really does exist only in a single instant, then he doesn’t remain, but passes away. And in that case too, he is in time.
I would add to this that it is simply a non-starter to think of eternity on the model of an instant. In my view, this is an even worse model for eternity than endless duration is. For one thing, it too is a concept with temporal connotations. But for another, it implies something less than duration, whereas the reason duration is a problematic model for eternity is that eternity is more than mere duration, not less!
As David Oderberg suggests in his paper “Instantaneous Change Without Instants,” an instant of time is best thought of as a kind of limit case of the division of a time interval into shorter units. It is analogous to a point in space, and an interval of time can no more be made up of a collection of instants than an extended object can be made up of extensionless points. Much fallacious thinking about the nature of space and of motion arises from reifying abstract mathematical descriptions of space and motion, and much fallacious thinking about time arises in a similar way. I have a lot to say about both sorts of fallacies in Aristotle’s Revenge. In any event, the notion of an instant will only yield something less than temporal duration, and thus something far less than eternity. But that brings us to the last view considered by Smith.
4. Eternity as a tenseless instant: This view presupposes that the tenseless or B-theory of time is correct. Hence, it holds that 1776, 2021, and all other points of time are equally real and none is objectively past, present, or future. God, on this view, exists at a single instant, and that instant too is not present (contrary to the “present instant” view). But it is also outside the series of instants that make up time, and thus is not earlier than, simultaneous with, or later than any of them. From this vantage point outside of time, God is aware of all of the equally real instants that make up time.
Smith seems more sympathetic to this view than to the others, though he doesn’t ultimately accept it either. But even if it is the least bad of the four, it is still not good, and not only because it endorses the B-theory (which, for reasons I explain in Aristotle’s Revenge, I reject). For, again, an instant is the wrong way to model eternity. Eternity is not endless duration, but it is more like endless duration than it is like an instant.
The main problem Smith raises against the “tenseless instant” view is this. Suppose Washington was worshipping God one morning in 1776, but was not doing so an hour later when his attention was distracted by other matters. Then it seems that God underwent a change (i.e. from being worshipped by Washington to not being worshipped by him), and if he undergoes change, then he is in time. A traditional response to this kind of objection, which Smith considers, is that while this involves a change to Washington, it does not really involve a change to God himself, but only a change in the relations Washington bears to him. And this kind of change does not require God to exist in time.
Smith’s response (through one of his dialogue’s characters) is to suggest that either sort of change involves God existing in time, but he gives no argument for this and it is not plausible. Nor need one be a theist to see this. If I am thinking about a Platonic Form or the number 14 at 2:30 pm but no longer thinking about them an hour later, it is hardly plausible to say that the Platonic Form or the number 14 have undergone a change and therefore exist in time.
Smith (or his dialogue’s character) also neglects to consider the Thomistic position that while the world bears a real relation to God, God does not bear a real relation to the world. Of course, Smith would no doubt reject that view, but the point is that it is a well-known thesis that would have obvious application here, so that for Smith to give his character the last word without considering it seems a lapse.
I would also say that the analogical use of theological terms and apophatic or negative theology are absolutely crucial to a proper understanding of divine eternity, yet are not considered in Smith’s discussion. As I have acknowledged, in discussing eternity it is difficult to avoid all terms that ordinarily have temporal connotations. For example, Boethius’ phrase “all at once” would normally be used in contexts where we are talking about what happens at some moment of time, and his talk of eternity as a “standing now” also deploys a term with temporal connotations. However, the situation here is similar to the one we face when attributing things like power, goodness, knowledge, and the like to God. We are saying both that there is in God something analogous to what we call the now (or power, or goodness, or knowledge) in our case, but that it is not exactly the same thing, and that it lacks all aspects concomitant with our being changeable, corporeal, composite, and so on.
But such deficiencies do not reflect any bad faith on Smith’s part, nor any failure to try to engage with his opponents seriously, respectfully, and constructively. His admirable approach to conducting the debate between theism and atheism has one fewer representative, and he will be missed. My earnest prayer for this man from whose work I have profited is that, through divine grace, he now comes to know divine eternity more perfectly than any of us ever could in this life.
Beautiful tribute Ed, thank you.ReplyDelete
Smith was a true evangelist of "good faith and fair dealing" in philosophy, a quality of character deserving the highest respect.
Thank you for your kind
tribute to Quentin Smith. Your last paragraph touched me deeply. Years ago as a wannabe philosopher I emailed him on a number of occasions. He graciously and patiently replied to me every time even though I wasn't one of his students.
Philosophy is the art of wondering, and that's what Quentin did throughout his life. I hope that now in the presence of the Beatific Vision, his wonderment has been answered.
Not much chance of that though is there, as despite his willingness to engage with you lot, in the end he was not a theist and thought the whole Christian concoction a pile of tosh. He is especially guilty and worthy of condemnation though surely, precisely because he was so well informed and philosophically able. So stop all this pious, sanctimonious crap you people, and rejoice that this vile atheist is almost certainly suffereing the agonies of hell for choosing to reject your god with full insight and understanding.Delete
You're a theist? You seem like an especially nasty one....
This blog is neither a traditionalist nor a sedevacantist one so most people here do not believe that one *must* be a Catholic (or even a believer at all) in order to be saved. The Roman Church has managed to discover that the claim that "God loves us ALL UNCONDITIONALLY and actually IS love itself" and the claim that "God's going to have non-catholics BURN in Hell FOREVER just because they did not find Catholicism particularly convincing" cannot be reconciled.
It took it nearly two bl**dy millenia, mind you, but it eventually changed its mind on that matter.
Thus, its official theology is now significantly less disgusting (and nonsensical, to be honest) than what it used to be before Vatican II.
You've spent way too much time in the company of either evangelical protestant fundies or traditionalist/sedevacantist idiots, or so it seems.
You should re-read Unknown's comment, I think.
He said "YOUR god", meaning that the God he's describing is not HIS God.
Also, he spelt "god" with a lowercase "g", not with a capital "g", a basic mistake which most believers do not usually make (out of respect for God and because they usually know that there's a world of difference between gods and God, most notably a major *ontological* difference).
So Unknown is probably a non-believer or at least a non-Christian who's very critical (and rightly so) of traditionalist expressions of Christianity.
Taking it for granted that people here are traditionalists.
Awe wee lamb!
Even historically, there was always hope and debate about the fates of the goodly pagans, such as Socrates. I think the view you're presenting is skewed and misleading both in historical and theological terms (it's not exactly true that one doesn't have to believe or belong to the Church, more like that it's possible sometimes to be part of the Church/Body of Christ without being a formal, visible member of the organisation on this Earth. Similarly, one might reject God because he was only ever taught a distorted, false view of the Faith.Delete
Unknown, despite his name, is a known quantity to anyone who's hung around this blog for any length of time. It should be clear to anyone who's been paying attention that he's an unbeliever of some kind.Delete
You presumably believe that the Catholic Church moves under the guidance and inspiration of god ( or the holy spirit bit of it ), yet also seem to think that it has only extremely recently arrived at a correct official theology of salvation ( after two millenia! ). Might I suggest that there is a tension here. You can no doubt concoct imaginative rationalisations, but I would suggest that most probably the magesterium of the RC Church is not guided and inspired by god after all.
"Unknown February 26, 2021 at 4:19 AMDelete
Not much chance of that though is there, as despite his willingness to engage with you lot, in the end he was not a theist and thought the whole Christian concoction a pile of tosh. He is especially guilty and worthy of condemnation though surely, precisely because he was so well informed and philosophically able. So stop all this pious, sanctimonious crap you people, and rejoice that this vile atheist is almost certainly suffereing the agonies of hell for choosing to reject your god with full insight and understanding."
Unknown seems to be upset about something.
"He is especially guilty and worthy of condemnation though surely, precisely because he was so well informed and philosophically able."Delete
Unknown, I don't know why you worry about stuff like this. By this criteria, you're definitely not going to Hell, dude. :) Go find some sunshine and live your life.
I'm afraid the view that I am presenting is neither skewed nor misleading, quite on the contrary.
Pre-Vatican II Popes, who were supposedly infallible since they were Popes, taught exactly what I just said over and over again.
Many of your supposedly infallible councils repeatedly taught exactly this as well, calling "anathema" anyone who would doubt that pagans, jews, and non-catholics in general, can still make it to heaven provided that they're holy enough - and no, Catholic theologians and clergymen did not believe that those who are not part of the "Visible Church" can still be "members of the Body of Christ" nonetheless in any meaningful sense back then, though many modern Catholics would certainly wish they did so they wouldn’t feel the need to try to reconcile their Vatican II soteriological convictions with their conviction that their Church has always been infallible.
As for those Church Fathers who earnestly believed that Virtuous Pagans (and virtuous non-Catholics in general) could still be saved thanks to their personal holiness, they mostly lived in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, where many Fathers (and Christians in general) held inclusive soteriological views and even considered the possibility of, or believed in, Universal Salvation (whether apokatastasis or other variants of Universal Salvation).
Most of those Fathers were significantly less influential on the dogmatic development of the Roman Church (which is one of the reasons why many of them were never made saints in that Church while they're saints in at least some Eastern Christian Churches) than their Latin-speaking counterparts, for whom it became firmly fixed that, without baptism in the "One True Church", no one (alive) can be saved.
As for the fact that there was "always hope and debate about the fate of goodly pagans, such as Socrates”, when it came to Latin-speaking Church Fathers, that mere hope was almost always directed only at virtuous non-Catholics who had lived before Christ… And who therefore simply could not know anything about Him when they walked the Earth.
That mere hope usually excluded those pagans who lived after Christ, whom your Church, through its allegedly infallible Popes and Councils, again... Always taught would be damned forever by Love itself (imagine the stupidity) if they did not convert during their lifetime - including those who never even heard of the Gospel in the first place (smh), hence the need to send thousands of Jesuits from Japan to Canada to try to "save souls" by converting even righteous non-catholics to "the" Faith. Hence Saint Francis Xavier telling his Japanese converts that their late non-Catholic family members and friends were already burning in Hell and would keep burning forever. Hence Matteo Ricci. Hence the Canadian Martyrs. Hence...
To argue that just because a tiny minority of pre-Vatican II Catholic theologians (none of whom were Popes) dared to question the obviously idiotic idea that you just have to be a member of the Visible Church in order to be saved from a loving-angry God who’s blaming you for a guilt that He chooses to attribute to you while the real culprits were Adam and Eve, actually means that I am offering a "skewed and misleading" take on official pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic dogma on soteriology, is quite ridiculous at best and dishonest at worst.
If pro-Vatican II Roman Catholics really want to insist that their Church is still infallible even though it implicitly admitted in the 1960s that its own allegedly infallible Popes and Councils had been dead wrong on such a fundamental matter as soteriology since the very beginning, fine.
But they shouldn't go around accusing people (however politely) of being skewed against their beloved Church when all they’re doing is merely stating the truth about what said “infallible” Church almost always taught dogmatically for, oh, well… 2000 years.
It should be obvious that I am not Roman Catholic, mate... And thus, that I do *not* need to concoct anything whatsoever.
AJ, you need to acquire more data. The real fact of the matter is that the Church had expressed itself in terms that are open to the possibility that there are some (possibly many) who are not visibly members of the Church because they have not received the outward sign of baptism, but who inwardly have grace because God granted it to them (without that sacrament). St. Thomas Aquinas, hardly a flaming modern liberal, says as much in the Summa. For these, then, they are not automatically condemned to Hell at death "because they are 'not Catholic' ", given that they have grace and are therefore (hiddenly) members of the Church and branches of the One vine. Their salvation, too, comes from the Church only, because all grace is at the dispensation of the Church, as she prays for all men, and especially for all of good will.Delete
When it comes to anathemas, the Church's anathemas on non-Christians was always the most clear and specific in condemning all those who, knowing that the Christian Church is the one true church and has the one true faith, rejected it, and secondly those who were readily able to know the importance of our final end and delayed (until death) doing something positive about it, such as being converted. These (she said) cannot be saved. St. Gregory Nazienzen separated these out from those who did not convert because they were unable to convert. (See Summa, Appendix, Q1, A1.) The anathemas of all those pagans and others who never received a believable presentation of Christianity are not automatically condemned simply for not having become Christian - though of course they can be condemned for grave deliberate sins, (as can Catholics too). And the historical fact is that it is EXTREMELY difficult to live a full life free of at least one grave sin without having available the graces of the Christian Church.
Vatican II did not reverse settled prior doctrine, and if it did, it would have undermined the truth of the True Church in the very process.
That there is no salvation outside the church hasn't changed. What has changed is the understanding of what constitutes being inside/outside. Some are "inside" by the disposition of their heart and cooperation with grace as they understand it even if they are not card-carrying members.Delete
"Unk . . . unk . . . there's no name on it." --Tuco Ramirez
You say: "...the Church's anathemas on non-Christians was always the most clear and specific in condemning all those who, knowing that the Christian Church is the one true church and has the one true faith, rejected it."
What do you have in mind exactly? The earliest Church documents that speak like this of which I'm aware are from Vatican II (as well as from the Church's dealings with Fr. Feeney in the 40s/50s).
I think your view here is difficult to square with, for example, the following from the Council of Florence:
"The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the 'eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels' (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."
Also, you refer to Aquinas on baptism of desire. But that's really a separate issue. Yes, Aquinas believed that one could be saved with the sacramental character but he did *not* believe that one could be saved without the virtue of *Faith*. In fact, when he discusses the fate of those who are naturally virtuous but who haven't heard the gospel he does *not* simply say that God infuses grace into such a soul and saves him. No, he says God would ensure that such a person came to *explicit faith* (along with sanctifying grace of course) rather than be damned.
I'm getting this from the De Veritate, q.14, a.11. The title there is "Is it necessary to believe explicitly" and here is the first objection:
"It seems that it is not, for we should not posit any proposition from which an untenable conclusion follows. But, if we claim that explicit belief is necessary for salvation, an untenable conclusion follows. For it is possible for someone to be brought up in the forest or among wolves, and such a one cannot have explicit knowledge of any matter of faith. Thus, there will be a man who will inevitably
be damned. But this is untenable. Hence, explicit belief in something does not seem necessary"
And here is Aquinas' response:
"Granted that everyone is bound to believe something explicitly, no untenable conclusion follows even if someone is brought up in the forest or among wild beasts. For it pertains to divine providence to furnish everyone with what is necessary for salvation, provided that on his part there is no hindrance. Thus, if someone so brought up followed the direction of natural reason in seeking good and avoiding evil, we must most certainly hold that God would either reveal to him through internal inspiration what had to be believed, or would send some preacher of the faith to him as he sent Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:20)."
