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What would you ask a Catholic philosopher about God? (#AMA with Dr. Edward Feser)

In a few days, Dr. Edward Feser will release his newest book, titled Five Proofs of the Existence of God (Ignatius Press, 2017).

You probably know Dr. Feser from his sharply reasoned posts here at Strange Notions, or from his popular blog, which mainly focuses on the philosophy of religion.

Dr. Feser is the author of several acclaimed books, including:

Dr. Feser is a Thomistic philosopher, meaning he specializes in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, and has written extensively on Aquinas' Five Ways (or five proofs) to God.

But in his new book, he examines several more arguments. Here's a brief summary:

Five Proofs of the Existence of God provides a detailed, updated exposition and defense of five of the historically most important (but in recent years largely neglected) philosophical proofs of God's existence: the Aristotelian proof, the Neo-Platonic proof, the Augustinian proof, the Thomistic proof, and the Rationalist proof.
 
This book also offers a detailed treatment of each of the key divine attributes—unity, simplicity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, and so forth—showing that they must be possessed by the God whose existence is demonstrated by the proofs. Finally, it answers at length all of the objections that have been leveled against these proofs.
 
This book offers as ambitious and complete a defense of traditional natural theology as is currently in print. Its aim is to vindicate the view of the greatest philosophers of the past—thinkers like Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, Leibniz, and many others—that the existence of God can be established with certainty by way of purely rational arguments. It thereby serves as a refutation both of atheism and of the fideism which gives aid and comfort to atheism.

Since these are all topics we discuss and debate regularly here on Strange Notions, I reached out to Dr. Feser and asked if he'd be willing to do an #AMA (Ask Me Anything) on our site, answering whatever questions we threw at him. Thankfully, he accepted!

So just type your question below in the comment box, and over the next few days we'll select a handful. Dr. Feser will then share his answers here within the next couple weeks.

We'd especially love to hear from skeptics and atheists. So whether you doubt natural theology is even a legitimate discipline, or you think it's impossible to prove God, or whether you have a specific question about a particular proof, we want to hear from you!

What would you ask a Catholic philosopher about proofs of God?

We especially want to hear questions related to proofs for God's existence, and again we'd love to hear from skeptics or atheists. But everyone is welcome to submit questions. They don't have to be challenges or "gotcha" questions—in fact, we discourage those. We're mostly interested in sincere, curious questions.

(It should go without saying that if your question is disrespectful or snarky, it won't be chosen.)

So again, just type your question below in the comment box and we'll pick the best ones to send to Dr. Feser. (And be sure to upvote other questions you like—questions with the most upvotes will likely be chosen!)

Brandon Vogt

Written by

Brandon Vogt is a bestselling author, blogger, and speaker. He's also the founder of StrangeNotions.com. Brandon has been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. He converted to Catholicism in 2008, and since then has released several books, including The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011), Saints and Social Justice (Our Sunday Visitor, 2014), and RETURN (Numinous Books, 2015). He works as the Content Director for Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their five children in Central Florida. Follow him at BrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at @BrandonVogt.

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  • Surroundx

    When you speak about proofs of God, what epistemic status do you ascribe to the conclusion of each? Are they epistemically infallible, ontically infallible, or something else?

  • Joe

    Are replicants in the movie "Blade Runner" human? What are your thoughts on Artificial Intelligence?

    • My add-ons:

      Does your religious reasoning on AI permit you to make any falsifiable predictions? For example, some believers insist that human-like AI is impossible. If researchers keep trying and find out that it is impossible, that will be empirical evidence that supports their religious reasoning, whereas if the researchers keep trying and succeed, that will disprove their religious reasoning.

      Supposing we craft AI that is not very human-like, but that is animal-ish is the sense of being more able to learn and respond agentively than, say, a cat. Do you endorse that such AI should be treated with moral respect on a similar level as we owe to a cat? Or do you think they would have no moral rights against us since we created them?

      • Joe Fischer

        When you say religious reasoning can you be more specific? I've never heard a religion base argument against AI.

        • I've heard a few.

          * The most common one I encounter is when believers say AI couldn't have a soul and therefore couldn't ever be made to work. Presumably these individuals are imagining very human-like AI and a notion of "soul" as something like "ghost that drives the machine".

          * One I was told yesterday by a Catholic fan of Jaki and Feser was a vague argument, appealing to "Thomism" (no details though) that machines can do everything a human can do but shouldn't be called "intelligent", and therefore "Artificial Intelligence" is impossible. This appears to me to be a semantic dispute, but maybe Feser has a healthier version of the argument.

          • Joe

            Machines can't understand anything they're doing. They are without consciousness they can't think. Everything they do they do mindlessly. "From Pascal to Von Neumann all great contributors to the theory and development of computers refused to attribute thinking or consciousness to them." Stanley Jaki "Brain Mind and Computers"

          • Joe
  • Joe

    If we realize there is a God what then? How do we know which religion is true?

    • Foreign Grid

      By seeing which one has the most comprehensive world view.

      First you can eliminate a lot by coming to the conclusion that there can only be one God (as Euthyphro's dilemma and Aristotle and Plato prove). If we are to say there is any order inherent in the universe (which is the premise science is based upon) there can be no conflict between opposing sources of being that are pure action. Similarly there can only be one standard of the Good. etc.
      From there you've narrowed it down already and you can get cracking.

      • crucify tin

        Ask tin Hanes a non catholic secular philosopher if he believes weather outside water baptism that there is salvation. I already know his answer. He believed heresies after heresy , baptism by desire, universal security, it doesn't matter that you're protestant on and on committing false identity for Catholicism. Then let me tell you what the church teach and he will be debunked in lying to ye

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=79C7jWJV4KU

  • My question has to do with the premise advanced on a recent episode of Real Atheology. https://realatheology.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/ra012-interview-felipe-leon-on-ex-nihilo-creation/

    I will probably not do it justice, but here goes.

    The premise is, "every concrete object that has an efficient cause, has a material cause"

    "concrete object" may be material or not, it can be brought into existence by re-arranging material, or, out of absolute nothing; "material cause" is material substance as opposed to immaterial, i.e. matter/energy; "efficient cause" is an agent or force acting as to bring the object into existence.

    "existence" here would mean something that exists in its own right, has properties, and can undergo change.

    The implications if this premise is true, for classical theism are that, if God exists, He did not create the Universe out of nothing. There must have been some pre-existing material, in some form for God to arrange into the Universe. If this is the case, it would seem to remove the requirement of a God to account for the existence of the Universe.

    The support for this premise can be two-fold:

    1) Inductively from observation: we have billions of observations of things coming into existence with efficient causes, and all of these have material causes as well.

    Now, certainly one can resist this justification. I would say perhaps as categorically inapplicable to ultimate causes. You can't infer an ultimate cause of all things being brought into existence from observations of all things once they are in existence.

    2) Intuition: we just intuitively cannot accept as an explanation that some cause can just bring something into existence with no material or energy. For example, if someone claims they brought a log cabin into existence with no logs, material, no anything, we find this intuitively incredible.

    Now you can also push back on this but to do so I think you need to use the induction from justification 1.

    In any event, if you do reject justifications 1 AND 2 as inapplicable in this context of ultimate origins, then by what justification could one deny that the idea that the Universe is uncaused?

    Stated differently, either you can accept the premise, which means a God seems to be superfluous to the problem of the origins of the Universe as material must have always existed in some form, or, you can deny the premise and both justifications, but then if we propose that the Universe is uncaused, how do you argue it cannot be if you cannot use induction form observation or intuition?

  • GeraardSpergen

    Do you find that the people interested in your proofs are generally people who believe but need validation? Or are they people who don't believe but enjoy the discourse?

    • iwpoe

      I found them to be conversionary, where is that category? Or do you not believe that people can be persuaded on this matter?

  • Brian Seets

    I am an atheist. I choose to do what I see as good. That is that I do nothing that could have a negative impact on others. I do this because I want to live in a world where that is the standard behavior and so that (I hope) others will choose to not negatively impact my life.

    What makes my choice less worthy than a christian's? Doesn't living well without hope of reward or fear of punishment god irrelevant?

    • Jonathan Brumley

      When you ask about a choice being "less worthy", what measure of worth are you asking about? The question doesn't seem to be answerable unless you can clarify the scale being used to measure worth.

      • Brian Seets

        I don't know. You tell me. I've been told that I am not able to be moral without god, yet I feel I am a better person than most christians using their own standard. I am good without hope of reward or fear of punishment. Don't nitpick my choice of words. You know exactly what was meant.

        • Jonathan Brumley

          An act is judged good or worthy according to some scale of values directed towards an ultimate purpose.

          On a Christian value scale, the merit of an act is how well it fulfills the greatest commandment, which is the purpose of life. "Love the Lord your God with all your strength, heart, soul, and mind."

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      I choose to do what I see as good.

      But that begs the question. Everyone chooses to do the good as they see it. Sometimes that means ensuring racial purity. Sometimes it means ensuring racial mixing. Sometimes it means letting people alone. So it is the nature of the good that is at issue.
      https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/are-there-secular-reasons/

      I do nothing that could have a negative impact on others.

      That's darned hard to do. Welfare, for example, destroys families by replacing the father with the State: that seems a negative impact. Landing Overlord on the beaches of Normandy certainly had a negative impact on many Germans and even a lot of Frenchmen. Enslaving a defeated enemy (such as the Athenians in Sicily) seems wicked, but what when the alternative was to massacre them?

    • Realist1234

      'I choose to do what I see as good. That is that I do nothing that could have a negative impact on others.'

      - so what is 'good' depends on who you ask.
      - your definition of 'doing good' is actually not doing bad things which may negatively affect others. So rather than a positive, more just not a negative. So no sign of altruism.
      - I very much doubt you 'do nothing that could have a negative impact on others.' If you drive a petrol or diesel car, you are polluting the air others breathe. If you ever fly on a plane or burn oil, coal or gas for heating or electricity, you are contributing to climate change which clearly affects others negatively. I could go on...
      - you should live in the real world and heed Jesus' words 'noone is 'good' except God'.

  • Could the people described below have the right understanding of "proofs for God"?

    And the Lord said:

    “Because this people draw near with their mouth
        and honor me with their lips,
        while their hearts are far from me,
    and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
    therefore, behold, I will again
        do wonderful things with this people,
        with wonder upon wonder;
    and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
        and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
    (Isaiah 29:13–14)

    Whether the answer is "yes" or "no", I think an explication of that with respect to the above passage could lead some interesting places.

    • iwpoe

      Maybe the proof from Miracles. Though this is always limited as a proof in certain ways.

  • Regardless of one's worldview, any proof must, by logical necessity, rest on one or more assumptions, which are premises that are stipulated to be unprovable. I would ask Dr. Feser to list some of the assumptions on which at least one of his proofs of God's existence depends.

    • Thursday1

      Aristotle agrees (I'm paraphrasing) that you can't prove everything, but you have to start somewhere. But, if you have to start somewhere, what is more obvious than the fact of change? So, that is where Aristotle starts.

      • what is more obvious than the fact of change?

        That existence of the things that change, and of other things that don't change, is more obvious to me.

        • Thursday1

          All those things could be a complete illusion, so you're presuming a knowledge of them that you don't have. But an illusion that changes still necessitates some form of change.

          • All those things could be a complete illusion

            Yes, they could, but possibility is not probability.

            so you're presuming a knowledge of them that you don't have.

            If they are real and I have good enough reason to believe they are real, then I know they are real. Any assertion that I lack such knowledge presupposes that they are not real.

          • Thursday1

            You've just admitted they could be an illusion. My assertion that change exists holds whether or not the common sense world of objects is an illusion or not, therefore change is more certain than they are. The "illusion" of change is change, so change exists no matter what the nature of the universe is.

          • If the common-sense world of objects is an illusion, then what is changing?

          • Thursday1

            The illusion.

          • And does the illusion exist independently of me? And am I not an object in the real world, no matter what the real world is --
            even if I'm the only thing in it?

          • Thursday1

            You don't know, and for the purposes of establishing change, you don't need to know.

          • Thursday1

            Whatever it is, it changes.

          • Whatever it is, it changes.

            That's my point. It has to be, before it can change.

          • Thursday1

            Yes, there has to be something, some sort of being, but it doesn't have to be the common sense world of objects.

          • Yes, there has to be something

            That's all I'm saying.

            it doesn't have to be the common sense world of objects.

            Right. We have to apply our cognitive skills to figure out whether it is or isn't.

          • for the purposes of establishing change, you don't need to know.

            I can make no sense of change without believing in something that is changing. Your epistemology may vary.

    • iwpoe
      • iwpoe

        No metaphysician pretends to be extracting his work from Pure logic, except Hegel I guess, but Hegel means something by pure logic that no logician means.

      • Well there's always the "read the damn book" solution, but fine, here ya go:

        To what was that supposed to be a response?

        • Matt

          "to list some of the assumptions"

          Literally the first assumption of the Aristotelian Proof- "change is a real feature of the world" -cannot be "proven" in the sense of "proof" you allude to (presumably drawing from Gödel). Of course this does not much matter, since no Aristotelian purports to have arrived at *any* metaphysical demonstration of anything, including God's existence, by means of a complete and consistent axiomatic set, and the alluded to "stipulation" is of no issue. For the Aristotelian does not "stipulate" motion in the sense of arbitrarily stating it, but nor does he purport to have derived it from some fully demonstrated axiomatic set. He has it by means of a high-level general induction, which is what it is meant when it is said that it is "self-evident", that is also backed with certain demonstrations that appeal of the evidence:

          After all motion is inductively evident and all arguments against motion suppose motion in their very operation, even one's that would suppose it an illusion.

