Saturday, July 23, 2022

Mullins strikes out

My new Philosophy Compass article “The Neo-Classical Challenge to Classical Theism” responds to several criticisms of classical theism and the doctrine of divine simplicity that have been raised by Ryan Mullins.  At Joseph Schmid’s Majesty of Reason blog, Mullins has replied to the article.  What follows is a rejoinder. 

Mullins’ reply can be found in the first part of the post (titled “Mullins Strikes Back”).  The second part is a reply by Schmid.  Because my article was directed at Mullins rather than Schmid, and because Mullins’ reply (and this rejoinder of mine) are already quite long as it is, I am in the present post going to confine my attention to Mullins’ remarks.  I intend no disrespect to Schmid.  But I have been meaning anyway to write up a reply to his recent article on my Neo-Platonic argument for God’s existence (to which he refers in this latest piece).  So I will put off commenting on Schmid until I am able to get to that.

The neo-classical tradition

Regrettably, Mullins is needlessly aggressive right out of the gate, and begins with a gross mischaracterization of an earlier exchange between us.  Rather than take the bait, I will simply direct the interested reader to the response I gave at the time to the false accusations that he repeats in this latest piece.

Mullins starts his reply to my Philosophy Compass article with a section devoted to arguing that the neo-classical position is more prevalent in the theistic tradition than its critics acknowledge – though “arguing” is a generous way of putting it.  In fact, the section is little more than a long string of tendentious and undefended assertions about what the Old Testament and various Islamic thinkers allegedly say about issues like divine timelessness and divine simplicity.

For example, Mullins claims that elements of classical theism like its commitment to divine simplicity are “anti-biblical,” and cites several scholars who make similar assertions.  This is meant to establish that the neo-classical position is as old as the Pentateuch.  But of course, classical theists would not agree that their position is anti-biblical, and can also cite scholars in support.  Moreover, Mullins doesn’t offer even a single example of a purported contradiction between classical theism and the Bible.  (The closest he comes is to refer to Exodus 3:14 as a text that he thinks is incompatible with simplicity and immutability, but he doesn’t explain how it is.)  Nor does he refer to, much less answer, the arguments from scripture that have been given in defense of classical theism.

I am not blaming Mullins for not getting into the minutiae of biblical scholarship in a blog post mostly devoted to philosophical issues.  One can’t do everything in one article – I understand that.  The problem is that he says so little that his remarks amount to nothing more than question-begging assertion.  Moreover, they are not really relevant in the first place to my article, which explicitly confines itself to philosophical issues and, for its limited purposes, puts the biblical considerations (however obviously important) to one side.

Only slightly less weak is Mullins’ appeal to the Islamic tradition.  He lists several thinkers who he says rejected notions like divine timelessness and simplicity (though he acknowledges that there are, of course, also Islamic thinkers who embrace them).  Mullins makes the remark: “Feser says that if you notice this obvious problem you are engaged in question begging.  How dare these people notice obvious problems!”

I don’t object to sarcastic quips when they are merited, or at the every least intelligible, but this one is neither.  I honestly have no idea what Mullins is referring to here.  In my Philosophy Compass article, I say nothing at all about the Islamic tradition apart from a passing reference to Avicenna.  And while there are a couple of places where I accuse Mullins of begging the question (namely, in his formulations of the Creation and Modal Collapse objections), I do not do so in connection with the topic at issue here.  So, again, I simply don’t know what he is talking about.

The substantive question is whether the particular Islamic thinkers Mullins cites really have the views he attributes to them.  Some of them do, but in any event here too Mullins simply makes assertions rather than offering any specific texts in support.  And judging from Mullins’ habit of misrepresenting the views of other thinkers (examples of which I gave in my Philosophy Compass article), it would be foolish not to take his assertions here with a grain of salt.  But I will leave the question of whether he gets this or that particular Islamic thinker right to those who know their work better than I do.  (Those following this debate on Twitter will have noted that Khalil Andani has criticized Mullins’ claims about the views of Razi and Juwayni, as well as his appeal to Karramism.)

Anyway, if what Mullins intends to establish is simply that views that are now characterized as marks of a “neo-classical” approach can be found in some thinkers well before contemporary philosophy of religion, then I am happy to concede that point, though I never denied it.  (Indeed, I have often cited William Paley as an example of an earlier thinker who departed from classical theism.)  When, in my article, I said that “neo-classical theism in the current usage of that term is a recent arrival,” what I meant is that it is recent as a self-conscious movement or school of thought, going by that particular name, and distinguishing itself from earlier schools critical of classical theism such as process theism, panentheism, and open theism.  I did not mean to deny that neo-classical theists could plausibly find some precursors of their distinctive position earlier in the tradition, and I wish I had made that clearer.

Misrepresenting Aquinas

All of this is, in any event, tangential to my main disagreement with Mullins, which is not about the history or prevalence of neo-classical views, but rather about the core neo-classical objections to classical theism.  Indeed, my article has a much more specific focus even than that, emphasizing that the objections raised by Mullins and others fail when directed at the Thomistic version of classical theism, specifically.  And part of the problem, as I show in the article, is that Mullins badly misunderstands key aspects of the Thomistic position.  Here is how Mullins begins his response:

You are probably familiar with a particular trope by now. Internet classical theists will respond to all objections by saying, “You have misunderstood Aquinas.”  This is something that we joke about often.  We have made so many memes making fun of this incredibly tired response to any and all objections.

End quote.  Now, I like memes and other hijinks as much as the next guy, as is evident from my use of comic book panels, Photoshopped images, and the like here at the blog.  But there is a time and a place for that sort of thing, and these remarks strike me as a sophomoric way to begin a response to a straightforward, non-vituperative academic article that treats Mullins and his views with respect, even if critically.  They are especially rich given that Mullins starts out his post with the claim that I had misrepresented him in our earlier exchange (which I had not, but that he’s still upset about the matter makes his complaint about alleged Thomist oversensitivity to misrepresentation ring hollow).  Moreover, Mullins goes on to acknowledge: “To be clear, there can be cases of misunderstanding the classical tradition, and it is a good thing to point those out when they arise.”  But then the thing to do, surely, is just to address head-on the claims that he has misrepresented Thomists, and put the trash talk to one side.

Perhaps the reason Mullins does not do so is that the claims are in fact unanswerable.  Consider this passage from my article:

In a series of writings, Mullins has claimed that the doctrine of divine simplicity holds: that God has no properties at all (2013, p. 189; 2020, p. 17; 2021, pp. 88 and 93); that this entails that he does not have even extrinsic or relational properties, sometimes known as Cambridge properties (2013, p. 183; 2021, pp. 87–88 and 93); that we cannot make even conceptual distinctions between parts or aspects of God (2013, p. 185; 2021, p. 90); that God therefore cannot even be said to be Lord or Creator (2013, p. 200; 2020, p. 27); and that when God is said to be “pure act” without potentiality, what this means is that God is an act or action, in the sense of something a person does (2013, p. 201)…

But the trouble with such objections, from the point of view of Thomistic classical theists, is that the claims Mullins makes about the doctrine of divine simplicity are false, or at best extremely misleading. The doctrine seems incoherent only because he is mischaracterizing it. (Emphasis added)

End quote.  Please note carefully that what I say here is that Mullins’ characterization of classical theism does not correspond to what Thomistic classical theists, specifically, would say.  I also repeatedly emphasize in the article that Mullins relies too heavily for his understanding of classical theism on the work of Katherin Rogers, who is a non-Thomist classical theist.  But here is how Mullins responds to my criticism:

I do not claim these things, I report them. I directly quote a bunch of classical theists saying all of this in my publications. I’m not pulling these notions out of thin air…

[A]ll of my explicit quotes from classical theists are completely ignored by Feser, and now he is saying that I am making false claims. That is curious to say the least

According to Feser, I claim that classical theism says that God does not have properties. Feser says that this is not an accurate portrayal of classical theism (p. 3). I find this really wild since I have repeatedly quoted Katherin Rogers explicitly saying that God does not have properties.

End quote.  I trust the reader will have noticed the sleight of hand.  What is in question is whether Mullins gets Thomist classical theists right.  But what he says in his defense is that he has provided supporting quotes from non-Thomistic classical theists, such as Rogers.  And he claims that I ignore this purported evidence in his favor.  The problem, needless to say, is that quotes from non-Thomists are not evidence for what Thomists think.  But all the same, I did not ignore his citations of non-Thomist classical theists, but indeed called attention to them myself.  For example, I explicitly cite his reliance on Rogers no fewer than five times (in the main text of the article at page 2, and in the endnotes in notes 5, 16, 23, and 27). 

Of his dependence on Rogers, Mullins says:

I will admit that I have relied quite heavily on one of the greatest living classical theists for my own understanding of classical theism.  Rogers is widely regarded as an excellent medieval scholar, and relying on her work is what responsible scholarship demands.

End quote.  Now, I intend no offense at all to Prof. Rogers, who is indeed a fine scholar from whose work I have also profited.  But she is just one scholar, and her views are hardly representative of the classical theist tradition in general.  Moreover, Rogers is an Anselm specialist, but as she herself acknowledges (as I note in my article) it is Aquinas rather than Anselm who has given the clearest expression of the central classical theist doctrine of divine simplicity.  Nor, needless to say, is Rogers infallible.  Mullins himself writes:

I do have various disagreements with her understanding of various topics. For example, Rogers thinks that Anselm affirms an eternalist ontology of time. I disagree. In The End of the Timeless God, I offer an extended exegesis of the classical Christian tradition to argue that thinkers like Anselm affirmed a presentist ontology of time.

End quote.  Here, as it happens, I agree with Mullins rather than Rogers about how to interpret Anselm.  Now, if Rogers can, by Mullins’ own admission, get even Anselm wrong (despite being a specialist on Anselm), then surely it is possible for her to get Aquinas wrong.  Yet Mullins depends on Rogers, in part, for his understanding of Aquinas.  Take, for example, the claim that when Aquinas characterizes God as “pure act,” what he means is that God is an action in the sense of an act a person carries out.  I think it fair to say that any Thomist would regard this as a howler, about as bad a misreading of Aquinas as can be imagined (for reasons I explain in my article).  So, where did Mullins get this misreading?  From Rogers, as I also note in the article.

Mullins makes the ad hominem suggestion that the reason I and other Thomists are less keen than he is on Rogers’ views might be that we think she concedes too much to the Modal Collapse Objection.  Well, I certainly think she concedes too much to it, but what matters for present purposes is that she just gets Aquinas wrong.  In any case, Mullins does not see that the ad hominem can be flung right back at him.  For I would propose that the reason Mullins overemphasizes Rogers’ work is precisely that portraying her views as representative of classical theism in general gives his objections (including the Modal Collapse Objection) greater rhetorical force than they otherwise would have.

Misrepresenting Thomists

Mullins goes on throughout his reply to cite a number of other non-Thomist classical theists whose views he claims correspond to his characterization of classical theism.  Indeed, this makes up the bulk of his reply.  In some cases I would dispute his interpretation of their views, but in any event all of this is irrelevant to the argument of my paper, which, again, focuses on the point that Mullins misrepresents Thomistic classical theism in particular.

Now, Mullins does also make at least a cursory attempt to support his position by citing Thomists.  For example, in defense of his claim that classical theism takes God to lack any properties at all, he writes: “Even on page 4 of Feser’s article he quotes Brian Davies saying that God lacks properties and attributes.”  But here’s what I actually wrote, and what Davies actually says:

Davies refers to “attributes or properties of God” (2021, p. 10).  To be sure, he also says in the same place that God “lacks attributes or properties distinguishable from himself and from each other” and that “God does not, strictly speaking, have distinct attributes or properties” but “is identical with them” (emphasis added).  But again, to say that God and his properties are all identical is very different from saying that he has no properties at all.

End quote.  Note that Mullins conveniently omits the crucial qualifying phrases “distinguishable from himself and from each other” and “distinct,” which dramatically change the meaning of the assertion he attributes to Davies.  Davies, again, does not say that God has no properties, full stop; he says that God has no properties that are distinct, or that are distinguishable from himself and from each other. 

In response to my claim that Thomists allow that God has Cambridge properties, Mullins says:

Aquinas in SCG Book II.12-14… is worried about God changing relationally. There Aquinas says that the relations “are not really in Him, and yet are predicated of Him, it remains that they are ascribed to Him according only to our way of understanding.”  In this section, Aquinas is clear that the relations cannot be accidents in God because God does not have any accidents. In light of this, it makes no sense for Feser to say that classical theists believe that God has accidental relational properties.

End quote.  What Mullins conveniently omits is what Aquinas immediately goes on to say:

And so it is evident, also, that such relations are not said of God in the same way as other things predicated of Him.  For all other things, such as wisdom and will, express His essence; the aforesaid relations by no means do so really, but only as regards our way of understanding.  Nevertheless, our understanding is not fallacious. For, from the very fact that our intellect understands that the relations of the divine effects are terminated in God Himself, it predicates certain things of Him relatively; so also do we understand and express the knowable relatively, from the fact that knowledge is referred to it.

End quote.  Yes, as Mullins points out, Aquinas would not say that the relations between created things and God are “accidents in God.”  But nobody is claiming otherwise.  The claim of those Thomists who maintain that we can predicate Cambridge properties of God is rather that we can truly “predicate certain things of him relatively,” as Aquinas puts it here.

In any event, Mullins goes on to acknowledge after all that some Thomist classical theists do in fact attribute Cambridge properties to God.  He writes:

Here is the thing. I know that Feser, Stump, and Miller love to play the magical card called “Cambridge properties” to solve all of their problems. Following the lead of Brian Leftow, I just don’t understand how this magical card solves anything.

End quote.  Here we have a bait and switch.  The specific question I was addressing was whether Mullins is correct to hold that classical theists maintain that God has no properties at all, not even Cambridge properties.  I showed that this is not true of all classical theists, and in particular not true of Thomist classical theists.  In his reply, Mullins at first gives his readers the impression that I am wrong and that I have ignored the evidence showing that I am wrong.  But here he concedes that I am right, yet then tries to change the subject. 

To be sure, whether the appeal to Cambridge properties really can, at the end of the day, do the work the Thomist claims it does is a fair enough question.  But again, it is not the question that was at issue.  Furthermore, Mullins does little to show that the appeal fails, despite sarcastic remarks like the one just quoted.  Moreover, the Thomist who has developed the appeal to Cambridge properties in the greatest detail is Barry Miller.  And Mullins admits that Miller is someone whose work he has not much engaged with.  But no one who has failed to engage with Miller can seriously claim to have shown that the appeal to Cambridge properties does not do the work Thomists claim it does.

One substantive argument Mullins does give in this connection is the following:

[C]lassical theists like… [Paul] Helm understand something that Feser does not. They understand that only temporal beings with temporal location are capable of undergoing Cambridge changes. This is because Cambridge changes demarcate a before and after in the life of the thing undergoing a mere relational change. A timeless God cannot have a before and after.

End quote.  But once again Mullins has failed to read my paper carefully, because I not only explicitly address Helm’s point (in endnote 19) but agree with it!  In particular, I agree with him that God does not have Cambridge properties of a temporal or spatial sort.  But I also note there that Mullins wrongly attributes to Helm the stronger claim that God lacks Cambridge properties of any sort at all, which does not follow and is not what Helm actually says in the passages Mullins cites.

Mullins says that for Aquinas, “God’s act of creation is intrinsic to God, and identical to God. In which case, that is the exact opposite of a Cambridge property which is an extrinsic relation that is outside of God,” and he offers quotes from Aquinas to back up the claim.  But here he simply ignores the point that Christopher Tomaszewski makes about this sort of argument (and which I refer to in my article), which is that it fails to distinguish God’s creative act (a) considered qua act and (b) considered qua act of creation.  Considered simply qua act, God’s act of creation is intrinsic to him; but considered qua act of creation it is a Cambridge property.

As Mullins’ article progresses, the sarcasm level increases and it finally degenerates into a rant.  We get passages like this:

I have never been particularly interested in critiquing Thomism like Feser wants me to. Why? Because Aquinas’s disciples have created a million different schools of Thomism, and I have never been fussed about trying to sort through them all. This is mainly because these disciples start with an assumption that I cannot accept, and then interpret Aquinas accordingly. This is how disciples of Aquinas work. First, they start with the assumption that Aquinas cannot possibly be wrong about anything, and that he is never inconsistent with himself. Second, from this assumption, they will engage in all sorts of wild interpretative strategies to make Aquinas infallible. I just don’t have enough faith to be a fellow disciple.

End quote.  But no one is asking Mullins to regard Aquinas as infallible or even to agree with him at all, nor does anyone expect him to become an expert on all things Thomist.  What I was urging in my article was something much more modest, indeed so modest that no reasonable person could object to it (which, I suspect, is why Mullins prefers to attack this strawman).  It was just this: If you are going to make bold and sweeping assertions about classical theism in general, as Mullins routinely does, then what you say ought correctly to describe the views of a major classical theist like Aquinas and those who follow him. 

Aquinas is, after all, regarded even by many non-Thomists as the greatest of medieval philosophers, and in Catholic theology his stature is second to none.  In contemporary philosophy and theology, Thomists are at least as prominent among defenders of classical theism as anyone else, if not more prominent.  Rogers herself – on whom, again, Mullins has by his own admission “relied quite heavily” for his understanding of classical theism – says that it is Aquinas, rather than her own favorite classical theist Anselm, who has given the “clearest expression” of the central classical theist doctrine of divine simplicity.  Agree with him or not, and agree with classical theism or not, understanding the views of Aquinas and other Thomists is crucial to understanding what classical theism actually says, and what could be said in favor of it, even if one nevertheless ends up rejecting it all.

Hence, it is simply ludicrous for Mullins confidently to claim to have refuted classical theism in general while at the same time getting Aquinas’s views badly wrong and largely ignoring the work of contemporary Thomists, then glibly dismissing the complaints of those who call him out for this.  It is like boldly claiming to have refuted dualism while misrepresenting the views of Descartes and ignoring contemporary thinkers like Swinburne and Hasker, or claiming to have refuted liberalism while saying little about Rawlsianism.  I would urge Mullins to devote less time to “ma[king] so many memes making fun” of his opponents, and more time to carefully reading and trying to understand what they actually say.