Albinus, I take as my primary point the response of St. Thomas to: Whether venial sin can be in anyone with original sin alone? (Prima Secundae, Q 89, A6).Delete
Objection 1. It would seem that man could commit a venial sin in the state of innocence. ...
I answer that, It is impossible for venial sin to be in anyone with original sin alone, and without mortal sin. The reason for this is because before a man comes to the age of discretion, the lack of years hinders the use of reason and excuses him from mortal sin, wherefore, much more does it excuse him from venial sin, if he does anything which is such generically. But when he begins to have the use of reason, he is not entirely excused from the guilt of venial or mortal sin. Now the first thing that occurs to a man to think about then, is to deliberate about himself. And if he then direct himself to the due end, he will, by means of grace, receive the remission of original sin: whereas if he does not then direct himself to the due end, and as far as he is capable of discretion at that particular age, he will sin mortally, through not doing that which is in his power to do. Accordingly thenceforward there cannot be venial sin in him without mortal, until afterwards all sin shall have been remitted to him through grace.
I would distinguish his answer here from that of the De Veritate: first, in De Veritate he qualifies his comment with a condition: "Granted that everyone is bound to believe something explicitly". I would posit that at the moment the (not-baptized) child comes to the age of reason and wills the due good, he DOES NOT need, in that moment, to believe explicitly all the truths of the Faith (such as, say, the Triune God). He must, as he goes on, believe explicitly so much of the truth that is simply necessary for him to avoid explicit mortal sin, and ONLY to that extent does he need either internal inspiration or a teacher. But until a given moment of danger will cause him to sin through lack of explicitness in his belief, he need not have explicit belief in the truths of the Faith: the gift of the theological virtue of faith can remain, in him, in the same inchoate form of one baptized as an infant and not taught clearly any specific truths later. Hence he will be a member of the Church through having sanctifying grace, and having the theological virtue of faith, but without (necessarily) believing some truths of the faith explicitly because those truths had not (yet) been challenged in him.
Now, are there any specific truths that must be believed explicitly in order to accomplish that first specific moral act of reason? St. Thomas is not clear here, but he characterizes the act in a very generic way: he directs himself "to the due end". I would posit that this "due end" must be conceived in the mind of the child sufficiently as to WILL it as his final end, and thus it must be, sufficiently, under some sort of apprehension of God, i.e. some sort of apprehension of the divine, transcendent good. But that's ALL it requires, nothing more. And this, presumably, he will have due (at least) to some interior inspiration, such that he might adhere to it with grace.
So, the requirement of having "explicit faith" by no means squares up exactly with "has been visibly baptized, or received the baptism of desire in the martyr's death". One can have so much of the faith as to believe in God and receive sanctifying grace, and live without knowing, explicit awareness of membership in the one Church.
And nothing Florence said denies this in the least. Such a person is certainly "within the Church".
Interesting. Thanks. So your position would be that as soon as a child arrives at the use of reason he receives sanctifying grace provided he does what he ought?
That seems to be what Aquinas is saying in your reference and if anything it's more explicit in the De Veritate (q.24 a.12 ad 2):
It is not possible for an adult without grace to be only in original sin, because as soon as he has attained the use of free choice, if he has prepared himself for grace, he will have grace (statim cum usum liberi arbitrii acceperit, si se ad gratiam praeparaverit, gratiam habebit )
I guess Karl Rahner's "Anonymous Christian" has more Thomistic support than I imagined. LOL.
Thanks. So your position would be that as soon as a child arrives at the use of reason he receives sanctifying grace provided he does what he ought?Delete
Yes, that's what I understand St. Thomas to be saying. Now, I have had some pretty interesting concerns about how Thomas applies this to the question that he is addressing, in saying that a child cannot commit any venial sins before reaching the age of reason, but these concerns do not bear on the point here.
I guess Karl Rahner's "Anonymous Christian" has more Thomistic support than I imagined. LOL.
Wait, now you have me worried. I get really anxious when someone says there is a match-up between Rahner's POV and (any) traditional teaching. I mean, I know that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but ... RAHNER? Egad! :-)
Dr. Fesser, where can we find your own thoughts on how God relates to, (or doesn't relate to), time?ReplyDelete
See the relevant portions in Ed's Five Proofs and Aristotle's Revenge. The latter isn't a work of theology, natural or otherwise, but is relevant to your question because it gives Feser's general views on time and change.
I'm not sure the analogy about the platonic forms works very well because of the difference between "thinking about" and "worshipping".Delete
Thinking about something doesn't affect the thing being thought of but true worship does have an effect.
And the effect of worship is in God, hence God does seem to change.
What, then, is the 'effect of worship' that is in God? The 'effect of worship' is in the creature who worships. Worship is homage paid to a person or thing. For instance, I could worship somebody I look up to on earth and have never met, but this would not change the worshipped.Delete
If, say, people created a golden calf and began worshipping it, is the worship changing the golden calf?
While the golden calf, being material, would be undergoing change, the fact that people are worshipping it wouldn't necessarily change it.
As with pjswede example, if you worshipped someone who was completely unaware that you were doing so, its hard to know how your worshipping is causing a change in them.
Maybe an appeal to some kind of butterfly effect could be made, but that is far removed from the worship changing the worshipped, and even more removed from God.
The effect of worship that is in God would be, I guess, that God knows he is worshipped. If you worship somebody you haven't met and that person doesn't know you are worshipping, then of course this does not change the worshipped.Delete
To make the analogy work, you would have to argue that God is unaware of being worshipped.
I am not saying that Smith was right, but to
reply to his criticism by saying "it is hardly plausible to say that the Platonic Form or the number 14 have undergone a change and therefore exist in time" is missing Smith's point by about a sea-mile.
This would make sense if God knew of Washington worship by observation, like we do. Since God in the thomist view knows what happens in the world by knowing Himself as the cause of what happens, He does not change by being worshiped.
This view can work or not, not discussing that, but the worship objection fails against thomists.
Actually, it dpoesn't fail, at least not for the reasons you present here.
If God knows about Washington worship by knowing himself as the cause of this worship, then if God is eternal as a tenseless instant, God both knows he causes Washington worship and knows he doesn't cause Washington worship in the same instant. And that is a contradiction.
Not if the knowledge doesn't enter intrinsically into God's nature. If this contingent knowledge is extrinsic, as people here would affirm (e.g. extrinsic truthmaker theory of knowledge), then there's no problem. In humans that view is almost certainly false. But it would be a non sequitar to thereby draw conclusions about how God knows. Furthermore that change would already presuppose God being in time. The sentences can be formulated tenselessly though, showing that the knowledge of temporally subsequent events can be known from a view which doesn't involve changeDelete
Remember the author analogy, God knows that He created a world where Washington worships him at t1 and goes on to do another thing in time t2. He does not knows two facts, one for each time, rather He has one act of knowing where all is know at the same time.
So while He causes Washington worship and does not causes it at the same time, both would be in diferent aspects.
It's not a matter of knowledge 'entering' into God's nature. It is about God's knowledge existing and that knowledge being contradictory.
To avoid this contradiction you would have to deny that God is eternal as a tenseless instant, which is Smith's point.
No, God doesn't know that He created a world where Washington worships him at t1 and goes on to do another thing in time t2, God knows that he creates Washington's worship and doesn't create it.
Your rendering of the author analogy presupposes determinism, that is, it presupposes that the author created the characters and that the characters evolve in a deterministic way throughout the story.
IOW, you are actually describing some sort of deist God.
I don't see the problem with the "creates a world here x happens at t1 and non-x at t2" thing.
About the author analogy, i don't see that as determinism, at least not in the usual sense. God creating and keeping the world in being would be a example of primary casuality and creatures actions would be a example of secundary casuality, i do explain it in another comment here, take a look:
Imagine a scene in a book where a character breaks a glass cup. The author is the cause of this event in a sense, the history is only there because of him, but in another sense, inside the history, the cause is the character. While the author is the cause, the primary cause, he is not part of the casuality inside the history, the secundary causes.
In a similar way, God is the cause of the decisions because He keeps persons in being all the time, in another sense the person is the cause, for God usual casuality operates in a diferent level. I say usual because God can act as secundary cause if He wants, as seen in miracles.
The problem is that "creates a world where x happens at t1 and non-x at t2" entails existential inertia.
Another problem is that you seem to have a different view from Feser because you seem to suggest that God does not only know things by being their cause, but also by observation.
And Feser says,"God does not know the world via anything like perception. He knows it by virtue of being its cause. In particular, he does not know what is happening in 1776 and 2021 by way of observing them."
I don't see how the "creates a world where..." thing entails existencial inertia. God sustains the world at both t1 and t2 by His only act. Like a author creates a novel where time passes while not geting older, God can sustain our changing reality while not changing. I know that this sounds weird, but everything sounds weird when the subject is God, so...
And, sorry if it seemed otherwise, i don't think that God knows by observation. Like in the author analogy, He knows what happens because He causes the whole thing.
The point is that the character in a novel does not really caue anything. Everything is caused by the author.
To have God create a world and also have a character/creature really cause his own choices, requires existential inertia because the creature needs autonomy in order to make free decision. And autonomy entails at least a minimal amount of existential inertia.
But even if there is no EI, there is still a huge problem because if God can only know things by causing them, He cannot possibly know which choice you made/are making/are going to make, and that makes belief in God irrelevant.
I don't think that the author causes everything in the history. Inside the history, the characters that causes things, what the author does is causing the history to exits, these are diferent levels of casuality.
That would be the same on God too. Remember the distinction between primary and secundary casuality. Every act under the sun is both caused by God and created beings*, but in diferent senses.
*except for miracles, in these only God does stuff
"Inside the history, the characters that causes things"
If that's true, there has to be a minimal level of existential inertia.
And you haven't answered my objection that God cannot possibly know things that are caused by the characters.
"If that's true, there has to be a minimal level of existential inertia."
Not at all. The secundary casuality that created beings exibit depends on God primary casuality for work. The created being can't exist by itself, so God has to keep it existing before it can act, but as long as God is doing His thing the being can act with no interference. About the other objection:
"But even if there is no EI, there is still a huge problem because if God can only know things by causing them, He cannot possibly know which choice you made/are making/are going to make, and that makes belief in God irrelevant."
God DOES cause my free choices, but by keeping me existing so i can make they. Not by interfering with my orientation, but by garanting that i have one and can act on it.
I was not responding more directly because i believed that the answer was clear. I think that it was not because i did not bother to explain my terminology. Maybe this short video can help understand the distinction i'am using: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WNZGxWctjzk
Sorry for not taking the time before to explain the distinction, i forgot that not everyone is a thomist :)
I don't think we are likely to come to an agreement on the existential inertia problem, so I am going to drop it for now.
The second problem, however, remains unsolved.
If it is true that God does cause my free choices, but by keeping me existing so I can make them. Not by interfering with my orientation, but by guaranteeing that I have one and can act on it, then God knows that I have a free choice but he cannot possibly know what that choice was/is/will be.
And that's good news for me, because it means that if I choose to be a grave sinner, God will never know this.
I don't see how that follows. God is the primary cause of free acts by keeping the one who wills in being, and that is all He needs.Delete
No, that's not all He needs. He needs to have knowledge of the actual choice I make and that is impossible if He only knows things by causing them because he doesn't cause my actual choice.Delete
You are assuming here that to know the choice God would have to be the secundary cause of it. This will not be much persuasive with thomists, for on Aquinas view God being the primary cause is enough.Delete
I am merely assuming that to know the actual choice God would have to be the cause of the actual choice, that is, in order to know that I choose X, God has to cause my choice of X.Delete
That makes no sense at all. If I have a way of finding out what you had for lunch yesterday, am I the cause of your choice of lunch?Delete
I think the only explanation for your view is that you think god has the same relationship with time that we do, which would of course be ridiculous. Also I’m curious whose ‘now’ you think he is tied to?
Before you reply I advise you to read what this discussion between Talmid and me is actually about.
A hint: I am not claiming that in order for God to know my choice, he would have to cause it but Talmid and Feser are.
Yes apologies, I just got an email update containing your reply out context.Delete
This idea of dual levels of causation seems a bit confused. God caused me to have free will, I use free will to cause other stuff. There, much easier :)
Yes, but the problem is that if God, as Feser and Talmid seem to hold, only knows things by virtue of being their cause, He can only know that I have free will and He cannot know which choice I make/made/will make because He does not cause that choice.
Walter, yes to me sometimes the likes of Thomism becomes like an abstraction that’s treated as the thing itself. God’s being that sustains the being of all things is far more than a cause. It’s transcendent and immanent, the ocean us fish are part of and swim in without even knowing it’s there.Delete
Remember that Aquinas burnt his books once he had a direct taste of the reality beyond the conception...
I should add that my previous answer of causation as if it was a series is clearly an oversimplification. God *is causing* us to have free will. I won’t pretend to know anything about what that really means, where it starts and ends, but it does give us a significant degree of freedom in terms of us being causal agents in our own right.Delete
"I am merely assuming that to know the actual choice God would have to be the cause of the actual choice, that is, in order to know that I choose X, God has to cause my choice of X."
Remember the doctrine of analogy. When we say that created beings cause things we are saying in a sense(secundary casuality) and when we say that God cause things we are saying in a diferent sense(primary casuality).
So God keeping things in being is what we mean by "causing" here, nothing more.
But God cannot possibly know our free choices just by keeping us in being.
That is were we disagree, i guess :)Delete
God, being the primary cause of P's free will decision to choose A or B cannot possibly know that P chooses B because He is not the cause of P's choice of B.
If Aquinas thinks otherwise, Aquinas is wrong.
Despite his good faith and fair dealing, clearly, Smith was never going to make the slightest dent in the armour of the manacled mind of the theo-philosopher. Is it any wonder that philosophy guided by religious thought continues to trend away from contemporary mainstream philosophical thought?ReplyDelete
Feser: "Smith (or his dialogue’s character) also neglects to consider the Thomistic position that while the world bears a real relation to God, God does not bear a real relation to the world. Of course, Smith would no doubt reject that view, but the point is that it is a well-known thesis that would have obvious application here, so that for Smith to give his character the last word without considering it seems a lapse."
It's only a well-known thesis among apologist philosophers. More than likely, I would suggest that Smith, as intellectually mindful as he was, would not have considered this, but rather did not see the Thomistic view of any arguable merit, or more pertinently, relevant to the argument.
Philosophy is much wider and deeper in scope than to limit itself in rummaging through the sub-set of a sub-section, subtitled Thomism.