          • Literally the first assumption of the Aristotelian Proof- "change is a real feature of the world" -cannot be "proven" in the sense of "proof" you allude to (presumably drawing from Gödel).

            If it could be proven, it would no longer be an assumption.

            I don't remember alluding to any proof. Neither do I remember questioning the existence of change.

            all arguments against motion suppose motion in their very operation

            I have offered no argument against motion.

            For the Aristotelian does not "stipulate" motion in the sense of arbitrarily stating it, but nor does he purport to have derived it from some fully demonstrated axiomatic set.

            Too bad for the Aristotelian. In my epistemology, if you can't infer it, you have to assume it.

            He has it by means of a high-level general induction

            Induction is a kind of inference.

            which is what it is meant when it is said that it is "self-evident"

            Racists used to say that the inferiority of blacks was self-evident.

          • iwpoe

            Not every so-called self-evident matter is actually self-evident. This is self-evident. But your epistemology is incoherent and would entail that we know nothing except what we stipulate, but we would have no reason to stipulate anything, and therefore no actual justifications of any sort. Knowledge would be free arbitrary play relating to nothing. Your epistemology appears to amount to the rejection of the justificatory power of induction.

            It would entail that all of physics is merely stipulative in the arbitrary sense of that term and it would certainly until that there are no proofs for God, but only by means of entertaining that there are no proofs of any sort.

          • Not every so-called self-evident matter is actually self-evident.

            It's not self-evidence just because somebody says it is, I agree. My point it that it's not true, either, just because somebody says, "It's self-evident."

            But your epistemology is incoherent and would entail that we know nothing except what we stipulate

            It does not entail anything like that.

            Your epistemology appears to amount to the rejection of the justificatory power of induction.

            If you think that, then you know nothing about my epistemology.

            but only by means of entertaining that there are no proofs of any sort.

            That depends on how you define "proof." In my epistemology, human error is ineliminable: we cannot prove that we know anything infallibly. I don't think it useful, though, to define proof in terms of epistemic perfection. I think we can be justified in feeling extremely certain about some things, just as long as we don't claim that we are incapable of error regarding those things.

          • iwpoe

            Also, no they did not in fact claim that the inferiority of blacks was self-evident, but that it rests on observed differences. It is very easy to read any Antebellum Southern literature on this and it is a complete falsification of the historical record to say otherwise.

          • Also, no they did not in fact claim that the inferiority of blacks was self-evident, but that it rests on observed differences.

            Nobody disputed the observed differences. The question was what they should be attributed to. Egalitarians said they were attributable to society's racism. Racists said they were self-evidently attributable to racial differences.

  • camainc

    How do you square Divine simplicity with the personal God of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures? Are the scriptural references to God changing his mind, getting angry, etc., just anthropomorphic?

  • Kenneth Winsmann

    All the best Thomists at some point take on the problem of grace and predestination. Do you plan on making a contribution? Can you offer a brief sketch?

  • NowHereThis

    Could you comment on the suggestion that God is the attributes that he is because he is based on a confusion of language?

    Specifically, that Being, Good, Mind etc. are conceptual categories used by our minds for organizing purposes that have been mistaken for objective things in their own right (and therefore having a transcendent existence apart from the particular objects/actions that fit into them) and projected into reality as objective things (that we now have no direct understanding of because they surpass all experience). When the category Being is projected into reality it becomes the greatest reality and the source of all particular things, because it is the most general category. This is possibly what Anselm was gesturing towards with his ontological proof.

    Other features and functions of categories also contribute to the description of God. Those functions are to be simplifying and unitive (they gather together things based on the minimum attributes needed to fit the category). Categories are timeless because they are abstracted by our minds from particular changing things. The combination of timelessness and transcendence means that the categories can be projected outside of space-time and given responsibility for causing space-time. This implies two things: (1) that they are all powerful because they are the origin of all causality within space-time and (2) that all the objectified categories are actually one thing because there is no space-time for them to be distinguished in (and because they have the simplicity I previously mentioned). Finally, the category of Being contains all particular beings and has become their source as I mentioned, it could be plausibly thought to have knowledge of them through the category of Mind, accounting for omniscience.

    That accounts for much of the description of God and opens the way for a model of reality that doesn't commit the language confusion I posited. Then problems that result from it (suffering/evil, divine hiddenness) are dissolved rather than bandaged over with ad hoc solutions (i.e. free will) that create more philosophical conundrums.

  • Steven Dillon

    This one almost certainly won't get chosen, and he may even address this in his book (I hope!), but it's worth a go:

    Monotheism asserts the proposition that "Only one God exists." In quantifying the amount of Gods that exist, this proposition treats of a plurality of "Gods." In denying existence of all but one in this plurality, monotheism separates Gods from "existence", and thus treats of a plurality of abstractions, or "essences" as Thomists may say. It would seem, therefore, that monotheism is committed to a view on which a God's essence is separable from his "existence." But, for Aquinas, the essence of God just is his existence. Was Aquinas thus not a monotheist? If not, what was he?

  • Callum

    Regarding the possibility of natural theology providing any knowledge rather than simply interesting arguments, what would you say in reply to Van Inwagen who argues philosophy has not been able to prove, demonstrate or show a substantial philosophical thesis to be true?

    Also, big fan!

  • Alex Wallo

    Question: how do you respond to those who say that metaphysics is answerable to empirical science because empirical science gets at deeper levels of the observations of sense data from which metaphysical principles are derived?

  • Caminante

    My question is regarding God's hideness, is it right to conclude that God chosess to give just enough evidence to believe he exist but not enough evidence to proove his existence?

  • Caminante

    God created human souls, what does the bible mean when saying he made us in his image since we do not share any of the divine attributes of God such as being eternal, omniscient etc.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Did Aquinas's philosophy, with its increased emphasis on the intrinsic natures of things, pave the way for the more naturalistic artwork of Giotto? Or was it more that there was "something in the air" around that time, some common cultural root that was upstream of both the philosophy and the fine art? And if primarily the latter, what exactly was it that was "in the air" at that time that caused this shift toward naturalism?

  • Bradley Robert Schneider

    1. To what extent are these just different versions of, or different ways of looking at, the same (cosmological) argument? That is, can you rationally reject one of the proofs but accept another? 2. What are some of the other arguments you consider persuasive but did not include among these five?

  • Cale B.T.

    Dr Feser, I have a question regarding final causes and the fifth way.

    Sci fi author, retired engineer, and lay Catholic Michael Flynn writes as follows http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/12/oh-happiness-our-beings-end-and-aim.html:

    "William Wallace distinguishes three kinds of end:

    1. Terminus. In traveling from "here" to "there," the "there" is the end of the trip, where the traveler comes to rest. When such stability terminates a natural process, whether inorganic or organic, it is the end of the process and as such its final cause.

    Falling motion terminates when the heavy object arrives at a center of gravity.

    Fleas grow, but not to the point where they reach the size of elephants.

    Chemical reactions "go," but they also "stop," for example, when hydrogen and oxygen combine to form a stable molecule in water.

    The breakdown of uranium terminates at lead."

    [TOF: Regular cyclic behavior counts as "at rest". We would say "equilibrium state" in modern lingo.]

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

    My question concerns cyclic behaviour. Consider the example of the snowshoe hare population. Records of the number of pelts traded from the Hudson Bay Trading Company have revealed that snowshoe hare populations oscillate over a ~10 year cycle.

    See: https://www.math.duke.edu//education/ccp/materials/diffeq/predprey/pred1.html

    Now, if you saw the data in the link above might you not conclude "the terminus of snowshoe hares is this cyclic oscillation of population"?

    But say you visited Canada in 1880 without knowing of this wider phenomenon, and left after 5 years, concluding that snowshoe hare populations had suffered from some abnormal disaster, are steadily rising and will one day reach a plateau. I.e. “the terminus of snowhoe hares is to maintain a steady population.”

    Couldn't a nominalist say: well, the fact that the latter person made an incorrect conclusion shows that all that's going on is fallible inductions about the combinations of matter that they come across in their daily lives, rather than any kind of genuine insight into a "nature" which these beings possess?

  • A set of very closely related questions. The negative answer to #1 and the affirmatives to #2 or #3 are viewed with some suspicion by most believers whom I've asked, but it seems one of them is necessary. (A few believers I asked were not troubled and instead readily opted for the affirmative to #2 or #3.) Of course I'm not demanding that you have to know The Right Answer All Right-Thinking People Should Accept. Your best guess and supporting reasons would be adequate.

    No-context version:

    (1) Is God definable at all? If he is, is the definition one that can be known by humans, or only by God himself? If he is not, then how else can the truth (or falsehood) of the statement "God exists" be guaranteed?

    (2) Is God formally definable? If he is, is that definition one that can be discovered by humans, and is it appropriate for theologians to try? If he is not, then what distinct thing might his actual definition depend on?

    (3) Is God exactly modelable? If he is, is that model one that can be discovered by humans, and is it appropriate for theologians to try? If he is not, then must we use only negative theology?

    I moved the context down here to keep the questions readable. The context is necessary because the questions aren't at all self-explanatory.

    (1) I'm not referring to defining the word "God" in the way a dictionary defines a word. And I absolutely do NOT mean the word in any sense requiring or suggesting finitude. Rather, to understand the question correctly, think of "definiteness" as in a photographic image and how sharp or fuzzy the image is, leading to it being more or less identifiable. So I mean the more fundamental question about the definiteness of the identity and nature of God: Is God's nature sufficiently definite that, for any formula X, exactly one of the sentences "X is God" or "It is not the case that X is God" is true and the other is false? For God to be indefinable would imply the existence of some X for which there is no objectively correct answer as to whether or not it is God. (For readers who are unfamiliar, imagine replacing X with any phrase that makes sense: "The first cause is God", "That greater than which cannot be conceived is God", "My dog Fido is God", "Allah is God", "Jesus is God", "The Omega Point is God", etc. We're asking whether every such sentence, subject to a few technical caveats, will have an objective answer about whether it is true or false, or whether there are some sentences for which the truth-value is objectively fuzzy.)

    (2) Mathematics and computer science are amenable to exact definitions in formal languages. Formal languages allow for rigorous logic and proof. But the essential fact about formal languages is that the terms don't refer to anything outside the language. This means the truth or provability or other properties of formally defined things is self-contained, with no dependence on external reality. (It may be helpful to note that formal systems need not be finitely axiomatizable.) For God to be formally definable would mean that, whether or not humans could ever find it, that there exists a formal language in which God can be defined by purely logical relationships, and that that definition would be true of God no matter what other things existed or what they happened to be like. For God to be definable but not formally definable would mean that he must be defined in terms of one or more of those other things, non-logical entities. (Please note that "non-logical" has a very different meaning than "illogical".)

    (3) Most sciences involve the use of intuition and experiment to find a formally defined model that matches the behavior of a real-world system of interest. The essential facts about models are, first, that we have a method of interpreting the terms as referring to real-world things, and second, that our degree of justification in believing the models is ordinarily limited by the strength of empirical research. So, for example, biologists came up with various mathematical models of genetic drift that approximately match empirical findings. Nobody expects models of biology to match the real world exactly, because living things vary so much that models have to generalize over the details to remain practically useful. By contrast, physicists generally feel it is reasonable to search for a "Theory Of Everything", a complete and exact mathematical model of the fundamental physical laws of our universe, even though we can't be sure such a model exists. For God to be exactly modelable would mean that, whether or not humans could ever find it, that there exists a formal language in which a set of purely logical relationships can be defined, and that God is not identical to those definitions but instead is a distinct being that the definitions happen to correspond to exactly. For God to be neither formally definable or exactly modelable, not even by an infinite formal system or infinite model, would mean he is not definable at all, giving us the negative answer to #1.

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

    Motivation

    I'm an atheist. It really appears to me that, whenever theologians and apologists talk about God, they use a zillion incompatible ideas about God, carefully using each one only with its own set of talking points. When we ask questions of the form, "Now you're saying ABC; but what about when you said XYZ earlier?", they simply toggle between ABC's talking points and XYZ's talking points. There is never any attempt to reconcile the two. This makes me think that religious talk about God is simply learned stimulus-response habits, avoiding the Q&A of living persons in favor of parroting the traditional A to the closest match found among the traditional Qs, and that there is no unique thing, "God", that's even being talked about. So I want to know what you think about the sense in which God is or isn't even a coherently definable thing, and what implications that has.

    Also, I'm personally inclined favorably to the idea of the Plenitude: that "existence" and "possibility" are co-extensive, that everything which can exist does exist somewhere; that there are infinitely many worlds and that every way a world could be is a way that some world is. So if there are good reasons to think God is formally definable or exactly modelable, then I will take those reasons as reasons to believe God exists.

    • In my time debating Thomists, once you point out an inconsistency they will always say in the end that words and metaphors can never really capture god's true essence, even though we are stuck with those methods for knowing anything about god, and they use them to conclude god's necessary existence.

  • Rudy R

    The theists default position is "nothing" before "something," as it pertains to the cosmological argument. Since atheist philosophers can argue for the other option of always "something," based on what is known and not known on how the universe is organized, please explain why this argument is not sound. In other words, since the cosmological argument is not based on empirical evidence, why not an a priori of "something" rather than "nothing" before the creation of the cosmos?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      "Before" need not mean "before in time."

