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Messages - Atno

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Philosophy / Re: A list of arguments for atheism
« on: May 28, 2020, 12:48:08 am »
I agree, but I think it's still important to have at least some tentative theodicies in case someone finds the evidential problem of evil compelling. We could always go with skeptical theism and hold that the positive case for God still makes God's existence more likely than not even if we consider PoE. But having (at least tentative) theodicies can be very helpful, especially for people who aren't as convinced of the natural theological arguments as we are.

With that in mind, I do think Pruss's blink of an eye response is the best ( combined with soul building, free will, etc.

Robin Collins also has an interesting idea (the "connection building theodicy") that is worth exploring. And there is the idea (Adams's) that those who suffer horrendous evils paradoxically gain the privilege of uniting themselves more deeply with the suffering Christ, a dignity that lasts forever (especially in blissful Heaven).

I think the problem of animal suffering might actually be more complicated than that of human pain. This is because, even though human suffering is a lot more serious, shocking and relevant than that of animals, it is much easier to come up with theodicies for humans: free will and soul building can make good sense for human beings, but not for irrational animals.
For animal pain, I think the best bet is also to believe they go to heaven (thus invoking Pruss's blink of an eye response), which (contrary to Feser) is an idea that makes quite a lot of sense to me, and seems in line with the principle of plenitude (having animals in heaven surely seems a good thing to me, something that gives glory and diversity to God's creation). I find Dougherty's idea of animal theosis (animals becoming rational, Narnia-esque creatures who can then make sense of their own past sufferings) to be a bit too radical; it certainly would raise the complexity of theism; but I am open to it as a possibility. If the Narnia view is true, then animal suffering can be given something similar to soul building theodicies, which helps a lot and would solve the problem, I think.
Without the "Narnia" solution, maybe we can make use of an ingenious "Great Story" theodicy. The idea that suffering, pain and evil actually contribute to creation being good in a similar way that they make a movie or story good, exciting, or beautiful. Evil being conquered is a beautiful thing. So long as there's heaven in the end and the victims are "compensated for" (and infinite heaven can more than make up for any finite time of pain), I find some plausibility in that idea. I often wonder that maybe the joy of heaven could even be increased with past knowledge of suffering (think of the goodness of a feeling of "relief", or forgiveness, or redemption, or survival). Animal suffering could contribute to the Great Story just like human suffering does. I really do wonder. It's not obvious to me that a possible world in which no suffering or sin EVER happens and heaven is real from the very start, would be better than a world in which suffering and sin are present in the beginning, forming a great epic which ultimately ends with eternal heaven of joy and bliss.

Philosophy / Re: A list of arguments for atheism
« on: May 22, 2020, 11:53:18 pm »
Oh, and I also wanna add that I think the Christian theist has an advantage over the bare theist when it comes to the problem of evil. Not only do I think that classical theism doesn't solve the problem, I think that something like the Incarnation and Suffering of Christ are reasonably expected, and the idea that (as Adams suggests) those who suffer horribly can be united to the Cross of God is very attractive to me. I think this is a good philosophical argument for Christianity.

Philosophy / Re: A list of arguments for atheism
« on: May 22, 2020, 11:49:28 pm »
Yes, I do think we need an explanation that gives us a moral reason for why God would allow such a thing. I am 100% in agreement with Swinburne and the "personalists" on this (and classical theists, of course). I think Davies' and Hart's responses are wholly inadequate, and I've tried to explain why I think this is the case.

I have yet to watch that video, but I have heard Koons speak briefly on the subject before, and it was something to the effect that God's creation of the world ex nihilo was so removed from our experience etc. that we could not judge it properly, etc. I agree only to the extent that the question invites a healthy skepticism, but I still side with Pruss and other theodicists.

I mention Koons's argument, I have read it. My question is whether an Aristotelian atheist dualist could avoid it. Which is a curious question (at least prima facie, I think we could have "stupid" intellects under atheism)

Philosophy / Re: PSR and the Gap Problem
« on: May 22, 2020, 11:34:04 pm »
This is the main thing for me. I think the First Stage of cosmological arguments is pretty much undeniable; Second Stage is where debate is more interesting.