Papalinton, why do you come here?Delete
You and your ilk give us theo-philosophers great comfort knowing that our intellectual opponents generally have nothing but question-begging assertions and invective. God bless you!
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!Delete
Paps you actually managed to get dumber over the years since the Dangerous Minds blog and Biologos days.
How did you manage that ya silly infidel Kangaroo?
Answers in Genesis is over there buddy. They are more yer speed. This blog is for the big boyz.
Linton was banned from this blog years ago after accusing Dr. Feser of plagiarism. Not sure why he is back here; life must be boring.Delete
It seems I'm more merciful than he would likely give me credit for, though I have to say that I have completely forgotten about that episode. What was the basis for such a bizarre accusation?
He thought you'd plagiarized the work of Martin Barrack. Indeed, this was YEARS ago, so I'm frankly at a loss for how I remember this incident.Delete
What? No comment/ no acknowledgement on your plagiarizing Martin Barrack's work in the previous OP [HERE] on Cardinal Virtues, Prof Feser?
One could argue this was a small transgression of little consequence. But the sentence, "They are so called because they are traditionally regarded as the “hinge” (cardo) on which the rest of morality turns", was no ordinary tittle of information, appropriated without attribution, buried deep within the body of your treatise. This sentence was a framing statement. It was the core around which the framework of the OP on cardinal virtues was constructed. It defined the substance of your argument.
It would seem fair and reasonable that the appropriate citation and attribution, however belated it be, would be the honourable thing to do. Nothing as yet."
Wow. I had completely forgotten about that.Delete
Going back and re-reading that link, though, I see that he did at least have the decency to go on later in the thread to retract his ludicrous accusation. So there's that.
You should see some of the total psychotics whose stuff I simply can't let pass. Even Papalinton looks good by comparison.
Papilinton and others ( such as the recently strangely silent StarDusty ) provide a valuable service in acting as a counterweight to the philosophical party line, and to right wing nut-jobs like Mr Geocon. I believe that a fair minded Feser would award them medals for tenacity and longevity in the face of overwhelming opposition and sometimes vitriolic opprobrium lasting many years.
"Papilinton and others ( such as the recently strangely silent StarDusty ) provide a valuable service in acting as a counterweight to the philosophical party line"Delete
I've been familiar with both for years and, at least in the case of Papalinton, 'acting as a counterweight' to Thomism isn't what's going on. Did you see anything of substance in his comment? Because it was just a variation on the stuff he always spews out here. Stardusty does make philosophical arguments sometimes (his arguments are more or less variations on Hume), but I'm unimpressed.
Honestly, it's like if a theist went around on an atheist combox and started yammering on about how atheism was silly and atheists were just hardheaded and unwilling to change, much like the 'manacled mind of the theo-philosopher' as Papalinton puts it. No doubt there are theists who do things like this, but it's just stupid and childish and should be called out whoever does it.
If by "acting as a counterweight", you mean making contentious assertions, question-begging, and generally being unable to answer any critique of their views without invective, then sure. They "act as a counterweight."
Can you even name one reasonable argument that they've presented ever?
This comment has been removed by the author.Delete
A typically obnoxious and conceited comment from the ever pompous and sanctimonious grodrigues, one of the more odious inhabitants of this site.Delete
A 'certified moron trolling this site'? In oppose to just a certified moron, or a troll, or perhaps someone who simply begs to differ with you? Extract your head from your rectum you objectionable creature.
Ed do you ever laugh at the mess in the combox sometimes? I hope you get a giggle now and then!Delete
Yeah, so I don't cry.Delete
It's a problem to which, it seems, there is no satisfactory solution. I don't like to stifle free discussion, and don't have time for careful moderation anyway. At the same time, there is a handful of psychotics who would completely destroy the combox if I didn't step in from time to time. You should see some of the lunacy and sewage I've had to delete over the years. And by people who then whine about my "censoring" them, as if they have a right to come to a person's blog and post whatever worthless crap they want.
Still, I prefer to err on the side of tolerating a few cranks who would be harmless enough if people would just stop feeding them already. Alas...
Bill Vallicella got so fed up with the nonsense that he shut down his comments section years ago except for the odd post here and there. I understand why, but it seems to me that a blog loses something without regular feedback, so I've tried to muddle through with the existing arrangement. It works some weeks better than others.
Fair enough. From now on, I won't respond to a comment unless it has an actual argument in it.Delete
Although this combox would be much improved if trolls and off topic content could be reliably filtered out, it still has great worth for those willing to wade through the crap because of the many other excellent contributions. In any case, it is simply not possible to always accurately discern who is a troll or otherwise badly motivated, so too mich censorship would inevitably bring about injustice. Then of course there is the real possibility that a troll might become enlightened and reform over time, which cannot happen if suspected cases are simply expunged from the site. So I think that you are quite correct to be relatively tolarant about which contributions you let stand, and hope that this will continue.
Of course, certain individuals are complicit in creating the problem at hand as they insist on engaging with those they then whine are trolls who should not be posted on the site in the first place!
Apologies for derailing the subthread with an unnecessary provocation. Original deleted.Delete
Perhaps the existence of undesirable troll-like comments is somewhat analogous to the existence of evil/privation of goodness: even GOD has to allow evil if GOD wants to bring about certain greater goodness.Delete
GOD could have done something analogous to what Vallicella is doing, but that would mean certain higher good would be removed along with the evil.
johannes y k hui
Do I here detect a Balthasarian hope that that man shall be saved? Either way, I always enjoy your articles; keep fighting the good fight!ReplyDelete
We should always hope though I am not sure it's always reasonable!Delete
That paper by Oderberg was really helpful for my own thinkingReplyDelete
If 1776 is simultaneous with God’s awareness and 2021 is simultaneous with God’s awareness, then 1776 is simultaneous with 2021 after all.ReplyDelete
I don't get this argument. It seems to pressuppose that God's awareness is in time, which is precisely the thing that the argument is denying.
Why the respectful in memoriam disposition towards Smith if you believe he is now experiencing everlasting torment for being an atheist?ReplyDelete
It seems the thrust of what is said about him should be negative, in order to deter others from a similar fate.
"My earnest prayer for this man from whose work I have profited is that, through divine grace, he now comes to know divine eternity more perfectly than any of us ever could in this life."Delete
That is hardly a comment from someone who is sure that Smith is in hell, so...
What is with the Gnus and their weird desire for people to go to Hell or their slander that Classic Theists are rooting for people to go to Hell?ReplyDelete
Also did none of them get the memo Catholics believe in certain certain circumstances even Atheists can be saved? No of course not Gnus are fundamentalists thru and thru.
I respect Philosophically literate Atheists like the late Professor Smith. Gnus OTOH I hold in base contempt. Morons the lot of them and knuckle draggers(& even so I don't want any of them to go to Hell but I can't pray away stupid).
Geez like I told Paps Answers in Genesis is over there losers. This is for big boyz specifically Classical Theists not low brow fundies wither they believe or lack belief in gods.
Ha, ha. You tickle me Rab C. Love dropping by to read your latest pearls of wisdom.ReplyDelete
I was called a maloderous cloaca once, but never a gnu. Go Willie go!
Awe Wee lamb!Delete
Ed's blog "bothers" me. I am again and again returned to issues which I have conveniently forgotten after years of unresolved consideration.ReplyDelete
There's obviously something wrong about the way we premise our thinking on the matter of time, and not-time.
We are, I think, and despite our best efforts, getting phenomena mixed up, or melded ... the psychologically intuitive spatially before us and behind us as we move on the one hand, with what we imagine is taking place outside of our psychology.
I keep thinking of empty caves, boulders, ant farms and traces on the one hand, and tetrachomacy, and brain frequency on the other.
If time is reduced to change, do less mutable or less impinged upon objects ready to hand exist in a different time than we do, or to things or states of matter which decay even more readily?
If time is no more than tracked and registered relative local motion measured against a repeating mechanism, what fundamental reason do we have to assume that this clockwork is unchanging with regard to a larger frame of reference? How would we ever know if we were "paused"? What if we could see in 360 degrees at better than 60 hz? Would this affect the premises which we use to build out our notions of time?
We could be living in a very different reality, than the real, but incomplete slice that we, or even our instrumentation can presently detect or process.
Who knows what might startlingly appear out of nowhere, if like the Navy's fighters, we suddenly got our Doppler radar updated to electronically scanned array types integrated with other detection systems.
It seems to me that Ed is basically right. Yet, that "where does it go behind us?" question is somehow misleading us, and well as influencing how we think about the future.
Motions or changes and the relative registration of it/them seem to comprise the experience we call time. Is there something more to it than that?
From Professor Feser's OP: "I would also say that the analogical use of theological terms and apophatic or negative theology are absolutely crucial to a proper understanding of divine eternity, yet are not considered in Smith’s discussion."ReplyDelete
Obviously, analogical predication of names of God has been controversial for centuries. Perhaps Smith was remiss in not confronting the question. Pace Thomists, as far as I can see, analogical predication is a bug, not a feature. If I don't know the primary analogate already, I can't know that a candidate secondary analogate is an analogate. I can't know about God's goodness (or know that God is Goodness Itself) from creaturely goodness unless I already know that creaturely goodness is analogous to God's goodness. But I can't know that if I don't already know God's goodness.
You wrote: “ If I don't know the primary analogate already, I can't know that a candidate secondary analogate is an analogate. I can't know about God's goodness (or know that God is Goodness Itself) from creaturely goodness unless I already know that creaturely goodness is analogous to God's goodness. But I can't know that if I don't already know God's goodness.”
Thomism has no problem in accounting for such a knowledge because the priority in the order of epistemelogy is the reverse of priority in the order of ontology. Our knowledge starts from the lower ontological beings and grows towards the highest ontological Being
From sense data (conditioned entities) we obtained through our senses we form images of conditioned entities in our imagination and then via our intellect we abstract ideas from those images and we reason from those ideas of conditioned entities towards the existence of The Unconditioned Being (GOD) and realise that GOD is Pure Actuality devoid of potentialities or deficiencies. From the work of our intellect we understand that the goodness of a conditioned entity is about how fully actualised is that entity in accordance, and the deficiency in goodness is about the extent of its failure to be fully actualised (Feser’s example: a tree having rotten roots, or my cat Felix having lost one leg). Since God is Pure Actuality, or Complete Actuality, or Actuality in the fullest, there would not be any deficiency in God and hence God would be Completely Good. Given divine simplicity (which is argued for independently), God is Goodness per se just as God is Actuality per se just as God is Existence per se.
So from the work of our intellect we know the metaphysics of goodness and deficiency in conditioned entities as actuality and unactualised potentiality, and from there we reason to the knowledge that The Unconditioned Being who is Actuality per se must also be Goodness per se.
johannes y k hui
Let's stop right at the heart of your comment: "If I don't know the primary analogate already, I can't know that a candidate secondary analogate is an analogate."Delete
It seems to me that if we accept proportionate causality, this objection falls apart, at least when talking about God. Knowing that God is the first cause, it follows as a corollary that anything, at least so long as it isn't a privation, must somehow exist in God. And if that's true, then when we know that "a candidate secondary analogate" isn't a privation, we also know that it actually is an analogate.
As we know that goodness isn't a privation, we know that it must somehow exist in God, and therefore creaturely forms of goodness are analogates to the Divine Goodness.
@ Paradoxo: we don't know that God is the first cause. Arguments that purport to establish that God is the first unmoved mover etc depend on analogical predication already. But analogical predication of names of God can only be grounded in truths already known about God. So there is a problem of circularity.Delete
@ Johannes: we have discussed these matters elsewhere. It is not simply obvious fact that the Analogy of Being must be accepted. I've already said that I, following many others, deem it incoherent. So, no analogy of Being, no analogical predication.Delete
You guys have first to establish, based on premises accepted by everyone, that 'being' is a predicate/property/perfection, that there are grades or degrees of 'being,' that 'being' is not coextensive with existence. Ya'll want us to sign on to a logic and a philosophy of logic that has been generally abandoned for over a century, and the fruits of which are limited compared to the fruits of later structures. A logic that can't say why "the present King of France is bald" is false, or that raises it as a serious question, can a unicorn be a fish, is best jettisoned, and the metaphysical commitments that are linked to it.
"Arguments that purport to establish that God is the first unmoved mover etc depend on analogical predication already."Delete
Im not sure that is the case, though. The principle of proportionate causality would entail that the cause of, say, goodness in a thing must itself have this goodness. The ultimate source of all this goodness then must also have this goodness. We know the ultimate source can't have it in the same sense though, therefore we can logically conclude that it must be analogical.
Its not assumed at all. Its the logical conclusion as far as I can see.
@ Billy: I think you are begging the question here: "We know the ultimate source can't have it in the same sense though, therefore we can logically conclude that it must be analogical."Delete
You are also assuming PPC, which again is contentious.
I spoke specifically about arguments to God as first unmoved mover. The argument as a deductive system won't go through if "mover" is not predicated univocally. And it can't be predicated univocally given the Thomistic claim that God is in no genus, since "mover" is in a genus. This problem was recognized already in the later thirteenth century.
Let's go to this new objection:Delete
"Arguments that purport to establish that God is the first unmoved mover etc depend on analogical predication already."
That's not a problem for me, since we were dealing with the question of establishing whether something is a secondary analogate. We don't need to address whether we're using "cause" analogically (or whether other causal agents are secondary analogates) to establish that God is the first cause. The realization that divine causation isn't quite the same as what we find in other agents is a posterior consideration. One that implies that analogical predication can be used to make sense of other truths about God.
@Paradoxo (sorry I can't type the accent in the combox):Delete
just to be sure we're using terms in the same way, do you consider God the primary analogate per se but the creature the primary analogate "quoad nos"?
I think you'll need to go more deeply into "establish." IF someone puts forth as an argument a deductive system that purports to reach a conclusion, the truth of which is known with certitude, then per Aristotle, terms must be predicated univocally throughout the deductive system. If they're not, it doesn't follow that the conclusion must be false, but we are not entitled to claim certitude of the conclusion. Yet, Thomist arguments about God claim certitude.
It's not just a case of irrelevant appeals to Aristotle that I mention this, for Aquinas himself repeats without critical comment such as this: “oportet medium demonstrationis esse unum et idem de pluribus praedicatum non aequivoco, sed secundum rationem eamdem: quod est ratio universalis. Si autem aequivocum esset, posset accidere vitium in arguendo.” Aq. In I AnPo l. 19 n. 8. (The middle term of a demonstration must be predicated as one and the same of many, not equivocally, but according to the same meaning: which is the universal meaning. If however it were equivocal, a fault in arguing could occur.)