      The maxim is actually "from nothing comes nothing" (ex nihilo nihil fit). Your question is incorrect. Aquinas assumed that the universe was eternal. (That was Aristotle's stance and Thomas knew of no philosophical proof that there was a beginning in time.) Since his project was to determine how far natural reason would take him, he did not rely on a "time" of "nothingness" preceding a time of somethingness. That does not make sense, since if nothing existed, time in particular would not exist. (This is actually conforming with general relativity, since Einstein said the same thing.)

      An eternal universe still needs an explanation. If someone asks you "Why do you keep a hammer in your refrigerator?" it is no answer to say "We have always kept the hammer in the refrigerator."
      http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/aquinas-eternity.asp

      • Rudy R

        Of course an eternal universe needs an explanation. That's not my point. Theists postulate there was nothing before there was something, based on a metaphysical explanation and not on empirical evidence. That being said, why exclude there always being something, if empirical evidence is not a consideration?
        What theists want everyone to believe is that there was nothing, and God did his magic, and created something. Since this can't be proven empirically, and is unfalcifiable, then it can also be postulated that there was always something and no need for god magic.

        • Next time, you should try to read more carefully. :)

          You write:
          "What theists want everyone to believe is that there was nothing, and God did his magic, and created something."

          But TOF already wrote:
          "Aquinas assumed that the universe was eternal. (That was Aristotle's stance and Thomas knew of no philosophical proof that there was a beginning in time.) Since his project was to determine how far natural reason would take him, he did not rely on a "time" of "nothingness" preceding a time of somethingness."

          So your statement is already false, pretending that others is suggesting something they evidently don't. What use is empirical evidence, if one is not going to read what one is responding to?

          What the classical cosmological really purports to conclude with, is God as the first in a matter of vertical, ontological sequence, not horisontal and temporal. Aquinas couldn't care less whether there really was nothing at some "point of time". What however needs a sufficient reason, is why there is existence at every instant. And yes, the cosmological argument is based on empirical evidence. As a matter of fact, Aristotle was very explicit that all knowledge starts with the senses. And then we extract metaphysical principles from both senses and reason.

          • Rudy R

            My question was for Dr. Feser's consideration and not Ye Olde Faith. And incidentally, Ye Olde Faith responded to my question using a Straw Man argument. Nothing in my commented did I suggest ex nihilo nihil fit.

            So your statement is already false, pretending that others is suggesting something they evidently don't.

            So these "other" theists believe there was always "something"? Occam's razor would apply then and no need for a god hypothesis.

          • But even directed to Dr. Feser, your question is irrelevant, since his cosmological argument has nothing to do with what you're asserting. You could just as well ask him whether he's stopped beating his wife yet.

            Please watch this presentation, and ask yourself: When is it a relevant question to this argument whether there was a time when there was nothing? Spoiler: The answer is never.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAIHs5TJRqQ

            "So these "other" theists believe there was always "something"? Occam's razor would apply then and no need for a god hypothesis."

            First. Theists DO believe that there has always been something - namely God.

            And sigh. No. That follows from nothing at all. And please learn what Occam's razor is. It's tells us to not multiply entities past NECESSITY (!), and is not an arbitrary tool that you can lapse to excuse yourself every time difficult questions start to appear.

          • Rudy R

            OK, your point is well-taken. A god is something, although arbitrarily defined. Aristotle did not prove the existence of a god through the scientific method. I dare say, he might hold a different position if he had knowledge of our current understanding of the world. A non-god "something" hypothesis that postulates the creation of the world was not a debate topic 2000 years ago.

          • I see. So all along you wanted to continue to feed your already existing prejudices, instead of grappling with anything that anyone other than yourself is saying? :)

            That's your choice of course, but it doesn't suit a very honest investigation for truth.

          • Rudy R

            Is that all you got? That I have existing prejudices?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Theists postulate there was nothing before there was something, based on
          a metaphysical explanation and not on empirical evidence.

          a) Metaphysically, there cannot have been a realized state of "nothing." No need for "empirical evidence.'

          b) There cannot be empirical evidence of nothing.

          c) According to Hume, Popper, and other irrationalists, there is no connection whatsoever between empirical evidences and physical theories.

          d) Magic is the production of material effects using the as-yet unknown ("hidden," "occult") properties of matter. As such, it lies on the same continuum as natural science, The position you are critiquing is that God created "from nothing" not by rearranging existing stuff.

          e) "Unfalcifiable" [sic] was a criteria that Popper used to discredit the certainty of science, which falls well short of that of mathematics (Popper's home turf, iirc). He postulated it as a metaphysical principle for what constituted a scientific theory. Your complaint amounts to "creation is not a scientific theory," which ought to surprise no one.

          Did you read the link to Aquinas' essay on the eternity of the world? Or do you simply know what your faith tells you Aquinas must have said or meant.

          Since [creation] can't be proven empirically, and is unfalcifiable, then it
          can also be postulated that there was always something

          You are close to truth on this one. The existence of the universe cannot be "proven empirically," either. To claim empirical evidence you must assume a priori that there is a universe in the first place. You cannot use your conclusion as one of your premises.

          Hope this helps.

          • Rudy R

            It helps to understand how you think.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That I don't care for circular reasoning? Or that I prefer precise definitions? Perhaps it is my background in mathematics.

          • Rudy R

            Or perhaps you have a certain philosophical leaning, that is neither true or false, but just is.

          • Mike

            iow "you do you; i am a do me"

  • I have a hundred questions. Here are some:

    When did the rational soul begin to exist? Did Homo naledi have it? What about Neanderthals? Or Homo erectus? How does a squirrel's "Form" change or begin to exist as squirrels were slowly evolving? Was there a single human who got a rational soul whose parents didn't have it? Was he or she able to talk or think in a way their parents weren't? Was this person as rational in capability as the average modern person is today, and were their parent's behavior like homo erectus or some other transitional hominid? If natural selection could get us homo sapiens to the point where we acquired "such a level of complexity that it was possible for an animal to exist which was capable of having a rational soul," then why do we need god or the soul as an explanatory force for that matter?

    What is the perfect form, essence, or nature of a human being? David Hasselhoff? Brad Pitt? Michaelangelo's David? Joseph Smith? The Islamic prophet Mohammad? Or is it Jesus?

    You several arguments against abortion. Among them, you say it's a "particularly violent interference with nature's purposes." (146) I suppose that would mean circumcision is too, huh Feser?

    God lacks passive potency, Thomists claim, but how can god create or become Jesus and not change?

    How can something with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidity act on bodies, or to put it in the current context, act on anything physical, but especially without violating the conservation of energy and quantum field theory?

    If god doesn't reason or choose things in anything like the human sense of doing so, and he's timeless, how and why did he decide to create a universe that is apparently contingent on his will?

    Why does the universe have to be essentially ordered? Why does an atom need to be continually held in existence by a god? Is it metaphysically impossible for god to create something physical that continues to exist without sustenance? Is that something god can't do, like creating a stone he cannot lift?

    How does the "soul" go from act to potency without something outside to actualize it?

    From the Aristotelian perspective, how could we even distinguish a series of events having a final cause versus a series of events that didn't?

    How are Forms able to somehow have a causal relationship with the atoms in the physical brain via the "intellect," in a way that physics has not already discovered — since that is indeed what your view would entail?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      How can something with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity act on bodies

      How does a sphere interact with rubber to make a basketball?

      • It doesn't. The rubber basketball becomes a sphere once it becomes round.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The rubber basketball becomes a sphere once it becomes round.

          And a rose is a rose is a rose. You can't explain something by saying it twice.
          1. the rubber basketball becomes a sphere
          2. it becomes round.

          But sphere is the form of the basketball, just as the material is rubber. Neither form nor matter is reducible one to the other. They are distinct principles.

          (There are also "accidental" forms, not essential to its basketballness, such as color.)

          Sphere is an inanimate form. Animate forms are not simple geometrical forms. Animate forms are called "anima" (in Latin) or energeia (in Greek). The usual English term is "soul."
          ("Does X have a soul" = "Is X alive". Next question.)

          Every thing is some thing. A material body is the kind of thing it is because it has a particular form. But, pace Descartes, they are not two distinct things. The form acts on the matter. It does not interact with the matter.

          Besides, no physical theory ever demanded everything be an interaction. How does a moving body interact with gravity? Gravity, in the view of classical physics, is "something with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity." Yet it acts on the body; while the body does not act on the gravity.

          • A sphere is defined as something that's round. It is something we made up, it's not a thing that exists out there. The sphere is the shape of the basketball, there is no interaction of a thing called a sphere and the physical ball. Objects take shapes and we name those shapes different things. No interaction between physical and non physical stuff. The idea of forms is so vague, so ill defined, and such a semantic trick that it cannot be taken seriously.

            The only thing acting on matter are physical forces, nothing else. It would violate laws of physics to say that non physical things act on matter.

            Gravity is the curvature of spacetime, and that has a definite location around the said object. So you're wrong there.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            A sphere is defined as something that's round. It is something we made up,

            And yet any society that has given thought to such things has come up with the same things. Why didn't India or China come up with different shapes if they are simply "made up"?

            there is no interaction of a thing called a sphere and the physical ball.

            Precisely. It's not an INTERaction.

            Objects take shapes

            You are merely repeating what I said, only you're saying "shape" instead of "form." How does that refute? Every material body is some form of matter.

            No interaction between physical and non physical stuff.

            Again, that is exactly right. The form is not a second thing that must "interact" with a first thing called matter.

            The idea of forms is so vague, so ill defined, and such a semantic trick that it cannot be taken seriously.

            Form is what makes the physical world intelligible. Don't rely on something whose existence you deny. See here for a brief overview by a physicist:

            https://web.archive.org/web/20041127002931/http://home.comcast.net:80/~icuweb/c02002.htm#4

            The idea of matter OTOH is so vague, so ill defined, and such a semantic trick that it cannot be taken seriously. Some said it was water; others that it was fire. Still others said it was 'atoms'. But then, what are atoms made of? Each atom has a distinctive form that makes it what it is and, as we now know, is formed of parts (so it is not an atomos at all). Even when we speak of 'protons' and 'electrons', we wind up asking what they are made of. The currently popular answer is 'quarks,' but since different quarks can be distinguished as 'up,' 'down,' 'top,' 'bottom,' etc they must be different forms of quark as well. Heisenberg favored mass-energy as Aristotle's prime matter, but he also said that subatomic particles did not have actual existence. (He compared them to Aristotelian potentials.)

            It would violate laws of physics to say that non physical things act on matter.

            That's not an actual scientific proposition, at least in Popper's sense. In particular, the laws of physics act on matter but are not themselves physical.

            Gravity is the curvature of spacetime, and that has a definite location around the said object. So you're wrong there.

            So we believe today. I just figured Newton was more familiar to most.

            Space-time is an abstraction, a mathematical form-ula. It is no less 'made up' (in your words) than a sphere, just more complex than a sphere, requiring tensor calculus and not simply algebra. The field of Ricci tensors of which the space-time manifold is allegedly composed is not actually a physical thing. How can something with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity act on bodies?

            Every effort to probe the depths of reality winds up with some sort of immaterial being that moves without being moved.

          • And yet any society that has given thought to such things has come up with the same things. Why didn't India or China come up with different shapes if they are simply "made up"?

            It's not that hard for different people to independently draw a circle on a sheet of paper or other material. In fact, we should expect people to independently make up the same shapes. Doesn't mean they aren't invented. Sorry, but essentialism is nonsense.

            Precisely. It's not an INTERaction.

            There is none at all.

            You are merely repeating what I said, only you're saying "shape" instead of "form." How does that refute? Every material body is some form of matter.

            Because forms are really just shapes; they're labels we give to different configurations of matter.

            Again, that is exactly right. The form is not a second thing that must "interact" with a first thing called matter.

            Yes, so only material forces act on material things, and that's all that's needed to explain them. Forms are just shapes we use words to assign different different configurations of matter.

            Form is what makes the physical world intelligible. Don't rely on something whose existence you deny. See here for a brief overview by a physicist:

            I'm not; I'm saying it's a semantic trick.

            Heisenberg favored mass-energy as Aristotle's prime matter, but he also said that subatomic particles did not have actual existence. (He compared them to Aristotelian potentials.)

            Yeah, we've learned a lot since Heisenberg's day. When you talk about "forms" here what you're really talking about is different configurations of matter.

            That's not an actual scientific proposition, at least in Popper's sense. In particular, the laws of physics act on matter but are not themselves physical.

            It absolutely is an actual scientific position. The law of the conservation of energy and momentum are not fictions. The laws of physics are just descriptions of the patterns in spacetime.

            Space-time is an abstraction, a mathematical form-ula. It is no less 'made up' (in your words) than a sphere, just more complex than a sphere, requiring tensor calculus and not simply algebra. The field of Ricci tensors of which the space-time manifold is allegedly composed is not actually a physical thing. How can something with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity act on bodies?

            No spacetime is a real thing. It is not a mere mathematical abstraction, although sometimes it is described that way. In fact in order to deny this you will have to believe a brute fact.

            Every effort to probe the depths of reality winds up with some sort of immaterial being that moves without being moved.