Related reading:

Simply Irresistible

A further reply to Mullins on divine simplicity

Aquinas on creation and necessity

Scotus on divine simplicity and creation

169 comments:

  1. Yeesh, no wonder the Atheology crowd loves Ryan Mullins. He'd fit right into their group.

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  2. Is it possible to read Mullins (on modal collapse) as saying not that classical theists are directly admitting to a set of statements about God that are ridiculous and internally inconsistent, but merely that they are logically committed to such statements?

    That seems like the most charitable interpretation (if possible), and that his accusations towards thomists aren't so much misunderstanding (or at least misstating) thomist positions but just trying to show that the classical theistic tradition is untenable.

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  3. Wow, Schmid already has a ~30k word response up.

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    1. Schimd grant weakness is he is excessively and needlessly verbose. He throws out a 1000 words in place he needs only at most 110.

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  4. Nice Post Professor Feser! The blog format is the best version of you in my opinion. I do think that the kinds of objections and questions posed by Mullins are the same tired old ones trotted out on a regular basis by most non classical theists of his strand. In that respect one could say it is actually them who seem to be repeating themselves even when presented with evidence that says otherwise, this goes for even the more intellectually serious ones .These days it usually seems to be just Thomists who are willing to provide detailed presentations of their views. That is understandable given that they want it to reach a broader audience. But I think there is a significant burden now on non classical theists to get more serious about their positions. It was also outright silly of Mullins to accuse Thomists of thinking Aquinas as infallible, I mean if you call yourself a Thomist, then it's a given that you think that Aquinas got it right on most of the fundamental issues. It is also unfair for Mullins to give the impression of Thomism as a school where all its adherents always agree and are uncritical of each other. Thomists criticise each other all the time, to take just one occasion, Professor Feser himself was criticised for his treatment of the notion of faith by Prof.Levering and Fr.Brock (Two Thomistic Giants) on two seperate occasions in two different reviews of two different books (The Last Superstition and Five Proofs respectively). Fr Brock also criticised Feser for his treatment of God's eternity. Thomism is a school which holds it's adherents to the highest philosophical standards, perhaps more so then any other school of thought. Mullin's unfamiliarity with this fact just goes to show how unfamiliar he is with the Thomistic literature and should probably update himself before criticising it. Thomists always acquaint themselves considerably with the literature of what they are going to criticize. At the same time though, I am not too fond of these "twitter battles" which seem to be taking place especially Prof.Feser's jazz up with that Khalil guy. I think that Khalil was wrong to call Mullins completely irrelevant to his philosophical project in an outright demeaning manner after criticising Mullins for "misrepresenting" something in his project. To criticize someone for some error is to hold them relevant in atleast some sense otherwise you wouldn't criticise them. Besides that, the entire attitude of holding someone irrelevant is wrong and unthomist, Thomas gave relevance to even the smallest of commentators. I am not saying Professor Feser acted in that way, I think that he is treated Mullins with the utmost charity and academic respect, in that case it was Mullins who was childish. But to be all chummy and buddy-buddy with that Khalil fellow isn't right because it displays atleast tacit approval for Khalil's behaviour. Khalil should be criticised for his behaviour. And it also seems to that another reputed scholar in Khalil's field has come out and clarified that Mullin's was quoting from his work.
    These twitter gang ups and beat downs aren't conducive for anything. I'd also be atleast tempted to block someone on twitter who calls me irrelevant right after criticising me though I probably wouldn't.
    But Professor Feser's disapproval for blocking though doesn't seem to extend to people in his circle though. Professor Adrian Vermulle blocked Professor Joseph Capizzi over some trivial matter. Sohrab Ahmari also blocks people for trivial reasons. This is why twitter as a whole is unsuitable for these kinds of exchanges.

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    1. There's no way I'm reading all of that.

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    2. Hello Bret!
      No problem!

      Cheers!

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    3. I did read...

      @Norm

      Mullins treats thomists as sorta like protestants: there is this infalible source and we got to find a interpretation that works out his meaning,. This tend to generate various views. He probably would see your point about thomists arguing with each other as consistent with the position on thomism he defended on a exagerated form on the blog.

      And about the social network mentality:, exactly! Mullins tone in response to a article is too mean but Dr. Feser could not mention someone who also used a mean tone or just criticize the tone quickly.

      Not that there is no place to be mean, but come on, why treat the other as just a enemy when the point here is to learn metaphysics? Be mean but like we do with friends.

      This factionalist mentality that is more and more becoming the only one and that is terrible. What a crap way to live.

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    4. Aye Talmid

      Thank you so much for reading! :)

      Yes! I completely agree with you on the social media point! I think you hit the mark.

      Well... I suppose that Mullins might see it in that way. But the point I was trying to make was that Thomism is a philosophical serious school of thought because it seemed to me that Mullins was portraying Thomists as uni-dimensional and uninteresting because everyone just starts from "this basic assumption".

      And it's also kinda the opposite of what actually happens because many of the prominent Thomists first approached Thomas from their various persuasions (analytical etc) and surprisingly found that his philosophy makes sense even when approached from that way. And that's what draws them to eventually seeing him getting it right on most occasions.

      I actually think that Mullins kinda contradicted himself because his aim seems to have been to give this uni-dimensional spin on thomism but in the process of doing so he mentioned that they have a "million different schools" which goes against his goal because if a particular brand of thought has millions of schools, that means those philosophers are actually intellectually serious and have a lot of variety to them.

      To be sure there is also a lot of unity and harmony among thomists with regards to the conclusions at which they arrive. It's just that different thomists have different styles and ways of articulating those same conclusions. There are Thomists who have a very strong command of the summa, hence they articulate Thomas' philosophy by emphasizing how his work harmonises within it self and how it's different aspects relate to each other. There are some Thomists who explain Thomas thought by showing how it is consistent with so-so philosophical approach. It's actually kind of beautiful when you think about it.

      To reduce such a magnificent school of thought in the way Mullins did was actually quite unacceptable.

      If you look at what Mullins's wrote and contrast it with a talk he had with William Lane Craige on Cameron Bertuzzi's channel, you'll find a lot of similarities especially with regards to the anti biblical schtick. They were also kinda mocking Thomism by cracking jokes.

      I presume that they wouldn't like it if we retorted by saying that their idea of God is nothing more then an exaggerated version of Chris Hemsworth's Thor.

      No disrespect to Dr Will Craige though, his arguments for God's existence were quite comforting to me at one point and sort of was the launch pad for my own philosophical investigations eventually leading me to find Bishop Barron and then the brilliance of Prof Feser, whose insights have guided a lot of my thought processes ever since.

      In regards to this topic though, Prof William Craige does take a kind of dismissive attitude towards Thomism. I suppose that there are actually good reasons for that given his philosophy of "Mere Christianity" which sort if reduces the urgency to convince other people of your point if thet are already Christian as compared to Thomism which has a Catholic bent to it and thus is subject to the overall mission of engagement and the Church's mission.

      Cheers:)

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    5. Perhaps my comment did not appear. Strange.

      I agree, Norm, that thomism has several diferent aproaches and that this variety suggests that thomists do think freely about philosophy instead of just quoting St. Thomas. Mullins acusation seems that thomists see Aquinas as infalible, so they aways think hard but never about questioning the saint, he is above suspiction.

      I mean, i don't think i see any philosophical school were the founder is not treated as the go-to guy! While there is dogmatical strands of thomism, it is quite unfair to lump all thomists together, especially if you are arguing with one who aways bother to justify his agreements with St. Thomas.

      And we seems to have a similar story with Dr. Craig! Love the man, but he seems to have gotten a bad impression with thomism that made he dimiss it and classical thinking in general. A shame, for he seems to have dificult thinking outside the "analitic" mindset that characterizes the modern apologetical debate and to beat that he needs dedication and pacience.

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    6. Norm are you kin to Joe? Your wordy posts suggest it.

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    7. Hey Talmid!
      I agree! :)
      Aye that's a funny coincidence with regards to Dr Craige!

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    8. Prof William Craige does take a kind of dismissive attitude towards Thomism. I suppose that there are actually good reasons for that

      To the best of my recollection, Craig studied under Norman Geisler, who was a "Protestant Thomist," and under Wolfhart Pannenburg. While it sounds strange to suggest a "Thomist" was dismissive of Thomism, that's more or less the inevitable result of reading Thomas and yet insisting on non-Catholic and (therefore) non-Thomas premises. For instance, it is impossible to read the Summa Theologica correctly without granting the mode of argument, which is theological, which expressly relies on argument from authority (i.e. the Church, via Scripture AND TRADITION). St. Thomas says that theology operates on argument by authority, and expressly relies on Tradition.

      I remember hearing Craig recount a story about Pannenberg (at least, I think it was Pannenberg) who was dismissive of the Gospels as being read with any sort of respect for the possibility that they were written evangelists just plain reporting what they saw and heard themselves, (Matthew and John), or what they heard the Apostles say they saw and heard (Mark and Luke). This cannot but be dismissive of Thomas, whose arguments by authority rest on authority of the evangelists reporting what ACTUALLY happened, not making up stories. I have no doubt that Craig tries to walk back from such heavy skepticism where he can, but it is extremely difficult to do when it seeps into your bones not just through overt, explicit teaching, but via a pervasive attitude throughout your training. Craig is a great guy and all, but he will (in the next life) discover some real big eye-openers on what all he MISSED by not getting Thomism from Catholics.

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    9. @John
      I am not related to Joe, Actually quite far from it.

      Well ,I'll admit that the posts are kind of verbose, but I suppose I just like to add extra context so there isn't any misunderstanding.

      I should probably try to be a little more crisp though if I want any substantial engagement.

      I'll keep that in mind.

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    10. Hi @Tony!
      What you say makes sense!
      If it's true though, it's sad that he got that impression of Thomas.
      I wouldn't say Thomas always uses Arguments from Authority, he usually gives the name of an authority, but then goes on to provide reasons for it himself!
      Atleast that's the impression I get from most of his philosophical exegesis.
      Theologically perhaps yes!
      Though catholic theologians in general are kind of bound within a certain of starting assumptions.
      I haven't actually yet read Thomas the theologian properly.
      My philosophical inclinations are Thomistic but my Theological inclinations are Ratzingerian especially with regards to soteriology, missiology and biblical exegesis.

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    11. Norm, early in the Summa, Thomas makes clear that unlike philosophy, theology rests on God telling us truths (by revelation - e.g. Scripture). Sometimes (lots, actually) God is telling us the same things via revelation that nature is telling us through other means. So, in his "Sed Contra" he is giving sources from Scripture and Tradition, i.e. the sources we rely on because it's God telling us; in his "respondeo" he is giving supporting reasons, to (a) clarify why the sed contra position stated is the right one to address the question, and (b) to show how natural reasoning plays into, and agrees with, the answer from authority. The fact that the respondeo is usually much longer than the sed contra is not controlling as to whether his main argument is theological or philosophical. However, (especially on account of element (a) above), we would be LESS CONFIDENT that we had arrived at the right answer just by reading the sed contra, without the respondeo.

      One of the ways to note how revelation is more effective overall, is how there are hundreds of millions of Bibles that are read (with benefit) regularly, and probably less than a couple million copies of the Summa, and still fewer readings of it per copy. Many people can get much out of the Bible who cannot get much out of the Summa, because of limitations of time, education, etc. There are many who come to Christianity (and to Faith) on primarily account of Scripture, and a few come to Christianity primarily on account of Thomas. (And this is as Thomas would have it, of course.)

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    12. @Tony

      Wow, that is very interesting. I aways saw the "i answer" as the primary answer precisely because in there St. Thomas is arguing. The "on the contrary" to me were support only. That is neat.

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    13. @Tony
      Ahhh... I see!

      Although it's quite ironic that Craige eventually ended up a divine command theorist as opposed to Thomas's classical natural law.

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  5. For what it is worth (probably very little), I consider myself to be a Thomist but I would never say either that Aquinas is never wrong or even that he never contradicts himself. He is a great teacher, not a writer whose work is infallible.

    Tom Cohoe

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    1. I wonder if Our Lady make some immaculate conception joke with him when the santly friar was received into Heaven XD.

      I suppose that Mullins was just exagerating, it fits his tone on the text.

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  6. Poor Professor Feser is confronted with the laborious task of trying to bring basic understanding of Thomism to the Internet philosophers. God bless him.

    It appears that a line by line approach may just be the only way, since posts and articles are falling on deaf ears.

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    1. No. Actually, I was being quite sincere. In my own experience, especially in philosophical discussions, fleshing out those fundamentals concepts (like the concept motion when discussing the First Way) before anything else is advantageous. In this way, both participants can get a clear view of where the impasse is.

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    2. Anon is right: the concepts, the way of aproaching problems, the diferent pressupositions involved, these all need some fleshing out when discussing with people with the more comon philosophical head nowdays.

      This was a quite cool thing in the debates with Dr. Oppy: they could just stop and try to talk about some subject until they understand each other.

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  7. Hi Ed,

    If you want to defend the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity from a Thomistic standpoint, then here is the paper you really need to refute:

    "From Modal Collapse to Providential Collapse" by Joseph Schmid (Philosophia; available online at https://philpapers.org/archive/SCHFMC-2.pdf).

    It's pretty devastating, and it's nothing if not comprehensive. I think any fair-minded reader of Schmid's article would have to agree that the classical version of DDS espoused by Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas is on the ropes. Or as Schmid puts it:

    "Classical theists avoid modal collapse if and only if they embrace an indeterministic link between God and his effects."

    However, as Schmid points out, this indeterminism poses two challenges to classical theism:

    "The first challenge is that it collapses God’s status as an intentional agent who knows and intends what he is bringing about in advance. The second challenge is that it collapses God’s providential control over which creation obtains."

    I'll leave it up to readers to decide whether Schmid has made a successful case. Cheers.

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    1. I agree, and really hope to see a long discussion between Schmid and Feser, in print or via YouTube channel or both.

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    2. @ anonymous Anonymous,

      I disagree. Reading Schmidt is like looking at a pure blue sky through an inch of swamp water.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. @Vincent

      Besides Schmid writing style being somewhat tiring*, good article. His objections are very interesting against this particular defense of divine simplicity against modal collapse. My question:

      The normal libertarian view of freedom seems to be taken for grantes here,has Joe ever commented on Aquinas view of free will in general and of God free will?

      His view seems, somewhat funny, similar to Sartre: a agent decision is free if no choice is obligatory to him on a intentional level, if no choice appears 100% perfect. Since to any world that God can create there is a better one, them His choice of this one is free, even if He could not do diferent if we rewind the tape.

      @anon

      It seems that Ed is planning to respond to a article of Joe, so we might see that eventually.

      *a combination of his insistence on saying he does not think his arguments refute classical theism with my antipathy with analytic writers i guess

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    4. Schmid would be way better if he could learn to tighten it up.

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    5. I didn't realize I was misspelling Schmid's name, for which I apologize. It's one thing to mock turgid and tedious writing, but I would not purposely abuse someone's name.

      Tom Cohoe

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  8. I really don't get the Modal Collapse objection. Those who make it seem to work from the premise that classical theists just proposed divine simplicity out of thin air, rather than it being a deduction from the reality of contingency itself, and ignore the context in which it was formulated.

    Parmenides claimed that change was impossible and an illusion. He lived before Aristotle had developed the philosophy of actual and potential facets of reality, and lacking a concept of potentiality, he held that things must either exist actually or not exist at all. This meant that for Parmenides, all of reality was effectively what Aristotle would refer to as pure actuality, and from this premise he (correctly) deduced that change would be impossible.

    After all, he rightly agreed with Aristotle that something that didn't actually exist couldn't actualize itself, and since he had no concept of something existing in a potential way prior to being actualized by something else, he reasoned that something could only exist if it were *already* actual, in which case it wouldn't need to be actualized. From the premise that change was impossible, he also correctly deduced that multiplicity must be unreal. For there to be more than one thing in existence, there must be some factor that distinguishes them, some power that one has and the other doesn't. But if there is no change, then nothing does anything, so there can be no difference in powers or behavior to distinguish anything. It also followed from this that time was unreal, since time implies the passage of change.

    Enter Aristotle. He rightly pointed out that it was incoherent to deny the existence of change or to call it an illusion (since to even experience an illusion, one must exist and undergo change), and he went on to articulate precisely how Parmenides went wrong and how change was conceptually possible. Parmenides' dichotomy of actual existence vs nonexistence was too simple, and failed to capture the reality of potential existence. Things that actually exist also have potentials, and this makes change possible, because change consists of the potentials of existing things becoming actualized by things that actually exist.

    (cont...)

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  9. (...cont)
    However, the upshot of affirming the reality of change, and hence of actual and potential existence, was the implication that any change must ultimately terminate in something that was pure actuality, an Unchanged Changer (or Unmoved Mover). And since the Unmoved Mover didn't change, those things that Parmenides deduced about reality from the nonexistence of change now applied instead to the Unmoved Mover, including the lack of multiplicity (aka divine simplicity) and being "outside" of time. Contra Parmenides' concept of reality, the Unmoved Mover COULD act (since his existence as the ultimate actualizer of all change is necessitated from the existence of change), but it followed that all his actions were actually a single eternal act, outside time and identical to the Unmoved Mover himself, but eternally actualizing every change at every moment in time. Aquinas would then go on to show that the Unmoved Mover must have all the other divine attributes we attribute to God, and just as we perceive his one eternal Act through a multiplicity of effects, all his attributes are actually one attribute that we perceive in a variety of contexts that relate to our own (derivative) goodness, power, personhood, etc.

    Anyhow, given that divine simplicity was deduced FROM the reality of change/contingency in the first place as outlined above, it seems to me that neo-classical theists aren't really getting it when they say that divine simplicity entails a DENIAL of contingency.

