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Moral Relativism, Conscience, and G.E.M. Anscombe

G.E.M. Anscombe

What should we make of the proposal that there's no such thing as objective morality, that morals are just determined by cultures or by individuals? That's what I'd like to address in this post. I specifically engage the cultural relativism advocated by Ruth Benedict, who claimed that “good” and “evil” are socially determined. I argue instead for the moral absolutism advocated by the British Catholic analytical philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe (G.E.M. Anscombe).

This post will proceed by considering the appeal of, and arguments for moral relativism; the arguments against moral relativism; and the interplay between moral relativism and Anscombe's moral philosophy on the question of conscience.

The Appeal of Moral Relativism

 
The rise of moral relativism is closely related to the process of globalization. In earlier times, when individuals were exposed primarily or exclusively to their own cultures, it was easy to imagine that one's culture's morals simply reflected morality. The spread of Christianity throughout Europe (and Islam throughout much of the rest of the world) had a similarly homogenizing effect on morality: pagan mores gave way to an Abrahamic moral code that held largely intact from one nation to another. What was immoral in France was likely immoral in Scotland, Spain, and Switzerland as well. This moral uniformity lent itself strongly to the suggestion that these mores reflected the natural law, that these were objective rules of morality existing apart from any particular culture.

As Christianity's influence on European and North American culture waned, this uniformity began to break down. Simultaneously, anthropologists, sociologists, and historians began to examine cultures with moral systems dramatically distinct from, and even diametrically opposed to, Christian culture. For example, anthropologist Ruth Benedict argues against moral objectivity by telling stories about the (allegedly) paranoid and violent culture on Dobu island in northwest Melanesia, a culture that she described as treating violence as acceptable, while ostracizing the kind and helpful.1 In the light of these alien moral codes, what had once looked like common-sense moral rules reflecting a universal human consensus now appeared to be arbitrary social conventions. The cultural relativist argues on this basis that the notion of an objective and transcultural morality is illusory.

Instead, the argument goes, we must learn to value tolerance, since to insist upon Christian morality would be an arrogant imposition of our own culture. Certainly, the morals on Dobu seem barbaric and evil, but Benedict argues that “the very eyes with which we see the problem are conditioned by the long traditional habits of our own society.”2 That is, we see Dobu morality as wicked because we approach it with Western eyes. They would likewise see Western morality as wicked, given their own cultural formation.

The Problem with Moral Relativism

 
Without question, G.E.M. Anscombe, whose adherence to moral absolutism is well-established, would reject moral relativism of this sort. Francis J. Beckwith gives several reasons why in answering the above line of argumentation. First, this cultural relativism conflates preference-claims with moral-claims, so that “killing people without justification is wrong” is treated as a merely subjective preference, like “I like vanilla ice cream.”3 Second, relativism is premised off of the idea that, since cultures cannot agree on what objective morality is, there must be no objective morality. Logically, the conclusion does not hold: the people of Dobu might have cosmological and scientific beliefs radically at odds with Western cosmology and science, but we would not rationally conclude that, therefore, there must be no objective cosmology or science. Worse, if the mere existence of disagreement means that the belief is not objectively true, then the disagreement over cultural relativism disproves it.4 Third, the cultural relativists typically exaggerate the disagreements between cultures, and ignore underlying commonalities between moral codes.

Additional problems with cultural relativism can be seen from the real-life encounter of General Sir Charles James Napier, British Commander-in-Chief in India from 1849 to 1851, with certain Hindu priests. The priests were protesting the British ban on Sati, the practice of burning a widow alive on her husband's funeral pyre. They argued that Sati “was a religious rite which must not be meddled with,” and “that all nations had customs which should be respected and this was a very sacred one.”5 Napier responded:

"Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pyre. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."6

Napier's response highlights several problems facing cultural relativism. Where cultures clash, whose moral code should triumph? For the British to “tolerate” Sati would involve violating their own moral codes. For that matter, whose morals should triumph within a particular culture? Should the Indian brides simply “tolerate” being thrown into the flames against their wills because of popular morality? Or should cultural morality simply be decided by the powerful imposing their will—be that the Indians forcing brides onto the pyre, or the British forcing them to stop? Quickly, this devolves into pure Nietzschean will to power.

As Beckwith notes, “cultural relativism is making an absolute and universal moral claim, namely, that everyone is morally obligated to follow the moral norms of his or her own culture.”7 This is problematic, both in that it is self-refuting (since the crux of cultural relativism is the rejection of such absolute moral claims) and that it would eliminate any possible social progress, since no one could upset the moral norms of his or her own culture. For that matter, the whole notion of social progress would have to be rejected, since “progress” implies some comparison of a culture to an external standard of some kind.8

Moral Relativism and the Problem of Conscience

 
That moral relativism cannot be endorsed in total does not mean that it is entirely without merit. Take, for instance, this claim by Ruth Benedict:

"The concept of the normal is properly a variant of the concept of the good. It is that which society has approved. A normal action is one which falls well within the limits of expected behavior for a particular society. Its variability among different peoples is essentially a function of the variability of the behavior patterns that different societies have created for themselves, and can never be wholly divorced from a consideration of cultural institutionalized types of behavior."9

As a description of the good, this account is inadequate, for the reasons discussed above. However, as a description of the influence of societies in the formation of individual consciences, it highlights a real phenomenon. In Anscombe's words, “it belongs to the natural history of man that he has a moral environment,” such that it is impossible to raise a child without this being the case.10 This moral environment includes the deliberate influence of the child's parents, but it also includes the society in which the child is raised. A child raised in the notoriously-violent Yąnomamö culture will be shaped differently than a child raised in a strictly-pacifistic Quaker community, and their approach towards moral reasoning will likely reflect this upbringing, at least initially. Benedict and the cultural relativists are right, therefore, to see culture as playing an indispensable role in the formation of individual consciences.

In fact, Anscombe and Benedict arrive at similar conclusions for the class of cases that Anscombe would describe as involving “invincible ignorance,” which she defines as “ignorance that the man himself could not overcome.”11 Thus, if Abner has been taught of a certain affirmative duty, and Charles has never been taught about this (and has no reason to suspect its existence), Abner is morally responsible for his failure to perform the duty, while Charles is not. For Benedict, this distinction would be explained by reference to the differing cultural norms facing Abner and Charles. For Anscombe, it would be explained by reference to Charles' invincible ignorance. Nevertheless, the conclusion would reached along somewhat similar lines: because the two men received different moral instructions, they are held to differing standards.

Here, the agreement between Anscombe and Benedict ceases. In two major areas, they would decisively part company on the question of conscience. The first is on the relationship of social moral pedagogy to objective morality. Benedict viewed it as disproving the existence of objective morality, at least in any transcultural sense: that is, because cultures indoctrinate in differing, and even contrary ways, there can be no binding transcultural morality. Anscombe would disagree, holding that some societies are simply better or worse at moral formation, just as some parents are. Both parents and the culture possess a certain moral authority in the upbringing of children, yet Anscombe noted that this authority “is not accompanied by any guarantee that someone exercising it will be right in what he teaches.”12 Acculturation and indoctrination must therefore be compared to an external standard of objective morality. Accordingly, we can affirm that some parents or cultures create a moral environment suitable for raising virtuous individuals, while others fail to do so, or succeed in creating viscous persons.

The second area of disagreement between Anscombe and Benedict on the question of conscience involves the degree to which the individual's socially formation is fixed. Certainly, Benedict speaks of cultural morality as a static thing: an individual believes such-and-such because these are the values of his culture. As Beckwith notes, the rigidity of such a view leaves no room for moral reformers like the leaders of the Civil Rights movement.13 Nor does it seem to leave room for individuals like Benedict herself, whose belief in cultural relativism was a radical break from her native culture's moral outlook. Anscombe rightly rejects Benedict's rigid view, holding instead that an individual may move closer to (or further from) objective morality throughout his life. She describes the context in which children come to reject their parents' moral authority; the same is surely true of societies.14 Individuals need not live out their entire lives blindly accepting a particular thing as true simply because society says so.

These two points prove to be crucial. Because conscience can be malformed, the individual may face a genuine moral perplexus in which every course of action is morally wrong:

"If you act against your conscience you are doing wrong because you are doing what you think wrong, i.e. you are willing to do wrong. And if you act in accordance with your conscience you are whatever is the wrong that your conscience allows, or failing to carry out the obligation that your conscience says is none."15

This moral perplexus is only comprehensible in light of the fact that relativism is wrong. We would otherwise have to affirm that “there's no such thing as false conscience. Conscience is conscience and infallibly tells you what is right and what is wrong. So conscience always binds, or else legitimately leaves you morally free to do or not do.”16

So, having rejected moral relativism, we are left facing a moral perplexus. Here, it is important that Benedict was mistaken to view socially-formed conscience as static or fixed. It is precisely in the ability of the conscience to be formed, even in adulthood, that Anscombe finds a solution to the perplexus, saying: “There is a way out, but you have to know that you need one and it may well take time. The way out is to f­ind out that your conscience is a wrong one.”17 That is, the long-term solution to the perplexus problem is to repair the damage inflicted upon your conscience, whether that damage was self-inflicted or the result of a bad moral environment.

Conclusion

 
A major appeal of moral relativism is that it tells a half-truth: culture really does influence the way that individuals approach morality. A proper moral environment is invaluable, if not indispensable. But this reality does not point to the absence of objective morality. Rather, as Anscombe shows, it points to the need of properly forming one's conscience, and ensuring a healthy moral environment for the rearing of children. To fail to take these steps risks placing you or your children in a moral perplexus, in which every possible action is morally wrong.
 
 
Originally posted at Shameless Popery. Used with permission.
(Image credit: UNAV)

Notes:

  1. Ruth Benedict, “A Defense of Moral Relativism,” in Do the Right Thing: Readings in Applied Ethics and Social Philosophy, 2nd Edition, ed. Francis J. Beckwith (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning, 2002), 9.
  2. Ibid., 6.
  3. Francis J. Beckwith, “A Critique of Moral Relativism,” in Do the Right Thing: Readings in Applied Ethics and Social Philosophy, 2nd Edition, ed. Francis J. Beckwith (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning, 2002), 13.
  4. Ibid.
  5. William Napier, History of General Sir Charles Napier's Administration of Scinde (London: Chapman and Hall, 1851), 35.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Beckwith, “A Critique of Moral Relativism,” 17.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Benedict, “A Defense of Moral Relativism,” 10.
  10. G.E.M. Anscombe, “The Moral Environment of the Child,” in Faith in a Hard Ground, ed. Mary Geach and Luke Gormally (Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, 2008), 224.
  11. G.E.M. Anscombe, “On Being in Good Faith,” in Faith in a Hard Ground, ed. Mary Geach and Luke Gormally (Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, 2008), 111.
  12. G.E.M. Anscombe, “Authority in Morals,” in Faith in a Hard Ground, ed. Mary Geach and Luke Gormally (Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, 2008), 93.
  13. Beckwith, “A Critique of Moral Relativism,” 17.
  14. Anscombe, “Authority in Morals,” 94.
  15. G.E.M. Anscombe, “Must One Obey One's Conscience?,” in Human Life, Action and Ethics, ed. Mary Geach and Luke Gormally (Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, 2005), 241.
  16. Ibid., 239.
  17. Ibid., 241.
Joe Heschmeyer

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Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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  • Loreen Lee

    Quote: Or should cultural morality simply be decided by the powerful imposing
    their will—be that the Indians forcing brides onto the pyre, or the
    British forcing them to stop? Quickly, this devolves into pure
    Nietzschean will to power.

    Note: Is this not an answer to the last post? -Why it's Okay to be Against Heresy and for Imposing One's Will on Others.

    Having read several dissertations on the relation of Reason to Violence, it is interesting to note that the argumentative or at least rhetorical persuasion expected with good reasoning has failed, when it is believed that coercion/force/the will has to replace education with either punishment or some other form of imposed authority.

  • Ben Posin

    I agree that there are difficulties with moral relativism when two cultures collide. I'm also familiar with the argument that taking a cultural morality stance is actually indorsing a sort of absolute moral framework itself, binding one to respect other cultures. My own moral intuitions certainly permit intervention in other cultures under certain circumtances to prevent certain things I consider immoral.

    Man, I wish Geena had not been unjustly banned, as she had good ideas about this issue, discussed them well, and was a lot smarter than Joe or I. But I subscribe to her theory that to the extent there is such a thing as objective morality, it derives from common attributes we have due to our evolutionary history. For the most part we have a common cognitive framework, with innate ideas about fair play, with empathy, with certain models of cause and effect and responsibility, with certain desires for happiness. We also in broad strokes suffer in the same way from the same sorts of deprivations or injuries (metaphorical or otherwise). I would argue these things that we share are as close as we get to a source objective morality, though it doesn't at all count as "objective" in the way theists or philosophers use the term.

    I'll tell you what I don't think: that the idea of God has any connection to an actually "objecitve" morality. We've gone round and round on this one, but this is a ride I'm always happy to get on. The Euthyphro Dilemma still takes all comers, despite the thousands of bad articles delighting in calling it a false dilemma.

    • "I'll tell you what I don't think: that the idea of God has any connection to an actually "objecitve" morality. We've gone round and round on this one, but this is a ride I'm always happy to get on. The Euthyphro Dilemma still takes all comers, despite the thousands of bad articles delighting in calling it a false dilemma."

      It is a false dilemma. When atheists attempt to use it against the existence of God, they present only two choices: either God commands certain actions because they are good (and thus God is subservient to an external moral standard), or certain actions are good solely because God commands them (and thus resulting in moral arbitrariness.)

      But Christians propose a third alternative: that God is Goodness itself and whatever he commands is coincident with his nature. In other words, God commands certain actions because he is good.

      • Ben Posin

        Brandon,

        "God is Goodness" seems to be the most common Christian response, but it fails to solve the problem. I just pushes the dilemma back a step, where it may be even more problematic.

        For I say to you: does God have his particular nature because that nature is good, or are we instead calling good whatever is like God's nature? Either God's nature is constrained by some external standard of goodness, or good has been redefined to arbitrarily equal whatever nature God has.

        To illustrate with an example: let's think about honesty. Christian's say that God is honest, and honesty is good. But what if we discover tomorrow God is actually dishonest, and has been lying about this all along?! Will you tell me dishonesty is good? If not, that means there is some external standard other than God. If you tell me God can't be dishonest, you are again relying on some sort of external standard, which constrains the possible attributes of God.

        So no, the Euthyphro Dilemma is doing fine. Of course, I'm not convinced there is any source of objective morality beyond what I discussed above.

        • ""God is Goodness" seems to be the most common Christian response, but it fails to solve the problem. It just pushes the dilemma back a step, where it may be even more problematic."

          It's the most common because it's the most correct. And it does not push the dilemma back a step, as I explain below.

          "For I say to you: does God have his particular nature because that nature is good, or are we instead calling good whatever is like God's nature? Either God's nature is constrained by some external standard of goodness, or good has been redefined to arbitrarily equal whatever nature God has."

          Your question assumes the same confusion as Euthyphro's dilemma. Asking whether God "has his particular nature because that nature is good" presumes that goodness precedes God's nature--as if first goodness was established, and then God's nature so as to coincide with goodness. Your proposed alternative, that goodness is arbitrarily redefined so as to match God's nature, presumes just the opposite--that God's nature first existed, and then came goodness, which was arbitrarily matched to God's nature.

          Yet Christian's propose a third alternative: that goodness and God's nature simultaneously exist because they are coincident. God's nature simply is goodness.

          "To illustrate with an example: let's think about honesty. Christians say that God is honest, and honesty is good. But what if we discover tomorrow God is actually dishonest, and has been lying about this all along?!"

          What you're proposing is, literally, meaningless because God (being all-good by nature) cannot lie. Thus your question is like asking, "But what if we discover tomorrow a square circle?" or "But what if we discover tomorrow a married bachelor?"

          "If you tell me God can't be dishonest, you are again relying on some sort of external standard, which constrains the possible attributes of God."

          This not true, for the reasons above. God is constrained by some external standard. The reason he cannot be dishonest is because it is against his nature, just as a square cannot violate it's nature and simultaneously be a circle (while remaining a square). This isn't a limit on God's power but a necessity of his nature.

          "So no, the Euthyphro Dilemma is doing fine. Of course, I'm not convinced there is any source of objective morality beyond what I discussed above."

          No, the Euthyphro Dilemma is not doing fine. It was solved centuries ago by philosophers who exposed it as a false dichotomy. It therefore poses no problem to serious philosophers and theologians.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Branson, you're not resolving the dilemma. I'm not sure you understand its implications. There's no time element involved, first if all. It's just a question of definition. Is god's nature "good"? Then good is an external standard, because you are implicitly COMPARING god's nature to something else. And if you claim you're not comparing it to an external standard, and good is merely what god is, the "good" could change tomorrow. If you claim god can't change because that would involve god not being good, then once again you've invented an external standard for gods behavior.

            The dilemma has stood for this long because it is, in fact, unresolvable.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The concept is the convertibility of the transcendentals in God's simplicity. It is a solved philosophical problem. God's goodness is the same as his power, is the same as his wisdom, is the same as his beauty, is the same as his being, and so on.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Lovely. So you're on the hook for: it's good because it's god's nature. Great. Tomorrow god decides eating babies is natural. Now good means eating babies.

            You see how you haven't resolved it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You're on the wrong track, I think. God cannot decide tomorrow that humans eating human babies is "good."

            Catholics don't believe in divine command theory.

          • Ryan Mayer

            You see how you don't seem to get it?

          • Susan

            By solved", what do you mean?

            Do you mean that you read an argument that convinced you or do you mean that there is a consensus in the field of philosophy that considers it "solved"?

          • "Branson, you're not resolving the dilemma. I'm not sure you understand its implications. There's no time element involved, first if all."

            I did resolve the dilemma. only by following the footsteps of centuries of philosophers much smarter than me. I do understand its implications, as I made clear.

            ""There's no time element involved, first if all."

            I agree. But I wasn't speaking temporally; I was speaking causally. One thing can precede another causally without temporal considerations. In fact, Euthyphro's Dilemma, to be at all coherent, presupposes this--it assumes that either goodness or God causally preceded the other.

            "Is god's nature "good"? Then good is an external standard, because you are implicitly COMPARING god's nature to something else."

            I agree, but I never said that God's nature is good, as if "good" were merely an adjective describing his nature. That's a distortion of my comment. What I said was that his nature is goodness, that God is the Good. By misunderstanding this crucial distinction, you misunderstand the solution to the Dilemma.

            "And if you claim you're not comparing it to an external standard, and good is merely what god is, the "good" could change tomorrow. If you claim god can't change because that would involve god not being good, then once again you've invented an external standard for gods behavior."

            The nature of goodness (i.e., God) cannot change because natures are immutable. For example, the nature of a meter is 39.4 inches--that's the essence of a meter. You could re-define "meter" to mean 49.4 inches, but you'd be eft with something decidedly not a meter--even if you still called it a "meter." Likewise, declaring four-sided objects to be "circles" is not really to change the nature of circles; it's to change a linguistic definition. But in both cases, the nature of "meters" and "circles" would not change.

            "The dilemma has stood for this long because it is, in fact, unresolvable."

            The Dilemma only "stands" as a vestige of history, one the few examples of Socrates' unclarity. However, it does not stand as a serious challenge to theism, and hasn't for years.

          • David Nickol

            The Dilemma only "stands" as a vestige of history, one the few examples of Socrates' unclarity. However, it does not stand as a serious challenge to theism, and hasn't for years.

            It seems to me that nothing in philosophy is ever really resolved (at least not without then being then excluded from the realm of philosophy). Philosophy hasn't even proven there is a God, let alone given definitive answers to questions about God's nature. The Euthyphro dilemma, it seems to me, remains a dilemma for many philosophers. It is just that the philosophers (and theologians) that you consider correct have made arguments that you accept as convincing.

          • Phil

            You are exactly correct that philosophy will never come to 100% truth on anything, as that is not possible. I like to describe philosophy as a polygon inscribed with a circle, representing the fullness of truth. No matter how many side we add to that polygon it will never equal the circle of pure truth. But the more sides we add, the close and closer we get.

            So that doesn't mean it cannot speak true things about reality, it just will never speak the fullness of truth.

            Philosophy hasn't even proven there is a God, let alone given definitive answers to questions about God's nature.

            I would probably disagree that philosophy hasn't put forward some very convincing "proofs" for the existence of God. In fact, modern science itself is not fully reasonable without believing in the classical formulation of the theistic God.

          • Ben Posin

            I get that you think the distinction between the ideas "God is Good" and "God is Goodness" is critical here. I'm just not sure I agree with you. I feel compelled to ask, why do you say that God is Goodness, as opposed to Badness, Deliciousness, or Itchiness?

            At some level, you are taking your conceived characteristics of God, and deciding that Goodness is the right thing to call that thing which God is. How and why? Though you're tired of hearing it, I'd suggest that you must either have already had some idea of what goodness means without God, and decided God matches this, or you're scraping out all the normal and useful meaning of the word goodness, and declaring without apparent justification that God is Goodness as a matter of definition.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I agree, but I never said that God's nature is good, as if "good" were merely an adjective describing his nature. That's a distortion of my comment. What I said was that his nature is goodness, that God is the Good. By misunderstanding this crucial distinction, you misunderstand the solution to the Dilemma.

            What does this distinction even mean? You trot it out as if it someone resolves the issue (I note that even WLC and Feser can't solve the Dilemma). All you seem to be saying here is "god is god" - you've selected the first horn by defining something that it good as conforming to god's nature. But god's nature is just that - his nature. It's whatever god's nature happens to be at that moment. It could change. If you claim it can't change because then it wouldn't be "goodness" then you've introduced an outside standard and opened up the Dilemma again.

          • Ben Posin

            Now hold on, I thought the first horn is that God's nature is constrained by an external definition of goodness, and that Brandon's jumping on the second horn!!! Let's keep our story straight.

            I'd also like to point out that my concern isn't so much about whether God's nature could change, but as to why we make God's nature the standard of goodness, and not Bob's, or yours (you seem nice). Though I guess my point about discovering we were wrong about God's nature in some respect is effectively the same thing.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Oops. Sorry. Got the horns mixed up. And yes, the point you raise is also a very valid one: all morality is subjective - even if you add god to the equation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The nature of goodness (i.e., God) cannot change because natures are immutable. For example, the nature of a meter is 39.4 inches--that's the essence of a meter

            And here is where you go wrong, I think. If you redefine a meter to be 72 inches, then IT IS STILL A METER. You can't claim that redefining a meter to be something different means that the something different is not a meter - you've just changed the definition.

          • Ben Posin

            While I will stand with you to the last against Brandon's mistaken belief that he has solved the Euthyphro dilemma, I'm not sure this is the right track. I see it like this: words are symbols that point to referents, whether real or conceptual or imaginary. If you change the referent, you've utterly changed the meaning of the symbol, even if you leave the symbol unchanged.

            What Brandon doesn't seem to get is how this applies to the symbol "good." As commonly used by people, "good," although debated, is used to point to concepts or things that one might consider moral, desirable, appropriate, correct, justified, fair, just, etc. Brandon, by declaring that God is Goodness and insisting he is not being descriptive, seems to be jumping on the second horn of the modified Euthyphro dilemma without realizing it by taking the word "good" and shifting its arrow to point to God, as opposed to stating that God is good because God has those qualities which we have defined as good.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I see it like this: words are symbols that point to referents, whether real or conceptual or imaginary. If you change the referent, you've utterly changed the meaning of the symbol, even if you leave the symbol unchanged. So I don't think there's a lot point in saying a meter is still a meter when you change what the word's arrow points to.

            Interesting. Why? It's much the same problem relating to the "good". If good is defined as "according to god's nature", then any change in that nature doesn't change the fact that it's still "good".

            We may be saying the same thing; I'm just not being quite as articular (darn those pain meds! No Scotch for a week!)

          • Ben Posin

            We're on the same page, I just wasn't understanding you properly. Sure, once you take the word "good" and make it point at God's nature, then whatever God's nature is or becomes is "good." My (now sounding a bit too obvious) point was about the original wresting of the word "good" from its normal meaning, and making it into just an arrow that points at God's nature. It's at that point that you've fundamentally changed the meaning of "good," to the point where pretending it has anything to do with the original meaning of "good" is pure equivocation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            rem acu tetigisti

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank goodness (morality) for Google. You have touched the point with a needle, i.e., "You have hit the nail on the head".

          • Martin Sellers

            How about this theory: (just a thought)

            What if God's nature IS goodness, but we as humans have not yet grasped the full concept of "good" (God's nature). What if our definition of good is still a work in progress- that is, our definition is changing (becoming more complete) as we discover more of God (his nature). In other words, goodness (God), has always existed, but our current definitions of good are inadequate.--does that make sense?

          • Ben Posin

            To me it doesn't help, but let's talk about it and see where we get. I'll put to you a question that Brandon has been too busy to answer:

            Why would one choose to call God's nature "goodness" and not "badness" or "itchiness"?

            It's seems to me that to even say that God's nature is goodness is to have some independent idea of what goodness means, and deciding that God embodies that thing. How else could we tell? The alternative is, as I've noted, just gutting the original meaning of the word good, and instead making it mean "that thing that God is." Which you can do, but let's not pretend that the word good means anymore what we normally mean when we normally talk about morality.

          • Martin Sellers

            You are right, we could dispose of the term "good" and call it "that thing that is God"- I totally agree. Nothing about God's nature is in question.

            "...lets not pretend that the word good means anymore what we normally mean when we normally talk about morality."

            Well, for a Catholic the term "good" did not originate out of nothing. What Catholics consider moral or "good" is derived from what God has "revealed of himself" through his word and the church. Thus God proceeds, directs and influences our notion of "good". Catholics do not apply the principle of goodness to God.

          • Martin Sellers

            Edit: by "term" I mean "notion or idea"- sorry for any confusion.

          • Ben Posin

            I applaud you for a straight answer! But I want to make sure you're with me on the ramifications of that answer.
            The normal use of the word good involves things like: stuff one should do, the proper/correct/moral thing to do/ the fair or just thing to do, and so forth. Now, you're saying that the word good actually means "that thing that God is." The only reason to actually use the same word "good," and not just say that God is God, is if you want to say that God's nature embodies those previous meanings for good. And that seems to be what you're saying: that Catholics derive "what they should do" by trying to understand God's nature. Let's accept that as true about Catholics for right now, though that could be its own discussion!

            This is a valid way to think, but it amounts to accepting the second prong of the Euthyrpho dilemma, and accepting that "good" is in a sense arbitrary. It provides no reason for why God's nature is Good, or worthy of emulation, as opposed to someone else's nature, or some mutually agreed upon set of principles or rules, or a program scientifically designed to maximize happiness. It also leaves us in a little bit of a pickle if we discover that God has a nature that conflicts with our own moral intuitions. I could put to you another question I asked Brandon, if you don't mind, and ask if you would agree that dishonesty is a virtue if you discovered tomorrow that God's nature was one of dishonesty?

          • Martin Sellers

            "The normal use of the word good involves things like: stuff one should do, the proper/correct/moral thing to do/ the fair or just thing to do, and so forth"

            You are suggesting that we have an agreed upon standard of moral truth (absolutism), which was the entire point of this article.

            "It provides no reason for why God's nature is Good, or worthy of emulation, as opposed to that of anyone else's nature, or some mutually agreed upon set of principles or rules, or a program scientifically designed to maximize happiness."

            First I am not saying that "Gods nature good (based on an outside idea of the word)". I am saying of what we have discovered of God's nature is what we have termed good.- I am asserting that what society considers "worthy of emulation" is what has been revealed by God. I suppose you could argue that collective economic utilitarianism forms what we consider common good- but that is off topic.

            "It also leaves us in a little bit of a pickle if we discover that God has a nature that conflicts with our own moral intuitions."

            -It does all the time. That is the constant struggle between Catholicism and the world today. Lets take contraception for example: Much of societies moral code suggests the churches teachings on the issue are misogynistic (immoral). The catholic church believes God's nature (goodness, perfect morality) is very much counter to what the world teaches as moral. This is just one example. So yes....Pickle indeed....I would go as far as to say Cucumber.....
            Yes, secular morality is very much at odds with God's nature (at least from the catholic perspective).

            "...if you would agree that dishonesty if a virtue if you discovered tomorrow that God's nature was one of dishonesty?"

            Well, as Brandon pointed out this phrasing is a paradox because God would have to be lying about being dishonest, which would mean he is actually honest...so on and so forth....--

            - Can you think of a better analogy that would clarify your point. I think I see where you are getting at, but if you could phrase it a different way (perhaps with another attribute other than dishonesty) I could fully see what you are trying to say.

          • Sorry to bud in, but it seems to me that you are having a language problem. Theists generally mean "god's nature" (or consistent with it), when discussing moral or good things. The good is that which conforms with this nature, no outside standard or methodology.

            Atheists usually mean "things that further human well-being and so on".

            It is actually really important that to get clarity on these things before going forward.

            This video is really good at drawing out this language problem. really really really good. At least the first 15 minutes or so. Don't let the title turn you off!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cUVj7rdWyA

          • Ben Posin

            I have so say, I'm very confused by your response. Are you just saying that all the word good means is God's nature, and has no other connotations? Because that's fine, but then we should stop using the word "good" for confusion's sake, and just say that God is God, as the word "good" adds no information, and there's no such thing as "good" as the word is normally used in conversation. Like I said, that's a road you can take, but it is captured squarely by the Euthyphro dilemma, and makes the idea of objective good meaningless.

            Your talk about a paradox with God being dishonest doesn't make any sense to me. Where's the paradox? God has a dishonest nature, in whole or in part, and, being dishonest, has managed to pull the wool over people's eyes for a long time. But as dishonesty, being part of his nature, is a virtue, perhaps he doesn't care to try too hard to fool everyone all the time, so that one day we might discover this vitrue, and perhaps some clever theologian or student of the bible will figure out the truth tomorrow.

          • Martin Sellers

            "Your talk about a paradox with God being dishonest doesn't make any sense to me."