My favorite arguments are the following:

1- by the PPC (and those who accept PSR tend to accept PPC), the First Cause must have the perfections of all possible contingent things. That includes the perfections of Intelligence, Consciousness, Personhood, etc. So the First Cause is personal;

2- combine the cosmological argument with a broad range of teleological arguments. Basically, the cosmological argument tells us that there is a Foundational Cause of all reality. What is striking in this first stage is "that it is, not how it is" (the universe) as Wittgenstein would put it. But surely the "how it is" and "what it is" of contingent reality is also relevant. The First Cause has produced, and maintains in existence, an orderly universe, with regular natural laws, life, intelligent and conscious beings, beauty, a moral landscape, religious experiences, etc. Inductively or abductively it seems very plausible that the First Cause is personal;

3- Josh Rasmussen's argument from perfection and modal continuity. Look up Josh and Chris Weaver's "why is there anything" article. The basic idea is that it would be arbitrary and absurd for the Necessary Foundation to have any limitation in greatness or power (incl. Knowledge etc). We have defeasible reason to believe the First Cause is the greatest possible being.

Those are my 3 favorite arguments.

Philosophy / Re: Necessary indeterminate matter?
« on: May 22, 2020, 11:23:01 pm »
There are multiple problems with a material necessary foundation; one of which is necessitarianism (why should this particular arbitrary universe have to exist?). An indeterministic material cause would avoid this problem, sure. But there are other problems with a material necessary cause. And this position in itself is a cost, as it significantly raises complexity (and a truly random, indeterministic impersonal first cause seems very strange), if it's even possible (non-free indeterministic action is controversial, especially a global action which could create universes)

Philosophy / Re: A list of arguments for atheism
« on: April 29, 2020, 08:45:38 pm »
Yes, Rasmussen is one of my favorite philosophers at the moment. He's relatively easy to reach and talk to, as well.

Dominik, I still can't make sense of that "theism" you're suggesting wouldn't have problems with the PoE. It seems to me that, in the attempt to dissociate God from criteria human moral goodness, we end up dissociating him from all goodness, or at the very least from any notion of "moral goodness" which makes sense to us. If the later, that is also problematic because I would argue that (here in agreement with Hart) to be beyond good and evil (even our understanding of it) just is to be evil. A God who, for instance, doesn't need any morally sufficient reasons to permit a child to suffer horribly is evil or deficient. 

I do think that evil is a privation of goodness, but that does nothing to weaken my position. Moral evil is a violation of moral laws, and we know (or I believe we know) facts/evils which ought to be repugnant and antagonic to any ideal rational observer. Since God is an ideal rational observer, he must oppose evils, and that leads to the problem of evil.

If a being is intelligent and rational - in any way - then he ought to know facts like "an innocent person should not gratuitously suffer horribly", "people are not to be tortured for fun", and so on. These are facts based on the intrinsic natures of the beings involved, in the natural law which ultimately is founded on the eternal law. God cannot possibly will for people to be tortured for fun; he cannot be indifferent to it, either. He cannot be indifferent, and, having the means to stop, must do so. Unless that God were quite literally stupid or irrational, incapable of grasping simple truths and acting accordingly, which is absurd.

Do you think God could possibly create a world that consisted of nothing but children being horribly tortured forever? And if so, do you think such a God could still be considered "good" in gratuitously providing Being to such a world? That seems clearly absurd to me. If the horrendous world is impossible, we are already placing God in a moral context that is analogous to our understanding of morality. I think that's inevitable.

To me, every rational agent (possessing Intellect and Will) is a moral agent by its own nature. And we know enough about morality to know that any rational agent should recognize that "torturing people for fun is wrong" and is to be avoided and shunned. God is a rational agent. So God is a moral agent and should also recognize moral truths and act accordingly. In fact, as the ground of all being, rationality, and natural law, God cannot fail to recognize and act accordingly to moral truth. To suggest God could possibly allow an innocent child to be tortured for no reason whatsoever is as insane as saying that God could desire to create square circles or feel frustration over not being able to create married bachelors, etc.

So it is quite simple to me. Consider any example of a horrendous evil. If God can tolerate such an occurrence without any morally sufficient reason (MSR as traditionally understood in standard theodicies), then either 1) God is irrational or non-rational, or 2) that horrendous evil really is not some kind of universal evil after all (i.e. our moral knowledge is completely wrong). I think 2 is unacceptable. You can accept 1, however, and maintain that the Necessary Cause is not rational, but I wouldn't call that theism anymore.

I see no way around this. To adopt Davies's line, either we have to become radically revisionistic about our moral knowledge and hold that a horrendous evil is NOT something universally repugnant that any *ideally rational being* would/should seek to oppose; OR we have to turn God into some effectively irrational being which is indifferent towards that which any ideal rationality would oppose.