Here I think we get a glimpse of how, across his thought, the Saint struggles (I know Thomists will deny he's 'struggling') with what his logic stipulates and what his theology needs. I have read a large amount of Aquinas' works, and so far I have not seen a defense of analogical predication that goes beyond assertion illustrated by Aristotle's examples of focal meaning, as the classic example of different senses of "healthy" when applied to animal, drink and urine. But we need more than assertion and examples. The examples don't do the work they need to do because we know how "healthy" is applied to animal, drink and urine since we know those substances. But no one knows the substance of God in advance. That's why I said you can't know that the secondary analogate (in itself, not quoad nos) is an analogate if you don't know the primary. We could not know what health is in an animal if ALL WE HAD to work from were an alfalfa smoothie and urine.
You said: “It is not simply obvious fact that the Analogy of Being must be accepted.”
Many things are not obvious. Not even the fact that the earth moves around the sun is obvious. :)
Reasoning can reveal what is not obvious. Such as the fact that The Unconditioned (aka GOD) exists extra-mentally.
Taking from the point that actually and potentiality are established to be real (ie actuality has being, and potentiality has being), this would be a skeleton and adaptation of Prof Feser’s argument on the reality of Analogy of Being:
1. Actuality has being
2. Potentiality has being
3. Actuality is distinct from Potentiality.
4. If Actuality has being in an univocal sense as Potentiality has being, then Actuality is not distinct from Potentiality and would contradict 3. So 4 is false.
5. If Actuality has being in an equivocal sense then Actuality would not have being at all but this contradicts 1. So 5 is false.
6. The only remaining sense is an analogical sense.
7. So, Actuality has being in a sense that is analogous to Potentiality has being. Analogy of being is thus true.
Try using steel-manning and careful reflection to understand the above, especially for 4 & 5.
“You guys have first to establish, based on premises accepted by everyone,...”
This is unreasonable. Even the premise “the earth is not flat” is not accepted by every modern educated and sophisticated person living in modern cities today. Google “Flat Earth Society”.
What is reasonable is to look at your opposite side’s argument, and then you try to discuss with your opposing interlocutor why a certain premise is true or false, and compare the reasonings and multiple cycles of counter-rebuttals offered by both sides.
“You guys have first to establish, based on premises accepted by everyone, that 'being' is a predicate/property/perfection,...”
Even the analytic philosopher Anthony Kenny who attacked Aquinas’ idea of GOD’s essence is existence has accepted that existence is a first level predicate for entities in the case of REAL individual entities such as Fido the dog under what Anthony classified under “individual existence/being”.
I have suggested you to read Gyula Klima’s paper (again, since you said you forgot much about Klima’s arguments) at the Strange Notions website. Perhaps read Klima’s other relevant papers too.
@Johannes: as I told you on SN, as far as I can determine, Kenny made a mistake in the part of Aquinas on Being to which you refer.Delete
@Johannes, re this of yours: "Actuality has being; Potentiality has being... Try using steel-manning and careful reflection to understand the above, especially for 4 & 5."Delete
You keep talking as though I accept that anything "has" being. I have told you many times that I do not consider "being" a predicate/property/perfection. I do not admit a distinction between "being" and "existence."
You are talking to me the way an ex-Protestant fundamentalist Gnu quotes scripture as proof texts to a Thomist.
I'll add that your argument even on A-T principles opens up unnecessary problems, since "in act" or "in potency" are modes of a substance's "being" either qua substance or with respect to some accident. The "being" of actuality and potentiality as universals is not separated. But since I don't subscribe to A-T metaphysics, it would be moot to dispute this except as an exercise in exegesis of Aristotle or Aquinas or a later commentator.
Smith seemed to be a pretty smart guy, but i wonder if he never mentioned the thomistic view of God because he just was not aware of it. Seeing that he wrote a book with Dr. Craig and that his objections seems to presuppose that God know as we do(be observing and all that), it seems that he probably did not knew Classical Theism very well. Not blaming him, since the theists he knew likely were more from the neo-classical side.ReplyDelete
It's an indictment on the current state of most philowshophing departments that I've visited, in Australia, Europe and the UK, that Aquinas is left unattended, to gather dust. The secular, atheist philosophy departments don't bother engaging with philosophers from Catholic universities and certainly not the many gifted Dominican friars here and there. The have decided, having gained the consensus, to simply anathematise any work that presumes to defend a notion or theory that has passed into the cultural twilight. The non-Catholics I've met who have engaged with Thomistic thought have almost all come to him via the one-and-only Prof Feser, or Alasdair MacIntyre, largely because of their more-than-marginal exposure on the internet, where independent thinkers are still looking honestly for answers to philosophical problems.ReplyDelete
I'm often reminded of what Blaise Pascal said in his Provincial Letters, with deep insight, about the true battle we wage: "it is a strange and tedious war when Violence attempts to vanquish truth. All the efforts of violence cannot weaken truth, and olny serve to give it fresh vigour. All the lights of truth cannot arrest violence, and only serve to exasperate it. When force meets force, the weaker must succumb to the stronger; when argument is opposed to argument, the the solid and convincing triumphs over the empty and false; but violence and verity can make no impression on each other... Let none suppose, however, that the two are, therefore, equal to each other; for there is this vast difference between them, that violence has only a certain course to run, limited by the appointment of Heaven, which overrules its effects to the glory of truth which it assails; whereas verity endures forever, and eventually triumphs over its enemies, being eternal and almighty as God himself."
We must dispense with the rationalist theory of human interactivity and return to an practical notion of the Satanic; for the truth is always being expelled, slandered and effaced by the Adversarial Spirit in man... especially in the guise of a philosopher!
Thanks for an interesting post. Might I suggest that all talk of "simultaneity" in connection with eternity is misleading and should be discarded. Instead of saying that God is simultaneous with 1776 and 2021, for instance, we should simply say that God has immediate epistemic access to both the events in 1776 and the events in 2021. It doesn't follow from this statement that people living in 1776 have immediate epistemic access to events in 2021 (or vice versa), so no paradoxes arise.
However, I have to take exception to the following remark of yours:
"God does not know the world via anything like perception. He knows it by virtue of being its cause... Compare: A novelist knows what happens in chapter 1 and chapter 5 of his book, not because he has read both chapters, but because he wrote both of them."
This "solution" destroys human freedom. To quote Elizabeth Anscombe out of context, if my actions are "predetermined by processes which I do not control, then my freedom is perfectly illusory." Anscombe was criticizing physical determinism when she made that remark in her 1971 Inaugural Lecture, titled Causality and Determination, but her point is all the more telling as a critique of theological determinism, which places God above the chain of causes and effects in this world, turning him into the Author of my every thought, word and deed (and yours). Putting it another way: Harry Potter has the right to condemn Draco Malfoy for his wicked actions, but J. K. Rowling doesn't: she made him that way. And if God is my J. K. Rowling, then God has no right to condemn my faults. Cheers.
Let me help you out VT..Delete
God can be the first cause, Who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature. God can do this for his creatures.
But a mere human author cannot do this for their characters sans imagine them freely doing something they want done for story purposes but JK Rowling doesn't cause Harry or Draco to act the way God causes you and I to act. JK and God cannot be unequivocally compared in that manner.
The Author comparison is an analogy on how God is the author of our Free choices (& does so while causing them to be free ones) via His Providence it is not an unequivocal description which it seems is at the heart of yer counter objection.
So this argument is flawed IMHO for that reason.
@ Son of Ya'Kov: hello, old friend! I expect that VT will be able to post a defense of his comment. But for the fun of it, because we all love philosophy... re this of yoursDelete
"God can be the first cause, Who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature. "
This quotation from the Saint doesn't nail down an answer, because, don't you think? it assumes that the rational creature has free will. To lay down that "voluntary causes" have wills that are not determined by God is to lay down precisely the point under contention. Aquinas is only entitled to say that God acts in the RATIONAL creature according to the mode of being of the (rational) creature. He is not entitled to go on and shoehorn "free-willed" into "rational", for "free-willed" is precisely the bone of contention.
It's seem rather straight forward to me.Delete
If God knows the world only by virtue of being its cause, then the only way in which God can know a free will decision is by virtue of being its cause.
But a (libertarian) free will decision is caused by the free agent, so a decision caused by God is, by definition, not a free decision by the agent.
Now, you might say that there are also other ways in which God can know free decisions, but then you run into Quentin Smith's objections.
There is a big difference between knowledge of a choice, and determining the choice. Only by being used to being stuck in time do we see a problem. There is no conflict between us having free choices within time, and god having an awareness of all choices within time from outside of time.Delete
From his perspective it’s as meaningless as me saying I know what you had for lunch yesterday, therefore you were not free to choose what you ate for lunch. To you this seems wrong because your personal now aligns broadly with my personal now (unless you were to find a way to travel close to the speed of light). However from god’s perspective, transcendent and outside of time (but also immanent within it), where our personal ‘now’ happens to be is not relevant to what his knowledge contains.
Ficino my brother from another mother!:DDelete
>This quotation from the Saint doesn't nail down an answer, because, don't you think? it assumes that the rational creature has free will.
What metaphysical mechanism of free will are we assuming here? The post enlightenment Volunteerism view? Because 1)that view is wrong. The intellect moves the will and has primacy not the will vs the intellect. 2)that view is not assumed here. 3)The intellect apprehends the good and moves the will to desire it.
>To lay down that "voluntary causes" have wills that are not determined by God is to lay down precisely the point under contention.
Because we assume the scholastic theories of either premotion or concurrentism and we reject the occationalist view which we are not assuming.
If one is looking to reconcile the occationalist view with having free will one will not succeed anymore than one can describe the Incarnation assuming reductionist materialism is true.
>Aquinas is only entitled to say that God acts in the RATIONAL creature according to the mode of being of the (rational) creature.
That sounds like an analytical reformulation to me? I will have to follow the advice I just today gave to another and go back and read Davies. Thought some Thomists in the Traditional School are triggered by expressing Thomism in analytical terms. I am more open minded but reserve the right to close it at a moments notice.;-)
>He is not entitled to go on and shoehorn "free-willed" into "rational", for "free-willed" is precisely the bone of contention.
If you mean he cannot shoe horn a volunteerist view of free will I absolutely agree but I reject the volunteerist view of free will(& so does Aquinas and Feser). The Intellect moves the will not the other way around.
Davies says God causes the reality of free will.
Thanks Ficino. Stimulating as always.....you raise the collective IQ of the religious skeptics & agnostics here by an order of magnitude(while others *cough!* Paps! Unknown! GF!*cough!* drag it down).
Walter Van den AckerDelete
Why can't God cause a free agent to will freely and be the cause of their willing freely?
Is God causing the decision on behalf of the free agent or is God causing the freedom by which the agent decides?
That God is on some Transcendent level incomprehensible to Humans and too meta to comprehend without taking a leathal dose of LSD causing the decision itself can be thought of but I cannot coherently rule out the freedom.
Reductionist Materialism makes Free Will impossible and I suspect most critics here have that as their back round assumption which they read into this situation.
Free Will is a power of a rational being. It cannot be understood in strict mechanical terms. It is best understood by analogy.
@Son of Ya'Kov: this topic demands at least conference paper level treatment, if not more. At present I'll just suggest that your reference to the thesis that the intellect moves the will already points to a direction for inquiry, sc. is the active intellect moved by intelligibles? My reading of Aquinas say, yes. And if that's right, then as instances of motion, the active intellect's acts must be on the part of one or more movers. Do we have grounds to conclude that a rational creature's active intellect is a self-mover in a strong sense? Or is it moved in a chain that goes back to the first unmoved mover? Or is its motion not motion? Some inconsistency in Aquinas on this last point, which I think can be resolved, but not in a combox and not by me tonight!Delete
U da Man.Delete
Actually, i think that the author analogy helps understanding how God and free-will go together. I don't think i mean free-will in a libertarian sense, for this is usually understood in the mechanicist metaphysics that i reject, but it is enough for me.Delete
Imagine a scene in a book where a character breaks a glass cup. The author is the cause of this event in a sense, the history is only there because of him, but in another sense, inside the history, the cause is the character. While the author is the cause, the primary cause, he is not part of the casuality inside the history, the secundary causes.
In a similar way, God is the cause of the decisions because He keeps persons in being all the time, in another sense the person is the cause, for God usual casuality operates in a diferent level. I say usual because God can act as secundary cause if He wants, as seen in miracles.
Son of Ya'kovDelete
"Why can't God cause a free agent to will freely and be the cause of their willing freely?"
I am going to concede for the sake of the argument that God can do so, but the problem still remains.
If God can only know things in virtue of being their cause, then he cannot know any free will decision.
Not sure if this imperfect analogy works:Delete
Consider a father who helps his 3-year old son to draw simple figures on a paper by holding his son’s tiny hand to control a pencil that is too heavy for his son. The father does not initiate any movement of the pencil but would, with high sensitivity, senses which direction his son’s tiny hand is trying to move the pencil towards, and the father would help the son to move the pencil in accordance to that direction.
The direction of movement is initiated, originated and determined by the son, but without the father’s CONTINUOUS ENABLEMENT the son could not move the heavy pencil and the figure would not be drawn.
The act of drawing by the 3-year old son imperfectly represents the making of free-will decisions by humans; the act of CONTINUOUS ENABLEMENT by his father represents the continuous enablement by GOD in continuously enabling the existence of humans’ ability to exercise free will in initiating choices and determining decisions.
So the father knows what the son freely chooses to draw because:
(1) he CONTINUOUSLY ENABLES his son to do so, and
(2) he CONTINUOUSLY SEES his son’s action
For GOD, both the divine enablement and “knowledge of vision” or “glance of God” (apparently Aquinas used these terms in describing how God can know humans’ future contingent choices) are the same one single act, not two. GOD eternally knowing a human’s future contingent free choices (future only with respect to a human) by one single act of enablement and divine “glance” or “knowledge of vision” which is two different descriptions of one single act of knowing.
“Whatever therefore can be made, or thought, or said by the creature, as also whatever He Himself can do, all are known to God, although they are not actual. And in so far it can be said that He has knowledge even of things that are not. Now a certain difference is to be noted in the consideration of those things that are not actual. For though some of them may not be in act now, still they were, or they will be; and God is said to know all these with the KNOWLEDGE OF VISION: for since God’s act of understanding, which is His being, is measured by eternity; and since eternity is without succession, comprehending all time, the present GLANCE OF GOD extends over all time, and to all things which exist in any time, as to objects present to Him.”