            Ben- if God's nature is wholly dishonest, that would mean he could not tell any truth. Since he could tell no truth- his statement about being dishonest would be untrue, making him actually honest about all things. It seems to me God could not be solely dishonest.

            "God has a dishonest nature, in whole or in part,"

            You seem to be suggesting that dishonesty is only part of God's nature, while honesty is another part of his nature. Is this true? That is a very different analogy than the one I thought you gave.

          • Ben Posin

            "Ben- if God's nature is wholly dishonest, that would mean he could not tell any truth. Since he could tell no truth- his statement about being dishonest would be untrue, making him actually honest about all things. It seems to me God could not be solely dishonest."

            A few things: I didn't say God made a statement that he is dishonest, I asked what if we discovered that God's nature is dishonest? So your paradox concern has no bearing, and is starting to seem like an attempt to avoid dealing with the consequences of your beliefs. Less straightforward and impressive than you started out in this conversation.

            God wants us to be dishonest like him, but it's tough because God doesn't want to compromise his own values by just flat out saying he's dishonest, and so, as suggested by many Christians, God has had to let us slowly let us work our way towards moral truth, as we are able.

            The "in whole or in part" bit was meant to give you a different hypothetical if you continued to harp on this paradox red herring.

          • Martin Sellers

            "A few things: I didn't say God made a statement that he is dishonest, I asked what if we discovered that God's nature is dishonest? So your paradox concern has no bearing, and is starting to seem like an attempt to avoid dealing with the consequences of your beliefs. Less straightforward and impressive than you started out in this conversation."

            How would we come to understand God's nature as dishonest unless he revealed to us that he told a lie? If his nature was dishonest, he could not reveal something true and we would never know he was dishonest- hence the paradox. If he did reveal he had told a lie, he would be telling a truth which is against his nature- hence the paradox. I don't see how this is confusing, or a red herring.

            Please help me understand where I am missing something- I am not trying to avoid consequences of my beliefs. I responded to your question the best way I could and so far I find your rebuttal not very compelling.

          • Ben Posin

            We could catch him in a lie--maybe his nature is such that he is dishonest, but doesn't mind getting caught every now and then. Maybe he's been hoping we'll catch on, so we can be more dishonest like him.

            But this isn't about honesty per se. Pick any attribute of morality as you understand it. What if you found out tomorrow that you were wrong or misinterpreted God's natrue on this point, and that God's nature is the opposite? That he delights in cruelty or abuse or murder, etc. Pick whatever you like. Would you do a 180 on your moral beliefs tomorrow?

          • Martin Sellers

            Are you just saying that all the word good means is God's nature, and has no other connotations?

            No, it does have many connotations. The theist would say the source of the word and its connotations come from God. To atheists the word has many of the same connotations they just don't attribute the source of the word and it's connotations to God. They attribute the source to some other factors.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's the implication of Brandon's comments about God is Goodness.

          • Ben Posin

            Martin,

            This is probably the more important line to follow rather than arguing over the dishonesty paradox. Right now, you have said that the word "good" in some effect means "that thing that God is." It's my hope that you understand that if that's all the word good means, it doesn't provide us any information, or have the normal meaning of the word good. This is prong two of the Euthyrphro dilemma, and means a rejection of objective good.
            But I'm getting the impression that you don't want to reject objective good, because you are adding to this by saying that no, the word "good" does provide more information than "that thing that God is," that it has additional meaning. What are these connotations or meanings? What else does the word good tell us other than "that thing that God is?"

          • Martin Sellers

            You are correct. We first start with the notion that "good" is "the thing that God is"- This does give us an understanding of what "good" means if we assume that we gain further connotations/meanings (honesty, virtue, justice, benevolence....etc) of what good is as God reveals more of who he (goodness) is over time. I argue even now though our understanding of "good" is incomplete.

            Here is an interesting thought: Would you agree that history seems to follow this same line of reasoning (generally)? We have greater connotations/meanings concerning "good" (ideas of justice, freedom, fairness, equality, happiness) then any other point in history? I would argue God has revealed more of himself (goodness) as time has gone on.

          • Ben Posin

            Martin,
            All you've done is identify things that you think are aspects of God's nature. You've told me that good means "what God is" and now you're going through some of the things that God is. What does the word good add? What makes these attributes you've listed of God "good" rather than just "attributes of God"?

          • Martin Sellers

            We could say that "God is God". We could have used any word to describe God's nature. However, we use the word "good (arbitrarily)" to describe actions moving closer or revealing more of God. "Bad (arbitrarily)" describes actions leading us further from or distorting the truth of God. It is not really about the words themselves (good and bad), but rather what they imply.

          • Martin Sellers

            Perhaps we could say "God is God, but God wants Good".

          • Ben Posin

            All right. I think that's admirably clear. You are defining the word "good" choices/actions/thoughts/etc as those that bring us closer in line with God's nature.

            But I'm left with a pretty serious problem with using the word "good" in this way. Here's what that leaves me wondering about: why is it a better in a moral sense to bring oneself in line with God's nature? What moral imperative is there to do that, rather than choosing a different path?

          • Martin Sellers

            Well, the typical "catholic" answer would be that aligning ourselves with God's nature results in "freedom", being "truly alive" or experiencing life to the fullest as we were meant to.

            I realize that with an atheist, this probably wouldn't be persuasive. Lets assume God is real (and all that that would mean). Would you not agree then that forming our morality in accordance with God's nature, as he intends, is a "better" idea than trying to form our own morality based on abstract notions of what "may" be right or wrong.

          • Ben Posin

            Martin:
            This is pretty much the end of the road. To justify the reason one should, ought, has a moral imperative to choose to align oneself with God's nature, you've had to resort to standards or princples external to God. You're saying that what makes choosing your "good" the objectively correct choice is because it involves seeking being "free," or "truly alive," or "experiencing life to the fullest." While you may think these possibilities are enhanced by the existence of God (we can agree to disagree), these are principles an atheist could refer to in a world without a God. Sure, maybe if God exists he is smarter than I am, and can do a better job at figuring out what things will make me "experience life to the fullest" or be "truly alive" or what not, but that doesn't make these principles disappear in a world without a God.

          • Martin Sellers

            "you've had to resort to standards or principles external to God."

            I don't think I have resorted to principles external to God for my rational. I argue that my principles (and all principles) come from God (even if we do not acknowledge it as so). Are you are asking me to give you a reason why I would align myself with Gods will using rational that comes from a source other than God? You are correct then, If I believe what I say, I cannot do that.

            "Sure, maybe if God exists he is smarter than I am, and can do a better job at figuring out what things will make me "experience life to the fullest" or be "truly alive" or what not, but that doesn't make these principles disappear in a world without a God."

            Just for clarification, do you mean to say,".....in a world where I don't believe God exists" or as you have stated "in a world without God"?

            I would like to continue the discussion, but if we are finished, I really want to thank you for a good conversation. This type of dialogue really helps me think through and justify my own beliefs- which I think is all we can ask for :). Right? Anyway, thanks again.

          • Ben Posin

            We can certainly keep talking, I just think we have reached the end of where this line of reasoning goes. When asked why it is morally preferable to align one's self to God's nature, you provided what sure seem like external standards: one's happiness, freedom, ability to live life to the fullest. To clarify what I said before, these are all standards to which people could resort to if the view that there is no God is correct. Thus under what you said, morality can be equally objective absent a God.

            But when presented with this, you denied that you resorted to a standard outside of God, without any clear explanation of your previous statements. That's a bit frustrating, but ok. It makes it seem like now you think one should choose to align oneself with god's nature either because that itself is consistent with god's nature, or perhaps because that's what God wants. And that's fine too. It just doesn't amount to objective morality in the sense that people normally mean. As I have been trying to explain, these choices are precisely identical to the two prongs of the euthyphro dilemma that Brandon rejects without god basis.

            As a last thought, I'll admit to frustration at your unwillingness to engage with the idea that God's nature may be at odds with what we now see as improved morality, or that we may have been greatly mistaken about God's nature. An honest answer about how you would react to learning that something you think is horrific is actually consistent with God's nature would help us both understand your views---and given the atrocities in both the bible and our world, I find the idea that you or Brendan cannot even understand this question to be more than a little disingenuous.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'd like to ask about your second question there. Why would it be? Inasmuch as we've already established that 'good' is just 'what is in accord with god's nature', why would it be any better to worse to align yourself with that standard than one's own standard?

          • Martin Sellers

            There is no "better" or "worse"- only an acknowledgement or disregard for what "is" and respective consequences.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "Is" what, precisely? Is your implication that failure to align one's nature with god (i.e. to be "bad" in the sense of doing things not in accordance with that nature) comes with built-in consequences? Are these consequences amenable to determination by empirical methods?

          • Martin Sellers

            ""Is" what, precisely?"

            God's nature.

            "Is your implication that failure to align one's nature with god (i.e. to be "bad" in the sense of doing things not in accordance with that nature) comes with built-in consequences?"

            Yes. Every action has a consequence.

            "Are these consequences amenable to determination by empirical methods?"

            I think that depends you the exact "bad" we are discussing.

            Remember also that God is constantly revealing his nature. Likely, what we know of God's nature now is incomplete.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which doesn't make aligning to God's nature much of an idea, then, does it? We don't know what god's nature is; we only have incomplete, partial, human-mediated glimpses of something which is fundamentally beyond comprehension.

            Is that really a rational basis for human behavior? When a number of far more empirical methods produce much more easily testable results?

          • Martin Sellers

            Incomplete, partial, and human-mediated does not mean wrong. Everything he says is correct. God reveals what is necessary at the right time for the right reasons. Suppose God downloaded the full extent of his omnipotent knowledge to my brain right now--my head would probably explode.--say he tried to reveal the full extend of quantum physics to the early sheep herders of Abraham. I doubt they were ready for that.

            We know enough of God's revealed nature right now to acknowledge him or disregard him in accordance with our present day.

            This makes rational sense to me.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            OK. It does not make rational sense to me, but we can certain agree to disagree.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It does make rational sense to people who don't already share your religious beliefs.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Inasmuch as we've already established that 'good' is just 'what is in accord with god's nature', why would it be any better to worse to align yourself with that standard than one's own standard?

            Which is what everyone ultimately practice, if they are brutally honest with themselves. The world is filled with liars, thieves and coveters , among other things, because when it comes to the crunch everyone decides by the standards in their psyche. Just my opinion mind.

          • Danny Getchell

            God's nature IS goodness, but we as humans have not yet grasped the full concept of "good"

            Martin, I've suggested that very notion on SN several times in an attempt to reconcile the idea that God's nature is all good with the evidence of God's actions as recorded in the Bible and in the history of civilization.

            Perhaps, I have suggested, in some future life when some of us have come to understand the true nature of God, we'll have the big picture view of why the Black Death, the K-T extinction and the Holocaust were all - in the final analysis - good.

            Our human minds just aren't yet equipped to wrap themselves around the goodness of it all.

          • Martin Sellers

            Language and rhetoric make up definitions- not nature. 39.4 inches is still 39.4 inches and 70 inches is still 70 inches, no matter what we choose to call it these distances. Even if we redefined the term "inches" these measurements would still hold their intrinsic nature. Take languages for examples: there are countless translations of the term "meter", yet they each word implies the same distance.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Good restatement of what I just read in Feser's book "Aquinas."

          • What you're proposing is, literally, meaningless because God (being all-good by nature) cannot lie.

            If it was truly meaningless you would have written, "I don't understand what you mean". Really, it's just a meaning that you don't like.

          • "If it was truly meaningless you would have written, "I don't understand what you mean". Really, it's just a meaning that you don't like."

            If it pleases you then: for the reasons above, I don't understand the meaning of the question "what if God is dishonest?" because it appears meaningless.

          • Ben Posin

            See above.

          • Ben Posin

            Brandon's wrong to say it's meaningless, but though I admire your rhetoric, I'm not sure how fair it is here.

          • It's nothing against Brandon in particular. I react badly to claims that things are "meaningless". Except in cases of actual gibberish, such claims are usually attempts to shut down conversation.

          • Phil

            Noah, just for example, here are several things that are not "gibberish", but in the end are meaninglessness, and therefore really are gibberish: (Self-defeating statements are the easiest)

            -All truth is subjective. This is meaningless because you are trying to assert that truth is subjective by stating it as an objective truth

            -Square-circles. A circle can have no sides if it is actually a circle. A square must have 4 sides of equal length. To claim that these two can be coherently combined is to be reduced to meaninglessness.

            -I can do something that can't be done. This is quite obvious why this is meaninglessness. Either I can't actually do it, or it can be done. Both parts can't be true.

            -To say "I do not exist" Obviously, either you did not say that, or you actually exist!

            So just some examples!

          • I don't agree that those four examples are meaningless. To my mind, #1, 3, and 4 are false, and if a proposition has a consistent truth value I don't see how it can be meaningless. To my mind #2 means a mathematical object of which it is true that it is (A) the set of all points equidistant on the plane from another point and (B) four line segments of equal length connecting four right angles inscribed on a circle. As it happens, no such mathematical object exists in normal geometry. If the phrase was literally meaningless, we wouldn't be able to say these things about it.

            Text can lack syntactic meaning if its words evoke no useful thoughts. For example, "Picklers harmonic a and seethed therefore." Note that some poetry is meaningful even without abiding by normal grammar, because the author orders her chosen words to evoke certain emotions, memories, or other such thoughts.

            Similarly, text can be gibberish (i.e. lack semantic meaning) if its letters don't evoke thoughts of words. For example, "qfg nizskudhg iluajk e3je". Of course, smtms th rls f spllng cn b severely abused without the text descending into gibberish.

            It's rare that I encounter theists labeling arguments "meaningless". Normally one encounters that tactic from people who read too much by positivists. In both situations, though, it's clearly an attempt to avoid an argument rather than overcome it by the merits of a counterargument.

          • Phil

            What meaning would you say (3) has: "I can do something that can't be done."

            I would claim that it is a self-contradicting statement and if I say it, I am thrust into meaninglessness. In other words, all self-contradicting statements are meaninglessness.

            In fact, I would claim that even though we can read the sentence and "understand" it is just as meaningless as your examples of "Picklers harmonic a and seethed therefore" and "qfg nizskudhg iluajk e3je".

            In other words, even saying "I see the unicorn" is meaningful even though unicorns don't exist, but they rationally could. But my statement could never say anything comprehensible about reality.

            None of these three statements, your two and mine, say anything rationally comprehensible about the world.

          • What meaning would you say (3) has: "I can do something that can't be done."

            If I said it, I would mean that I can do something that can't be done. Since that's easily understood to be a logical contradiction, it's false. Since it's easily understood, it's meaningful.

            In other words, all self-contradicting statements are meaninglessness.

            In that case, your definition of "meaningless" is a compound one, "being self-contradictory or evoking no thought". You're free to use that definition, although I think it's specious and unnecessarily confusing.

            For my own part, I will continue to use "false" for false propositions and reserve "meaningless" for text that cannot be evaluated.

          • Phil

            I would suggest you might want note the distinction between a false statement and a statement such as "I can do what can't be done". In other words there is a distinction between the two, since in the first case the statement could be true, but it is not, in the second case it is an absurd contradictory statement that could not be true. You don't have to call the latter statement meaningless, but it is.

          • I would suggest you might want note the distinction between a false
            statement and a statement such as "I can do what can't be done".

            I did, as you can see in the post above. "Self-contradictory" is a distinct concept from "false", and I did not use them interchangeably. In logic, self-contradictory propositions are false whenever they are meaningful. They are not always meaningful, however.

            For example:
            (1) "Apples are not apples" is logically meaningful because it can be assigned a consistent truth value: it's false. It's also self-contradictory.
            (2) "The universe revolves around the Earth" is logically meaningful because it can be assigned a consistent truth value: it's false. It's not self-contradictory, though.
            (3) "This sentense is false" cannot be assigned a consistent truth value. It is reasonable, albeit controversial, to call it logically meaningless.

            So now in this post and the ones above I've discussed three ways in which a statement can be meaningless. It can be logically meaningless if there is no way to evaluate it as true or false. It can be syntactically meaningless if there is no way to evaluate the relationships of the terms. It can be semantically meaningless if there is no way to evaluate the referent or function of the text.

            Self-contradictory statements are logically meaningful (they can be consistently evaluated as false), syntactically meaningful (the relationships between the terms can be evaluated), and semantically meaningful (the referents and functions of the terms can be evaluated).

            Brandon's deliberate obtuseness about Ben's questions is wholly unfounded because Ben's questions are logically meaningful, syntactically meaningful, and semantically meaningful.

            This is also why, for example, the atheists who say that "What happened before time began?" or "Why is there something rather than nothing?" are meaningless questions are wrong. Unambiguously wrong. Those are meaningful questions. Perhaps there's no answer; but that's a separate issue.

            in the second case it is an absurd contradictory statement that could not be true.

            The word you're looking for is the word "impossible".

          • Phil

            I think that's a pretty fair assessment, and I'd directly agree with most everything here. :)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            One could actually define a mathematical system that contained square circles. We have lots of non-Pythagorean systems useful for various kinds of problem-solving.

          • Phil

            Can you explain/describe how a square-circle would actually exist, even conceptually, while keeping the properties of both 100% intact?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            A photon is both a wave and a particle; simultaneously and impossibly. I don't know your level of math, but simply define an object with both sets of properties. Just like triangles that have three right angles.

          • Phil

            Hey Noah, See my response to Ben just above you.

          • Loreen Lee

            "But what if we discover tomorrow a square circle?" or "But what if we discover tomorrow a married bachelor?"
            This points out another dilemna. But consider this: the mathematical proposition is thus demonstrated to be synthetic a priori, because it does indeed represent a content s a statement without evidence. (If only proofs of God's existence and Plato's dilemna could be demonstrated to be synthetic a priori!!). The married bachelor, in contrast is a true tautology, as it is empty. of content as a statement.
            In the first case you will never square a circle, because the 'idea' itself has content, and that content 'does not change' It is 'self-defined'.. But in the second case, I could present you with many concrete examples of 'married bachelors', involving perhaps a little self-deception in some cases, and variation on just what 'bachin'' it might refer to. I could give you a long tongue in cheek demonstration from my 'book' on the latter, but hopefully this short resume of the argument will win some agreement as long as it does not reflect any 'realities' within the readership. grin grin..

          • Phil

            Hey Loreen!

            But in the second case, I could present you with many concrete
            examples of 'married bachelors', involving perhaps a little
            self-deception in some cases

            Then you have not actually discovered a "married bachelor".

            To show that you have actually discovered a married bachelor, you will have to show that someone actually is married and a bachelor at the same time, in the same place, and in the same respect. The principle of non-contradiction strikes and reason shows us a married bachelor is not possible.

            When one says "by deception" it means one may be married in one respect, and a bachelor in another respect because of deception. So they are not actually a married bachelor.

            So in the end, both actually existing square-circles and married-bachelors are not possible, unless one wants to fall into meaninglessness, which is the penalty for trying to go against the law of non-contradiction.

          • Loreen Lee

            The law of contradiction is such that two like things cannot exist at the same time, place, etc. etc. Don't think I can be l00% on this one. Below I discuss the distinction between the denotation and the connotative, or sense and reference (in the opposite order). A connotative meaning cannot be given to the synthetic a priori mathematical proposition. It will remain what it is, because it is solely referential. However, with the bachelor and married, we can, (as in the case of the concept of God' even) assign a connotative element. We can extend the meaning beyond the empty content of the proposition, and have a hey-day. Will explain more if necessary, but I've discussed sense and reference in another comment. (I do 'believe' I am correct in this analysis!!!!)

          • Phil

            Maybe this will help--

            The nature of a bachelor is: a man who is unmarried.
            The nature of a spouse is: a man who is married.

            Therefore one cannot be an actually existing spouse and bachelor at the same time, in the same place, in the same respect.
            ------

            If you agree on these two natures as defined above then you necessarily must agree with the conclusion. Now if you want to define a spouse and bachelor as different, then all bets are off.

            I am interested to hear how you would conceptually explain how a man would be both married and a bachelor at the same time, in the same place, and in the same respect?

          • Loreen Lee

            When it comes to circles and squares one cannot lie or deceive. This is not true when it comes to 'meaning' or 'connotation'. I actually think there is a lot of evidence out there that this 'conclusion' is 'true'. Wish I could quote from my book. I really had fun with this in a chapter that is too long to quote here. I even referred at one point to 'bachelor buttons', a misunderstanding of the spinster who is a biologist in a relationship with a bachelor who is not quite 'honest' with her. Ah! meaning!!!!! intentionality!!!!! words. Conceptually we can draw circles around Aristotelian logic with either-or's and excluded middles as well --- all the time. But not if you're a 'square'!!!!! (or you get into metaphor!!)

          • Phil

            I think you are talking about language while I am talking about actually existing natures. In other words, when I say "treeness" I am talking about what actually
            makes the tree outside my window take part in "treeness". I am not talking about the word, or the definition per se, though we could certainly work to define treeness if we wanted to. Because of this,
            both of us are able to look at it and objectively say, "that is a tree".

            Language is used to described the externally existing realities, like a spouse or bachelor. If we both recognize and agree on what a spouse and bachelor are, then we will also agree that a spouse-bachelor is not rationally possible to actually exist.

          • Loreen Lee

            Ah! I'm beginning to see your Aristotelian/Aquinas logic. You are finding a definitive application of 'spouse-bachelor', whereas I am looking at the usage of the word within a context. As a definition the bachelor has to be unmarried. A spouse, (law of contradiction) cannot be a bachelor.

            But let's have a little 'story' now. The bachelor leaves home, and is unfaithful to his wife, and indeed tells the spinster who he meets in the city that he is a bachelor. Indeed, when away from his country home, he lives in the city as if he is a real bachelor. He prepares his own meals, does his own laundry, etc. He is really 'bachin' it. He lives like bachelor. He thinks of himself, because of this, as though he were by definition really a bachelor. All of his friends, who don't know about his wife in the country, presume he is a 'real' bachelor, even the spinster. He keeps two bank accounts. One for his family in the country. One for his bachelor days. He pays no mind of what he takes from the one city account, because it is for him a 'separate' account. He feels totally justified in living this dual existence. The spinster does not know that he is a 'married bachelor'.

            Time passes. He finally separates from his wife, and now he really feels justified in thinking he is a bachelor. After all he may still be legally married, but he's not 'really'. He's on his way to a divorce, and he will soon be a real bachelor.
            By definition.

            But what of the laws of marriage. If he and the spinster are truly 'in love', what is the proper definition of their relationship. Common-law. Living in sin. Living 'as though' he is married. Is it only the legality and the recognition of the church that makes their love such that he would not describe himself as a married man.

            Such is the perplexity and variation that we meet in dialogue and conversation all the time. How we use words generally, does not always live up to the definitive denotative formal criteria of law and logic.

            But then, as this little story illustrates, neither does the 'morality'. !!!!

          • Phil

            Exactly, we need to define first what we are actually talking about!

            The key idea here is that one cannot be actually existing in reality as both married and unmarried at the same time, in the same place, in the same respect.
            ____

            On the story: (Let's call our character "John")

            1) When John is living in the country, is he actually a bachelor at that point or not? In other words, is he still a spouse--i.e., married or not?

            What I am seeing is that he only "appears" to be a bachelor, he is living "as if" he is a bachelor. Nothing in this states that he actually is existing as a bachelor at that point in time.

            2) (This gets tricky because of the belief that once one is validly married, one is always validly married. But I will define divorce here in the secular way now, not the Catholic.)
            When John actually gets a divorce, he is now actually a bachelor. He is no longer a spouse, or married.

            From these two points, I would not say we have any reason to believe that he was actually a spouse and actually a bachelor at the same time, in the same respect.

            ------

            Ultimately though, it comes done to simple reason and logic:

            -If being a bachelor means that one is actually not married
            -And if being a spouse means that one is actually married
            -Then one cannot be both at the same time in the same respect. One cannot be actually married and unmarried at the same time, in the same place, in the same respect.

          • Loreen Lee

            You have 'absolutely' demonstrated to me that you have a superior facility to develop a personal objective morality than either I nor the bachelor in my story.
            You keep talking of course about the 'actuality'
            of the situation/definition, i.e. as such actuality would be based on what legitimately and logically constitutes the idea and reality of 'being' a bachelor, and an unmarried man.
            You will not allow any lack of logic. You will not allow any immorality. You will not allow any illusion, delusion, deceit, fantasy or connotative 'meaning'. You will not allow self-deception, or deception of the poor spinster.
            I have to credit you with being the better philosopher and the exemplar of objective morality. But I hope you do not trust people so much as to believe that they adhere to such principles in all instances in their lives. I would not want your innocence to be taken advantage of!

            Please offer up a prayer for the self-deceived bachelor in my story, and especially for his wife and the poor spinster. They may not have actuality, but we can believe the potential is there for living a moral life.

            grin grin.

          • Phil

            Haha!! I got a great chuckle out of reading this!! Thank you!

            Honestly, we should be interested in reality as it actually is, while also being aware that people will try and deceive us. That is where the philosophy degree I may get made fun of comes in handy, as learning good philosophy teaches you how to think critically in any situation or job.

            Unfortunately, people like to focus in on the language that philosophy uses, but the language isn't what we are talking about. We are talking about objectively existing natures of beings and trying to explain them as they are. That is the job of philosophy, not playing word games!

          • Loreen Lee

            It is most difficult for me to be 'real' and 'actual' in my philosophical ambitions. (Please see the edit to the above comment stream). Modern philosophy is greatly involved in language analysis, and as time passes with the use of language. Indeed Wittgenstein at some point uses your term and describes language, in fact, as a 'game'. So you have elucidated me as to further meaning of that great philosopher's description of language. For better or for worse, however, modern philosophy, particularly language philosophy is concerned with the usage of words, and not with finding 'absolute' truths or 'realities'. U suppose it could all be regarded as the necessary examination of conscience before confession!!!!! Be patient with them. I'm sure they will discover 'reality' some day!!!!

          • Phil

            As a side note, when you start talking about "deceit" and "lies" you are talking about something that is not true--as that is what it means to tell a lie or deceive. So I am only talking about things that are actually true about reality. our goal here should only be to discover reality as it is.

            And in our example, one cannot discover or even conceive of a married bachelor, that is "true" including no lies or deceit.

          • Loreen Lee

            Very good argument, regarding criteria of what is true, and keeping to the tautological meaning of 'A bachelor is an unmarried man'. That is a true statement/proposition. It can however, (as an empty tautology) be given 'content' that may or may not live up to the truth value. Within meaning however, there is the possibility not only of finding lies and deception, but indeed of finding incomprehension and lack of understanding. So please know, that I too hope to find truth, always, but that I bear witness to the possibility/actuality that it is possible to meet a 'married bachelor'.....This I put forward as a very relevant example in a post that is dealing with the perplexities not only of truth but of 'morality'.

          • Loreen Lee

            Hi Phil. Just ran across this. About contradiction and the ineffable. Enjoy. http://aeon.co/magazine/world-views/logic-of-buddhist-philosophy/

          • Phil

            Very interesting, thank you for that!

            The two things that jumped out at me, is it is very interesting how we can model so much with mathematics, but obviously math is abstract, it is not the reality itself we are trying to explain. So I was glad when the author started giving examples.

            I definitely agree that something can be neither true nor false, and actually I would agree that the statement the author uses is this:

            "This statement is false"

            This statement is neither true nor false. It is a self-contradicting ultimately meaningless statement as it can say nothing positive or negative about reality.

            So I think the author simply misplaced the statement in the category "both true and false".

            -----

            But in all, we shouldn't worry to much about the principle of non-contradiction, because if it isn't true we can't be having this rational conversation right now. But we assume we are--so the PNC is true. (I can explain if desired :)

          • Loreen Lee

            Quote: But we presume we are!!!!

            Just possibly, may I suggest, we deal with contradictions very often in our lives without being aware of them. The Zeno paradoxes, as in 'This statement is false", and what the article discussed as the paradoxes of self-reference, are prime examples. But not to worry. I am confident that we can continue our discussions without too much 'contradiction'....grin grin.

          • Ben Posin

            With all respect and a complete utter lack of snark, I think you're the one who is confused. Let's look at the honesty question, for example. You state that it's meaningless to ask what if God was dishonest, and seem to be suggesting that honesty is integral to God's nature, that it's a defining attribute of God in the same way a triangle has three sides. But why must this be? What's so hard to imagine about a God that didn't embody honesty? As best I can tell, you think this because you think God is good, and honesty is good. But where did your belief that honesty is Good come from? By what standard? either you have some external standard by which you believe honesty is good, or you're literally going in circles and referring back to god's nature; God is honest because honesty is good because god is honest...

            As a related matter, I"m having a real hard time getting any clear meaning from the phrase "god coincides with good" that doesn't fall cleanly on the prongs of my modified dilemma. It seems a phrase designed as a mental placeholder to allow one to feel like one has an answer to this problem and stop worrying about it.

          • Phil

            Hey Ben,

            The understanding that God must necessarily be honest, i.e., all-true, comes from understanding what a serious theist means when they say "God".

            When one says God in the proper sense, they mean the ground of all being; the non-contingent reality; the purely actual being that can have no potentiality contained with its being.

            This final one is the key, if we are actually talking about God, we cannot say that God can exist any other way than how God actually exists, because this would be to say that there would need to be an explanation on why God exists this exact way he does--in a sense that would not be God we are actually talking about.

            So God must be the the single non-contingent, purely actualized being and truth means simply to know and speak about the way reality actually is. And all that exists must come from this non-contingent reality, which must be pure truth. And if God is pure truth, it is incoherent to say that he is then any part "untruth".

            Hope this helps some!

          • Ben Posin

            I don't think that really helps. To the extent that I understand what a "purely actual being" means, I don't see why an honest being is more fully actualized than a dishonest one.

          • Phil

            The key is that all the exists outside this non-contingent reality must come from this "being" we are talking about. If one brings something to be, one knows it to be true because it actually exists. (Remember I said above that truth is knowing reality as it actually is?)

            So if one brings something into being, one knows it to be true, because it actually exists. Well the reality that brings all contingent reality into existence must be the fullest example of truth, since it knows fully all that is, because it brought it all to be.

            Thoughts?