            Sorry but that is complete nonsense said by people who don't understand the way the universe actually works and who don't realize their god is incoherent.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's not that hard for different people to independently draw a circle on a sheet of paper or other material. In fact, we should expect people to independently make up the same shapes. Doesn't mean they aren't invented.

            So they're drawing figures of things that are not there. But why should you expect different people to make up the same shapes, if those shapes are not actually there? What is the scientific proof of this?

            Because forms are really just shapes; they're labels we give to different configurations of matter.

            Exactly. It is the form (configuration) that makes a thing intelligible. We could not name things unless we discerned the essential forms of those things. Can you name anything that is formless? However, shape is only the most simple forms we find in physical beings. A thing may also have the form of red, and the form may be intensified or remitted; etc. Like other becauses, form answers question about making.
            1. Material because: What is the thing made of?
            2. Formal because: What makes it that kind of thing?
            3. Efficient because: What made it into that thing?
            4. Final because: What is it made for?

            only material forces act on material things, and that's all that's needed to explain them.

            Are "forces" another of those invisible beings "with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity" that act on bodies?

            Yeah, we've learned a lot since Heisenberg's day.

            His "day" wasn't that long ago, and we are still working out the problems raised by quantum theory. When post-modern physicists make the kinds of breakthroughs made by Heisenberg, Einstein, Poincare, Mach, and the rest, it may be worthwhile tackling their philosophy.

            When you talk about "forms" here what you're really talking about is different configurations of matter.

            Sure, up to a point. Would you be happier if Aristotle had called forms "configurations" instead? It still remains that the "configuration" is not itself a material being. Otherwise, if we arranged three apples in the form of a triangle, the whole would suddenly increase in weight, because it was now the combined weight of Apple 1, Apple 2, Apple 3, and the triangle. Since this is nonsense, the form, pattern, or configuration of a thing is not a separate thing.

            Of course, we can also arrange a story in the form of a novel or an argument in the form of a syllogism. So there is clearly more to form than configuration of physical matter. We can also arrange a subject matter. And fallacies are classified as to whether they are material fallacies or formal fallacies. Poincare wrote that a science is not a collection of facts any more than a house is a pile of bricks. What makes a science is how those facts are arranged (i.e., the form).

            [That non-physical things cannot act on physical bodies] is not an actual scientific proposition, at least in Popper's sense. In particular, the laws of physics act on matter but are not themselves physical.

            It absolutely is an actual scientific position.

            I wrote "propositon," not "position." Do you want to recalibrate your response?
            In Popper's sense, how can it be falsified?
            (Popper also held with Hume that no collection of empirical facts could ever conclude to a physical theory. He called this "the problem of induction.")

            The law of the conservation of energy and momentum are not fictions. The laws of physics are just descriptions of the patterns in spacetime.

            Well? Which one is it? If they are just descriptions, then they are fictions [awaiting editing, per Popper]. If they are not fictions, then they are not merely descriptions.

            No spacetime is a real thing. It is not a mere mathematical abstraction, although sometimes it is described that way. In fact in order to deny this you will have to believe a brute fact.

            "[T]here are no objections of principle against the introduction of this hypothesis, by which space and time are deprived of the last trace of objective reality."
            -- Albert Einstein, "Explanation of the Movement of Mercury's Perihelion on the Basis of the General Theory of Relativity," 1915

            Einstein regarded space and time as "metaphysical intrusions" into what he believed ought to be a purely material science. Of what is space-time made? What are its "size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity"?

            Every effort to probe the depths of reality winds up with some sort of immaterial being that moves without being moved.

            Sorry but that is complete nonsense said by people who don't understand the way the universe actually works and who don't realize their god is incoherent.

            Who said 'god', let alone 'God'? Examples if immaterial unmoved movers (some of which you have already offered are:
            (a) force, energy, momentum, the inertial power of a body and anything else explained by a conservation laws.
            (b) physical laws, mathematical entities, absolute space, Tegmarkian or Galilean accounts of the mathematical universe, etc.

            But (a)-entities don’t explain motion. They simply take some motion as given and order other motions to it. And (b)-entities can’t move anything except as ideas in the mind of something. Either way, we get no explanation of motion.

            Our options are to posit the existence of some supernatural explanation of motion or to abandon the explanation of motion altogether, positing some motion or another as both unexplained and inexplicable, even though all other motions presuppose it. We stop talking about explaining things and insist that we only describe. But, the Late Modern being unable to distinguish ontology from epistemology, we then assume the deficiency lies in the universe rather than in our understanding of the univere, which traps us in the liar paradox: our theory of explanation is that explanations are not possible.

          • So they're drawing figures of things that are not there. But why should you expect different people to make up the same shapes, if those shapes are not actually there? What is the scientific proof of this?

            Because many times people have created the same things independently. Every time I have a brilliant idea, I google it and someone else has thought of it. Does that mean the "idea" exists out there? Obviously not. People can easily think of the same things independently. And a circle or a square or a triangle can easily be made up. The wheel for example was independently invented by societies thousands of miles apart.

            Exactly. It is the form (configuration) that makes a thing intelligible. We could not name things unless we discerned the essential forms of those things. Can you name anything that is formless?

            That's like asking can you name anything that is shapeless? Quantum fields maybe, but no. None of this entails that Aristotelian notions of forms exist. Shapes are just things we make up to try and describe the physical world. No need to go down the loopy road of essentialism.

            4. Final because: What is it made for?

            Final causes assume that there is an intrinsic directionality in time. There is no evidence that there is. Time directionality depends on the increase of entropy and entropy can increase in different directions.

            Are "forces" another of those invisible beings "with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity" that act on bodies?

            Of course not. All forces have physical properties.

            His "day" wasn't that long ago, and we are still working out the problems raised by quantum theory. When post-modern physicists make the kinds of breakthroughs made by Heisenberg, Einstein, Poincare, Mach, and the rest, it may be worthwhile tackling their philosophy.

            One amazing breakthrough we've made is that we know all the forces governing what we experience in our everyday lives and there is no room for any more. This means we can rule out any form of dualism, including the kind in AT metaphysics. This is just one reason why we know it's wrong.

            It still remains that the "configuration" is not itself a material being. Otherwise, if we arranged three apples in the form of a triangle, the whole would suddenly increase in weight, because it was now the combined weight of Apple 1, Apple 2, Apple 3, and the triangle. Since this is nonsense, the form, pattern, or configuration of a thing is not a separate thing.

            The configuration is just a label we make up to describe the physical thing. The form of an argument is just the arrangement of the premises to make sense.

            I wrote "propositon," not "position." Do you want to recalibrate your response?
            In Popper's sense, how can it be falsified? (Popper also held with Hume that no collection of empirical facts could ever conclude to a physical theory. He called this "the problem of induction.")

            It's both a scientific position and a scientific proposition.

            Well? Which one is it? If they are just descriptions, then they are fictions [awaiting editing, per Popper]. If they are not fictions, then they are not merely descriptions.

            There is no contradiction in what I said. They are accurate descriptions of the way the universe works. Just because they are not prescriptive it doesn't make then fictions.

            Einstein regarded space and time as "metaphysical intrusions" into what he believed ought to be a purely material science. Of what is space-time made? What are its "size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity"?

            Yes, space and time as two separate things. Which is why spacetime - as one single thing, is the appropriate way to describe it. That's why I use spacetime and not space and time. Spacetime is the totality of all things, events in the universe. It's no different than how the university is made up of all the buildings and land on the campus.

            Who said 'god', let alone 'God'?

            Let's not play silly here. You know you mean a god to be the unmoved mover.

            Who said 'god', let alone 'God'? Examples if immaterial unmoved movers (some of which you have already offered are:
            (a) force, energy, momentum, the inertial power of a body and anything else explained by a conservation laws.
            (b) physical laws, mathematical entities, absolute space, Tegmarkian or Galilean accounts of the mathematical universe, etc.
            But (a)-entities don’t explain motion. They simply take some motion as given and order other motions to it. And (b)-entities can’t move anything except as ideas in the mind of something. Either way, we get no explanation of motion.

            Just as I suspected. You don't understand the way the universe actually works. Motion as we understand it doesn't really exist. Nothing moves. Since all moments of time exist objects are worldtubes in spacetime, and the totality of that spacetime is solid and unchanging. Hence the unmoved mover argument totally and utterly fails to understand the way the universe works. All natural theology arguments fail this way: they take faulty human level experience and extrapolate from that grand metaphysical conclusions to try and derive the existence of god.

            Our options are to posit the existence of some supernatural explanation of motion or to abandon the explanation of motion altogether, positing some motion or another as both unexplained and inexplicable, even though all other motions presuppose it.

            Those are not our only options but abandoning motion altogether as we normally understand it is certain the best option. It's the one science confirms and that's incompatible with your argument.

            We stop talking about explaining things and insist that we only describe. But, the Late Modern being unable to distinguish ontology from epistemology, we then assume the deficiency lies in the universe rather than in our understanding of the univere, which traps us in the liar paradox: our theory of explanation is that explanations are not possible.

            Nonsense. All you need to understand is that not everything has an explanation since the PSR is false. It entails nothing about our ability to describe some things, or even most things. The universe doesn't owe you an explanation for anything. And your metaphysics is derived from a false understanding of it. That's why it can be confidently rejected.

            ¬

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            why should you expect different people to make up the same shapes, if those shapes are not actually there? What is the scientific proof of this?
            Because many times people have created the same things independently. ... People can easily think of the same things independently. And a circle or a square or a triangle can easily be made up. The whee l for example was independently invented by societies thousands of miles apart.

            This is hardly a scientific proof. "Could," "can easily" are just story-telling. But why is it that not one society on earth has come up with different figures. If they can easily come up with the same things, it must also be easy, perhaps easier, to come up with different things. Unless these forms exist in nature.

            BTW, which societies independently invented the wheel? And what does inventing a wheel, which is a physical object, have to do with abstracting the circle, which is a mathematical object?

            It is the form (configuration) that makes a thing intelligible. We could not name things unless we discerned the essential forms of those things. Can you name anything that is formless?

            That's like asking can you name anything that is shape less?

            Exactly.

            4. Final because: What is it made for?
            Final causes assume that there is an intrinsic directionality in time.

            Perhaps we can discuss this again yesterday.
            Besides, final causes do not involve time any more than first causes. These are logical relations, not temporal ones.

            Are "forces" another of those invisible beings "with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidarity" that act on bodies?
            Of course not. All forces have physical properties.

            Excellent, what is the size, shape, location, mass, motion, and "solidarity" of the electromagnetic force?

            One amazing breakthrough we've made is that we know all the forces governing what we experience in our everyday lives and there is no room for any more.

            Or at least we think we do. That's not new and it doesn't stop physicists from postulating new ones now and then, like dark energy.

            This means we can rule out any form of dualism, including the kind in AT metaphysics.

            But "dualism" is not a "force," so how can it be ruled out by the four-force theory?

            The configuration is just a label we make up to describe the physical thing. The form of an argument is just the arrangement of the premises to make sense.

            If that is the case, and there is nothing in nature that is abstracted, and it's just a "label" we made up, then the origin of species is solved! We make them up! How simple, it all seems under your metaphysic. How can you describe a physical thing if it has no form to describe?

            [That non-physical things cannot act on physical bodies] is both a scientific position and a scientific proposition.

            Excellent. What was the scientific experiment that established this? Or was it merely an assumption made a priori? Remember: science treats of the metrical properties of physical bodies.

            [The laws of physics ] are accurate descriptions of the way the universe works. Just because they are not prescriptive it doesn't make then fictions.

            a) how do you know they are accurate? (esp. if they must be falsifiable?)
            b) Earlier, you had said, "The laws of physics are just descriptions of the patterns in spacetime" and also that these patterns are "just things we made up."
            I suspect a subtle pitfall waiting.

            Fictio, fictionis (n. 3) means "a construction, or act of shaping," as when Poincare stated that a science was not merely a collection of facts, but an arranging of these facts into a construction. A construal of the facts, since the facts themselves have no meaning outside the construction.

            Yes, space and time as two separate things. Which is why spacetime - as one single thing, is the appropriate way to describe it.

            Actually, that is not why. It's that Riemannian geometry was the most elegant way of expressing relativity.

            spacetime is no different than how the university is made up of all the buildings and land on the campus.

            It must be very different, for what you describe is a set or collection that would not otherwise have any essential unity save that they were collected and designated as if they were one thing. Sort of like a pattern, except that the pattern was not there in nature, but imposed by human will. Spacetime, otoh, is supposedly an inherent unity.
            [Besides, a university is actually a chartered corporation and consists of scholars and students. They can, and in the past often have, existed without dedicated buildings and grounds.]

            Who said 'god', let alone 'God'?
            Let's not play silly here. You know you mean a god to be the unmoved mover.

            Actually, no. There are many unmoved movers. When a kitten crosses the room to lap a bowl of milk, the bowl of milk is not only the final cause of the kitten's act (and you will note that it exists simultaneously with the kitten) but it is also the first mover of the kitten's act. But the bowl does not move just because the kitten does. (i.e., there is no "reaction" or "interaction.")

            You don't understand the way the universe actually works. Motion as we understand it doesn't really exist. Nothing moves.

            Well, that takes care of the need for "forces," "energy," "momentum," "laws of science," and the like. I take it you are not talking about the way the "universe" actually, since to actually work implies motion. (Work is a measure of energy transfer that occurs when an object is moved over a distance by an external force.)