Philosophy / Re: A list of arguments for atheism
« on: April 29, 2020, 01:01:20 am »
I don't think so. I think theism as a whole would be compromised, since I agree with Samuel Clarke in thinking that if the Necessary Being is personal/intelligent, then it must be good. How could it even make any sense for a being to be intelligent but indifferent towards the good? That would constitute a limitation, a form of irrationality. If a being is intelligent, rational, then it must care about goodness and fittingness, and must in fact desire the good.

If the Necessary Being is personal, but doesn't care about or desire things to be good and fitting, then the Necessary Being is stupid, which is absurd. How and why would it be stupid or have such a limitation/lack of perfection? It would be deficient, less than purely actual, limited, etc.

And if the Necessary Being is not personal, then all perfections associated with personhood (such as intelligence, will, consciousness, etc) would have magically come into being from nothing. We don't secure the intelligibility of being after all. The source of existence must also be the source of perfections, otherwise we would have a case of a reality (such as intelligence) coming into being from nothing. Plus all the other arguments we have for attributing intelligence, will, etc. to the First Cause.

Thus the Necessary Being must be intelligent (in fact, it must be omniscient). But if it is to be omniscient, it must know moral truths, natural laws, etc; it must in fact desire the good and reject evil, and given that there is no ignorance, weakness or any other imperfection in the First Cause, it must be morally perfect.

So the problem of evil is indeed an argument against theism in general. And a powerful argument, in fact, as I think Davies's and Hart's "classical theist" response is almost entirely useless. Some theodicy must be true. Still, even without knowing any theodicy, one can (and should, I think) still find the positive case for God's existence to be more compelling than the problem of evil.

Philosophy / Re: A list of arguments for atheism
« on: April 28, 2020, 04:11:43 pm »
I don't see the point in responding to every single argument there, especially since a lot of them are very weak and many are variations of the same ideas. But here's my assessment:

1- I think the problem of evil is by far the strongest argument the atheist has to offer. And most arguments in the list are really just variations of it. I differ from most people here in thinking that Brian Davies's and Hart's responses (as I understand them; I haven't read their books, but people have presented their ideas to me, I have read excerpts, did some research, etc., and don't think my opinion would change) are almost entirely useless. I think the defenses and theodicies we find among contemporary analytic philosophers, including "theistic personalists", are 1000x better and even necessary. God is not wholly unlike a virtuous person; if there is to be at least an analogy between God's goodness and ours, we need to assume God has intelligible morally sufficient reasons for allowing so much evil and suffering. And with that in mind:

A) It is always important to approach theism on the basis of the totality of evidence. In other words, we can grant that the problem of evil is really bad and in fact lowers the probability of theism. But that's not the whole story, for we also have positive arguments for theism. And I think the positive case for God's existence is a lot stronger, so as to be compelling and even withstand the attack of PoE and still swamp it out. Evil lowers the probability of theism, but still, the existence of contingent things, order, consciousness, goodness, etc. gives us a much stronger overall case for theism;

B) We can, in any case, weaken the problem of evil. In my opinion, the best response is Alexander Pruss's "blink of an eye" response (google it) combined with a host of theodicies. For all we know, an infinite afterlife can more than make up for, sublimate, etc., any evils we suffer in our finite existence here. And to this we add the Free Will defense; the soul building theodicy; and more;

C) If horrendous evils are still a problem, an explicitly Christian response (like that of Adams in her book on horrendous evils) may be required. The fact that God entered the picture through Jesus Christ, and suffered so much, can be a game changer. Those who suffer horribly in this life can be united in a special way to the suffering Christ God, converting pain into a love and dignity that lasts forever;

D) Animal suffering can still be a specific problem requiring specific responses. We might adopt a few ad hoc ideas (Pruss thinks it plausible that God removes the qualia of pain from animals in some situations), or we can adopt a radical response, such as Trent Dougherty's in his book on animal pain. Dougherty argues that God might transform every animal into a rational, Narnia-esque being in the afterlife and that their sufferings here may therefore be given a value similar to that in soul-building theodicies.

Of course, in any case, there is skeptical theism and we can choose to take a hit and keep moving; while the problem of evil can be a good atheistic argument, we nevertheless have stronger reasons to believe in God. And personally, I find theodicies very plausible - blink of an eye, soul building, free will, the religiously-inspired ones; I even find some plausibility in the radical animal theodicies. I don't think the amount of suffering we see is clearly incompatible with theism, I think it can make a lot of sense that God would choose to create a world like this.