          • Ben Posin

            None that will make for productive conversation here, sorry. Just color me unconvinced that there's any meat to this line of argument.

          • Phil

            Is there some term that you don't quite understand or aren't familiar with? The basis for this line of reasoning has been around implicitly for just over 2000 years, and explicitly for about 500--so I may be assuming that you are familiar with a term that you haven't come across yet? If you need anything defined just let me know.

          • Ben Posin

            I appreciate your offer to define the harder words. I don't think that's my problem, though. It's more akin to what Solange has said to you: I read this long string of assertion built on assertion in what must seem to you like a beautiful lattice work, and I wonder: how do you know any of these things are true? Why are you defining God in this particular, non-intuitive way, and how do you know such a thing is possible or necessary? I don't really see the point engaging any of it.

          • Phil

            As I responded to Solange, if reality exists as we find it, then this other reality must also exist.

            If you are interested in learning more about this tradition of intellectual thought that is several thousand years old, I would recommend:

            -"The Wonder of the World" -Varghese
            -"The Last Superstition" -Edward Feser (Most specifically the chapters on rational knowledge of God's existence)
            -"Life, The Universe and Everything" - Ric Machuga

            Blessings and Have Fun!

          • Ben Posin

            Phil,
            I appreciate your enthusiasm, and you're a friendly guy. But you haven't given me any reason to think this several thousand years old tradition is worth pursuing. And this website really gives me all the Edward Feser that I think I have room for in my life.

          • Phil

            Hey No worries!

            Feser does have a great gift for making deeply intellectual concepts applicable to non-philosopher type without ridding them of their meaning and force.

            Honestly, the Varghese work, "The Wonder of the World" is the one to start with, as 2/3rds of the book takes places as a real dialogue between an atheist and theist--so the right pertinent questions are asked at the right time. Plus it helps to foster great awe and wonder, even if one believes this all exists out of pure chance.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why does this other reality have to exist? And Feser is not a good resource to send someone to - his personality gets in the way.

          • Phil

            Honestly, it is only polemical parts of "The Last Superstition" where his personality comes through. That is why I specifically sent him to the chapter on "the ways to God".

            But if you've read his work "Philosophy of Mind", or "Aquinas" or "Locke", as you know they are very solid intellectual works where he uses a great gift for making deep philosophical concepts able to be grasped by non-philosopher types.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes. And the fact that he's a raging homophobe doesn't come out quite so clearly. He's his own worst enemy in some ways.

          • Guest

            Obviously even if he is "afraid of those that are attracted to those of the same-sex" that doesn't mean he's is wrong--that's besides the point. But I don't think I've found anything in his writing that would suggest he is afraid of homosexuals!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            My basic response is a series of "why" questions. You've got an awful lot of assertions built into your line of argument. Especially since we haven't even demonstrated that this "being" exists or even makes sense to exist.

          • Phil

            If you follow the line of reasoning, ultimately the argument for God simplifies to, if reality exists as a collection of contingent realities, then a single non-contingent reality exists, and this reality we call God. And since we obviously exist as we do right now, then this non-contingent reality we call God must exist.

            (Contingent simply means that it needs an explanation outside itself to explain its existence.)

            Obviously there are a lot of stuff in between we could talk about, but only if you are interested.

            ____

            So this non-contingent reality must be pure actuality, or it wouldn't be the non-contingent reality, and all contingent beings (i.e., everything outside the non-contingent reality) come from it. Therefore this reality contains the fullness of truth since all beings outside itself was brought to be from it, and to bring something into being is to know that it is and the way it is, i.e., its truth.

            (I apologize if this last formulation was a little convoluted!)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            if reality exists as a collection of contingent realities, then a single non-contingent reality exists, and this reality we call God.

            Why?

            And sure, let's talk about it.

          • Phil

            Fair enough!

            I'll stick to a shorter version. (Note that this is not my own work. This specific example is Robert Barren's, though the thought is many centuries old.
            -------

            Let's say we want to explain a cloud coming to be on a Sunday afternoon.

            Note, we are not going back in time here, we are talking about fully, 100% explaining this cloud right here this moment.

            1) We ask, what causes this summer cloud to existence as it does right now?
            2) We mention the moisture in the air, the wind, the atmosphere.
            3) That's good, but those things too have to be explained on how they exist right now as they do.
            4) Well, we mention those things are caused be the jet stream, which is caused by movement of the planet.
            5) Well, the planet itself now needs to be explained how it exists as it does, right now!
            6) Events within the solar system, the galaxy, etc cause the planet to exist as it does right now.
            7) Well, the galaxy to change and was brought into being, so we must explain that.
            8) What about the great structures of the universe, that caused all this.
            9) Well we know that too needs an explanation for how the universe exists as it does, right now.
            10) If we posit, a multi-verse , we need an explanation for how that exists as it does. (Obviously we are into speculation now)
            11) And yet we have still not fully explained that one cloud! Because these have all been contingent realities.
            12) We realize that we cannot go on infinitely as that will ultimately explain nothing at all, we must come to a reality that exists through itself. This is the non-contingent reality I speak of. It exists through its own power, it never came into being, nor can it go out of being. This being can finally explain that one summer cloud!

            ------

            On why only a single non-contingent reality: (Short version!)

            If there is more than one non-contingent reality, that means there is some difference between the two, or its just the selfsame one thing, that we are trying to make two. Well if there is a difference between the two that means that one exists in some way that the other does not--which means that we now need a rational explanation as to why it exists as it does.

            Well something that needs an explanation is not the non-contingent reality that completely explains it own existence. Therefore there can only be a single non-continent reality that truly accounts for its own existence. (Note that we are not claiming that this non-contingent reality "brought itself" into being--this is impossible. We claim that the non-contingent reality always exists and never will not exist)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But this is nothing more than Aquinas' five ways - one if them, anyway. It fails to explain why something that is the set if things must be contingent; it fails to demonstrate that any non-contingent thing exists, etc.

            Is it Aquinas? Is that all we've got? I'm going to ask you to justify an awful lot of assumptions, again. Not to mention that first cause gets you only to first cause. Not god, as theists (most theists) understand god.

          • Phil

            I think you've missed the point:

            1) If contingent things exist, then at least one non-contigent thing must exist.
            2) Contingent things exist
            Conclusion: Therefore at least one non-contingent reality must exist.

            I will write-up a longer form in a few.

          • Ben Posin

            I know I said I should stop, but I am weak willed.

            That seems like a well formed argument, in that if it's premises are true, its conclusion must be true.

            But are the premises true? You consider every thing in the universe we have ever encountered or known about to be contingent. How do you go from there to demonstrating a non-contingent thing must exist? Josh had a much better way of putting this that I don't recall, but you are trying to fill a hole in your understanding with a definition. You don't know how anything can be non-contingent, you have never seen anything non-contingent, all you are aware of is a chain of contingent things...and a "non-contingent " label slapped on a mystery box you can't open.

          • Phil

            If you go to about 3 posts above, that should get you thinking the right direction. It's my long post starting with the "definitions".

            How do you go from there to demonstrating a non-contingent thing must exist?

            In a nutshell, contingent things need something outside themselves to exist as they do. There can be neither a finite nor infinite amount of contingent things without concluding in the end that nothing can exist if this is the case--which is absurd since you obviously exist. So we then must conclude that there is a least one non-contingent reality that needs nothing outside itself to explain its existence.

            In all, you need at least a single non-contingent reality to explain why anything contingent even exists. This is simply using good reason and observing reality as it is.

            And I'm not defining anything beforehand here, simply letting reason and experience lead me to where it does.

            (And please, don't feel you have to continue the conversation, you are free to duck out whenever you have to!

          • Ignorant Amos

            If you want your non-contingent being to represent the imbalance of an energy state that got all contingent things going...fill her boots...you can even call it deism if you like. Call it God even, it is as good as any placeholder until the science has it worked out.

            You have your work cut out for you in the next step. Getting that non-contingent first cause to the triune god of Christianity, particularly Roman Catholic Christianity with all its nearly 1700 years of errant bells and whistles.

          • Phil

            Hey Ignorant Amos,

            f you want your non-contingent being to represent the imbalance of an energy state that got all contingent things going

            If we look at an unbalanced energy state, we realize very quickly that it is not a non-contingent reality. This is because we still can ask the questions, "how does this unbalanced energy state exist right now as it does", or "how does it exist as this kind of unbalanced energy state and not that kind of energy state?"

            With the true non-contingent reality, we cannot ask these questions because the non-contingent reality must necessarily exist as it does, it could not exist any other way--as long as we are talking about the true non-contingent reality.

            You have your work cut out for you in the next step. Getting that
            non-contingent first cause to the triune god of Christianity,
            particularly Roman Catholic Christianity with all its nearly 1700 years
            of errant bells and whistles.

            It is actually not super hard for reason to delineate the basic "properties" of God. Obviously it helps that we have 2000 years of thought to help us, and many women and men that were much smarter than you and I to help us.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hello there.

            The problem I find is the jumping between words like "being" and "reality". One of the definitions you gave for being was energy. The truth is, no one knows. Your cosmological argument wants to contradict that what it desires to prove. In other words an ulmate non-contingent reality, force, being, physics, whatever...you want to shoehorn an extra element, or should I say the argument does, that of God, very specifically, your pricise flavour of God... even though there is no evidence. You are at liberty to posit any name for the placeholder, one god is as good a name as good as any other until we knowknow more, but that is all there is. Scientists may or may not be able to suss it out, but 2000 years of women and men more educated than you and I have failed to convince many of the brightest on this planet...the rest need faith.

          • Phil

            The problem I find is the jumping between words like "being" and "reality".

            I apologize if that was confusing, I can clarify.

            I am using being/reality in the most generic of ways:

            being/reality: anything that exists. It can be matter, energy, immaterial entities/abstract entities (like numbers), etc.

            you want to shoehorn an extra element, or should I say the argument
            does, that of God, very specifically, your pricise flavour of God...
            even though there is no evidence.

            I don't think you are quite understanding the argument yet.

            I start with no definition of "God". I simply say this is how reality is, let's figure out how it is the way it is. And it just so turns out that a non-ciontingent reality/being is necessary for anything contingent to exist. So I then validly conclude that since things exist, this non-contingent reality/being must exist. And this is what we are talking about when we say "God".

            Again, we can go on an delineate any properties this "God" must have. But that's a second step.

            Scientists may or may not be able to suss it out, but 2000 years of
            women and men more educated than you and I have failed to convince many
            of the brightest on this planet.

            You forgot to also mention that many of the brightest over 2000 years, including many in the past 100 years, have also been convinced of the real existence of a intelligent creator. :)

          • Martin Sellers

            Well this is how debate works. We find common ground and then proceed from there. Agreeing on the reality of a non-contingent is a good first step to talking about other things. I doubt Phil expects a grand leap from agreement on a non-contingency to Roman Catholic Christianity right away.....

          • Phil

            Definitions first here:

            contingent reality: a being that
            needs something outside itself to explain how to came to be. Examples: a
            tree, ball, car, person, electron, quantum particle, cloud, earth,
            moon, galaxy, universe, entire cosmos (if there exists other "universes"
            outside our own).

            non-contingent reality: a being which is self-explanatory. It needs no explanation for its existence outside itself.

            being: Anything that is; it could be energy, matter, or immaterial, etc.

            ------

            We have 2 options:

            1) Either all that exists are contingent beings
            2) Or there exists at least one non-contingent beings

            Let's take (1):
            We have two options here:
            (1a) Either there is a finite amount of contingent realities
            (1b) Or there is an infinite amount of contingent realities

            Let's examine 1a:
            If there is a finite amount of beings that need an explanation outside
            them self to explain how they came to be, we will get to the point where
            we will have at least 1 being whose existence has nothing else to bring
            it into being and therefore it cannot exist. Therefore the whole chain
            of contingent beings that rely on this being to exist could not exist.

            What about a circle? A is reliant on B, B on C and C on A. Well C is reliant upon A to exist, but A reliant upon C insofar as it is reliant upon B to exist. Therefore, this does not help, as the whole thing comes toppling down again into nonexistence.

            But since we do exist, 1a is absurd.

            Let's examine 1b:
            If there is an infinite amount of beings that need an explanation outside them self to explain how they came to be, an actual infinite amount of beings means that there is always one more being that exists that needs on outside being the bring it into being. Therefore, there is always one more being that needs to exist to explain the existence of another being. If this is the case, we could not exist today, but we do exist today, so this hypothesis is absurd.

            Since we have shown that all possible options under option 1 are absurd, we are left to conclude that at least one non-contingent reality exists.

            We then could continue on to show why there can only be one of these non-contingent realities.

          • Ben Posin

            Phil:

            I don't see how that responds to Solange's basic objections. Reciting these well-worn lists of questionable premises and conclusions is neither persuasive nor productive.

          • Phil

            Writing off something as wrong is easy, saying why exactly you believe it is wrong is what gives one credibility.

            What basic objections are you speaking of? I can address them if you can point me towards them?

            What do you not agree with in this rational demonstration?

          • Phil

            The interesting thing I find many times is that many people say that we should use reason in regards to this, but once you get to this point they suddenly shutdown. And just just end up saying that it is ridiculous.

            Well, it may be ridiculous, but that doesn't mean it is wrong! ;)

          • Ben Posin

            Phil,

            You are presenting long chains of arguments, filled with many premises and conclusions. I'm not convinced yet your arguments are valid yet, but it's possible they are. Here's the problem: a valid argument can still be nonsense, and have no connection to reality. An argument is valid if, when all of its premises are true, it is impossible for the conclusion to be false. The problem is, the validity of the argument tells us nothing about whether the premises are actually true.

            You and Aquinas can build these towers of reasoning to the sky, but it doesn't get us anywhere unless we have a reason to believe your premises are true. Solange and I have been doing our best to explain to you that we have no reason to believe your premises are true. That's the weaker part of your argument, not the argument's structural validity.

          • Phil

            Hey Ben,

            Solange and I have been doing our best to explain to
            you that we have no reason to believe your premises are
            true

            I am still waiting for you to bring up what specific premises you have an issue with and explain why?

            ------

            I agree 100% with your analysis of the combination of deductive and inductive reasoning. And I would hold that all those premises above are true in reality and therefore the conclusion must follow.

            It's fine if you aren't convinced, as I'm not here to force you to believe or be convinced. I'd just invite you to reason through what I wrote above and then bring up what you would take issue with or what isn't clear.

          • Ben Posin

            Some examples:
            your premise that a circular set of finite "beings" is impossible is unsupported.
            your combo premise/conclusion that we "wouldn't exist" if there was an "endless chain" of "finite beings" is unsupported.
            I also wonder if the implicit premise of your argument, that we can divide the universe into separate, finite "beings" for the purpose of your argument, is something that should be accepted unchallenged.

          • Phil

            Thank you for your comments--we can have a discussion :)

            your premise that a circular set of finite "beings" is impossible is unsupported.

            Let's reason through it!

            So we posit the circle of contingent beings, we can make it small, but it can be as big as you want it to be, a circle is a circle.

            1a) A is contingent upon B (to exist)
            1b) B is contingent upon C (to exist)
            1c) C is contingent upon A (to exist)

            2) A must exist to bring C into being as shown by 1c above.
            3) But C must already exist to bring A into being as shown by 1a and 1b.

            **Summary: A needs B. B needs C. Therefore if C does not exist A does not exist. And if C does not exist A does not exist. And if C does not exist, B does not exist

            Therefore Nothing exists!

            I also wonder if the implicit premise of your argument, that we can divide the universe into separate, finite "beings" for the purpose of your argument, is something that should be accepted unchallenged.

            Can you suggest what other option there would be besides either an actually infinite or an actually finite amount of beings/realities existing?

          • Ben Posin

            As to whether "beings" makes sense, the thrust of what I'm getting at is captured in Solange's remark that while perpas we might consider any given thing in the universe contingent, that's not to say that set of all contingent things is itself actually contingent. From our perspective the universe seems to be broken up into discrete beings, but that may be an imposition of our perspective on reality. We could look at the universe as one potentially "non-contingent", complicated "being" with many subparts. Note that my head will hit my desk if you then say: ah, but we call that God!

            The circular thing may be impossible, I'm not sure. The universe, time, and causality are strange.

            Please feel free to bolster what is probably your key premise, that we couldn't exist if there was an infinite chain of contingent beings. You may want to consult a calculus book first though, regarding how infinite series can actually reach a total sum.

          • Phil

            We could look at the universe as one potentially "non-contingent",
            complicated "being" with many subparts.

            That's fine and the burden of proof is on you there to show that the entire universe as a whole is actually non-contingent, while being made up of contingent beings.

            Since everything in our experience points towards the fact that there are distinct contingent beings that make up the cosmos, and no matter how many contingent beings you put together it seems very hard to argue that, magically, suddenly everything would become non-contingent.

            The toughest part to defend might be that scientists are looking for an explanation on how the universe, as a whole, exists as it does. This assumes the fact that the universe is not the cause of its own existence. Unless you want to propose that what scientists do is ultimately absurd?

            So I'm completely fine if you want to propose that argument, but you need to defend it well.

            Please feel free to bolster what is probably your key premise, that we
            couldn't exist if there was an infinite chain of contingent beings. You
            may want to consult a calculus book first though, regarding how
            infinite series can actually reach a total sum.

            This may be a good time to note that mathematics are not reality. Mathematics can model reality, but it is not reality. So we couldn't rationally say, I have this mathematical model that works, therefore it actually exists in reality.

            The key distinction here is between a potentially infinite amount of things and an actual amount of infinite things. When I say in my first part of the argument above, if we posit an infinite amount of contingent beings, we are positing that there actually exist an infinitely amount of contingent beings, not simply that there could be. (On a side not, if past events are finite, then there obviously exists only a finite amount of beings, but if the future goes on forever we could say that there is a potentiality infinite amount of beings, thought there will *never* be an actual amount of infinite beings.)

            So if we posit that there somehow is an actual amount of infinite beings, that means we can never reach the end of the chain of "events" or beings. That means there will always be a being that needs something to exist prior to it, so that it can exist. But if it goes on infinitely the whole group of beings can never exist.

            Example: Think of a linked chain hanging from the clouds. There could be an infinite amount of links, but if no link is actually "mounted" the whole chain will fall to the ground. This "mounted" link is the non-contingent reality.

            Best thing is to think this one through slowly :)

          • Ben Posin

            Phil,
            I'm not sure I agree about the burden of proof. I'm not claiming to have the answer, I'm explaining to you that I don't except your argument as having a necessarily true answer, because I don't understand that it's premises are true. You want to have your argument be convincing, you can show me that the premises are true.

            Regarding whether infinite "non-contingent" events are impossible, all I am seeing are more unevidenced and unsupported assertions from you. Just as the universe isn't math, it's also not a steel chain hanging from the sky. Even buying into your analogy for a second, it's hard to see it as more than special pleadng. You assert that there "must" be some sort of special, non-contingent hook that the chain hangs from, but what properties does that hook have that make it able to be non-contingent, when nothing else in your experience is? At no point have you ever tried to explain how something could "explain itself" as you put it.

            Unless my will power weakens again, I think I'm done with this part of the conversation, and I thank you for your time. I'm hardly the only person out there who is not convinced by this non-contingency argument--you don't see modern cosmologists typically referring to Aquinas when trying to study and explain the origins of the universe. I think I've been reasonably clear about where I stand, and don't really feel the need to duke it out with you further.

          • Phil

            I'm not sure I agree about the burden of proof.

            We have evidence/experience of all contingent beings of the cosmos thus far and we have no direct experience/evidence of them all being joined together to make a single non-contingent entity, therefore the burden of proof is on the one that makes that claim, we don't have evidence right now to show that it is more reasonable to believe in that latter position.

            One could use philosophical reasoning from experience to argue that position, but it would be very hard. You are welcome to reason through it.

            You want to have your argument be convincing, you can show me that the premises are true.

            Which is exactly why you are supposed to point me towards which premises you don't find convincing. (Which is what you did with the circular argument and the "non-contingent universe" hypothesis.) If you don't tell me which parts are not particularly convincing, I can't help!

            Regarding whether infinite "non-contingent" events are impossible, all I am seeing are more unevidenced and unsupported assertions from you.

            Note that I am arguing that an actual infinite amount of "contingent" events/realities/beings cannot exist. (I think it was just a typo above.)

            I'll try to explain better:

            1) We start with the assumption that an actual infinite amount of things/changes/beings/realities actually exist.

            2) For us to reach at the present day/way things exist an actual infinite amount of things/events must have been traversed to bring about the existence of today. (Since we are assuming and infinite amount of things exist.)

            5) It is impossible to actually traverse an infinite series of things/events/realities, since there is always be one more thing to traverse.

            6)This is because there will always be one more thing that needs to be traversed/explained for the present day to exist

            Conclusion: This means that for us to have reached today, we must have traversed an actual infinite amount of events/changes/beings/realities. But it is impossible to actually traverse an actual infinite. Therefore today would not exist if an actual amount of events/changes/beings/realities actually existed.

            Therefore, an actual amount of things/being/realities/event/changes do not exist.

            So as you might have noticed, this argument actually can argue not only that an actual infinite amount of contingent realities do not exist, but and actual infinite amount of anything can not exist.

            Does this help any?

            I'm hardly the only person out there who is not convinced by this non-contingency argument--you don't see modern cosmologists typically referring to Aquinas when trying to study and explain the origins of the universe. I think I've been reasonably clear about where I stand, and don't really feel the need to duke it out with you further.

            Ahh, but you must be talking to only certain people then. I do know plenty of cosmologists, and scientiists in general that believe in the validity of these arguments.

            Plus, understand that cosmologists are scientists and many are not great at philosophy/metaphysics. These types of argument are closer in type to geometric demonstrations (though geometry deals with pure abstractions while metaphysics deals with reality). These are not scientific demonstrations. And science is no the only way to come to truth about reality.

            Thanks for the good discussion! I'm always here willing to explain anything else that you may need! And in the end, just keep your mind open, and your intellect engaged ;)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's fine and the burden of proof is on you there to show that the entire universe as a whole is actually non-contingent, while being made up of contingent beings.

            Why? We already know from set theory that sets don't necessarily share the properties of their members; and we have evidence of the members of the set and the set itself by definition - but we have no evidence at all of any 'non-contingent' anythings. You make the claim that such a 'non-contingent' singularity (in the sense of a single entity exists, it's your burden of proof to demonstrate it.

            Since everything in our experience points towards the fact that there are distinct contingent beings that make up the cosmos, and no matter how many contingent beings you put together it seems very hard to argue that suddenly everything would become non-contingent.

            Actually, that's the easy part. We have no evidence that anything actually is contingent, in the sense you mean. The universe is full of rearrangements of existing matter/energy, but at no point in time did nothing exist.

            And if we're looking for acausality, we have evidence of non-contingent virtual particles.

            The toughest part to defend might be that scientists are looking for an explanation on how the universe, as such, exists as it does.

            Ummm... That's a big part of what cosmologists DO for a living. And theoretical physicists; and heck even mathematicians.

            This assumes the fact that the universe is not the cause of its own existence. Unless you propose that what scientists do is ultimately absurd?

            I don't think anyone has suggested that the universe is the cause of it's own existence.

          • Phil

            Ummm... That's a big part of what cosmologists DO
            for a living. And theoretical physicists; and heck even
            mathematicians.

            You must have missed that I agree with you. And that's the problem! Because Ben was saying that the universe is the non-contingent reality, which means it has no ultimate explanation for why it exists the way it does. (See the definitions above.)

            So either all these cosmologists, theoretical physicists, and mathematicians are on a wild goose hunt and what they are doing is absurd in trying to find an explanation for something that doesn't have an explanation! Or the universe is a contingent reality and has an explanation for existing in the certain way it does right now.

            You make the claim that such a 'non-contingent' singularity (in the
            sense of a single entity exists, it's your burden of proof to
            demonstrate it.

            That's exactly what I did above--show that it is necessary for at least one non-conditioned reality to exist. Ben was simply supposing that possibly the universe as a whole was the non-contingent reality, even though it is made up of contingent realities that we observe.

            And I'm simply commenting that the burden of proof is on him to show that the universe taken together is actually non-contingent. Now if you want to argue that a non-contingent reality/entity does not have to exist, that's another discussion from what you quoted.

            Actually, that's the easy part. We have no evidence that anything actually is contingent, in the sense you mean. The universe is full of rearrangements of existing matter/energy, but at no point in time did nothing exist.

            You just undermined science then. We can no longer do science if this is true. The physical sciences assume that things have a rational explanation.

            What you just said is that we have no reason to believe that things actually have an explanation. Well, there goes the point of science, figuring out explanations!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You just undermined science then. We can no longer do science if this is true. The physical sciences assume that things have a rational explanation.

            None of which I denied.

            What you just said is that we have no reason to believe that things actually have an explanation. Well, there goes the point of science, figuring out explanations!

            Not in the slightest. I don't see how you get that.

            (I do definitely agree with you that there never could have been a point where was absolute nothing, since nothing would now exist if that were the case.)

            "Nothing" is an incoherent concept.

            As for the rest of your points, I'll try to get to them later; but I disagree most strenuously that you have demonstrated any need for a non-contingent cause.

          • Phil

            but I disagree most strenuously that you have demonstrated any need for a non-contingent cause.

            That's fine, but you need to show and explain exactly why you don't believe a non-contingent reality is necessary, not simply assert it.
            ------

            On undermining science:

            I gotcha, then you could not hold that the universe/cosmos as a whole is a non-contingent entity. (I am glad to hear that you still believe science is a rational endeavor!)

          • Susan

            That's fine and the burden of proof is on you there to show that the entire universe as a whole is actually non-contingent, while being made up of contingent beings.

            No. If your argument relies on this premise, the burden is on you to show that it is necessarily true. You haven't shown that.

            You haven't defined "universe", nor shown how you've escaped the fallacy of composition either.

          • Phil

            Hey Susan!

            No. If your argument relies on this premise, the burden is on you to show that it is necessarily true. You haven't shown that.

            My argument doesn't rely on this premise. These are Ben's premises we are talking about if you have had time to read through the whole discussion.

            My "proof" merely shows that at least one non-contingent reality is necessary to exist in all of reality. And Ben then said, well can't the universe be the non-contingent reality. I simply stated that he's the one making the claim so he needs to offer reasons on why it is.

            You haven't defined "universe", nor shown how you've escaped the fallacy of composition either.

            In regards to the fallacy of composition, you might be familiar that it can go both ways. Saying that all the individual bricks that make up a brick wall are red, therefore the wall as a whole is red is a valid argument and true.

            But saying that all the individual bricks are light (in weight), therefore the wall as a whole is light would be the fallacy of composition.

            So just because one says says all "X's are Y, therefore the Z that these X's make up is also Y", this doesn't mean that what they say is wrong, as I showed above.

            Ben needs to show that we have good reason to believe that if we put millions and millions of contingent beings together, we suddenly get a non-contingent being. I'm open to it being argued, but simply asserting it gets one nowhere.

            You haven't defined "universe.

            That would be Ben's job to define how he is using universe, since this again is his part of the discussion. I usually like to lean towards using "cosmos" which refers to everything that is part of a physical cosmos. I mean everything, even if a multiverse exists.

            (obviously my proof above references "all that is", that means everything--even possible immaterial entities)

          • Susan

            My argument doesn't rely on this premise.

            I meant that your argument rests on the premise that the cosmos can't be the non-contingent being. You've given no good reason to accept that that is necessarily true.

            So just because one says says "all X's are Y, therefore the whole Z that these X's make up is also Y", this doesn't mean that what they say is wrong.

            It doesn't mean that they are right either. You haven't explained how your argument escapes the fallacy of composition, why it falls into the red wall category.

            Ben needs to show that we have good reason to believe that if we put millions and millions of contingent beings together, we suddenly get a non-contingent being.

            All of your "contingent beings" are our perception of material reorganization. So, we are not doing that.

            (obviously my proof above references "all that is", that means everything--even possible immaterial entities)

            You can't include "immaterial beings" in the category of "all that is" without demonstrating that they exist. Your logic relies on that assumption and doesn't give that to us.

          • Phil

            I meant that your argument rests on the premise that the cosmos can't be
            the non-contingent being. You've given no good reason to accept that
            that is necessarily true.

            Which argument are you talking about? If you are talking about the original one then, as I mentioned above, that argument says nothing about whether the universe as a whole is a non-contingent entity or not. It simply argues that there must exist in all of reality at least one non-contingent entity, it doesn't get to the point of even showing yet if there can be more than one.

            Now if one wants to argue that the universe is a non-contingent entity, as Ben was looking to do, that is a separate discussion following from my original.

            It doesn't mean that they are right either. You haven't explained how
            your argument escapes the fallacy of composition, why it falls into the
            red wall category.

            I was simply saying I may be committing the fallacy of composition or I may not. There's a chance that either is the truth of reality. One can't simply shout out "fallacy of composition" to deny an argument.

            I mean, if you accept my first argument, that there must be at least a single non-contingent entity in all of reality, we could move on with the discussion to these questions if you like to? But we first need to establish that my first argument is valid and a truth of reality, then we can move on. It's up to you!

            You can't include "immaterial beings" in the category of "all that is"
            without demonstrating that they exist. Your logic relies on that
            assumption and doesn't give that to us.

            I am actually not claiming here that immaterial entities actually exist, all I am saying is that if they exist, then when I say "all that is" it includes. "All that is" includes all things that exist, both that we know about and things we don't yet.

            But in reality, we know some immaterial entities exist--mathematics and geometry, in the proper sense. There is no such thing as an actually physically existing perfectly geometric shape--such as a square or circle. Geometric shapes are "enclosed" by lines, but a true line has no width. Well, that's not possible in physical reality. But shapes and numbers are objective things that we can grasp, they exist but not physically like you, your brain, or the tree outside my window,

          • Susan

            Now if one wants to argue that the universe is a non-contingent entity, as Ben was looking to do, that is a separate discussion following from my original.

            It seemed to me that Ben was following your argument and that he was connecting the points you were trying to make. Isn't your point that there must be a non-contingent being and that is what you call "God"?