    The whole "modal collapse" objection seems like it results from them projecting their own theistic personalism onto Thomists. That is, I think they basically start out with an idea of God as a sort of superhuman, basically like us but much more powerful, and acting on the world in basically the same way we do. They then try to imagine THAT idea of God as being totally simple, and then try to figure out what this anthropomorphic-yet-simple concept of God would imply about change and contingency. From this they derive Modal Collapse, and they think it's a problem for Thomists because they project their own reverse direction of inference onto Thomists.

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    1. Hi The Deuce,

      You claim that "divine simplicity was deduced FROM the reality of change/contingency in the first place." However, that inference doesn't follow, as Joe Schmid points out in his Reflections on Mullins' latest essay. Let me quote a couple of excerpts:

      "First, for all the reasoning here shows, the first cause could very well be an agent, God, with various passive potentials that could be actualized by God himself, i.e., by God’s exercise of agent-causal power... God, here, is quite clearly a first cause, and yet he has passive potencies. So the absence of passive potencies doesn’t follow upon being a first cause...

      "Second, even if ... the first cause is first in each per se chain of change, it doesn’t follow that it is first in every per accidens chain of change. And so nothing in the reasoning above rules out the first cause being first in every per se chain but nevertheless being actualized (and so non-first) in some per accidens chain... For instance, the first cause could actualize all the per se changes involved in a creature saying a petitionary prayer to the first cause, and this petitionary prayer could then causally impact the first cause in a per accidens manner—say, by causally influencing the first cause to fulfill the petition. Here, all per se chains terminate in the first cause, and moreover all per accidens chains depend on more fundamental per se chains, and yet the first cause is still non-first in some per accidens chain."

      I might add that the modal collapse argument isn't a knockdown argument against classical theism, as even critics of classical theism like Schmid acknowledge. However, as Schmid also points out in a recent article in "Philosophia" (see https://philpapers.org/archive/SCHFMC-2.pdf), "Classical theists avoid modal collapse if and only if they embrace an indeterministic link between God and his effects."

      Intentional collapse and providential collapse pose a far greater threat to classical theism than modal collapse ever did. Cheers.

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    2. What is Schmid saying in that second objection? Per accidens causes are not true causes. If God is changed in any way, that which causes His change would be a per se cause of the change, even if its ultimate source is the Lord.

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    3. So the absence of passive potencies doesn’t follow upon being a first cause...

      That only seems not to follow, imo, if you don't think too hard about what a first cause (or an unmoved mover) actually entails. Once you tease out what the concept of something actualizing ANY change without being actualized itself entails, you can deduce that it is timeless, that it can have no unrealized potentialities, that there can be only one of it, that it must be the root actualizer of ALL change, etc. (I've seen Ed and others tease these things out in different books, and maybe he will here again, but my comments are already long enough).

      Classical theists avoid modal collapse if and only if they embrace an indeterministic link between God and his effects.

      I get the proposed problem (Namely, saying that God's one act being an act of creation specifically is a Cambridge property rather than a necessary one seems to imply that creation itself is "indeterminate" rather than necessary), but I don't think it's limited to classical theism.

      First, I think all it immediately entails is that creation isn't necessary (and therefore is contingent) in the same way God is necessary. Meaning it's not eternal, unchanging, uncreated, etc.

      But secondly, I think the underlying puzzle - the seeming need to either affirm necessity and therefore seemingly deny the reality of contingency, or to affirm contingency and therefore seemingly deny divine providence - is one that all theists deal with, not just classical theists. It's reflected in the questions of how God can be sovereign yet not responsible for sin, and how our free will can be compatible with God's providence.

      And the same basic issue plagues non-theists too. The mechanistic world of the Darwinian materialist, denying as it does the intrinsic reality of intentionality, is incompatible with the existence of free will and of reason in human beings. And yet free will/reason must be real in order for us to have any reason to believe in Darwinian materialism or anything else, or to be able to weigh reasons and evidence and choose the most rational conclusion.

      And the same basic puzzle resurfaces to a degree with human free will. When WE intelligent agents create something using our intellects, is that thing determined or indeterminate? Obviously it's not determined in the way a planet's orbit or something else dictated according to mathematical laws is. To say otherwise is to deny that we have free will or reason, which is incoherent. But neither is it indeterminate in the sense of being a product of chance rather than of our own thoughts and intentions.

      (cont...)

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    4. (...cont)

      I think this issue has been worsened by the rise of modern science, with its mechanistic methodology that ignores anything that cannot be captured by mathematical equations, whether those equations be deterministic or probabilistic. The reason for this, of course, is that only those things that can be accurately modeled that way can be understood in a way that allows us to control and harness them. We moderns have an impulse to try to collapse those facets of reality that are not mechanistic (like free will / reason) to the categories that are, namely chance and deterministic necessity.

      But free will and intellect cannot be understood that way. It can only be an irreducible reality in and of itself, not reducible to those modes we can more easily grasp and control. We will never be able to coherently understand it as anything else.

      The problem gets worse when we project a puzzle that we can't understand even about our finite selves (how is it that the products of rational agents are neither determined nor indeterminate as we understand those concepts) onto an infinite, all-knowing, and all-powerful God outside time, to confuse ourselves about how He could possibly have sovereign providence yet still allow free will and not be directly responsible for evil.

      That's true even if you conceive of God the way neo-classical theists do, as basically an agent like us but eternal and infinitely more powerful, but even more so when you try to figure out how providence and contingency works with God as conceived by classical theists.

      I will say, though, that I think classical theism offers intellectual resources for such problems (eg the insight that evil is a privation of good rather than a negation, and hence something God allows rather than proactively wills) that allows us to get further in gaining satisfactory answers within our ability, even if we can't get anywhere close to a full understanding.

      So to summarize, yes I agree that holding the act of creation qua creation to be a "Cambridge property / property of reason" implies that creation is "indeterminate" in the sense of not being necessary the way God is. However, beyond that, I think trying to make claims on what it means about Providence, and how exactly Providence works in the first place (and with it the details of how first causation works at the very deepest level of temporal reality), is a matter of trying to reduce that which is ineffable and far beyond our comprehension to categories that we can get our minds around and control, which as previously mentioned are insufficient to understand even ourselves, much less God.

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    5. This criticism of Schmid is to the point, I think.

      http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2021/07/the-fruitless-death-of-modal-collapse.html?m=1

      Cheers,
      Raymond

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    6. "First, for all the reasoning here shows, the first cause could very well be an agent, God, with various passive potentials that could be actualized by God himself, i.e., by God’s exercise of agent-causal power... God, here, is quite clearly a first cause, and yet he has passive potencies. So the absence of passive potencies doesn’t follow upon being a first cause..."

      What is the cause of the relationship between God's passive potencies and his causal powers? Is it another being composed of both passive potencies and causal powers? If so, we are in an infinite regress in the hunt for the True God. The alternative is the True God Who Is pure actuality and simple, and is in no need of further causal explanation.

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    7. Raymond:

      It looks like Siris also has a more detailed followup here: https://branemrys.blogspot.com/2022/01/modal-collapse-and-providential-collapse.html

      This is complex stuff, and took me a few readings to grasp at my level of knowledge as an amateur (low-key hoping Ed breaks some of it down in a more intuitive form), but it got me thinking some more.

      As I mentioned above, the topic of free will and how it relates to necessity vs indeterminism is already pretty mysterious and probably impossible to completely grasp even for our own very finite rational agency as humans, much less for God Himself.

      In fact, something like the "modal collapse problem" seems to apply to our own deliberate actions. As Siris points out in that post, to say that a human being is a free agent is precisely to say that his existence is compatible with all possible worlds he could have chosen to cause.

      For instance, let's say I freely choose to build a Lego robot. To say I was free to make that choice is to say that I could have done otherwise, that my existence is compatible with both the Lego tower's being built and its not being built. In that sense, then, my relationship to the tower is indeterminate. I could have been its builder or I could have been a watcher of TV or something else instead.

      And at least to an extent, my status as the builder of the Lego tower is therefore a Cambridge property. The Lego tower's relation to me, however, is not. The tower's existence is entirely contingent on my having built it. It was I who actualized it, and hence its property of being created by me is intrinsic to it. In building it, the tower went from non-existence to existence, whereas I did not. There wasn't an intrinsic change in me.

      Well, that's not completely true, but you get the idea. I do undergo some changes in myself in the process of building a Lego tower, or in doing anything as a finite creature in a material universe, but my change from "guy who hasn't built a Lego tower yet" to "guy who built the Lego tower" doesn't entail any specific change in me, the way the Lego tower's coming into existence does.

      And yet the Cambridge property status of my being the creator of the Lego tower clearly doesn't mean that my action was "radically indeterminate" either. It's not like I acted to do nothing in particular, and a Lego tower just happened to result from it by sheer luck. Clearly I INTENDED the Lego tower.

      I would like to tentatively suggest that at least part of the solution here, both for our actions and for God's, is to recognize that the intention to bring about some effect, the bringing about of the effect, and the effect itself, are all different things.

      I would suggest that my INTENTION to build the Lego tower is a real intrinsic property of myself, but the Lego tower is not, nor is my status as its creator (at least not completely).

      This does not explain how exactly my intention becomes realized in the world (again, I think this is probably beyond our ken), but the distinction DOES let us see conceptually how the "Cambridge-ness" of my being the Lego tower's creator, and the indeterminacy of my free action, does not conflict with the tower's existence having been intended by me.

      And I would tentatively suggest that perhaps God's intention to create this universe is also in fact intrinsic to Him (and hence identical to his other properties as such), but the universe itself is not, and His status as Creator of it is nevertheless a Cambridge property.

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    8. But His intention to create is not a Cambridge property. It is a real property. but the problem is that it is a contingent property.
      Now, if God is identical to all of His real properties, we are faced with a necessary God who is identical to some necessary and some contingent properties.

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    9. Vincent Torley quotes Joe Schmid thusly:

      "First, for all the reasoning here shows, the first cause could very well be an agent, God, with various passive potentials that could be actualized by God himself, i.e., by God’s exercise of agent-causal power... God, here, is quite clearly a first cause, and yet he has passive potencies. So the absence of passive potencies doesn’t follow upon being a first cause...

      Torley continues to quote Schmid:

      Second, even if ... the first cause is first in each per se chain of change, it doesn’t follow that it is first in every per accidens chain of change. And so nothing in the reasoning above rules out the first cause being first in every per se chain but nevertheless being actualized (and so non-first) in some per accidens chain... For instance, the first cause could actualize all the per se changes involved in a creature saying a petitionary prayer to the first cause, and this petitionary prayer could then causally impact the first cause in a per accidens manner—say, by causally influencing the first cause to fulfill the petition. Here, all per se chains terminate in the first cause, and moreover all per accidens chains depend on more fundamental per se chains, and yet the first cause is still non-first in some per accidens chain.

      However, Feser addressed this in Five Proofs:

      To see what is wrong with this objection, recall once again that though the argument begins by asking what explains the changes we observe in the world around us, it moves on to the question of what explains the existence , at any moment, of the things that undergo changes. So, the regress of actualizers that we are ultimately concerned with is a regress of the actualizers of the existence of things. The first actualizer in the series is "first," then, in the sense that it can actualize the existence of other things without its own existence having to be actualized. So, suppose this first actualizer had some potentiality that had to be actualized in order for it to exist. What actualizes that potential? Should we suppose that it is something other than the first actualizer that actualizes it? But in that case, the so-called first actualizer isn’t really the first actualizer after all, contrary to hypothesis; it would be this further actualizer that is the first, or perhaps some yet further actualizer that is the first. Should we say instead that the first actualizer has some purely actual part that actualizes the part that is merely potential? But in that case, it will be this purely actual part that is the true first actualizer, and the potential “part” will not really be a part of the first actualizer, but rather merely the first of its effects. Or should we say instead that the first actualizer’s potential is actualized by some part of it that is not purely actual, but a mixture of actual and potential? But what actualizes the potentialities of that part? Some yet further part that is a mixture of potential and actual? But in that case we are back to a vicious regress and haven’t reached a first actualizer after all.

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    10. WCB

      According to classical theism, God is outside of time. To God, there is an infinite now, no real past or present for God. Thus everything that existed exists or will exist to our limited perspective, exists to God's perspective. Thus everything is necessary, nothing is contingent. Simplicity of God is not the o nly path to modal collapse. If in all possible worlds God is outside of time and not subject or limited by time, everything that is in these worlds is necessary.

      WCB

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    11. Walter, the intention is extrinsic to God, there's no third item called God's intention that isn't exemplified by the actual creation. That's something Anscombe also argued for humans.

      Furthermore, as you formula it, the choice is an intrinsic operator. This will likely be true, if the first cause is complex. However it won't be true if it's simple. Therefore as it stands the presupposition of an internal operator is question begging

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    12. Dominik

      I was responding to The Deuce who said that he "would tentatively suggest that perhaps God's intention to create this universe is also in fact intrinsic to Him".
      If that is true, God's inention cannot be a Cambridge property, and the rest of my argument follows.

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  10. Vincent,

    You quote Schmid as follows:

    "for all the reasoning here shows, the first cause could very well be an agent, God, with various passive potentials that could be actualized by God himself, i.e., by God’s exercise of agent-causal power... God, here, is quite clearly a first cause, and yet he has passive potencies. So the absence of passive potencies doesn’t follow upon being a first cause..."

    I'm not sure what particular line of reasoning Schmid is referring to here. The most general form of reasoning to a First Cause within the Aristotelian or neo-Aristotelian tradition that I am aware of pushes "downward", as it were, through a per se series of causes, asking at each level of descent, whether the "supporting" or more fundamental cause explaining some effect or set of effects is capable of being in act in some other way than the way it is in act, here and now. If the answer to that question is "yes", then only two options obtain.

    The first option (a) is to acknowledge that the more fundamental/supporting cause currently being examined, does not contain within itself an explanation for its being in act in the way that it currently is, rather than in some other way that it could admittedly be. This forces reason to acknowledge that the supporting cause currently under examination cannot be the First Cause of the per se series because this supporting cause, itself, requires some further/deeper cause to explain why, here and now, it is in act in only one of its possible states.

    The second option (b) is to assert that one simply need not explain why the more fundamental/supporting cause under examination is in act the way it is, and not in some other way which it could admittedly be. This is an appeal to brute fact. This move brings reason's explanatory effort to a close, but the move appears to be an arbitrary, short-circuiting of reason.

    What emerges from the sort of reasoning process just described, is that if an appeal to brute fact is to be avoided; the search for causal explanation can only end if one *ultimately* reaches a Cause that, by its very nature, *cannot* be in act in any other way than the way it currently is in act. But a Cause that cannot be in act in any other way than it is, is precisely a Cause which lacks passive potencies. Pure Act. Schmid claims that:

    "for all the reasoning here shows, the first cause could very well be an agent, God, with various passive potentials that could be actualized by God himself . . ."

    But that is not a possible rational outcome of the general argument forms I've encountered within the primitive or neo-Aristotelian tradition, which proceed by explanatory regress through a per se series of causes to a First Cause. The explanatory regress, in fact, demands arrival at a First Cause with no passive potencies; unless one appeals to brute fact.

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    1. That's what I was going to say. Torley's (and Schmid's) assertion

      the first cause could very well be an agent, God, with various passive potentials that could be actualized by God himself

      is most definitely a mere repudiation of that element of the Aristotelian argument, without any basis provided for that repudiation. It amounts to mere contradiction, not argument. It could even be classed as begging the question, (though that's subject to how you characterize the elements of the argument). Certainly no true Aristotelian would ACCEPT that assertion as presented, so it's not anything remotely like a good rejoinder to the God as unmoved mover position.

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  11. It's just past the one year anniversary of the 50,000- word-in-48-hours response to Feser !

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  12. Hi The Deuce, Bill and monk68,

    Thank you for your replies. There are two points at issue here: (i) does Feser's argument establish the existence of a First Cause which is Pure Act? and (ii) does Schmid's argument demonstrate the inconsistency of the classical theistic claim that God is absolutely simple? It is possible to answer "No" to both questions - in which case, God's absolute simplicity has neither been proved nor disproved. Schmid himself, in his paper, "From Modal Collapse to Providential Collapse," doesn't present his argument as a knockdown proof: "I am not here to knock down classical theism, but to serve it," he declares at the end of his essay.

    In this post, I'll address (i): does Feser's argument work? In his chapter on the Aristotelian proof in "Five Proofs for the Existence of God" (Ignatius, 2017), Feser argues that "any substance S has at any moment some actualizer A of its existence.” (step 8 of his 50-step argument on pp. 35-37). So far, so good. But then he argues: "A’s own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of its own potential for existence or (b) A’s being purely actual" (step 9). That's a logical flaw: to cover all possibilities, (b) should read: "A’s not having a potential for existence that needs to be actualized by another entity," which is not the same as A's being purely actual. So there's a gap in Feser's argument.

    Bill thinks Feser has anticipated this objection, and quotes a passage from pp. 66-67 of Feser's book, where Feser asks: "So, suppose this first actualizer had some potentiality that had to be actualized in order for it to exist. What actualizes that potential?" But this argument merely shows that the First Actualizer has no potentiality that has to be actualized, in order for it to exist. It fails to show fails to show is that this Being doesn’t possess any potentialities whatsoever. It might still have potentialities which it activates when it acts, for instance, without needing anything in order to exist.

    The same goes for Feser's argument that would any potentiality possessed by the First Cause would either have to be actualized from OUTSIDE (in which case, the Being wouldn’t be the first actualizer) or from WITHIN, either by (a) some purely actual part of the Being (which will then be the true first actualizer) or (b) some partly actual and partly potential part of the Being (which generates a vicious regress of actualizers). This misses the point. What I'm proposing is not that the First Actualizer has some potentiality that needs to be actualized in order for it to exist. Rather, all I'm proposing is the very modest claim that the First Actualizer has some potentialities which it realizes, in some situations, when it acts.