2- Argument from hiddenness I take to be a weaker version of the problem of evil. There can be value in discovery; in being sorta in the dark and even having doubts; in having to dedicate oneself to studying a metaphysical issue such as God's existence; etc;

3- Arguments from materialism I find particularly weak. I'm very convinced that dualism is true and I think it is very strong evidence for theism; there are perfections of immaterial consciousness, intelligence, reason, will, etc., and there must be a source for them. Personhood must come from a foundational Person. And even if materialism were true animal, multiple realizability could allow for intelligence to be material in humans but immaterial in God;

4- Problem of material causation I find quite weak. A theist could be open to biting the bullet with a few caveats, as Rasmussen does in his dialogue with Leon. In any case, I think the idea that matter is a perfection to be very implausible; matter is just a limitation, an act of existence intrinsically limited to spatial location, extension, temporal change, etc., so an immaterial (more perfect) being can create a material (less perfect) being. Moreover the Kalam might refute such an argument;

5- Incoherence arguments I don't take too seriously.  I am not convinced of any particular arguments for omni-God being incoherent, I think there are good responses in the literature for all of that. But if a theist is convinced that even a suitably defined omnipotence/omniscience/etc is incoherent, they can bite the bullet and instead adopt Yujin Nagasawa's Maximal God thesis. God just is the Maximal, metaphysically consistent and possible set of Power, Knowledge and Goodness. If a being can't be omniscient, still there can be a maximally knowledgeable being, and ao on.

The rest of the arguments I just find very weak. I don't think any of that even comes close to the cogency and power of theistic arguments; that we need God to explain Being, Consciousness, Order, Value, etc.

I'll just offer some recommendations which I think are helpful:

"How Reason Can Lead to God" by Joshua Rasmussen. I think this is the best popular-level defense of theism out there. The most important theistic argument is there: there must be a Necessary Foundation behind all contingent reality, and this Necessary Foundation must be personal, intelligent, good, perfect, etc. in order to best account for the way contingent reality is (the existence of minds and mental properties; value and goodness; reason; order, life; etc).

"Scholastic Metaphysics" by Edward Feser covers a lot of ground. It's particularly nice for a discussion of causal principles and PSR which are very important for apologetics, but everything else is good, too.

"Philosophy of Mind" by Edward Feser. I consider this to be the best introduction to philosophy of mind out there.

"C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea" by Victor Reppert. Easy to read defense of the argument from reason.

"The Soul" by J. P. Moreland is a nice and brief discussion and defense of the soul. Of course, dualism is very relevant for arguing that the First Cause of reality must be a mind.

"Mind and Cosmos" by Nagel. Though his attempt at an atheistic "solution" fails, Nagel is great at bringing out the problems with naturalism.

"The One and the Many" by W. Norris Clarke. It's a great book that covers a lot of metaphysics. Clarke was brilliant and very unique with his own brand of existentialist, personalistic thomism.

"Experience of God" by David Bentley Hart. A very good defense and exploration of the reasoning and intuitions behind the traditional arguments for God's existence.

"The Rainbow of Experiences" by Kai-Man Kwan. I consider this to be one of the most important philosophy books written in recent years. It is a critique of foundationalism (more correctly, of a narrowly empiricist foundationalism. I am a foundationalist myself, but I accept phenomenal conservatism). In short, Kwan argues that the correct epistemology would have us trusting and taking seriously our experiences, especially those that are common throughout the history of mankind - a "hollistic empiricism" which respects not only our sense experience and immediate rational faculties, but also our interpersonal, moral, aesthetic, religious experiences, and more. Kwan argues that once we take seriously the "rainbow of experiences" we have a powerful argument for theism from experience.

Philosophy / Re: Gods knowledge and the senses
« on: February 28, 2020, 08:21:39 pm »
Matter is not a perfection, it is a lesser form of being. One way to understand it is as an act of existence that is so little unified that it becomes extended and limited to space. Aristotelians also consider matter to be pure potentiality, just that which receives different forms in composition and cannot exist by itself.

If matter were a perfection, however, then God would have to have it in some way. This might be compatible with theism in some way. But I don't think matter is a perfection.

Potency is, obviously, just a limitation on being. It is not a perfection, it is less than actual. Something cannot give more than it has, but it can definitely give less than it has. Potential things are just these limited, finite things that are less than perfectly actual and powerful.