            You probably mean that I don't understand a popular mathematical model using Minkowski 4-space -- which interestingly enough, requires an imposition of a simultaneous "now" across all of spacetime. That's not the same as not understanding the way the universe "actually" works. A model may produce results like reality, though Hume and Popper would say 'so what' -- but equal results do not imply equal structure of the model and the reality.

            Of course, by reviving the dead corpse of Parmenides by denying motion, you revive all the paradoxes if Zeno. Achilles is still chasing that ol' tortoise. Yet all of natural science is based on "faulty human-level experience," including the abstraction to the mathematical model of Minkowski 4-space.

            We might easily state that "the totality of spacetime is solid and unchanging." But that only means you have concluded to an unmoved mover; viz., the block universe. Devotees of Plato and Parmenides find this attractive while devotees of Aristotle and Newton do not. It requires transcendence, viewing the universe as a whole from outside the universe. What being do you know of that can observe the universe from the outside, and can therefore know the past and the future as equally simultaneous?
            https://thomism.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/an-argument-for-the-block-universe/
            https://thomism.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/the-block-universe-ii/
            and a discussion here:
            https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/time-and-causality-or-scientific-models-are-like-nature/

            [to posit the existence of some supernatural explanation of motion or to abandon the explanation of motion altogether, positing some motion as both unexplained and inexplicable] are not our only options but abandoning motion altogether as we normally understand it is certain the best option. It's the one science confirms and that's incompatible with your argument.

            Actually, it's incompatible with empirical experience. But tell me how Science! has "confirmed" this block universe. A lot of physicists I know don't buy into it, either.

            not everything has an explanation since the PSR is false.

            Really? Can you demonstrate that scientifically?

            Things that lack explanation are called Mysteries and are generally articles of faith. Insofar as physical phenomena are concerned, I'm not that ready to give up on natural science.

          • This is hardly a scientific proof. "Could," "can easily" are just story-telling. But why is it that not one society on earth has come up with different figures. If they can easily come up with the same things, it must also be easy, perhaps easier, to come up with different things. Unless these forms exist in nature.

            This is not a scientific question so don't expect scientific proof. And your view is that it is impossible unless forms exist in nature ontologically and all you've justified that claim with is a story. And if it exists in nature but is non physical how the heck does it interact with physical stuff?

            BTW, which societies independently invented the wheel? And what does inventing a wheel, which is a physical object, have to do with abstracting the circle, which is a mathematical object?

            Wheels are circles. And they were invented in the old and new worlds independently.

            Besides, final causes do not involve time any more than first causes. These are logical relations, not temporal ones.

            Claiming there are final causes in the physical world does supposed time's directionality and that is temporal not logical.

            Excellent, what is the size, shape, location, mass, motion, and "solidarity" of the electromagnetic force?

            Where ever the field is. But there is no solidarity to it. Physical does require solidarity.

            Or at least we think we do. That's not new and it doesn't stop physicists from postulating new ones now and then, like dark energy.

            Dark energy doesn't effect our everyday lives because it is doesn't interact with our atoms. If it did we would have found out what it was by now.

            But "dualism" is not a "force," so how can it be ruled out by the four-force theory?

            Dualism requires a force that is not one of the 4.

            If that is the case, and there is nothing in nature that is abstracted, and it's just a "label" we made up, then the origin of species is solved! We make them up! How simple, it all seems under your metaphysic. How can you describe a physical thing if it has no form to describe?

            No because the configuration is real, but we label certain ones certain names, and sometimes they are arbitrary. Due to Sorites paradox we will always have demarcation problems.

            Excellent. What was the scientific experiment that established this? Or was it merely an assumption made a priori? Remember: science treats of the metrical properties of physical bodies.

            It was multiple experiments done by the LHC. That's how we got Core Theory, which rules out anything not in the standard model and gravity. Science has consequences, and they are not favorable to Thomism.

            a) how do you know they are accurate? (esp. if they must be falsifiable?)
            b) Earlier, you had said, "The laws of physics are just descriptions of the patterns in spacetime" and also that these patterns are "just things we made up."
            I suspect a subtle pitfall waiting.

            a) Because they work very well and satisfy the criteria of scientific theory and they falsify other competing hypothesis. Dualism included.
            b) No contradiction. Things we make up do not entail they are somehow false. We invent language to describe the world, it doesn't mean the language can't be accurate. C'mon, you're smarter than this.

            Fictio, fictionis (n. 3) means "a construction, or act of shaping," as when Poincare stated that a science was not merely a collection of facts, but an arranging of these facts into a construction. A construal of the facts, since the facts themselves have no meaning outside the construction.

            Science is not a collection of facts. It's a method for finding them.

            Actually, that is not why. It's that Riemannian geometry was the most elegant way of expressing relativity.

            No, it's because the concept of two separate things makes no sense in light of SR and GR.

            It must be very different, for what you describe is a set or collection that would not otherwise have any essential unity save that they were collected and designated as if they were one thing. Sort of like a pattern, except that the pattern was not there in nature, but imposed by human will. Spacetime, otoh, is supposedly an inherent unity.
            [Besides, a university is actually a chartered corporation and consists of scholars and students. They can, and in the past often have, existed without dedicated buildings and grounds.]

            This is just an analogy buddy, not meant to be perfect. It's very simple. Spacetime is all things. It is made of the same stuff you and I are.

            Actually, no. There are many unmoved movers. When a kitten crosses the room to lap a bowl of milk, the bowl of milk is not only the final cause of the kitten's act (and you will note that it exists simultaneously with the kitten) but it is also the first mover of the kitten's act. But the bowl does not move just because the kitten does. (i.e., there is no "reaction" or "interaction.")

            Sorry, makes no sense to me.

            Well, that takes care of the need for "forces," "energy," "momentum," "laws of science," and the like. I take it you are not talking about the way the "universe" actually, since to actually work implies motion. (Work is a measure of energy transfer that occurs when an object is moved over a distance by an external force.)

            No it doesn't because those forces, energies, momentums, and laws of science are imprinted in the 4 dimensional universe.

            You probably mean that I don't understand a popular mathematical model using Minkowski 4-space -- which interestingly enough, requires an imposition of a simultaneous "now" across all of spacetime.

            All areas of spacetime of subjectively "now," just as all places where you are are subjectively "here." And it is more than a mathematical model, it is something entailed by SR.

            Of course, by reviving the dead corpse of Parmenides by denying motion, you revive all the paradoxes if Zeno. Achilles is still chasing that ol' tortoise. Yet all of natural science is based on "faulty human-level experience," including the abstraction to the mathematical model of Minkowski 4-space.

            I think eternalism solves the paradoxes of Zeno. I never said all of natural science is based on "faulty human-level experience." All (or most) of Thomistic metaphysics is.

            We might easily state that "the totality of spacetime is solid and unchanging." But that only means you have concluded to an unmoved mover; viz., the block universe. Devotees of Plato and Parmenides find this attractive while devotees of Aristotle and Newton do not. It requires transcendence, viewing the universe as a whole from outside the universe. What being do you know of that can observe the universe from the outside, and can therefore know the past and the future as equally simultaneous?

            I have no idea how you get your first sentence. Aristotle and Newton were wrong on ontology. That is not controversial.

            Actually, it's incompatible with empirical experience. But tell me how Science! has "confirmed" this block universe. A lot of physicists I know don't buy into it, either.

            No it is not. The physicists you know who don't buy into it probably have bad reasons for doing so. Second, for showing how science confirms this:

            P1. There are gravitational waves.
            P2. Gravitational waves have non-zero Weyl curvature.
            P3. Non-zero Weyl curvature is only possible in 4 or more dimensions.
            P4. Presentism is incompatible with a 4 dimensional world.
            Then, presentism is false.

            This is a logical argument of course, but it uses science to demonstrate its conclusion.

            Really? Can you demonstrate that scientifically?

            No but I can do so logically even assuming god exists:

            1. The traditional notion of god in classical theism is that of a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible.
            2. All of god's will and desires must exist timelessly and eternally in an unchanging, frozen state.
            3. That would mean that god timelessly and eternally had the desire to create our particular universe, and not some other universe, or no universe.
            4. Our universe is not logically necessary; it didn't have to exist, and god didn't have to create it.
            5. The theist would have to show that it was logically necessary for god to create our particular universe in order to avoid eventually coming to a brute fact.
            6. There is no way to answer this question, even in principle, with something logically necessary.
            C. Thus at least one brute fact must exist even if god exists.

            Things that lack explanation are called Mysteries and are generally articles of faith. Insofar as physical phenomena are concerned, I'm not that ready to give up on natural science.

            If you believe in miracles you are ready to give up on natural science. Miracles apply to the physical world. Seas parting are a physical miracle.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            your view is that it is impossible unless forms exist in nature ontologically. ... And if it exists in nature but is non physical how the heck does it interact with physical stuff?

            a) You can easily dispose of the question by citing an example of a physical thing that has no form.
            b) It doesn't interact. It acts.

            I get the feeling here that you are railing against the Scientists of the Revolution. It was Descartes who proposed substance dualism -- I suspect because of the resurrection of Neoplatonism during the Renaissance. Platonic forms are not at all the same as Aristotelian forms. There is an accessible essay here:
            http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/Forms.html

            Wheels are circles.

            No they aren't. They are certainly circular, but check out what circles are in a good geometry textbook. Physical instantiations of circles are never perfectly circular. Their circumferences, for example, are not lines with no thickness. Rather the form of circle was abstracted from nature from the contemplation of things like wheels, bowls, the turning of the heavens about the earth, and so forth. Mathematics is a different realm fomr physics.

            wheels were invented in the old and new worlds i ndependently.

            I'm not sure a few toys constitutes the invention of the wheel. It was never adopted either for carts (no draft animals to pull them) or for throwing pots (and this is the real puzzle).

            Claiming there are final causes in the physical world does supposed time's directionality

            No, it only supposes that A leads to X, "always or for the most part", where X is a particular effect or range of effects. IOW, there are scientific laws.

            what is the size, shape, location, mass, motion, and "solidarity" of the electromagnetic force?
            Where ever the field is.

            Which is where, exactly?
            BTW, how does the Higgs field interact with matter to create mass? I ask this because Wallace represented form as a "force field" acting on prime matter and I am curious about the similarity.

            Physical does require solidarity.

            I've been curious about this since you first mentioned it. Solidarity is a "unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group." So I've been wondering at its inclusion in your list. However, it's nice to know you exempt certain things from the demands you place upon forms.

            Dark energy doesn't effect our everyday lives because it is doesn't interact with our atoms.

            So a second exemption is anything that doesn't affect our everyday lives. [I assume you meant "affect" rather than "effect."]

            Dualism requires a force that is not one of the 4.

            How so? Every physical body is a synolon, a compound of matter and form. You don't have to force the form onto the matter. It assumes its form naturally. Which concept of dualism are you thinking of?

            the configuration is real

            Exactly! The form is real.

            Due to Sorites paradox we will always have demarcation problems.

            Yet the existence of dawn and dusk does not invalidate the distinction between night and day. Naturally, there is a distinction between things (ouisia, substantia) and heaps. Heaps have no essential form. [Neither do artifacts except as imposed by the artisan.] So the set composed of {Thinker, the Moon} which we will call the Moonthinker, is not a thing, and has no essential form.

            Science has consequences, and they are not favorable to Thomism.

            I don't see why. It might be the spin that is put on the science, and not the science itself. After all, the Ptolemaic model of the world was established by careful observation and calculation, and the existence of epicycles was confirmed by planetary motion speeding up, slowing down, even reversing, and the planetary star sometimes growing larger/brighter or smaller/dimmer. But folks back then were smarter in one way: they did not confuse the mathematical model with the physical reality. All that was necessary was that the model "save the appearances," that is: account for the observations.

            Because they work very well and satisfy the criteria of scientific theory and they falsify other competing hypothesis.

            Well, so did the Ptolemaic model for a couple thousand years, right up until Lembo and others discovered the phases of Venus; whereupon it was abandoned in favor of the Tychonic model.

            Things we make up do not entail they are somehow false.

            Yes, J. Swift made up the existence of two moons for Mars in Gulliver's Travels. That was not false. But the point is that that which is just "made up" has no warrant for being true.

            Science is not a collection of facts. It's a method for finding them.

            Which method? The one Ampere used to develop a science of conducting bodies, or the one Maxwell used to develop a science of dielectric bodies?
            That science is not a mere collection of facts was Poincare's very point. It was, he said, the arrangement of those facts. To put it another way, facts are the matter and the science is the form.

            Spacetime is ... made of the same stuff you and I are.

            Dang, and here I was thinking that the spacetime manifold was, you know, a manifold, which is a mathematical abstraction (i.e., a form) and consisted of the field of Ricci tensors.

            Sorry, makes no sense to me.

            Seemed relatively simple. The kitten's motion, its crossing-of-the-room was due to the bowl of milk on the other side. That is, the milk was the mover and the kitten was the mobile. The milk did not recoil because the kitten started moving. That is, there was no interaction. The bowl of milk moved the kitten but the kitten did not move the bowl of milk. That makes the milk an unmoved mover and illustrates that such a mover need not be a god. But also, since the motion of the kitten is "toward" the bowl, it acts also as a final cause, the that-toward-which the change is directed.

            those forces, energies, momentums, and laws of science are imprinted in the 4 dimensional universe.