    Monk68 attempts to clarify Feser's argument by asking whether the "more fundamental cause explaining some effect or set of effects is capable of being in act in some other way than the way it is in act, here and now." If the answer is "yes," then we must either acknowledge that this cause is not the ultimate cause of the effect (which leads us to postulate a Reality which is Pure Act) or we must "assert that one simply need not explain why the more fundamental/supporting cause under examination is in act the way it is" (which monk68 regards as equivalent to treating the cause as a brute fact).

    In reply: I don't think it's fair to expect an answer to the question of why a causal agent is actualized this way, rather than that way. To me, that sounds like a common deterministic argument against libertarian freedom. It rests on a rationality norm which the libertarian would reject. To explain why an agent chooses A rather than B, all we need to say is that A is a choice-worthy goal. (Of course, B might be, as well.) And that's all we can say. We accept this account of libertarian freedom for human beings; why not for God?

    I conclude that Feser hasn't proved his claim that only something which is Pure Act can explain the actualization of potentials. Cheers.

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    1. Is your contention here that brute facts do constitute an explanation for how potential can be actualized, or are you suggesting that there is some third category of ways potential can be actualizes that is not encompassed by either brute facts or potential being actualizes by something actual?

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    2. This cannot be the case that God has potencies aside from His essence, especially in terms of causal powers. First, I ask where these come from if they are not contained within the necessary nature of God. Since God’s essence is pure act, anything potential cannot be contained therein, which means it must come out from that essence. But either this emminates naturally or is caused to exist through His willful action. But it cannot be the former since this would presuppose the false assertion that God has an essence akin to the natural objects. Human essence may grant certain potencies, but what would Being Itself grant to God? However, if the potencies are created then one may ask why we should suppose God has causal potentialities at all if He can create without them. Second, if they come from neither option, but are inexplicably attached to God, so to speak, then we are deprived of that ultimate answer to why anything exists.

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    3. Vincent Torley writes:

      Feser argues that "any substance S has at any moment some actualizer A of its existence.” (step 8 of his 50-step argument on pp. 35-37). So far, so good. But then he argues: "A’s own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of its own potential for existence or (b) A’s being purely actual" (step 9). That's a logical flaw: to cover all possibilities, (b) should read: "A’s not having a potential for existence that needs to be actualized by another entity," which is not the same as A's being purely actual. So there's a gap in Feser's argument.

      Respectfully, there is no gap at all. The non-potential for existence entails pure actuality. More on this below.

      Bill thinks Feser has anticipated this objection, and quotes a passage from pp. 66-67 of Feser's book, where Feser asks: "So, suppose this first actualizer had some potentiality that had to be actualized in order for it to exist. What actualizes that potential?" But this argument merely shows that the First Actualizer has no potentiality that has to be actualized, in order for it to exist. It fails to show fails to show is that this Being doesn’t possess any potentialities whatsoever. It might still have potentialities which it activates when it acts, for instance, without needing anything in order to exist.

      Also…

      What I'm proposing is not that the First Actualizer has some potentiality that needs to be actualized in order for it to exist. Rather, all I'm proposing is the very modest claim that the First Actualizer has some potentialities which it realizes, in some situations, when it acts.

      If the First Actualizer “has some potentialities which it realizes in some situations,” it can only be because its essence is limited to a specific kind of existence which is ordered toward a range of perfections or specification not actualized within its current existence. Thus, the “First Actualizer” has the capacity (potency) in itself to receive perfections or to actualize perfections which of course makes it an act/potency composite in need of explanation beyond itself. A thing’s passive potency is the metaphysical ground for predicating any change in it. And as I understand Thomism, this also renders the “First Actualizer” a composite of essence and existence because specified existence is limited to exist in a particular way which includes the capacity to receive perfection. Thus, the essence itself is the potency principle conjoined with act. If God is Pure Act, then by definition no perfections could be added to Him. Anything less than Pure Act is a composite of essence and existence, act and potency. Since all composites are contingent, a First Actualizer composed of act and potency is contingent and cannot be considered the efficient cause of an effect in question (thus, not a “First” Actualizer).

      Now, I realize that you deny the essence/existence distinction, but this is partially why there isn’t a “gap” in Feser’s argument. Under Thomism, essence and existence are clearly distinct, and that partially justifies the First Actualizer’s pure actuality. Your rebuttal would then sound something like, “Yes, Feser’s argument works if the essence/existence distinction is presupposed, but since said distinction doesn’t exist, his argument fails.” The argument might then turn to the essence/existence distinction, but as it stands, Ed’s argument looks solid.

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  13. Hi The Deuce, Bill and monk68,

    I'd now like to address the second point at issue: does Schmid's argument demonstrate the inconsistency of the classical theistic claim that God is absolutely simple?

    The Deuce directed me to an interesting article by Brandon Watson at his blog, Siris. Here's the address: https://branemrys.blogspot.com/2022/01/modal-collapse-and-providential-collapse.html

    A key principle in Schmid's argument is premise 13:

    "If fixing all the facts about an agent and their act(s) is perfectly compatible with the obtaining of any possible effect of their act(s) among an arbitrarily large range of possible effects, then the agent is not in control over which effect of their act(s) obtains."

    Brandon objects that there is no such thing as "all the facts about God," but one could easily replace it with "all that is actual about and intrinsic to the agent [God]," and since God is said to be Pure Act, Brandon could not object to this wording as prejudicial to classical theism.

    The Deuce summarizes Brandon's point as being that "to say that a human being is a free agent is precisely to say that his existence is compatible with all possible worlds he could have chosen to cause." But as Schmid himself points out, the parallel with human beings breaks down here:

    "For when we fix all the facts about a human agent (e.g., you or me) and a given act (or set of acts) of theirs, it is FALSE that this is perfectly compatible with the obtaining of any effect whatsoever from their actions, willings, intentions, and so on. Instead, their actions, willings, intentions, and so on are almost always intrinsically directed toward specific states of affairs and can typically bring about only a small range of effects (oftentimes only one) among all possible effects of us as agents."

    To be clear: what classical theists are claiming is that God could have intentionally created this world, or some other world, or no world at all, without thinking or willing anything different. This is nothing like human agency. It's like claiming that J. K. Rowling could have written an entirely different plot for the Harry Potter series of novels, or even no novels at all, without intending anything different.

    The Deuce counters that when he intends to build a Lego tower, his intention to build the Lego tower is a real intrinsic property of his, but the Lego tower is not, nor is his status as its creator. (I would dispute the last claim, for if you intentionally create something, it seems that you DO have the intrinsic property of being its creator. But let that pass.) The key point, as Walter Van den Acker points out, is that your intention to create is a real but contingent property: you might or might not have had it. However, according to Thomistic classical theists, even if God hadn’t created anything, the content of His Mind and Will would still be the same in every conceivable way. As William Lane Craig has pointed out, this claim provides “no explanation of the existence of creatures, or the differences between possible worlds.” Why not? Here's my answer: it is illegitimate to appeal to one and the same explanation E in order to account for both a state of affairs S and for the non-occurrence of S. The problem here is that exactly the same explanation (“Because God”) is being used to explain not only why there isn’t a world (on the “no-world” scenario), but also why (in actuality) there is a world. I submit that an explanation which is able to explain both the presence and the absence of a world, explains nothing. Cheers.

    I've written more on the subject here: http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/window-dressing-or-is-the-god-of-thomistic-classical-theism-as-dumb-as-a-rock/#h (see also part I).

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    1. "Brandon objects that there is no such thing as "all the facts about God," but one could easily replace it with "all that is actual about and intrinsic to the agent [God]," and since God is said to be Pure Act, Brandon could not object to this wording as prejudicial to classical theism."

      I don't know what that particular phrase would really mean, but if it means what it seems to mean, we don't know anything about what is intrinsic to God, either, beyond what our causal inferences strictly require; therefore, we can't fix all that is intrinsic to God without violating the principle of remotion -- we simply don't have the omniscience that the premise looks like it would require.

      Schmid is simply incorrect that the parallel with human beings breaks down on the particular point he claims; the analogy doesn't require attributing any possibility to human free will, but just alternative possibilities.

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    2. Torley, I believe God’s will is too mysterious to be effectively touched by comparison to human volition. The analogous nature of God is too different from our own. To begin, our actions take as their principle a finite individual idea of the mind. God, in His mind, contains all that is and all that ever could be in the form of His very essence. His volition follows that idea and wills primarily Himself as perfectly good. It is impossible to distinguish a unique idea of the actual created order from that of all of possible being in His mind, since they are really “both” contained in the simplicity of His essence. Thus it is a fruitless endeavour in claiming God has “an intention to create this universe” and only we can say “God has something analogous to an intention to create this universe.” All we are eligible to say is that He exists, He has volition in some way, and the universe is a product of this volition, but we have no right going further than this to claim a contradiction.

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  14. Mullins and other can always have a field day misrepresenting Thomists because a lot of them, it seems, have trouble representing what St. Thomas said. In his book, The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil, Fr. Brian Davies asks “… should one suppose that God is a person?”, but his answer never arrives. There’s a lot of wiggling and the old cheap shot that the Trinity isn’t “a” person, then stuff about God not being a person like us or angels. Personal God seems to be on the nose in some quarters. But if we can’t say God is personal, we can’t say he is good, or simple. A proper Thomistic response never arrives to this very important question.
    Let Saint Thomas speak, and Thomists repeat, if nothing better occurs to them: “I answer that "Person" signifies what is most perfect in all nature—that is, a subsistent individual of a rational nature. Hence, since everything that is perfect must be attributed to God, forasmuch as His essence contains every perfection, this name "person" is fittingly applied to God; not, however, as it is applied to creatures, but in a more excellent way; as other names also, which, while giving them to creatures, we attribute to God; as we showed above when treating of the names of God… Although the word "person" is not found applied to God in Scripture, either in the Old or New Testament, nevertheless what the word signifies is found to be affirmed of God in many places of Scripture; as that He is the supreme self-subsisting being, and the most perfectly intelligent being… Although this name "person" may not belong to God as regards the origin of the term, nevertheless it excellently belongs to God in its objective meaning.” [Q 29]

    If Thomists used the term attribute or property in the sense St. Thomas did, instead of borrowing equivocal understandings from other, contradictory, philosophical systems, there would be even less room for Mullins and others to slip and slide.

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  15. VJ

    Yer killing me! Yer really killing...

    Briefly before this wrong deid hoor'ss yer beating stinks up the hoos....I will be going the full Scottish.

    >i) does Feser's argument establish the existence of a First Cause which is Pure Act?

    No sir, we correctly conclude whatever is Pure Act must be the First Cause which we take to be God...

    Tedious....

    One small error which leads to a pile of dosh....

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    1. @ Son of Ya'Kov,

      "a pile of dosh"

      He speaks for Schmid, so what does this say of Schmid's reams? A pile of dosh or does VJ misrepresent Schmid? I think Schmid and his followers are of one nature and you have named it.

      Actualizing potential with God not changing actually isn't a hard problem, but I don't think even Tony likes my model.

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. @Tom Cohoe:

      Actualizing potential with God not changing actually isn't a hard problem.

      Isn't that exactly what "Natural Selection" does? It constantly actualizes the genetic potential of populations but without changing an apice its own (pardon the pun) 'nature'. For some strange reason, the atheist seems NOT to have any problem with this. Lady "NS" has been changing the genetic distribution of populations for 3.5+ billion years and yet 'she' keeps being exactly the same.

      Maybe she does not change at all because "NS" is just a fiction, the poor man's substitute of God that the atheist has concocted to himself in his mechanistic desperation? Is "NS" just another creative myth doomed to be laughed at by the generations to come?

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    3. @ UncommonDescent,

      "Isn't that exactly what 'Natural Selection' does?"

      'Selection' means choosing between alternatives. The alternatives exist by other means.

      You see the problem for your idea? You need something separate that causes the alternatives (in an already existing material world).

      Tom Cohoe

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    4. @Tom Cohoe:

      One of the usual complaints of atheists is that creation makes no sense because the act of creation would imply a change in God (Walter Van den Acker for example usually pursues this avenue). And since Thomism asserts that God can not experience any type of change due to Him being Actus Purus, that's a contradiction (and atheists dislike contradictions a lot because contradictions signal bad thinking and atheists are the champions of reason due to selective pressures).

      But they do not find any problem when they assign creative powers to "Natural Selection", which is the Demiurge that crafts all biological forms and therefore CAN create change WITHOUT experiencing change 'herself' (NS is the same today as it was 3.5+ billion years ago). So it's true after all that you can be a creator without experiencing change yourself.

      My post was aimed at this glaring contradiction of theirs. Their usual defence is that "NS" is simply a metaphor, not a real agent, but metaphors have no causal powers.

      So NS is either:
      - a god-like absurd entity (which ruins atheist premises)
      - or an abstraction, and abstractions are human constructs which therefore have no causal powers in the real world. Then NS can not be the famous "Blind Watchmaker" that atheists cherish so much.

      Either way, Mr. Darwin really made a mess trying to postulate a "selector" without a mind. Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palamarini thoroughly trashed NS as an explanation of the adaptationist paradigm in their book "What Darwin Got Wrong". NS is one of the dumbest concepts ever created without a doubt.

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    5. @ UncommonDescent,

      "NS is one of the dumbest concepts ever created without a doubt."

      As an explanation of what exists, selection lacks the means by which there is a choice.

      Tom Cohoe

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    6. NS is the dumbest form of "creation" (more like a craftsman/shape giver) that can exist. A "blind" Watchmaker according to an infamous zoologist who thinks that monkeys can write Shakespeare. But 'she' (NS) is a lesser goddess, because 'she' depends for 'her' activity on something previous to 'herself' (the matter that 'she' shapes).

      According to the materialist, "Matter" posseses 'aseity'. 'She' has existed forever WITHOUT needing a cause or explanation. "Matter" just is.

      We have the Dyad here. But why should a 'superior' goddess ('Matter'), who is capable of existing without needing anything else let 'herself' be shaped by an inferior one (the dumb 'Demiurge'/NS one)? That's a mystery that no materialist can answer. And that's because materialism is a sad creative myth that not even their own proponents can understand.

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  16. What the heck does Joe Schmid mean by

    2*. God is identical to God’s actual act of creation.

    as distinct from the earlier version

    2. God is identical to God’s act of creation.

    He seems to think that it is importantly different, for he derives this result from it:

    Consider God’s actual act of creation. On DDS, God is numerically identical to God’s actual act of creation. And unlike premise (2) in the original argument, the expression ‘God’s actual act of creation’ picks out the very same act in all possible worlds.

    I hate, REALLY hate, "possible worlds" terminology because I am convinced that it is not well-defined. But that aside, surely it would be the case that in THIS possible world, His "actual act of creation" is the act that created an Earth with a blue sky, yellow corn, and an island called Britain, whereas in some other possible world, the "actual act of creation" would have created, say, an Earth with no island called Britain. What the heck? I am not seeing anything at all about how adding "actual" to "act of creation" does ONE BIT to help the issues.

    I probably would strongly dispute Schmid's thesis here if I understood what he is saying, but darn it, I cannot make out what he is actually claiming.

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    1. He's saying that because God is necessary and identical to his act of creation, there are no possible worlds where God's act of creation is anything other than the act of creation that gave us the actual world.

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    2. @ Tony,

      Well there's science fiction, the Western, fantasy and other types of fiction produced by writers with a certain facility with words that is not based on a deep insight into how things _really_ work.

      Maybe Schmid has invented "theology fiction". Did Colonel Aristotle do it with the candlestick or did Chief Inspector Detective Aquinas do it with a rope?

      But good luck with Schmid's shtick.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. He's saying that because God is necessary and identical to his act of creation, there are no possible worlds where God's act of creation is anything other than the act of creation that gave us the actual world.

      Perhaps that's what he means. But if so, this version is no better, and probably somewhat worse, than the versions he just got done demolishing, and on largely the same basis: it amounts to nothing more than simply asserting that THIS creation is necessary, because it is the "actual" world of creation in "all possible worlds". I.e. there is only one possible world, and this is it.

      All in all, it would (again, for the umpteenth time) illustrate what I was saying earlier: "all possible worlds" is not well-defined, and therefore is an imaginary boogeyman for these issues. It CAN'T be well-defined until we could actually be assured of what is, in fact, possible in the relevant senses. For example, Thomists say that "it is impossible for a real God to have parts," whereas non-classical theists deny this. They do not, therefore, agree on whether X world is "possible" or not. The same occurs all over the place. And don't get me started on whether we are dealing with "logically possible" or "metaphysically possible" or whatever.

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    4. "God is necessary and identical to his act of creation".

      But wouldn't this be a form of "Deus sive natura"?

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    5. Tony

      'God is identical to his act of creation' differs from 'God is identical to his actual act of creation' in that the former begs the suestion while the matter is something most Thomists agree on.
      The problem is that if that actual intention can be different, it is contingent,. which means God is identical to something contingent.

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  17. WCB

    Theology is fiction. Thomism claims God is necessarily omnipotent and omniscient. Process theology points out the Problem Of Evil and the Problem of Omniscience And Free Will. And atheists can point other problems. Does God create logical necessities like math and logic? If God then is perfectly good God can banish all moral evil. Why then is there moral evil? And on and on. All Christian theology is word games, fictions, and incoherence.

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    1. "Does God create logical necessities like math and logic?"

      Yes.

      Your questions have answers. Your stance is just that - a stance and nothing more.

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. WCB

      Yes, God creates the logical necessities, including math and logic as per Descartes? And yes, God is perfecty good. God then could create a Universe where all mankind has free will and freely chooses to do no moral evil. Since God could create such a Universe, because God could choose to create logic to allow that, it would sem God is not as proclaimed, perfectly morally good. Aquinas defines good as that that is desirable. Is such a God that could rid the world of all moral evil yet does not do so desirable? Or perhaps God is not good, not caring that unnecessary evil and suffering exists.

      Aquinas tells ud God cannot do the ilogical. Does that including making 2 + 2 = 5 as per Aquinas. Where does this logic of Aquinas that limits God come from?