Philosophy / Re: Gods knowledge and the senses
« on: February 28, 2020, 06:20:40 pm »
Thee are some very complicated questions.

I'm on record saying that the Aristotelian-Thomistic view helps us with qualia, but doesn't really solve the hard problem of consciousness. That is, qualitative forms and the power to have first person subjective experience of these qualitative forms (consciousness) still seems like a sui generis perfection that transcends the body in a way.

Anyway, I'd say God does know what it's like to see red. He is, after all, the ultimate cause of minds and of red things, so He does have knowledge of that. He has that perfection. Per the PPC, there is something like consciousness in God. But it is a far more perfect consciousness; unlimited and unchanging. As humans, we cannot imagine it (though we might be able to conceive of it), sorta like having all possible qualia all at once. But God's knowledge of propositions is also unimaginable to us - somehow God knows all possible propositions, try to imagine that. We can't.

God perfectly knows all things, but is not affected by them. We cannot imagine that, but that doesn't make it false or impossible (we can't really imagine a tesseract either, it blows our mind, but we know it's perfectly consistent).

God knows things by being their cause. Since all things ultimately trace back to God, all things are in a way present in God - in His knowledge and powers.

Now, in these complicated metaphysical issues, knowing *that* is more important than knowing *how*, and we don't need to know *how* something plays out in order to know *that* it plays out. So I personally don't even bother much with specifying "how" God knows or does this or that. What matters is knowing *that* God knows this or that, in a way infinitely superior to our imaginations.

And we can know that. By PPC, God must have all possible perfections of things in Himself, in at least the same degree of ontological perfection, or in a higher way. It seems consciousness is a perfection. So God has consciousness and these powers, or something even greater.

And as I said, I don't think consciousness is limited to the senses, or even that the senses can reduce qualitative experience. So the fact God doesn't have sense organs would be quite irrelevant for his conscious power.

I also agree that there is a conscious experience connected with thoughts, which is another immaterial aspect of consciousness. We can be conscious of completely abstract forms, such as the concepts of humanity, logic, numbers, catness, being, etc. David Oderberg himself argues that there is a phenomenology of reason, such as a difference between doing algebra and calculus.

God must have all those perfections, but without any of the limitations characteristic of our finitude.finitude

Philosophy / Re: Feser on Paleyen Design Arguments
« on: February 25, 2020, 11:44:03 am »
It is perfectly possible to have both immanent teleology and intelligent design arguments. Though I'm not particularly a fan of ID (I don't really know much about it, to be honest, just don't have much of an opinion on it), it would just be a matter of probabilities. Immanent teleology doesn't alter, for instance, the fine tuning argument. Neither does it have to alter biological complexity arguments; the matter is just whether the immanent teleology we have alters the probabilities significantly or not (seems like it doesn't).

For a thomistic defense of ID, check out Robert Koons's article, just google robert koons intelligent design, you should find it

Philosophy / Is there an argument for theism from intuitions and knowledge?
« on: February 20, 2020, 06:34:24 pm »
There are many arguments to the effect that if human beings and the world hadn't been designed by an intelligent God, it would be improbable for us to have gotten reliable cognitive powers beyond those necessary for survival. The most famous such argument is Plantinga's EAAN. Rob Koons defends an argument from intuition against naturalism, which is pretty much the same but involves intuition rather than knowledge in general.

Basically, we have reliable intuitions (about metaphysics, number theory, ethics, etc), and this would be surprising under naturalism, but not under theism.

Could an Aristotelian dualist avoid such an argument? Of course, it's possible to make an argument for God as the best explanation of dualism and souls etc., but I am bracketing this here. Would there still be a theistic argument from the reliability of our intuitions and cognitive functions?

For the Aristotelian, the intellect grasps things themselves, including their modal properties. Would this mean that any intellect, by virtue of being an intellect, would have intuitions about metaphysics, ethics, mathematics, etc?

It seems to me possible that there is a possible world with beings like us, but with a different form which gave them rationality and the power to grasp universals and all the rest, except that they do not have the intuitions we normally have about ethics, metaphysics, and so on. Their intellects are capable of reasoning and grasping ideas, but are not naturally gifted at discovering intuitive truths such as we are. It seems, after all, there is something surprising about how our minds are able to know so much.

If this goes through, then the fact we have generally reliable intuitive knowledge of so many areas would support theism.