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, trans. Fr. Laurence Shapcote, O.P. (Lander, Wyoming: The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, 2012), Ia.14.9.
johannes y k hui
@Son of Ya'Kov, Walter Van der Acker, Vincent Torley:Delete
Brian Davies in Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil (Oxford 2011) around p. 73 goes into Aquinas' arguments in De Malo 6.1 and elsewhere. These arguments are germane to the question that Vincent raised. It will produce a very long combox comment to try to summarize them and summarize Davies' interpretation, so at present I'll just ask: are you (pl.) and others familiar with either that work by Aquinas or Davies' exposition or both? If so we can try to discuss it - though I fear the combox modality here may not allow for the kind of treatment the question deserves.
Hi Son of Yakov,Delete
You can't have your cake and eat it. It was Ed who developed the analogy between God and the world on the one hand and an author and the story he has written on the other, in order to explain how an action can be caused and yet still free, in his "Five Proofs." Now you're backpedaling, by claiming that "JK and God cannot be unequivocally compared," because "JK Rowling doesn't cause Harry or Draco to act the way God causes you and I to act." Well in that case, you should drop the analogy, because it fails to shed light on what it was intended to illuminate. Either God is an author or He isn't. If He isn't, why bother comparing Him to one?
The author-character analogy is also incompatible with the Judeo-Christian belief that God has intervened in human history. Authors cannot put themselves inside their own stories.
Any proper analogy of the relation between God and free agents should be able to explain how our choices can be both real and free. The author analogy explains only the latter, and even that only in a Pickwickian sense, as if the characters were real. The craftsman analogy (God is the potter, we are the clay) explains the former but not the latter. As far as I can tell, there's NO analogy from classical theology that satisfactorily explains both aspects. I think my request for an analogy that explains both our reality and our freedom is an entirely reasonable one. I'm not asking for the moon here.
You also ask, "Why can't God cause a free agent to will freely and be the cause of their willing freely?" The answer is that the adverb "freely" doesn't refer to a way of willing, as "slowly" refers to a way of walking. Rather, willing something freely simply means that nothing and nobody makes me will it - whether on this level of reality or on any higher level.
In the end, I think we have to face up to the fact that God's knowledge of our choices is indeed passive. Personally, I think Dr. Linda Zagzebski's proposal that God is omnisubjective is worth following up. It may mean revising our view of God, but if that's the price we have to pay for maintaining our freedom, I say: so be it.
Free Will is a power of a rational being.Delete
As I understand it, Son of Ya'kov, this is something of a debated or at least ambiguous thesis. One possibility is that "to be rational" just is to have free will, in that the will is by nature the intellective appetite, and that is by nature free. The other possibility is that WILL by nature belongs to the rational being, but that it be FREE is something not inherently necessary and therefore an added gift to human nature in addition to rationality. Either option seems logically possible. And given that humans are the only rational beings of which we have direct empirical evidence that we can query and learn from, it is difficult to sort out from empirical evidence what belongs to rational beings as such from what belongs to us humans but need not belong to rational beings as such.
If I understand St. Thomas correctly, (a BIG if, in this context, because I am really not well versed in this stuff), the human will tends to that which is perceived to be "good", by the very nature of the appetitive faculty. But the human will tends to the good viewed under the aspect "good in one way and not-good in another way" NOT in a way that means that the human will chooses the good so apprehended. When a good is present to the intellect as good in a sense and not-good in another sense, the will is not necessitated to it, and thus is able not to choose that good. It can refuse. But when the will chooses the good apprehended, it is that very good, apprehended, which moves the will, as the object moves the appetite of which it is the object: final causality. That it is the object that moves the appetite belongs to appetite as such: that the motion is not necessary belongs to FREE will.
But this motive influence is "natural" to the appetite; it leaves unsaid whether there is some other power that moves the (free) will to its act as an external agent moves a mobile, as well as whether such agent acting moves the will necessarily or not.
"Why can't God cause a free agent to will freely and be the cause of their willing freely?"Delete
I am going to concede for the sake of the argument that God can do so, but the problem still remains.
If God can only know things in virtue of being their cause, then he cannot know any free will decision.
Walter, I am not seeing your point. If God is the cause of a the will acting freely to choose a good, in what way does this stand in opposition to God's knowing the will's act?
Are you suggesting that God may (a) cause the will "to exist", and even (b) "to have the capacity to act in this instance" is different from God causing the will "to choose chocolate cake", and God doesn't cause the latter, he only causes (a) and (b)?
To use an analogy: suppose the power company, due to a faulty power line, burns down a dentist's office, and in reparation (a) rebuilds his office, so that it exists because the power company made it. And suppose that the power company then (b) supplies electric power to that new office, so that his is ABLE to run his electric drill. That still does not imply that the power company (c) directs the power thus available to drilling THIS molar tooth, that directive act belongs only to the dentist, not to the power company.
Is that the difficulty you are posing?
No, I am posing that of if God can only know things by virtue of being their cause, He cannot possibly know that the dentist will drill/is drilling this molar tooth.
Geez I am disappointed in you Vincent. This is the sort of low brow response I expect from Paps or the Gnus.....What the actual fuuu..fudge?Delete
>You can't have your cake and eat it. It was Ed who developed the analogy between God and the world on the one hand and an author and the story he has written on the other,
Given that it is an analogy it is not an absolute literal comparison across the board as that would be an unequivocal comparison. Thomism 101 or did ye forget that?
> Now you're backpedaling, by claiming that "JK and God cannot be unequivocally compared,"
Because that is what Thomists believe as we are Thomists here not followers of Dun Scotus. God and creatures can only be compared analogously not unequivocally.
Feser is making an analogy not an unequivocal comparison. That is what we do. Geez man this response is bad & I spend my days ragging on idiot Gnus over at Strange Notions(& they are morons to the last man but not to be equated with some of the more reasonable local skeptics)
I expect better from you sir! Again what the
>Either God is an author or He isn't. If He isn't, why bother comparing Him to one?
Are you Trolling me Vincent? Is this a joke? It has to be because you are intelligent and reasonably well learned. I mean so God is an Author and JK Rowling is an Author ergo God created our world using a Typewriter or a Pen to write us into existence instead of creating us Ex Nihilo?
Do we live in the Cosmos He created or on page 12?
This has to be a joke post. I am being trolled if so I forgive you Vincent. But if this is serious I am pissed and I am going the full BenYachov and the Full Scottish!!!
Yer asking for it laddie!
>The author-character analogy is also incompatible with the Judeo-Christian belief that God has intervened in human history. Authors cannot put themselves inside their own stories.
So you never heard of an Author Avatar? Or a Mary Sue nor did you ever hear JK herself claim of the three main characters she originally planed to kill one of them off but gave them a repreve? Sounds like an intervention to me?
Of course by "intervention" I defer to Brian Davies.
>Any proper analogy of the relation between God and free agents should be able to explain how our choices can be both real and free.
Sorry no that is wrong because fundamentally don't know how free will works. It cannot be explained Mechanistically and we obviously cannot program an AI with "free will" like we do in the Scifi Movies.
We are limited by our Apophatic theology to conclude what free will does and what it is not.
We don't know what mechanism make it possible. Materialism can't tell us which is why they dismiss free will ad hoc as an illusion because it cannot be explained mechanistically or materially.
So you lost me Vincent.
>I'm not asking for the moon here.
No yer confusing unequivocal comparisons with analogous ones.
I was being rather simplistic in my exposition but you fleshed it out quite nicely. Well done.
PS Everybody else don't piss me off I am in a mood!Delete
Mood I say...
Son of YakovDelete
You are undergoing a psychotic breakdown more like.
Awe wee lamb.Delete
Hi Son of Ya'Kov,Delete
According to Thomists, there are two kinds of analogy: analogy of attribution (A is like B insofar as A is the cause of B) and analogy of proportionality (A:B = C:D). Quite clearly, when Thomists are talking about the analogy between God and a human author, they mean the latter. Consequently, there has to be some X and some Y such that God:X = Author:Y. The analogy has been proposed how our acts can be determined by God and still remain free, just as the actions of a character in a novel are free. So the analogy is presumably (God : our acts) = (Human author : his/her character's acts). But earlier on, you denied that the relation between God and my choices is the same as that between J. K. Rowling and her characters' choices. So we don't have analogy of proportionality after all.
Instead, you said, the relation between God and my choices is merely similar to that between J. K. Rowling and her characters' choices. So what you're really saying is that the analogy that you originally drew is not a true analogy of proportionality (A:B=C:D), but something analogous to one (an analogy of an analogy?), which means that there has to be some E and some F such that (A:B):(C:D) = E:F. But you don't tell us what the E and F are, and I suspect that if I pressed you, you'd deny the equality in this analogy, as well - which means you're going to have an infinite regress of analogies.
Now do you see why I am not impressed when people who draw analogies back out of them, later on?
Vincent Part OneDelete
Yer sophistry & misdirection doesn't impress me mate. Yer assuming Feser is channeling Cajetan on analogy? Well how do I know he wasn't channeling McInerny view that analogy is a "Logical Doctrine"(since he rejects Cajetan)?
BTW who fecking cares? I don't! Feser doesn't say & it is not important.
One thing is certain he wasn't making an univocal comparison and Feser explicitly says so on page 215 of the FIVE WAYS. Or did you miss that part?
Yer blowing smoke VT and I am nor impressed.
Here is the quote from page 214 of 5 proofs:
QUOTE"Consider once again the analogy with the author of a story. Suppose it is a crime
novel and that one of the characters carefully plots the murder of another, for financial gain. We would naturally say that he commits the murder of his own free will, and is therefore justly punished after being caught at the end of the novel. It would be silly to say: “Well, he didn’t really commit the murder of his own free will. For he committed it only because the author wrote the story that way.”
The author’s writing the story the way he did is not inconsistent with the character’s having freely committed the murder. It’s not comparable to (say) some further character in the story hypnotizing the murderer and thereby getting him to commit the crime— something which would be inconsistent with the murder having been committed freely. If we got to a point in the book where such hypnotism was revealed, we would say “Ah,so it wasn’t an act of free will after all.”
But we don’t say that when we reflect on the fact that the story had an author. It is perfectly coherent to say that the author wrote a story in which someone freely chooses to commit a murder. Similarly, it is perfectly coherent to say that God causes a world to exist in which someone freely chooses to commit a murder, or to carry out some other act. God’s causal action is no more inconsistent with our having free will than the author’s action is inconsistent with
his characters’ having free will. God’s action would be inconsistent with our having free will if He was comparable to the hypnotist, who is one character alongside the others and interferes with them so as to get them to do what they would not otherwise be doing. But God is not like that at all, any more than an author is a character alongside other characters ..........."END
Vince pay attention! Feser is not comparing how God has free will with how creatures have free will which is what you would need to do if you insist on channeling Cajetan on analogy of proportionality or whatever. God's act of will being one perfect infinite act from all eternity etc vs our will which is many, finite and limited and composite etc...
Feser goes on to say "The author’s causal relation to the story is radically unlike the relations the characters in the story have to each other, and God’s causal relation to the world is radically unlike the relation we and other elements of the world have to each other. God’s action seems inconsistent with free will only when we fail to keep this in mind to keep in mind that we have to think of talk about God’s knowledge and action in analogical rather than univocal terms."
So stop blowing smoke buddy! I am not interested in starting a fecking discussion on Cajetan vs Analogy as a logical doctrine vs Scotus etc...
Vince admit it yer taking this whole analogy as an unequivocal description not as an analogy.
An author can imagine their character but as a creature their character in their human intellect is a mere being of reason not an actual full real existing person. God OTOH when He causes you and I to exist is not causing a limited being of reason to appear in his limited intellect. He doesn't have one. He is God His Knowledge/Intellect is Infinite and Perfect. God is making real people.
The analogy here is the fictional world is radically unlike the human author but within the fiction world we don't say the murder acted freely if later it was discovered a hypnotist brainwashed him into committing the crime. But the author is not literally a character in his own work even if the author inserts an author's avatar character. That character is still a being of reason not the author himself.
God is not like His creatures & there is still no reason why God can't cause us to will freely. What is free will? What are the mechanics of it? Can we make something with free will? Program a A.I. that makes descisions for itself? No....not really.
>But earlier on, you denied that the relation between God and my choices is the same as that between J. K. Rowling and her characters' choices.
Well JK's characters are beings of reason as fictional characters and God's creatures are real rational beings. So yeh they are not alike. What is comparable here is JK is not like her characters metaphysically (she is a real rational creature vs her characters who are beings of reason she imagined)she is radically unlike them. God is not like His creatures (Ground of Being/Substantive Being Itself vs beings really distinct from their essence etc).
I deny (& this is not rocket science VT I assume you believe this) God is not being compared directly to JK as she is a being not Being Itself.
He is merely showing how unlike the author is to his fiction and God is unlike His creation.
I'll return to edit this later. I suspect Part II might post before Part I.Delete
Hi Son of Ya'Kov,Delete
Feser in Five Proofs, p. 214:
"It is perfectly coherent to say that the author wrote a story in which someone freely chooses to commit a murder. Similarly, it is perfectly coherent to say that God causes a world to exist in which someone freely chooses to commit a murder, or to carry out some other act."
Feser's use of the word "similarly" indicates that he is invoking an analogy, of the kind which Thomists refer to as analogy of proportionality: (Author: Actions of the characters in the story that he/she created) = (God: Actions of the agents in the world that He created). There has to be a strict equality sign, or else there's no analogy.
You, on the other hand, write:
"JK Rowling doesn't cause Harry or Draco to act the way God causes you and I to act."
In other words, you categorically deny that (JK Rowling: Harry's actions) = (God: my actions). In so doing, you are contradicting what Feser says.
You also point out that "JK's characters are beings of reason as fictional characters and God's creatures are real rational beings." Neither of us is disputing that. The question I am pursuing is whether the relation between JK and the acts performed by her fictional characters is the same as that between God and the acts performed by His real rational creatures. Feser says yes, you say no.
By the way, I'm not channeling Cajetan, as I've never read him.
Lastly, you assert that "there is still no reason why God can't cause us to will freely." The point I would make in reply is that "freedom" is a relative term, when used to describe the actions of a character in a story. Harry is free relative to Ron, Hermione and Draco Malfoy, but he is not free relative to J.K. Rowling. And on Ed's account, it would follow that we are not free relative to God. That's a conclusion I'd call theologically scandalous.
>Feser's use of the word "similarly" indicates that he is invoking an analogy, of the kind which Thomists refer to as analogy of proportionalityDelete
All analogies from proportionality or attribution to McInerny version involve some similarity. Reading yer view into Feser’s writing here based on one word is a wee bit tedious and unconvincing.