      WCB

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    3. Ignore him he is a notorious troll. He doesn't care to have an actual honest argument with you. He is no Joe Schmid.

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    4. WCB

      Merely calling someone a troll does not answer these theological problems. Can God make 2 + 2 = 5? Or is that a logical impossibility as per Aquinas? If so, where does that logic of the Universe come from that limits God? What else can God not do? Don't ignore such questions. On. Now, let us do theology. e can't ignore such inquiries and know the truth abot theology, God, and the nature of God. Then one is no longer doing theology.

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    5. Oh dear, here we go again with Son of Yakov declaring someone to be a troll , and a notorious one at that, fit only to be ignored. This of course absolves SoY from the need to reply convincingly to WCB, which he has never once done yet.

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    6. @ WCB,

      First off, who are you addressing? It would help if you put that information into your comment instead of splattering the same doubt all over the place addressed to nobody, spamming this comment section.

      God could have made 2+2=5 but did not. He could have made a->b implies (not a)->(not b) but did not.

      This can be seen in images of God that are accessible to us.

      The rest of your stuff is easily dealt with.

      Tom Cohoe

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    7. Joe Schmid is smarter than any Gnu Atheist.
      But that is not a high bar to jump.

      Delete
  18. Hi The Deuce, Bill, monk68 and Tony,

    I'd like to make a few quick points in response.

    The scenario I'm proposing here is a very simple one, which 99.9% of Catholics would go along with: namely, that God is an unlimited Being Who knows Himself perfectly, and that in addition to having a complete understanding of Himself, God also has thoughts about His finite creatures: He knows who and what they are, and He makes decisions to create and conserve each of them ("Let there be light.") On this scenario, God, by virtue of being the Creator, has a host of additional (timeless) thoughts in His Mind that He wouldn't have, had He chosen not to create at all. Thomists reject this scenario: they think it demeans God. I disagree.

    Bill argues that if the “First Actualizer” has the capacity (potency) in itself to receive additional perfections or to actualize these perfections (such as thoughts or intentions relating to this world), that would make it an act/potency composite in need of explanation beyond itself. However, anything which is Pure Existence must be Pure Act, so this is impossible.

    In reply: (i) this would make Feser's first proof of God's existence depend on his fourth, meaning that it could no longer stand alone; (ii) in any case, I have already refuted Feser's arguments for a real distinction between essence and existence here, at http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/window-dressing-or-is-the-god-of-thomistic-classical-theism-as-dumb-as-a-rock/#m3 ; (iii) even if there were such a distinction, it wouldn't follow that a being whose essence is identical with its own existence has an essence which is identical to Pure Existence; (iv) even if there were something which is Pure Existence, all that would follow is that it has no potentialities within its BEING, which in no way precludes the possibility that such a Being realizes further potentialities when it acts; (v) the argument that no further perfections can be added to Pure Perfection strikes me as unimpressive: all we can conclude is that any additional perfections (such as being the Creator) wouldn't make God any better (or worse).

    Tony, I had a look in "From Modal Collapse to Providential Collapse" and couldn't find the premise, 2*. God is identical to God’s actual act of creation, which you were talking about. Are you referring to a different paper?

    Cheers. Got to run to work now. Have a great day, everyone.

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    1. @ Vincent Torley,

      "I had a look in 'From Modal Collapse to Providential Collapse' and couldn't find the premise, 2*. God is identical to God’s actual act of creation, which you were talking about. Are you referring to a different paper?"

      It's in Schmid's paper, "The fruitful death of modal collapse arguments"

      More later ...

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. @Vicent

      Hi! I'am probably not your target here because i do agree with the scenario you posted, but i had to ask:

      1. Suppose a world were God did not create at all. In that scenario, would there be finite essences of penguins, dogs, quarks etc on His mind? One of your answers to one of the arguments for the real distinction seems to imply that there is no essences that do not exist or formelly exist(seeing how you object to they existing on a "shadow realm*"). This is very important on the essence-existence distinction.

      2. Suppose that Pure Actuality can have potencies that are actualized when He acts, would not there be a change from a state to the next then that would be part of a per se casual chain and so need a further actualizer? Were are taking for granted that the aristotelian proof works.

      *i'am quoting from memory, the word is diferent, i know

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    3. @ Vincent Torley,

      "Thomists reject this scenario: they think it demeans God. I disagree"

      Interesting that you think you know Thomists so well that you can say with what they do or do not disagree - en bloc, apparently, a false thesis right off the bat.

      " [...] God, [...] has a host of additional (timeless) thoughts in His Mind that He wouldn't have, had He chosen not to create at all."

      At what time would he have made this choice?

      "this would make Feser's first proof of God's existence depend on his fourth, meaning that it could no longer stand alone"

      We cannot really prove that God exists because we cannot define God as he is in himself, that being impossible for finite creatures to express. The proofs are actually proofs of finite and inadequate images of God made from finite and differing points of view. They serve as definitions for use in our creaturely talk of God. We know that God exists because we can see it when we look upon his works, as is described in Romans 1:20 or thereabouts. This is actually an inductive demonstration dependent upon our senses and our reason. It is not dependent on Romans 1:20 at all, which tells us that we have no excuse for not understanding that God exists [even if we have not read the Bible]. And be careful about raising the typical objection that 'this God is painted himself into a corner of ever decreasing size', which is quite false.

      I guess that's enough for now

      Tom Cohoe

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    4. Vincent, it is the paper: The fruitful death of modal collapse arguments, located at:

      https://doi.org/10.1007/s11153-021-09804-z

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    5. Vincent,
      You describe a scenario which, according to you, 99.9% of Catholics would agree with but which Thomists would reject. This is ridiculous; Thomists make up MUCH more than 0.1% of Catholics.

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    6. Hi Tony and Tim Finlay,

      Thanks for directing me to the earlier paper, "The Fruitful Death of the Modal Collapse," Tony. I had a look at 2* and I agree it's rather difficult to follow; I couldn't make much sense of it, either. Schmid references a forthcoming work by Waldrop. Perhaps that will make matters plainer.

      In the meantime, I've had a look at Schmid's more recent essay, "From Modal Collapse to Providential Collapse." Here's the money quote:

      START
      Here’s my solution to modal collapse arguments:

      BICONDITIONAL SOLUTION: Classical theists avoid modal collapse if and only if
      they embrace an indeterministic link between God and his effects.

      It’s clear that indeterministic causation is NECESSARY to avoid modal collapse under classical theism. For the cause of everything apart from God, under classical theism, is God himself. (There is no act of creation distinct from God that mediates between God and creation.) And God is necessary. And by the distribution axiom, whatever is necessitated by something necessary is itself necessary. Since A’s deterministically causing B is a matter of A’s necessitating B—that is, since A’s deterministically causing B entails that necessarily, if A, then B—it follows that modal collapse ensues from a deterministic causal link between God and his effect(s). Thus, an indeterministic causal link here is necessary to avoid modal collapse under classical theism.

      It is also SUFFICIENT. For if God indeterministically causes his effect(s), then (i) ‘God’s creative act’ only NON-RIGIDLY designates God, (ii) the necessity of creation does not follow from the (DE RE) necessity of God’s intentional act to actualize this world, and (iii) thesis (E) is false. And in that case, each of the three modal collapse arguments surveyed in the previous sub-section don’t work.
      STOP

      Thesis E is the thesis: "Necessarily, something is a divine creative act only if it is essentially the UNIQUE divine creative act."

      As I remarked above, what classical theists are claiming is that God could have intentionally created this world, OR some other world, OR no world at all, without thinking or willing anything different.

      I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Schmid's reasoning. Cheers.

      Tim Finlay: you write that "Thomists make up MUCH more than 0.1% of Catholics." There are 1.3 billion Catholics in the world. Are you claiming that there are more than 1.3 million Thomists in the world?

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    7. Yes, there are more than 1.3 million Thomists in the world (some of them are Protestants also). You don't have to be a professional philosopher to be a Thomist, you just have to agree broadly with Thomist thought.

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    8. We cannot really prove that God exists because we cannot define God as he is in himself, that being impossible for finite creatures to express.

      Just one clarification: we cannot prove God exists by a formal demonstration, because we cannot provide a definition of God as he is in himself. But there are other valid proofs besides those of formal demonstrations by the thing's essence: indirect proofs, reductio ad absurdum, and (dis)proof by contrary example all work as proofs.

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    9. @ Tony,

      "Just one clarification: [...]"

      I did say " ... the [five] proofs are actually proofs of ..." and even offered the example of "knowing" that God exists by induction from "our senses and our reason". What I was trying to say is that God is greater than what we can know exists by any of these proofs, so what we can know by any proof has to be only an image of God. We know that a God greater than the image exists, but we cannot comprehend anything greater than whatever image we hold in our minds without grace, and even with union with God we will understand less than what God is. Some saints will know more than others but none will know fully, as only the Blessed Persons of the Holy Trinity do.

      I think this corresponds to Aquinas in brief, so I don't disagree with you but am trying, probably poorly, to provide further clarification to my _we_prove_less_than_ argument.

      Tom Cohoe

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  19. Vincent Torley writes:

    In reply: (i) this would make Feser's first proof of God's existence depend on his fourth, meaning that it could no longer stand alone;

    I don’t see it that way at all. My quotation of Feser appears to be a general one addressing the objection of various instances of Pure Act and potency. And since essence/existence is an act/potency composite, it’s not a matter of “standing alone” because it is to be expected that there be some overlap given the similarity of the Aristotelian and Thomistic proofs.

    (ii) in any case, I have already refuted Feser's arguments for a real distinction…

    I really don’t know how seriously I can take a piece that asks whether the God of classical theism is a dumb as a rock. Nonetheless, I took a look and my opinion of your piece is decidedly different than your assessment of it. Suffice it to say that I don’t think you even come close to “refuting” Feser’s arguments for a real distinction.

    (iii) even if there were such a distinction, it wouldn't follow that a being whose essence is identical with its own existence has an essence which is identical to Pure Existence;

    Saying something doesn’t amount to proving it. Since creaturely essence corresponds to potency and existence corresponds to act, something’s whose essence is existence act is by definition devoid of passive potency. In Scholastic thought, essence is given existence by an efficient cause with essence being a limiting principle on the manner of act. But if existence is the essence, then it is again by definition act without potency which means that it is without specification.

    (iv) even if there were something which is Pure Existence, all that would follow is that it has no potentialities within its BEING, which in no way precludes the possibility that such a Being realizes further potentialities when it acts;

    There is no such thing as “when it acts” because Pure Existence is always (eternally) in act. It most certainly follows from classical arguments. Being is act; being is existence. Pure Being is Pure Act which is unspecified existence. From that it follows that it exists without restriction which means that there can be no further determination of being since all possible being is active in it eminently. Moreover, Pure Being cannot “realize further potentialities” because it has no potential in its existence (being).

    (v) the argument that no further perfections can be added to Pure Perfection strikes me as unimpressive: all we can conclude is that any additional perfections (such as being the Creator) wouldn't make God any better (or worse).

    Then you appear to misunderstand “Pure Perfection.” Read “Infinite” (not the mathematical abstraction) when you read “Pure,” and you’ll get a better idea of what classical theists mean. Being infinitely perfect means it is impossible to add anything else. It is impossible for being to be added to Infinite (unlimited) Being. Your “any additional perfections” added to Pure Perfection is incoherent.

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    1. Hi Bill,

      You write: "Being infinitely perfect means it is impossible to add anything else." Not so. You can add one to infinity, but you'll still get infinity. Adding finite perfections to Infinite Perfection would not make it any greater, but the notion of adding to infinity is still coherent.

      With regard to Pure Existence, you write: "There is no such thing as “when it acts” because Pure Existence is always (eternally) in act." However, you can replace "when it acts" with "if it acts" (i.e. if it decides to create a world) and my point still stands. Speaking of Pure Existence, you maintain that "there can be no further determination of being since all possible being is active in it eminently," but I wasn't claiming that God's creation determines His Being as such. I distinguished God's Being or Essence from His energies or activities.

      With regard to a being whose existence is identical to its essence, you argue that "if existence is the essence, then it is again by definition act without potency which means that it is without specification." In reply: there's an important difference between "existence" and "God's existence." If God's essence is identical to God's existence, it doesn't follow that God's essence is identical to existence per se.

      Finally, you say that you don’t think I even come close to “refuting” Feser’s arguments for a real distinction between essence and existence. So here's my question: why can't Feser and his fellow Thomists state the arguments in a logically rigorous form so that their validity and soundness is evident to academic philosophers? Instead, all that happens is that Thomists belittle people who find their arguments as obtuse, and each side marches off to its corner of the boxing ring, convinced that it has won the debate. Surely there has to be a better way of arguing than that. Cheers.

      Delete
  20. God's "Potential" to create this or that world if any is a Cambridge property dude.

    VJ yer always start with one or two simple mistakes and it goes down hill from there laddie.

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    1. Hi Son of Ya'Kov,

      Here's a quick question for you: is God's potential to create an active or a passive potential? I presume you would answer: the former.

      So you're telling me that an active potential is a Cambridge property? Seriously?

      Delete
    2. God potential to create specific things vs other things as the alternative is a Cambridge property. I wasn't talking about God's general power to create which is always in act.

      Keep up.

      Delete
    3. Geez man Feser writes it above. Quote" But here he simply ignores the point that Christopher Tomaszewski makes about this sort of argument (and which I refer to in my article), which is that it fails to distinguish God’s creative act (a) considered qua act and (b) considered qua act of creation. Considered simply qua act, God’s act of creation is intrinsic to him; but considered qua act of creation it is a Cambridge property."End

      Delete
  21. WCB

    Either God creates the Universe, or sustains the existence of the Universe, immanence. Actus purus is not a Cambridge property.

    Actus purus claims there is no potential, nothing other than that actus purus. Since moral evil exists, and since God is immutable, God has no potential to eliminate moral evil. Actus purus, God's immutibilty, and existence of moral evil is all a big problem for classical theism. Where did this moral evil come from?

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  22. Vincent Torley writes:

    You can add one to infinity, but you'll still get infinity. Adding finite perfections to Infinite Perfection would not make it any greater, but the notion of adding to infinity is still coherent.

    After I made it clear that I wasn’t speaking of a mathematical abstract, you reply as if I were asserting a mathematical abstract. If you’re going to reply to an argument of mine, please reply to my argument instead of something you made up.

    Unlimited (unspecified) being, by definition, means that there is nothing new to acquire because potency is the limiting principle of being. Being without potential is Being in the fullest and most complete sense. And that is why it is impossible to acquire a new state of being. All states of being are already possessed. This is not a mathematical abstract; it is existence without specification (limitation, potency) which means it is fully expressed and absolutely complete.

    However, you can replace "when it acts" with "if it acts" (i.e. if it decides to create a world) and my point still stands.

    This modification doesn’t work either, Vincent. Being that is eternally active cannot be imposed with an “if.” Pure Act eternally acts in accordance with perfect will. There is no unfolding, rest, stop or redirection. Pure Act’s acts simply are. Creation never came to be for that would entail potency. Creation is God’s eternal will which of course means that He is the eternal creator.

    Speaking of Pure Existence, you maintain that "there can be no further determination of being since all possible being is active in it eminently," but I wasn't claiming that God's creation determines His Being as such. I distinguished God's Being or Essence from His energies or activities.

    It is irrelevant what you were referring to. I replied to your statement that “any additional perfections… wouldn’t make God any better (or worse).” Since under Thomism, being is convertible with good, additional perfections are more goodness. But perfect good cannot acquire more good because it is already perfect (complete—fully actualized). It is thus impossible under Thomism for God to acquire additional perfections (completed perfection is being and is therefore good). You cannot refute a Thomist argument by knocking down an argument a Thomist wouldn’t make. Knocking that down leaves classical theism untouched.

    To be continued…

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    1. CLARIFICATION: When I say, "Creation never came to be.." I am not saying that the universe is uncaused. What I am saying is that God's being creator never came to be. It's not as if God decided "one day" to be a creator. Being eternal, He is always the creator.

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  23. Part 2

    In reply: there's an important difference between "existence" and "God's existence." If God's essence is identical to God's existence, it doesn't follow that God's essence is identical to existence per se.

    We would say that God existence, which is unreceived being, isn’t identical with contingent existence, which is received being. They are completely different categories of being. God IS being whereas creation has being. God is all the perfections in creation eminently, and the perfections in creation are received from God finitely (principle of proportionate causality). Since God’s eminent being is the ground of all finite being, nothing could, in principle, be added to Him. Again, this follows from the absence of any passive potency. If God could acquire additional being, then He would have to have the capacity to acquire additional being which would make Him an act/potency composite. It is incoherent to say that a being without potency has the potency to become additional being.

    So here's my question: why can't Feser and his fellow Thomists state the arguments in a logically rigorous form so that their validity and soundness is evident to academic philosophers? Instead, all that happens is that Thomists belittle people who find their arguments as obtuse, and each side marches off to its corner of the boxing ring, convinced that it has won the debate. Surely there has to be a better way of arguing than that.

    All I can say to that is you are apparently unaware of the arguments for the real distinction between essence and existence. I haven’t read all your comments on Ed’s site, but instead of writing a piece whose title includes an insult to classical theists and then proclaiming victory in a chest-thumping King Kong-like manner, why not ask for the kind of argumentation you’re looking for? I’m sorry, but you don’t strike me as the kind of person who is objectively looking at the matter. When I read your piece, I was just shaking my head at how bad your arguments are. It’s like you can’t see the forest for the trees. However, that’s an argument for another day. Suffice it to say that whenever we see composition, we see contingency. If the First Actualizer is composed, it isn’t the First Actualizer.

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  24. Hi Bill,

    You write:

    "Unlimited (unspecified) being, by definition, means that there is nothing new to acquire because potency is the limiting principle of being... Since under Thomism, being is convertible with good, additional perfections are more goodness. But perfect good cannot acquire more good because it is already perfect (complete—fully actualized). It is thus impossible under Thomism for God to acquire additional perfections (completed perfection is being and is therefore good)."