Philosophy / Re: The Necessity of Creation, Revisited
« on: February 20, 2020, 12:00:31 pm »
One rule of thumb to follow in philosophy is to always check out what Alexander Pruss has written on the subject.
Read Pruss's article on Divine Simplicity, and some of his work on modal collapse in his articles about leibnizian arguments, psr etc

Philosophy / Re: Foundationalism in Epistemology?
« on: February 20, 2020, 11:52:36 am »
I'm the one who recommended Kai's book, and I agree that he makes important criticisms. But I'm also a convinced foundationalism. I believe foundationalism is the way to go, but it must be a foundationalism that is open to basic beliefs, Moorean-Reidian common sense, and phenomenal conservatism.

I'm a very strong proponent of phenomenal conservatism - which is a principle similar to, but stronger than, Kai's principle of critical trust.

All our beliefs must be ultimately grounded on some basic, non-inferential beliefs which we can somehow sense to be true, which we accept with "critical trust". These basic beliefs are not limited to just logic or our sense experiences. They must include the whole rainbow of human experience- aesthetic experience, moral, religious, interpersonal, and so on.

To me, if P seems to S to be true, that gives S some justification to believe that P.

You might enjoy reading Michael Huemer's "Skepticism and the Veil of Perception", it's an important book on epistemology.

Philosophy / Re: Two Books by Barry Miller
« on: January 21, 2020, 04:37:41 pm »
I really wish someone could summarize Barry Miller's arguments for the distinction and his view on it; as well as his argument that existence is a rich property which includes everything about a being and thus that a being of pure existence has all perfections, etc.

Someone *really* needs to summarize it. I just don't have the time to go through his whole work just to find out about that.

Philosophy / Re: A Newbie to philosophy asks a question!
« on: January 03, 2020, 12:34:21 pm »
I don't think that theists can define God in "any way" that suits them. I myself am committed to a more thomistic understanding of God, but much of it would overlap with common understandings of God.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you do  not need to fully and perfectly understand or comprehend a concept in order to use it meaningfully.

Most people share a common, intuitive understanding of what "God" means. They don't think it is literally an "invisible old man on a cloud" or anything silly like that. Rather, the common, intuitive idea of what God is supposed to be would be something like that:
'The Creator of the universe and all contingent reality... an Eternal, Necessary, Uncaused, Self-Sufficient, Immaterial, Spaceless, Intelligent, Wise, Good, Personal Creator... All-powerful, all-knowing, benevolent..." etc. This understanding is good enough, for starters. Philosophical arguments can establish the existence of such a being.

For example:

Leibnizian and Thomistic Cosmological arguments (they show there is a First Cause of reality, and it is Necessary, Purely Actual, Self-Sufficient and Eternal. It is also immaterial, since material beings are contingent, dependent, etc. The First Cause is also very powerful, intelligent because of various different arguments, etc. So, God);
The Kalam Cosmological Argument (shows there is an Eternal creator of the physical universe. It is immaterial since it is outside of space and time. It is immensely powerful. Also plausibly personal because of different arguments. So, God);
The Fine-Tuning Argument (shows there is an intelligent mind behind physical reality who favored order and life; it is immensely powerful since it governs physical laws; it is immaterial since it basically transcends the universe and controls it, etc. So, God);
Arguments from Consciousness and Mind (shows there is an immaterial Creator of our minds and consciousness, etc. Plausibly God, again);
Moral arguments (shows there is a Perfect, Transcendent being who is the ground of all goodness and ordained reality and moral laws, etc. Basically God, again).

And so on.

So, despite whatever disagreements there might be, there is a common, intuitive understanding of what "God" is, and it is the sort of being whose existence can be reached through different arguments of natural theology.

I recommend you to read some introductory books on this subject. If I may recommend, check these out:

"How reason can lead to God" by Joshua Rasmussen. This book is really, really great. It is very didactic. The writer is an expert professional philosopher and the whole book is an extended argument for the existence of God. Please give it a try and read it carefully, you will enjoy it.

"Who designed the designer?" by Michael Augros. This book is very simple, and also very didactic. It defends a classical thomistic argument for the existence of God. Also give it a shot, you will really enjoy it if you read it with good attention.

These two books are very simple and easy to read, and pack a lot of content.

Philosophy / Re: The Argument from Fine-Tuning and Thomism
« on: December 07, 2019, 12:40:14 am »
Just read essences into laws whenever "laws" shows up. The laws are grounded in the essences of things, so the argument instead becomes "why do we get these things, whose powers are life-permitting, instead of these other things, whose powers and activities would not be life-permitting?". Literally nothing changes. We just have a grounding for the laws now, but what the FT argument is concerned with is with the probability of these laws being the case - if we accept a thomistic view, then probability issue is simply moved to the existence of the particular lawmakers/essences which ground the laws. So, nothing changes, basically.