>: (Author: Actions of the characters in the story that he/she created) = (God: Actions of the agents in the world that He created). There has to be a strict equality sign, or else there's no analogy.
Nope! Author actions as compared to characters vs God’s actions as compared to his creatures. Based on a plain reading of pages 214-215. A strict equal sign indicated an univocal comparison not an analogy. So wrong!
>"JK Rowling doesn't cause Harry or Draco to act the way God causes you and I to act."
a limited rational being imagining beings of reason is not the same as Pure Act creating from nothing and causing rational being to be and act.
>In other words, you categorically deny that (JK Rowling: Harry's actions) = (God: my actions). In so doing, you are contradicting what Feser says.
Rather yer reading into Feser instead of taking him at face value as yer starting point.
>The question I am pursuing is whether the relation between JK and the acts performed by her fictional characters is the same as that between God and the acts performed by His real rational creatures. Feser says yes, you say no.
He says no such thing. The comparison he is clearly making is JK is radically unlike her characters just as God is radically unlike His creatures. He says that explicitly anybody can read pages 214-215 for themselves. It is as plain as a Bulgarian Pin up!
>By the way, I'm not channeling Cajetan, as I've never read him.
McInerny never shut up about him being the true author of the Analogy of Proportion vs Attribution distinction. It is a complicated subject one which I am still trying to get my head around.
>Lastly, you assert that "there is still no reason why God can't cause us to will freely." The point I would make in reply is that "freedom" is a relative term, when used to describe the actions of a character in a story.
Well I am not free to make 2+2=5 and I am not free to will X and Not X at the same time and in the same sense. Also I cannot will eternally unlike the One Divine Being we could mention can and does do so.
That is unremarkable.
>Harry is free relative to Ron, Hermione and Draco Malfoy, but he is not free relative to J.K. Rowling. And on Ed's account, it would follow that we are not free relative to God. That's a conclusion I'd call theologically scandalous.
We are not free of God in so far as we are entirely dependent on God for our being and having the essential powers of our being. But there is no reason why God can’t be the cause of our will being free. His causing our will to be free doesn’t imply God wills on our behalf or in our stead We truly make the choices we make.
This isn’t a scandal it is liberating.
Hi Son of Ya'Kov,Delete
May I suggest that we ask Ed to adjudicate between us, and tell us which of us is reading him aright? Ed? Hello?
@ Vincent Torley and Son of Ya'Kov,Delete
Vincent, I have found much of value over the years in what you write, but I think you misconstrue Feser here. Feser's "similarly" gives us a relation of similarity between two relations: Rowling to characters and God to creatures. Feser did not say something like "In the same way, God..." So I think your insertion of the sign = in your representation of Feser is a mistake.
BTW interesting to learn that perhaps it was Cajetan who formulated the term, "analogy of attribution." When Aquinas uses the time-honored example of healthy animal, healthy drink and healthy urine, that comes from Aristotle's discussions of pros hen predication, what Gwil Owen called "focal meaning." It seems to me that causality is not at the center of the expl of pros hen predication, since it takes a lot of footwork to establish that the relevant difference betw the way "healthy" is predicated of "animal" and the way it's predicated of "drink" or "urine" is that the primary predicate CAUSES the secondary predications. An animal's health doesn't cause a drink or urine to be healthy on any straightforward sense of "cause." But maybe Cajetan went into this example, since it recurs in Aquinas simply under the rubric of predication "analogice."
>May I suggest that we ask Ed to adjudicate between us, and tell us which of us is reading him aright? Ed? Hello?
>Feser's "similarly" gives us a relation of similarity between two relations: Rowling to characters and God to creatures. Feser did not say something like "In the same way, God..." So I think your insertion of the sign = in your representation of Feser is a mistake.
What was that line Tony Stark said to Bruce Banner in the first Avengers movie specifically the Bridge scene? Ah yes...."At last somebody who speaks English!"
This combox is sort of a mess. May the man himself correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the most obvious interpretation of Dr. Feser's words, given the context, was that he hoped Dr. Smith had, "through divine grace," been amply prompted to a conversion to God before his ultimate passing, which call he heeded in such grave circumstances, afterwards attaining to the beatific vision, or else temporary purgation on track to heaven. If indeed I am correct, then pardon the professor for not spelling the minutiae out explicitly in a eulogizing piece! How appropriate is it that, given the way such a large portion of atheists characteristically conduct themselves, Smith would be copiously praised by comparison? This posture authentically displays the great extent to which we recognize that some of our opponents really do conduct themselves in a serious manner, and we take full account of this. When a congenial man crosses the divide between this life and the next, it is natural to hope for the best, and to not speak ill of the dead.ReplyDelete
Other than where I have encountered him in Feser’s writing, I have never read Quentin Smith. But, contrary to some of the snarkier commenters above, it is easy to understand the admiration and respect that thinking atheists and theists can have for each other—there are so relatively few on both sides. To most people, it is a political issue rather than an intellectual/philosophical one. Having been on both sides, I’ve always disliked the anti-intellectual bible beaters and the snarky Dawkins peddlers with equal intensity.ReplyDelete
Someday maybe I’ll even learn more about the whole time issue.
Despite his good humour with and fairness to theo-philosophers, Smith was and remained an atheist. So it would seem there was no argument even Dr Feser could make that would ever have him convinced of the ontological and epistemological foundations of Thomism. As did Bertrand Russell also note of Aquinas:ReplyDelete
"He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times."
One of today's foremost philosophers, Slavoj Žižek, in the New York Times notes: "..religion is not an enemy but rather one of the fields of struggle. ...... Religious fundamentalists are in a way no different from "godless Stalinist Communists". They both value divine will and salvation over moral or ethical action." See here: https://genius.com/Slavoj-zizek-atheism-is-a-legacy-worth-fighting-for-annotated
And therein lies the problem of religious-based philosophy. There is a real insurmountable intellectual, conceptual and rational problem in thinking that a GOD decided just 2,000 years ago to reveal HIMSELF to humanity only after millions of years of evolution of the hominid animal. Me smells a rat in the origin of the christian storyline.
Much of the god-stuff throughout this combox is gratuitous in content and really doesn't offer an explanation.
I'm sorry I cannot be more generous than that because the religious story is such an endless closed loop. It is this endless loop that is misplaced and indeed mischaracterised as some form of theo-driven timelessness or eternity.
Incidentally, what is the difference between 'eternity' and 'divine eternity'?
Paps yer still boring the [poop] out of everybody with yer warmed over argument ad populum I see? That crap was old decades ago & it is still old.Delete
Then there is yer low brow fundamentalism....
Geez man read a book....
I concur with much of what Papalintron has said.Delete
I personally acknowledge that there are problems with a purely physicalist metaphysics, but ditto with other ontologies too ( I suspect that we are still groping towards correct understanding ). I also concur that the various arguaments which point to a necessarily existing ground of being with some of the characteristics of mind are serious ones which should be taken very seriously indeed. However, none of this implies Christian theism, let alone Roman Catholicism. It seems to me that the frequenters of this site ( and its owner ), have decided in advance what they are going to believe, and so expend a great deal of apologetic and philosophical effort trying to make their theology cohere with a core of possibly valid ( though contested ) philosophical insights. You are complicit in constructing your own delusion.
Bertrand Russel showed he didn't really understand Aquinas. Aquinas quite forcefully criticized and rejected the two most favored arguments for God's existence by the Church, embraced the works of Aristotle at a time when various parts of the Church were openly hostile to him.
In the Summa, Aquinas would, on many occasions, present his oppositions ideas better than his opposition could. That requires taking these ideas incredibly seriously, understanding and thinking about them and figuring out how they could be reasoned to be true. It's not his fault the arguments are still faulty.
Also, didn't Russel admit he wrote this book just to make some money?
Hey Anonymous 11:26,Delete
"I personally acknowledge that there are problems with a purely physicalist metaphysics, but ditto with other ontologies too ( I suspect that we are still groping towards correct understanding )."
Each one presents their arguments. I suppose none of them should be rejected outright without any consideration.
"I also concur that the various arguaments which point to a necessarily existing ground of being with some of the characteristics of mind are serious ones which should be taken very seriously indeed."
Great! I think it is hard to avoid this conclusion. Or at least, the alternatives ought not to have any sort of privileged position.
"However, none of this implies Christian theism, let alone Roman Catholicism."
"It seems to me that the frequenters of this site ( and its owner ), have decided in advance what they are going to believe, and so expend a great deal of apologetic and philosophical effort trying to make their theology cohere with a core of possibly valid ( though contested ) philosophical insights."
Philosophy and the light of natural reason can lead you to affirming the existence of God, but from there you are on your own as to what kind of beliefs you will accept beyond that fact. I think Christians, and Catholics in particular, are pretty good at deliniating what is de fide and what is provable from reason alone.
Aristotle was not a Christian, and yet he came to a belief in God. Anthony Flew is another example.
And for sure, people of faith will be more receptive to these arguments. But that doesnt mean they have left their intellectual integrity at the door. One could make the same accusation against Atheists in reverse. The only reason you delude yourself into believing there is no god is because of xyz. That is just poisoning the well.
"You are complicit in constructing your own delusion."
Unless we are not deluded, but you are. Having said that, Ed has not claimed (I think)) and I would not claim that philosophy alone leads one to Christianity, or Catholicism, or Judeism, or Islam, and Hinduism. One would have to investigate any such claims and they would be over and above what philosophy has to say on the matter.
Daniel: "Philosophy and the light of natural reason can lead you to affirming the existence of God, but from there you are on your own as to what kind of beliefs you will accept beyond that fact."Delete
The first part of your statement is unsubstantiated and that such deliberation actually leads to affirming the existence of a god is an epistemically unfounded proposition. And I agree with your second part that such an exercise can lead to a smorgasbord of beliefs.
More and more we are beginning to realise and understand that finding a god at journey's end is largely a function of the evolutionary predisposition we all possess in our makeup, towards wishing such a conclusion, be it inadvertent or otherwise. We as a species are neurologically predisposed towards such belief, not because of ontological reality of the existence of any god but rather the tendency towards such belief helped us to survive as a species.
reflects on all the latest neurological research that is adding to our collective knowledge base as to why and how we tick as we do.
Philosophy of religion or philosophy founded in religious thought must invariably and inevitably contend with responding to these scientific discoveries if it is to have any continued meaningful input into the discussions going forward. All philosophy, including Thomist philosophy, must account for this new and accumulating information if it is to have relevance as a bona fide intellectual discipline and a proper functioning explanatory model. If they do not then they will surely become just another novel historical relic of humankind's early line of thinking.
"More and more we are beginning to realise and understand that finding a god at journey's end is largely a function of the evolutionary predisposition we all possess in our makeup, towards wishing such a conclusion, be it inadvertent or otherwise. We as a species are neurologically predisposed towards such belief, not because of ontological reality of the existence of any god but rather the tendency towards such belief helped us to survive as a species."Delete
And Papalinton just happens to have seen his way out of the matrix and into the true light of atheism. He has risen above his evolutionary programming like the Star Child at the end of 2001 and is here to educate us mere mortals...
Really, Paps. Do you not hear yourself when it comes to this stuff?
The vast majority of religious people adopt and defend the religious tradition they were born and socialised into, and that is still so for intellectual, well informed people who philosophise about it. I was watching a tv discussion the other day about social issues between five pHds of different faiths, theistic and otherwise, and they were all so certain of the correctness of their world views, even though it is logically quite certain that at most one was correct , with the others egregiously in error.
It seems to me that people almost invariably work backwards in matters of faith, starting off with beliefs that they are going to defend come what may, then generating philosophical rationalisations and defences for them. It should be obvious that this is not the way to arrive at conclusions about the world that have a reasonable chance of being correct.
I find the philosophical arguaments to a necessarily existing ground of being very plausible, though calling it 'God' is misleading as there is no necessary identity here with the entity at the heart of theistic religions. At least entertain the possibility that some of your metaphysical arguaments are telling you something real about the universe, but that your adherence to a particular faith is an error, with poor justifications worked out after the fact of belief.
I have a natural inclination to eat. Does this mean that there can be no logical reason to eat? Or that food is illusory?
Funny, a lot of people political, scientific and economical beliefs where hardly choosen by rational means, rather, reason is there to defend they only, yet i do not see someone saying that therefore we should be skeptical of these.Delete
Really, i don't see how one can make up so many excuses to not deal with the arguments for the other position and still pretend that the oponent is the irrational one.Delete
Sorry, Mr Geocon, whatever message you are attempting to put across seems to have gotten soggy in translation in the tossing of your word salad. I haven't the skills to respond to nonsense as you no doubt have been blessed to acquire through years of theological exegetic practice. Is it a particular form of speaking in tongue? Is there a code to your logic(?)Delete
As a species we are certainly prone to irrational, magical thinking, and it is legitimate to postulate that belief in God, gods and other 'spirits' is part of that and has psychological roots stemming ultimately from evolution. If that was so, some people would of course 'see through it'and so have a correct take on the situation. Papalinton is not claiming to be the only human to have achieved this ( far, far from it ), so your attempt to portray him as some kind of irrational extremist who imagines that he alone has escaped the matrix, fails.
Given the spontanious tendency of humans to engage in magical thinking, and to readily generate spirit based and other paranormal explanations for all manner of occurrances, you need to be a little more humble and to consider very carefully if this is at the root of your own complex supernaturalistic belief system ( but one of a vast smorgasboard that humans have generated ).
Just wanted to quickly respond to this:
"More and more we are beginning to realise and understand that finding a god at journey's end is largely a function of the evolutionary predisposition we all possess in our makeup, towards wishing such a conclusion, be it inadvertent or otherwise. We as a species are neurologically predisposed towards such belief, not because of ontological reality of the existence of any god but rather the tendency towards such belief helped us to survive as a species."
To be clear, it appears that in your opinion, we are naturally inclined to be religious, and it is good for the survival of the species.
These are not in and of themselves arguments for or against belief in God. If there were a God (which I believe there is), then these facts, for me, would obviously point to a creator that instilled these tendencies in our species. But that is just an assumption I am making at this point. I would have to provide arguments to defend this idea to convince myself and others. You, clearly, believe that these facts point to the opposite conclusion, as though your conclusion were not also an assumption, without any basis or arguments to support your conclusion.
continued in the next post.
To address the article you pointed to, it was written by Brandon Ambrosino. Here is his bio in Vox.
“Brandon Ambrosino is a staff writer at Vox.com where he covers culture and religion. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, TIME, New Republic, Quartz, McSweeney's, VICE, Narratively, Buzzfeed, Relevant, Gawker, Baltimore Magazine, and the Baltimore Sun. He attended Jerry Falwell's university where he studied Literature and Philosophy — and then came out. In addition to writing, Brandon is also a dancer, and is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.”