            Ben said:

            From our perspective the universe seems to be broken up into discrete beings, but that may be an imposition of our perspective on reality. We could look at the universe as one potentially "non-contingent", complicated "being" with many subparts

            He said it could ( I read if then possibly for all anybody knows).

            You then told Ben that the burden was his to prove something that could be the case if he accepted your claim that there must be a non-contingent being. That's just silly pants (to coin my favourite Ben phrase).

            He is making no claim. He seemed to be suggesting (Ben will correct me, I hope) that even IF you could make your case for a non-contingent being, none of us is in a position to say that the cosmos is or is not a contingent being.

            But in reality, we know some immaterial entities exist--mathematics and geometry, in the proper sense.

            Yes. In the proper sense. They are not Zeus, Krishna, Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, angels, fairies, souls or ghosts.

            4 and circles are a whole other subject. Whether mathematics is discovered or invented or both has always been a huge discussion. It's far from settled. So, you can't even say that "in reality, we know they exist", especially in such vague language.

          • Phil

            You are exactly correct that the universe could in fact be non-contingent, while also it being true that it is not necessary for there even to exist a non-contingent entity in all reality.

            What I've been doing is directing us to first figure out if a non-contingent entity is even necessary to exist. Because if it isn't, then what you, myself, and Ben are talking about doesn't matter that much in the grand scheme of things--the universe as a whole may be contingent or it may be non-contingent.

            So that's why I say, let's start with the original argument and figure out if it is right and true, and then move on from there.

            You then told Ben that the burden was his to prove something that could be the case if he accepted your claim that there must be a non-contingent being.

            That's not quite what I was saying, thought I do apologize if it wasn't clear. I was saying simply thatif he wants to argue that the universe if non-contingent he has his work cut out for him (i.e., a large burden of proof) because up to this point we not only experience contingent beings, we also work off the assumption that the universe itself needs an explanation when doing science.

            --------

            --On the contingency of the universe--

            The big idea you and Ben would need to address is how the universe does explain itself and necessarily exists as it does right now?

            In other words, if the universe as a whole is truly non-contingent, then one must ultimately hold that the universe could not have existed any other way than how it does right now.

            Honestly, I think the hardest thing to explain is how things even continue to exist right now. This is because there is nothing within any object that says that it needs to exist right now and shouldn't just pop out of existence right now.

            I can give you the three top reasons as to why we don't have reason right now to believe that the universe is non-contingent:

            1) The biggest argument against the fact that the universe is non-contingent is the fact that scientists are working off the assumption that it is contingent!
            Since to this day cosmologists, astrophysicists, philosophers, etc are still looking for how the universe exists as a whole as it does, this gives away that the universe itself is contingent and needing an explanation
            outside itself. The only way we could start to consider it
            non-contingent is if it completely explained how it exists as it does--meaning we need to discover that it only could exist in this particular way, out of necessity. If the universe is actually non-contingent then what these scientists are doing is ultimately ridiculous because there is no answer to the big questions they are asking.

            2) The most far reaching reason is that, by the nature of reality, anything that is spacial-temporal, i.e., the entire universe and any other universe(s) that may exist are necessarily contingent. Anything that is composed of energy and/or matter could exist in the some other way as they exist right now. Therefore they are contingent.

            3) No matter how many contingent beings you put together--even if it was a trillion trillion trillion "entities"--it would be hard to reason that suddenly all these entities put together would suddenly become self-explanatory, i.e., self-contingent.

            Whether mathematics is discovered or invented or both has always been a controversy.

            Actually, this is pretty straight-forward.

            Numbers are something that exists objectively outside our own mind. But of course, numbers aren't physical objects. They have some sort of immaterial abstract nature.

            If numbers, in the most basic sense, only existed in our mind then mathematics would be impossible since we would no way of understanding if when you said "2" and I said "2" it was the exact same thing we were talking about. (This goes for language as a whole, of course.)

            Much of this confusion comes from the fact that many "modernists" deny the existence of immaterial natures of all things that exist. (Yes there is something even immaterial about the desk possibly sitting in front of you.)

            But what they don't realize is that coherent language between people is not possible if objective natures don't actually exist in objects. So anyway, a little bit of a side track...

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You seem to be shifting back and forth between "non-contingent" and has an explanation. Why? I'd argue that they are not the same, and that consequently, your reason (1) has no bearing on the problem.

          • Phil

            You seem to be shifting back and forth between "non-contingent" and has an explanation. Why?

            Where the explanation lies is key to defining something as contingent or non-contingent. A non-contingent entity contains the complete explanation for its existence within itself. It is "not contingent" upon anything else for it existing as it does.

            Here are the definitions. Would you agree with these definitions then of contingent entities and non-contingent entities? If not, how would you word them?

            contingent reality: a being that needs something outside itself to explain how it exists as it does. Examples: a tree, ball, car, person, electron, quantum particle, cloud, earth, moon, galaxy, etc.

            non-contingent reality: a being which is completely self-explanatory. It needs no explanation for its existence outside itself. It necessarily could exist in no other way.

            your reason (1) then has no bearing on the problem.

            Okay, following up from the above questions, how would you define a non-contingent entity?

            If you want to hold that a non-contingent entity can have an explanation for its existence that comes from outside the entity, then I would hold you are talking about a contingent entity.

            And if one is looking for an explanation on how a truly non-contingent reality exists as it does, they are doing something absurd, since this entity exists necessarily as it does--it could not exist any other way. Hence my (1) comment.

            Also, obviously these aren't definitions I pulled out of thin air as they've been around for at least ~1000 years.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Where the explanation lies is key to defining something as contingent or non-contingent. A non-contingent entity contains the complete explanation for its existence within itself. It is "not contingent" upon anything else for it existing as it does.

            If the non-contingency you are relying on is the immaterial mind outside time and space then the conversation is moot. Existence requires both time and space, materiality is another debate. If you can posit an existence outside time and space, then past eternal contingent beings must also be on the table....no?

          • Ignorant Amos

            non-contingent reality: a being which is completely self-explanatory. It needs no explanation for its existence outside itself. It necessarily could exist in no other way.

            Can you define such a being in a way a simpleton like I could relate too? With evidence of course.

          • Phil

            Can you define such a being [non-contingent entity] in a way a simpleton like I could relate too? With evidence of course.

            (Note that being/entity/object/thing are all interchangeable in this entire discussion)

            There easiest way to understand it is to notice what it is not--it is not a contingent being. A contingent being, such as the cloud outside my window does not contain the explanation for how it exists as it does within itself, you have to look to the moisture in the air, the wind, the jet stream etc. The same goes for a tree, a quark, a planet, a star, etc. These entities are not self-explanatory.

            So a non-contingent being is one that does actually contain the explanation for its own existence within itself. This entity would need no explanation outside itself to explain how it exists as it does. In other words, it is a self-explanatory entity.

            In all of reality, there are only two choices--an entity is either contingent or non-contingent, there is no other coherent choice. (Including saying that "some things don't have rational explanations". Well goodbye science then...)

            Another thing to note is we are doing philosophy, and more specifically metaphysics, here. This is much closer to geometrical type arguments, but based upon evidence and experience that could come from most every discipline and based upon proper reasoning, not simply from mathematics like geometry. So first you have to put yourself in the right frame of mind.

            If the non-contingency you are relying on is the immaterial mind outside time and space then the conversation is moot.

            We haven't gotten to the point of figuring out what this non-contingent being would be. It would be wise to first figure out if a non-contingent being is even necessary to exist. If it isn't necessary, then I don't think we should worry about this discussion.

            Existence requires both time and space, materiality is another debate.

            This would actually not be true because time and space are not actually existing objects. In other words, time and space is not something that predates energy/matter, but rather arises with energy/matter. As I was talking with Solange about, space and time are relationships between energy/matter not actually existing objects.

            So in other words, space and time is inseparable from energy/matter (i.e., materiality.)

            This doesn't address whether there are or are not immaterial entities that exist outside the constraints of space and time.

            If you can posit an existence outside time and space, then past eternal contingent beings must also be on the table....no?

            That is exactly what my original argument part (1b), I believe, addresses above.

            It posits that maybe there is simply "infinitely existing contingent being(s)". It then address if this is possible.

            The catch is that as we have been discussing, a contingent being needs an explanation outside itself. So even if this contingent being existed eternally it would still need an explanation for how it exists as it does. In other words, how does it exist with 'X' property instead of 'Y' property?

            This is what 1b shows above--that it ultimately doesn't explain the existence of anything without a non-contingent being existing.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Your post is slightly confusing: at first you seem to be equating 'contingent' with 'needs an explanation'. But then you claim a contingent being needs an explanation, as if there is some other definition of contingent being you haven't supplied.

            Clarification would help.

          • Phil

            You are still missing the whole distinction between the two.

            Both contingent and non-contingent beings have explanations in the proper sense, its the kind of explanation that is the key. The contingent being needs an outside entity/being/object to fully explain its existence while the non-contingent being fully explains itself from within.

            I'll state it again:

            contingent: full explanation for being comes only when we look beyond that being. i.e., a cloud does not explain how it exists fully from within. We need to look to the moisture in the air, the wind, the jet stream, etc.

            non-contingent: full explanation for the being comes from within that very being. Nothing outside the being is necessary to explain how it exists right now

            Does this help any? I mean, these aren't that hard of concepts to get! I am not "gifted" or "extra smart" in any way.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            These are not explanations that actually help the discussion.

          • Phil

            See my response to your other comment. I mean contingency and non-contingency aren't that hard of concepts to get so I hope we can get past this point. (Or I just hope that one is not simply being obstinate, as that is the true roadblock.)

          • Phil

            To cut to the chase--the short of the argument from contingency is that one is not going to be able to fully explain anything unless one posits that an "entity" exists that fully explains itself from within. In other words, a non-contingent being.

          • Phil

            Another item that would need to be addressed in the discussion of the contingency/non-contingency of the universe (and you hinted at it earlier) is, is there actually something above and beyond the contingent realities of the universe, i.e, dogs, trees, clouds, quarks, quantum particles, moons, earth, galaxies, etc, that we call "universe".

            In other words, is the universe actually an existing "entity", or is it simply the collection of all matter/energy that came from what scientists call the "big bang"?

          • Susan

            I was simply saying I may be committing the fallacy of composition or I may not.

            So am I. You haven't explained how your non-contingent being is a red wall.

            I mean, if you accept my first argument,

            I don't. I was addressing the unjustified shifting of the burden to Ben.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But saying that all the individual bricks are light (in weight), therefore the wall as a whole is light would be the fallacy of composition.

            Bricks and walls come in all sorts of colours, sizes and weights. A wall built from light bricks would have a weight directly proportional to a wall built of heavier bricks or lighter bricks. Who gets to decide what constitutes heavy or light?

          • Phil

            Bricks and walls come in all sorts of colours, sizes and weights. A wall built from light bricks would have a weight directly proportional to a wall built of heavier bricks or lighter bricks. Who gets to decide what constitutes heavy or light?

            Simply define what one means by "light" and what one means by "heavy". It really is somewhat arbitrary in this sense.
            ---

            For example:

            Let's say that less than 50lbs is "light" and more than 50lbs is "heavy".

            So one might argue that each of the bricks that make up this 100 brick wall are light because they weight 5lbs each. One could try and argue, each of the bricks that make up this wall are light, therefore this wall is also light.

            That would be the fallacy of composition. Because we know that the whole wall of 100 bricks weighs 500lbs. This is greater than 50lbs. and it is therefore "heavy".

            From my short reflection, it seems like properties that would add together somehow would be the ones that would be most in danger of being involved in this fallacy. But I am curious if you can think any other part/whole examples that would fit?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sorry for being a pedant...I just thought it was not the best analogy.

            It is all about the properties of bricks.

            What sort of wall would heavy bricks make?

            I suppose using light as a weight concept from a human ability to lift a brick or even a wall is key.

            A wall made from bricks is still a brick wall.

            Would a cosmos made from contingent things still be a contingent cosmos?

          • Phil

            Haha, no worries, relevant details are always good to flesh out.

            A wall made from bricks is still a brick wall.

            Exactly, and that is why it is valid to say that since each piece of the wall is brick, therefore the whole wall is brick. This does not commit the fallacy of composition.

            What sort of wall would heavy bricks make?

            An even heavier wall! ;)

            You might be catching the drift right now that when talking about the fallacy of composition, the how one defines the details are somewhat arbitrary, as long as one defines them and sticks to them. But pretty much the take-home point is that one can claim that:

            "All X's are Y, therefore the whole Z that
            these X's make up is also Y", this doesn't automatically mean that what they are concluding is
            wrong. But it also could mean that they have committed the fallacy of composition. (As in the "weight" brick example.)

            Would a cosmos made from contingent things still be a contingent cosmos?

            That's the question that Ben and I were starting to get into before he had to duck out.

            For me, I see three big reasons to believe that the universe as a whole is contingent and needs and explanation outside itself.

            1) No matter how many contingent beings you put together--even if it was a trillion trillion trillion "entities"--it would be hard to reason that suddenly all these entities put together would suddenly become self-explanatory, i.e., self-contingent.

            2) Since to this day cosmologists, astrophysicists, philosophers, etc are still looking for how the universe exists as a whole as it does, this gives away that the universe itself is contingent and needing an explanation outside itself. The only way we could start to consider it non-contingent is if it completely explained how it exists as it does--meaning we need to discover that it only could exist in this particular way, out of necessity. If the universe is actually non-contingent then what these scientists are doing is ultimately ridiculous because there is no answer to the big questions they are asking.

            3) The biggest one I believe is that, in theory, anything that is spacial-temporal, i.e., the entire universe and any other universe(s) that may exist are necessarily contingent. Anything that is composed of energy and/or matter could exist in the some other way as they exist right now. Therefore they are contingent.

          • Ignorant Amos

            If you are interested, there is an article over here

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com.es/2014/05/contingency-and-fallacy-of-composition.html

            that addresses this.

          • Phil

            Thanks for that link! Good to know that someone else is thinking as I was--though maybe explaining it better than I was.

            We should never claim all alone that because all the parts of the universe we observe are contingent therefore the universe as a whole is contingent, but rather we should use the contingency of entities as evidence to build our case before or against the contingency of the universe as a whole.

            As the author states in the end it is still open to discussion if the universe, qua universe would be non-contingent/contingent.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I've got several responses to other things you've posted, but I haven't gotten back to them yet.

            My "proof" merely shows that at least one non-contingent reality is necessary to exist in all of reality.

            Actually, no; we haven't established that yet.

            And Ben then said, well can't the universe be the non-contingent reality? I simply stated that he's the one making the claim so he needs to offer reasons on why it is--since we don't experience the cosmos (see below) around us, right now, as non-contingent.

            Establish this. The cosmos certainly appears non-contingent to me.

            And the fact that scientists are looking for explanations for it works off the assumption that it isn't non-contingent.

            Just because something is non-contingent doesn't mean that it can't be explained.

          • Ignorant Amos

            ...since we don't experience the cosmos (see below) around us, right now, as non-contingent.

            Who is "we" and what is meant by "experience"?

            And the fact that scientists are looking for explanations for it works off the assumption that it isn't non-contingent.

            How does that work for theologians and gods in that case?

          • Phil

            Who is "we" and what is meant by "experience"? [in regards to expereincing the cosmos as non-contingent]

            You, me, scientists, everyone.

            The fact that you don't explain your own existence shows that you are a contingent being. The fact that a cloud does not explain its own existence shows it is a contingent being. In a sense, everything we experience is contingent.

            If we can ask the question of any "being": "how is it that this entity exists in this way and not in that way, we automatically can put it under the category of a contingent being because it does not explain its own existence fully."

            A non-contingent being explains its own existence completely and needs no explanation outside itself. Obviously science works off the assumption that they are investigating contingent beings.

            How does that work for theologians and gods in that case?

            I apologize, I don't quite understand what you are asking. Are you able to clarify?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Since everything in our experience points towards the fact that there are distinct contingent beings that make up the cosmos, and no matter how many contingent beings you put together it seems very hard to argue that, magically, suddenly everything would become non-contingent.

            Actually, that's not really what our experience points towards. The various entities that make up the universe don't appear to be contingent - in the sense that they are simply rearrangements of existing energy/matter.

            I'll be addressing your comment about Minkowski space soon - it just caught me flat-footed, since it shows that we're not on the same page (knowledge-wise) regarding the science of the universe. I'm trying to figure out the best way to approach the discussion given that fact.

          • Phil

            Just because something is non-contingent doesn't mean that it can't be explained.

            You are right as I left out a phrase in the response you quoted, but my original definition states that a non-contingent reality needs no explanation outside itself, because it explains its own existence.

            So you are right to say it does have an explanation, but it explains its own existence, unlike you, my dog, this tree, that rock, that cloud, this planet, our galaxy, etc.

            The various entities that make up the universe don't appear to be contingent-in the sense that they are simply rearrangements of existing
            energy/matter.

            Well, let's go the level of energy/matter that make up all things we know of.

            The energy/matter you are dealing with is also contingent. There are several questions it doesn't explain about itself that shows this:

            1) How does energy/matter exist in this way and not that way? i.e., existing as this kind of charge/particle and not that kind.
            2) How does matter/energy follows certain laws and act in regularities?3) There is nothing intrinsic to energy/matter that says it needs to exist in the way it does.

            These 3 point towards the fact that we need to look outside of matter/energy itself to explain how it exists as it does. This means that all energy/matter is contingent.

            Actually, no; we haven't established that yet. [that it is necessary for at least one non-contingent reality to exist in all of reality.]

            Let's work on this then, before we even worry about whether the universe is non-contingent, we need to
            figure out if we should even be searching for a non-contingent reality. Because for all we know, everything may be contingent and that's okay.

            I'll be addressing your comment about Minkowski space soon - it just
            caught me flat-footed, since it shows that we're not on the same page
            (knowledge-wise) regarding the science of the universe.

            The nature of space and time has been an area of study for me recently, that's why I asked. It is far from established that the theory of "Minkowski space" explains how reality actually is. So you need to show first that Minkowski space is how reality actually is.

            I'm open to accepting it, you just need to show me that I should accept it first.

          • Phil

            I'll be addressing your comment about Minkowski space soon

            I am looking forward to having Minkowski space explained in lay person's terms, how it applies to reality, and the nature of space and time coming from this. (Obviously explaining why it is the best explanation of how reality actually is, is part of that.)

            A big reason I am curious is because ultimately space and time are not some actually existing entities. In other words, apart from matter and motion--space and time don't exist. They are merely descriptions of relationships between matter/energy. (They are both "real" but obviously not existing beings.)

            I am also curious how a Minkowski model would solve the issue of circular causality--since in the end it would need to say it is possible for something to pre-exist its own existence to bring something else into being, which is absurd.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Option 3: none of the above. And your contingency example above related to circular causality does not hold on a Minkowski 4-space.

          • Phil

            Option 3: none of the above.

            So what's the other option other than:

            1) Everything that exists is a contingent entity
            2) There exists at least one entity that is non-contingent

            And your contingency example above related to circular causality does not hold on a Minkowski 4-space.

            Okay, but first:

            1) You need to show that Minkowski 4-space is actually true about reality and not just a theory.

            2) Then you need to demonstrate that circular causality is possible in Minkowski 4-space?

            Making the assertion is great, but without explaining why it is true, I can then just as easily say "you're wrong" and give just as much evidence as you did.

          • Ben Posin

            Why does a series of contingent realities require a single non-contingent reality? You assert this without explanation.
            Why must a non-contingent reality be "pure actuality"? You assert this without real explanation.
            Why do you call this non-contingent reality God? You assert this without explanation. What connection does it have to the God of the Old Testament? The God of the New Testament, or Jesus?
            If there must be a non-contingent reality, why must there be only one? You imply this, without explanation. Could there be two? Eight? Would you call them all God?
            Do you have any evidence to ground any of your assertions, or any forthcoming explanations, in?

          • Phil

            See my response to Solange below. I have a longer version that may better explain, but I didn't want to throw too much up at one time.

            If there must be a non-contingent reality, why must there be only one?

            This is a question I don't answer below, but I'll add it, and answer it here.

            If there is more than one non-contingent reality, that means there is some difference between the two, or its just the selfsame one thing. Well if there is a difference between the two that means that one exists in some way that the other does not--which means that we now need a rational explanation as to why it exists as it does. Well something that need an explanation is not the non-contingent reality that completely explains it own existence. Therefore there can only be a single non-continent reality.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But you've agreed that this non-contingent thing doesn't "exist" in the sense that contingent things do. Your claims about simultenaity don't necessarily hold.

          • Phil

            But you've agreed that this non-contingent thing doesn't "exist" in the
            sense that contingent things do. Your claims about simultenaity don't
            necessarily hold

            I'm a little confused what you are getting at here? What is this "simultaneity" you speak of?

            The answer to the first part would be both yes and no. Obviously the non-contingent reality is something radically different from all contingent realities. But it's existence is just as real as all contingent realities.

          • Ben Posin

            I could start asking all the same sorts of why questions here, as we have another set of unevidenced assertions.

            I have no confidence or belief that this sort of "philosophy" can be relied on to locate truth or produce new knowledge. To get biblical, it is neither hot nor cold, and I spit it from my mouth.

          • Phil

            I have no confidence or belief that this sort of "philosophy" can be relied on to locate truth or produce new knowledge.

            Do you not believe that using good reason based on what we experience (i.e., doing philosophy) can come to truth about reality?

          • Ben Posin

            Doing good reason based on what we experience can accomplish many things! It got us penicillin, and to the moon, and these awesome computers we are using. But this thing you are referring to isn't what people typically mean by philosophy, and certainly not what you seem to mean.

          • Phil

            Well, good reason is good reason. Those things you mention are more pragmatic technological things--but reason is also capable of simply discovering truth, i.e., the way reality actually is.

            Those pragmatic things of course are reliant upon doing good philosophy as a basis to even be able to rationally say we can do science. Philosophy is using reason to discover truth. As you probably are aware, the word itself breaks down to "the love of wisdom". And true wisdom is truth.

          • Ben Posin

            "Well, good reason is good reason."

            One thousand times no. I don't care about the origins of words in dead languages (in this context, anyway), and find it hilarious that philosophers try to ride on the coattails of scientists with claims about how deciding the scientific method is worthwhile is a question of philosophy, and so forth. If you want to call science a branch of philosophy, or dependent in some way on philosophy, or whatever, knock yourself out. That just means it's science-philosophy that gets things done, while the rest of philosophy is lazing around contemplating unsupported non-contingent beings or the like.

            Science (or science-philosophy, if you want to be silly) actually works and produces results, and provides us more information about the state of the universe, and demonstrates the truth of this understanding with what you dismiss as "pragmatic things". When I compare the fruits of science with Aquinas' musings about purported non-contingent beings--well, c'mon. I don't blame Aquinas, who didn't know any better, but I'd like to think that if a bright guy like him was born into our life times, he'd be teaching and doing research at MIT, not gazing into his own navel.

            You wrote before: "reasoning based on what we experience." It's science that actually allows us to meld reason with our experience, to test and verify our assumptions, to discard ones that seem to make sense as a string of concepts but actually have no basis in reality.

            I'm not shy about it here: when it comes to addressing truth-claims about the Universe (i.e. is there a God) I have little interest in or respect for the fruits of philosophy. And before we go down another 20 comment back and forth road, know that our previous dialogue regarding contingent and non-contingent beings has only firmed up that opinion.

          • Phil

            One thousand times no. [that good reasoning is good reasoning]

            So good reasoning can be bad reasoning? For some reason, I think that is bad reasoning! ;)

            If you want to call science a branch of philosophy, or dependent in some way on philosophy, or whatever, knock yourself out.

            The physical sciences are in fact distinct from philosophy, but philosophy is what grounds all the sciences. There is no such things as "science-philosophy". Science has a method and philosophy has a method and they both can come to objective truth through that method. And they should ultimately be in harmony.

            But science can't do science without good philosophy as its ground, because science works off of certain philosophical assumptions that can't be proved via science. Some examples are:

            -That the external world exists
            -That the external world is intelligible
            -That human reason can grasp and know this intelligible external world
            -That things actually follow "natural laws"

            None of these things can be proved via science. Science has faith (i.e., trusts) that these things are actually true. So if one wants to be able to rationally do science, one must hold a philosophy that supports it.

            I love all the physical sciences, but I also know that I can't love science without also loving philosophy.

            Science actually works
            and produces results, and provides us more information about the state
            of the universe, and demonstrates the truth of this understanding with
            what you dismiss as "pragmatic things".

            I agree 100%, science does fantastic things and we should keep using science! You seem to suggest that I write off "pragmatic" things, not at all. Those things are very important, I would simply claim that reality is not reducible to the merely pragmatic. There is no way you can reduce the human person to get rid of purposes that are not merely pragmatic as the human person has desires that go beyond this.

            You seem to also be dangerously close to holding a type of scientism--where one would hold that science is the only way to come to objective truth about the world.

            When I compare the fruits of science with Aquinas' musings about
            purported non-contingent beings--well, c'mon. I don't blame Aquinas,
            who didn't know any better, but I'd like to think that if a bright guy
            like him was born into our life times, he'd be teaching and doing
            research at MIT, not gazing into his own navel.

            The ironic thing is that this is a philosophical statement. So you are using philosophy to say that philosophy is stupid. I know--the reasoning capabilities of us moderns is so beyond those dead "middle-agers"!! ;)

            It's science that actually allows us to meld reason with our
            experience, to test and verify our assumptions, to discard ones that
            seem to make sense as a string of concepts but actually have no basis in
            reality.

            Philosophy does this too. It doesn't use the scientific method, because it isn't science. It uses experience and reason to show us the underlying structure of the cosmos if the cosmos is to exist as it actually does at this very moment. (Most of the time this is getting at the immaterial underlying structure of reality, yes even the computer in front of you has an immaterial "part" to it.)

            Again, for some reason the modern mind has such a hard time grasping what philosophy actually is and how to think philosophically. That would be something that would be interesting to research for a journal article.

            I'm not shy about it here: when it comes to addressing truth-claims about the Universe (i.e. is there a God) I have little interest in or respect for the fruits of philosophy.

            Again, a philosophical statement. I thought you don't like philosophy?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Those assumptions you list are not philosophical assumptions. They are generic assumptions grounding human behavior. Inasmuch as philosophy is consistent manipulation of a formal logic - then it can be considered a generator of objective truths; otherwise it's about as objective as theology - which is to say almost not at all.

          • Phil

            Those assumptions you list are not philosophical assumptions. They are generic assumptions grounding human behavior

            Sure, you can call them "generic assumptions" but that doesn't make them any less of being open to philosophical investigation to show if they are rational or irrational assumptions.

            You assume and have faith that its okay to believe that the world is actually intelligible, philosophy tells you if that belief is actually a rational one.

            (Obviously you probably realized that the text I quoted above is also a philosophical statement. You really do like philosophy! ;)

            otherwise it's about as objective as theology - which is to say almost not at all.

            Out of curiosity, What would you say theology actually is, since I'm not sure you fully understand yet that that discipline is? I.e., What is the definition of theology?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sure, you can call them "generic assumptions" but that doesn't make them any less of being open to philosophical investigation to show if they are rational or irrational assumptions.

            I didn't claim that, now did i?

            You assume and have faith that its okay to believe that the world is actually intelligible, philosophy tells you if that belief is actually a rational one.

            That's not even intelligible. And philosophy, by the way, does not tell me that's a rational position. Philosophy is post-facto rationalization. Pretty, but not useful in that way.

            (Obviously you probably realized that the text I quoted above is also a philosophical statement. You really do like philosophy! ;)

            I like some philosophy. Most of it is bunk. But the point I made above is only a philosophical statement if you basically claim all thinking is philosophical.

            You dilute the word so much it has no value.

          • Phil

            But the point I made above is only a philosophical statement if you basically claim all thinking is philosophical.

            That is correct. Anything a person says or does has some underlying philosophical assumptions included with it. There is no "non-philosophical" thought or word.

            That's why philosophy, and more properly metaphysics, has been called the "first science".

          • Ben Posin

            I'm not impressed by your equivocation. If it pleases you, use the word philosophy so broadly as to cast a net over both science (and its basic assumptions which have so far been empirically justified) and Aquinas, and general reasoning or thought altogether. That doesn't make all of the things beneath this net equivalents or of equal value and it certainly doesn't make Aquinas' or your chains of ungrounded premises of equal validity to science.

          • Phil

            If it pleases you, use the word philosophy so broadly as to cast a net over both science (and its basic assumptions which have so far been empirically justified) and Aquinas, and general reasoning or thought altogether

            It's not about pleasing myself, or anyone, it's about figuring out the truth of reality.

            Both the physical sciences and philosophy are perfectly valid and good at finding truth about the nature of reality--though the kind of truth they are after is slightly different.

            The key difference is that philosophy precedes, not supersedes, science in intellectual investigation. You can have the study of philosophy without physical sciences, but you can't have the sciences without philosophy.

            This is why philosophy, or more specifically metaphysics, has been called the "first science".

            Note that I am not casting a net over science or any other the areas of specialization, rather is better to say that philosophy is the ground on which these other sciences stand or fall. If our philosophical assumptions are weak and/or wrong, then our sciences that are built on top of it are in danger of coming crashing down, i.e., being not rationally justified.

            Philosophy, specifically metaphysics, is interested in the general underlying principles of reality. This is why it grounds all other sciences. In other words, I like to call good philosophy "common sense on steroids".

          • Phil

            I guess to put it more succinctly, doing "this kind of philosophy" that I am doing here is what makes it rational to believe we actually discovered things that got us to the moon, that make awesome computers, and penicillin. Without this kind of philosophy we have no rational basis for doing those sorts of things.

            In other words, we believe that the technologies that we put into making the space shuttle actually have the power to get us to the moon. It isn't science that tells us it is rational to believe that nature actually has things that have certain real powers, it is philosophy. Without good philosophy, we have no better reason to believe that when we ignite the fuel in the thrusters on the shuttle it will actually burn and start to take off rather than turn into ice then melt.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, this is completely false. We have confidence that igniting the main thrusters will take us to the moon on the basis of experience, not philosophy. That's what distinguishes science from other, sloppier and more subjective thinking methods.