Except if a weird objection can be made. I think someone could perhaps object that there could be no two essences that were exactly alike in every aspect except for A having a difference X and B having a difference Y. The differences would have to follow from the rest of the essence, so as a result there could perhaps be no different values for constants and so on.
But I think this would actually be a very bad objection, since 1) the difference could also come from an external cause, and not from the essence itself. Human beings for example, I believe, are only rational because God decided to give us rationality; the power of a rational intellect does not follow from the rest of our bodily powers, obviously. Only in a First Cause that is necessary by itself would it be the case that every essential property would have to be intimately connected and not have any external cause; 2) it seems, in any case, that there is no necessary connection between the laws and the constants having the specific values that they do; 3) it also seems that it should be possible for there to be different laws like that, or at least other substances that are very alike but which have some differences, such as a water-like substance that boils at 101 C, etc.

So I think thomism makes no difference whatsoever to the fine tuning argument.

Philosophy / Re: A Question on the Types of Actualizations
« on: November 25, 2019, 12:55:52 am »
I am super tired and lazy right now, but I'll just give you some 2 cents:

You do not need to perfectly understand how act/potency (or any other metaphysical category, for that matter) would apply to any specific situation in order to see its truth and most general applications. Act and potency is a way of structuring the phenomena of change, dependency, and contingent existence. We know there are contingent things; dependent things that do not have to exist in themselves, and are therefore dependent on other things in order to be real. This can be described through act and potency in a way that is simple to grasp by our minds, even if it happens to not be a perfect description of every situation (Aquinas himself maintained that creation is not a change, but heck, do you really not see what the Aristotelian proof is trying to establish with act and potency? Things around us do not have to exist; they are dependent on other things; they do not exist by their own nature, they are not actual in themselves, they are conditioned by other things - but there must be an unconditioned first being that is entirely self-sufficient. Act and potency is just a way of cashing out this basic insight, which can also be captured or described with other concepts - such as neoplatonic ideas of unity and composition; Aquinas's real distinction of essence and existence; logical categories of contingency, dependency and necessity, etc).

It is pretty neat to work out the metaphysical details of what exactly is going on in the world, but you do not have to have the picture completely figured out before you can see what it is and it's more general features. There are things whose reality is a matter of being actualized by other external actual things, but the totality of things cannot be like that, so there must be one which is purely actual in a self-sufficient way, etc.

Philosophy / Re: First Cause's uniqueness and intellect
« on: November 25, 2019, 12:40:16 am »
It seems to me pure actuality needs uniqueness in order to be established, so it is not very helpful to use pure act to establish uniqueness. Because someone might consider the first cause to be purely actual w.r.t. existence but not w.r.t. some other property it might have. And if there are multiple first causes, all actualities can be traced back to different first causes without any single one of them having to be absolutely purely actual. Say, having something whose essence is EXISTENCE PLUS INTELLIGENCE, purely actual for both but potential for other things, and another whose essence is EXISTENCE PLUS FIRE (or whatever).
So we might first need Avicenna's argument that there would have to be some explanation for why NECESSARY EXISTENCE is combined with INTELLIGENCE in one case but with FIRE in another.
I am more confident in Avicenna's argument now, in any case. If necessary existence is not necessarily combined with all other essential properties of a thing, it would be unintelligible why this specific combination would exist, and in any case it would appear arbitrary to have N1 have properties1 essentially while N2 would have some further properties2 essentially, etc.