I read the article. He quotes from Newberg, Boyer, Barrett, Dennette, Paul Tillich, and so on. But the author himself is not a Neurologist. He has a background in literature and philosophy. He carefully arranges his essay in support of his arguments. Great! But I don’t see him as any kind of representative of the findings of Neurology. He is just interpreting a whole bunch of stuff from a whole bunch of different sources.
Mario Beauregard (a neurologist) and Denyse O’Leary also quote from all of these sources in his books, “The Spiritual Brain” and come to very different conclusions. In addition, Ed, who is at least as credible a source as Brandon the dancer, mentions arguments purporting to stem from the finding of Neuroscience in every single chapter of his book “Aristotle’s Revenge”, with the largest contribution in his chapter on Animate nature and the section called “Against Neurobabble”. Have you actually read this content? Do you have any kind of substantive response? If not, why come here? Why should I care what your opinion is? You don't engage in the content I'm actually interested in.
continued in the next post
Finally - and I apologize to Ed for cluttering up his combox - As I and others have stated before, you come on this blog and you make grand proclamations, but you do not engage in any of Ed’s arguments in any substantive way, as far as I can tell. So I’ll end with a quote from Ed’s chapter on Science and Reality and challenge you to respond to any one of the problems:Delete
“The proponent of “naturalized metaphysics” may protest that neuroscience or cognitive science supports his position over that of the traditional metaphysician. Naturally, for such a response to succeed, it would be necessary to spell out exactly how neuroscience or cognitive science does this. But a deeper point is that whether neuroscience, cognitive science, or any other science really captures everything there is to capture in the natural world is precisely what is at issue between “naturalized metaphysics” on the one hand, and more traditional philosophical approaches such as Aristotelianism on the other. For the Aristotelian, of course, a complete account of the nature of physical reality would have to include reference to the distinction between actuality and potentiality, substantial form and prime matter, efficient and final causes, and so forth - not to mention specifically biological and psychological Aristotelian notions (such as the Aristotelian accounts of the nature of life and of concept formation.) Hence since modern neuroscience, cognitive science, and other natural sciences make no use of such notions, they cannot be regarded as complete descriptions of the phenomena with which they deal. The “naturalized metaphysician” will disagree with this, of course, but the point is that for him merely to appeal to neuroscience, cognitive science, or some other science in defense of his position simply begs the question.”
So lets start with the basics - does neuroscience have anything at all to say about act and potency? Are they real or unreal categories? How is neuroscience in any way relevant to this topic?
"it is legitimate to postulate that belief in God, gods and other 'spirits' is part of that and has psychological roots stemming ultimately from evolution. If that was so, some people would of course 'see through it'and so have a correct take on the situation. Papalinton is not claiming to be the only human to have achieved this"
I'm aware that Papalinton is not the only person to make claims like this. I would have said something like it in my atheist days, and there's no shortage of authors like Richard Dawkins (in his God Delusion) or Daniel Dennett who argue that religious belief is a byproduct of something that has utility or that religion is a 'virus of the mind' (Dawkins' 'memetics' in action).
The thing is....there's something so supercilious about this attitude. Not to mention that it's not easy to see how it comports with the hard determinism of someone like a Jerry Coyne. Some people seem temperamentally atheist/naturalist. They regard religious belief (such as God) as self-evidently stupid (the transparent loathing is palpable).
Ever see the movie 'God's Not Dead'? Yeah, it's not a good movie. (The performances are overwrought, the attempt to make philosophy into a Rocky-style underdog match doesn't work, etc.) But a lot of atheists resented the portrayal of Kevin Sorbo's character. The thing is, he really is not a bad representative of a certain type of sneering nonbeliever, no better than some hardcore Bible thumper.
Funny, a lot of people political, scientific and economical beliefs where hardly choosen by rational means, rather, reason is there to defend they only, yet i do not see someone saying that therefore we should be skeptical of these.
I agree, and I think it is one of our great flaws. In fact, I would say that the better you like the end product of reasoning, the more skeptical you should be about the reasoning process that led you there.
Let me be clear then. I should've known that basic logical thinking is not your strong suit, given your record.
It's called an analogy. I can explain using evolutionary psychology why human beings have an instinctual desire to eat. This does not mean that the object of that desire is not real - that food is just a product of psychological projection. Similarly, you claim that the latest science shows that we have a religious instinct. It does not follow that all arguments for religion are fallacious or that the object of our faith - God - does not exist.
We as Christians have no problem with the idea that we have a natural religious instinct. After all, St. Thomas said that everyone has a natural inclination to the truth.
The reason Papalinton's argument fails is that it has the hidden assumption that his belief in atheism is the result of reason while our beliefs in theism is the result of evolutionary mishaps. And he does this as a starting assumption, without refuting any of the arguments for God's existence.
In fact, I could make the argument that atheism is purely a result of wishful thinking born out of mental illness. I could use scientific arguments to back this up. I could quote several people that can attest to this reality. Would you accept this as a refutation of atheism? Of course not. But for some reason, this line of reasoning is a way for you to reject theism.
Daniel @ 5.04amDelete
You write: "To be clear, it appears that in your opinion, we are naturally inclined to be religious, and it is good for the survival of the species.
These are not in and of themselves arguments for or against belief in God."
No. Not my opinion. It's what the neuroscience is informing us. We are indeed predisposed to GOD-BELIEF. It's a predisposition for the BELIEF, not the GOD. And it clearly stems from an evolutionary effect that offered an advantage to our species that led to improving our survival chances. It's called in the trade, a 'false positive' stance. We have an instinctive predilection to imaging agency where there is literally none. When we see bushes rustling our Basal Ganglia immediately fires into 'fight or flight'. Perfectly natural. The rustling could be just the wind causing it. And we err on the side of caution and back away. If we do not take heed of that warning and are too adventurous, and the rustling is a leopard, then we are dinner. As we say, 'he who runs away today gets to run away another day'. ��
Or in evolutionary terms, 'he who runs away today, gets to breed another day'. ��
Interestingly though, this neurological proclivity for HADD (I'm sure you would have read about it in the article.) has been appropriated by every religion known to humankind in one form or another, christianity not the exception. In our earliest deepest ignorance of how the natural world actually worked, religion was humanity's first attempt at explanation of all these weird, uncontrollable and inexplicable things that happen in our brain, our mind. It was man's first attempt to historically formalise our relationship with each other, the world and the universe, about much of which we had no real idea, so we imaginatively filled in the gaps. Slowly piece by piece, that puzzle is coming together; thunder and lightening not caused by GODS, draughts and floods are a function of weather patterns, the pineal gland is not where the soul resides, real-life medical surgery saves countless more lives than operating by the laying-on-of-hands procedure or supernatural miracles.
It stand to reason that theological explanations are simply epistemically and ontologically false. Indeed scientific explanations have pushed back every assertion that theology once use to claim. There is not one religious or theological claim that has overturned a science discovery. It's fundamentally a question of which explanatory model does one use to address the existential challenges for humanity going forward? A religious one or a scientific one?
Earlier I wrote of religious belief appropriating our predilection to co-opt agency (HADD) As the likely danger of our ancestors being killed or eaten became less and less a reality, with protective settlement, farming, etc etc, our fear of malevolent agency did not diminish. It remains today as strong and powerful a force in our reptilian brain (..."the basal ganglia are referred to as the reptilian or primal brain, as this structure is in control of our innate and automatic self-preserving behavior patterns, which ensure our survival and that of our species.") as it ever was over evolutionary time. Religious belief shifted emphasis from that physical day-to-day fear of death to that of addressing the ultimate fear, death itself and the destruction of the person. How does one escape from the painful realisation that they will ultimately die? This is what neuro-psychologists refer to as 'the tragedy of cognition'. We escape this inevitability by imagining that we live on, eternally, even after death. Our amygdala, the centre of all our emotions, ameliorates this great existential fear by an emotionally and psychologically cunning act of tricking our brain into thinking that death is not real. And religion does a great job of it. No doubt about it. But it is a psychological ruse nonetheless.
You also mention: "These are not in and of themselves arguments for or against belief in God."
You are correct, they are not. But what this evidence illustrates is the actual well-spring or neurological source from which these beliefs in GODs emanate. From history, I think we are all aware of the countless gods we have revered, worshipped, feared, as fervently and as intently as we do today. The fervency and intensity of our belief is not a reflection of the truth of the belief; rather it speaks only to the passion we hold that belief.
The rest of your commentary contributes little to furthering the discussion.
You are right, we should be careful to not let what we want to be true be the guide of our beliefs. One should just read a few discussions online to see how silly we can be if desire defines what we believe.
While i think that a normal person will still need to trust others in a lot of issues in the pratical sphere or in less relevant fields, we should do our best to try to reach the truth in the important questions, the ones whose answers guide our lifes.
Those two sets of ?-marks in my reply to Daniel were supposed to be emoji smiley faces. Unfortunately they didn't translate. :)Delete
Papalinton is the master of the wild, unsubstantiated assertion.Delete
Mr Geocon says: "It's called an analogy. I can explain using evolutionary psychology why human beings have an instinctual desire to eat. This does not mean that the object of that desire is not real - that food is just a product of psychological projection."Delete
I known what an analogy is. I completed a literature major in my first undergraduate degree. Your analogy in this case is simply meaningless drivel. Human beings have an instinctual need to eat not because of some desire, but rather, if you don't eat you die. It's not optional. It is at the top of the hierarchy of needs for survival. It is not driven by desire, which correct me if I'm off the mark, 'is a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing to have something to happen'. This is no wish, or fancy, or itch.
And if you claim you can explain humans having this desire using evolutionary psychology, then I'm all ears and eyes, as is everyone else will be on this blog. Give us your explanation, according to evolutionary psychology. I call your bluff and raise you.
You also say: "Similarly, you claim that the latest science shows that we have a religious instinct. It does not follow that all arguments for religion are fallacious or that the object of our faith - God - does not exist."
But it does follow that there is a logical, cogent and even better and deeper explanatory paradigm, based in the sciences, that informs us why we have this god-instinct, how it would likely have been formed and for what purpose evolutionary pressures predisposed us to its development as a stratagem for species survival. What it does tell us is that the existence of a god seems more likely to be an extrapolated figment of our imagination driven by the HADD (Hyperactive Agency Detection Device) rather than an actual entity which would account for the 'divine hiddenness' and mysterious non-responsiveness of such an entity. It would also account for the myriad of expressions of what constitutes a god, from Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of hinduism, to Shiva, Horus, Isis, Jesus, Zeus, Allah, to the Giant Rainbow Serpent of the Australian Aborigines, depending on the culture and geographic location of the believers. It is the one explanatory paradigm that has the capacity to account for and envelop each and every one of the variety and types, under the rubric of GOD, that humans have supplicated and paid homage to over the historical record rather than defaulting to the meaninglessness of declaring which god is real and which god is false depending on one's enculturation experience. The explanatory paradigm goes beyond being locked into the mire of peddling an unsubstantiated belief to the very core of why and how we believe in such things.
It's not rocket science. It's just plain common sense. Humanity has largely moved over the centuries from polytheism to monotheism. That is progress of a sort. Now we simply have to move just one more god into the pages of history to complete the journey to self-realisation.
Still nothing of substance to contribute to the dialogue going forward.Delete
I read both tour posts. This is a blog about philosophy primarily. You keep on shifting the focus back to theology and how belief in God is explained by neuroscience and is false. Message heard. But most of my responses to you have been about philosophical ideas, not theological ones. Why refuse to engage in my questions? It was a simple question after all. Are act and potency real aspects of reality? Or can they also be explained by some adaptations stemming from some evolutionary benefit?
Your entire "explanation" assumes atheism. It doesn't actually refute theism.
I can easily say: just as the psychological desire to eat is based on our natural inclination toward self-preservation, our psychological desire for God is based on our natural inclination toward the truth. This is what St. Thomas actually said. He argued that our natural desire to know why something exists leads us to search for an ultimate ground for existence and this inclines us to knowledge of God, Who is the ultimate ground for existence.
You cannot explain WHY this is a lesser explanation than HADD. In the first place, the premises behind the divine hiddenness argument presuppose that belief in God is difficult to understand, but most people throughout history intuit God's existence fairly easily.
I recall the 'Firing Line' debate between William F. Buckley and Hugh Hefner where Buckley argued that the human mind is naturally religious. It's worth pointing out that the analogy of a religious instinct with hunger/nourishment has scriptural backing. See Psalm 42:Delete
"As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?"
Just going back to PapaLinton's article, there are several lines of discussion.Delete
Level 1 - are findings and studies from Neuroscience.
Level 2 - are interpretations of those studies from Neuroscientists.
Level 3 - are further interpretations from the likes of Daniel Dennett. This would be the philosophical layer.
Level 4 - is the theological layer, where the author points to Tillich to support his points.
Where the discussion should be at for this blog is level 3. And Ed has lots to say about Dennett's reductionist materialist philosophy.
Personally, I find the data from Neuroscience fascinating and in no way challenges my theological or philosophical convictions. Rather, they reinforce them. We are, by nature, built to have a relationship with God! That is a wonderful thing that Neuroscience confirms!
Most people throughout history have not intuited God's existance easily at all, which should indeed be so if he exists and we are constructed to know Him. No, most humans - especially those in pre- scientific societies - spontaneously engage in magical thinking, and see agency, spirits, gods ( in oppose to God ) at the drop of a hat, and hold all manner of superstitious and paranormal beliefs.
If we are constructed to know God, how come humans do not spontaneously tend to theism, and indeed trinitarian Christianity? Why the need for all the revelation? Surely, your omnipotent God should be a loud and powerful signal in the human psyche, but instead he would have to be like an extremely weak radio signal, requiring a huge dish to identify in a very noisy background. This is just one of a huge list of things that render your world view extremely implausible to me.
I don't know how to say this, but... you're wrong. Justin L. Barrett's work in Born Believers shows that most people intuit the existence of at least one intelligent divine power. People aren't natural atheists, and I know from other bits of research that atheists tend to have mental problems. And that's good enough to establish that belief in God is psychologically normal among humans, even if in an inchoate way. And that's really all that's needed to support my point. Your assertion that "if we are constructed to know God, then we wouldn't need arguments for philosophical theism or Christianity" is just that. I see no reason to accept it.
"If we are constructed to know God, how come humans do not spontaneously tend to theism, and indeed trinitarian Christianity?"