          • Phil

            Actually, this is completely false. We have confidence that igniting the
            main thrusters will take us to the moon on the basis of experience, not
            philosophy.

            Pure science only gets at correlation. If we want causation we need to value good philosophy underpinning our science. For example, even if these thrusters have lit 1,000,000 times in the same exact way, science alone cannot tell you that we have any better reason to believe that on the 1,000,001 time that they won't turn into a rabbit. It may be able to tell you that the past 1,000,000 times it hasn't. But science on its own cannot rule out the possibility that it could, no matter how ridiculous it sounds!

            It's philosophy that tells us, "no, there is actually something about fuel that when you ignite it in the same exact way every time the same thing will happen and it will not turn into a rabbit. It will not turn into a rabbit because ignited fuel does not have the nature that could potentiality turn into a rabbit.

            Notice that science can merely says it hasn't turned into a rabbit the past 1,000,000 times. Philosophy says, no we know on rational grounds that it cannot, by its very nature, turn into a rabbit.

            If science does not suppose this to be the case, then science can never claim to come to any actual objective truth about reality. In other words, all science will be saying is, "even though X has done the same thing trillions and trillions and trillions of time, we have no better reason to believe that the next time it will do that same exact thing, with all variables staying exactly the same."

            That's what distinguishes science from other, sloppier and
            more subjective thinking methods.

            The statement that "philosophy is sloppier than science" is a philosophical statement, so I assume you have confidence that philosophy is not so sloppy that it can't come to objective truth!

          • Susan

            If there is more than one non-contingent reality, that means there is some difference between the two, or its just the selfsame one thing. Well if there is a difference between the two that means that one exists in some way that the other does not--which means that we now need a rational explanation as to why it exists as it does.

            You seem to be saying that no matter what, we will require an explanation unless we accept that there is one thing that requires no explanation.
            Why would we stop asking for an explanation then? Because you have defined it as requiring no explanation?
            Why can't physical nothingness be eternal and pop out universes by the gazillions? There are certainly solid models in physics that describe that. Why can't physical nothingness be the non-contingent

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            More precisely, Phil seems to be demanding proof that the fallacy of composition is real. A clear fallacy of logic.

          • Phil

            You seem to be saying that no matter what, we will require an explanation unless we accept that there is one thing that requires no explanation.

            I apologize, as I must not be explaining this very well.

            I am saying that either an entity gets explained by something outside itself, or it fully explains itself with no need to recoil to something other than this entity.

            Does that help?

            Why would we stop asking for an explanation then?
            Because you have defined it as requiring no explanation?

            The exact opposite actually. The argument from contingency says we should keep looking for explanations until all is fully explained. And I agree!

            Why can't physical nothingness be eternal and pop out universes by the gazillions?

            I would say that "physical nothingness" is a pretty absurd claim. One is trying to then say that "nothing is something".

            But not only that, nothing also does something!

            The person who holds that pure nothingness is something and does something has "blind faith" that I cannot intellectually accept! ;)

            Nothing is actually nothing; no energy, no matter, etc. There never existed pure nothingness as then we would not exist right now.

            You still haven't explained how the cosmos is like a red wall. You have completely ignored the fallacy of composition problem.

            I can't remember if I posted these three reasons for you, but I will just in case. These are several reasons why we don't have any reason to believe right now that the universe is a non-contingent entity:

            1) No matter how many contingent beings you put together--even a trillion trillion trillion entities--it would be hard to reason that suddenly all these entities put together would suddenly become self-explanatory, i.e., non-contingent.

            2) The biggest one I believe is that, by the nature
            of reality, anything that is spacial-temporal is necessarily contingent. Anything that is composed of energy and/or matter could exist in the some other way as they exist right now. Therefore they are contingent.

          • Susan

            I am saying that either an entity gets explained by something outside itself, or it fully explains itself with no need to recoil to something other than this entity.

            But more than one entity requires an explanation and one wouldn't. Your explanation doesn't make sense. How would the one explain itself except "by definition"?

            1) No matter how many contingent beings you put together--even a trillion trillion trillion entities--it would be hard to reason that suddenly all these entities put together would suddenly become self-explanatory, i.e., non-contingent

            All of your "contingent beings" are your perception of a continuous rearrangement of matter/energy in the known universe. You haven't shown that the cosmos itself isn't potentially self-explanatory, whatever that means. It's as silly to reason one way as the other as nobody knows.

            I would say that "physical nothingness" is a pretty absurd claim. One is trying to then say that "nothing is something".

            Physical nothing is something. That's the complaint against Krauss referring to it as nothing. It's closer to nothing than any of us can imagine but it's still something. Why can't physical nothing be timeless and non-contingent?

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0HqZxXZK7c

          • Phil

            But more than one entity requires an explanation and one wouldn't. Your explanation doesn't make sense. How would the one explain itself except "by definition"?

            You are correct that an entity that is completely self-explanatory is going to be very different than anything we experience, since we are merely familiar with entities that are not completely self-explanatory, i.e., contingent.

            And you are also correct, for something to be truly explain itself it will have to necessarily exist as it does. That is the big hurdle with trying to claim that the universe, qua universe, is self-explanatory, i.e., non-contingent.

            And I am a little confused by the first sentence of this. Maybe you can rephrase it?

            All of your "contingent beings" are your perception of a continuous rearrangement of matter/energy in the known universe. You haven't shown that the cosmos itself isn't potentially self-explanatory, whatever that means.

            Energy and matter are, by their very nature, contingent. So if one is speaking about matter/energy in any way this is a contingent entity.

            The simplest way to put this is that anything that is spacial/temporal is contingent--this would include the universe as a whole (since it is spacial-temporal). Conceptually it is not possible for the universe to be non-contingent/self-explanatory.

            And if one is trying to find scientific evidence for the non-contingency of the universe, I say good luck because if one points to anything spacial or temporal the question will still be, how does that thing exist in this way and not that way? In other words, that internal explanation will also need an explanation outside itself.

            In the end, one is going to have to accept in some form or another that the universe necessarily exists as it does right now--up to a certain point. And to coherently hold this through and through is going to be a very tall intellectual order.

            It's closer to nothing than any of us can imagine but it's still something.

            I will rest my case. The "physical nothing" being spoken of is just a very "small" and possibly weird something--but obviously it is not complete nothing.

            Why can't physical nothing be timeless and non-contingent?

            So we have this bit of physical "nothing". We look and reason about it and we ask, well how is it that this physical "nothing" exists as 'X' instead of 'Y'. How is it that this physical "nothing" may perhaps be unstable? Does this physical "nothing" necessarily bring forth universe(s)?

            When we can coherently ask these questions about this physical "nothing" we have already admitted that this physical "nothing" is contingent. It is not self-explanatory/non-contingent.

            Another clue is that matter and/or energy cannot be timeless. Time, as we know it, is a property of matter/energy. There is a misunderstanding that things exist "in time". It is much more correct to say that things exist "with time". Time as we know it, does not precede matter/energy, rather time exists necessarily and concurrent with matter/energy.

            As I mentioned above, anything that is spacial/temporal is a contingent entity. So we can know already that a non-contingent being is going to be

          • Susan

            You are correct that an entity that is completely self-explanatory is going to be very different than anything we experience,

            It is different in the sense that it wouldn't need an explanation. You can't just define it as such. Yahweh won't do. Nor does classical theism provide such a being.

            since we are merely familiar with entities that are not completely self-explanatory, i.e., contingent

            I know! And by "entities", you are of course referring to reorganization of matter/energy in timespace. How you can "reason" your way without external referents to a particular halt in the chain at the edge of a "cosmos" we can't begin to make assumptions about and call that "philosophy" confuses me. This is why philosophy gets such a bad rap.

            So we have this bit of physical "nothing". We look and reason about it and we ask, well how is it that this physical "nothing" exists as 'X' instead of 'Y'?

            We could do that all day long. It's turtles all the way down when we do that. Nothing wrong with doing that. But more important is "what is it?" and "what does it do?" It did it long before we existed. It's so much older and bigger and smaller than humans and human gods. We're a speck in a continuum.

            Did you watch the lecture?

            How would Yahweh escape it? Because you defined your choice of deity as non-contingent? That doesn't get you a deity of any kind, let alone a catholic Yahweh.

          • Ignorant Amos

            How would Yahweh escape it? Because you defined your choice of deity as non-contingent? That doesn't get you a deity of any kind, let alone a ca tholic Y ahweh.

            Been there...Phil needs non-contingent being to be conceded first before moving on to that gargantuan leap is attempted. Something none of the dark side has conceded yet...how can we, no one knows?

          • Phil

            It is different in the sense that it wouldn't need an explanation.

            To clarify, this entity does not have a explanation outside itself. It does ultimately have an explanation, in that it fully explains its own existence.

            And by "entities", you are of course referring to
            reorganization of matter/energy in timespace.

            "Entity" refers to anything that is. Doesn't matter what it is, how big or how small. Anything that exists falls under "entity", "being, "object" in our current discussion.

            How you can "reason" your
            way without external referents to a particular halt in the chain at the edge of a "cosmos" we can't begin to make assumptions about and call that "philosophy" confuses me. This is why philosophy gets such a bad rap.

            I'm having a hard time following the first sentence, could you maybe clarify it?

            In regards to philosophy getting a "bad rap". I've noticed a lot of this has to do with the fact that many (1) don't know what philosophy is and (2) don't know how to properly use reason within the philosophical discipline.

            But more important is "what is it?" and "what does it do?" It did it
            long before we existed. It's so much older and bigger and smaller than
            humans and human gods. We're a speck in a continuum.

            Sure, those are important questions too, but science, and humanity as a whole, is also interested in how something exists as it does. You cannot fully explain what something is (your first question without answering the "how" question).

            Take for example, the microwave background radiation. Merely asking, what this is and what does it do doesn't answer the question that science is really interested in.
            Science wants to know why/how this radiation exists as it does right now. So we ask the question, "how/why is it that we have this nearly uniform radiation in every direction?" Turns out that a "big bang" that our standard model predicts would produce the background radiation. We only get to this answer when we ask "how/why". (Again the "how/why" is also contained in the full explanation of the "what".)

            Because you defined your choice of deity as non-contingent? That
            doesn't get you a deity of any kind, let alone a catholic Yahweh.

            I don't know why you are jumping to the conclusion of what this non-contingent reality is. I say let reason lead us where it does.

            I've merely been arguing that a non-contingent reality is necessary to exist in all of reality. If we want to accept this, then we can move on to what this non-contingent reality actually is.

            Did you watch the lecture?

            I have--I actually also watched one of his first popular lectures about 2 years ago. Dr. Krauss is a very interesting guy and a great cosmologist. He is just not a good philosopher. When he tries to do philosophy one just starts to cringe. Especially when he tries to define "nothing" as "something".

          • Ignorant Amos

            To clarify, this entity does not have a explanation outside itself. It does ultimately have an explanation, in that it fully explains its own existence.

            Phil you have clarified the living daylights out of it. Can you give an example of what such an entity might be if it were to exist? And why?

          • Phil

            Phil you have clarified the living daylights out of it.

            Ha! Good! There was some confusion over things not having explanations etc. so it sounds like we are all on the same page now!

            Can you give an
            example of what such an entity might be if it were to exist? And why?

            Sounds good. Please beware that thousands upon thousands of pages have been written about this, so this is not gonna be short or easy!

            So if we move on from stating that there needs to be a non-contingent entity in all of reality to explain contingent entities, we now need to figure out if there can be more than one of these non-contingent entities.

            Definitions:

            entity: this will be used to designate anything that exists. Doesn't matter what it is, how big/small etc.

            reality: this will be used here to designate the entirety of everything that is. Some times people use "cosmos" to designate this--but I acknowledge with this term that other "universes" could exist. Things could exist "outside" our universe. (I know I've used realities also as synonymous with object/being/entity, and I apologize sometimes for this confusion.)

            -------

            Whether there is more than one non-contingent entity?

            In addressing this we first need to figure out a couple things. We first need to understand that a true non-contingent reality could not exist in any other way than it does (this is called a "potentiality"). This must be the case because if it could have existed in some other way, we now need an outside explanation to explain how it doesn't exist in this other way. It is now no longer completely self-explanatory. But something with an outside explanation is a contingent entity.

            Conclusion 1: A non-contingent entity exists necessarily as it does, i.e., it could not potentially exist in any other way.

            Well, now lets posit that there are two of these non-contingent entities. Well, what makes them different from eachother, either (1) one of them exists in a way that the other or (2) They occupy a different "place in space" or "different dimension".

            Well, if this is the case we need to explain how it is that this entity exists in this way instead of that way, or in this part of space rather than that, etc. In other words, this being is a contingent reality. It is not a non-contingent reality. But what if everything is exactly the same between them, including there place in space/dimension. Well then of course we are talking about the same single being!

            Conclusion 2: There can only exist a single unique non-contingent entity in all of reality.

            ------

            Whether this non-contingent entity is a material entity?

            Now we can address this question. We must first ask, can this entity be material in nature? Can it be composed of physical energy/matter?

            We realize very quickly that anything that is spacial-temporal in any form is open to the question of how it exists as it does. Matter/energy automatically categorize them self as contingent beings needing an outside explanation.

            Conclusion 3: This non-contingent entity must be non-spacial/temporal in nature. I.e., immaterial.

            ------

            Well, I think that gives us a lot of chew on for now. Let me know any comments, suggestions, etc, and once we figure these three conclusions out we could move on even further.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ha! Good! There was some confusion over things not having explanations etc. so it sounds like we are all on the same page now!

            Wow...hold her horses there. Because I said you have clarified your definition doesn't mean I accept it has any truth value. It just means you have made the proposition in so many ways I think we have all got the message.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But I see no particular way in which "god" explains it's own existence. None. (of course, since god isn't supposed to "exist" per se, that makes it rather difficult).

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't know why you are jumping to the conclusion of what this non-contingent reality is. I say let reason lead us where it does.

            Unfortunately, if we use your logic, we cannot use reason to determine anything at all about any kind of non-contingent reality. Logic is merely a formal algebra which we define and manipulate; since your non-contingent being has nothing whatever in common with anything in the contingent universe, logic does not apply, hence reason is useless.

            I've merely been arguing that a non-contingent reality is necessary to exist in all of reality. If we want to accept this, then we can move on to what this non-contingent reality actually is.

            But so far, your argument does not appear to be coherent. It could simply be because it's now scattered across so many comments to so many commentators that I can no longer follow what you're trying to say.

          • Phil

            we cannot use reason to determine anything at all about any kind of non-contingent reality. Logic is merely a formal algebra which we define and manipulate; since your non-contingent being has nothing whatever in common with anything in the contingent universe, logic does not apply, hence reason is useless.

            Good reasoning is good reasoning. Either one has a valid argument or one does not.

            Ultimately for a good argument you need both proper deductive and inductive reasoning. When both are valid and defensible you have a true argument.

            But so far, your argument does not appear to be coherent. It could simply be because it's now scattered across so many comments to so many commentators that I can no longer follow what you're trying to say.

            That is probably the case. But go back to the original comment. Its all there. Actually I'll copy it for you :)

            I am up for running through it step by step with it if you would like. Just let me know.

            -----------------

            Original argument

            Definitions first here:

            contingent entity: a being that needs something outside itself to explain how to came to be. Examples: a tree, ball, car, person, electron, quantum particle, cloud, earth, moon, galaxy, etc

            non-contingent entity: a being which is self-explanatory. It needs no explanation for its existence outside itself.

            being/entity: Anything that is; it could be energy, matter, immaterial in nature etc.

            ------

            We have 2 options:

            1) Either all that exists are contingent beings
            2) Or there exists at least one non-contingent being

            Let's take (1):
            We have two options here:
            (1a) Either there is a finite amount of contingent realities
            (1b) Or there is an infinite amount of contingent realities

            Let's examine 1a:

            If there is a finite amount of beings that need an explanation outside them self to explain how they came to be, we will get to the point where we will have at least 1 being whose existence has nothing else to bring it into being and therefore it cannot exist. Therefore the whole chain of contingent beings that rely on this being to exist could not exist.

            What about a circle? A is reliant on B, B on C and C on A. Well C is reliant upon A to exist, but A reliant upon C insofar as it is reliant upon B to exist. Therefore, this does not help, as the whole thing comes toppling down again into nonexistence.

            But since we do exist, 1a is absurd.

            Here is the extended defense for a circle of contingent entities Susan asked for:

            So we posit the circle of contingent beings, we can make it small, but it can be as big as you want it to be, a circle is a circle.

            1a) A is contingent upon B (to exist)
            1b) B is contingent upon C (to exist)
            1c) C is contingent upon A (to exist)

            2) A must exist to bring C into being as shown by 1c above.
            3) But C must already exist to bring A into being as shown by 1a and 1b.

            **Summary:
            A needs B. B needs C. Therefore if C does not exist A does not exist. And if C does not exist A does not exist. And if C does not exist, B does not exist

            Therefore Nothing exists!

            Again, but since we do exist, 1a is absurd.

            Let's examine 1b:

            If there is an infinite amount of beings that need an explanation outside them self to explain how they came to be, an actual infinite amount of beings means that there is always one more being that exists that needs an outside being to bring it into being. Therefore, there is always one more being that needs to exist to explain the existence of
            another being. If this is the case, we end up with an endless chain of beings that need to be brought into being for us to exist today. If this chain is actually infinite, we don't exist today. But we do exist today, so this hypothesis is absurd.

            Since we have shown that all possible options under option 1 are absurd, we are left to conclude
            that at least one non-contingent reality exists.

            We then could continue on to show why there can only be one of these non-contingent realities.

          • Phil

            A very interesting thing I've noticed is that one of the so-called "internet heresies" is that of scientism. Scientism is the false belief that only science can come to objective truth about reality.

            So there is an overemphasis on science and a trying to undermine the philosophical endeavor almost completely (again without realizing that science relies upon philosophical assumptions). Interestingly if one sticks purely to science, one cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. It is not a question that is open to scientific investigation.

            So from science alone, one cannot positively hold that God does not exist. This is obvious since God is not something that can be put to test through the scientific method.

          • Susan

            I will rest my case. The "physical nothing" being spoken of is just a very "small" and possibly weird something--but obviously it is not complete nothing

            Rest what case? Why would it have to be complete nothing? What does that have to do with anything? I was positing physical nothing as the non-contingent being.

            You are claiming there is a non-contingent being. What does metaphysical nothing have to do with anything? I didn't bring it up. How is it connected to non-contingency? Unless you are claiming your non-contingent being is metaphysical nothingness. I doubt that's the case but if it is, good luck with that.

            Another clue is that matter and/or energy cannot be timeless.

            I didn't say they could be. I said there are models of physical nothing that can be. Physical nothing can theoretically produce timespace. That's different.

          • Phil

            I was positing physical nothing as the
            non-contingent being.

            Okay, that's fine. What is the "physical nothing" you are talking about? What properties does it have, what does it do etc.?

            (It's fine if you use Dr. Krauss's thoughts on this, I just want to clarify and make sure we are on the same page.)

            Rest what case? Why would it have to be complete nothing? I was positing physical nothing as the
            non-contingent being.

            I rest my case that "physical nothing" is not pure nothing. When you said "nothing" you didn't really mean nothing, you meant that this "physical nothing" is something--just a really small or weird something.

            (I don't want to assume that you meant "pure nothing" when you first brought up "nothing". I've just found that many start to equivocate when they talk about "nothing" and define it as something. But we have cleared this up)

            You are claiming there is a non-contingent being. What does
            metaphysical nothing have to do with anything? I didn't bring it up.

            I was merely responding to something you wrote about "nothing", stating that you really didn't mean pure nothing when you said that. We have since cleared it up with "physical nothing".

          • Ignorant Amos

            1) No matter how many contingent beings you put together--even a trillion trillion trillion entities--it would be hard to reason that suddenly all these entities put together would suddenly become self-explanatory, i.e., non-contingent.

            Hard, but not impossible. Unless you are crying incredulity?

            [D]oes the contingency of every part of the universe imply that the universe as a whole is contingent? Apparently not. For in order for the universe to be necessarily existent, it need only be the case that there must exist something rather than nothing; it need not be the case that anything in particular must exist, just that at least one of the many things that might exist must exist, no matter which one it is.

            A necessary universe might therefore be composed entirely of contingent parts. The contingency of the parts of the universe therefore does not imply that the universe as a whole is contingent. It might be that even though every part of the universe is contingent, the universe itself is not. It might be that even though it is not necessary that the universe exist in one particular form rather than in any other, the universe had to exist in some form; it could not have failed to exist altogether.

            The argument from the contingency of the parts of the universe, then, may not establish that the universe itself is contingent. However, the idea that the universe necessary rather than contingent does seem to suspect.

            To say that the universe is necessary is to say that its non-existence is impossible. Most impossibilities are easily recognised because they involve obvious logical contradiction. The existence of a square circle is impossible, because the idea of a square circle is self-contradictory.
            Where, though, is the logical contradiction in the idea of the universe not existing? There seems to be none; the universe does appear to be contingent.

            From Philosophy of religion. So even philosophers of religion don't think it is a slam dunk.

            Doesn't the argument from contingency rely on a past eternal universe?

          • Phil

            Yes, the idea that somehow the universe, multiverse, etc, is necessary to exist, especially in the way that it actually does, is probably the hardest thing to get past when trying to claim that it is not contingent.

            Doesn't the argument from contingency rely on a past eternal universe?

            It can work either way. The universe(s) could have existed always or they could not of and still be contingent/non-contingent.

            Aquinas's 5 ways actually work off the assumption that he believed you couldn't prove philosophically if the universe was past eternal or not. That's why his ways are very powerful because they don't go back in time, they talk about the object existing right now needing the existence of God to explain its existence right now, this very moment.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But the universe has existed always. There is no moment of time in which the universe did not exist. I suspect that like most non-science people, you are confusing a "beginning" with a "boundary condition."

          • Phil

            But the universe has existed always. There is no moment of time in which the universe did not exist.

            Sure, I'd agree that this is definitely possible. In the very comment you replied to I mentioned this. It doesn't need to have a beginning--Aquinas said the same exact thing.

            You might just have misread my comment, since I completely agree with you--including the comment about "boundary conditions and beginnings".

            (In actuality, I believe that the second statement about time is most definitely true since the univserse doesn't exist "in time" but rather "with time". In other words, the claim that somehow time existed before the universe would not be true.)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Correct. The lovely thing about recognizing the nature of the time-space manifold is that it slaps the Kalaam upside the head with a wet fish: causality is bounded.

          • Phil

            Ya, I actually don't think that the Kalaam argument is that great of an argument.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not necessarily. The argument from contingency (basically, the Kalaam Cosmological) claims that infinite regress is not possible. That was a fine attitude to take before Gauss and Hilbert, but no longer.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sorry...I was asking from a devil's advocate angle.

            I read it as such at the Philosophy of Religion site.

          • Ignorant Amos

            What distinguishes the modal cosmological argument from the kalam cosmological argument is that it is consistent with the idea that the universe has an infinite past. The kalam cosmological argument rests on the controversial claim that the universe has a beginning in time. The argument from contingency, in contrast, is consistent with the universe having existed from eternity.

            http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/the-cosmological-argument/the-argument-from-contingency/

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Careful! Remember that Phil doesn't accept infinite regress.

          • Ignorant Amos

            A know, some contrary philosophy just won't cut it...

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Anything that is composed of energy and/or matter could exist in the some other way as they exist right now. Therefore they are contingent.

            In fact, anything that could exist in some other way as they exist right now is contingent, according to you.

            Therefore god is contingent.

            The problem with the argument from contingency is that it has no actual resolution except by fiat. God is simply declared or defined to be something that requires no explanation. But god - at least as defined by most of the faiths I have experience with - simply cries out for explanation. One could argue that enormous amounts of religion (and certainly theology) are dedicated to that very point: explaining god.

          • Phil

            In fact, anything that could exist in some other way as they exist right now is contingent, according to you.

            Therefore god is contingent.

            Unless God is the non-contingent entity; the self-explanatory entity. In that case God could not have existed in any other way than he does. This is what serious theists mean when they talk about God.

            The problem with the argument from contingency is that it has no actual resolution except by fiat. God is simply declared or defined to be something that requires no explanation.

            Only if one isn't comfortable with rational/logical necessity should this be a problem.

            Yes, we say that it is necessary for a non-contingent entity to exist. And this is what we mean when we say "God". Nothing too extreme there.

            But I see no particular way in which "god" explains it's own existence.

            We are moving from saying that this non-contingent entity that must exist is what we mean by "God". And a non-contingent reality is one that necessarily explains it own existence. I mean if you don't want to call this "God" that's fine, that doesn't change the fact that this what a serious theist means when they say "God".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Great. So the universe is non-contingent.

            So far, I don't see that you have established a non-contingent entity must exist - even necessarily, but I still think we're plagued by definition problems. Did you answer those somewhere I missed?

          • Phil

            But I still think we're plagued by definition problems. Did you answer those somewhere I missed?

            I did answer all the concerns you posed at some point. But feel free to ask them again.

            Great. So the universe is non-contingent.

            Are you arguing for this or simply asserting it?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But saying that a non-contingent entity is necessary to exist is not the same as demonstrating that a non-contingent entity necessarily exists.

          • Phil

            But saying that a non-contingent entity is necessary to exist is not the
            same as demonstrating that a non-contingent entity necessarily exists.

            Correct, that is the point of the original argument--to show that it is necessary for a non-contingent entity to exist.

          • Ben Posin

            Also, you say:

            "So if one brings something into being, one knows it to be true, because it actually exists. Well the reality that brings all contingent reality into existence must be the fullest example of truth, since it knows fully all that is, because it brought it all to be."

            Why can't "the reality that brings all contingent into existence" and which "knows it to be true" then lie about it? Betcha I could lie about things that I brought into existence.

          • Phil

            What we are talking about is a slightly weird train of thought--although Descartes did posit a "divine deceiver".

            Though honestly, a lot of this rests upon the fact that God must be the ground of goodness and truth. God must be a full act of goodness and truth--if we talking about God.

            So again, as Brandon was pointing out, if one claims that God is not goodness itself, one is not actually talking about God.

            In the end, any "property" we attribute to God can only be done so because God must necessarily have these attributes, so it isn't like they are being arbitrarily assigned.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, only if are talking about YOUR definition of god. I think that what Ben is pointing out is that you've offered a definition - but that definition is not necessarily who god is, if god exists.

          • Phil

            No, I'm talking about how God must exist, if we allow reason to take us where it leads us.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But we haven't established that as the case.

          • Phil

            That's what we are working on, on our other thread :)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And that's disputable.

          • Ben Posin

            Phil,

            You're basically trying to reach a conclusion about the nature of reality through definition. Saying God must be the source of goodness and truth, because if God isn't the source of goodness and truth, he isn't God, is getting into sillypants territory.

            That Brandon borders on doing this too doesn't make it better. I'm hoping he'll pick up where we left off, but we'll see.

            I'm not sure how productive it will be for us to take this further, as you haven't really answered any of the questions I've put to you, or provided support for any of your assertions.

            Ben

          • Phil

            Hey Ben,

            You're basically trying to reach a conclusion about the nature of reality through definition.

            Not at all, the goodness and truth of God are first found through reason.

            If you would like to delineate these facts, we can, but it might be a little more than you want to get into right now since we first have to show that is reasonable and in fact necessary for God to exist. Then we have to reason through what "properties" this God must have. It's up to you.

          • Loreen Lee

            Your argument is convincing me that 'God is Good' is a tautology and is not synthetic a priori. But I'll have to think this over!!!!! It would completely demolish Kant's distinction between mathematical and dynamic synthetic a priori. Or else a bachelor is married would be a dynamic synthetic, and this is the distinction that has to be made.....Don't 'know'!!!!

          • Ben Posin

            Can't say I understand everything in this post, but I agree that saying God is Good (or "God is Goodness") is a tautology if one defines "Good" by reference to God' nature. All it is really saying is "God is God," with no information coming out.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yeah! I've been following the definitive explanation of what 'God' is. (Brandon, and a few others, above). It seems that every 'perfect' attribute can be assigned to God. I guess that's what makes God 'Absolute'. But I don't believe it will ever be possible for me to grasp, or 'see' or attain such Godliness!!!! Tautologies are considered to be empty of content. An explanation as to the reason why they are 'always true'.....Does the above argument I refer to make God into a 'logical' proposition, only? An absolute ideal?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, given the various attempts at defining god recently here on the boards, I'm not sure that claiming god has attributes makes any sense at all.

          • Loreen Lee

            Spinoza defined God as a substance. the total of all that is. The attributes that we know are mind and matter. Now we've added to that truth, beauty, goodness, morality......well, if God is a totality, I guess - why not!!!!!!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But mind and matter aren't attributes. They are primary things. They may have attributes themselves. And Spinoza was clearly not specifying a Christian god - his version is more pantheistic.

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, my understanding is that Spinoza thought of them as attributes. Only two of an infinite number which, to me, is mind boggling! But what you seem to call attributes are what I associate with the Platonic forms, or universals I think they are called in Medieval language. Am just beginning to appreciate in my dialogue with Phil the great differences between world views, and use of language as used by the ancients and the moderns.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What philosophers debunked the dilemma? When? Could you give specific references?

          • Susan

            It therefore poses no problem to serious philosophers and theologians.

            How do you define serious philosopher?

          • Ignorant Amos

            William Lane Craig would you believe? Talk about the enemy of thine enemy is my friend.

          • I guess it really comes down to this. How do we as humans recognize the good? God would be incapable of providing us with the standard of goodness that we could apply, because there is no external standard that God applies.

            For example, when he kills an Egyptian baby, it is not good because it furthers human flourishing or limits pain, or has any other consequence such as demonstrating gods power. These would all be elements of some external standard. Rather it is good because god did it. That is what Catholics mean by good: that which God does? And we recognize it as being good simply by god's involvement.

            We don't recognize the good because it is consistent with human values we can comprehend like health, comfort, safety, freedom and so on. These may often be part of goodness but they do not define it. The only question to determine whether something is good is whether it is consistent with God's nature.

            This just isn't how I use the word morality.