I don't know how to respond to your second argument, but it still doesn't seem entirely right to me - maybe because I am considering ex hypothesi the possibility of an unintelligent immaterial cause with many forms (as powers to create such and such).
But now that I'm thinking about it, maybe the argument can be understood in a manner similar to the fifth way. This is still quite obscure in my mind, but consider: the First Cause has multiple forms in itself, the forms of all possible effects it can cause. But if these forms exist merely as causal tendencies (like with the match and fire), how are they really able to affect anything? With the match and fire example, Aquinas seems to think the final cause of fire must somehow be real before it can direct the match's efficient causal act. The final cause must be doing some work, must somehow be connected with the efficient cause. But if the final cause is simply understood as the result of an efficient cause, then it will be dependent on the efficient cause, but the efficient cause cannot specifically produce the final cause unless the final cause is first real in some sense. In short, there is a vicious circle here: final cause can direct efficient cause if it somehow is real; final cause can be real only if efficient cause somehow produces it; efficient cause can produce it only if it is directed to it. In order to avoid the vicious circularity, Aquinas posits that the final causes must first exist in an intellect, abstractly. The same could be the case with the First Cause - how can it be directed to any specific form, as in a causal tendency, if this form's existence would itself depend on this tendency? The form must therefore exist in a more robust way, but since it cannot do so as an instance, it must do so as a concept.
Another path would be to focus on the universality of abstract forms. The first cause must be the cause of all possible effects and instantiations of all possible forms. So it must have these forms in itself not in any particularized way, but as a universal. But what has a form specifically as a universal just is an intellect.

I just thought of these arguments right now, I don't know how I feel about them. They seem somewhat plausible and attractive to me, but they're very complex and I'd have to think a little more.

Bonus point: just thought I'd mention it, but there is a very simple way to argue for the uniqueness of the First Cause if you reject actual infinities. The argument goes back at least to Brentano.
Basically: either there is only one first cause, or a finite multiplicity of first causes, or an infinite number of first causes. An infinite number is impossible (if actual infinities are rejected). A finite multiplicity would be arbitrary (why exactly 829 first causes instead of one more or less?). So it is only one.

Philosophy / First Cause's uniqueness and intellect
« on: November 08, 2019, 10:53:12 am »
1- Why exactly can there only be one First Cause, and no more than one?
I am familiar with the argument. The basic idea is that if there were a multiplicity of necessary First Causes, they must be differentiated by some property which one has and others lack. Let's say A has X and B has Y. A and B cannot have been caused to have X and Y; since it is what differentiates them, they must have such properties essentially. So it is of the essence of A to have X, and of the essence of B to have Y.
But in this case, what is the problem? It just is a necessary fact that A has X and B has Y. They are different essences; A is the kind of being which necessarily exists and has X and B is the kind of thing which necessarily exists and has Y. What is the problem here?
I assume the argument is that "but A and B would at least be part of the same genus, that of being a necessarily existing thing. And there must be some explanation for why necessary existence is combined with X in A's case, but combined with Y in B's case". This would surely be the case in a Neoplatonic Argument, but unfortunately I do not quite share the Neoplatonic intuition that every single case of composition must have a cause. At least, as of now, it is not so strong an intuition for me - if it is a necessary fact that A must include X as part of its essence, I don't feel too pressured to explain it.
Someone could still argue that "well, but A and B differ *only* in the fact that A has X and B has Y. This means there is no necessary connection between X and and the rest of A's essence, and Y and the rest of B's essence, so it would be impossible for A and B to have X and Y essentially like that". That's better, I can see some plausibility here. But I guess my problem is that over time I might have developed too platonic a view of essences. Just like "well, but it just is the nature of A to include X. A is necessary existence plus X". I would probably agree that there must be some explanation though, since X does not follow from the rest of A's essence. So I can accept the argument; I just wish it were a bit clearer for me. (I tend to accept uniqueness on the basis of epistemic simplicity; the idea that there would be an infinity of First Causes, each with some necessary limit not shared by others, seems much messier and more complicated than positing just one limitless First Cause).
Does anyone have any comments? I actually do find the argument plausible, when I think about it; I just wish it could be clearer.

2- This is a more complicated case. Why think the First Cause (or group of first causes) has Intellect? There are many reasons why (the First Cause is also ultimately the cause of intellects/minds; we can also combine teleological arguments to say the First Cause probably is intelligent; etc), but I am talking about Feser's argument in Five Proofs. The idea is that, by the principle of proportionate causality, all effects must somehow be present in the First Cause. But why think this entails that all effects are in the First Cause the way forms are in an intellect? A match produces fire, it has the effect in itself virtually. It has a causal power to bring about fire. The First Cause can ground all effects in itself formally, virtually, or eminently. But why assume it does that the way a mind grounds a form/idea, instead of the way matches house fire? The First Cause has a causal power to bring about all kinds of contingent substances and forms. This is what we can know. Why should we favor "all effects are in the First Cause the way forms are in an intellect" over "all effects are in the First Cause the way effects are in the powers of inanimate objects"? Why does PPC itself (not talking about the origin of our finite minds specifically) lead to an intellect, instead of just a standard "it has the power to create all things"?

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