    Your argument equivocates on two meanings of "more perfections": (i) "extra perfections" and (ii) "additional degrees of greatness." God, in creating the world, acquires extra perfections (Creator, Sustainer of the cosmos) as an Agent [NOT as a Being], but does not become any greater thereby, since He is completely perfect already. The argument you put forward perfectly illustrates why we shouldn't trust purely verbal arguments. If they can't be formalized, they can't be shown to be valid.

    You also write:

    "All I can say to that is you are apparently unaware of the arguments for the real distinction between essence and existence. I haven’t read all your comments on Ed’s site, but instead of writing a piece whose title includes an insult to classical theists and then proclaiming victory in a chest-thumping King Kong-like manner, why not ask for the kind of argumentation you’re looking for? I’m sorry, but you don’t strike me as the kind of person who is objectively looking at the matter. When I read your piece, I was just shaking my head at how bad your arguments are."

    Now you're accusing me of bad faith. Look. If you think you have a good argument for a real distinction between essence and existence, then by all means put it forward, and I'll be happy to shoot it down. All I'm asking for is an argument that can be rigorously expressed in formal logic, so that its validity is evident. Over to you.

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    1. >> and I'll be happy to shoot it down. <<

      Implies that you know ahead of time what the outcome will be. I’m feeling conflicted about all of this, and I hope a productive exchange ensues.

      Delete
    2. @ Anonymous

      "... know ahead of time what the outcome will be"

      Vincent Torley is intellectually invincible and never makes a mistake, because He follows the law, and around here, the law is Torley. He speaks from such an awesome height that opposing him is futile ("Abandon all hope ye who enter here"). :-)

      Why he is far above me that he doesn't deign to reply to me at all.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. "because He follows the law, and around here, the law is Torley"

      Do you mean that the law is identical to Torley or that it is merely a Cambridge property of him?

      Delete
    4. "Do you mean that the law is identical to Torley or that it is merely a Cambridge property of him?"

      No. :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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  25. Vincent Torley writes:

    Your argument equivocates on two meanings of "more perfections": (i) "extra perfections" and (ii) "additional degrees of greatness." God, in creating the world, acquires extra perfections (Creator, Sustainer of the cosmos) as an Agent [NOT as a Being], but does not become any greater thereby, since He is completely perfect already.

    You must be confused about the use of the word equivocation. I can only be guilty of equivocation if I alternate between different meanings of a word in my argument’s premises. It is irrelevant entirely if there are additional meanings to a word I’m using if I’m consistently applying said word throughout the argument. A “classical” perfection is the actualization of a potency, and in contingent being, there are perfections by degree. Once the actualization is complete, it has being to a greater or lesser degree which is convertible with good to a greater or lesser degree. Thus, by definition, it is impossible for unspecified being to acquire extra perfections (under that argument). What you’re doing is imposing a definition of a word in a manner discordant with what we’re arguing. This is called a straw man.

    You appear to be arguing that since God is the creator of the universe, He enters into new states of being like Creator and Sustainer, and entering into new states of being is the acquirement of perfections as an agent, not as a being. Now, you’re either using the word perfection to mean the actualization of a potency in God or you’re referring to another kind of perfection acquirement that entails no potency in God. Moreover, you are also differentiating between being and state of being. But again, you’re using terms discordant with our argument. A being’s capacity to exist in a different way is a potency in said being which is already precluded by the argument because unspecified being exists in every way possible by definition. God’s eternity means that He cannot become creator; He is eternally the Creator which of course means that He is eternally the Sustainer. It can then be seen that it is impossible for creation to represent a “new” state of being for God. To exist in a different manner due to the presence of something else is either a causal relationship or a Cambridge one. If you are arguing that received being causes a state of being in God, then you are arguing that there is something in God’s essence with the capacity to be caused to have said state, but that kicks us back to the potency that is precluded. And if you’re not arguing that potency in God’s being is actualized by creation, then what is your point?

    Now you're accusing me of bad faith. Look. If you think you have a good argument for a real distinction between essence and existence, then by all means put it forward, and I'll be happy to shoot it down.

    Now, this is a head-scratcher. You take umbrage at my insinuation that you’re arguing in bad faith, only to turn around and flatly state that you’re arguing in bad faith. Shooting down an argument you haven’t heard means that you’ve made up your mind in advance that an unheard argument is false. And that of course cannot be other than an admission that you’ll not look at the argument objectively; you will look at it through the lens of a flag-waiving partisan. Yes, my initial assessment was spot-on. Thanks for your confirmation.

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    1. Hi Bill,

      You write:

      "A “classical” perfection is the actualization of a potency, and in contingent being, there are perfections by degree. Once the actualization is complete, it has being to a greater or lesser degree which is convertible with good to a greater or lesser degree. Thus, by definition, it is impossible for unspecified being to acquire extra perfections (under that argument)."

      You're assuming that every actualization of a being is a perfection which makes that being better than it would be without that actualization. This is precisely the point which I'm questioning. First, it seems doubtfully true, even for contingent beings: some actualizations (e.g. the color of a horse) seem to be ontologically neutral, making their possessor neither better not worse. Second, it seems even more doubtful when applied to a necessary being, for why should a Being with unlimited power become any better by the mere decision to actualize that power in a particular way? Such an actualization would improve only the thing created (which would otherwise be nothing at all), but not the Creator.

      You also write:

      "God’s eternity means that He cannot become creator; He is eternally the Creator which of course means that He is eternally the Sustainer. It can then be seen that it is impossible for creation to represent a “new” state of being for God."

      I agree that God is timeless. What I'm saying is that by creating, God does not become a Creator (which would be absurd), but rather, He is timelessly actualized in a way in which He would not be, had He timelessly chosen otherwise. This actualization is a thought or intention, but I would not describe it as a "state of being." That is your term. I wouldn't refer to even my own thoughts as states of my being.

      Finally, you write:

      "Shooting down an argument you haven’t heard means that you’ve made up your mind in advance that an unheard argument is false."

      It simply means that I'm fairly confident that the argument you put forward won't be a new one, and that my rebuttal of the argument will work. Nothing more than that. My mind is not closed; it's just that at the age of 61, I've already done a fair bit of reading, and I'm not expecting any big surprises. However, I may be completely wrong. By all means, put forward your best argument, and I'll reconsider. I'm still waiting for that argument. Cheers.

      Delete
    2. So do you think God is some kind of eternally actualized potency? No God is pure act without any passive potency. Actively Potency is just another way to say Pure Act or Purely Actuality.

      ???????

      Delete
  26. Quantifying in second order God merely is his properties or equal to the instances of those marks of the concept God understood in a Fregean sense. Good response. Thank you Doctor Feser.

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  27. WCB

    Consider two essenses. Good and evil. A being that has a morally evil essence has existence. A being that has a morally good essence has existence. Both exist. This seems to demonstrate essenses have existence but are not in themselves, existences. If a Thomist insists on that, everyting that has an essense also has as part of all essences, existence. If a sustance has ever so many seperate essences, that substance now has many existences. None of this is rational or meaningful. This is all silly word games without a real point.

    A being that exists has a substance and existence and essences. A being that does not exist lacks all of these. Substance, essences, existence. A fictional being, say Batman has theoretical substance and essences, but not actual, concrete existence.

    WCB

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    1. "This is all silly word games without a real point."

      You're right on this point, but not for the reason you think. Just because you use Aristotelian terminology does not mean you are saying anything meaningful.

      Delete
    2. "A being that has a morally evil essence has existence. A being that has a morally good essence has existence. Both exist."

      Actually, none exist, for essences can't be moraly good or bad, morality only aplies to rational creatures and essences are not like that. Even the essence of a rational being is not itself rational, the being is.

      Delete
    3. WCB

      Essences cannot be morally bad or good? So contra Aquinas, God does not have the essential essence of goodness in the sense of moral goodness? Aquinas tells us that goodness is that that is desirable. A God that is not morally good is not desirable. The Bible claims explicitly that God is just, fair, merciful, and compassionate. And God is love. How can God be, say, merciful without being morally good? The Council of Trent - Session Four tells us God authored the Bible. So these sub- goodness of being just, merciful, compassionate et al cannot just be jettisoned. At bottom of all of this sophisticated theology is a lot of incoherent word games.

      How do we detach being merciful, just, loving, and compassionate from having the essential essence of moral goodness?

      WCB

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    4. WCB, you have been around these parts for far too long to be playing ignorant of the doctrine of analogy.

      Delete
    5. Nobody is paying attention to ye William C. Barwell(I presume?). Give it a rest. God is not a moral agent etc etc(you claim to have read Davies).
      God doesn't have obligations to creatures. God's Goodness only means God cannot make evil a Final Cause.

      That is what the Bible says. God has no obligations to us.

      Job 41:11 & Romans 11:35-36

      Yer not gonna spread Atheism by Trolling.
      Go read some Schmid. We might take ye seriously. Cheers Willie.

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    6. WCB

      The Council of Trent and Verbum Dei (1965) both explicitly claim God authored the Bible.

      The Bible, authored by God himself, claims God is just, loving, merciful and compassionate. And God commands we are to be merciful and compassionate et al. And gives examples of what is meant by comassionate and merciful so there is no mistake about tht.

      But God is not merciful or compassionate. Arbitrarily granting grace to some, not others. Some are elect. Not others.

      There is no room here for the old "analogical" dodge. That merciful does not mean merciful, compassionate does not mean compassionate when applied to God. When your entire theology is based soley on sophistry and word games, it is a bad theology.

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    7. WCB

      Brian Davies. God owes us no moral obligations. God is not a moral agent.

      The Bible (authored by God himself) is claimed to BE merciful and compassionate. To be compassionate or merciful is to assume moral obligations.

      God is not a moral agant? If God act morally and refuses to do so, God is a moral agent. Just not a good one. Brian Davies is a poor quality theologian.

      WCB

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    8. Regardless of whether God has moral obligations to us or not , if he is compassionate, benevolent, loving, merciful etc etc then he would behave in a compassionate, benevolent, loving, merciful etc manner, and being omnipotent and unlimited this would be obvious to all. Of course this is just not the case, so certain disreputable theologens save appearances by blathering on about analogy and redefining words in whatever way is convenient to them. Your doctrine of analogy is actually a piece of infinitely stretchy elastic!
      Incidentally, it is hilarious that Son of Yakov at 8.03am tells WCB that nobody is listening to him, while of course replying to him and engaging in his usual paranoid rant about trolls! WCB is hardly a troll and always gets the better of SoY, but if he was that would make Yako the troll feeder extraordinaire as he has been trying to get the better of WCB nd calling him a troll for years!

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    9. @WCB Anon

      Being "morally good" is to be a rational being that is choosing to follow his duties and to become a good exemplar of his kind. If there is not a being with intellect and will them we can drop the "moral" and stay only with generic goodness.

      Ethics is the rational beings participation on goodness. Being capable of understanding the order and of choosing to follow it changes things and allows morality to be a thing. Since a essence can't understand nor choose, it can't be morally anything.

      Someone with a good understand of ur-platonist metaphysics should be able to grasp the distinction, my first post is not THAT bad.

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    10. Talmid

      You have defined 'goodness' in a particular way. Good for you. We can now promptly ignore you. Who cares about your tendentious definition, which ( among other things ) generates the monsterous evils of family planning using artificial birth control and consensual same sex activity, plus the wonderous good of hell for transgressors.

      Of course, the 'who cares' response is all the more powerful if your scheme is not underpinned by a God who actually gives a monkey about it! And not even Christians in general think that he does.

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    11. Talmid they are both Trolls. Assuming they aren't the same person. Dinny waste yer time man.

      Cheers.

      God is not a moral agent in the univocal way a maximally virtuous rational creature is a moral agent. God is not comparable to creatures in a univocal way but by way of analogy.

      One has to give a metaphysical and philosophically meaningful definition of good. The Gnu cannot or will not do that. Because they don't take this discussion seriously. Also none of them even study Atheist philosophy much less philosophy in general.

      Simply read their gibberish responses...Yikes..

      Delete
    12. Wow? That last Anon was me? Why didn't it autosign me? Weird....

      Delete
    13. "Who cares about your tendentious definition"

      So saying that "Being "morally good" is "to be a rational being that is choosing to follow his duties and to become a good exemplar of his kind" is "tendentious" and "generates", presumably you mean it entails, "the monsterous evils" of "artificial birth control and consensual same sex activity".

      So in particular, you agree that being rational, following one's duty and being a good specimen of human being, entails, or "generates", the moral condemnation of artificial birth control and same-sex activity.

      Good that you have named yourself FreeThinker; being free of any and all thinking, it shows an admirable self-awareness.

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    14. @Anonymous:

      WCB, you have been around these parts for far too long to be playing ignorant of the doctrine of analogy.

      Atheists are very acquainted with the doctrine of analogy. The one deployed by their master Darwin I mean, who came up with his incoherent and tautological "natural selection" concept. The "selection" that is NO selection because selection is what minds do but since nature is mindless, mechanistic, blind and dumb as rocks, she selects nothing at all. And yet this non-selection which is "selection" after all is what has given the atheist his logic and his brain, of which he feels so proud because "oh logic!", but that's absurd because how can you be proud of an intellectual toolkit that has been handed to you via the forceful and relentless process of evolution with zero merit on your part? Like, wtf?

      Delete
  28. Vincent Torley writes:

    You're assuming that every actualization of a being is a perfection which makes that being better than it would be without that actualization. This is precisely the point which I'm questioning. First, it seems doubtfully true, even for contingent beings: some actualizations (e.g. the color of a horse) seem to be ontologically neutral, making their possessor neither better not worse.

    You again appear to be using terms differently than we would which appears to be an attempt to reframe an argument instead of engaging it exactly as argued and then showing why its conclusions do not follow. “[E]very actualization of a being” is inexact. It’s “every actualization of a potency” results in being to one degree or another. Actuality, whether essential or accidental, is the consequent of raising a potency latent in a finite subject to actuality or existence. Thus, to assert that a subject can acquire accidental perfections is to assert the potency in a subject to receive them, whether or not you think that said perfections make the subject “better.” Pure and unspecified being is by definition incapable of having further actuality added to it, accidental or otherwise.

    Every accident, even essential ones, are caused to be either by constituent principles in a subject by something extrinsic, but since God is uncaused and absolute being, nothing in Him can be the result of causation because He would have to have the potency to be caused and thus not absolute. So, either God acquires an accident Himself or He is given the accident by something else. In either case, He could not receive the accident without the potency to do so.

    Second, it seems even more doubtful when applied to a necessary being, for why should a Being with unlimited power become any better by the mere decision to actualize that power in a particular way? Such an actualization would improve only the thing created (which would otherwise be nothing at all), but not the Creator.

    And at this point it seems clear that you’re not even paying attention. You don’t have to agree with me to at least understand what I am saying. Pure Act doesn’t “actualize a power” because He is fully actual. Moreover, you were arguing in favor of God’s acquiring additional properties which means that God acquires additional states of actuality which, as I’ve argued, is impossible on several levels. Pure Act cannot have further actuality added to it because in order to accrue additional actuality, it has to have the potency to accrue it, but since it is pure, it has no potency to actualize. Thus, it is unlimited, unspecified existence. If it is a act/potency composite, then it isn’t Pure Act and is therefore subject to an explanation beyond itself. And if it is argued that the subject is mostly Act with a smidgeon of potency, then Ed’s statements in Five Proofs applies—which is what we were discussing in the first place.

    It simply means that I'm fairly confident that the argument you put forward won't be a new one, and that my rebuttal of the argument will work.

    No, it means that you’re arguing in bad faith. Given your penchant for reframing a debate and using terms discordant with how classical theists use them, I’m not interested at this point in expanding the discussion to another topic. Perhaps Ed will open things up down the road where we can focus on why your arguments are so bad in your paper. For now, I think it’s obvious that you haven’t come close to showing that Ed’s argument for a First Actualizer isn’t Pure Act.

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    1. Hi Bill,

      I'll finish up here.

      I note that you have steadfastly refused to put forward an argument for a real distinction between essence and existence, without which Ed's argument that God cannot have accidents (such as thoughts and intentions) collapses. You have instead made uncharitable remarks about me (e.g. "I’m sorry, but you don’t strike me as the kind of person who is objectively looking at the matter" and "[Y]ou’re arguing in bad faith") and you have used my alleged obstinacy as an excuse for not even trying to defend your case. I suspect you know deep down that you are incapable of making your case.

      And frankly, who are you to judge me? You're decades younger than me, and (unlike me) you don't have any qualifications in philosophy. I consider your behavior impertinent.

      You argue that the First Actualizer cannot have the capacity (potency) in itself to receive perfections or to actualize perfections, as that would make it an act/potency composite in need of explanation beyond itself. Hence it must be Pure Act. I find this argument unpersuasive because it assumes that a substance can be combined with any (or all) of its accidents to make a larger composite, that needs to be held together by something outside and beyond it. While this is at least plausible for some accidents, it makes no sense for others. Nothing is needed to explain what "glues" me to my thoughts, for instance - or for that matter, what "glues" me to my bipedality (a proper accident of mine), or my rationality (an essential accident, in Scholastic terminology). The argument only works if you accept Scholastic mereology. I don't. I've criticized what I call the Accidents-in-a-Thing thesis (held by Scholastics) here: http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/window-dressing-or-is-the-god-of-thomistic-classical-theism-as-dumb-as-a-rock/#d

      You also write: "Pure Act cannot have further actuality added to it because in order to accrue additional actuality, it has to have the potency to accrue it, but since it is pure, it has no potency to actualize." Again, there's that loaded word "added."

      In a similar vein, you write: "Pure and unspecified being is by definition incapable of having further actuality added to it, accidental or otherwise." More woolly reasoning.