          • Gabriel

            God's nature simply is goodness
            -----------------------------------------------------
            That is a mere assertion.Why I should adopt God s nature as standard of goodness and not my nature?Because his nature is holy?By what standard?

      • Susan

        God is Goodness itself and whatever he commands is coincident with his nature. In other words, God commands certain actions because he is good

        But asserting that Yahweh is "goodness itself" is no more useful in demonstrating Yahweh's goodness than asserting that Yahweh is "existence itself" is in demonstrating Yahweh's existence.

      • Danny Getchell

        Brandon -

        If you're going to cite Craig on this issue, I suggest you consider his well-known view on the Canaanites:

        Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses........ God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.
        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites

        This seems to settle the Euthypro issue pretty well, with the Christian God falling under Socrates' case two.

        And, although my distaste for Craig has oft been expressed here, I have to commend him for confronting this particular issue head-on and adopting a view which accepts God exactly as presented in the source material, rather than trying to apply any whitewash.

        • David Nickol

          Wow. What is really interesting is that he argues that if God commands you to kill innocent children, it is not murder for you to do so. It is one thing to argue that God may end human lives as he sees fit. It is quite another, it seems to me, that he can command a human person to slaughter other, innocent human beings, and that renders the slaughter a moral obligation, not murder. I am actually a bit shocked.

          • Danny Getchell

            Hey, that's Bill Craig for ya. What he says in a Youtube debate with a skeptic is not what he says when he thinks that only Christians are listening.

          • Susan

            I am actually a bit shocked.

            I would like to say I'm shocked. I'm not sure why you're shocked. The implications seem inevitable and have been since I was a child. Defining goodness as Yahweh (or Yahweh as goodness) can lead to any moral conclusion.

  • I suspect the popularity of relativism among secular folk some decades ago was a reaction against the injustice and irrationality so rampant in the dominant religious ideas of morality of the time. It may have had to wait for a stronger secular movement before the language of morality could be wrested away from religion and given a firmer foundation. For illustration, consider the quote from Aldous Huxley in his 1937 book "Ends and Means":

    For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust.

    For him, his relativism was a tool that he was never comfortable with, and that he abandoned when he was able. For me, an atheist almost a century later, the situation has reversed. I endorse and argue for objective secular ethics grounded in reason and human nature, most often against theists who argue instead for ethics relative to their religious culture or based in the their subjective interpretations of their scriptures.

    Anyhow, good topic for an article. Thanks, Joe H.

    • When you endorse absolute morality as an atheist you do get other questions. Like where did this absolute morality come from? Why is it important that we follow it?

      The difficulty that the non-relativist atheist can face is the parallels between the atheist reasons for rejecting God and similar arguments for rejecting love or any virtue. The lack of physical evidence is the same. The lack of agreement about the details is the same. The history of violence done as a result of such disagreements is there to.

      It seems like for some atheism is the parking place like relativism was for Huxley. People are not comfortable with all the implications of it but they do like the freedom.

      • When you endorse absolute morality as an atheist you do get other questions.

        I didn't say "absolute" and I don't know what you mean by it.

        Like where did this absolute morality come from?

        As stated in the post you were replying to, I would ground objective secular ethics in reason and human nature. (By "human nature" I don't mean anything superstitious but simply the commonalities that most humans have inherited from our evolutionary history.)

        Theists, by contrast, face the Euthyphro dilemma and its variants which show that they are unable to ground an objective ethics in their gods.

        Why is it important that we follow it?

        The fruit of moral behavior is a flourishing society and a life filled with love. If you want those, then by your own standards it's important to be moral. If someone doesn't care about either of those (as is true of some sociopaths), then there's no relevant moral argument the rest of us can make, and all that's left is to separate such people from the rest of society.

        Theists, by contrast, often fall back on saying morality is important because of how their gods bribe and threaten them.

        the parallels between the atheist reasons for rejecting God and similar arguments for rejecting love or any virtue. The lack of physical evidence is the same.

        Pardon? There's overwhelmingly abundant physical evidence for love. Billions of real, physical people commonly express love in words to each other; they also actually do often behave lovingly toward each other; and the psychology and neurochemistry of love is long-studied and well-known.

        • Phil

          Hey Noah,

          I'd say you are right on the doorstep of natural law ethics (you may even describe your ethics in that way).

          I think even when we can look to the nature of the human person existing right now and use reason to figure out what leads to human flourishing based on its nature, we still have the question, how does the human person actually have an objectively existing nature right now?

          Because if the human being's nature is purely a result of random evolutionary history, we can only say it only appears that humans have an actual nature, but they actually do not.

          In that case, I don't think we have saved the belief that there are objective rights and wrongs--it only appears to be objective rights and wrongs. So in the end, there isn't anything actually wrong with rape, it just isn't a flavor of ice cream with like right now.

          • Hey Phil,

            I'd say you are right on the doorstep of natural law ethics (you may even describe your ethics in that way).

            Labels aren't especially important to me, but the commonest labels for the ethical systems I accept are "consequentialism" for normative ethics, "desirism" for descriptive ethics, and "virtue theory" for folk ethics.

            I'm wary of "natural law" because of its long association with special pleading by theologians.

            how does the human person actually have an objectively existing nature right now? ... it only appears that humans have an actual nature, but they actually do not.

            As described in the previous post, I don't hold to any kind of superstitious or supernatural concept of human nature, so this question does not arise. When I say "human nature" I mean just those observable characteristics that most of the human species has inherited from our most recent common ancestor and subsequent shared history of evolutionary pressures. It is the subject matter of sciences such as biology, psychology, and sociology.

            So in the end, there isn't anything actually wrong with rape, it just isn't a flavor of ice cream with like right now.

            Rape is morally wrong because it has obvious undesired consequences for the people who are raped in particular and for society in general, and no significant countervailing desired consequences.

          • Phil

            Okay, I see what you are getting at. (And if you are interested in using reason to discover ethics, don't throw away "natural law" ethics simply because you don't like some people that have promoted it. Obviously that would be a fallacious reason in the first place.)

            Rape is morally wrong because it has obvious undesired consequences for
            the people who are raped in particular and for society in general, and
            no significant countervailing desired consequences.

            Would agree then that there is nothing actually wrong with the act of rape itself, only that because of the consequences it is then wrong. In other words, if the consequence of rape was good, then rape would be morally acceptable. Is this a fair assessment?

          • Loreen Lee

            That's where a 'consequentialist' ethics will get you. I so agree with the church when they prefer virtue ethics to this and utilitarianism. But I also believe that these ethics have their place. Like the ethics employed in the law of precedent, both utilitarianism and consequentialism are 'useful' in such social programs as for instance welfare guidelines, (although I would not want to be left out if there wasn't enough left over after the greatest good was achieved for the greatest number of recipients! Rape is a form of violence and for this reason alone would go against what is 'rational' and therefore moral' .

            Just like coercion and imposition of one's will on another generally, I would hold that rape denies or supplants the 'reason' of another, without coming to a rational agreement, or using just and rational means.. Because of this, it is not surprising that the victim in such matters very often suffers mental health issues as a consequence. (PTSD for one). . .

            Like the use of force or coercion, with justification, as in the penal system, rape too, has been justified in our past history. (In war times, and OT!!! for nonpayment of a debt in Judges) It is examples like this that dissuade me from agreeing that there is an absolute criteria, even within 'Natural Law'. Hopefully, I'm 'growing - ethically'. Hopefully, the 'world' at large is too. It takes not only principle, but also the need to make finer and finer distinctions, in practice. (Just a general comment). My son, like Spinoza, decided as a teenager that morality was the result of a correct application of logic. Yes that's the 'necessity' that we are seeking. (In the particular???) But there is also the universal, which I admit is 'way beyond me'.....I just don't think that morality comes, or is completely 'natural'!!! whether a law, or an absolute being whose 'reasoning' I could,even in the best of circumstances, only presume to 'know'.

          • Phil

            Like the use of force or coercion, with justification, as in the penal
            system, rape too, has been justified in our past history. (In war
            times, and OT!!! for nonpayment of a debt in Judges) It is examples
            like this that dissuade me from agreeing that there is an absolute
            criteria, even within 'Natural Law'

            Can you elaborate on why this dissuades you from believing that there are objective moral truths, if that is what you are saying?

            Or maybe you were explaining that objective moral truths do exist, it just is hard to figure them out, hence your comment on absolute criteria?

            -----

            In the end, natural law ethics says that even if something intrinsically evil--like rape--was justified in the past, it was just as wrong then as it was now. Maybe the culpability for those who committed it is lowered because they didn't have knowledge of the wrongness of the act. But that doesn't change that rape was, is, and always will be intrinsically immoral action.

          • Loreen Lee

            Then may I interpret all of those horrors which are attributed to God in the OT, as really being the interpretation of the doer's or humans of what would be considered an absolute morality in terms of God's authority. By the same token, perhaps we are yet not able to interpret correctly God's law as it applies to Natural law. Perhaps we can only interpret God according to our capability, which throws into difficulty for me not only the absolute nature of morality, but as well makes questionable, because we then would not know it, the objectivity that is associated with God.

          • Phil

            I think you are exactly correct, that we humans can get in the way many times of discovering truth/reality the way it is. (This is what the Church calls "original sin", which turns human desire toward the temptation to define reality/truth how we want it to be and not how it actually is.)

            This is why it takes great humility to search out the truth. We need to read and reflect on the pieces of truth that have held up over centuries and see what they have to offer us--as pride will be the first way to shoot ourselves in the foot.

            But we shouldn't fall into the exact opposite trap--underestimating what human reason is capable of. We need to end up somewhere in the middle. Where we are not completely credulous but not completely incredulous.

            Then may I interpret all of those horrors which are attributed to God in the OT, as really being the interpretation of the doer's or humans of what would be considered an absolute morality in terms of God's authority

            Yes whatever horrors that actually happened that are described in the OT must be understand as the Hebrews not fully understanding who God truly is yet. In the end, they can attribute these horrors to God, but only in a sense that God allowed them to happen to bring about a greater good, but not as God actually willing evil to happen. (Obviously the issue of evil/suffering is something that was discussed here the other day.)

          • Loreen Lee

            I read once within my 'philosophical studies' that the best way to achieve objectivity is to develop one's 'subjectivity'. May I illustrate? Now that I am more acquainted with such things as character, etc. and see these more clearly, and because I can recognize more easily the 'difficulties' in the paths people choose, I feel I am more capable of 'rowing the boat' (to use a metaphor) both with respect to myself and in my communication with friends and acquaintances in real-life time. In other words, with a naivety that excludes knowledge of 'evil', etc. one can not always avoid such things.

            In other words, to develop goodness, you have to strive not only to understand goodness, but to recognize it's 'lack'. But this, perhaps, is not a matter of reason, and a matter of underestimating same, as you point out, but points to perhaps the 'necessity' to learn from experience: or what is called in principle the first gift of the Holy Spirit: i.e. wisdom. Is it not true then that one can be poor in logic, reason, etc. and yet have the wisdom to consistently act with morality. Indeed, I believe I have found examples of this, not only in secular literature, but in Catholic renditions of particular saints. Thanks for getting back to me.

          • Phil

            I think you are correct in pointing towards the fact that as one grows in knowledge of goodness one would also be growing in knowledge of evil, or a lack of goodness, and vice-versa.

            Is it not true then that one can be poor in logic, reason, etc. and yet have the wisdom to consistently act with morality.

            I think you are semi-correct in this thinking, and it more has to do with wording. If one acts morally, one is automatically acting reasonably or "with reason".

            In other words, acting immorally is unreasonable because it is acting against how the human person's nature was designed to act--we are not acting how we ought to act to truly flourish. (Immoral acts can be shown with reason to be irrational.)

            Now, the key distinction is that this person that may be acting "with reason" may not be able to spell out intellectually, using rational philosophical tools, why telling the truth is the moral thing to do, or why only having sexual relations with ones spouse is the moral thing to do.

            So I do see a difference between one acting "with reason" and one using reason to philosophically explain why what they are doing is correct. Only the former is what all human persons are called to do--to act with reason, i.e., morally so as to fully flourish.

          • Loreen Lee

            I appreciate the clarification, Phil. (People are still adding comments to this post. It's been really popular!!!)

          • I'm wary of natural law not because it's used almost only by theologians, but because it's full of special pleading (by theologians).

            Would agree then that there is nothing actually wrong with the act of
            rape itself, only that because of the consequences it is then wrong.

            On consequentialism, a thing is right or wrong on account of having good or bad consequences. There are different formulations that would have different things to say about "the act itself".

            In other words, if the consequence of rape was good, then rape would be morally acceptable. Is this a fair assessment?

            Um, I'm having difficulty imagining a world in rape would be expected to have good consequences. You'll need to supply more detail for me to understand what kind of situation you're appealing to.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Even a consequentialist would have problems with the construction "rape is good." After all, rape is defined as violating a person's wishes. That's bad consequentially, even if, say, the person gained a million dollars from the subsequent lawsuit.

          • Loreen Lee

            Or if the rape itself was never discovered, and thus the 'consequences' never made 'public'. Morality is generally considered in contrast to legality as being a private/personal jurisdiction in contrast to the legal public forum. This example, for me, undermines that distinction. It also gives credibility to the distinction between objective and subjective morality. I would also 'subjectively' hold that rape is 'absolutely' 'wrong'. How's that for an example of how concepts can be used in seemingly contradictory ways. Just my feeling here against a purely logical moral criteria, I guess.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            For a consequentialist, it doesn't matter if the rape is discovered; it's still rape. It's still violation.

          • Loreen Lee

            That definition seems to me to make the consequence part of the action, i.e. the rape, rather than a later effect. I have never before thought of the ethics of consequentialism in this context before. That is simple apart or distinct from any 'intent'. Thanks.

          • Phil

            After all, rape is defined as violating a person's wishes.

            How much money is a "person's wishes" wishes worth. Or how many people is a "person's wishes" worth?

            In other words, If one directly saves 1,000,000 people from being tortured by raping a single person, where does the scale fall?

          • Ignorant Amos

            The evil there is in the choice being forced to make, if indeed a choice is being made to either the victim or the perpetrator. In any event, the action of the rape itself is evil by any reasonable moral standard regardless. The fact that a victim may allow such a thing, as Spock might say, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few", but it is no less wrong an act and an omniscient god of all goodness would know that.

            How would you feel about a baby daughter being raped, to save a million lives? How do you feel about a rape being covered up to save a church? How is your scale on such wishes?

          • Phil

            In any event, the action of the rape itself is evil by any reasonable moral standard regardless.

            It sounds like you are suggesting that you would hold that rape is an intrinsically evil act?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I'm not that enthralled by the words rape and evil. Sexual assault and bad sit a lot better with me. As for the philosophy of the intrinsic, I've no need for it when considering this particular action. Certainly god, scripture or the church doesn't either as far as I can see.

          • Phil

            That's okay, you can call it what you want, that doesn't change what is actually happening.

            Would you say that sexual assault is not an intrinsically bad act? In other words, the act, in and of itself, is not a bad one?

            (And yes, natural law ethics, what the Catholic church lifts us holds that some acts are intrinsically bad.)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Would you say that sexual assault is not an intrinsically bad act? In other words, the act, in and of itself, is not a bad one?

            Cultural norms would have me assert that sexual assault is intrinsically bad, by Catholic definition of course, but that is not the end of the story. I can think of one scenario where forcing intercourse on another human being could be deemed necessary.

            I can also have a certain understanding for a time when it might have been a cultural norm.

            “Human rape appears not as an aberration but as an alternative gene-promotion strategy that is most likely to be adopted by the 'losers' in the competitive, harem-building struggle. If the means of access to legitimate, consenting sex is not available, then a male may be faced with the choice between force or genetic extinction.”

            But I think in a civilised society things have by and largely moved on from that.

            I have to laugh at the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church when I read the list of what is deemed intrinsically evil. Especially in light of catechism....

            Catechism of the Catholic Church: "1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it."

            One would think the hierarchy of the Holy See might be aware of such stuff.

          • Phil

            I can think of one scenario where forcing intercourse on another human being could be deemed necessary.

            I am curious what this scenario is? I actually can't say I've come across someone that has even stated that there would be a time when sexual assault would be the moral/ethical thing to do.

            I have to laugh at the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church when I read the
            list of what is deemed intrinsically evil. Especially in light of
            catechism....

            One would think the hierarchy of the Holy See might be aware of such stuff.

            The Church is very aware of this, not every one perfectly of course. But being aware, and following perfectly are two different things. As you probably know, the Catholic church does hold that we are all fallen and sin. Our goal is to keep growing in holiness and to be formed by Christ and His Church so as to become fully flourishing human beings (and all that goes along with that, i.e., knowing, loving, serving God and others).

          • Ignorant Amos

            I am curious what this scenario is? I actually can't say I've come across someone that has even stated that there would be a time when sexual assault would be the moral/ethical thing to do.

            Well Phil, I didn't quite say it would be moral or ethical, In said necessary.

            Say the last human male on Earth, wouldn't that make the scenario necessary? Some Bible apologists seem to think so anyway.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The Church is very aware of this, not every one perfectly of course. But being aware, and following perfectly are two different things. As you probably know, the Catholic church does hold that we are all fallen and sin. Our goal is to keep growing in holiness and to be formed by Christ and His Church so as to become fully flourishing human beings (and all that goes along with that, i.e., knowing, loving, serving God and others).

            Any excuse to uphold a forlorn hope in my opinion. It isn't panning out to well after 1650 years of effort.

          • Phil

            Any excuse to uphold a forlorn hope in my opinion. It isn't panning out to well after 1650 years of effort.

            I was actually having a discussion the other day with a group of people and it was interesting to note that if the Church is as corrupt as people believe (obviously it is much less corrupt than it was in the late Renaissance and early Reformation) it is quite a miracle that the Church is still around after nearly 2000 years.

            Any modern day institution or business that was as corrupt as many think the Church is would have a hard time lasting 5 years, let alone nearly 2000.

            So either the Church is not as corrupt as people think and it really does contain much truth within her teachings, or it really is God's Church and he won't let it disintegrate! ;)

            Well Phil, I didn't quite say it would be moral or ethical, In said necessary.

            Say the last human male on Earth, wouldn't that make the
            scenario necessary? Some Bible apologists seem to think so anyway.

            Gotcha, Gotcha. Would you say that we should do things that aren't ethical/moral if they are necessary?

            On the scenario: Natural law, and the Catholic church, would hold that sexual assault is an intrinsically immoral action and not only would it not be necessary--the man ought not to do it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I was actually having a discussion the other day with a group of people and it was interesting to note that if the Church is as corrupt as people believe (obviously it is much less corrupt than it was in the late Renaissance and early Reformation) it is quite a miracle that the Church is still around after nearly 2000 years.

            Why? Gulible people will always abound. How does anyone know how corrupt the church is when the church doesn't even know itself? Even with all our mod con communications most Catholics deny there is a problem, many of those that do acknowledge the scandal have protested by walking...sound familiar?

            Any modern day institution or business that was as corrupt as many think the Church is would have a hard time lasting 5 years, let alone nearly 2000.

            Funny that, Secularist's say something similar when it comes to the sex scandal. There is no doubt the RCC has not been held to the same standards as all other institutions and businesses, but that has worked in the churches favour. If paedophile clerics where being made as big a media spectacle as the batch of post Saville celebrities have been, and the institution that helped cover it up and indeed, in some cases, promulgated the scandal...things might be a lot different. Still, from little acorns. It is well understood that believers refuse to accept evidence, even when it is slam dunk, so your comparison is a false equivocation.

            So maybe the Church is not as corrupt as people think and it really does contain much truth within her teachings, or it really is God's Church and he won't let it disintegrate! ;)

            Not as corrupt? Just corrupt. The RCC can be shown to have corruption running through it from the get go. Corrupt by those that make the decisions at all those councils. The same councils that come up with all the ordinations that Catholics are supposed to live up to. It strikes as ridiculous that educated and for the most part, rational, individuals can look at all in front of them and still defend such. I guess if the same can be done in the modern educated world of the twentieth century, why should I be surprised that an institution with the patena of nearly two millennia ingrained would not be even more expert at the deceit.

          • Phil

            Gulible people will always abound. How does anyone know how corrupt
            the church is when the church doesn't even know itself? Even with all
            our mod con communications most Catholics deny there is a problem, many
            of those that do acknowledge the scandal have protested by
            walking...sound familiar?

            There have been [gullible people], but for it to continue on, especially with the worldwide media and the age of science the past 400 years--something is a little off for it to continue on if the Church is purely corrupt and only contains falsehood.

            Right now in the U.S. we actually have an increase in men entering seminaries to become priests over the past 8 years! This is just ~10 years after the major sex abuse scandal broke!

            There is no doubt the RCC has not been held to the same standards as all
            other institutions and businesses, but that has worked in the churches
            favour.

            Let me preface this by saying that what these men did was abominable. There is no excuse for it, and no excuse for any that may have taken part in true covering up of it. This doesn't mean they can't be forgiven just as you and I can be forgiven for the wrong we've done, but it is especially gut-wrenching when it involves children.

            I would actually argue that this became as big as it did because the Church is held to a higher standard. If you look at the statistics, the percentage of priests that were even accused of sexual abuse is less than the national average at other jobs that work with children. The percentage of U.S. priests that were accused, not confirmed, was something like .02. Again, higher than it should be.

            Just look at the news that came out that universities had been covering up sexual assault on campuses. This just was in the news less than a week ago. But this hasn't blown up at all compared to the Church scandal.

            I think part of it was that people were looking for a reason to hate and leave the Church, the other part was people held the Church to a higher standard and they let them down.

            Not as corrupt? Just corrupt. The RCC can be shown to have corruption running through it from the get go.

            Anyone who thinks that the people who are in charge of the RCC should be perfect aren't living in the real world!

            We are all sinful persons--we mess up, we do bad things. Obviously there are some things that worse than others, but we are all imperfect. And there are lots of imperfect men and women up and down the Church!

            The same councils that come up with all the ordinations that Catholics
            are supposed to live up to. It strikes as ridiculous that educated and
            for the most part, rational, individuals can look at all in front of
            them and still defend such.

            There is a big difference between knowing what one ought to do and actually doing it perfectly. Remember, none of us is perfect. Anytime you or I tell anyone to do something, we are being just as "hypocritical" because we aren't going to do this perfectly our whole life either.

            In fact, all of us are hypocrites in some way or form. One goal of life is to become "less a hypocrite" and actually love and serve others as we ought to.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Gotha, Gotcha, my apologies. Would you say that we should do things that aren't ethical/moral if they are necessary?

            Agan, I'm not suggesting "we" should do anything, I was just suggesting a hypothetical time when such an unethical action might be necessary

            On the scenario: Natural law, and the Catholic church, would hold that sexual assault is an intrinsically immoral action and not only would it not be necessary--the man ought not to do it.

            This is the point we are debating here. Religions, the Bible, Roman Catholics and even your God, doesn't practice what they preach, so why should anyone else for that matter? Why should those that don't aspire to such a flawed philosophy not follow an ideal that negates those things that show it up as untenable?

            If by stealing a loaf to feed and thereby safe the life of my baby is immoral and unethical, then sign me up, because that will be me. Regardless of the consequences.

          • Phil

            Religions, the Bible, Roman Catholics and even your God, doesn't practice what they preach, so why should anyone else for that matter

            Let me change this to say:

            "Person's who say they follow God don't practice what they preach, perfectly."

            This goes back to the last comment, to expect that anyone is going to be perfect is to be living in a fantasy world, not the real one. All we need to do is look at our own life and the wrong things we have done, no matter how small they might seem to be, to us.

            Why should those that don't aspire to such a flawed philosophy not follow an ideal that negates those things that show it up as untenable?

            I am going to say probably one the most bold statements you have heard:

            The Catholic Church's intellectual tradition, including its theology and the philosophy is holds in esteem (i.e., Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition) is the most intellectually defensible system we have.

            It is also the description of reality, as it actually exists, that is most complete and correct. Not only is it perfectly consistent with what the modern sciences have shown to be true beyond a reasonable doubt, but it compliments and upholds the sciences, especially the physical sciences.

            It is an intellectual system and web of massive proportions, 2000 years in development with minds that have worked on it that may be smarter than many that live today.

          • Loreen Lee

            The ends justify the means, is the argument you are putting forth. That was, before I read M. Solange's definition above, what I disagreed with regarding the ethics of consequentialism. From my point of view, I don't think it would ever be possible to prove your hypothesis. Unless, of course, you are talking about the rapine crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in which it is believed the whole human race has been saved/redeemed. But his was a victory over 'evil', whereas in your example because the person does not appear to give consent surely it would be the cause of at least some guilt, in the telling of the tale. That's hardly a redemption. As far as worth, or value is concerned, it is morality itself which is by definition the criteria of worth and value. The 'person's wishes' therefore if the promotion of a value laden morality would be priceless, whether or not it resulted in a rape on the pretext that the individual him/herself had 'no (pragmatic) value.

          • Phil

            The 'person's wishes' therefore if the promotion of a value laden morality would be priceless, whether or not it resulted in a rape on the pretext that the individual him/herself had 'no (pragmatic) value.

            Where does this "priceless value" of a person's wishes come from?

            Obviously, I am assuming there is no Creator that could give value to certain creatures over other creatures. The only other option is we create the value somehow, but if we create it, we can just as easily destroy it.

          • Phil

            I'm wary of natural law not because it's used almost only by theologians, but because it's full of special pleading.

            Are you able to expand upon what kind of special pleading you've come across? I'm curious!

            Um, I'm having difficulty imagining a world in which rape would be expected to have good consequences.

            We actually aren't dealing with actual examples, we are simply saying that consequentialism would hold that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with rape, so if a case came up where a rape had good consequences then it would be morally good.

            A couple questions:
            1) How do we objectively judge if the consequences are "good" or "bad"? For example, most actions would seem to have a various amount of consequences one could look into, how do you "place them on the scale"?

            2) How far into the future do you have to look for consequences to figure out if something is good or bad?

            3) How good or bad do the consequences have to be for an action to lean one way or the other? In other words, how do we lean if it seems to be 51% bad and 49% good?

          • Are you able to expand upon what kind of special pleading you've come across?

            Sure. Not long ago in the U.S. it was common to hear religious arguments against same sex marriage. Among those were a great many variations on natural law arguments; when people pointed out that the natural law arguments applied equally to certain types of opposite-sex marriages, the religious response was to concoct exceptions where previously the argument had depended on exceptions not being allowed. One of the many examples of that is the (unsubstantiated) claim that fertility is necessary to the nature of marriage; when it is pointed out that such a natural law would disqualify postmenopausal, genetically or physically damaged, and voluntarily celibate couples (including a good number of married saints from early Christian history) from being married, various excuses were developed: that's the special pleading fallacy. Either the excuses were wrong or the claimed natural law was no law at all. More plausibly the latter, since no justification was offered for the claim anyhow.

            We actually aren't dealing with actual examples,

            I didn't ask for examples, but for a possible world where rape would be expected to have desirable consequences, as you proposed. To my imagination it looks like there's no possible world where you could make raping be expected to have desirable consequences. So I'd like to know what possible world you were appealing to.

            we are simply saying that consequentialism would hold that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with rape,

            Eh, I'm not sure I can agree with that. If "rape" is forcing sexual intercourse on someone against someone's will, then its undesirability is pretty much included in how we identify it. If the act is desired by all parties, we just call it "sex".

            so if a case came up where a rape had good consequences then it would be morally good.

            Remember that consequentialism is a normative moral theory, and ought implies can, so if we're talking about a situation that can't actually occur, then consequentialism doesn't say anything about it. It's a theory for real-world morality only and I don't make any promises about its applicability to unreal situations.

            How do we objectively judge if the consequences are "good" or "bad"?

            That depends on which formulation you choose. I prefer to take the approach with fewest assumptions and just say we judge based on the values of the people affected. So for example, consider the Aztec human sacrifices. Those doing the sacrificing and sometimes even the people getting sacrificed supported doing it because they thought it was a necessary means to get their gods' favor. But this was false, because their gods do not exist, so the actions in fact failed to serve that value. Instead it thwarted all those other values of theirs that depended on staying alive, such as taking care of their families, enjoying good food, learning new things, etc. So their human sacrifice was morally wrong.

            How far into the future do you have to look for consequences to figure out if something is good or bad?

            As far as you care about.

            How good or bad do the consequences have to be for an action to lean one way or the other? In other words, how do we lean if it seems to be 51% bad and 49% good?

            Then it would be 51% bad and 49% good. Consequentialism is fine with shades of gray.

          • Phil

            One of the many examples of that is the (unsubstantiated) claim that
            fertility is necessary to the nature of marriage; when it is pointed out
            that such a natural law would disqualify postmenopausal, genetically or
            physically damaged, and voluntarily celibate couples.

            I would argue that this argument is not a good one:
            If natural law is still developing in understanding of morality, then it is not correct/good system.

            In the end, either one must be fertile to be married or one need not. We simply need to figure out what the truth of reality is. I hold, as natural law does, we must look to the "end" or "final cause" of the object or act. Ends and final causes deal with what an act is oriented towards. The sexual act is still able to be oriented towards procreation even when conception does not take place, such as when it is not a time of the month a woman could get pregnant. This also includes "permanently" infertile men and women.

            If a man and woman can do the act that could lead to procreation, if nature allows, then they can be objectively married. Obviously, with 2 men and 2 women there is no potentiality/orientation whatsoever for procreation--which is the distinct difference between those 2 type of relationships.

            The same reason 2 men can't be objectively married and why homosexual acts are wrong is the same exact reason why contraceptive sex is wrong.

            Eh, I'm not sure I can agree with that. If "rape" is forcing sexual
            intercourse on someone against someone's will, then its undesirability
            is pretty much included in how we identify it. If the act is desired by
            all parties, we just call it "sex".

            Okay, if you do agree that there is something intrinsically wrong with rape then you are going beyond mere consequentialism.

            ---------

            On judging consequences under consequentialism:

            Is it morally okay to directly kill (or rape) 1 innocent child if it will directly save 1,000 people under consequentialism?
            (This is all that is involved and you know this will be the outcome.)