            And what causes the interaction of these things with the block universe. That is, what "imprints" them? Or do you suppose that these are simply the form of spacetime.

            it is more than a mathematical model, it is something entailed by SR.

            Which is in the form of a mathematical model. (I thought it was GR that was easier to handle in Minkowski space.)

            I think eternalism solves the paradoxes of Zeno.

            How?

            I never said all of natural science is based on "faulty human-level experience."

            No, you only said that human-level experience was faulty. I noted that natural science, to the extent it is empirical, must then be based on something that is faulty, which makes the thing more wobbly than I believe it is. Are there human-level experiences that are not faulty? How do we know?

            All (or most) of Thomistic metaphysics is [based on "faulty human-level experience."]

            Such as the existence of motion in the world. I understand. At the end of a chain of syllogism lies the G-word, and it is more comforting to throw out motion than it is to accept the conclusion. I have seen the selfsame people deny free will because everything is rigidly caused by the laws of physics, then react to the Second Way by declaring that not everything has a cause [apparently unaware that Thomas agreed that not everything need have a cause]. They declare that the universe could not be created because it is eternal [apparently unaware that Thomas assumed that it was eternal for the sake of the arguments].

            There is now no safer occupation than talking bad science to philosophers, except talking bad philosophy to scientists.
            -- Mary Midgley

          • Mike

            as always a pleasure to read.

          • Agreed! Wonderful exchange. Thanks to both!

          • a) You can easily dispose of the question by citing an example of a physical thing that has no form.
            b) It doesn't interact. It acts.

            Forms are just shapes, and they have no ontological status apart from the matter that is configurated, and there are no perfect ones. They are just descriptions we give to things or things we made up.

            b) explain acts and what effect they have on matter, if any.

            They are certainly circular, but check out what circles are in a good geometry textbook. Physical instantiations of circles are never perfectly circular. Their circumferences, for example, are not lines with no thickness. Rather the form of circle was abstracted from nature from the contemplation of things like wheels, bowls, the turning of the heavens about the earth, and so forth. Mathematics is a different realm fomr physics.

            There are no perfect circles. Perfect circles do not exist and can not and we made up the concept.

            I'm not sure a few toys constitutes the invention of the wheel.

            If it's round and it rolls, it's a wheel.

            No, it only supposes that A leads to X, "always or for the most part", where X is a particular effect or range of effects. IOW, there are scientific laws.

            Saying A leads to X is temporal when taking about physical things. I don't know how you can't see this. And the fundamental laws have no time direction. A leads to X as much as X leads to A.

            Which is where, exactly?
            BTW, how does the Higgs field interact with matter to create mass? I ask this because Wallace represented form as a "force field" acting on prime matter and I am curious about the similarity.

            Where ever it is. It could be in New Jersey. The Higgs field is universal, but it is a physical thing with physical properties and this is known in science. What's not known is how forms interact with anything.

            I've been curious about this since you first mentioned it. Solidarity is a "unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group." So I've been wondering at its inclusion in your list. However, it's nice to know you exempt certain things from the demands you place upon forms.

            I meant to write physical doesn't require solidity. Typo. Sollidity only exists at higher up macro levels, not fundamental. I don't know what you mean by solidarity.

            So a second exemption is anything that doesn't affect our everyday lives. [I assume you meant "affect" rather than "effect."]

            Do you understand Core Theory? Seems you don't.

            How so? Every physical body is a synolon, a compound of matter and form. You don't have to force the form onto the matter. It assumes its form naturally. Which concept of dualism are you thinking of?

            Cartesian dualism, any variety of it, and also Thomistic hylomorphic dualism which still requires a non-physical "intellect" have a causal effect on the atoms of your body. Both are ruled out scientifically.

            Exactly! The form is real.

            The form is just a description of the physical - which is the only thing that has ontological status.

            Yet the existence of dawn and dusk does not invalidate the distinction between night and day. Naturally, there is a distinction between things (ouisia, substantia) and heaps. Heaps have no essential form. [Neither do artifacts except as imposed by the artisan.] So the set composed of {Thinker, the Moon} which we will call the Moonthinker, is not a thing, and has no essential form.

            But natural distinctions are not always clear and there goes essentialism. When did the form of human begin as humans were slowly evolving from other primates? The physical composition of things is the only thing we need to accept ontologically. All the talk for forms is just semantics.

            I don't see why. It might be the spin that is put on the science, and not the science itself. After all, the Ptolemaic model of the world was established by careful observation and calculation

            And look, you have to go all the way back 2000 years to Ptolemy in order to make your point. Today we know much more about the world that in Ptolemy's days and you cannot perpetually bank on the claim that we're just as ignorant of what really exists as he was. Also it seems you're a scientific intrumentalist - but only when it comes to areas where science conflicts with your metaphysics. Where you think there's agreement you're all on board with scientific realism! That science today rules out all forms of dualism is not based on mere mathematical models. If dualism were true, the math would be different. And mathematical models can depict reality, and if they didn't the math would be wrong.

            Well, so did the Ptolemaic model for a couple thousand years, right up until Lembo and others discovered the phases of Venus; whereupon it was abandoned in favor of the Tychonic model.

            Ptolomey's model did not explain mercury's orbit or retrograde accurately. So they were wrong. They were approximations. However today with quantum mechanics it's a little different. Quantum field theory unlike Newtonian mechanics tells us very precisely what regime it is valid in. It gives us a delineation of where the theory is supposed to work and where it's not supposed to work. You can draw that line, and it turns out that in practice, drawing the line around the quantum field theory includes all our everyday experience.

            But the point is that that which is just "made up" has no warrant for being true.

            Unless it's a description that accurately describes reality.

            Which method? The one Ampere used to develop a science of conducting bodies, or the one Maxwell used to develop a science of dielectric bodies? That science is not a mere collection of facts was Poincare's very point. It was, he said, the arrangement of those facts. To put it another way, facts are the matter and the science is the form.

            It's technically methods. Not just one. Science is several methods for finding facts and explanations about the world.

            Dang, and here I was thinking that the spacetime manifold was, you know, a manifold, which is a mathematical abstraction (i.e., a form) and consisted of the field of Ricci tensors.

            You and I are made of fermions and bosons, and that's what spacetime is made of.

            The kitten's motion, its crossing-of-the-room was due to the bowl of milk on the other side. That is, the milk was the mover and the kitten was the mobile....But also, since the motion of the kitten is "toward" the bowl, it acts also as a final cause, the that-toward-which the change is directed.

            Although, since movement is relative, the bowl moved to the kitten from the kitten's reference frame.

            And what causes the interaction of these things with the block universe. That is, what "imprints" them? Or do you suppose that these are simply the form of spacetime.

            The word "cause" here is not really appropriate. What causality really is, is the relationships of intersecting worldtubes as they precede or intertwine with one another in spacetime; they're a description of the relationship between patterns and boundary conditions. At the fundamental level, the word "cause" really should be replaced by the word "explanation" or "relationship."

            Which is in the form of a mathematical model. (I thought it was GR that was easier to handle in Minkowski space.)

            SR establishes Minkowski space as real, and GR takes that and from there and establishes that it's curved and not flat.

            How?

            Give me a paradox and I'll show you.

            No, you only said that human-level experience was faulty. I noted that natural science, to the extent it is empirical, must then be based on something that is faulty, which makes the thing more wobbly than I believe it is. Are there human-level experiences that are not faulty? How do we know?

            It's not really faulty in that it's never reliable, it's really that it's just not able to accurately allow us to know how the universe fundmentally works. For example, we think the earth looks flat, but we know it isn't. Human experience is not always accurate. The history of science is proof that our human level experiences and intuitions don't always grasp reality the way it fundamentally is.

            Such as the existence of motion in the world. I understand. At the end of a chain of syllogism lies the G-word, and it is more comforting to throw out motion than it is to accept the conclusion.

            Or we can throw out motion because science does. No need to keep believing something incompatible with science in order to keep the syllogism with the g word, which is what theists are forced to do.

            I have seen the selfsame people deny free will because everything is rigidly caused by the laws of physics, then react to the Second Way by declaring that not everything has a cause [apparently unaware that Thomas agreed that not everything need have a cause]. They declare that the universe could not be created because it is eternal [apparently unaware that Thomas assumed that it was eternal for the sake of the arguments].

            Well those people may not have considered this very closely. I have and can see a way to make sense of this all. First, libertarian free will is nonsense. Totally incoherent. That means its falsity is not dependent on materialism being true. And one's definition of causality (like mine above) can show that causality is just a relationship of intersecting worldtubes as they precede or intertwine with one another in spacetime. And if spacetime has an absolute beginning or point where it doesn't go any further like a singularity, then it makes no sense to say that there is a cause to that singularity since there is no spacetime next to it that could have a relationship to it. This is not just using semantics to avoid a first cause. This is taking science seriously and defining our terms correctly based on what it shows, and not defining them based on antiquated metaphysics derived when no one knew how the world really worked.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Forms are just shapes...

            As I've said, there is more to form than shape. A dead parrot has the same shape as the recently live one, but it's not in motion (Okay, you don't believe in motion, but even you must recognize the the parrot is an ex-parrot.) So the essential form, at least, of a living thing includes its characteristic motions.

            Forms ... have no ontological status apart from
            the matter that is configurated,...

            I see you are a good Aristotelian, so no wonder you disparage Platonic forms.

            there are no perfect [forms]

            Not their material instantiations. Matter is always imperfect, precisely because it is changeable.

            Forms are just ...descriptions we give to things or things we made up.

            That's not quite correct. We don't just make them up. We abstract them from the material bodies we observe. ["Abstract" is an earthy verb, it means literally to reach in with your hands and pull something out.] There must be something in nature by virtue of which we call Fido, Rover, and Spot "dogs" but not Tabby, Porky, or Dobbin.

            Sure, we might make up labels, but not the thing that is labeled.

          • As I've said, there is more to form than shape. A dead parrot has the same shape as the recently live one, but it's not in motion (Okay, you don't believe in motion, but even you must recognize the the parrot is an ex-parrot.) So the essential form, at least, of a living thing includes its characteristic motions.

            I don't think we should use the term form because of its false connotations. There are properties of things. The dead parrot doesn't have the property of blood flowing, electrical brain activity, and so on, and the live parrot does.

            I see you are a good Aristotelian, so no wonder you disparage Platonic forms.

            I also reject Aristotelian realism because it makes no sense to say humans have a "form."

            Not their material instantiations. Matter is always imperfect, precisely because it is changeable.

            Forms are just things we made up. I doubt anyone can conceive even in their own mind a perfect circle.

            That's not quite correct. We don't just make them up. We abstract them from the material bodies we observe. ["Abstract" is an earthy verb, it means literally to reach in with your hands and pull something out.] There must be something in nature by virtue of which we call Fido, Rover, and Spot "dogs" but not Tabby, Porky, or Dobbin.

            Things that don't exist in nature, like shapes, we do totally make up. For things that exist in nature, like dogs and cats, we simply invent language that describes them. That's it. It need not be so complicated. Nominalism wins baby.

            Sure, we might make up labels, but not the thing that is labeled.

            See above.

          • But why should you expect different people to make up the same shapes, if those shapes are not actually there?

            I would assume it's for the the same reason every language has a word for 'father', because it's common and useful. The most common named shapes are found in nature because of their lower energy states or stable configuration, or have been found useful by societies though trial and error.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Except, historically, that does not appear to be the way things happened. When the Choctaw Indians saw horses for the first time, they had had no previous use for them, and had no trial and error. They simply checked them out and called the subah by combining words for "deer" and "big." A term meaning "like a deer, only bigger" not only recognized the distinction but also the similarity, even with no previous exposure, let alone a trial-and-error period.

            Most familiar languages have a word for "father" because they have inherited one from an ancestral language through well-known phonemic mutations, such as p→f, t→þ, etc. So, PIE *pəter- (source also of Sanskrit pitar-) to Proto-Germanic *fader to Old English fæder "he who begets a child, God." to Modern English "father." In Old Irish athir the initial p was lost.

            But note that this is also a term referring to something materially non-existent. You can point to John Smith Sr. and to John Smith Jr., but you cannot point to "fatherhood". Fatherhood is a relationship, not a thing in itself. Even in a pure feminist society, where men have been rendered marginal and children, not knowing their fathers, have no word for them, the form of relationship is still there, whether recognized or not. Just as potters' wheels and wagon wheels would still be circular if no one had a name for circles.

            The Chinese had no word for "logic" until they borrowed one from the Portuguese. The ancient Greeks had no word for "velocity." That doesn't mean the Chinese could not think logically or that the Greeks did not recognize motion when they saw it.

  • Matthew

    My question is about the concept of "form" or "essence" in Aristotelian-Thomism. One critique I have come across of this concept is that while it makes sense to say that a the form of a triangle must, by definition, have three sides, there is not such a situation when talking about entities in the empirical world. It doesn't seem as for sure of a thing to say that the essence of a human is to do a certain X as it is to say that the essence of a triangle is to have three sides. The triangle's essence is defined by axiomatic logic, but that is not the case with a human being or anything else in the empirical world. The contention, then, is that there is a category error here between these two cases of objects. What is your response to this?

    • Jonathan Augustine Stute

      Excellent question, I think that the answer to your quandary can be found in a distinction between form as 1. a universal, intelligible object and 2. form as a principle of unity and operation. For the sake of brevity, I'll only talk about substantial form. I'll include a TL;DR at the end.