      Tell me: when I think a thought or formulate an intention, in what sense is my thought or intention added to me? That strikes me as a funny way of talking. And if a timeless Being has a thought or intention, in what sense is that thought or intention added to it, or even (timelessly) additional to it? You need to define your terms.

      In the end, the God you're arguing for is a God Whose Mind has no thought of you, or intention to create you - a God Whose Mind and Will would still be the same in every conceivable way, had He not decided to create you. You have a personal relationship with Him, but He doesn't have a personal relationship with you: He doesn't even have a real relationship with you. I find such a Being too anemic to love or worship. Cheers.

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  29. Part 1

    Vincent Torley finishes up:

    I note that you have steadfastly refused to put forward an argument for a real distinction between essence and existence, without which Ed's argument that God cannot have accidents (such as thoughts and intentions) collapses.

    Recall that this discussion began with your agreement with Schmid that God could be a first cause with passive potentials, and I replied that Feser addressed that objection by summarizing that an effects-to-cause argument is ultimately about existence which precludes potency in being. That is, in part, built on the essence/existence distinction. You rejected Feser’s remarks by insisting that Feser failed to show that a First Actualizer was free from all potency. However, as I replied, if the basis of Ed’s argument takes all of that into account, then it follows that the First Actualizer is Existence Itself with no potential for further existence or actuality.

    You could have simply stated, as I suggested, that if Ed’s premises are correct, then Pure Act follows, but you didn’t do that. You granted the premises to argue that the conclusion still didn’t follow. So, really, the essence/existence distinction is secondary to whether the argument, as taken, precludes potency in God. And if you will not grant the clear potency exclusion in the former, then it is pointless to discuss the latter. Why even get into whether or not essence is distinct from existence if it is irrelevant to the question of potency in your mind? That’s a question for another day.

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  30. Part 2

    You have instead made uncharitable remarks about me (e.g. "I’m sorry, but you don’t strike me as the kind of person who is objectively looking at the matter" and "[Y]ou’re arguing in bad faith") and you have used my alleged obstinacy as an excuse for not even trying to defend your case. I suspect you know deep down that you are incapable of making your case.

    But you are arguing in bad faith, so it’s not a matter of charity; it’s a matter of taking you at your word. When you state that you’ll knock down an argument before you hear it, you’re telegraphing an unwillingness to be persuaded regardless an argument’s content. That’s bad faith to a tee. I’m not interested in that kind of dialog.

    And frankly, who are you to judge me? You're decades younger than me, and (unlike me) you don't have any qualifications in philosophy. I consider your behavior impertinent.

    I’m decades younger than you? How do you know that? Is that another example of your making assumptions about a matter without proper investigation?

    I find this argument unpersuasive because it assumes that a substance can be combined with any (or all) of its accidents to make a larger composite, that needs to be held together by something outside and beyond it.

    Au contraire, Vincent. This is further evidence that you’re not paying attention. There’s no point having a discussion if you’re not going to pay attention to what the other guy is saying—even if I am “decades younger” than you. By the way, I’m not.

    What I’ve said more than once is that the acquirement of additional perfections, accidental or otherwise, necessitates a capacity in the receiver to acquire said perfections. You cannot receive what you are incapable of receiving. Thus, the subject must have the potency to acquire additional perfections which means that the subject is, by definition, a composite of act and potency. Calling that “wooly reasoning” is perhaps how you learned to refute arguments in college, right?

    Tell me: when I think a thought or formulate an intention, in what sense is my thought or intention added to me?

    In contingent being, thinking a new thought is the actualizing of a potential in your mind to contemplate an idea. It puts you into a mental state of existence you were not in previously. As a composite being, you are ordered sequentially and are bound by ever changing states of being. God is not composite and God is not bound by time. God’s thoughts are identical with God and are thus eternal. He doesn’t think of dolphins one moment then ice cream the next. Everything is present in Him as the Eternal One. Of course, if you were as knowledgeable as you claim, you wouldn’t have to ask.

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    1. Bill:

      Thanks for pointing that out. I'd also add, contra the impression VT seems to have gotten into his head, that not only does classical theism not deny that God has thoughts, but one of the classical proofs of God, the Augustinian Proof, reaches the conclusion that God must exist precisely by arguing that universal abstractions can only be coherently accounted for as thoughts in an eternal and infinite Mind. And like the other proofs of God under classical theism, that one also concludes by deducing that this Mind must have the classical attributes of God, including divine simplicity and pure actuality.

      It's also worth pointing out that what VT keeps trying to frame as a problem for classical theism specifically is actually just a puzzle in metaphysics in general.

      It's impossible to coherently deny that change and contingency are real, yet must be grounded in and derivative from something necessary. Even among atheists, this is where you get "theory of everything" quests and multiverse hypotheses from.

      But how the eternal and necessary gives existence to the changing and contingent without the contingent being necessary, non-contingent, and unchanging after all - and therefore coextensive and one with its cause - is a puzzle that is most likely "above the pay grade" of our limited creaturely faculties.

      However theism, particularly classical theism, does at least point in the direction of an answer by deducing that the Uncaused Cause must be a Mind, with Intellect and Will and thus Free Will, or rather something unfathomably greater than free will from which ours is derivative. As I pointed out in an earlier comment, how free will works even in ourselves to cause things is mysterious to us, even though it's incoherent to deny its reality. And even when we intentionally create things, our status as their creator is in a certain sense a Cambridge property.

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    2. Good words, Deuce. Anti-classical theists often complain about our complaining that they misunderstand the system, but interactions like the one with Vincent illustrate that perfectly. Why would an obviously intelligent person take it upon himself to critique a system he doesn’t understand. I give Schmid credit for at least striving to get it, but even he makes critical errors which are baffling.

      Where Vincent gets the idea that the God of classical theism doesn’t have thoughts is beyond comprehension. How a person can so confidently pronounce something false that he knows so little about is something a psychiatrist could have fun with.

      You write,

      But how the eternal and necessary gives existence to the changing and contingent without the contingent being necessary, non-contingent, and unchanging after all - and therefore coextensive and one with its cause - is a puzzle that is most likely "above the pay grade" of our limited creaturely faculties.

      Yes, it’s a toughie, but that is a question that the scholastics contemplated and tackled. They, quite correctly in my estimation, saw a distinction between absolute necessity and hypothetical or suppositional necessity. The distinction between the two is in the ground or source of a subject’s necessity in relation to its essence. A subject is absolutely necessary if its contrary entails a contradiction considered in itself. God, as necessary existence, cannot not exist. Thus, “Necessary Being does not exist” contradicts “Necessary Being exists.” Since God’s necessity is in Himself, He is absolutely necessary.

      On the other hand, hypothetical necessity in a subject, when considered in itself, does not produce a contradiction if its contrary is asserted. If a man is walking, he must be necessarily walking (and a non-walking walking man is a contradiction), but it is not a contradiction for a man not to walk. The act is necessary so long as its source is acting in that manner, but the act itself, considered in itself, is not absolutely necessary (due to its ground in another). As to creation, its nonexistence is contradictory on the supposition that God produces it, but its nonexistence is no contradiction in itself because its ground is not in itself. Given its ground in another, regardless all the necessary conditions which produce it, creation can never be absolutely necessary. Creation is always in virtue of some extrinsic condition whereas God exists in virtue of Himself. Thus, God can never depend on creation; creation must always depend on God.

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    3. Hi The Deuce and Bill,

      I'd like to clarify a couple of points, and then I really will say no more.

      First, although I quoted Schmid as suggesting that the First Actualizer could still possess passive potentialities, the model I have been defending in this exchange of views is simply that the First Actualizer possesses active potentialities, which it actualizes by choosing X rather than Y (e.g. creating this world rather than some other one). These choices are timeless, so God does not acquire any perfections thereby. Hence on the model being proposed here, there is NO sense in which God RECEIVES a perfection. (If Bill was under a contrary impression regarding the model I was proposing, then I apologize.)

      Now, Bill may try to argue that simply by being the (timeless) SUBJECT of the perfections He actualizes by creating the world, my version of the First Actualizer would still be a passive recipient of those perfections. That's a bit like saying that the Sun is PASSIVE, simply by virtue of shining. We need to distinguish two senses of "subject": (i) the subject of a predicate and (ii) subject as recipient. When the Sun shines, it is a subject in sense (i) only; hence it is not passive.

      Bill writes: "Since under Thomism, being is convertible with good, additional perfections are more goodness," and "If God could acquire additional being, then He would have to have the capacity to acquire additional being which would make Him an act/potency composite." But this assumes that (a) God's (timeless) thought of this world and His (timeless) intention to create this world are PERFECTIONS, and (b) that God's thought of this world and His intention to create this world are STATES of BEING. I would contest both (a) and (b). Why should an intention be a perfection? And why should it be a state of being?

      By the way, Bill, I quite agree that God "doesn’t think of dolphins one moment then ice cream the next," since He is eternal. That was my whole point: God is timeless.

      Bill seems to regard a thought as a "mental state of existence," which is why he cannot bring himself to impute thoughts to God. In reply: it is not at all clear to me that God's having a thought of this world or an intention to make it are states of God's existence. They're just timeless mental acts.

      Second, the Deuce argues that change and contingency must be grounded in something necessary. However, necessity alone can never generate a purely contingent state of affairs, any more than the proposition 2 + 2 = 4 can cause it to rain in Tokyo tomorrow. A necessary state of affairs can only generate a contingent effect within an already existing contingent subject.

      Necessity also requires an explanation. Any necessary truth, proposition or state of affairs is necessary only in relation to some larger system. And I would argue that a system is just a thought in an eternal and infinite Mind, and that the decision to actualize it is the choice of a personal agent.

      Thus I'm proposing that God's personal agency is more basic than either necessity or contingency. As a Personal Agent, God constitutes the Ultimate Standard by which all explanations are evaluated. Since God defines what it is to be a good explanation, it is meaningless to ask what explains His existence. Cheers to both of you.

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    4. 999 times out of a 1000 the anti-Classic Theists waste our time havering about the "god" they wished we believed in rather the God we actually believe in.

      They are like the wee Atheist Polemicist who reads every book by Richard Dawkins and every book refuting "Scientific" Creationism and then sits down to debate a random theist and becomes crest fallen when they find out he is a Theistic Evolutionist and 90% of his polemics are non-starter objections! Yeh cry me a river wee Gnus.

      I wish the anti-classic theists would stop pretending we are all Theistic Personalist/Neo-theists and argue against our view.

      Then there are the yobs who pretend the Bible teaches Theistic Personalism....ah no wrong God. The Baptists are over there mate. Have at them...

      Cheers friend.

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    5. VT:
      the model I have been defending in this exchange of views is simply that the First Actualizer possesses active potentialities, which it actualizes by choosing X rather than Y (e.g. creating this world rather than some other one). These choices are timeless, so God does not acquire any perfections thereby. Hence on the model being proposed here, there is NO sense in which God RECEIVES a perfection

      Agreed with all of this. It's all 100% in alignment with classical theism. Where the remaining disagreement seems to lie is that, I would argue, what you've said here entails divine simplicity, and all attempts to come up with counterexamples, once you tease out the implications, end up getting you back to divine simplicity.

      However, necessity alone can never generate a purely contingent state of affairs, any more than the proposition 2 + 2 = 4 can cause it to rain in Tokyo tomorrow. A necessary state of affairs can only generate a contingent effect within an already existing contingent subject.

      Necessity also requires an explanation. Any necessary truth, proposition or state of affairs is necessary only in relation to some larger system. And I would argue that a system is just a thought in an eternal and infinite Mind, and that the decision to actualize it is the choice of a personal agent.


      What you've said here is *very* similar to the Augustinian proof I referred to above, including your point that necessary abstractions like mathematical truths are causally inert on their own, hence the only way that they can plausibly be said to be causally related to the physical universe (as they undeniably are) is if it's by way of those abstractions existing in a Mind who created the universe with them.

      Incidentally, over at your site, Mike Egnor recently wrote a piece on it as well. I'd refer you to the same place he does there: Chapter 3 of Ed's Five Proofs.

      Where I'd disagree with you is the conclusion that God stands above necessity and contingency. Rather, I'd say that there are degrees of necessity, with God possessing it in an absolute way with no contingency (really, this is just another way of saying that God is all Act and no Potential).

      My being male is contingent upon and therefore less necessary than my being human, which is contingent upon and therefore less necessary than my existing, which is contingent upon and less necessary than the physical laws of this universe, which are contingent upon and less necessary than this universe's existence, which is contingent upon and less necessary than the laws of math and logic, and so on up to God, who isn't contingent upon anything.

      I think this sticking point here is that when you hear "necessary," you probably equate it with operating in an automatized, deterministic manner, the way a machine works or, analogously, the way a mathematical or logical proof works, with each step following inexorably and inescapably from the previous ones, with there being nothing like choice in the matter.

      But God's being purely necessary/actual entails that He has every power of anything that derives from him (that is to say, absolutely everything), or rather something incomparably greater from which those powers derive. So He necessarily has all the powers of things that operate deterministically, but also all the powers of rational agents like us. Since WE have a power of free will that is irreducible to deterministic automation, therefore He does too. Or rather, He has something incomprehensibly greater from which our free will is a pale shadow.

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    6. Part 1
      Vincent Torley writes:

      [T]he model I have been defending in this exchange of views is simply that the First Actualizer possesses active potentialities, which it actualizes by choosing X rather than Y (e.g. creating this world rather than some other one). These choices are timeless, so God does not acquire any perfections thereby. Hence on the model being proposed here, there is NO sense in which God RECEIVES a perfection.

      Since a potency is a capacity in something for additional actuality, what is this “something” if it isn’t God? On the classical theist model that I am defending, Feser says it well (Scholastic Metaphysics, p. 39):

      For the moment let us note that for the Scholastic, active potency is, strictly speaking, a kind of act or actuality...it is a kind of act relative to the substance possessing it, though a kind of potency relative to the action it grounds. By "potency" what is usually meant is passive potency.

      And…

      Pure active potency or power unmixed with any passive potency or potentiality is just pure actuality, and identified by the Scholastics with God; in everything other than God active potency is mixed with passive potency.

      Thus, God’s power is Act which is God Himself. The term potency in active potency, with respect to God, is just Pure Act. And, as Feser also argues, “a thing’s power to produce a certain effect has to be distinguished from its actually producing it…on pain of implicitly denying the distinction between potency and act and thus the possibility of change” (p. 58). Also, “a power must be distinct from any of its manifestations because they simply belong to different ontological categories…the manifestation of a power is a kind of event, a power is a kind of state” (p. 59). This is the kind of distinction we find in creatures. So, if this distinction were in God, He would be composite. Since God is not composite, there is no real distinction between His being and His power. And that brings us back to the question, “What is this something else that God possesses that has the capacity to be actualized?” Aquinas stated that whatever is not the divine essence is a creature, but I’m certain that you wouldn’t characterize this “something” as a creature.

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    7. Part 2
      Now, Bill may try to argue that simply by being the (timeless) SUBJECT of the perfections He actualizes by creating the world, my version of the First Actualizer would still be a passive recipient of those perfections. That's a bit like saying that the Sun is PASSIVE, simply by virtue of shining.

      I wouldn’t argue that at all, and I don’t know where you got that. If God is Pure Act, then there is nothing to actualize if He is the efficient cause of the universe. The causal power is God Himself. And it appears that you again missed my argument by your sun analogy. The sun’s shining is due to potencies in the sun to emit light. Light is, considered in itself, not absolutely necessary. Its necessity is grounded in the sun’s causal efficacy which makes it hypothetically necessary. However, the sun, in order to produce light, must actualize potencies within it to perfect or actualize the light. And that of course means that the sun has the capacity to change, that its being can be actualized in certain ways in order to produce light, which means that it is an act/potency composite. Analogized to God, that gives us a composite God as well.

      But this assumes that (a) God's (timeless) thought of this world and His (timeless) intention to create this world are PERFECTIONS, and (b) that God's thought of this world and His intention to create this world are STATES of BEING. I would contest both (a) and (b). Why should an intention be a perfection? And why should it be a state of being?

      If all that is in God isn’t God, then rationality would be part of God and would serve to define, explain and, yes, “perfect” or complete the divine picture. God would thus be dependent on something less than what He is in order to be what He is which of course means that He wouldn’t be God at all. But your retort here is actually missing pieces of the puzzle. I made those comments in response to your remarks relating to God’s actualizing His potentials. As implied above, He either possesses those potentials in Himself or He possesses something else which enables Him to exercise His creative power. But if God needs something other than Himself for causal efficacy, then He is dependent on another in some way which by definition makes Him passive.

      Why should intention be a perfection? Because to have intentionality is the capacity to act with deliberation and be directed toward something, which means that you are existing in a mental state you were not in previously. Without this capacity, intentionality would be impossible. But in order to act with deliberation or with directedness toward something, creatures must actualize their mental potencies to do so. But since God is eternal and non-composite, there is no potency to actualize. God simply IS. Does a rock have intentionality? Of course not. We have minds whereas rocks do not, thus, having mental faculties is most certainly a perfection. Moreover, humans who are comatose cannot exercise intentionality which means that incapacitated minds suffer the privation (evil) of being in their inability to actualize certain states of mental activity.

      Bill seems to regard a thought as a "mental state of existence," which is why he cannot bring himself to impute thoughts to God.

      Man alive.

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  31. WCB

    So everything is present in God's creation in God's big now. Dolphins, kittens, and cute baby bunnies. And guinea worms, river blindness parasites, liver flukes and screw worms God is eternally commanding genocides, and allowing Satan to kill Job's wife, sons, daugters, servants and livestock. And God is eternally, just, loving, merciful and compassionate. Something here seems to be eternally off with God.

    Others tell us when the Bible says merciful it really means not merciful. When the Bible reads compassionate, it means not compassionate. Just means not just. Analogically.

    The Bible is a collection of myths whose writers were not consistent, or deeply thoughtful, or coherent in their collective theological claims.