            As far as you care about.

            It seems like we have an issue that (1) there is a limit to how far one can reasonably look, and (2) if we stop looking at certain points a act might be right at one point, and wrong at another.

            Then it would be 51% bad and 49% good. Consequentialism is fine with shades of gray.

            That is interesting that there can be acts that are kinda bad and kinda good.

            The only time that might show up in natural law ethics is when dealing with the lesser of two evils. Ultimately, the grounding principles of natural law underlying any decision are that one either ought or ought not to do what one is doing at this point in their day. There is no, "well, you 1/2 ought to do it, and you 1/2 ought not to do it". Now the decision of what is the objectively right thing to do is not always easy to discover, but that is an epistemological issue, not ontological.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            If a man and woman can do the act that could lead to procreation, if nature allows, then they can be objectively married. Obviously, with 2 men and 2 women there is no potentiality/orientation whatsoever for procreation--which is the distinct difference between those 2 type of relationships.

            There is no biological difference between two gays having sex, and two infertile people having sex - as regards procreation. It's mutual masturbation in either case. Why do you make a distinction.

          • googleanalytics

            There is no biological difference between two gays having sex, and two infertile people having sex - as regards procreation. It's mutual masturbation in either case. Why do you make a distinction.

            I think the video below was a very respectful debate that answers that question very well.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4elxXybSuzo

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I can't get videos to work properly. Could you explain?

          • Phil

            That may one of the the hardest things to believe I've ever heard one stated. I'd say reason tells us there quite a big objective difference between 2 men, and a man and a woman, even if infertile, having sex.

          • I would argue that this argument is not a good one: If natural law is still developing in understanding of morality, then it is not correct/good system.

            I'm sorry, I can't parse this in a way that matches its context. Perhaps you could rephrase.

            In the end, either one must be fertile to be married or one need not.

            "Not", of course. No society actually tests for fertility before permitting marriage.

            We simply need to figure out what the truth of reality is. I hold, as natural law does, we must look to the "end" or "final cause" of the object or act.

            There is no evidence of "final causes" existing in reality, so this is a very unpromising way to start looking for the truth of reality. This is an example of, as I mentioned earlier, the unproven metaphysical assumptions that natural law theory requires. (By contrast, consequentialism does not make such assumptions.)

            The sexual act is still able to be oriented towards procreation ... This also includes "permanently" infertile men and women. ... If a man and woman can do the act that could lead to procreation, if nature allows, then they can be objectively married. Obviously, with 2 men and 2 women there is no potentiality/orientation whatsoever for procreation

            That's a paradigmatic example of a special pleading fallacy. Different standards are applied to opposite-sex as same-sex couples in order to reach the desired conclusion. (The unfortunate fact that the natural law argument was designed so as to lead to a predetermined conclusion is a second, informal logical fallacy.) In the first case, the magical requirement is being able to put a penis in a vagina (and this is why historically the Church said that unconsummated marriages could be annulled); whereas in the second case, the fact of infertility rather than of the ability to engage in sex suddenly becomes relevant.

            Since the reiteration you provided of the natural law argument had the logical fallacy of special pleading as its foundation, it's clear that the claim that natural law theory is "full of special pleading" has been adequately illustrated.

            The same reason 2 men can't be objectively married and why homosexual acts are wrong is the same exact reason why contraceptive sex is wrong.

            You didn't provide any reason for second and third claims in that list; I'll interpret this paragraph as having been an allusion to an unstated argument rather than as a non-sequitur fallacy.

            Okay, if you do agree that there is something intrinsically wrong with rape then you are going beyond mere consequentialism.

            Hey, now. I did not agree with calling anything "intrinsically wrong". I'm trying to write carefully since these are important and sensitive questions to many people. Please refrain from assigning positions to me that I did not endorse.

            Is it morally okay to directly kill (or rape) 1 innocent child if it will directly save 1,000 people under consequentialism? (This is all that is involved and you know this will be the outcome.)

            Can you not see the absurdity of your request? The moment you suppose that we know for certain that killing 1 will save 1,000 and that there will be no further consequences, you are supposing something that we know is entirely unlike the real world. It's just a toy world and cannot be assigned any more importance than the fiction of a video game. So, to recast your question more realistically: In the board game of Go, is it morally OK to kill one of your Go stones so that a large group of your Go stones can live? (Yes, it's fine.)

            In the real world, deliberately killing someone has many consequences: it thwarts the values the victim had for his future; it thwarts the similar values of the victim's family and friends; it sows distrust among the community which subtly thwarts countless values; it reduces economic output which similarly subtly thwarts countless values; if the killer was not a psychopath, it causes him to experience fear, guilt, paranoia, and self-loathing, all of which profoundly thwart his values for his future; if the government catches and punishes him, he is put in prison thereby thwarting virtually every value he wanted for his future; if the government does not catch him, it still spends tax money and encroaches on civil rights, which thwarts many values. And so on and so forth.

            If you want to discuss consequentialist morality for the real world, you have to discuss the consequences of the real world. Otherwise we'd just be talking about mannequins, not people.

            It seems like we have an issue that (1) there is a limit to how far one can reasonably look, and (2) if we stop looking at certain points a act might be right at one point, and wrong at another.

            Not much of an issue. Consequentialist thinking also applies to the choice of how much resources you put into consequentialist thinking. If you really can't tell whether a proposed action is likely to turn out good or bad, then in the real world it's practically certain that you can choose some other, better action.

            Besides, this isn't Catholicism. There's no guilt trip or threat of eternal torture if you make a mistake.

            That is interesting that there can be acts that are kinda bad and kinda good.

            A few generations ago that wouldn't have been interesting. Much of the world fought a terrible war, and they knew it was terrible, but they perservered and probably achieved a better world for it.

          • Phil

            There is no evidence of "final causes" existing in reality, so this is a
            very unpromising way to start looking for the truth of reality.

            If you don't believe that final causes exist, you have just undermined science as a rational way to find truth. Final causes and natures (formal causes) must exist for us do rational science. I can go into detail on why, it's up to you.

            But the moral is, if you throw out final causes, you also throw out our ability to do science.

            Hey, now. I did not agree with calling anything "intrinsically wrong".

            I didn't, if you notice I said "if". I didn't state you did believe it to be that way.

            Would you say that there is something wrong with the actual act of sexual assault? In other words, is sexual assault intrinsically wrong or not?

            I'm sorry, I can't parse this in a way that matches its context. Perhaps you could rephrase.

            Just because a system of morality is continuing to develop doesn't mean we can write it off as wrong. Our understanding of morality may, and probably is, continuing to get closer to truth--hopefully ;)

            ------

            As you notice, I didn't address 2 of the consquentialism because I agree with you know that a consequentialism can hold that one only needs to look at the most direct consequences. This is what separates it from utilitarianism.

          • If you don't believe that final causes exist, you have just undermined science as a rational way to find truth. Final causes and natures (formal causes) must exist for us do rational science.

            That looks uninformed from my perspective. It's been a long time since scientists took final causes seriously. Early in the history of science, of course, people did great work testing explanations involving final causes and formal causes. Those theories were all falsified. Other theories made use of material causes and efficient causes, and those were more successful theories and survived longer. But still, Aristotle's four causes were merely the first attempts at systematically understanding causality, cobbled together in an age of profound ignorance about the material world, life, logic, language, and human psychology. As knowledge and the explanatory needs of science grew, the concepts had to be reformed, extended, refined, clarified to remain useful in its many different fields. The modern concept of causality is a different thing altogether than Aristotle's early groping for answers, which is not at all surprising as it is informed by incomparably more knowledge, nor does it at all denigrate Aristotle's efforts which served the explanatory purposes of his age adequately.

            I can go into detail on why, it's up to you.

            Sure. FWIW, this seems like a case where it's important to keep in mind what words can and can't do.

            Would you say that there is something wrong with the actual act of sexual assault? In other words, is sexual assault intrinsically wrong or not?

            I don't think there is such thing as "an act of sexual assault" in the sense of a single thing with a common existence in or across different situations. I think (and psychometric studies on how people use words support) that there are a large variety of behaviors and situations, and for a variety of reasons we develop ideas of paradigmatic cases. Observed cases which are most similar to the "sexual assault" paradigm we choose to name "sexual assault", while observed cases most similar to the "sex" paradigm we choose to name "sex". The closer an observed case is to one of the paradigmatic cases in our imagination, the quicker and more confident we are in choosing a name for it; and the more dissimilar an observed case is to the paradigms or the more features it has of multiple paradigms, the slower and more hesitant we are to decide which name to give it. Unfortunately, in abstract conversation, there are no observations to keep us grounded in reality, and we are easily fooled into thinking that the clean-cut classifications of the paradigmatic cases in our imaginations are the reality rather than merely a naming convention for an infinitely varied underlying reality. Judges, who see all the bizarre intermediary cases, know better. They learned from experience that definitions of criminal acts will always fail, and so instead of insisting on definitions they devise procedures for a reasonable person to determine what course of action is most likely the just one.

            Before we choose to name an observed behavior and situation as "sexual assault", we have already made the judgment that it was a wrongful act. Otherwise we would have given what we observed a different name. So to ask if sexual assault is intrinsically wrong is merely to ask "if you have decided something is wrong, do you think it is wrong?". I can answer "Yes", but the question and answer don't reveal any new information.

            (With one minor exception. The question reveals that person asking has, in some part of the process leading up to the question, made use of concepts that are not well informed by what humanity has learned about the material world, human psychology, and language. A good place to start filling in those gaps is the aforelinked human's guide to words.)

            As you notice, I didn't address...

            Yup, that's good form. I also try to omit the parts that have reached adequate resolution. Though sometimes I get stuck in a rut and keep typing too long...

          • Phil

            That looks uninformed from my perspective. It's been a long time since scientists took final causes seriously.

            And unfortunately, they don't realize that they can't "get rid" final causes without undermining the scientific endeavor as a whole. This is unfortunately one of the scientific "superstitions" of the modern age.

            A quick explanation on why:

            First, final causality simply means that things a oriented towards this rather than that because of their intrinsic nature (formal cause).

            If final causes, and in turn formal causes (i.e., natures), do not exist, then we have no better reason to believe that the moon will not swing out to Jupiter tomorrow, turn into a cat, then run out to Neptune, swing back to Earth, think it is better at being a duck, run around the Earth a couple times as a duck then return to being a standard moon.

            The most science could do is say that, "well we've never observed the moon do this". In other words, even if one does an experiment 1,000,000 times and it does the same exact thing, a scientist is in no better position to actually say that on the 1,000,001 time it will do the same exact thing (assuming no variables change), if final causes do not exist.

            I don't know how easy it is to get across how radical this is. The scientific method is undermined because one cannot corroborate data anymore. Science has no reason to believe that things are actually oriented towards, (final causality), this outcome over that. A rock isn't oriented towards falling to the earth over rising to Mars, turning into a tree and planting itself there.

            Only with final causes can we say, "No, the moon is actually oriented towards circling the earth because of its nature (formal cause) and if no variables whatsoever were to change it would do the same exact thing." This is what science needs to be able to actually say meaningful things about the cosmos, but it can't without final and formal causes.

            Early in the history of science, of course, people did great work
            testing explanations involving final causes and formal causes. Those
            theories were all falsified.

            Are you able to explain how final causality was falsified? This is a pretty radical claim that I have never heard. Most of the time, many simply claim that they are not useful and throw them out.

            To be sure, nothing in the modern sciences has undermined Aristotle's four causes and act/potency. Aristotle's four causes are simply common sense on steroids--that's what's so great about them.

            For reading on this I would recommend:
            "Life, the Universe and Everything" -Ric Machuga
            "The Last Superstition" -Edward Feser (This is the focus of this book, how getting rid of formal and final causes destroys science itself.)

            I don't think there is such thing as "an act of sexual assault" in the sense of a single thing with a common existence in or across different situations.

            Maybe let me frame this in a slightly different way;

            Is there anything actually wrong--intrinsically wrong--with the act of forcing oneself sexually upon another?

            So whatever this act is, we know for sure that a person has forced him or herself upon another, against the other's desires.

          • And unfortunately, they don't realize that they can't "get rid" final causes without undermining the scientific endeavor as a whole. This is unfortunately one of the scientific "superstitions" of the modern age.

            But they have gotten rid of it, and science continues faster than ever. So your claim is empirically falsified. Also, note that accuracy required you to put "superstition" in scare-quotes, because it is not really a superstition.

            First, final causality simply means that things are oriented towards this rather than that because of their intrinsic nature (formal cause).

            Right, that's one way of expressing the definition. But in reality, things do not possess any such orientations. The current state of a physical system depends only on its previous state, not on any of its future states.

            If final causes, and in turn formal causes (i.e., natures), do not exist, then we have no better reason to believe that the moon will not swing out to Jupiter tomorrow, turn into a cat, then run out to Neptune, swing back to Earth, think it is better at being a duck, run around the Earth a couple times as a duck then return to being a standard moon. The most science could do is say that, "well we've never observed the moon do this". In other words, even if one does an experiment 1,000,000 times and it does the same exact thing, a scientist is in no better position to actually say that on the 1,000,001 time...

            Such utter bollocks! The number of ways it is absurd is too many enumerate here, so I'll focus on the cause of that kind of philosophical self-imprisonment and the two main escape routes:

            The prison is the flawed ancient concept of certainty. The Greeks in particular thought that humans could achieve certainty by clever manipulation of words. The progress of science forced us to reject that concept. Total certainty is never achievable, especially not for human brains; instead we have higher and lower degrees of confidence. So the notion that because we lack certainty of how the Moon will behave, we no reason to believe it will behave normally, is rubbish. Real reasons to believe are proportioned to the evidence.

            The first escape route from the prison is that, if you desire to make predictions about the future without any assumptions, you can do so easily and freely using 18th century statistics, let alone anything more modern. It takes some concerted effort or very biased reading habits to be centuries out of date.

            The second escape route from the prison is that, if you desire to make predictions about the future with assumptions, you can still do so easily and freely. Far from there being "no better reason" to trust any theory, insofar as theories about how things change over time have in the past made more numerous and more detailed correct empirical predictions and fewer false or untestable predictions are better theories, to that degree they are objectively, quantifiably better theories. To choose some other absurdity instead, like you proposed for the Moon, would be to deliberately choose a theory for which there is objectively less reason to believe it.

            I don't know how easy it is to get across how radical this is.

            Its radicalness is adequately summarized by its total lack of evidence.

            Are you able to explain how final causality was falsified?

            Of course. I'll stick with two of the most popular examples.

            The ancients thought that "the moon is actually oriented towards circling the earth" because of the perfection of circles or by divine fiat, but Newton overturned that by showing that the heavenly bodies were merely falling in a predictable manner, which in some arrangements of mass ends up circular as a consequence, not a goal. Whenever the arrangement of masses is altered, the orbit is disturbed, because it has no teleology, no goal toward which it is oriented.

            Lamarck proposed that organisms evolved by inheriting acquired characteristics, as though their biology was oriented toward adaptation, but Darwin overturned that by showing that random mutation plus natural selection made superior predictions and explained adaptation as a consequence, not a goal. Whenever the winnowing of the unfit population due to natural selection is removed, the population ceases adaptation, because biology has no teleology, no goal toward which it is oriented.

            Aristotle's four causes are simply common sense on steroids--that's what's so great about them.

            That's a perfect reason to reject them. Common sense is the set of prejudices that proved well-adapted to ordinary human experience. It has been jettisoned by scientists every time they have ventured outside ordinary human experience.

            Maybe let me frame this in a slightly different way; Is there anything actually wrong--intrinsically wrong--with the act of forcing oneself sexually upon another?

            This phrasing has no functional difference from the phrasing with "sexual assault", so the answer is the same.

          • Phil

            Right, that's one way of expressing the definition. But in reality,
            things do not possess any such orientations. The current state of a
            physical system depends only on its previous state, not on any of its
            future states.

            A couple questions on this:

            1) Would you writing this comment response to me also be dependent upon the previous state of the system of yourself? If so, how do I know that your system is tuned towards discovering truth and not simply towards surviving or even simply stating and doing random things?

            2) Would you then hold that when I drop this rock, it is no more likely
            to fall to the ground than it is to fall into the sky? There is nothing
            about the nature of the rock that orients it towards falling to the
            ground and not rising into the sky?

            Total certainty is never achievable, especially not for human brains; instead we have higher and lower degrees of confidence.

            I'd say yes and no. There is a difference between epistemology and ontology here. Again a couple questions:

            1) If one runs the same test over and over again, no variables change whatsoever (I mean none), will the same outcome happen from the test?

            The ancients thought that "the moon is actually oriented towards
            circling the earth" because of the perfection of circles or by divine fiat, but Newton overturned that by showing that the heavenly bodies were merely falling in a predictable manner, which in some arrangements of mass ends up circular as a consequence, not a goal.

            This, ironically, is actually a good example of showing that final causality exists. The fact that the moon actually follows certain regular behaviors, as you described above, shows that the moon has a nature that is oriented towards responding in a "moonlike" manner. If we completely throw out final and formal causes, then we can't explain why the moon acts in such lawlike regular manners. There is something about the nature of the moon that causes it react as it does to outside efficient causes.

            This phrasing has no functional difference from the phrasing with "sexual assault", so the answer is the same.

            I don't think you ever gave a final answer as to if the act of sexual assualt is actually intrinsically wrong or not. I think several comments above you said, "kinda yes but kinda no." Would that be the same answer you are talking about?

          • Phil

            I am very interested in your response to my three questions from yesterday, as I think that will really shed forth some light on this issue but I wanted to address the "common sense" issue as well.

            That's a perfect reason to reject them. Common sense is the set of
            prejudices that proved well-adapted to ordinary human experience.

            To say that we should reject something purely because it is in line with common sense is obviously not a good argument.

            Now that doesn't mean that we should accept everything right away because we believe it to be common sense--which is I think what you are getting at. We need to end up somewhere in the middle.

            In regards to the common sense comment on Aristotle's metaphysics--I think it is important that our grounding philosophical views not be in direct contradiction to our common sense experience. This is what I like to call a "lived contradiction". We espouse certain philosophical views, but we live common day-to-day life in a very different manner. That's an issue.

            What Aristotle's metaphysics did was take the basics of how we live and think about the world and figure out if that philosophy was actually true. What came out the other side was the "four causes" and "act" and "potency". The surprising thing is that it is still one of the most influential views of the structure of reality to this day.

            So anyway, just some thoughts. Again, I think it is important that we address the three questions from yesterday.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So you have chosen a definition of married which requires coitus. And that's it: that's your definiging characteristic.
            And yet two people can marry who never engage in coitus; or who are incapable of it.
            So you've got a quandry there.

          • googleanalytics

            Noah said

            ....[The unsubstantiated] claim that fertility is necessary to the nature of marriage. When it is pointed out that such a natural law would disqualify postmenopausal, genetically or physically damaged, and voluntarily celibate couples (including a good number of married saints from early Christian history) from being married, various excuses were developed

            A fertile field is still considered fertile even if there are no crops growing in it. Secondly, the Church says one must be "open", which is not the same as saying "capable". Which your argument implies.

            -Alan

          • The Church's choice of the word "open" when it talks about opposite-sex couples versus "capable" when it talks about same-sex couples is, indeed, another example of natural law's reliance on the special pleading fallacy. Same-sex couples can be "open" to life (i.e. willing to nurture life if it happens and taking no artificial precautions to prevent life) in precisely the same sense as opposite-sex couples. Similarly, infertile opposite-sex couples are incapable of having children in precisely the same sense as same-sex couples.

          • Loreen Lee

            I like M. Solenge's definition of consequentialism as that which is the consequence of a particular intent: that is the action itself per se, and not an effect which follows later.

          • Phil

            That's fair that it is defined as looking only at the direct consequences.

            Obviously that still leaves the issue from the other comment, about where this "priceless value" of a person's wishes comes from.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In the natural law tradition there is no place for superstition and the supernatural is not strictly necessary. The Church adopted the idea from Plato and Aristotle and it was adhered to by a "pagan" like Cicero. Natural law is what, if followed, would tend to make us flourish as human beings.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Unfortunately, different people have very different ideas about what "flourishing" consists of; and since no one seems to agree on what natural laws actually exist (not to mention the Humean problem of the fact that natural law does not contain the injunction to follow natural laws).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > "the Humean problem of the fact that natural law does not contain the injunction to follow natural laws."

            SYNDERESIS
            The habit of knowing the basic principles of the moral law; the knowledge of the universal first principles of the practical order. Sometimes applied to conscience, which is, however, rather the mind's concrete application of known principles, judging on the moral goodness or badness of a specific human action. (Etym. Greek synteresis, spark of conscience.)

            http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=36754

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That does not appear to have a bearing on the topic. Could you clarify?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You said that the natural law does not include the precept to obey the natural law. The most fundamental command of the natural law for humans is to do good and avoid evil. That is what synderesis is. Everyone (except maybe sociopaths) has it.

          • Natural law is what, if followed, would tend to make us flourish as human beings.

            How do you know?

            I can justifiably claim that consequentialism is what makes human society flourish because that consequence is how "consequentialism" is typically defined. But natural law argument proceed on the basis of special pleading from unproven metaphysics, and moreover it is explicitly non-consequentialist, so it's non-obvious what consequences would follow.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If consequentialism really did tend to make all human beings flourish as human beings, then it would be the natural law.

            "But natural law argument proceed on the basis of special pleading from unproven metaphysics." What in the world are you talking about?

          • If consequentialism really did tend to make all human beings flourish as human beings, then it would be the natural law.

            You're just redefining "natural law" to be the same as consequentialism. But that's not what the word traditionally refers to. Under natural law theories, the consequences are irrelevant. If you accept Aquinas as an authority on natural law, you will find that he says: "The consequences do not make an action that was evil, to be good; nor one that was good, to be evil." Consequentialism affirms the opposite. If you accept the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an authority on natural law, you will find that it lists the factors of morality as the object (i.e. intrinsic nature of the act), the intention (i.e. motive), and the circumstances (situation and consequences). Consequentialism admits only consequences. The non-consequentialist understanding of natural law is why the Catholic Church officially teaches, for example, that lying is never permissible, whereas a consequentialist would say that in some circumstances it is a moral duty to lie.

            So it's far from obvious that, as you claim, natural law should also lead to a flourishing society, since it endorses some actions which have undesirable consequences and forbids some actions which have desirable consequences.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are right that consequentialism is condemned because it affirms that one may do evil (which is redefined as good) if good comes of it.

            The reason is that good really does *not* come of it. So, under consequentialism, killing my unborn child is good because it gives me freedom from that unborn child. Yet I have deprived another person in my care of the greatest good and have made myself a murderer. I have done evil to another and myself (and probably many others).

            (Whether deceiving a demand for information from someone who has no right to it and who intends to use it to harm an innocent person is an exception to the norm that lying is always wrong or whether it does not come under lying at all is a hotly debated topic among natural law adherents.)

          • Ignorant Amos

            So Stalins mother having an abortion would not have had favourable consequences?

            That that you define as a "person" being aborted, isn't. So how has anyone dome evill to anotheranother? Unless you mean by killing your unborn child as something like kicking your pregnant spouse down the stairs or such like.

            Perhaps the freedom gained in your tale results in your continued education resulting in your becoming the person that creates a state of world peace.

            All very different from sexually assaulting a baby of course, but there ya go.

            Did the eating of the fruit in Eden have consequences?

            Did the ten plagues of Egypt have consequences?

          • David Nickol

            So Stalins mother having an abortion would not have had favourable consequences?

            I think Kevin is incorrect in saying the following:

            You are right that consequentialism is condemned because it affirms that one may do evil (which is redefined as good) if good comes of it.

            The reason is that good really does *not* come of it. . . .

            That would be condemning consequentialism on consequentialist grounds! He seems to be saying that consequentiaism is condemned because doing evil that good may come of it doesn't really work. Good cannot (he seems to be saying) come from doing evil. But this is clearly not so, even setting aside arguments (some of them from Kevin, if I am not mistaken), that God may bring good out of evil.

            Suppose I have a secret that, if it falls into the wrong hands, will result in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. I am about to be captured, and I know the enemy can use drugs or torture to get me to reveal the secret. So I commit suicide, and the enemy doesn't get the secret. Suicide is an intrinsic evil according to Catholicism, so it would be an evil act. But good could come of it. Or suppose two people are trapped in a mine with a limited air supply, and the oxygen will run out before they can be rescued. If one commits suicide (or murder) one will survive. I think a Catholic would have to say that one person sacrificing his life (by suicide) to save the other would be an evil act, although a consequentialist could look upon it as heroic self-sacrifice.

            There are many problems with consequentialism, but it is just not true to say that it is condemned by Catholicism because an evil act simply can't have good consequences.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You put it far better than I...as usual.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Don't ya just hate it when he does that? :-)

          • You are right that consequentialism is condemned ...

            I did not make that claim. Please refrain from ascribing positions to me that I have not endorsed.

            The reason is that good really does *not* come of it.

            Here you objected to consequentialism on explicitly consequentialist grounds. Thus you demonstrated that consequentialist grounds are sufficient for showing why the case you mentioned was immoral.

            (Whether deceiving a demand for information from someone who has no right to it and who intends to use it to harm an innocent person is an exception to the norm that lying is always wrong or whether it does not come under lying at all is a hotly debated topic among natural law adherents.)

            Indeed, as students of history who recognize the weight of consequentialist arguments, they are under enormous moral pressure to produce sophistry to undermine the clear immoral teaching of the Church's natural law theory regarding lying.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You wrote
            Under natural law theories, the consequences do not determine goodness and badness.

            So when I wrote
            You are right that consequentialism is condemned

            I mean that you are right that consequentialism is condemned by natural law philosophers, specifically by Catholic ones.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You wrote:
            You demonstrated that consequentialist grounds are sufficient

            I write
            Catholic moral philosophers object to certain acts as intrinsically immoral. They don't argue that they are intrinsically wrong because some moral law says they are or even less because God arbitrarily says they are. They are wrong because they violate human nature. If you do them, harm results. In a wide sense, consequentialism could be right if *every* consequence were correctly measured, but isn't it the case that only some are? I steal a candy bar to enjoy its chocolate goodness. Well, that's the consequence that matters to me. But I have committed an act of injustice against the owner and have become a thief. Isn't that why the act is morally wrong?

          • They are wrong because they violate human nature. If you do them, harm results.

            It started out well but that latter sentence was a slip-up. It's again trying to link morality to consequences, which is a consequentialist argument. Natural law theories don't care about consequences; they care about the "natures" of things.

            I steal a candy bar to enjoy its chocolate goodness. Well, that's the consequence that matters to me. But I have committed an act of injustice against the owner and have become a thief. Isn't that why the act is morally wrong?

            As you alluded to, there are other consequences besides enjoyment of chocolate: the economic hardship the thief caused to the store owner (and the economic ripples of the theft), the feelings of disliking himself experienced by the thief, potential punishment from police, all of which are undesired. Those are what I would appeal to in describing the immorality (badness for society) of the theft.

            By contrast, Aquinas used natural law theory to explain that theft is immoral because the nature of justice is that it "gives to each one what is his" and so the nature of theft, "taking of what belongs to another", is a contrary principle. This seems bizarre to modern ears; the reason for it is that it comes from a tradition that emphasized God as lawgiver and creator, and so thought that the way God chose to make things revealed his law for what they ought to be and do. One can still hear vestiges of this belief system when religious folk persecute people whom they consider to be doing "unnatural" things like miscegenation, wearing pants while female, falling in love while LGBT, etc.

            Consequentialism criticizes natural law theory by pointing out undesired consequences. Natural law theory criticizes consequentialism by pointing out "unnatural" acts. Catholic moral doctrine looks to natural law theory to decide whether something is moral or immoral; it does not look to consequences for this. Catholic moral doctrine does also consider consequences as a secondary principle as one factor in determining the degree of morality or immorality of an act.

            Does that clarify the two theories adequately enough for you? We haven't even brought in other classes of ethical theories, such as desirism, virtue ethics, Kantian deontology, eudaimonism, emotivism, etc. They all have their defenders.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Noah, you might be interested in this article, that's if ya haven't seen it already?

            http://www.catechism.cc/articles/heresy-on-intrinsic-evil.htm

          • It started off with such a strident tone, "A refutation of Jimmy Akin's heretical errors", that I immediately was suspicious of it. That just isn't the sort of writing done by real theologians. And sure enough, the author is Ronald Conte, who is very much a fringe figure in Catholicism. I know of him mostly through his many fantastic predictions that he loosely bases on the Bible and private revelations; he issues updates every time they turn out wrong.

        • Loreen Lee

          Love is 'defined' in many ways, from that based on sentimentality by David Hume, to love as an expression not of reason but of the will. (A good will). (God IS love) etc. Thus love is one of the theological virtues, together with faith and hope, as defined by the church. As a metaphysical concept, it is something that we may strive for, as expressed in Corinthians 13 for instance.

          Perhaps this serves as an explanation, of why, when reason fails the result is often the 'will to power', as given in a critique by Nietzsche. I also like his: "There was only one Christian and he died on the cross" as this also demonstrates that Christ, and perhaps Mahatma Gandhi, were unique in their ability to 'resist not evil' or give 'passive resistance' to same.

          The resistance of evil is actually, better applied within an examination of one's own conscience, rather than directed towards others, however, I feel. But if we all could self-correct, and be aware not only of the behavior of others but the morality of our own thoughts, a true 'conscience' might be the result. indeed, with such a conscience that is not based on self-interest, or even on learned precepts, we would thus have a 'power' over ourselves, through which an external 'authority' would not be necessary. But I 'dream'!!!!

        • As stated in the post you were replying to, I would ground objective secular ethics in reason and human nature. (By "human nature" I don't mean anything superstitious but simply the commonalities that most humans have inherited from our evolutionary history.)

          The trouble is that commonalities from evolutionary history do not create a moral obligation for the future. What is intrinsic to human nature? If someone wants to be thick and just deny something is intrinsic to humanity that turns out to be very easy to do.