      1. The form as a universal and intelligible object is a way of saying that the definition for things of kind X gives an accurate assessment of what it is necessarily common to all members of X. Hence, all triangles are "Three sided, closed plane figures with interior angles equaling 180 degrees." and "Man is a rational animal". We wouldn't say that "Triangle is white and stone" because triangles are not limited be made of stone or colored white. Similarly, we don't say that "man is tall and a doctor." These features do not characterize the fundamental meaning of what it is to be man.

      2. As you said, the definition of a triangle is an axiomatic abstraction of what is necessary to constitute a triangle. However, in the empirical world, if a triangle is to exist at all then it must be composed of determinate matter as well. What this means for our purposes is that while a real triangle doesn't really "do very much", it still has a source of operation which is not merely reducible to its material constituent.

      The same goes for man. You say about how there does not seem to be an essence for man which is reducible to a concise definition of operation. In response, a Thomist would reply that the mind discovers certain features about man which are specific to him. Man is different form rocks because he is alive, man is different from plants in that he moves and senses, he is different form animals insofar as he has a intellectual nature. The definition of a thing in the real world is its genus+a specific difference which then gives us the species. Hence, we take the most immediate genus of "animal" and distinguish man by adding the difference of "rational". This is how we get to the "axiomatic" definition that man is a rational animal.

      What should be kept in mind is that these definitions are not given by a priori categorization of sense-experience. Rather, our understanding of natural kinds comes by way of our encounters and experiences with existing things. This experience is only communicable to us because each substance has a particular way of acting on other things and acts in relationship with those other things.

      Why is it axiomatic? The reason for this is that it is an irreducible definition of man. Were we to encounter something which we wanted to call "man" which was only an animal or only an intellect then we would be encountering something entirely different. In the first case, it would just be a brute beast and in the second then we would be talking about something such a an angel. In order to understand the essence of man, both concepts are conjoined into one: rational animal. One needs to understand that the proper essential of a an will include both the necessary matter of man, flesh, and the principle of active operation/unity (form) which find their definition the powers of the soul ie, what is entailed by rationality and animality. Any substance which either cannot exhibit both rational and animalistic powers as well as instantiation in specific matter cannot be a man. We know the universal, intelligible essence of man through experience and reflection as we come to the realization that all men are of a certain kind which are not identical to other real things.

      Very briefly, there is a distinction between the levels of abstraction and knowledge. Mathematical and geometric truths are things which can be understood without reference to matter but cannot exist without matter. This is a second level abstraction in Aquinas' epistemology. First level abstraction, on the other hand, is the apprehension of the essences of mobile things as they are known to us through sense experience. Both kinds of abstraction rely on the first principles of logic/reason such as the principle of non-contradiction, principle of causality, or the principle of identity.

      TL;DR: There is a confusion about how essences are discovered and how mathematical/geometric definitions are defined. Also present is a confusion of an "intelligible, universal essential form" and "essence". The universal essential for is a mental abstraction of whatever X is whereas the essence is the the source from which X operates.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Do you think that history and philosophy are, in principle, dissociable?

  • Cookery

    Have you ever read Schopenhauer?

  • Nathan the Owl

    Hello,
    My question is does your theory of time matter to these arguments? Can I hold to the B-theory of time and still affirm these arguments?

    • Feser would say no (he does so on his blog) but he's never made the case for his metaphysics on the assumption that the b theory is true. I'd say that his view isn't affirmable if the B-theory of time is true.

  • TomD123

    1) Why think that God cannot lie to us? Saying that God is good or that lying is immoral seem to be insufficient answers given that God is not a moral agent.

    2) Do you think that God is the cause of human/angelic choices? If so, how do you square this with Christian teaching on hell? If not, how do you square this with God's impassibility?

    Thanks

  • ALEXANDER VI

    Is it conceivable that God does not exist?

  • David Sajan

    If in fact God does not exist. Then Faith is just circular logic that seemed reasonable. A grasping of something ungraspable. Would it have just been an occupation since non occupation is impossible as nonexistence is absurd. I hope this was clear, many thanks.

  • Ethan Leavitt

    What are your thoughts on popular evangelism today, whether it be street-preaching or the apologetics materials intended for use in the dialogue with secular culture? How would you attempt to incorporate the classical arguments for the existence of God (as well as the AT system more generally) into the common cultural discourse?

    • Kyle

      Someone with insight please answer this question!

  • Jonathan S

    I read once on a blog post, that the proofs were not intended as rhetorical or polemical proofs, in the sense of being intended to persuade the unbelievers. They were more like edifying exercises for the faithful - but that medieval theologians would not say that such philosophical arguments were sufficient to instil faith.

  • Mike

    1. Dr. Feser you've said that you think that the reason why Aquinas can seem to us moderns very harsh re the morality of certain human actions is bc he was still very influenced by Platonism.

    Can you explain what you mean by that?

    2. Re evolution: things evolve from simple to more complex that seems to indicate direction whether evo is programmed or not to do that that is it's effect clearly seems to me. Yet many atheists deny that there is any direction at all in bio evo even if accidental.

    how are we to think of the fact that whether or not evo is programmed or not to do anything it clearly leads to more and more refinement and improvement of a species?

  • lugita15

    In the exposition of the Third Way in your book Aquinas, you say "[I]f it is even possible for every contingent thing to go out of existence together (which even Aquinas’s critic must concede), this possibility must actually come about." But if as you suggest "possibility" here refers to an inherent tendency rather than the notion of possibility used in modal logic, then why must Aquinas' critic concede this? Even if each contingent thing has an inherent tendency to go out of existence, why must all contingent things have an inherent tendency to go out of existence together?

  • Okay, I'm an atheist and my experience here has been that this site is mostly an echo chamber of Catholics. With that said, I a not just skeptical of the existence of your deity of choice, but also skeptical that I will be treated fairly on this site and not censored when i say something you don't like.

    But what the hell, I'll give it a shot.

    If God is all knowing, all powerful, and all loving, then he would know the precise evidence needed to convince me of his existence. He would have the power to present that evidence and he would have the desire to present that evidence. So why is it that I am still an atheist?

    • Liz

      A very quick answer is because God loves you and wants for you to love Him back. True love cannot be compelled because by definition that would not be LOVE. If God were to completely reveal Himself with no room left for faith, then we also could no longer give a free response of love to Him.

      Also, God does still perform miracles today, which can point us to His existence. You can read about some Eucharistic miracles that left physical evidence here: https://churchpop.com/2015/06/28/5-extraordinary-eucharistic-miracles-with-pictures/

      If you truly want to know God, pray. He does reveal Himself to those who sincerely seek Him.

      • That's not really valid. I know Kim Jung Un exists, but I am not compelled to love him or even like him. I know Donald Trump exists and ditto, I am not compelled to love or like him either. I do not know that God exists, as no valid evidence has been provided for his existence. So I don't have enough information to either love him or not love him. The so called, "free will" argument doesn't apply here... even if free will were an actual thing (which for the record, it isn't).

        As for the sincerely praying gag, 1. I have tried that route when I was younger multiple times. 2. that argument pretty much amounts to believing before you are convinced to believe. One could use that argument to justify anything. For example, if you truly asked Allah to show you a sign of his existence, he would and you would be a Muslim and if you aren't a Muslim, then you weren't sincere enough and the problem is on you, not Allah. Or the Force (from Star Wars). If you sincerely communed with your Midichlorians, you would believe in the Force. If you don't believe in the Force, then you were not sincere enough in your meditations.

        • Liz

          The difference between God, though, and Kim Jung Un and Donald Trump, though, is that God has authority over you; He is not your equal.

          I think the fact that you care enough to post shows that God is calling you. Being sincere is not self-defeating if you understand the way I am meaning "sincere." You can sincerely pray, "I have no idea if there is even a God, but if You do exist, please show me" without having to have already assumed a specific religion's god.

          Also, as I mentioned before, I would look up Eucharistic Miracles.

          Peace.

          • Interesting. I thought the difference between God and Trump/Kim Jong-Un was that Trump and Un are real and God is imaginary.

            If God is "calling me" then he isn't doing a very good job. I would expect more from an all-powerful creator of the universe.

            As for Eucharistic Miracles, they are pretty much all shams. But I am glad you bring up the Eucharist. It's funny that people with Celiac Disease still get sick if they eat the Eucharist. That really shouldn't happen since it is supposed to be transformed into the literal body of Christ. So what's the deal with that? Are they just not praying hard enough? Or maybe the cracker doesn't actually transform into the literal body of Christ? Strange.

          • Liz

            Nothing comes from nothing. That's a scientific fact.

            In the Eucharist, the accidents of bread and wine remain, but the substance changes to Christ's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is through the gift of faith that we can know this is so. Because the accidents remain, it can still make people with Celiac Disease sick.

            How can satanists tell the difference between a consecrated Host and unconsecrated hosts?

          • Michael Murray

            The Church has never claimed that the change in the Eucharistic should be detectable by physical measurement. So you would expect people with celiac disease to react to the Eucharist.

          • Oh, and BTW you still haven't addressed any of my actual criticisms.

    • SpokenMind

      Hi Dangerous Talk,

      Not quite sure, but I'll take a shot at responding to your question anyway.

      Perhaps, if God just revealed himself fully, it would be too overwhelming.

      Maybe that's why there is always room left for faith - learning about God one puzzle piece at a time.

      Peace.

      "Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made." (Rom 1:20)

      • Sorry, but that answer doesn't really work for two reasons. 1. If God were perfect, he would be able to reveal himself to us fully without being "too overwhelming." This goes back to the problem that Christians have, making their deity too perfect for their own elaborate narrative. 2. As stated below, revealing himself fully does nothing for or against faith. Donald Trump has revealed himself fully, but people still have a choice to agree or disagree with him. God could reveal himself "fully" (and according to the Bible, did) and people would still have the choice to follow or not follow. To have faith that God is good or to reject that view in light of the obvious narrative in the Bible which shows God not to be good. So you are going to have to try again on this one. But thanks for playing.

        • SpokenMind

          Hi Dangerous Talk,

          Thanks for sharing your perspective.

          Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding, but your arguments are that God could reveal himself in a manner that is not too overwhelming. Wouldn’t that make all
          this God stuff so much simpler? You further say that doing so would not impinge on our choice to follow him or not (though I don't think you believe in free will).

          Is it possible that God has his reasons for doing things the
          way he does, but we just don’t fully understand them? A being powerful enough to create a universe, with all its intricacies, out of nothing is quite impressive, if you ask me. I personally would feel a bit overwhelmed at my first encounter. Also consider that Jesus frequently, tried to hide or obscure his identity as God in the New Testament. For example, “Then he [Jesus] warned them not to tell anyone about him.” (Mark 8:30)

          All the best.

          • That's just the old, "The Lord Moves In Mysterious Ways/No One Can Understand The Mind Of God" argument. If we accept that, then we can't reason about anything at all. It is basically a cop-out that can be used whenever a religious person runs into a logical problem or contradiction.

            If we accept that there is a deity that is all-powerful, then we have to assume that such a deity needs no reason to do anything. Such a deity should be able to do whatever he likes because cause and effect are not required. So he wouldn't need to do X in order to get Y result. He could just get Y result without X. So the questions are, Why is there not a Y result? And why did he need to do X in the first place?

            He is not merely a "being powerful enough," he is supposedly an all-powerful being. That changes the game.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Dangerous Talk,

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

            Faith is a progressive way to get to know God. One must begin the journey and give it an honest try to find out if there is anything there. Some enter the journey with their minds made up in advance - looking for reasons to support one’s presuppositions – this includes Christians and atheists. Some begin the journey and give up too easily. Some go in with an openness and see where things lead – that is the more interesting approach, in my opinion.

            I’m going to move on, but I hope all the best for you going forward.

            "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you." (Luke 17:20-21)

          • I've been "journeying" for along time. I came at it with an open mind and and open heart. I still have those things and am open to hearing new evidence and arguments. But alas, there is no evidence and I have not heard a new argument in like 5 years or so... and it isn't like I'm not actively seeking them out. But I mean, come on. You guys are still using the First Cause argument, the Argument by Design, The Moral Argument, and sadly the Lord, Liar, Lunatic Argument. I mean we can just google that stuff and find the flaws. Hell, even Wikipedia has the counter arguments for most of those. It's just sad.

            Don't get me wrong; I mean no disrespect, but a lot of religious believers seem to have this arrogance that they have all the answers and that they are 100% certain that those answers are "The Truth" even when they have zero evidence and horrible arguments to back that up. As an atheist, I admit that i don't have the answers and that it okay. But the answers so many different religious believers have come up with are just silly and nonsensical.

            Think about it from my perspective. If Tom Cruise came up to you and started talking about Thetans and the evil galactic overlord Xenu, would you take him seriously? Would you accept that he knew "The Truth" based on no evidence and horrible arguments? Would you be convinced if he posted a quote from Dianetics at the end of each response to you? I wonder what a "Truth-out" between you two would be like. Me, I would just ask each of you to support your ridiculous claims with actual evidence or at the very least a decent argument. But that's me.
            Peace

          • James Chilton

            I should certainly like to believe in a loving God, an immortal soul, the afterlife, etc. It would be a great consolation in times of suffering and perplexity.

            But my search for reasons to believe has not been fruitful. The reasoning of Thomas Aquinas on the existence of God, for example, seems to me, eventually, to boil down to mere assertion. If faith is a "gift from God" - which is what some Catholic priests have assured me - that seems an arbitrary allocation of religious insight.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi James,

            Thanks for sharing your perspective.