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  32. @WCB:
    It's easy to think there's something "eternally off with God", when you refuse to read what has been said about the relationship between Providence and evil. Not that the proposition that "God is eternally allowing such evils in our patch of space-time for the sake of greater goods that would otherwise be impossible" will come off as any better to you.
    Your mocking "treatment" of analogy, on the other hand, is just more evidence, along with your other comments, that you're acting in bad faith.

    Signed,
    Parádoxo

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  33. WCB

    Ahhhhh! That word analogical again. So when the Bilbe says God is merciful, it analogically means God is not merciful. And when the Bible claims God is Compssionate, analogically it means God is not compassionate. Yes, faced with the Problem Of Evil, we apply the magic word analogical and those bothersome sub-goodnesses of God are redefined away.

    Humpty Dumpty theology. Yes, when God authored the Bible, God did not know what he was talking about. Thankfully, we have sophisticated theologians to tell us what God really meant.

    These sorts of redefiniion games are intellectual nihilism. No word of the Bible means anything any more. No concept from the Bible means anything more.

    Logic and reason are banished from theology and religion.

    WCB

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    1. Yes, the stuff about analogy strikes me as being desperate too, and a case of trying to save appearances at all costs. An omnipotent being intent on communicating his nature, character and intentions to humans would hardly have failed so spectacilarly as to generate the Judao-Christian Bible, which we are meant to believe required philosophers -especially Thomist ones - to make sense of thousands of years later! To those not committed to the belief system in question the blather about analogy is , frankly, laughable.

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    2. @WCB
      "So when the [Bible] says God is merciful, it analogically means God is not merciful."
      More bad faith. That's not how the Angelic Doctor's understanding of analogy works, and you know better, considering how long you've been here.
      Your refusal to deal with the solution I offered in summary, where evils are permitted, is completely ignored.

      I've wasted enough time, and like Ben Yak'ov and the rest, I wash my hands of you.

      Parádoxo

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    3. ...argument contra the problem of evil from justified evil...John konnor...

      problem of evil axioms...

      Ax1
      (∀x)(∀y){[(Px⊃Py)∧ (Py=~E!x)] ∧ □(E!x⊃E!y)}⊃(∃x)Jx

      Ax2
      (∀x)(∀y){[(Px1⊃Gx2x1∧ (E!x1⊃E!y)]⊃(∃x)Jx}

      ...ax 1 says...

      for all x ( evils) and for all y ( goods) if the prevention of some evil entails the prevention of some good and the prevention of that good is equal in value to the non existence of the prevented evil and necessarily the existence of that evil entails the existence of a good then there exists some evil which is justified...

      ....ax 2 says ...

      For all x( evils) and for all y( goods)if the prevention of evil 1 entails a greater evil2 and the existence of evil 1 entails the existence of some good then there exists some justified evil....

      The argument:

      1) if there exists some justified evil then the problem of evil is not a problem for theism

      2) there exists some justified evil ( ax.1,2)

      3) the problem of evil is not a problem for theism ( 1,2 MP)

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    4. Of course Thomist Philosopher Father Brian Davies rejects Plantinga's solution. Some reasons I will cite randomly from memory.

      1)There is no such thing as the "Best of All Possible Worlds". Whatever world God makes He could have always made a better one. If He did make a better one than the present world He could make a still better one still.
      (BTW Heaven is not such a world. Heaven is the saved Soul beholding the Uncreated Beatific Vision. So Bob's yer uncle there is no created Best of All Possible Worlds.)

      2) God is not obligated to create any world at all or to create in the first place and would only do so motivated by Divine Charity,

      3) Since God is not obligated to create any world there is no world so good God should make it and none so bad that as long as it participates in being God should refrain from making it.

      4) God obviously because of His Metaphysical and Ontological Goodness cannot make a world whose final cause it Evil.

      5) God could make a world when all rational beings freely choose to do good and God can refrain from making any being who will freely choose evil. But again God is not obligated to make any such world or individual beings Good or Bad.

      Thus God is not obligated to make the Virgin Mary nor prohibited from making the Archangel Lucifer.

      The Bible nowhere teaches God's compassion and mercy compel Him to have obligations to creatures or to prevent them from suffering material evil or to freely choose moral evil.

      God is not a moral agent in the univocal way a maximally virtuous rational creature is a moral agent.

      No such God exists and havering about a "god" we don't believe in is tedious.

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    5. @ Son of Ya 'Kov

      I pretty well agree with everything you say.

      I don't know what you think about my infinite random number image, but believe it or not, it leads to the same thing.

      It's just a different road from modernity and its big mistakes, to the same result.

      Tom Cohoe

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    6. @WCB:

      These sorts of redefinition games are intellectual nihilism. No word of the Bible means anything any more. No concept from the Bible means anything more.

      Logic and reason are banished from theology and religion.


      May I ask you what is your creative myth? The "Matter/ Mother Nature birthed us via unguided evolutionary processes" one maybe? Because if that's your explanation for human origins, then I have some bad news for you regarding your cherished "logic and reason".

      Delete
  34. @Parádoxo
    The Troll doesn't care. He doesn't want an argument. He just wants to Troll.

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  35. You know William if you just sat down & maybe read Schmid and tried to learn his arguments like VJ you would sound more credible instead of repeating yer trolling nonsense?

    Why not do that? You could become a respectable Atheist for once in yer life?

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  36. An Atheist who wishes to attack a religion that relies on philosophical theism & is determined to remain ignorant of philosophy is about as effective as a Baptist Missionary who wants to dissuade people from believing in Evolution but is equally determined to remain ignorant of science and biology. That is neither is effective.

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  37. WCB

    When "phlosophical theism" plays wotd games it is nonsense. Yes PT has a magic word "analogical". When a given Biblical claim (authored by God himself) become rather inconvenient we utter the magic word "analogical" and pretend that is sophisticated theology. Merciful does not mean meriful, compassionate does not mean compassionate. And then the theist starts pontificating about the glories of classical theologians and theistic philosophy. But those of us who are more in the analytical philosophy camp will not play that game.

    If the philosophical theist is not going to admit that the Bible proclaims God is merciful, compassiont, just and loving, and squarely face that the doctrines of grace, election, and predestination are t.hus problematic, your theological philosophy is properly nonsense. We have at that point no need to go on to God's simplicity, God's omniscience, or anything else if all thr theoloical philosopher Thomist is going to do is play word games and torture logic and reason.

    WCB

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    1. Really William you would be far more credible a person here if you would start reading Schmid and learning his arguments instead of trolling.

      Just think you actually could challenge Classical Theism for once in yer life rather then come up with absurd ways to shoehorn yer contra Young Earth Creationist Fundamentalist Protestantism polemics into the discussion. They don't work here.
      You don't know the philosophy not even Atheist philosophy so yer just taking up space.

      Come on William. Read just a little Schmid? Try learning his modal collapse argument then maybe you might be interesting? Prof Feser might actually praise you rather then questioning yer intelligence like the last time he responded to you over some nonsense you said.

      I don't know William? I've seen yer posts on Atheist Blogs threw Disqus. You actually explain the Classic Theist view correctly more often then not among yer own kind. But among Classic Theists you mock and Troll and don't engage seriously? That is not gonna convince us. If anything it makes us feel as if Classic Theism is unanswerable.

      Why do that? Do you feel intimidated by us? There is nothing to be afraid of son. Ye a few Schmid essays away from greatness. Why would you not want to be an Atheist the rest of us take seriously?

      Instead of all this........

      > plays wotd games it is nonsense....the Bible proclaims.....

      the Bible proclaims according to yer private interpretation which the Catholic Church does not endorse. You have been told about this.

      Come on William! Read some Schmid and maybe a little Oppy.

      Be a more intellectually respectable Atheist. I know you have the brains for it. But do you have the courage and the will? We shall see....

      I am rooting for you guy.

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    2. WCB, interesting that you try to claw your way back to a more defensible objection after already tipping your hand in another comment that you aren't going to accept any sort of argument reconciling classical theism with the account of God in the Bible because you don't think the Bible presents a coherent of God in the first place.

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  38. WCB

    I have actually read Joseph Scmid, SoY. Schmid notes among other observations, no of the oh so sophisticated Thomist theolgy can be found in the Bible. He is correct.

    The problem is that the God of the Bible evolves throughout the Bible. From the very limited and anthropomorphic God of Genesis to the genocidal God of Exodus an Joshua..
    So many contradictions to harmonize, A God who commands genocides is not a merciful and compassionate God. We have the God of the prophets and the God of te Gospelsand finally Paul. A God that commands massacres and genocides is not merciful and compassionate. If we can ot admit that this is all promblematic, why bother with sophtcated theological malarky?

    Theolgians throw out nonsense like God is actus purus with no potential. So God has not potential to elimnate all the great moral evil and suffering we find in this Universe.

    The problem with debating Thomist types is the debates never can be resolved because the theist hop around from one issue to another to avoid dealing with these issues. Schmid is right to not none of these issues are Biblical . My complaint with Schmid is he lets Feser off too easy.

    WCB

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    1. >> Theolgians throw out nonsense like God is actus purus with no potential. So God has not potential to elimnate all the great moral evil and suffering we find in this Universe.<<

      God having no potentialities/being fully and automatically actual doesn’t entail that suffering and evil will never end…. That’s an egregious non sequitur.

      — Pat

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    2. Well William now yer back to "Boo Hoo! No Fair! Yer not Protestant Fundamentalists!".

      It is not a good look my son. Such a waste of the intelligence God or Evolution if ye prefer(both?) gave ye.

      I don't believe for a second you read Schmid anymore than you read Davies. Laddie skimming him so you can somehow shoehorn yer contra Fundamentalist Protestant polemics into the equation is nor gonna cut it sunshine.

      >So many contradictions to harmonize..

      We don't believe the Bible is clear or that God owes us a clear Bible to be read by individuals and interpreted privately by itself apart from Tradition & Church. It is not meant to be used that way.

      Giving us yer personal non-Catholic interpretation my son...well... ye might as well just quote the Koran at us. It is about as authoritative. Which is to say as an objection it is a non starter.

      We all explained this to you for years. Even the local Atheists over at Strange Notions tried to do that.

      But you insist on trolling. That is so sad. Come laddie. You can be a better Atheist if only ye would learn philosophy.

      >Schmid is right to not none of these issues are Biblical .

      It would be weird if he ever made such an argument. So color me skeptical. I assume he notices thousands of Protestants read the Bible and come up with contradicting interpretations and doctrines. Why should Catholics care about his non Classic Theist or theistic personalist Fundamentalist reading of Holy Writ?

      I think it is safe to say he realizes we don't. Hence the ladd knows he has to come at us with philosophy to undermine natural theology.

      Destroy the God of Classic Theism via Philosophy then who gives two sh....poops what the Bible says? I dinny.....

      You make me sad William. All that heat in Texas must have melted yer brain. You could do better and I wish you would.

      It would be fun to have an actual challenge from you for once. Instead of either giving you a condescending laugh or a hard eye roll.

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    3. "The problem with debating Thomist types is the debates never can be resolved because the theist hop around from one issue to another to avoid dealing with these issues."

      *You're* the one hopping around the issues. It's not our fault that the question "how do we reconcile classical theism with the account of God in the Bible?" presupposes that there... you know... is a coherent account of God present in the Bible. If you're going to reject that premise anyway (which, by all means, you're allowed to do as a skeptic), there's no point in doing any philosophical inquiry into biblical topics beyond that.

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    4. Son of Ya'Kov, "Destroy the God of Classic Theism via Philosophy then who gives two sh....poops what the Bible says?".
      But don't forget that revelation came before natural theology. Adam spoke with God; he didn't syllogise with Him. The Bible is the record of God talking to us and demonstrating Who's doing the talking.

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    5. No argument but contrary to the error of the Protestants the Bible is not perspicuous & or the sole rule of Faith and sole source of doctrine to be interpreted privately sans Church& Apostolic Tradition.

      That is a concept many a Gnu Atheist cannae comprehend. So their complaints about Holy Writ are all non-starter objections. The printing press is a late invention. Thus written scripture which was given long before that was never meant to be given as a single volume work for popular distribution and popular reading.

      The Gnus like the Protestants A priori assume that is what Holy Writ is meant to do. Catholic & Orthodox know better. So when it doesn't work out they complain about it to us and cannot accept the fact we agree with them.

      The Exodus for example does the Hebrew word "eleph" mean "thousand" or "Tribe" or "Officers"?

      Are there 46,500 persons from the Tribe of Ruben in Exodus or 46 clans and 500 men? Or 46 officers and 500 men?

      It is not clear...it must have been clear to the first readers but that does mean it is clear today.

      Anyway Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox presuppose the Bible isn't clear. So complaining that God didn't give us a clear text is a non-starter objection.

      Like the childish Gnu Atheist who says "The world wasn't created in the year 4004 BC!" and the Catholic Theistic Evolutionist say "Duh!".

      There is no class of non-believer more pathetic in mae view even if there are no gods. Gnu Atheism is for the intellectually inferior.

      Reason proceeds faith. Start with philosophy or forget it.

      Cheers.

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    6. Fair enough, but being human, with its animal and rational aspects, precedes faith. Whatever reason's part, faith isn't philosophy, nor is philosophy a necessary precondition for faith, no matter how useful it may be for most people. The small child that is instructed in the faith by its parents has the faith. Many hundreds of millions of Catholics have lived in an environment where the truths of the faith were not questioned any more than orbit of the earth around the sun is today. Their "philosophising" was limited to an occasional summary justification of the worth of the authority on which religion was presented. Of course, when challenges to the faith arrived, arguments upholding that authority have been more than in step with these alternatives, right up till today.

      We don't always have to imagine that we have Aristotle seated in front of us needing conversion on his terms. It's never been the usual situation when it come to conversion of nations.

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    7. @ Miguel Cervantes,

      "We don't always have to imagine that we have Aristotle seated in front of us needing conversion on his terms. It's never been the usual situation when it come to conversion of nations."

      True, Miguel, but when conversion is achieved we need philosophy to resist the attacks by heretics and atheists and to help those whom doubt begins to shake. Whenever a question, scornful or shaky is asked, we need an answer. We need to be able to show that no ammunition can defeat the faith. Read Summa, Part 1, Question 1, Article 7 (or it may be article 8).

      Tom Cohoe

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    8. True but the Gnu Atheists are the ones challenging our faith on "rational' grounds. Yet unlike the philosophically learned Atheists they insist on coming at Classic Theism and Catholicism in a manner most irrational.

      Like I said before. Imagine some fundamentalist Baptist trying to convince a bunch of Biology majors to doubt Evolution but insists on remaining ignorant of basic Science and Biology?

      The Gnus who reject philosophy as "word games" are no better.

      Cheers man.

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    9. Yes, certainly Catholics should use philosophy to defeat challenges that are philosophic or pseudo-scientific. The Church has always done this, and very successfully. In modern times though, Catholicism's arguments have been defeated by the sword, and now the levers of cultural control are in the wrong hands. So, for every atheist who more or less knows his stuff there are about a hundred thousand who make the most fideist Catholics look like St Albert the Great. My point was that philosophy isn't an essential prelude to faith; spiritual and bodily human nature and grace certainly are.

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    10. Flawless analysis Miguel. Well said.

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    11. @ Miguel Cervantes,

      "My point was that philosophy isn't an essential prelude to faith; spiritual and bodily human nature and grace certainly are."

      I agree with this fully. And yet, there's an 'and yet'.

      In my own case, the grace was a copy of The Summa falling into my hands along with the determination to make of it what I could. These things happened through the Grace of God and they brought me into the Catholic Church.

      Before that, I was nominally Protestant, fallen away from my particular denomination, believing in God, but existing in the what I call 'the agnostic hell' of wondering how I was supposed to know which of the multitude of denominations I was supposed to join. Catholicism was not even on the horizon of my conscious thought.

      After reading the Summa, I knew that the Catholic Church was what I was supposed to join (I usually think of it as just 'The Church', not 'the Catholic Church', but I want my words to be clear here).

      Furthermore, I do not doubt that many have been drawn in by the same grace that drew me.

      Read Aquinas at your peril if you do not want to end up in The Church.

      Tom Cohoe.

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    12. Thanks, Son of Ya'Kov. Don't get me wrong. As long as philosophy's place isn't ill-defined, it can never be overestimated. We all gain in our faith by some knowledge of Thomism. I've profited from the articles on this blog too. There aren't many like it.

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    13. @ Miguel Cervantes,

      I think we are in full agreement now, no ands, ifs, or buts, about it.

      Tom Cohoe

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    14. "to the genocidal God of Exodus an Joshua"

      When you read the text without thinking much, it can read that way. However, after some investigation, its clear there is more to the text than that, which clearly indicates that God didn't command genocide, in any sense that we use that term, and the Israelites didn't understand it that way, and no genocide actually occurred.

      Are you interested in knowing what the text means, or have you already decided what it says because it fits the narrative you cling to?

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  39. What is meant by the "sacrilegious buddy Christ image " ?

    Last time I checked, it wasn't wrong to imagine oneself embracing Christ, this image is actually one that lots of people rely on for comfort especially victims of abuse, the awareness that Christ who still retains his Humanity and is present with us in the midst of our suffering, suffering with us, indeed our human faculties understands only through symbols and images, no one appreciates this fact more then Catholicism, Christ himself has even appeared to us in that way post his Resurrection especially to the Saints,he has appeared as sorrowful and crying, the tears of Christ, he has appeared with his Sacred heart, he has appeared as a beggar to St Martin of Tours, then again in his dreams with the half coat, He has even appeared as a babe and played with St Anthony of Padua, Christ is depicted as embracing people all the time in sacred art.

    Ofcourse it's wrong to depict Christ as swearing.

    But that does not undermine the fact that Christ does and has always engaged us on human terms as a friend, as someone we can turn to in our weakness.

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    1. The sacrilegious image is probably seeing Our Lord as just a kind fellow who accepts we exactly how we are and do not call us to being saintly. Seeing Our Lord as no one lord. It is quite a common image nowdays.

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    2. Google the phrase "buddy Christ." It's from the Kevin Smith movie Dogma.

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