That is called the Divine Hideness Objection, there are some cool responses to it by christian philosophers, so if you are interested you can easily find material on it to see if the theists have a good answer.
Inspiring Philosophy also did a cool video on Primitive Monotheism, it would be cool to check out someday: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b-bMgXQV7no
(Remember, as he admits, the video only tries to show the possibility of it being the case, not a proof)
Along with these suggestions, let me ad something i don't remember people noticing much:
If the Theism is a pagan one, there is not really a problem, for there is no hurry. Pretty much every pagan philosophy is religiously pluralistic, so the thousands of religions that exist are probably valid paths to the Absolute, think of the hindu notion of Lila. On top of that, a lot of these religions believe in reencarnation, so the souls that do not know God now will do it someday.
Divine Hideness seems to me only a problem to the three abraamic faiths, but i do believe that it makes sense on these too, so my advice would be to take a careful look at what the philosophers are saying about it.
*I meant lila on the dualistic versions of Hinduism, closely connected with the notion of AvatarDelete
I am afraid that you are completely misrepresenting what I said, as well as misquoting me.
I say again that most humans have clearly not spontaneously intuited the existance of God, but of a multitude of spirits and gods, which could hardly be labelled 'divine'. Humans have a very strong inclination towards superstitious and magical thinking , still here today in the guise of endless varieties of paranormalism, and see agency under the bed. What they reqiire socialisation to acquire is a theistic belief system.
There are very plausible psychological and evolutionary explanations of the above facts based around our nature as social beings and the imperative to survive.
What I would like to know is, assuming that theism is correct ( and Christian theism in particular ), why do humans not spontaneously intuit these things? Why is your omnipotent Christian deity not a loud signal in our psyches, but something that has to be revealed to us? Why has theism been ( indeed still is ) such an alien concept to endless peoples and cultures?
Three problems with your argument.
First, most people throughout history intuit the existence of at least one divine entity, even if they are mistaken about its qualities. That's literally all that's needed to establish that humans have a natural sense for God, even if it's inchoate, and this what I've meant when I said that everyone is a "born believer" who can intuit God's existence. That humanity made mistakes on the path to the truth is hardly surprising, given our natural weakness and the philosophical rigor needed to reach monotheism. But all I need to establish (and indeed, all that I've been arguing for) is that humans intuit the existence of a divinity and this is due to our natural inclination to seek out why things exist. The fact of the matter is that atheism is just not common to humanity. Barrett's book proves that most humans believe in some kind of divine being, even if they get the details wrong.
Also, you leaning on evolutionary psychology requires you to prove that all aspects of the human being were formed by Darwinian evolution and that the ultimate telos of the human is survival. You can't just assume this. You have to prove this. Our natural inclination to the truth is a product of our rational faculties, faculties that cannot be a product of evolution because they are partly immaterial, and it is this very rational faculty that I am claiming is largely responsible for God-belief.
Third, your assertion that the Christian God, if he exists, must give humans the ability to "spontaneously intuit" Christianity needs some kind of argument. Again, you can't just assert something like this and expect me to take it seriously.
The problem with this "divine hiddenness" argument is that it assumes and doesn't argue for three false premises, which Feser goes over in pages 300-304 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God, including:
-That a loving God who wants a personal relationship with people would allow people to err and isn't drawing a greater good out of this evil (this shows that the argument for divine hiddenness presupposes the problem of evil argument).
- That theism is not an obvious conclusion to most people (we've already covered that this is false).
- That the majority of arguments against God's existence are any good (most of them are demonstrably incompetent, this "argument" included).
Hi Mister Geocon,Delete
I'm curious. Where did you find this information that says that atheists tend to have mental problems and who says this?
Just a word to the wise: referring to "Darwinian evolution" makes you sound positively unintellectual. Evolutionary theory has moved well past Darwin.
And yet Darwinism keeps being a religion/ creative myth for the intellectually stumped.
Dr Feser is well aware of Lord Bertrand Russell's writing. Part of his doctoral dissertation was on Russell.ReplyDelete
BTW Read Russell's famous 1948 debate with Copleston. Russell basically said the existence of the world was a "brute fact" and let it go at that. Russell was an excellent writer and a brilliant logician and mathematician but a serious philosopher of religion he was not.
The real problem for atheism is the influence-immune supervisory authority of reason itself, which is necessarily a crypto-theism.ReplyDelete
When I read Dr. Feser's messages, I begin to believe in people, reason, and goodness. But when I read the comments of the members of his blog under them, it begins to seem to me that the human race is a mistake. I can understand when an atheist scolds a theist. Arrogant malice and mockery are normal traits of most Internet atheists. This is sad and says a lot about their psychology. But it's a mystery to me why some theists are at each other's throats. Sorry. These thoughts were prompted by reading some of the comments here and elsewhere on this blog.ReplyDelete
Those unkind comments you referenced do not represent most posters here. But neither are arrogance and malice normal traits of most atheists either.Delete
I may be wrong in my assessment of atheists. This is my subjective opinion.But I live in Russia, and we have many such atheists as I described. It is possible that this is a consequence of the dominance of the ideology of atheism in the USSR, when the believer was defined either as a vile enemy or as an evil freak. I don't see much difference in American atheists. They constantly attribute to the believers low motives, disgusting moral character, lack of knowledge and intelligence. Russian atheist websites are full of mockery of religious shrines and believers, outright lies. It seems to me that this behavior has an important sacred and irrational character. Of course, there are other atheists, but I don't see enough of them. It is possible that this is the effect of the most vociferous provocateurs.Delete
Anonymous @ March 2, 2021 12:26 AM,Delete
As one of the internet atheists posting here, I will agree there are many atheists who attribute undesirable characteristics to believers that the atheists themselves possess in abundance, as well as the reverse. Here (despite what some of the posters seem to think) the dominance has been by Christians.
It's only been 30 years since a President said he didn't think an atheist can be a good American, and received no mainstream pushback on that comment. So socially, many atheists see Christians in the way you see atheists.
I think the difficulty lies in what I would call "the 3%". In something like 97% of life (give or take: it might be 96% or 98% or whatever), the life of an atheist and the life of a theist can co along peaceably beside each other comfortably and cooperatively. From THAT angle, it is a downright shame that either would ever speak against the other.Delete
But in the small remaining percentage, their aims, or their means, are not only not "alongside" each other's, but they are diametrically opposed. Not only are they opposed, the opposition sometimes shows up precisely on an issue about which each feels "I cannot budge or compromise on this". In that event, then, they can hardly NOT come out attacking each other, and that it (attacking) doesn't happen more often is actually something of a surprise.
Let me give an example: theists = careful and thoughtful ones, at least - would be very concerned about how their children are influenced by things "in the world" (i.e. mainly, from sources outside the family itself). This covers both the obvious stuff (news programs on TV), but not-so-obvious stuff, like the framework of holidays (or even: assumptions about people having Sundays off for religious worship). On the other hand, atheists believe that schools should not only NOT be pro-religion, they should be secular. But these concerns come at loggerheads: the theist cannot put their children into schools that teach secularism, and think that such teaching will be fully and effectively worn off by at-home deprogramming and overt religious training. And, looking at their own principles, this should be an area about which theists and atheists typically would say "I cannot give in on something so critical as this". So, in theory, they SHOULD be attacking each other's efforts.
This does not automatically imply attacking each other's character, but frankly, given the poor quality of our public propaganda - I mean, education - system, graduates cannot think critically to begin with so they can hardly even tell the difference between attacking the argument and attacking the person.
It's only been 30 years since a President said he didn't think an atheist can be a good American,
A very sizeable portion of the American Founders expressed themselves quite vigorously on a topic related to this: that the government they initiated (a) required for success a people with much virtue; and (b) that religion was the bulwark for forming and protecting said virtue. I know we have come a long way from 1789, but it is not in the least clear that the Founders would have found fault with an assertion that an atheist would not be, say, as good an American as the same man would be if he converted to theism and became a Christian man, changing only in those respects that logically followed his religious change - because the religious change would (all other things being equal) lead to a sounder and more reliable virtue, which would lead to better effects on those parts of the public weal that need virtue in its citizenry.
Those Founders may have been wrong in such an estimation, but it is hardly surprising that America (i.e the country they founded) generally might not think they were so wrong that making the assertion is out-of-bounds.
Perhaps I'm misinterpreting what you meant, but I would say a feature such as ' very concerned about how their children are influenced by things "in the world"' is also common to both theists and atheists, and that the secularization of schools is a protection to minority theists, perhaps to a lesser degree than atheists. In fact, were it for for minority theists, there would likely be no traditional secularization of schools.
I agree that many of the founders likely held atheists in low regard, and I am sure you can see how this means the resentment many atheists feel is based on longstanding, entrenched positions.
The point wasn't that they held atheists in low esteem, it was that they held religion as providing something to the common weal that atheism could not provide to it, viz. stability in the virtues necessary for the common weal.Delete
So, are you saying is that is not that they thought a lack of religious belief was bad, but rather that having religious belief was good? Is this using a definition of 'bad' that is not mere 'absence of good'?
You may this difficult to accept, but that re-wording of the sentiment does not inculcate a feeling that they think people like me should be Americans.
Thank you for this tribute Prof. Feser. It's much appreciated. As I noted last time, I'd love to see a brief tour of analytic atheist philosophy from your perspective as well.ReplyDelete
I know you've done a series of "Adventures into Old Atheism", but I'd really love to see what you think of sophisticated and formidable Atheists like Mackie, Sobel, Smith, Gale, Draper, William Rowe, Stephen Maitzen, Adolf Grunbaum, Evan Fales, J.L. Schellenberg, Nicholas Everitt, Michael Martin, Michael Tooley, Robin Le Poidevin and many more etc. Which of these did you feel provided the most formidable critiques of Theism? Do you agree with Robert Koons that "Logic and Theism" is the best book defending Atheism, or would that title go to Oppy's "Arguing About Gods"? Just some general thoughts on sophisticated Atheism and where you think it is headed post Smith's death would be very much appreciated. I think your experience in the discipline and engagement with top Atheist philosophers makes you equipped to provide a unique perspective here.
Kai Nielsen's Ethics Without God and George Hamilton Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God are the only books I know of that have substantial arguments against theism.
But both theists and atheists are ignoring the elephant in the room: the crypto-theistic nature of reason itself.
Over half a century has gone by and there is still no comprehensive analysis of either work.
And even though I have great respect for J. P. Moreland (and have learned a lot from his writings), his sole response to Nielsen's argument in a live debate sums up why theistic philosophy has been so feckless:
As a fan of transcendental analysis in general, i find your arguments pretty interesting*, what do you think of St. Augustine eternal truths argument? I believe that Dr. Feser use it in a more classical aproach, but some like Jay Dyer use transcendental arguments that are pretty similar.
thought* i don't know if i understand they well or not. They let me a bit suspicious of there being a flaw in they, but i can't see where or if there really is one.
Smith (or his dialogue’s character) also neglects to consider the Thomistic position that while the world bears a real relation to God, God does not bear a real relation to the world. Of course, Smith would no doubt reject that view, but the point is that it is a well-known thesis that would have obvious application here, so that for Smith to give his character the last word without considering it seems a lapse.ReplyDelete
A pit you did not ask Smith that question while he was still alive.
Could you either briefly outline the position you mention, or provide a referance to it that I might persue, as I am unfamiliar with it and it does sound rather implausible and mysterious at first blush.Delete
The idea essencially is that while we have a real relation with God He does not have one with us. Since God is incapable of having acidents(Absolute Divine Simplicity, you know), He is not changed at all by creating or not creating. So while our relation with God is real, His relation with us is only how we see things.Delete
Yea, it is a pretty weird position. Personaly, i think that this idea is quite bizarre and that the arguments for Absolute Divine Simplicity suck, so i'am studing weaker models of Divine Simplicity.
Would something like Eastern Orthodoxy’s Essence-Energy distinction preserves Divine Simpleness and also solve what your are concerned with?
Or, alternatively, what if we think of God as the Uncaused Cause causes an effect labeled as “God the Effect” and then there is a real MUTUAL relation between “God the Effect” and the world? So for example, while God the Uncaused Cause is “outside” time, “God the Effect” would be relating to the world in time, and “God the Effect” is what that changes and can be pleased, angry, sad, etc while “God the Cause” remains immutable, impassible, simple, etc.
What do you think?
johannes y k hui
I think it just shows how you theological types often just make things up as you go along.Delete
Inventing explanations along the way to save a theory from being refuted is a characteristic of Darwinism. This is well written by David Stove.Delete
Palamism seems a pretty interesting answer actually, Scotus formal distinction also seems to have a lot of potential. I'am just trying to be sure i understand these models well and work out exactly how the arguments to Absolute Divine Simplicity fail before i can be sure i founded the best Divine Simplicity. Not to mention, i'am trying to be sure i understand well the defenders of Absolute Divine Simplicity too.
I have some idea of where i disagree with Aquinas and others, but i think that it is not the time to give a certain answer yet. ADS had and still has a lot of pretty smart defenders, so i'am trying to only give up on it after a fair judgment.
I wish people wouldn't post as Anonymous. Two reasons: 1) more likely to be uncharitable. 2) hard to follow the threads when two or more Anon are mixing it up in thread with at least one other person. Always trying to remember : is that Anon1 or Anon2?ReplyDelete
Mackie and Martin of those you referenced. I would also add Peter Angeles, Kai Nielsen and Wallace Matson.
Where in Russia do you live and what do you? I love classic Russian writers like Dostoevsky and Gogol. I wish my Russian was as good as your English.5
I am very impressed with his English. Quite a thorough use of the language.Delete
I understand you're asking me - "Anonymous March 2, 2021 at 12:26 AM". I live in Moscow and I am a historian, PhD. In fact, my English is terrible, and I'll barely understand you when I meet you. However, electronic translators are now working well. Dostoevsky and Gogol are really great writers. I like Gogol more. I think that when translated into English, Gogol loses a lot. Dostoevsky has been a rabid target of Russian aggressive atheists since the days of Lenin, who called him a super bad writer. I believe that Dostoevsky had the gift of foresight.ReplyDelete
Ahhh! The magic of electronic translators. Truly a wonderful invention. I'm looking forward to the time when the device one carries is able to translate in real-time. Whatever I learned in French and Italian will not go to waste but will be certainly enhanced with the addition of a device, hand-held, on the wrist, or dare I say it, an electronic implant just behind the ear so that we can converse in realtime. The world of possibility. So exciting.Delete
If God doesn't have any temporal location, he does not exist right now, which seems strange.ReplyDelete
Nor does conditional implication. But that doesn't seem to prevent using it to adjudicate existence claims.Delete