            In my opinion, reason and logic can at best, if you use such flawlessly, point to the existence of God. However, God always leaves room for faith. It’s a gift which can be accepted or rejected.

            It is possible you have never been offered this gift or didn’t recognize it. I admire your sincerity in searching.

            Peace.

            “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

        • SpokenMind

          1. If God were perfect, he would be able to reveal himself to us fully without being "too overwhelming." This goes back to the problem that Christians have, making their deity too perfect for their own elaborate narrative.

          Jesus is God's way of revealing himself fully in a way that is not overwhelming. He left room to choose or not, through what is called faith.

          2. As stated below, revealing himself fully does nothing for or against faith.

          If God's existance was a no doubter, than there would be no need for faith. I believe God fully revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, but even then, he left room for faith.

          Peace.

          • 1. That is a fail because Jesus hasn't revealed himself to me or any one else currently on this planet. So if Jesus is God's way of revealing himself fully, then it is fully a failure. Again, if God is all-powerful, then he should be able to fully reveal himself to people in a fully meaningful way.

            2. I already addressed this. You are just restating the problem. I don't need faith to believe in Kim Jong Un, but people in North Korea do have faith (misguided as it maybe) in his power. If God's existence was a "no doubter" then there would still be a need to either have faith in his power and goodness or not. His existence does nothing for the faith argument one way or the other. To restate, Kim Jong Un's existence is a "no doubter," and yet I still don't believe he is moral and I still would not and am not a follower of him. My point is again, that God's mere existence does nothing for the faith argument. So why is God hiding?... or maybe he just doesn't exist.

            Reason.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Dangerous Talk,

            Thanks for taking the time to respond to my latest points.

            The point I'm trying to make (apparently not very well) is that I believe God is revealing himself in a way that leaves room for faith. There is no "slam dunk" or "smoking gun" evidence for God's existence. If there was, there would be no such thing as faith, only objective facts. I think there is circumstantial evidence where one can reason out to a certain degree that God exists, but in the end, some faith is required.

            Science studies physical things, and therefore cannot determine whether there are spiritual beings - it's the wrong tool for the job, so to speak. Philosophy is the tool to use, but unfortunately, is not deterministic (something that leads to a clear, repeatable answer) like science. The answers in philosophy are not black and white like science and carry with it a degree of uncertainty.

            How did the first single celled organism assemble itself? Science has no answer. Where did the vast universe come from? Science speculates, but can't say with certainty. These are points where science can point one in a direction where they can ponder and wonder. I'm not anti-science (I am pro-science), nor am am I picking on anyone who exclusively operates in this domain. I'm also not saying this proves God did it, but I would like to point out that science has it's limitations with no guarantee it will one day explain everything.

            I don't fault or look down on anyone, including yourself, for not drawing the same conclusions I have. I would hope you feel the same way towards people who believe in a higher power. We have had different experiences in life, different thought processes and biases and have drawn different conclusions. I think we are all doing the best we can with the abilities we have. We both have the freedom to be who we are.

            Peace.

          • "Amazing, everything you just said is wrong." - Luke Skywalker

            Look dude, I have really tried to explain this multiple times in multiple different ways and it just doesn't seem to register with you. I don't really know what else to say, but I will try one more time. Whether God reveals himself or not makes no difference on the faith question. It is irrelevant. The question would be whether or not we decide to follow the deity described in the Bible based on blind trust of said deity. Whether that deity exists or not isn't relevant. He could show his existence and I still might not follow him... just like Kim Jong Un has shown he exists and I still have decided not to follow him. So my point here is that God presenting clear evidence of his existence doesn't nothing for the faith argument. One could still choose to follow God or not follow God based on the faith of God's character rather than God's existence. This would actually make more logical sense.

            Claiming that there is "circumstantial evidence" actually undermines your original argument and could be said for pretty much anything. Did you know there is circumstantial evidence where one can reason out to a certain degree that Darth Vader exists, but in the end, some faith is required.

            Science studies physical things, and therefore cannot determine whether there is anything like The Force - it's the wrong tool for the job, so to speak.

            For the record, Philosophy isn't about answers. If you think it is, then you don't know anything about Philosophy. Science and Philosophy work hand in hand. They are not competing modes of understanding the world.

            You asked how the first single celled organism formed and then claimed that science has no answer. That is not correct. That is a a question that only science can answer. But just because human beings don't currently know the scientific answer doesn't mean that there is no scientific answer. There obviously is a scientific answer to this question, but we just haven't discovered what that answer is yet and we may never discover that answer. But that doesn't mean that there is no scientific answer. Just because I don't happen to know the answer to a complex math equation doesn't mean that Math cannot answer that equation. It absolutely can. I just haven't discovered how yet.

            Scientists speculate on answers to questions that there absolutely are scientific answers for. Just because scientists speculate doesn't mean that there isn't an absolute scientific answer which may or may not be discovered.

            I hear religious believers tell me that science has it's limitations, but I am not sure what you are actually saying. Science is a method for understanding the world around us. I don't really know what limitations science has as a method for understanding the world around us. I don't really see it. Can you provide an example? There is no guarantee that scientists will find answers, but there is a guarantee that there are scientific answers.

            I also object to your final paragraph. Let me quote it back to you with some slight differences to illustrate my point:
            I don't fault or look down on anyone, including yourself, for not drawing the same conclusions I have. I would hope you feel the same way towards people who believe that 1+1=5. We have had different experiences in life, different thought processes and biases and have drawn different conclusions. I think we are all doing the best we can with the abilities we have. We both have the freedom to believe our own math.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Dangerous Talk,

            "The force is strong in this one." - Darth Vader

            I think your point is, for you, faith is irrelevant. One either chooses to follow a deity or not. I would assume you have examined this issue thoroughly, thought about it, and concluded there is no God. Fair enough.

            My point - which I think you disagree with and/or are uninterested in - is, if God unequivocally revealed himself, there would be no such thing as faith - it would just be obvious. My belief is, God did reveal himself in a way that requires faith. Just sharing my opinion.

            [There obviously is a scientific answer to this question, but we just haven't discovered what that answer is yet and we may never discover that answer.]

            How can there obviously be an answer, if it may never be discovered? Respectfully, I would say you are assuming there is a scientific answer. There is no rule that says science can explain everything, though perhaps you believe that.

            [I hear religious believers tell me that science has it's limitations, but I am not sure what you are actually saying. Science is a method for understanding the world around us. I don't really know what limitations science has as a method for understanding the world around us. I don't really see it. Can you provide an example?]

            I think we are in general agreement here. I am saying science can only detect the physical domain. It cannot detect the spiritual domain - that is a limitation of science. I would assume from your perspective, there is no such thing as a spiritual domain. Fair enough. Perhaps a day will come where you become aware of the spiritual domain and you will see things differently. I personally find the study of near death experiences quite fascinating, such as people being aware of things in other locations while their brains are verified scientifically shut down and similarly people born blind seeing during their episode.

            Thanks for hearing me out. I wish you all the best going forward.

          • "I hear religious believers tell me that science has it's limitations, but I am not sure what you are actually saying. Science is a method for understanding the world around us. I don't really know what limitations science has as a method for understanding the world around us. I don't really see it. Can you provide an example? There is no guarantee that scientists will find answers, but there is a guarantee that there are scientific answers."

            Thanks for the comment! Sure. Here are some things that the scientific method is incapable of adjudicating:

            - Whether a particular action is morally good or bad
            - Whether our sensory experiences correspond to reality
            - Whether our rational faculties reliably lead us to the truth
            - Whether God exists
            - The purpose of life (or whether there is an objective purpose)
            - The meaning of love
            - The reality of consciousness (what it is and where it comes from)
            - The soul (whether it exists)
            - The origin of the universe (why is there something rather than nothing)

            Those are just a handful of questions, off the top of my head, to which the scientific method simply can't provide answers.

            Also, you suggested that you can "guarantee that there are scientific answers" to, presumably, any unanswered questions today. You suggest even though we might not know the answers, you're confident that, in principle, science can provide them.

            How do you know this? Why do you believe that?

          • Yes, science can address these things.
            1. Morality is a complex subject, but I will try to break it down as simply as I can here. Human beings evolved a sense of empathy. That empathy is what leads to morality. So by expanding human empathy, we can calculate our moral senses. This is not an easy thing to do and it may not be something we as a species can do with percision today, but it is something with in the scientific domain.
            2. The science method has peer review and a process for filtering out individual biases. Through science we have created tools to measure certain experiences. We can absolutely figure out if our experiences corespond to the world around us. Is that world "reality" or a mere simlulation of some other reality? That we cannot answer right now, but it is something within the realm of science.
            3. Through the scientific method, we are able to learn from our mistakes. We are able to create things that work. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. My point here is that our rational faculties are reliable in so far as they provide provable results that work. When they don't, we use those falures to adjust the process. To put it another way, we know that our computer science technology works because you and I are using it right now to communicate. Is that, "Truth?" I think it is. But you can play with the definition of words all you like. After all, all of Philosophy is just Wittgenstein's Fly in the Bottle.
            4. Yes, and the answer is no, btw.
            5. "The Purpose of Life, is a Life of Purpose." - Wittgenstein again. Purpose is an existential problem. It isn't about the world around us. It is about our attempt to find meaning. Carl Sagan famously wrote about "The Pale Blue Dot" and Neil deGrasse Tyson has talked about how science gives his life meaning. But if you are asking if science can tell us objectively what the purpose of life is, then then answer is yes. There is no objective purpose to life. Life is what we make it.
            6. The meaning of love is biological. Last I checked, biology is a science. Do you really want me to explain the birds and the bees to you?
            7. Consciousness is again a human construct. It's just the way our brians process information. So can science tell us more about how our brians process information? Yes!
            8. Right now, we are able to see back in time to less than a second after the Big Bang. Do you think science will not be able to see and understand more in time? Or do you think that's it and we should just pack up our telescopes because we have learned all that is possible to learn? Yes, it is very likely that human beings will learn more about the origin of the universe. We will learn this through science, not through praying.

            Yes, it is a guarentee that the scientific method is capable of finding these answers. The question is whether human beings will be able to discover what those answers are. Any unanswered question about the world around us is by definition within the reach of scientific discovery. i don't "believe" this; I think this based on the definition of science and history of scientific discoveries thus far. Will science allow me to communicate with someone halfway around the world in an instant? Yes, it can do that right now. Will it be able to cure Polio? Yes, it did that. Is there a scientific cure for Cancer? Yes, but human beings have yet to discover what it is. I know this because of the long track record of science.

  • Frank Attanucci

    Dr. Feser, what do you think about a proof for the existence of God from (moral) conscience: God as the ultimate "righter of wrongs" in a world where the innocent suffer injustice and the unjust seem to escape justice? (Of course, it is our "deep conscience" which gives us--especially victims of injustice--a sense that an injustice has been committed.)

  • Jeffrey Remillard

    Do elementary particles have substantial forms? What is the ontological status of the virtual particles that appear in quantum field theoretical calculations? Is there a good book that discusses this?

  • karen

    As a scientist, engineer and mathematician, I understand the theory behind and practice of a "proof". It means something very specific in these realms. It seems that people asking for the "proof" of God, and those great thinkers trying to respond to them, have settled on the notion that the "proof" must be developed using scientific/mathematical methods in order to be valid. It's like they are asking art critics to use science or math to explain why Monet was a great artists? Or literary scholars to use math or science to defend Shakespeare as a great writer? The intellectual responders do not let society push them into these types of arguments. They can argue the validity of the art and literature on their own terms, not science's. My question: What other non-scientific or mathematical topics are subjected to the same type of "proof" question that the existence of God is? How well has trying to use science in those proof worked? Is there anything we can learn from these other examples?

  • John Ghostley

    Which among all the proofs of God's existence do you feel is the most valuable for arguing for God's existence with someone who hasn't been trained in philosophy. Another words, which argument has the most apologetic usefulness for discussions with the average person and young people?

  • Joe

    Has Dr. Feser responded to any questions?

  • My two questions:

    "What do you say about the fact that all claims for an interventionist deity have been falsified by science?"

    "Why do you put philosophy above science in understanding reality?"

    https://understandrealitythroughscience.blogspot.com/2019/07/a-letter-to-christian-apologists_18.html

  • Phil Tanny

    My question:

    Why do theologians, philosophers and scientists seemingly all fail to see that the "exists vs. not exist" paradigm the God debate is built upon bears little resemblance to the overwhelming vast majority of reality, space, which does not fit neatly in to either "exists" or "doesn't exist" categories??

    There are many intelligent people in the God debate, on both sides. Aren't you weary of recycling the same old arguments over and over again for centuries? Instead of challenging some position within the God debate, wouldn't be more interesting to challenge the God debate itself? Wouldn't that also be more productive?

    If the God debate is built upon unexamined false assumptions, if the question itself is fatally flawed, doesn't that mean that the competing answers dance of last 500 years has been largely wasted effort? Shouldn't such a possibility concern us?

    What color is the sound of an oboe? A bad question, incapable of generating a useful answer, right? Do we really want to spend the next 500 years doing this...

    Joe: The color is blue.
    Bob: No, the color is red.
    Joe: Sorry, definitely blue.
    Bob: Are you crazy, it's red, Red, RED!!!!

    Isn't it time to shift the focus of investigation from the competing answers to the question being asked?