          Reason also has its issues. Often moral questions occur when we are experiencing strong emotions. That is a time when we become very poor at reasoning. Moral codes can prevent bad decisions but not if they depend on my being able to reason to the conclusion. If I know adultery is wrong in general I might still be tempted to make an exception for myself. Morals based on reason makes that easy to do.

          Theists, by contrast, face the Euthyphro dilemma and its variants which show that they are unable to ground an objective ethics in their gods.

          Do you understand Catholic moral theology? The Euthyphro dilemma holds some weight if you buy into a more fundamentalist divine command theory. Even then it isn't very compelling. With Catholics the objection is just nonsense. The categories don't exists.

          The fruit of moral behavior is a flourishing society and a life filled with love. If you want those, then by your own standards it's important to be moral.

          Why should we believe that? If Hitler says killing the Jews will make society flourish then how can we be sure he is wrong?

          Theists, by contrast, often fall back on saying morality is important because of how their gods bribe and threaten them.

          Again you are talking about some fundamentalists. Catholics would say moral behavior is centered on love of God and love of neighbor. We are made for such love. Yet God needs to show us how to live that way.

          Pardon? There's overwhelmingly abundant physical evidence for love. Billions of real, physical people commonly express love in words to each other; they also actually do often behave lovingly toward each other; and the psychology and neurochemistry of love is long-studied and well-known.

          There is overwhelming abundant physical evidence for God. Billions of real physical people commonly express worship for God in words ... see the parallel?

          The psychology and neurochemistry of love is very different from love. It is not the unconditional desire of the other's good. The two work together. We are made to fill each other's psychological needs and stimulate each other's brains positively. Yet that is not the virtue of love. Does the virtue of love exist? If you say Yes then you will find yourself arguing in a very similar way to theists arguing that God exists.

          • The trouble is that commonalities from evolutionary history do not create a moral obligation for the future.

            Indeed, on consequentialism there need not be any external force of moral obligation. Consequentialism is an appeal to consequences. As I stated above, if you care about consequences such as a flourishing society and a life filled with love, then by your own, internal standards it's important to be moral.

            What is intrinsic to human nature? If someone wants to be thick and just deny something is intrinsic to humanity that turns out to be very easy to do.

            Indeed, we atheists have noticed a certain reticence on the part of many religious people to learn the facts of science.

            Do you understand Catholic moral theology? The Euthyphro dilemma holds some weight if you buy into a more fundamentalist divine command theory. ... With Catholics the objection is just nonsense. The categories don't exists.

            Yes, I do understand it. What do you mean that the categories don't exist? The categories in the Euthyphro dilemma are "god" and "good". Surely you didn't really mean that neither of those exists.

            The fruit of moral behavior is a flourishing society and a life filled with love. If you want those, then by your own standards it's important to be moral.

            Why should we believe that?

            If you want to achieve a goal, then you want to achieve a goal. The consequences are the goal, the actions that cause those consequences are the means. There's no way to de-link them.

            If Hitler says killing the Jews will make society flourish then how can we be sure he is wrong?

            Consequentialism does not entail trusting an authority to figure out morality for you. That's an error common in Catholicism.

            There's overwhelmingly abundant physical evidence for love. Billions of real, physical people commonly express love in words to each other

            There is overwhelming abundant physical evidence for God. Billions of real physical people commonly express worship for God in words ... see the parallel?

            There is parallelism, but you've made an error in locating it. People expressing worship to God in words is evidence for the existence of worship.

            The psychology and neurochemistry of love is very different from love.

            Oh? How do you know? The science so far seems to show that the psychological, sociological, and neurochemical facts correspond exactly to love, with clear physical causation in many cases.

            Does the virtue of love exist? If you say Yes then you will find yourself arguing in a very similar way to theists arguing that God exists.

            Virtues have no independent existence. Virtues are good habits; consequently they exist as long-term potentiated neural pathways.

      • Danny Getchell

        the parallels between the atheist reasons for rejecting God and similar arguments for rejecting love or any virtue

        I agree that some of today's atheist spokesmen seem committed to a lab-rat perspective of how our motives came to be, and they appear to be tapdancing at times.

        The great atheists and skeptics of centuries past, those who I really admire such as Spinoza, Paine and Ingersoll, seem to have had no such difficulty.

  • Any atheist should have no problem with the existence of physical laws that are universal (like the law of gravity), but would they not regard universal spiritual laws as only opinions based on delusions? If so, the following logic should flow nicely…

    1) Spiritual laws (moral law/natural law/divine law) are man-made concepts.

    2) Concepts are like opinions; thoughts in the mind.

    3) Thoughts in the mind are electrochemical impulses that have evolved over millions of years to help us survive.

    4) The electrochemical impulses in one person’s brain can be different than another’s. For instance, the mind of Adolf Hitler was different than the mind of Mother Teresa; not good or evil, just different.

    5) There is nothing above the human mind to judge the thoughts in the human mind; no “outside system”.

    6) Since thoughts ultimately become actions, there can be no objective morality that can be applied to everyone.

    • Phil

      The issue with this logic is what also follows is that you are claiming that language between persons is not possible.

      You are writing this assuming people can understand the concepts you are writing about. This makes premise 2 false, because concepts are then not mere opinions now. When you say electrochemical impulses you are assuming your concept is the exact same as mine, and this can only be known if electrochemical impulses are something that exist outside our minds and are not pure opinion.

      In all, you pull the rug out from under yourself with this argument.

      • Loreen Lee

        It's the distinction between the denotative and the connotative elements in language. It is not always possible to find the external evidence that is necessary for a 'referential' argument. (Especially in such cases as finding 'evidence' for God's existence, among other things). And when it comes to connotation, if you're not a nominalist, I believe you would have to consider the whole history of a person, as providing some kind of 'substance' or explanation as to how and why a particular meaning is given. This might be especially 'true' if you're a determinist and consequently find the denotation of 'free will' problematic. Thus, unless it's an explicit reference to a particular argument, for example, it is most difficult to ascertain how the 'meaning' of any particular proposition is understood by an individual, especially when there are 'personal' implications. Our mind, perhaps makes more connections within memory and imagination than we are even aware of..

        • Phil

          I may have missed your point, please forgive me if I did, (and have great patience!) but I was merely pointing out that coherent language is not possible between us right now if this is true: Concepts are like opinions; thoughts in the mind.

          Because the concept of "tree" does not exist purely in my mind. Both of us can look at a tree and recognize "treeness" residing in the tree. But if we didn't assume that that was true, and if your concept of "treeness" is very different from mine, then we could not have any rational conversations.

          In other words, language requires that concepts come from actually existing things in reality, and these concepts do not purely exist in our mind.

          • Loreen Lee

            In the case of the true, if there is a reference, as well as a 'sense' or 'meaning' to the term, that reference would be physical,in the case of the tree, or a denotation. The sense of a word, as when we give the adjective beauty to the essence of a 'tree' is what provides the word, or sentence or proposition with 'meaning. Perhaps such is the case with concepts like love, truth, and even God. I have never sat down and parsed the distinction between them. I would think though that the meaning, (the semantics) is just as important as the structure, or (syntax). and that we don't always distinguish adequately where the focus is in our application and understanding of language. Thanks for giving me the credit that I might have said something 'intelligent' !!! I do believe in answer to your last paragraph, that the 'meaning', can be in the 'thought', and that such thought 'can' exist, if you will, only in the mind. But even with fantasies, and 'psychosis', this does not mean that they do not have a 'reality'.

          • Phil

            Interesting, I think what I am trying to get at is even simpler than you are going for; like a going for the tree and missing the forest.

            What also follows if that if we did not have any external experiences, we as a human being, would not have any internal concepts or thoughts. Think of being born in jail cell without any contact to the outside world, even the food magically appeared on the floor every once and a while. The only thing you would know about the world is the cement square you live and the the things that make you feel good when you eat them. (You wouldn't even have any language to express this.)

            In other words, we only have imagination/fantasies and such because we have had experiences where we then took these concepts into our mind and can now shape them in certain ways based on other concepts. But the concepts all came from an actually existing object outside out mind.

          • Loreen Lee

            That distinction remind me of Locke's Primary and Secondary ideas. Mathematics is the best example of the first, I believe. i.e. extension. And yes even, children's first words are the concrete objects they encounter in experience. When did we ever come to the concept/reality/experience of God?

          • Phil

            When did we ever come to the concept/reality/experience of God?

            Great question! I think there are two ways that one can come to knowledge of God, internal experience and reason (based on external experience), i.e., cosmological arguments from contingency, etc.

            I think the first experience of God is within the human person's heart as a longing for more than this world can provide. We desire joy, peace, and beauty. And while this world provides little "snippets" of these things, none of the things in the world ultimately satisfies our longing for true joy, peace, and beauty. This is because we desire infinite joy, peace, and beauty. Now some have held that this human desire is an an absurd desire that can't be fulfilled. I happen to believe that the world is rational through and through, and that it is possible to fulfill all real desires. This is the "restless heart" that St. Augustine speaks of.

            I think we also experience the mystery of our self-consciousness and intelligence and how we implicitly understand that this cannot be reduced to the mere physical (no matter how hard some philosophers try to do so), so we realize that something that is self-conscious and intelligent can only come from something that is intelligent. And we finding nothing in the world that explains our intelligent existence, since no matter how much time and however complex inert matter gets, it is still inert matter.

            -----

            In regards to reason this is pretty straight-forward, we expereince reality existing apart from ourselves and look to explain how it exists the way that it does, which leads us to the existence of a "reality" we call God. Obviously sticking to reason alone is not personal at all, so the hope is one actually starts having a genuine conversation with one's Creator, which in that case we are actually able to start to participate in the joy and peace that He desires us to have!

            Once we understand that at the foundation of the cosmos is love, everything starts to make sense. We can understand that no matter what happens we are loved, and more than we could ever comprehend. When we truly love all those we encounter, that is when we start to experience the peace and joy God desires for us to have, and that we truly desire. Life is about learning how to act fully human and love as He does, since that is when we will be fully alive.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks Phil. There really is such an incredible difference in world/philosophical perspective between ancient/Catholic and modern/rationalist philosophy. But despite this, I do sincerely believe that dialogue and understanding can be found, especially when it comes to 'purpose' and 'teleology'. I'm a bit tired now. Think it's bed time. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    And if you act in accordance with your conscience you are whatever is
    the wrong that your conscience allows, or failing to carry out the
    obligation that your conscience says is none."

    Can someone explain this sentence to me. It seems mangled and incomprehensible.

    • Joseph Heschmeyer

      Kevin,

      Good catch. There's a word missing. Somewhere along the way, I also lost Anscombe's italics. The correct form of the quotation reads as follows:

      If you act against your conscience you are doing wrong because you are doing what you think wrong, i.e. you are willing to do wrong. And if you act in accordance with your conscience you are doing whatever is the wrong that your conscience allows, or failing to carry out the obligation that your conscience says is none.

      Mea culpa!

  • David Nickol

    I am not sure whether it helps or hurts to bring anthropology into the discussion of moral relativism. I am not at all familiar with the work of Ruth Benedict, but I believe anthropologists in general do not try to make moral judgments about the societies that they study. Ruth Benedict may very well have been claiming there is no objective morality. I simply don't know. But it seems to me that for most anthropologists, not judging one culture by the values of another (which would almost certainly be the anthropologist's own cultural values) is not a consequence of believing there is no objective morality.

    Also, something like the "Prime Directive" of Star Trek has a certain sense to it (even though Captain Kirk routinely violated the Prime Directive in just about every encounter with a developing culture and then rationalized his actions with a facile argument afterward that actually he had upheld it rather than violated the directive). If an outside culture that considers itself "superior" to another culture prohibits by force practices they deem unacceptable, the consequences may be worse than tolerating the practice at least for a while.

    As the world has become more and more interconnected, it is going to be increasingly difficult to consider cultures as isolated and independent systems, since they are becoming less and less so.

    I wonder how many people—even academics—actually believe that right and wrong are entirely dependent on what culture a person lives in. It certainly as true, as the article explains, that persons entirely within a culture who know nothing of moral standards other than those of their own culture cannot be held morally culpable for doing things they have no reason to believe are wrong. When Brandon defends Thomas Aquinas for approving the burning of heretics, he is essentially making the argument that we must judge Aquinas by the standards of his day and what he was capable of knowing.

    It seems to me there is a problem if anthropologists want to make a judgment about a particular culture and that is that they can basically only judge it by their own culture, since they do not have direct access to "objective morality."

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I remember people citing the anthropologist Margaret Mead to justify moral relativism in the area of sexual morality, just at the time when the baby boom generation wanted the new morality.

      • David Nickol

        I think the number of people who truly believe in moral relativism is probably very small if by moral relativism is meant the belief that nothing is truly right or wrong, so an act is good or evil only according to the prevailing rules of the group in which it takes place. Even for those who believe that, it still seems to me they can't argue that if, say, premarital sex is acceptable in one culture, it ought to be acceptable in our culture. That is not cultural relativism, which I think is being conflated here with moral relativism. Cultural relativism does not say that if you can find a culture in which a particular practice or act is considered acceptable, that particular practice or act should then be considered acceptable in one's own culture. It says what is right in one culture may be wrong in another culture, and what is wrong in one culture may be right in one culture. That is quite different from saying there is no such thing as right and wrong, so wherever you are, anything goes.

        • Phil

          Hey David,

          Maybe it would be better to say that there are many people who think they believe in moral relativism and completely subjective moral values?

          I have had discussions with a lot of people that try to hold firm to the non-existence of objective moral values. In the end, either morality/ethics is completely objective or it is completely subjective, there is no middle ground.

          • David Nickol

            Have you ever asked one how he or she would feel if you stole their wallet or purse? Would they say, "If you think it's right to steal from me, then it's right for you?"

          • Phil

            Morality/ethics are not feelings or based upon feelings. The obvious issue is that feelings are subjective and based upon a pure inner experience--someone can do the same thing twice and have two contrary feelings.

            Contrary to popular belief morality is, and should be, based upon reason, not feelings.

          • David Nickol

            Contrary to popular belief morality is, and should be, based upon reason, not feelings.

            I'm not sure feelings can be ruled out when dealing with human morality, but I won't press that for the moment. I'll just say that I doubt if you had human-like beings with human-like reason but no emotions that they would arrive at the same understanding of morality as humans with feelings. Let me rephrase the above:

            Have you ever asked one how he or she would feel react if you stole their wallet or purse? Would they say, "If you think it's right to steal from me, then it's right for you"?

            I think some people who claim to believe there is no such thing as objective morality have thought very little about the consequences of that belief. It is a belief that is a lot easier to express than it is to defend, and a lot easier to defend than it is to actually live by.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I think, also, that reason has some limitations when it comes to the question of morality - for reasons that Hume was the first to clearly articulate.

            There are certain behaviors or tendency to behaviors that appear to be biological and a result of the pattern of our evolution - reciprocal altruism, for example, herd instinct, etc. would seem to be the basis of most morality. One can at least make a plausible for case for the majority of moral codes being based in biology and the accommodations required to survive as a group.

            Even some of the more peculiar moral statements by most religions (being gay is morally bad) have proposed biological and contingent explanations.

          • Phil

            I'm not sure feelings can be ruled out when dealing with human morality, but I won't press that for the moment.

            You are exactly correct that emotions and desires are an intimate part of the human person, but no matter how much we feel like doing something wrong, that can never justify and make that wrong now a right.

            Something is wrong or right completely separately from how we "feel" about it.
            -----

            I completely agree with your last paragraph, that many don't realize the consequences of claiming to believe that there is no such thing as objective morals.

          • Loreen Lee

            Sure they could 'say' this. It's a true statement. !!! Can I steal this 'idea' from you? It feels 'right', but I'm a little uneasy about the possible consequences!!!1 (grin grin)

          • David Nickol

            I was riding the subway the other day and was overhearing a conversation between a father and his two children, both daughters around 7 or 8. One of the daughters was upset with her father, and she started to cry and said, "That's not fair!" I would like to see someone who claims there is no objective reality avoid concepts like justice, fairness, right and wrong, and so on for 24 hours of everyday life. Suppose a philosophy teacher told his students who didn't believe in right and wrong that he was going to give them their final grades in his course based on personal appearance. Exactly how could they object without resorting to moral arguments?

          • Loreen Lee

            If he is a poor dresser, himself, (and I'm sure that in this context they could find some kind of lack in his physical presentation) they could use this as a comparative value that he did not have the qualifications to determine what was beautiful, or constituted a good personal appearance. But then I used the word good, perhaps only as what is pleasurable rather than 'moral'.

            As for 'what is fair'. I understand the catholic position to be in reference to an 'absolute' morality. You don't need this to 'judge' that what another person is getting is more or less than what you are receiving. This as a basis, for determining what is or is not fair, is a criteria that I believe even animals are capable of. Maybe it's even a mathematical rather than a 'moral' sense.

          • Loreen Lee

            Even in science I believe that are many different kinds of 'criteria. Wittgenstein wrote a lot on this topic, and it is interesting that Anscombe, who I just learn is Catholic, was a close follower of this man.
            Kant gave the criteria of universality and necessity. The church gives 'Natural law, (much the same thing). We have individual criteria too, based on our unique experience as individuals. You might consider this latter as an example that moral relativism is completely subjective. But I think there always might be an 'overlap, because even as subjective individuals, we cannot but look for consistency, correspondence and coherence, (three elements of truth), particularly if we want to grow and develop as persons, but also because of the need to communicate with other 'subjective' interpreters of 'morality'. Indeed, language itself (and its logic) could be considered to be the most substantial criteria of what is considered to be 'moral'.

          • Phil

            Honestly, in science there are many different kinds of criteria one could use, but there is also objectively good and bad criteria. For example, ad hoc theses are bad. There is scientific criteria that is objectively good and some that are objectively bad for succeeding at its goal of discovering the physical world as it actually is.

            The goal of morality is to to figure out what the human person ought to do. So we need to figure out what is objectively good and bad criteria for figuring this out. Kant is not too bad at all, just a bit off, but the best rational explanation that takes into consideration consistency, coherency, and comprehensiveness (I also love the 3 C's) is natural law ethics. It looks at the actually existing being or act and uses reason to figure out if that is what one ought to be doing based on the nature of the human person.

          • Loreen Lee

            You're ahead of me, morally and logically, if you can consistently find correspondence (truth) between yourself and the 'world'. A comprehensive coherence would be the kind of sanity I would only hope to achieve, but is a purpose to strive for, regardless.

            So we look for objective criteria of what is good and what is bad, in order to be objective about what we 'ought' to do.
            Kant', (I believe) qualifies the ought, with the proviso that it needs to be taken within the context of what 'is'. (As you said). But by the same token, this opens (the door) to unique (situational ethics) experience, and the subjectivity of the individual. This is the topic I had hoped to discuss in the last post, as I feel it is a very complicated area: the application of principle to particular circumstance. (or practice).

            Considering all of the psychologically damaged individuals in this world, and the hold the world has over people, influencing their decisions, when it comes to personal virtue, (yes-Aristotle), I am not surprised when observing people within my life, that consequences, the utility of an action, the pleasure of the moment, the intention coming from such impetus as self-interest to self-protection, that there is as much reason in ethical action as there is. (And this is not saying much)

            Indeed, when it comes to morality, at least, or reason generally, often the leap is not to a 'good will' but to the 'will of power', and I am not surprised by this. Indeed I believe Nietzsche wrote about this, for the reason that his thesis 'Will to Power' demonstrated that when it comes to morality, we humans think we are far more reasonable than we indeed are!!! When reason fails, we turn to coercion, force, power struggles, and yes, even war. Is that not 'reality'????

          • Phil

            I think you are exactly correct that there is more to action that just the action itself. You also have to include intention and circumstance.

            The big line that a natural law theorist makes is that actions can be, in and of themselves bad--no matter the intention or the circumstance.

            In other words, a natural law ethicist holds that rape is an objectively morally bad act. The action itself is bad. That means that no circumstance (i.e., her being drunk and not remembering it) or intention (i.e., I just wanted her to feel good) can make an objectively bad act morally acceptable. This obviously goes for direct killing of innocent life, where the ends cannot justify the means.

            So when we look at an act, we have to ask, is the act in and of itself evil? If we say "no", then we ask what is the circumstance? If the circumstance is not one what would make this act moral wrong, then we ask what was the intention? If the intention was morally acceptable, then we have a wholly moral act, if not, we have a morally unacceptable act. (There can be different levels of "evil" when it comes to this as well, as long as we aren't talking about intrinsically evil acts.)

            Does this make some sense? :)

          • Loreen Lee

            This is very good, according to law, and logic. It is the way the laws are determined, including natural law, i.e. by principle rather than practice. However, (in real life) decisions are made and actions taken, where caught within circumstance one cannot reason out all the consequences, and indeed where the priority of the intention is found in such rationals as perceived self-preservation, or self-interest. That's perhaps the explanation why there may be a different criteria used when we are 'looking at an act', (especially of another) and judging it, in contrast to the day to day decisions and actions we take within our own lives, in which our awareness of the said act is negligible. No truer statement than the one about finding the beam in another's eye and not seeing the mote in one's own, (or something) for example.

            There are also instances I believe where there is a real dilemna in relating the (proper?) intention to the circumstance. In the pagan cultures of Greece and Rome for instance, it was 'allowed' not only that Oedipus could be left on the mountain side after birth, but that the nobility could 'endure' even euthanasia, if even their status as beings was threatened. If we could consistently keep to the Natural Law that life always must be protected, because life is an 'absolute' value, there would be no wars, not even holy ones. But I have read enough history to be aware that even moral criteria changes with the times, and within cultures at different times.

            I find that even the Catholic church makes a point to justify even today, actions and decisions taken in the past. (Such justification sometimes I feel never stops). It is one thing to confess one's sin, it is another thing to make reparation through decisions after the fact and make recompense within one's life. (Indeed, I believe the Catholic Church makes this distinction, based on what I consider the reality that immoral/amoral actions do have consequences). But this is I believe recognized in all religions from Buddhism, and Hinduism. (karma) and even 'primitive' cultures. Perhaps it is even possible that we 'wear our morality' within our features, within our character' as it develops both physically, and 'spiritually', but like the difficulty in making those moral decisions within a context, it can also be difficult to discern what constitutes 'real' beauty. Take care..

          • Phil

            I think we are actually very close, your talk about "being caught within circumstance one cannot reason out all the
            consequences, and indeed where the priority of the intention is found in such rationals as perceived self-preservation, or self-interest"
            , shows forth that even though objective morals do exists, it sometimes can be hard to come to know them. (That's the difference between ontology and epistemology of the moral code.)

            And the Catholic church understands that, which is why there is such a thing as culpability. God is not unreasonable, in fact just the opposite. We are only fully culpable when we choose to do something that we know to be wrong. If there is some question and struggle, or if something is done in the moment, culpability can be lowered. Though if we look back on what we did and see afterwards that it was wrong, we ought to admit that it was wrong.

            That is why it is good to fully admit that what one did was wrong after the fact, through a truly repentant confession, and then move on and sin no more. You would probably appreciate that it does no good to dwell on our past wrongdoings. As Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, Then neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more. He acknowledged that she had sinned but didn't judge her, and simply said go and sin no more. How freeing that is!

            If only modernity knew the difference between judging actions/ideas and persons...

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks you, especially about the epistemology/ontology distinction. What you know as contrasted with what you do!!
            And yes, looking back on something after which there is a different state of being can change the epistemological character of judgment and sound reasoning.regarding the original event.
            But I disagree regarding the woman charged with adultery.
            Discussed this a long time ago, and Father Sean? agreed with me that this scripture has a relationship with the story of Susan and how she was defended by David. (Judges I believe)
            Just a few weeks ago these two scriptural passages were placed within context, the OT passage and the NT one. (New Advent daily readings). In other words, she was being accused by the persons who were guilty, so the saying of Christ that who is without sin cast the first stone, is particularly relevant within this interpretation. Also this gives a reason why he distances himself from them by writing in the sand. He wisely may not want to accuse directly. And it works!!!!
            Leaving her with the admonition to 'Sin no more' then could be interpreted within a more general context. within this interpretation.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          In my example, people were not looking for the truth, as you are, but reasons to justifying throwing out traditional morality.

  • Loreen Lee

    Hope this takes: http://crossexamined.org/god-real-god-best-explanation-objective-moral-laws/ Well, maybe you can type it in for yourself. It's the best I can do. Enjoy. It is an excellent article. (Via Tom Rafferty, an atheist who is no longer posting comments.)
    Whoopee. It did take.!!!

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    As Beckwith notes, “cultural relativism is making an absolute and universal moral claim, namely, that everyone is morally obligated to follow the moral norms of his or her own culture.

    I don't see how this make any sense - and I certainly don't think that cultural relativism makes any such absolute and universal claim - nor is it a moral claim. Cultural relativism simply states that different cultures have different moral codes. It says nothing about whether any member of a culture is morally obligated to follow those moral norms; it merely observes that most people do. Cultural relativism also points out that cultural moral codes are not fixed - they shift over time (e.g. the antebellum South regarded slavery as morally acceptable; now, not so much.)

  • There is no evidence of any absolute morality or perfect moral nature to apply to avoid moral relativism to some extent. If such a "thing" "exists" on what basis does one human claim to have access to it? How do we recognize it? Intuition? Scripture? Tradition? Popularity? Would not this same basis be relied upon by Hindu priests? The Sati dates back to the 4th century and was relatively widespread Hindu practice?

    I do think we can challenge practices of others that we consider immoral, not on the basis of insight into a god's nature, but to human nature, which we do have access to. As humans we share some obvious values that are pretty much universal. We can appeal to these values in other cultures and make great progress. The convention against torture, the rights of the child, the genocide convention are all examples of this. We can challenge the Sati because it violates agreed upon human rights. I think in any culture we can usually agree upon these basic values and discuss and negotiate behaviour accordingly. I very much doubt that there is resistance to values of suffering avoidance and individual freedom. When we reach a stalemate is when there is a harmful practice that is not based on some shared value but some entrenched religious belief. This is obvious from a reading of the Old Testament. Catholics would agree that all genocide is wrong, unless it is Gods idea. That killing babies is wrong, unless god does it. That genital mutilation of children is wrong, unless it is required by a god.

  • TwistedRelic

    The question that Joe H. asks.
    <b/b>

    But does truly objective morality really exist?...what is objective?
    Objective:real...: actually existing not imaginary.: based on facts rather than feelings or opinions : not influenced by feelings.:existing outside of the mind : existing in the real world .

    Undeniably all cultures, tribes and societies have developed and evolved rules and laws, based initially on the group consensus of what was moral, right or wrong, hence a tribe's interpretation of “good” and “evil” are for all intents and purposes socially and culturally determined.Religion and superstition were the main forces behind the evolution of this determination of right and wrong. Powerful leaders, of evolving religious systems, high priests, shamans.prophets and seers, and the powerful in high places had the most influence in deciding the moral code for each tribe and culture.

    Each culture developed values and created a complex system of customs.
    Each group had a tendency to think that it's moral values were superior to that of others.

    Judgments of responsibility, therefore, depend upon the overall complexion of one’s mindset, not on the metaphysics of mental cause and effect.

    If there really is "objective morality", then one would think it should be binding upon everyone, even the most powerful. If it’s not objective, it’s difficult to think that it can be binding on all, except to the extent that the strong can enforce their will upon the weaker.

    In our world of international globalization. Today....it is easier than in the past, for the "tribes" and "nations" of the world to have a consensus of sorts along with a global conscience with a common moral code, at least on the more serious and important matters of social justice, murder, genocide etc. Though humanity has evolved and progressed to this point that we have a common moral code in these matters I don't think this should be misinterpreted as some sort of "objective" morality in any metaphysical sense as related to some sort of ethereal transcendent reality in any sense of the word "objective". A progression in human evolution?...a resounding Yes!

  • tz1

    Belief in the good or evil of tobacco and alcohol or sugar doesn't seem to change their effect on health. 1950's tv had everyone smoking.
    A malformed conscience might lower culpability, but won't alter the effects.

  • Susan

    But this reality does not point to the absence of objective morality.

    No one on this site, as far as I can recall, has ever pointed to the presence of "objective morality", nor defined it in a way that means we would know it exists.

    No one has to point to its absence. The burden is on the one who claims it exists.

    On a bright side, it is not a choice between objective morality and moral relativism

    Moral philosophy doesn't get away with that sort of thing. Apologetics likes to pretend if we don't accept murky allusions to "objective morality", then we must be moral relativists. The strategy seems to be to tear down the strawman of "moral relativism" (which means something different if you are an anthropologist than if you subscribe to it philosophically). I haven't met a moral relativist in all of my discussions here but I've certainly seen enough accusations of it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_philosophy

    It is disqus, so I might have missed something and would be grateful to any links in the discussion here that might clarify things.

    Claiming that there is "objective morality" is not the same as finding philosophical "moral relativism" morally objectionable.

    I see no evidence for the former and am not morally persuaded by the latter.

    Invoking an unevidenced deity doesn't help with either.

  • Maybe there is absolute moral truth and there is still no God.

  • severalspeciesof

    I've been mulling this over and over. I'm beginning to think that the addition of either word (Objective/Relative) muddies the very idea of what is moral or immoral. IMO, ALL moral choices are relative since we cannot know the entirety of the situation/results, or when two morals collide (i.e. which one should take priority), but I also contend we have at our disposal the ability to say with certainty that every time a certain particular situation arises, the moral choice in question is noted as either appropriate or inappropriate, hence as objective as we can get. There may be objective morals, but we can never really know we are 100% objective because of the lack of total knowledge. This shouldn't be taken then as a 'throw your hands up in the air' and say "It's all relative so what's the point". We 'ought' to strive to get as close as we can to what looks like an objective moral, using as much true information that is at hand and possible to get at.

    Glen

  • Martin Cunningham

    Doesn't moral absolutism entail the claim that there is, as a fact of the matter, one, and only one, moral system, and that this system is, in some way, out there to be discovered? If so, aren't we in same the epistemological relation to 'moral facts' as we are to physical facts; that our best current theory as to what these absolute moral truths are could turn out to be wrong?
    Moral absolutism does not get us moral certainty. In attempting to lead a 'good' life, moral absolutism seems to provide us with no guidance at all.